Monthly Archives: November 2011

Fiestas Verdes

Por Lina Younes

¿No les parece que las tiendas están tratando de convencer a los consumidores que empiecen a comprar los regalos para las fiestas mucho más temprano que nunca antes? No se trata sólo del hecho que las tiendas ya han colocado decoraciones para las fiestas con meses en antelación al mismo Día de Acción de Gracias, sino que ahora estamos viendo los grandes almacenes con promociones y súper descuentos antes del Viernes Negro el comienzo extraoficial de las fiestas.

Hasta mi niña menor se ha entusiasmado con la idea de las súper ofertas y me está tratando de convencer para ir de comprar en este día de locura. Ella alega que quiere comprar regalos para sus familiares y amistades, pero sé que realmente esta cabildeando para que le compre algunos regalos como juegos electrónicos y ropa. No obstante, esa edad todavía puedo influir algunas de sus decisiones adquisitivas. Me alegra que durante los años he podido concientizarla ambientalmente acerca de las compras verdes y especialmente de evitar comprar las baratijas que pudieran contener plomo u otras sustancias toxicas.[http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2010/01/21/si-tiene-dudas-echelo-a-la-basura/] También disfruto de ver que ella todavía prefiere un buen libro en lugar de un juguete sin sentido.

Entretanto, antes de iniciar la jornada de compras, tomemos un momento para pensar en el verdadero significado de la época. Al inicio de la temporada, hay mucho por lo cual debemos de estar agradecidos—nuestra familia, nuestras amistades, nuestra salud y nuestro medio ambiente. Todos podemos poner de nuestra parte para hacer una diferencia en este mundo. Espero que hayan pasado un feliz Día de Acción de Gracias.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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Green Your Holiday Scene!

epaDid you know that the amount of household garbage in the United States can increase by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, from 4 million tons to 5 million tons?  So what can you do to be green this holiday season?

Here are a few tips:

  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day.
  • Donate the older toys that you no longer use to charities.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or newspapers.
  • Compost leftover food scraps and leaves.

Check out EPA’s student holiday page to see what else you can do to green your holiday celebrations!  http://epa.gov/students/holiday.html

Doing something different?  Tell us about your green holiday scene…

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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Let’s Feed People, Not Landfills

By Felicia Chou

I’ve seen a lot of mold in my life. Bluish-green spotty ones, cottony white ones, even bright orange ones. I’ve been seeing them more often when digging around in my fridge, which is now a thriving spore-iffic ecosystem. And with Thanksgiving is coming up, I’m sure there will be even more leftovers.

So maybe sometimes I forget that I’ve had a bag of tomatoes sitting in the fridge since August. An extra bag of tomatoes in the landfill isn’t going to make a difference, right?

Dr. William L. Rathje found decade-old hotdogs and guacamole in recognizable condition buried in a landfill. Without the proper sunlight, air, and water, my tomatoes could sit in an airtight landfill for who-knows-how-long without biodegrading. In 2010, 33.79 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills. That’s 67,580,000,000 pounds worth of food we’ve dumped in one year. Imagine how much more might end up in landfills this holiday season if we don’t cut down on food waste.

So what can we do? At the grocery store, only buy what you know you will finish eating. Keep a list of food items in the fridge so you always remember what you already have, even if it’s hidden in the back and you can’t find it right away. If you have extra food after your Thanksgiving feast, finish up the food in the upcoming days, or share them with your neighbor. Your local food bank and other food rescue programs are happy to take wholesome, uneaten food for those who need it. And finally, you can compost your leftovers to nurture your garden.

If I had to choose between wasting food or burying it in landfills in non-biodegradable limbo, versus saving money by not buying unneeded food, donating wholesome food to those who need it, or having an awe-inspiring garden, I’d prefer the latter. Just imagine the amount of food we could keep out of landfills if all school cafeterias, grocery stores, restaurants, and other major food producers could reduce, donate, and compost as much as possible.

So while I clean out my fridge (composting all the inedible “food”), and pledge to only buy what I can finish from now on, think what can you do this Thanksgiving to cut down on food waste?

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery since 2008. One of her fondest Thanksgiving memories was chasing a wild turkey down the city streets of Taiwan. She has no idea where the turkey came from, and what it was doing loose on the streets, and what it was doing in Taiwan.

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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Science Wednesday: Sustainability at the U.S. EPA

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

By Abbey Reller

Earlier this fall I attended the book launch for an effort to incorporate sustainability into every aspect EPA takes to protect the environment: Sustainability and the U.S. EPA, or as it is called around here, The Green Book. I had just begun my internship with EPA in the Office of Research and Development, and this was an opportunity for me to learn about the motivation behind all science research within the agency.

As I looked toward the speaker on stage, I noticed three words mounted on the wall: Wonders of Science. To me it seemed those three words fostered the concept of The Green Book. While sustainability is defined in multiple different ways, I like the language the authors used to describe it, which comes from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):

“…to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”

The most important thing I learned that day was how limitless science is because of sustainability. With a growing population and developing technology, there constantly seems to be ways to improve human health and protect the environment.

The one piece of advice I received from various people during my internship: Whatever you want to do, become an expert at it. Wow, way to put the pressure on!

As I looked around at all the people in the Koshland Science Museum during The Green Book launch, I realized exactly whom I was sitting amongst — the science and sustainability experts of the world. I was quite inspired and pleased to attend the event with such remarkable scientists.

One in particular, Paul Anastas, Ph.D., the Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development, describes sustainability as the True North of EPA research. I am thrilled to have gotten to observe his work during my internship. He is a true expert in sustainability and I am quite inspired by his work.

So, when my internship ends I will continue on my journey to becoming an expert in my field of study. With a little bit of passion and a lot of determination, the challenge no longer seems impossible.

About the author: Abbey Reller is an intern in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Public Affairs at Indiana University.

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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Zapping Energy Costs

To get a sense for how your local water sector utility can reduce its energy costs, tune in to the latest EPA webcast being offered to plant operators and the public on Thursday, December 1 at 1 p.m.   By Walter Higgins

EPA is helping local drinking water and wastewater utilities bring down one of their biggest controllable costs – energy.

In a series of free webcasts and other outreach activities this year, the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region is offering tips and tools for more efficient energy use at your local treatment plant.

To get a sense for how your local water sector utility can reduce its energy costs, tune in to the latest EPA webcast being offered to plant operators and the public on Thursday, December 1 at 1 p.m.   This one will focus on reducing operating costs through energy use assessments and auditing.

Improving energy efficiency is an ongoing challenge for drinking water and wastewater utilities.  Energy costs often represent 25 to 30 percent of a treatment plant’s total budget.

The December 1 webcast will help plants focus on two key elements of energy management – determining how much energy the utility is using in each part of its operation, and conducting an energy audit to identify opportunities for greater efficiency and cost savings.

Join us on December 1 to learn more.

About the Author: Walter Higgins is in Region 3’s Water Protection Division where he manages grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects.  He is also involved in working with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency and has been with EPA since 2010.  Prior to EPA he was a soil scientist with the Montgomery County Health Department, in Pa.  He has a B.S. in Agronomy and Environmental Science from Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, Pa.  Something interesting about Walter is that he’s been in the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade since he was 3 years old.

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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Upcoming Weekend Activities

The Holiday Season is finally here, meaning you’re about to start consuming copious amounts of holiday goodies. Don’t fret—in addition to the workout you’ll get from shopping store to store and carrying all those gifts home, there’s plenty to do to help keep the pounds off. Here’s a sampling of activities to do around the City this weekend. 

8th Annual Turkey Be Gone Hike – No school or work this Friday? Get out of that Turkey coma and go take a hike! Staten Island Greenbelt educators will take you on a two hour adventure that will make you want to gobble down some delicious leftovers right afterwards. Friday, November 25, 10 a.m. 

“Crossroads of New York” Walking Tour – Explore the social and political history of the Union Square neighborhood through discussion of the people and architecture that have shaped this community. Saturday, November 26, 2 p.m. 

Ice Skating at Wollman Rink – If you’ve never skated in Central Park, here’s your chance. The Wollman Rink is open, and will be bustling with kids of all ages this weekend. 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. this Friday and Saturday. 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. this Sunday.

Plants & Fungi Research Stories – The New York Botanical Garden’s scientists have been scouring the earth since the 1890s in search of unusual plants. Learn about ten contemporary research projects. The Botanical Garden is open every Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., but this exhibition is on for just another month! 

Walk/Ride Days – Black Friday is so passé. This year, make the day after Thanksgiving green. The Green Streets Initiative has designated the last Friday of every month a Walk/Ride day, encouraging people across the globe to leave the car at home. Show extra support for healthy living by wearing something green! Friday, November 25.

Winter on a Flatbush Farm – Kids learn how to make candles, start a patchwork quilt, and preserve food for the coming months. Saturday, November 26 and Sunday, November 27, 1-4 p.m. (Rumor has it that St. Nicholas will be making an appearance on Sunday.)

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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Learning to Be Green

By Myung Ji

Recently, I had a chance to intern with EPA Region 2 in New York City. Because I am in a university program in hospitality, focusing on event leadership, I got to work for the Public Affairs Division (PAD). Even though I had work experience in the convention industry in my country, Korea, it was my first time working in public affairs, which was a challenge for me.
Because “green”/environmental issues are the current trend in the hospitality industry, I was very excited to have this opportunity. However, my 11-week internship at EPA brought me something more than I expected. During my internship at EPA, I assisted in the planning of two conferences, several press events, and a roundtable, covering the topics of green chemistry, the 40-year celebration of environmental protection, the announcement of Jamaica Bay No Discharge Zone, lower Passaic River clean-up, electronic recycling management, and illegal pesticides.

This internship gave me an understanding that EPA handles a variety of programs, public events, and partnerships in order to protect our environment. Also, EPA works to communicate with communities and educate people effectively. One of the roles of the Public Affairs Division is to inform the public about EPA’s mission and actions taken. The Public Affairs Division deals with topics throughout the organization, so that working in this division has given me exposure to a wide range of EPA’s issues. 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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Brevard, NC + Sustainable Approaches = Jobs and a Cleaner Environment

By Matthew Dalbey

On November 17, I traveled with Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to Brevard, North Carolina, a town of fewer than 7,000 people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The deputies held a roundtable discussion with local officials, community organizations and businesses under the auspices of the White House Rural Council, and released a report, Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities , by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities and USDA.

Brevard and the surrounding region exemplify how rural towns can use sustainable approaches to create jobs and protect the environment. These approaches include economic development strategies and land use policies that support agriculture, foster thriving main streets, and build on competitive advantages to improve quality of life.

The deputies toured a former paper mill and Superfund site that has been cleaned up and is now ready for redevelopment. The mill was once the largest employer in Transylvania County, so its closure in 2002 was an economic blow. Thanks to an innovative partnership between the developers, EPA, the state of North Carolina, and other stakeholders, the site is being redeveloped with homes, stores, and accommodations for visitors to the Pisgah National Forest. The development is connected to downtown Brevard and the national forest by a bicycle and hiking trail. And it will create over 2,800 permanent jobs.

Deputy Perciasepe called the Partnership report a “physical manifestation” of the four agencies’ commitment to helping public investments work better for rural America and creating good conditions for private investment. The report outlines how rural communities can use programs from the four agencies to get better results for their economies, environment, communities, and public health. Deputy Merrigan noted the Partnership’s efforts to support main streets in small towns, which are critical to the future of rural America.

Having worked on the Partnership since it began in 2009, and particularly on rural issues, I found this trip particularly gratifying. I also enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the rural work we do with the chief operating officers of two agencies with huge footprints in rural America. It was a terrific experience to be in Brevard to hear how leaders in this region are using sustainable approaches to create great places to live—and to show other communities across the country that these strategies can improve quality of life in rural America, even in these challenging economic times.

About the author: Matthew Dalbey is director of the Federal and State Division in the Office of Sustainable Communities.

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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Documerica Returns!

students taking pituresRecently the National Archives and EPA launched a contest that I wish I could enter myself. I could, if I change my name, age, birth date and occupation, but since that would be frowned upon I’ll stick to what I’m doing behind the scenes.

Unlike those of us excitedly working on this project, students ages 13 to 18 plus college or graduate school students CAN participate. Now is the time for teens to get inspired about their environment!

When you become more in touch with your surroundings and the state of the planet, you might develop a heightened state of eco-awareness and feel a sense of “green-powerment.” You may come home from school and roll your eyes at your parents if they toss away recyclable goods, or forget those re-usable shopping bags or leave the water running. Regardless of the manner in which you communicate your newfound knowledge, in many cases you feel good doing so, especially when your friends are doing the same.

Right now, there is an opportunity for that energy and creativity to be part of an international project, recognized by renowned judges and exhibited around the United States. On top of that, the grand prize for this contest will be $500, courtesy of the Foundation for the National Archives.

http://documerica.challenge.gov/

Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project-lead at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Boston, Massachusetts.

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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Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Reflecting on Two Months of Occupy Wall Street

By Sophia Kelley

While the rest of the country has been talking about it, we’ve been keeping silent about something for too long here at Greening the Apple. Our building is just blocks away from where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began. EPA offices in New York are located in a federal building just across from Foley Square at 290 Broadway and a few blocks from Zuccotti Park. On warm days, the park is a place where neighborhood workers go to buy lunch from a variety of food carts and enjoy some sun before returning to the numerous office buildings in downtown Manhattan. For weeks many of us have been following the protests on the news, walking over on our breaks to check out the occupiers, rerouting our ways to work when the demonstrators start marching up Broadway, some of us disagreeing with the protesters and some of us participating and adding our voices to the demonstrations. Our work environment, though we’re located a stone’s throw from the nexus of activity, represents the typical range of responses that people have been expressing across America. As for me, I’ve been withholding judgment, feeling simultaneously sympathetic toward some of the OWS messages, but also skeptical. Until last week, that is.

NYPD forces lined up at Zuccotti Park

Last week, OWS celebrated their two month anniversary on a frigid, damp day. A fellow blogger, Elizabeth Myer, and I decided to venture down Broadway and check out the protestors as their day of action began. I have never seen such an organized police presence or such a cheerful crowd of people who seemed completely content to be standing out in the bone-chilling drizzle. Though the fringes get a lot of attention, creating controversy, waving their inflammatory signs and shouting intentionally provocative slogans, what I witnessed was a peaceful, yet energetic, surge of people who care enough about this country to want to see it improve. I saw people helping each other, working together to organize the crowd, share messages with journalists, politely question police officers about logistics of subway stations and barricades, and generally participate in the democratic process of free speech. Overall things were peaceful despite what seem to be a few isolated incidents. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but I am glad that others are willing to stand together in support of something as ethereal as fairness. Because ultimately, that is what it seems to me the OWS protestors are about – justice. This is a loaded word, because it can mean diametrically opposite things to people, but it is an admirable value to stand up for. 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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