Monthly Archives: April 2012

No nos deberíamos conformar con el término medio

Por Lina Younes

Este pasado fin de semana fui a las actividades en conmemoración del Día del Planeta Tierra en el Mall Nacional con mi hija menor y una de sus amiguitas. Visitamos la Exposición Nacional de Diseño Sostenible P3 , y las exhibiciones y actividades de la NASA y otros quioscos en el área. Mientras participamos en los eventos, una de las actividades me dejó algo confundida. Me refiero a la actividad para calcular mi huella de carbono.

En honor al Día del Planeta Tierra en el Mall Nacional y por la Red, encontré varias variaciones de la misma pregunta: ¿Cuál es su huella de carbono?” Mientras me da mucha satisfacción el tratar de hacer el mejor trabajo posible para ahorrar energía, ahorrar agua, reducir desechos y reciclar, al tomar estas pruebas repetidamente a lo largo del fin de semana obtuve calificaciones similares. ¿Qué indicaba el medidor de mis acciones verdes? ¿Cuán verde soy? ¿Respuesta? Soy una ciudadana promedio.  Vaya, eso no es un resultado para vanagloriarme.

¿Cuáles fueron mis áreas más deficientes? Básicamente, las diferentes pruebas y actividades revelaron que mi área de mayor deficiencia fue en el consumo de alimentos. Creo que ese es un renglón que frecuentemente ignoramos cuando estamos pensando en acciones verdes, o sea, acciones favorables al medio ambiente. ¿Con qué frecuencia ingerimos comidas procesadas, congeladas, o que ya vienen empaquetadas? ¿Con qué frecuencia ingerimos alimentos que no son producidos localmente? ¿Acaso ingerimos suficientes frutos y legumbres cultivados localmente? En mi caso, este fue uno de los hábitos menos verdes de mis actividades cotidianas.
 
Ahora que estoy consciente de mi debilidad, definitivamente haré un esfuerzo deliberado por mejorar.  Avances en este hábito beneficiarán al medio ambiente, así como mi salud y la de mi familia.

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 about Environmental Justice in Aotearoa/New Zealand

By Carlton Eley

I had the experience of a lifetime in 2003 when I was selected for the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy.  I traveled to New Zealand to research how the nation’s policies encourage sustainable urban settlements, and I left the country enriched with broader knowledge about programs that are complementary to encouraging ‘environmental justice.’

The term environmental justice isn’t referenced verbatim in New Zealand’s environmental policies.  However, when you peel back the layers by talking to citizens, public officials, and Iwi (tribal) authorities, it is easy for an American researcher with a passion for the topic of environmental justice to become awestruck by the strides New Zealand has made in the areas of public involvement; social impact analysis; cultural preservation; heritage landscapes; and Māori approaches to community development.  As an urban planner, I took a key interest in the latter issues, heritage landscapes and community development.

In New Zealand, public discourse about heritage landscapes reveals there are many landscapes, which have heritage significance to communities, Iwi, and the nation. In the process, Kiwis have learned that preservation isn’t simply about protecting historic buildings, landmarks, and monuments. It is also about honoring the narratives, the institutions, and cultural assets that contribute to a sense of place. In the end, the built heritage and the institutional heritage are both treasures (or taonga in Māori) because they equally contribute to creating a sense of place.

Terry Puketapu inside the ‘Te Maori’ Cultural Centre.

As for community development, I was particularly impressed withthe efforts lead by Terry Puketapu within Lower Hutt.  As a local leader, Terry had a clear sense of the community’s pulse and the need for businesses, facilities, and jobs that would improve quality of life.  Following years of investment, Terry and the Iwi authority have built a community health center; fitness center; radio station; cultural center; as well as a pre-school which also serves as a language nest for teaching toddlers to speak Māori.  Further, the neighborhood services are for the benefit and enjoyment of all residents who live in the community.

My time with the people of New Zealand left quite an impression on me, and it reinforced my belief that environmental justice is a forward-thinking, sustainable approach.  New Zealand is often thought of as a breath-taking place because of its abundant natural amenities.  However, when I reflect on my fellowship experience, I am reminded of a country that has gone ‘beyond the green;’ that is improving communities holistically; yet tends to be modest about what it has accomplished.

Carlton Eley works for the Office of Policy.  He is an urban planner, sociologist, and lecturer.  Carlton interned with EPA’s Environmental Justice Program in Region 10 as an associate of the Environmental Careers Organization in 1994.  In recent years, he has become an accomplished and respected expert on the topic of equitable development in the public sector.

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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Congrats to the Green Ribbon School Winners!

President Obama announced the winners this week.  78 schools in 29 states won the Green Ribbon School Award.  Green Ribbon Schools not only green the school environments through energy efficient lighting, recycling, school gardens and composting…they also educate the students about how to be green.  Check out the winners here and see who won in your state:  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/2012-schools.doc

Find out more about how to green your school scene!

http://www.epa.gov/epahome/school.htm

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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When Average Is Just Not Good Enough

By Lina Younes

This past weekend, I went to the Earth Day festivities at the National Mall with my youngest daughter and one of her friends. We visited the National Sustainable Design Expo-P3 , the NASA exhibits and activities and other booths in the area. While we eagerly participated in the events, one of the activities left me somewhat perplexed. Which activity you may ask? The Carbon Footprint Estimator.

In honor of Earth Day at the National Mall and online, there were several variations of the same question “What is your carbon footprint?” While I pride myself in doing my best to go green by saving energy, saving water, reducing waste, and recycling, time and time again all the quizzes I took this weekend gave me the same grade. What is my Green-O-Rometer? How green am I? Response? Just an average Jane. Not something to be proud of in my book.

So, what were my areas of weakness? Basically, the different quizzes/activities revealed that my weakest area was food consumption. That is an area that I think we frequently overlook when we are thinking of going green. How often do we eat processed or packaged foods? How many times do we eat non-locally grown foods? Do we eat enough locally grown fruits and vegetables? In my case, those were the least green-friendly activities that I engaged in on a daily basis.

So now that I’m aware of my area of weakness, I’ll definitely make a conscious effort to improve. Not only will it be greener for the environment, but it will also be healthier for me and my family.

Are you planning any changes in your daily habits? Want to share any green plans with us? We would love to hear from you.

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 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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Celebrate Shad!

By Nancy Grundahl

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

American Shad, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Every spring around this time folks in the Delaware Valley pay homage to shad. Why? We are celebrating their return after many years of reduced populations due to polluted rivers and the construction of dams that blocked their migration upstream to spawn. Healthier waters and fish ladders have been instrumental in their comeback and so we celebrate.

How? By eating shad, of course! Restaurants serve all sorts of yummy dishes that use shad, like seared shad and shad croquettes. On the web there are tips on where to fish, when to fish and how to fish for shad. And there are festivals. Lots of them. Here are a few you might want to visit this weekend.

Lambertville, New Jersey Shad Fest(on the Delaware River just across from New Hope, Pa.)
April 28 & 29, 2012
12:30-5:30 pm

Fishtown Shadfest 2012 – Penn Treaty Park (on the Delaware River in Philadelphia)
April 28, 2012
noon-6 pm

Schuylkill River Shad Festival (on the Schuylkill River in Mont Clare, Pa.)
April 28, 2012
11 am – 5 pm

Can’t make it to the festivals but want to celebrate in your own special way? Then take a look at Philadelphia’s Fish Cam. If you are lucky, you will see shad migrating upstream by using the river ladder on the Fairmount Dam. And listen to our podcast for more about the fish ladder.

Take a look. Take a listen. Celebrate shad.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” 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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Sustainable Weekend Activities | NYC

Disappointed that Earth Day is over? Make every day Earth Day by participating in a local eco-friendly event. Check out our suggestions below and let us know if we missed something!

Citizen Pruner Tree Care Course: It’s not cheap, but if you’ve ever wanted to be a certified NYC tree pruner, this is the class to take! Learn the fundamentals of tree care, tree identification and pruning, as well as how to follow city regulations and safety standards. Monday, April 30, 6-8 p.m.

Cooking Demonstration: Spring herbs are the focus of this cultivation and cooking lesson, free with admission to Wave Hill Gardens. Sunday, April 29, 2 p.m.

The Great Recycle: Kick your recycling habit up a notch. Pledge to recycle more bottles than ever and help celebrate Honest Tea’s New York City recycling campaign at this Times Square, day-long event. Monday, April 30, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

E-Waste Recycling: Did the rain deter you from recycling your electronics last week? There are still plenty of opportunities. Bring your old tech stuff to Morningside Park and lighten your load. Sunday, April 29, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day: Clean out your medicine cabinets and keep harmful substances out of our waterways. Find collection centers near you. Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. -2 p.m.

New Amsterdam Market: The season starts up for this local and sustainable market held at the historic Fulton Fish Market location. Sunday, April 29, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Riverside Park Planting Volunteer Day: Come out to Riverside Park to help out with restoration planting. Saturday, April 28, 9:30 a.m.

Sakura Matsuri Festival: Cherry blossom season culminates this weekend with the Sakura Matsuri Festival in celebration of Japanese culture. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29.

Street Games: Double-dutch, hula hoops and stickball – you’re never too old to learn! Come to the Thomas Jefferson Park in Harlem on Saturday April 28, 11 a.m. – 3 p.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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Challenges and Opportunities in San Juan Bay

By Nancy Stoner

Last week, I visited the San Juan Bay National Estuary Program office in Puerto Rico and took a tour of the estuary with the program’s director, Dr. Javier Laureano. San Juan Bay was the first tropical island estuary to become part of the National Estuary Program and, it contains coral communities, seagrass beds and mangrove forests – all habitats designated critical areas. The San Juan Bay program also faces some significant environmental challenges, but Dr. Laureano and his team are making tremendous progress through their partnerships with commonwealth and municipal officials, the local water and wastewater utilities, and dedicated community groups.
We started the day with a boat tour of the waterways that connect to San Juan Bay. It’s an oasis in the Puerto Rico’s largest urban center with almost no development and lots of wildlife, but with significant contamination issues from sewage and stormwater. The National Estuary Program has requested $1.2 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to track all of the sources of untreated sewage into the waterway. We also saw a number of new eco-tourism businesses that the National Estuary Program has helped get off the ground.

A hallmark of this program is its focus on developing economic opportunities for many of the communities located within the National Estuary Program study area because of the poverty they face. In this case, many of the local neighborhoods lack sewage treatment and have clogged stormwater drains as well, so the storms flood the streets, homes and even schools with sewage-laden water.

The trash in the Martin Pena Channel that flows into San Juan Bay and is so deep that you can walk across the former stream at many points. It is a health hazard that EPA is working in partnership with many, including effective community leaders, to address, but it’s a big job and presents a significant financial challenge for this impoverished community.

I also joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Assistant Administrator Craig Hooks for a meeting and walking tour with representatives of community groups, a visit to a community garden where university students tutor children in the neighborhood and a trip to eroded coastal areas where the National Estuary Program is planting mangrove trees to stabilize and protect the coastline. These projects are a few examples of the great work underway to restore and protect one of the country’s most unique ecosystems in the United States.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

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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Thinking Outside the (Polystyrene) Box

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck presents Ecovative Design co-founder Eben Bayer with EPA's Environmental Quality Award at the company's Green Island, NY facility on April 19.

By Larisa Romanowski

What better time than Earth Week to recognize the innovators among us – the companies and the employees that are truly making a difference.

We all know that our petroleum-based packaging materials, like polystyrene, have serious environmental consequences. So what if there was a practical and environmentally-friendly alternative? Now there is. And believe it or not, it’s made from mushrooms.

The completely compostable polystyrene substitute was the brain child of Ecovative Design co-founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre who developed the technology during their senior year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The packaging product called EcoCradle, is made from the mushrooms “roots”, called mycelium. To make the biodegradable packaging, the mushrooms are given agricultural wastes (like seed husks) which they digest to transform into a white material that is placed into molds. There, the shape forms and dries within five days, by which point the mushroom is no longer a live material.

And business is booming. Since opening the company in 2007, they’ve already expanded their facilities and now employ more than 40 workers. The Environmental Protection Agency was an early supporter of the company’s research, awarding them two Small Business Innovation and Research Grants in 2009 and 2010 totaling $295,000. Today, with contracts in place with companies like Dell and Crate and Barrel, the future looks bright for the young eco-entrepreneurs.

One of the things that the EPA can do to support green businesses is to recognize their important work. So, last week EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck visited Ecovative Design in Green Island, NY to present them with EPA’s Environmental Quality Award and tour their expanding facilities.

So often we’re forced to focus on our environmental problems, so it’s refreshing when we can take time to celebrate the solutions. Kudos to Ecovative Design for thinking outside the (polystyrene) box.

About the Author: Larisa Romanowski is a Community Involvement Coordinator stationed at the EPA Region 2 Hudson River Field Office in Hudson Falls, NY. When she’s not discussing the cleanup of the Hudson River, she enjoys exploring the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

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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Happy Earth Day

studentThis Sunday was Earth Day.  What did you do to celebrate the Earth?  EPA attended many educational events…maybe we saw you in your hometown!  Check out these links below to find out what happened and what you can still do!

Watch the EPA YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdwC03n2whQ&list=UUlUC_8c_F3aBmwME-dNfvKg&feature=plcp

Take the EPA Greenquest challenge! http://www.epa.gov/greenquest/

Learn what you can do: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/take-action.html

Hope you had a great Earth Day and protect the environment Every Day.

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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How Far Would You Go For Safe Drinking Water?

By Elinor Keith

Before coming to work at the EPA, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, along the southeastern coast of Africa. I didn’t have running water, but at first the school I taught at had a well about 100 yards from my house so getting water was not a problem. It only took a little time out of my day, and I got a little exercise at the same time! After 9 months the pump broke, and they weren’t able to fix it. For the next year, the closest public well was over a kilometer away. Walking 2 kilometers for every 20 liters of water was a big drain on my time.

I was still lucky: I had enough money to hire someone to carry water for me, and as a teacher I was respected enough in the community that people would loan me wheelbarrows or even give me water if they had extra. But many people are not so lucky: UNICEF estimates that women and girls in developing countries walk an average of 6 kilometers a day for water. Even then the water they drink is often not safe. 2.2 million deaths of children are preventable through improvements in the provision of safe drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene practices.

It’s easy to forget sometimes how fortunate we are to be able to turn a tap and have safe drinking water come out. Here at the EPA, I’m proud of the work I do analyzing drinking water data to help ensure that in the US. To promote the need for access to safe water worldwide, we’re also teaming up with the US Agency for International Development to organize an Earth Day 6K Walk for Water – to reflect the average distance a woman in a third world country must walk daily for water. If you’ll be here in Washington, DC on April 27th, please join us by registering here. No matter where you are, you can do your part for safe drinking water by conserving water in your home.

About the Author: Elinor Keith analyzes drinking water data for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Before joining the EPA, she taught high school chemistry in Mozambique for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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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