Monthly Archives: November 2011

Check out the New Student’s Climate Change Website

epa climate changeLearn the basics, see the impacts and be part of the solution!  EPA’s new student’s climate change web site will tell you everything you need to know about climate change and how you can:

  • Think like a scientist
  • Learn about changes happening in the Earth’s climate system now and the changes expected in the future
  • Do something today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Tell us what you are doing to reduce climate change in your community.

http://epa.gov/climatechange/kids/index.html

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Net Zero

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Leslie Gillespie-Marthaler

As someone who has spent time on military installations and has a great respect for the Army community, I’m thrilled to be helping the Army work toward “Net Zero” and sustainability.

I’ve lived on installations myself, and know firsthand that they are very much like small cities. With thousands of soldiers, civilians and families on base, they face many of the same challenges that cities around the country are facing, including increased energy costs, limited water resources and aging infrastructure. For example, last year Army installations used 41.8 billion gallons of potable water at a cost of $67.4 million.

To help combat these challenges, EPA and the Department of the Army have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to advance the Army’s Net Zero Initiative.

The goal of the Initiative is to ensure that Army installations only consume as much energy and water as they produce and minimize waste sent to landfills. EPA scientists and engineers will provide their skills and expertise to bring cutting-edge research assistance to the effort.

I was happy to be on hand this week when Paul Anastas, PhD, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development and Science Advisor at EPA, signed the MOU with the Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment.

“The Net Zero partnership was inspired by the Army’s ability to demonstrate true leadership in sustainability,” said Anastas. “The Army Installations are a test bed for new technologies that can solve more than one problem and can be replicated or scaled for communities throughout the nation.”

“We look forward to working with Army experts to develop tools and technologies to address some of our more pressing economic and environmental challenges,” he added.

“Through a whole-of-government approach to sustainability, the Army’s Net Zero Initiative increases the Army’s ability to be successful today and into the future. Our collaboration with EPA’s Office of Research and Development brings leading-edge research assistance together to advance both our institutions’ goals for increased resource efficiency and balanced resource use,” said Hammack.

Anastas emphasized how the Army’s and EPA’s goals are intricately interconnected: “You are protecting the nation. We are helping make the nation worth protecting,” he said.

I feel it’s both a privilege and an honor to help incredible Army communities and their neighbors achieve “Net Zero.”

About the author: A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Leslie Gillespie-Marthaler, is currently a senior advisor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bay Website Focuses on Action

By Tom Damm

Click here to view a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

There’s a new look to EPA’s Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” website.

The pollution diet, or Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was established by EPA in December 2010, based largely on action plans provided by the watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia.

The website now has a greater focus on activities at the local level happening around the 64,000-square-mile Bay watershed to reduce pollution impacting the Bay and its vast network of connecting rivers and streams.

One of the new additions is a brochure produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee featuring examples of local actions to cut nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.

Check out those case studies and the other new items on the site, and let us know what you think.

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Implementing Sustainable Practices in Your Office

By Elizabeth Myer

I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle: I recycle paper, glass and plastic products both at home and at work. I changed out all the bulbs in my apartment to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and I walk, run or cycle whenever I have the chance. Even though I am mindful of my personal carbon footprint, the reality is that I spend the majority of my time each week holed up in my cubicle tweeting, “facebooking”, and blogging all about the environment behind the glare of a computer screen. I recently stopped to think about what the 9-5 crew can do at the office to be more sustainable and came up with a few simple suggestions.

EPA has a variety of programs and incentives for its employees with regard to public transportation. For starters, we have a ride-share program, where carpooling is encouraged. If your office has yet to implement a ride-share program, try forming an inter-office carpooling initiative where the best parking spots are given to those who participate. Some companies use the web, intranet, email servers or even basic bulletin boards to garner interest in/organize carpools.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to bike to the office, try peddling to work. Many local EPA employees bike to the office on a daily basis and often find that their commute is shorter and more enjoyable then the alternative. Promote cycling to work by offering employees secure bike storage facilities and possibly even financial incentives (such as a monthly stipend) for cycling repairs/basic maintenance. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Writing Grants

studentGrants. The word sounds very outdated, or at least like a project forbidden to anyone outside of the workforce. However, youth can readily access this often overlooked form of revenue, as a means of funding their ideas for positive change. Grants allow one to avoid countless hours spent making cupcakes, in order to develop a valuable skill. Bake sales for the environment may raise money, but at the same time they contribute to childhood obesity. One problem is solved, while another is created. In turning to grants, those hours can be spent learning an ability that is useful forever, one that allows access to large reserves of money waiting for those dedicated enough to pursue them. There are many small grants available for projects, especially for youth, so it is important to gather information for a good idea. The hardest part about grant writing is finding the time to sit down and work, that is why there is so little access to this rich resource. The rewards of several hours are great: to the order of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, much more than could be gleaned from several hundred cupcakes. So the next time you have a great idea, or just need a little extra funding for your organization, think grants!

Kira is a Junior, active in school clubs. She is active in Art Club, an IB student, Teacher’s Assistant, a tutor for math, and plans on studying in Japan for six weeks next summer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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We’re moving!

The High School Greenversations blog has a new home – come visit us!

EPA’s main blog site, Greenversations, has been the home of the High School Blog since August, 2009. But, like many students, we’re spreading our wings and taking on a new challenge: The EPA Students Blog!

The EPA Student Blog will have more frequent and shorter postings and will give students more opportunities to blog and share their environmental experiences and projects.

Of course, Greenversations will continue and should remain on your “favorites” list.

Please come check out the brand new EPA Students Blog because it’s your special place to read, write and share your environmental experiences and interests with us and other students around the globe!

Go to: http://blog.epa.gov/students/

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Good Walk Unspoiled

Record-breaking late November temperatures leave New Yorkers with the perfect excuse to take an autumn stroll

By Elias Rodriguez

Mark Twain is attributed with stating that “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” In New York City’s Central Park, however, there is a wonderful walk that remains unspoiled and can seem like a little piece of heaven within the sprawling mega metropolis. It’s called Literary Walk and is located at the south end of the park’s great mall (66th to 72nd Streets). That’s mall as in outdoor grassy strip, not mall as in shopping center and food court! 

While Central Park encompasses over 500 acres of lawns, lakes, streams and woodlands- the number of tress alone is well over 20,000- it is this peaceful shaded promenade that any pensive pedestrian would love. The mall is described by the Central Park Conservancy as the only straight line in the park.

You might ask, “What makes it Literary Walk?” The expansive pathway is lined with the statues of four eminent writers and one lost explorer. Artistic representations of Robert Burns, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Sir Walter Scott and William Shakespeare are depicted along with Christopher Columbus. Literary Walk guarantees an airy, picturesque getaway for the weary walker. The benches are plentiful and the wildlife warrants unwary watching.  As someone who makes his living, in part, by writing, I’ve developed a wistful fondness for this particular canopied caminito. Come to think of it, if the City’s parks and recreation planners ever make space for one more statue, I would suggest Washington Irving, one of Gotham’s own. What’s your favorite spot in the park?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Posuwageh – The Water Meeting Place – Provides Inspiration

By Ellen Gilinsky

What a perfect setting for the 2011National Tribal Water Quality Conference – the Posuwageh, or water meeting place, on the Pueblo of Pojoaque outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The land of big skies, open spaces and tribal traditions played host to a meeting of tribal water quality coordinators and EPA water professionals from across the country. I was honored to be asked to give the official welcome to the conference on behalf of EPA and to participate with over 300 attendees who were focusing their time and energy on coming together to learn and discuss how Clean Water Act programs can protect and restore water resources in Indian Country.

From the welcoming prayer and the first drumbeats and ritual dance of the Pojoaque Tribe, through the excellent sessions on maximizing the benefits of Clean Water Act programs, to the hands-on learning during the well-planned field trips, our water meeting place was truly a melding of traditions, culture and partnership.

The words of the keynote speaker for the conference – Dr. Daniel Wildcat of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas – particularly resonated with me. He challenged the group to use “Indigenuity” – their indigenous ingenuity – to address problems of water quality and quantity on tribal lands. The traditional ecological knowledge passed down from generation to generation on how tribes deal with different and changing landscapes makes tribes uniquely qualified to preserve and protect water resources. To me, this is reminiscent of the saying that history repeats itself unless we learn from it. We need to listen to the people of the land and learn from them the consequences of declining water quality and overuse of the water resources that they rely on for their life and livelihood.

What became clear to me on my trip is the strong connection between people and place. Our tribal partners demonstrate that a respect for the land and the people can coexist and in truth are interconnected. We can learn from the experiences of the tribal people and their environmental professionals just as they can benefit from working with EPA on technology transfer and grant funding to monitor and protect their waters. This is what the partnership of the Posuwageh is all about.


About the author: Ellen Gilinsky is a Senior Advisor in EPA’s Office of Water.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Broadway is Taking Leaps Towards a Sustainable Future

By Jan Hagiwara

Did you know that the Broadway theater industry recycles or reuses tons of sets, costumes and construction materials every year?  Neither do most of the twelve million theatre lovers who attend shows or plays on Broadway annually.  Yet since 2008, when a group of theater owners and producers sat down with the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and the Natural Resources Defense Council to talk about how to “green up” the industry, the Great White Way has adopted practices and policies resulting in energy conservation and materials management that would make an environmentalist proud. 

Since that time, Broadway theater owners have converted over 97% of marquee lighting to LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs).  Set designers and construction crews have been recycling or reusing scenery from closing productions, reusing 88% of the scenery in one month alone (January 2009).  Broadway touring companies, which rely heavily on trucks to move equipment, have offset over 4000 tons of carbon emissions through investments in wind power and methane digesters.  Sound crews have replaced disposable batteries with rechargeable ones – in the case of the musical Billy Elliot, preventing the disposal of nearly 40,000 batteries per year.  Set and costume shops have been urged to use non-toxic, biodegradable materials and to develop environmentally friendly special effects.  And theatergoers have been recycling their programs as they leave the theater – unless they want to save them as souvenirs, of course. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greener Holidays

By Lina Younes

Doesn’t it seem that stores are trying to get consumers in the holiday spending spirit earlier than ever? It’s not just the fact that holiday decorations are go up months before Thanksgiving, but now we’re seeing the big store chains promoting super deals even before Black Friday, the unofficial beginning of the holiday season.

Even my youngest daughter is jumping on the bandwagon and she’s trying to convince me to take her to the mall on this maddening day. She claims that she wants to buy gifts for the family and her friends, but I know she’s really lobbying for a few gifts for herself in the electronics department and clothes, of course. At least at this age, I still can influence some of her purchasing decisions. I’m glad that I’ve made her more environmentally conscious about green shopping and avoiding those trinkets that might contain lead and other toxic chemicals.  I’m also happy to see that she still prefers a good book over a meaningless toy.

Nonetheless, before we embark on a shopping spree, let’s try to think of the real significance of what we are supposed to be celebrating. As the holiday season begins, let’s give thanks for our family and friends, our health and our environment. We can all do our part to make a difference to make this world a happier and better place. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.