back to school

The Village Green Project: Reading the Results So Far…

By Dr. Gayle Hagler and Ron Williams

The Village Green Project is up and running! The lower-cost, solar-powered equipment continuously monitors ozone and fine particles, along with meteorological measurements, and sends the data to an EPA website by the minute.

So, what is the data telling us about local environmental conditions at this point? The graphs below show a snapshot of recorded trends for ground level ozone and fine particulate matter.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project.  Note: data are preliminary and intended for research and educational purposes.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project. Note that the data are preliminary
and intended for research and educational purposes.

The up and down line you see above for daily ozone concentrations is a typical summer pattern. That’s because the summer sun fuels atmospheric chemical reactions throughout the day that create ground level ozone, commonly peaking in the hot afternoon. The process decreases overnight, and ozone concentrations fall.

Hourly ozone data from the Village Green Project.  Note that the data are preliminary  and intended for research and educational purposes.

Hourly PM2.5 data from the Village Green Project. Note that the data are preliminary
and intended for research and educational purposes.

A review of the particulate graph shows very low concentrations in early July. Not surprisingly, this coincided with rainy days, as rainfall usually removes particulates from the air. Once the rain ended, particulate levels started rising to levels we commonly see in the summertime.

The Village Green park bench

The Village Green park bench

So far, the air-monitoring bench survived very hot and humid weather and has operated uninterrupted during several dark and overcast days, including during back-to-back thunderstorms. We will continue to monitor the system’s performance over the remainder of the summer.

Back to School

With fall just around the corner, the school year is about to begin again. We are interested in how we can engage teachers and their students in learning about air quality science and the Village Green Project. Our outreach team is in the process of developing fun and interactive games.

Care to join the fun? Please use the comments section below if you have suggestions or questions about environmental education projects involving the Village Green Project.  And please check back regularly for future blogs!

Village Green graphic identifierAbout the Authors: Dr. Gayle Hagler is an environmental engineer who studies air pollutant emissions and measurement technologies. Ron Williams is an exposure science researcher who is studying how people are exposed to air pollutants and methods to measure personal exposure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Back to School Going Green!

Well it is back to school shopping time so let’s talk about saving some green (a.k.a. cash) and going green with the 3-Rs—Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Reusing school supplies from last year will reduce the amount of items you need to purchase and decrease your environmental impact.  Look around the house, in your book bag, and under the car seats for pencils, pens, and partly used spiral notebooks.

After you have gathered up last year’s left over school supplies it is now time to go shopping!  Use your environmental consumer super power to purchase recycled versions of items you still need.   There are lots of choices to “make a statement” with your green school supplies purchases.  Purchase brands with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content.  Become an instant Eco Fashionista!  Recycled purses and bags made from juice boxes, seatbelts, magazines, newspapers, and more.  My favorite is recycled paper with flower seeds imbedded in it for those special notes.   I also stop in at my local zoo’s gift shop to get a Poo Paper fix.   It is paper made from elephant (or other animals) manure; no it doesn’t smell, but it does make a great conversation starter.

Make textbook covers from recycled paper grocery sacks, crayons and markers or an old T-shirt. 

Retro is in!  Stop by your local gently used store to buy a new look and donate stuff from your closet that no longer fits your style or your body.  Purchasing gently used clothing is a huge way to decrease your ecological footprint.

If you take snacks or your lunch to school, remember to purchase regular- sized bags and then put what you need for the day into a reusable container.  With snack-sized bags you pay more for smaller portions AND the extra packaging creates more waste

If you drive, start a carpool!  It will not only save some cash but you and your friends can get a head start on “whatz up!” gossip before arriving at school.

Denise Scribner has been teaching about environmental issues for over 35 years.   For her innovative approaches to teaching to help her students become environmentally aware citizens, she won the 2012 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Her high school was also one of the first 78 schools across the USA to be named a Green Ribbon School in 2012.

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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Going Green As You’re Going Back to School

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Summertime is coming to an end, and kids are heading back to school. And even though they’ll be spending less time outdoors, we should still be thinking about how to protect the environment and safeguard our children’s health. Fortunately, small actions can turn into big results for protecting the environment, and can even save extra money for the school year.

For example, try to cut down on waste. More than 30 percent of what we throw away comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. Look for pens, pencils, and other supplies that are packaged with recyclable materials. That goes for spiral notebooks and notebook paper, too. For every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper, an entire tree is saved.

Buying school supplies every year can get expensive. A good way to save money is to conserve energy use around the house. Energy Star products – from lightbulbs and laptops to televisions and air conditioners – are more energy efficient, which means you’ll pay less in utility bills every month. In 2011, the use of Energy Star products helped Americans save $23 billion on their utility bills, and prevented more than 210 million metric tons of green house gas emissions.

There are also ways to make sure our schools are environmentally friendly. In addition to choosing products made from recyclable materials and using energy efficient appliances, check to make sure the products used to clean your child’s classrooms carry the “Design for the Environment” label. This label means those products are safer for students and better for the environment.

Every child deserves a clean and healthy place to learn – and all parents should be able to trust that their children’s health is not at risk when they send them off to school. The EPA is working hard to reduce health threats in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and we want to make sure schools and parents have what they need to minimize pollution in and around classrooms and give all of our kids healthy places to learn.

Last but not least, these actions help teach children the importance of a clean, healthy environment. Making “green” a part of everyday learning – both inside and outside the classroom – is an easy way to engage our kids in the efforts to safeguard the planet they will inherit, and protect their future.

<em>About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</em>

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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Shopping Green for Back to School

By Stephanie Nicholson

While many kids dread the idea of summer coming to an end, I was always excited for one reason: back to school shopping!  And, of course, I was excited to see all my friends again. I begged my mom to take me to the store at least a month ahead of time to ensure I could pick from a large selection of binders, pens, backpacks, lunch bags, and new clothes. The second I got home, I hauled my new finds into the house, packed my backpack, and staged my own fashion show.

When back to school shopping this year, it is important to keep in mind how our choices affect the environment. I suggest buying durable and/or recyclable goods. Choose a backpack that is well-made and will last for many years. I still have the one I used for all 4 years of high school, and in the one instance the zipper broke, it had a lifetime warranty and the company replaced it free of charge. Not to mention the popular outdoor outfitter has been dedicated to environmental stewardship since its foundation. Instead of packing the traditional “brown bag lunch”, choose from the extensive selection of lunch bags that you can use again and again. Buy recyclable paper, and if possible use last year’s binders and folders. If you need new ones, buy cardboard or canvas instead of the usual plastic.

As a teenage girl, I always looked forward to buying a new wardrobe for back to school. For as long as I can remember, I have never thrown out my old clothes; I collect what I do not want and donate them to charity.  Another option if you usually purchase the popular brands is to take them to stores who will give you cash or a store credit in exchange for your gently worn clothes.  My friends and I also quickly realized we always loved each other’s clothes, so we organized clothing swaps. It’s quite simple: collect all the things in your closet you’re tired of, have a get together with some great food, and swap clothes. You get to go home with some cool new pieces without spending a dime. Back to school can be hectic, but with a few simple changes it can be easier on the environment.

How will you “go green” during back to school shopping?

Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. She is a senior at Towson University near Baltimore, MD and will graduate in December 2012.

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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College Students – It’s Time for Back to School Shopping!

By Vanja Basaric

College Students- It’s Time for Back to School Shopping! Find Ways to Save Money AND help Protect the Environment!

With summer nearing its end, college students like me start thinking about supplies we need when going back to school. When I think of back to school shopping as a kid, I think about how excited I used to get when teachers sent out school supply checklists. I would eagerly run up to my mom telling her we had to go to the store THAT DAY, or all of the good supplies would be taken. I remember running through the store picking out the newest Backstreet Boys folders and gel pens so I could impress friends with my brand new supplies. But as much as I enjoyed back to school shopping, the older I got, the more I realized how pricey it can be.

For college students, back to school purchasing is more about housing, textbooks, and computers. As a graduate student, my back to school shopping this year means upgrading my computer, purchasing a mini-fridge to keep my snacks fresh, and ordering endless amounts of textbooks. Clearly, these needs require quite a hefty budget, but there are many ways that I have found throughout the years to keep costs down.

I’m also passionate about finding ways to help protect the environment when making my back to school purchases. For instance, I always make sure to buy appliances and products with the ENERGY STAR label .  Having my own apartment means paying for utilities, and this makes me even more energy and cost cautious. What impresses me about ENERGY STAR products is that they offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance or features. ENERGY STAR provides a list of products for your dorm room or apartment.

Other ways I save money on back to school shopping include buying electronic versions of my textbooks. Rather than spending a fortune on hard copies of the text, I just download the electronic version and easily access it on school computers. I’m amazed at how much money I’ve saved over the years by not buying name brand pens and notebooks and shopping at discount stores. Yes, this means giving up my beloved gel pens, but it also means saving money.

So whether you are going back to your dorm or finally moving off campus into your new place, remember these back to school shopping tips and save money while being mindful of our beautiful environment!

About the author: Vanja Basaric is a graduate student at James Madison University working towards a Master of Public Administration. She is currently a summer intern in the Office of Public Engagement.

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 To Go Green And Go Back To School At The Same Time

By Stephanie Nicholson

What time is it? SCHOOL TIME! Parents and teachers with summer coming to an end it’s time to load up on pencils and crayons. This year while shopping, keep in mind the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. As a general rule, buy durable and recyclable goods, and when possible reuse old supplies. Before shopping, go through everything you have left from last year and make a list to prevent unnecessary purchases. Back to school shopping can be hectic, but if you follow my top three green tips for parents and teachers you can rest easy knowing you minimized your footprint.

Tips for Parents:

1.    Buy durable, sturdy backpacks that last for years
I still use the same backpacks I used for all four years of high school when I travel, and in the one instance the zipper broke the popular outdoor outfitter replaced it free of charge. You can even pass down durable backpacks to your younger children.

2.    Kick the classic “brown bag lunch” to the curb
If you pack your child’s lunch, reduce waste and invest in a reusable lunch bag. Not to mention, your child will have fun picking out his/her lunch bag from the extensive collection with popular characters and cool designs.

3.    Buy smart! Purchase products made from recycled materials
Many supplies are made from recyclable materials such as pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping boxes. You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes.

Tips for Teachers:

1. Reuse old supplies
Take an inventory of what you have left over before you buy. You will most likely be able to reuse things like crayons, scissors and glue from previous years.

2. Promote recycling in the classroom
Place recycling bins in the classroom for paper, cans, and plastic. Encourage your students to use them. You could even make a game of it, and when a goal amount is collected the class wins a prize.

3. Reduce paper usage
Use the blackboard or whiteboard to reduce paper usage. If possible, set up a class webpage where students can access assignments from home and ask questions.

This is just the beginning, check out these EPA tips for back to school. Do you have any of your own green tips for the back to school season?

About the author: Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education. She is a senior at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland and will graduate this winter with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies.

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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Back to School: What’s Your Green Inspiration?

back-to-school-signBy Carly Carroll

This morning on my commute to work, I saw several students in uniforms. It’s August, so that can mean only one thing: it’s time for back to school. Going back to school was always one of my favorite times of the year: I loved shopping for new school supplies and I loved the first day of school: seeing all my old friends, finding out what classes we had together, figuring out who would be my new favorite teacher, and what would be my favorite class. By high school, I had that answer: it was environmental science. The experience I had in high school shaped my career path today: I became an environmental educator because I wanted to share the passion for protecting our environment that had been instilled in me by my high school environmental science teacher. As I see these students going back to school, I wonder which teacher will inspire them. Will it be their environmental science teacher? Or maybe their math, language arts, or history teacher?

Whoever it may be, it’s never too late to teach students about the importance of protecting the environment, even as we go back to school. Think about having a waste-less school year:

  • Re-use school supplies from last year, like pens, pencils, and binders. I know when I was in school, we had to have a binder for every class: use those binders again this year!
  • Use less electricity: turn off the lights when everyone leaves class. My all-time favorite classes were the ones where teachers took us outside to have class. Even in English class, we could write our essays outside (when the weather was nice, of course!)
  • Check out EPA’s Facebook and Twitter throughout September for back to more school tips, resources, and activities.

A lot of these tips can also help save money while helping the environment at the same time. What’s your green inspiration during back to school?

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education outreach.

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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My Attempt To Be Greener For The Holidays

xmas.1By Larry Teller

Although changes in public taste have made it somewhat less courageous in recent years, it’s still tough to minimize wasteful gift-giving during the holidays. And as an EPA public affairs veteran, I’ve even had a hand in promoting best green practices—whether for the holidays or back-to-school —but haven’t always done as well as I’d like by what we’ve sensibly preached.

I resolved a few weeks ago to try to be greener this year for one, very noticeable, aspect of gift-giving: wrapping. I was especially interested to see how family and friends would react to, for instance, a book placed simply in a bookstore bag, a box of cookies adorned with nothing but a snippet of ribbon, or a bottle of wine in recycled 2009-vintage wrapping.

I anxiously readied myself for smirks, remarks and looks, hoping that the sweet thought behind each gift wouldn’t be negated by people thinking I was either not thoughtful or cheap. This being an EPA-sponsored blog, here’s the peer-reviewed data: for 20 gifts, 1 smirk, 3 good-natured comments—one truly complimentary—and 16 (but it’s hard to know for sure, right?) apparent nothings.

Relief, and success worth, I think, building on next year. Please share how you try to balance holiday gift-giving with waste reduction.

May I add that I especially like one of my co-worker’s green gifting: donations for us to a worthy charitable organization.

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

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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Question of the Week: How does your school save energy?

Students head back to school in September and schools prepare for their return by making repairs and upgrades. Schools can save money with energy efficient systems for heating and cooling and lights, and save water by fixing leaks.

How does your school save energy?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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 Way Back to School

As the end of summer approaches, I find myself not basking out in the sun, but preparing for the school year. While most of the nation’s children head back to school in September, in our neck of the woods school starts in August. With four school age kids in our household, the list of needed school items is quite extensive. This year I decided to get ahead of the game. With some careful planning, we are greening our way back to school.

As with previous years, the girls will be wearing hand-me-down uniforms. I usually buy one new uniform a year for one of my daughters and the rest are traded with a colleague whose daughter goes to the same school. A pair of shoes will be refurbished for one of the girls.

This year I decided to look first for the required school supplies at home instead of hitting the mall. So far, my eldest daughter’s backpack will be reused and our youngest daughter will use her older sister’s rolling backpack from the year before last. One quick cleaning was all it took to make it look brand new. Pens, pencils, rulers, staplers and binders, among others are being reused from last year. I was surprised to learn that six billion pens are thrown away every year!

Since books are another big ticket item in the “back to school” budget, I buy them from online retailers that specialize in used books. Only updated editions of specific books and workbooks are being bought new.

Furthermore, I have decided that all new items we purchase this season will be made from recycled or sustainable sources.

Here are some brief pointers to make your back to school a green one:

  • Take inventory before going to the stores–this will save you time and money and it will be good to our Earth.
  • Buy quality materials when available, (i.e. backpacks, shoes, etc.) to ensure durability.
  • Refillable pens and pencils are a small change with a large impact. Fourteen billion pencils are manufactured every year, some from ancient trees.
  • Reuse everything that remains in good condition. Limit disposable supplies.
  • Make your kids a greener, waste-free lunch.
  • Use recycled paper to protect our trees and cut down on waste.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

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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