camp

The View from Vermont

By Jeffrey Levy

Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913.  Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty.  I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes.  In other words, it’s heaven.

Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Our water is another subject related to EPA’s mission. For the first 15 years I came up here, we couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it came out of the lake; we had to buy water. Now we have a well, but I worry about getting it tested regularly. There’s never been heavy industry here, so swimming has always been ok. But when I consider how many lakes and rivers were seen as places to dump toxic chemicals, I can see how most U.S. water bodies weren’t fit for swimming or fishing when EPA was founded in 1970.

One of the best things about camp is the clean air. We come in August, when DC is at its hottest and haziest. No code red days up here! When we hike up nearby mountains, and I’m sucking in lungfuls of air, I appreciate EPA’s efforts to make sure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

I don’t mean to say that I’m constantly thinking about EPA when I come to Vermont. But it’s good to be reminded so directly why EPA’s mission is so important.

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you ever think about the environment when you do?

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993. Before becoming Director of Web Communications, he worked to protect the ozone layer and end acid rain.

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 post.

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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Healthy Living at Summer Camp

From the time that I was very young my family and I have been attending a summer camp in southern Michigan. Camp has always been a big part of my life, so when I became a counselor for the camp three years ago, I made it a goal of mine to give my campers the same, positive, experience my counselors gave to me. However, I knew there was one aspect of being a counselor that I wanted to improve on from the counselors of the past.

As a camper I always got sick as summer camp is a place for kids to play around in dirt, the lake, and be in close quarters with one another. I realized that there were little things that not only I, but other counselors and kids could do to prevent sickness. Campers and counselors were required to wash and sanitize their hands before every meal, shower at scheduled times, change out of wet clothing and swimsuits when not in the water, and clean the cabins daily. I knew these practices were helping the campers’ health as I noticed both my campers and I were getting sick less often.

Two summers ago a large storm swept through the camp, causing many of the cabins to flood. Limited space required the counselors and campers to stay in the water-ridden cabins. I realized quickly that this was not good for our health. My fellow counselors and I asked to be moved out of the cabin, explaining that we thought our kids were getting sick because of the forming mold. We were moved to different cabins that had some room and immediately saw our campers becoming healthier.

After the flood, action was taken immediately to solve the flooding problem. Erosion, due to campers walking off paths, and general rainfall was a main cause of the floods. Construction was done to help move run-off water away from the cabins.

Although children are usually at summer camp for a relatively small amount of time, it is important that they stay healthy while having fun! Summer camp provides a fun “getaway” from daily living, but also provides a chance for kids to learn a variety of life values, including independence. It is not only up to the counselors, but the campers to achieve healthy practices. While the counselors must teach, the campers must perform.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

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.