Monthly Archives: February 2012

Black History Month: In The Spirit of Service and Stewardship

By Carolyn House Stewart, Esq.

Alpha Kappa Alpha women are known for wearing their pink and green as they serve communities all over the globe.To effectively serve in these communities requires being healthy.

As one of the world’s leading service organizations primarily comprised of African-American women, we have a mandate to promote programs on heart health, asthma, cancer prevention, diabetes awareness and other health initiatives as part of our service mission.

We are honored to be working closely with the EPA and Administrator Jackson, to help educate our members on the importance of protecting human health and the environment. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and EPA share a commitment to address human health issues and to expand the environmental conversation within the communities we serve.

This partnership supports our programmatic theme: “Global Leadership Through Timeless Service.”

Our health is our wealth, so we encourage our members to take simple actions to mitigate the impact of health and environmental hazards. These include recycling at our national and regional conferences, raising awareness on heart health through programs like “pink goes red for a day” in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red Campaign, and by supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” fitness campaign.

Together, AKA and the EPA are working to promote greater awareness about environmental triggers that can lead to asthma attacks and other ailments that compromise health. Our hope is that our partnership with the EPA is only the beginning of an ongoing national dialog to educate and empower women of color to be greater advocates for healthier environments.

As the leader of this dynamic organization, I have a personal stake in conveying this message. So, in the spirit of love, I appeal to you to make the changes, adjustments and modifications in your lives, so we all can be better stewards of our environment. It is a gift of love you give yourself, your family and your community.

About the author: Carolyn House Stewart of Tampa, Florida was installed as the 28th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The swearing-in ceremony was marked by a compelling mix of pageantry, pomp and ritual and was witnessed by an overflow crowd of members. It marked the climax of the Sorority’s weeklong conference that took place July 9-16 at St. Louis’ Convention Center.  In ascending to the international presidency, Attorney Stewart becomes the first lawyer to head the organization. She also makes history as the first president to serve a full term in the Sorority’s second centennial. Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrated its first century in 2008

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 in Focus: Charles “Chuck” O’Rear

By Jeanethe Falvey

He set an older camera on the table so I would recognize him. In a quaint coffee shop in St. Helena, California, I finally had a chance to sit down with Chuck and meet him in person.

While he is the likely front-runner with the most photographs in the final Documerica collection, his images are not yet in Flickr. Only about 4,000 have been scanned into the National Archives Flickr account, but over 15,000 images actually exist and are available in NARA’s online Archival Research Catalog. It requires patience, but searching by Documerica photographer, state, or environmental topic is worth the digging.

I asked him how he took this photo, a favorite that I found:

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

How quickly did he have to duck and cover? No tripod, he confirmed. His memory of that exact photo was a little foggy, fair enough, but he said he was highly doubtful that the pilot pulled up in time. With a chuckle he said he was glad he’s still around, but that dosage of pesticides was just one of those moments that comes with the territory of being a photojournalist. Taking risks is living, he says.

His Documerica assignments took him throughout California, down along the Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, Hawaii and more. He kept coming up with ideas and Gifford Hampshire kept sending him out.

I could have sat with him for hours and just about did. It was easy to zing from topic to topic, place to place around the world. Since Documerica, he photographed for National Geographic magazine for 25 years. It was going to be a challenge to name a place he hadn’t traveled to. So I tried.

“Been to Palau?”

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Shockingly, my first attempt got him, but he has been to Yap! Yap is an island stopover on route to Palau. I saw it in the dark. During a story about currencies around the world, he photographed the Yapese Rai: large stone disks that were brought back by rafts and determination from Papua New Guinea and Palau. Today, islanders and visitors use the American dollar, but Rai are still ceremoniously exchanged.

His adventures continue; he just returned from Australia and can’t wait to get back. This weekend, take a look at Chuck’s recent work. You’ll want a glass of chardonnay and a ticket to Napa.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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No More Helmet Head Hair

By Alice Kaufman

It’s turned cold in New England now so I’ve had to change my commute. But when the weather is nice, and temperatures are well above freezing in the morning, I ride my bike the five miles to the commuter rail station.

The train ride is the real start of the work day, when I check emails and correspond with early birds in the office. At the other end of the 50-minute ride to North Station, I slip my key into the parking meter, pick up a shared bike and ride the last mile to the office. Then there’s an official station where I can park the bike right across the street from the entrance to the building where I work.

Boston’s new bike sharing program, in case you don’t know about it, is called Hubway. It exists through a partnership with the city, the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation, the MBTA, the Federal Transit Administration, New Balance shoe company, and others.

If I were to drive to work every day instead of taking the train, I would be responsible for 4,958 pounds of carbon each year added to the atmosphere. My winter driving to the train accounts for 826 pounds of CO2 a year.

Boston’s bike-sharing program started in the summer of 2011 with 600 indestructible bicycles and 60 stations around the city. The program is planning to add stations in Cambridge and Brookline too. Before the snow fell, the bikes were put away for the season, as was my bike.

Bike-sharing programs are also underway in Paris, London, Barcelona, Melbourne, in New York City, Denver, Boulder, Washington DC, Minneapolis, and Portland (Ore.), not to mention Wuhan and Hangzhou, China.

City biking is not for the faint-hearted, though. It can be scary sharing the lane with buses, motorists and jaywalkers. You’ve got to have your wits about you at all times, ever observant of car doors opening and vehicles making abrupt stops. A good helmet is an absolute must and reflective clothing helps as the days towards winter grow short and dark.

For now, during the winter, I am content with driving to the train station and walking 10 minutes from Boston’s South Station to my office. But I always welcome the spring and return of the Boston’s bike sharing bikes.

More info on Hubway
More info on bike sharing

About the author: Alice Kaufman works in EPA’s Boston office. She loves to travel, is an avid backcounty hiker, and frequently tromps through Thoreau’s woods in her home town with her husband and kids, and Watson, her mischievous Golden Retriever.

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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The Fairview Net Zero Club’s Experience with Energy Audits

energy star logo

The main concept behind an energy audit is evaluating the energy use in a building to find the best way to reduce energy consumption and optimize savings. A proper audit can be complicated, especially if you are not a professional. However, the Fairview Net Zero Club has found that a simplified version may be just as effective in achieving the basic goal reducing energy use. We walked through Fairview High School and recorded the appliances and other electronic equipment in every single room. Using an electricity usage monitor, we measured the wattage of each device. In the end, we discovered wasteful uses of energy. For example, we counted a total of 51 refrigerators in the entire school. It gets worse. Most were empty and left running during the summer, some were from the 70s, and none were Energy Star rated.

Our proposed solution was to replace the 51 refrigerators with fourteen larger Energy Star refrigerators. We could pay for the new appliances with the energy savings in less than two years. Also, we invited the school district’s sustainability coordinator to join us for part of the audit. Partly as a result of our findings, she is coordinating an energy reduction challenge at fourteen of the district’s largest schools, getting employees to turn off appliances over breaks.

Overall, the process of walking through a building and identifying unnecessary uses of energy can be done anywhere—at home, at an office. Solutions to reduce energy use are often quite obvious and one doesn’t need to be an expert to figure out how to make your home or office more efficient.

Cindy Zou is a senior at Fairview High School and the Co-President of the Net Zero club. She is an IB Diploma candidate and plans on studying biological chemistry in college. Outside of school, she figure skates, and works as a tutor at Kumon Learning Center.

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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Paving the Way in American Manufacturing

By Nancy Stoner

On a cold February day, I stood in a driveway in an industrial complex in Bladensburg, MD, just outside the nation’s capital. Water from a 500-gallon container was gushing onto the ground in front of me. But rather than forming large puddles and flowing across the parking lot, the water was simply disappearing – not into thin air, but into a special system of permeable pavers called PaveDrain.

Instead of letting rain flow off hard surfaces and carry pollution into local waterways and stormdrains, this innovative product captures it and allows it to slowly filter into the ground. Ernest Maier, a Bladensburg, MD company, manufactures the PaveDrain system and had hosted me for a demo. They are exactly the type of company that President Obama spoke about in his State of the Union address when he laid out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last – one built on American manufacturing, American energy and the skills of American workers.

When the President laid out proposals for how we’ll bring about a new era of American manufacturing, with more good jobs and more products stamped Made in the USA, Ernest Maier is the type of company the President was talking about – a successful American company that manufactures products in America and employs American workers.

This system of permeable pavers that greatly reduce water pollution can be found at the nearby town hall in Bladensburg, in residential driveways in Pennsylvania and in the parking lot of a Ford factory in Louisville. In addition to manufacturing products that reduce water pollution and recharge groundwater, Ernest Maier is taking steps to use clean energy and protect the environment – reusing water at the factory, putting biodiesel in their off-road vehicles, utilizing recycled materials, and working with The Conservation Fund to offset carbon dioxide emissions.

Manufacturers of environmental technology are critical to an economy built to last. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of environmental technology goods and services. The U.S. environmental technology industry is a significant economic engine comprised of approximately 119,000 firms, 99 percent of which are small and medium-sized companies. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, $43.8 billion in exports, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs.

Let those numbers soak in…they show that our environment and economy can thrive together.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the 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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Early Signs of Spring

By Lina Younes

Truth be told, this winter season has been relatively mild around the greater Washington, DC area and across the United States. So when the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow forecasting six more weeks of winter, my first thought was: “what winter?”

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather this past weekend, my husband, our youngest daughter and I decided to take a walk around Allen Pond, Maryland near our home. Although it was mid-February, it felt more like early April. In fact, during our walk, we were seeing early signs of spring all around us. There were robin red-breasts hopping on the grass. Several shrubs were showing some signs of budding. The leaves from bulbs were pushing up through the ground making way for an early appearance. The fresh scents and lively sounds of spring were already in the air.

We were also taking advantage of that lovely afternoon to get out and move. While the short winter days seem to give us the perfect excuse to enjoy more sedentary activities, the change in seasons should be an ideal opportunity to get out of our self-imposed hibernation. And what better way of fulfilling a resolution of becoming healthier in 2012 than taking a long nice walk with the family in the park on a beautiful day?

So, do you have any plans for the spring months? Looking forward to gardening? Planning any greenscaping techniques? Please share your thoughts with us. As always, we’re interested in keeping these greenversations going!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and 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.

Los primeros indicios de la primavera

Por Lina Younes

A la verdad, esta temporada invernal ha sido relativamente moderada alrededor de Washington, DC y a través de los Estados Unidos. Por lo tanto, cuando la famosa marmota de Pensilvania, Punxutawney Phil, vio su sombra presagiando seis semanas más de invierno, lo primero que se me vino a la mente fue: “¿qué invierno?”

Aprovechando las temperaturas agradables de este pasado fin de semana, mi esposo, nuestra hija menor, y yo decidimos tomar una caminata alrededor del estanque de Allen Pond en Maryland cerca de nuestro hogar. Aunque estábamos a mediados de febrero, se sentía más como si fuera abril. De hecho, durante nuestra caminata, estábamos viendo los primeros indicios de la primavera a nuestro alrededor. Los petirrojos saltaban por la hierba. Varios arbustos estaban ya empezando con los primeros retoños. Las hojas de los bulbos estaban abriendo camino en la tierra para salir a la escena primaveral. La fresca fragancia y los sonidos animados de la primavera ya se sentían en el aire.

También aprovechamos esa bella tarde para salir de la casa y ejercitarnos. Mientras los días cortos del invierno parecen darnos la excusa perfecta para disfrutar actividades más sedentarias, el cambio en las estaciones debería ser una oportunidad ideal para salir de nuestra auto-impuesta hibernación. Y qué mejor manera de cumplir una resolución de ser más saludable durante el 2012 que caminar con la familia en un parque durante un día soleado.

¿Acaso tiene planes para los meses de la primavera? ¿Está pensando en la jardinería? ¿Está planificando técnicas de jardinería ecológica? Comparta sus ideas con nosotros. Como siempre queremos mantener esta conversación ambiental activa mediante nuestro blog, Greenversations.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña la persona encargada de alcance público y comunicaciones multilingües en la Oficina de Asuntos Externos y Educación Ambiental de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. Antes de integrarse a la labor de la EPA, trabajó como periodista dirigiendo 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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Sustainable Weekend Activities | NYC

Art and adventure, inside and out—NYC has got it all this weekend!

A Vision for Long Island City – Big things are happening in LIC, home of the Socrates Sculpture Park. Take a visit to the Noguchi Museum and see how four artists foresee development in this burgeoning area of Queens. Saturday-Sunday, February 25-26, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Forclosed: Rehousing the American Dream – A look at proposals by architects and designers that offer new ways of thinking about cities and suburbs. Saturday-Sunday, February 25-26, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

LIFE: Kids Nature Film Series – Love nature documentaries? Come out to see the final day of an award winning nature documentary series, hosted by The Prospect Park Alliance. Friday, February 24, 1:00 p.m. – 4 p.m.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Hunt for Tom & Huck’s Lost Treasure! – Join Staten Island OutLOUD to hunt for “nuggets of knowledge” on the trails near the Greenbelt Nature Center. It will be an easy walk, and all ages are welcome! Sunday, February 26, 2:00 p.m.

The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter – If our warm winter hasn’t been warm enough for you, stop by the American Museum of Natural History this weekend to frolic with 500 butterfly specimens in a balmy 80 degree vivarium. Saturday-Sunday, February 25-26, 10:00 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. 

Winter Seals and Waterbirds of New York Harbor – Back by “pup-ular” (their word, not ours) demand. Don’t miss your chance to see New York City harbor seals like you’ve never seen them before! Sunday, February 26, 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 a.m.

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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Giving Pollutants the Pretreatment

By Steve Copeland

Industry needs a place to send the wastewater it produces. But, conventional wastewater treatment plants can’t handle hazardous industrial pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and volatile organic compounds. These pollutants can pass right through wastewater treatment plants untreated and discharge to rivers and streams, which can harm aquatic life and human health.  These untreated pollutants can also interfere with the functioning of the wastewater treatment plants so that they are unable to do what they are designed for — treating sewage.

 In order to prevent these problems, the Clean Water Act requires industrial users of wastewater treatment plants to have permits requiring their discharges to be effectively pretreated. EPA works closely with state and local governments ensuring that industries treat their own wastewater before it makes its way to larger treatment plants.

 Effective pretreatment protects our waters so they are safe for swimming, fishing, and drinking.  For example, pretreatment can neutralize the acidity of the wastewater, strip out harmful metals, or dilute the wastewater before it is discharged so that it is no longer harmful. To comply with their permits, industrial users must remove these pollutants before sending their wastewater to sewer systems because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these harmful compounds.

 EPA provides training to wastewater pretreatment plant operators on developing successful pretreatment programs. The operators who attend the training and conferences we sponsor have indicated these sessions enable them to implement effective treatment programs.  This is another example of EPA reaching out to industry and local governments,  and working with them to protect public health and the environment.

 Visit this link and click on the “Pretreatment” tab for more information about pretreatment in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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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Punxsutawney Phil be Darned…We’ve Started Spring Cleaning

By Jeffery Robichaud

My kids are hooked on Storage Wars (they love Barry and despise Dave) and my wife and I enjoy Hoarders, probably since it makes us feel like better housekeepers than we really are. At EPA in Kansas City, we are preparing for a transition from one building to another and many of us are beginning to grapple with our pack-rat tendencies and being forced to open long forgotten storage cabinets. Such an endeavor should be easy; and the most important part of it is. Records are saved, stored, and managed in accordance with requisite policies and procedures. Unfortunately scientists tend to amass collections of journal articles, data sets, guidance documents, and even specimens that, while not records, represent a life-time of learning and serve as a record of an individual’s career spent protecting human health and the environment.

Which gets me to the hackneyed phrase, one person’s junk is another’s treasure. Case in point; a colleague of mine uses a discolored booklet which is older than I as a prop for employee training. I grabbed it from him one day and realized the title was, “Everyone can’t live upstream: a contemporary history of water quality problems on the Missouri River, Sioux City, Iowa to Hermann, Missouri.” It just so happened we were working on a Missouri River project, and boom there it was, information not present in EPA’s databases or easily accessible at the time in any library. We were able to use this secondary information to fill in historical gaps for our project. Secondary data analysis, using information collected by someone else for another purpose, can be a fantastic way to provide additional context and relevance to a project as well as save costs assuming the information meets your data quality requirements.

As we all continue our march from the paper age to the electronic, consider making your old information and data available through sites like Data.gov, Socrata, or any number of other open data websites. Although this may be sacrilegious to say, all science doesn’t necessarily make its way into published journals. I’ll be giving this a shot as I clean my cabinets. Who knows, something old and dusty may still be valuable to another person in the future for an entirely new reason. Now if I can just convince my wife that this is the case for my Star Wars lunchboxes.

About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started with the Agency in 1998. He serves currently serves as Deputy Director of the Environmental Services Division in Kansas City.

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.