C’mon, Give Yourself an Environmental Shout Out!

About 4 years ago, we decided to start a hiking club.  We have an autistic son and before we knew about all the family-oriented activities out there for autistic kids, we didn’t know what we could do.  We wanted something that would involve the whole family – parents, autistic kids, and their typically developing siblings – in an environment where everyone could relax and not worry about being judged by others.  Thus was born the Trophies Hike Club.  Every Sunday at 10 a.m., we meet in the parking lot or visitor center of one of many parks in the area.

We now have a group of 5-6 families (and 5-6 dogs!) that venture out every weekend — rain or shine — and it’s been a fabulous tradition that has grown with us.  Hike club has been a perfect venue to teach the kids some important things…respect wildlife, be fascinated by the impact of the changing seasons and the changing courses of the waterways and trails, not littering, and generally respecting each other and the folks, plants and animals we encounter on our walks.

We are planning to order water quality sampling kits (because what kid wouldn’t want to step into a muddy stream, plant a mesh leaf bag in order to later retrieve it and inspect the creepy crawlers that may be found within).  We also pick up litter as we go.  Are we environmentalists?  Maybe.  But let’s step this up a notch: what if we had a way to share our activities with others – inspire others with the idea of our hiking club?  And also give the kids kudos by announcing their forays into the forest on the World Wide Web.

Well, now we do have a way – environmental shout outs in EPA’s MyEnvironment.  A couple of weeks ago, we added the capability for the public to report their “good-for-the-environment” activities within the context of MyEnvironment.  We hear about folks buying their first composter, local all-green salons, Boy Scout river cleanups, and much more.  MyEnvironment was a way for the public to find environmental information about their neighborhood.  Now they will find out not just what the EPA is doing in their community, but also what the community is doing in their community.  That’s open government.

About the author: Kim Balassiano has worked in EPA’s Office of Environmental Information since 2007. Before that, she was an EPA contractor for 12 years, doing mapping and spatial analysis.  This blog is part of an ongoing series about the EPA’s efforts toward the Open Government Directive that lays out the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration.