climate change

Women and Climate Change Summit: Part Two

By Aria Isberto

Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion

As we mentioned in the previous post, EPA’s Women and Climate Change Summit had three goals: to educate, energize, and elevate the voices of women on the important issue of climate change.

Biogeochemist Dr. Kathleen Weathers dove into the first goal with an inspiring talk entitled “What’s New in Climate Change?” She emphasized that human influence on climate change is indisputable. “We know this through experiments, observations, consensus reports and long term records,” she explained, providing hard-hitting and impossible to ignore data. In the face of such a concerning future, Dr. Weathers advised: “Emit less, prepare well for the effects, and understand what is going on. Communicate. Act.”

But we did not forget the victories made thus far. A six-person panel focused on local, successful endeavors was hopeful proof that our actions do make a difference:

  • Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director Anne Reynolds gave the good news about New York’s progress, being one of the states at the forefront of renewable energy. We now have a 25 % Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Hydropower provided 25% of the state’s energy in 2010, with an aim to increase that by 5% this year.
  • Jenny Briot of Iberdrola Renewables revealed that the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in upstate New York produces enough energy to power up to 160,000 homes and has increased the amount of wind power in the state by 600 percent. The land used remains available for farming, while the project benefits communities by powering school computers and providing jobs.
  • Green City Force is an AmeriCorps program, represented by Lisbeth Shepard, who explained the need to engage our city’s unemployed youth. The program “gives them a means to address climate action goals” while providing them with a stipend and metro card.
  • Tria Case, Director of Sustainable CUNY, gave an update on the NYC Solar Map project. While still in the midst of working towards a more streamlined solar power installation process, the NYC Solar Map is an informational source and useful tool for New Yorkers who want to contribute to the solar movement. Along with practical guides, the website allows visitors to calculate the solar potential of their building with the input of an address.
  • The Yonkers Streetlight Replacement Project will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 10%, as detailed by Yonkers Director of Sustainability Brad Tito. The project works by replacing Yonker’s cobra-head streetlights with LED lights, with 11,300 replaced last year. It will save nearly $2 million in energy costs in the span of a decade.
  • The City of Kingston is making large strides as well. As a DEC Climate Smart Community, Kingston has been reducing emissions while adapting to a changing climate. Panelist Julie Noble from Kingston’s Parks and Recreation presented to the summit the city’s many forward thinking actions, one of them putting to use CANVIS, a type of resiliency planning tool that assesses site-specific potential damage caused by sea level rise. The city monitors sea levels with a mapper and develops adaptation strategies accordingly.

By lunchtime, the summit was buzzing with excitement. EPA’s Regional Administrator, Judith Enck, took the stage to thank all of the participants for being a part of the summit. She spoke about some of the women who have inspired her in her work, mentioning Rachel Carson, Lois Gibbs and Klara Sauer herself, who was sitting in front of the room. Enck also expressed how proud she was that four of the last six EPA Administrators have been women. Citing the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record, she highlighted some of EPA’s work and urged all to support and follow the sustainable progress being made in the region and all over the world.

A conclusive discussion entitled “Where Do We Go From Here?” was moderated by Catherine McCabe, Deputy Regional Administrator of EPA Region 2, for the participants at the summit to discuss and come up with real solutions. The discussion was intent in its purpose to cultivate fresh ideas and for everyone to leave with a newly invigorated determination that carries long after the event has wrapped up. With thoughts such as: “How do we empower people to realize each can make a difference?” and “How can we make scientific data even more accessible to all?” It would be no surprise to anyone if new projects and collaborations are traced back this day.

Watch a video of the summit by the Poughkeepsie Journal here.

About the Author:
Aria Isberto is an intern at the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she currently resides in Manhattan and is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. Her passions include music, writing and learning about protecting the environment.

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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Feed the Barrel: A tale of how small actions can change the world

By Lena Adams Kim

Father Didik of St. Thomas Aquinas church is one of the 15 Barrel Keepers who manage the system of oil collection barrels. The oil he's pouring will become biofuel, compost, and soap.

Father Didik of St. Thomas Aquinas church is one of the 15 Barrel Keepers who manage the system of oil collection barrels. The oil he’s pouring will become biofuel, compost, and soap.

It all started Thanksgiving Day 2013, with my daughters frantically yelling, “The basement is flooding!!!” A visit from the plumber, yards of ruined carpeting, and $900 later, it was clear that cooking oil clogging my kitchen drain was the culprit. And so I did what many do after experiencing the horrors of home damage – I complained to everyone who would listen.

My tale of woe reached Indah, a parent in my kids’ schoolyard. Indah, a journalist of Indonesian descent, mentioned how families in her immigrant Indonesian community in South Philadelphia were grappling with the same clogged pipes and costly repairs, yet unlike me, were often unaware of the cause.

She described how many had emigrated from rural areas of Indonesia, where every drop of precious oil is used, re-used, and then re-used again. Very little oil, if any, was discarded. And those first-world kitchen drains and sewer systems? Non-existent in the 17,000 largely undeveloped islands that comprise Indonesia. Those huge jugs of oil, available at low cost at grocery stores in the U.S.? Unheard of on smaller islands where budgets and resources are limited.

Yet things are far different in America, the land of plenty. Additionally, the cultural knowledge of what can and cannot, go down a drain is instilled in many of us from an early age. Not so obvious, however, to newcomers in a new homeland with new customs.

During my conversation with Indah, I realized there was a beautifully simple solution to this costly environmental issue of used fats, oils, and grease, also called “FOG”, which cause public health problems by entering the waste stream. Just last month, the New York Times reported on the impacts of food waste like oils entering waterways and landfills, ultimately decomposing to emit methane, a greenhouse gas. I wondered, “what if EPA worked with this community on proper oil disposal.” Could it make a difference?

Residents drop off bottles of used cooking oil at one of the neighborhood’s 15 oil collection points.

Residents drop off bottles of used cooking oil at one of the neighborhood’s 15 oil collection points.

Today, two years after my basement flood, things are far different from the clogged pipes of the past. Thanks to connections made by Indah, this vibrant Indonesian community is now the first in the nation piloting a wildly successful residential oil collection program. Called Feed the Barrel, the program has gone far beyond just education on oil disposal. Now, they work with an oil recycler to collect and recycle used oil into biofuel, rich compost, and soap. The money made from the oil collected goes toward improving the community.

It would take pages to detail the unique ways this community tackled this environmental problem — how they insisted on using a local recycler, how they decided to empower children to help spread the word, and how they enlisted spiritual leadership to encourage neighbors in churches, temples, and mosques to become involved.

And it would be impossible for me to describe the pride I see in my neighbors in their newfound ability to spread environmental awareness — which they can give back to their new homeland that has given them so much opportunity.

News of their success in diverting more than 300 gallons of oil in the first year alone has traveled fast. They have been approached by communities throughout the greater Philadelphia area, and in New Jersey and Houston, Texas. Media coverage has been powerful in spreading the word, as their efforts have been highlighted on National Public Radio, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the city’s respected Grid magazine.

Imagine — Feed the Barrel started from a schoolyard conversation about providing people with something as simple as information. While EPA’s goal of “meaningful involvement of all communities in environmental decisions” might seem broad, its simplicity allowed, in this case, room to develop a creative solution to a nagging problem.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said that, “when people are made aware … they are empowered to act.” To learn more about the possibilities of oil recycling, or to follow pilot progress, visit www.facebook/feedthebarrel. And join the rallying cry: Feed the Barrel to Fuel America!

About the author: Lena Adams Kim is a member of EPA Region 3’s Asian Pacific American Council, as well as a communications specialist in the Hazardous Sites Cleanup 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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Driving toward a cleaner future

Today, EPA issued its second annual Manufacturer Performance Report on progress toward meeting the greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks. This is essentially a detailed report card telling us how the industry and individual manufacturers are doing in complying with the standards for the 2013 model year. I’m pleased to say that, for the second year of the program, the auto industry is ahead of the curve.

Because the ultimate destination for this road trip is to nearly double fuel economy by 2025, a strong start is great news for the environment and public health, family budgets and America’s energy security. When EPA and the Department of Transportation announced the standards, the program was called a “Win-Win-Win.” A win for the environment and our health because it reduces the emissions that contribute to the greatest environmental threat of our time…. climate change. In fact we expect it to cut 6 billion metric tons of GHGs. A win for consumers because the fuel efficiency goals will save families money at the pump, adding up to more than $1.7 trillion in saved fuel costs over the life of the program. And finally, a win for energy independence. The policy is expected to reduce America’s dependence on oil by more than 2 million barrels per day by 2025.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Just Released: Top 25 U.S. Cities with Most Energy Star Buildings

By Jean Lupinacci

Did you know energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, at a cost of more than $100 billion per year? That’s significant. That’s why EPA’s new Energy Star Top 25 Cities List, which ranks cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings, is so important.

Energy Star certified buildings are verified to perform better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. They use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent fewer emissions than typical buildings. Many common building types can earn the Energy Star, including office buildings, K-12 schools, hotels and retail stores.

The cities on this list demonstrate that when facility owners and managers apply EPA’s Energy Star guidelines for energy management to the buildings where we all work, shop and learn, they save energy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This work is vital because in most cities, commercial buildings are the largest source of carbon emissions.

Since 1999, more than 25,000 buildings across America have earned EPA’s Energy Star certification, saving nearly $3.4 billion on utility bills and preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 2.4 million homes.

Did your city make the cut? If so, use the hashtag #EnergyStar and share this year’s Energy Star Top 25 Cities List with everyone you know.

About the author: Jean Lupinacci is the acting director of the Climate Protection Partnerships Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has been with EPA for 20 years with primary responsibilities for developing and managing voluntary energy efficiency programs.

 

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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Women and Climate Change Summit: Part One

By Aria Isberto

David Roosevelt (grandson of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt), Uri Perrin (Executive Director of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership), Judith Enck (EPA’s Regional Administrator) and Cara Lee (The Nature Conservancy) in a lighter moment during the Women and Climate Change Summit.

David Roosevelt (grandson of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt), Uri Perrin (Executive Director of The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership), Judith Enck (EPA’s Regional Administrator) and Cara Lee (The Nature Conservancy) in a lighter moment during the Women and Climate Change Summit.

Earlier this month, an event hosted by EPA and The Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Partnership gathered a phenomenal group of people to the historic site in Hyde Park, New York, once home to the longest-serving First Lady of the United States.

On the morning of March 6th, two days before International Women’s Day, the 2015 Women & Climate Change Summit was held. Representatives from environmental organizations were present, including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, and Sierra Club, to name a few. Among the crowd were also staff of Assembly and Senate members, students from various colleges in the region, and people from diverse walks of life sharing a commitment to a sustainable future.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandson David was an unexpected initial speaker that morning. As he took the stage and looked out into the sunlit room towards the sea of faces in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, he expressed his sincere hope: for all to draw inspiration from his grandmother’s life and her work and to continue carrying her message.

Of course, the awe-inspiring Eleanor Roosevelt was a focal point in the day’s proceedings as the summit converged on the beautiful snow-covered property. Val-Kill had been her home for years after Franklin Roosevelt’s death and was the place where she worked on some of her most important achievements. “Val-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow,” Eleanor once said. “At Val-Kill I emerged as an individual.”

Kevin Oldenburg, a Park Ranger at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites introduced his presentation, saying, “not often is the mention of Eleanor’s passion for the environment. That is usually attributed to Franklin.” He went on to highlight Eleanor’s concern for land conservation, such as her worry about the harmful effects of strip mining, insisting on visiting affected sites despite being discouraged to do so. She also spoke strongly for the need to find alternatives for oil. So while she is known for her prevailing sense of social justice, it was Eleanor’s belief that “conservation of our land and conservation of the people go hand-in-hand.”

The Women & Climate Change summit had three goals in mind: Educate one another on policies for addressing climate change (including EPA’s regulatory actions), Energize our daily actions around climate work, and Elevate the voices of women on the historic issue. For many of the 130 attendees of the summit, there was no better way to celebrate March as Women’s History Month than by dedicating the day to their passion in addressing climate change, while at the same time honoring the environmental contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt and many other inspirational women over the years.

Read more details about this groundbreaking summit in Part Two.

About the Author:

Aria Isberto is an intern at the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she currently resides in Manhattan and is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. Her passions include music, writing and learning about protecting the environment.

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.

Southern New England Coastal Towns Prepare for Climate Change

We pulled into a parking lot in downtown Wickford, Rhode Island. A nearby car was parked in three inches of water, and salt water bubbled up through the storm drain. The tide was high, but not extraordinarily high. These days, occasional flooding of a parking lot is more of an annoyance than a real threat. But what about in the future?

A car parked in salt water in Wickford, RI. The parking lot storm drain routinely backs up at high tide.

A car parked in salt water in Wickford, RI. The parking lot storm drain routinely backs up at high tide.

 

Rhode Island was the second stop on my Adapting to Climate Change learning tour. Last summer I visited several Cape Cod communities to see how they are dealing with accelerating beach erosion and other adaptation challenges, including chronic flooding from sea level rise, warming ocean temperatures, storm surge risk and habitat decline. More recently, I toured Rhode Island with the same objective, but with a special focus on developing decision-making tools to help communities become more resilient.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Moms Matter in our Fight Against Climate Change

Our children mean the world to us. So as moms, when we say we must meet our moral obligation to leave the next generation a world that is safe and healthy, we mean it. For us moms, it’s personal. It’s our children and grandchildren who are currently suffering from the effects of pollution. It’s our children and grandchildren who make up the future generations each one of us is obligated to protect. This March marks Women’s History Month; a time to recognize the unwavering strength of the mothers coming together to organize, speak out, and stand up for the health of their children.

MomsblogEPA plays a critical role in protecting our children from pollution by keeping our air and water clean and safe, and by taking historic steps to fight climate change. And it turns out, efforts to combat climate change double as public health protection, too. The carbon pollution that fuels climate change comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants that cause smog and soot. With 1-in-10 children in the U.S. today already dealing with asthma—and even higher rates in communities of color—we must do all that we can to reduce harmful exposure.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Another Way to Act on Climate: Getting Smart on Brownfields Reuse

For 20 years, the brownfields program has worked with local communities to help support reuse and development of former and current contaminated lands. Cleaning up brownfields has put a lot of land back into use, helping communities and boosting local economies. This work has another huge benefit, too: as we redevelop brownfield sites to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

In Milwaukee, a 5-mile strip that was once the site of several industrial facilities is going through an extensive cleanup. Over 60,000 tons of contaminated soil and more than 40 underground storage tanks have been removed. One of the community’s ideas for the land’s next use is building a green, linear park, with bike trails to encourage lower-impact forms of transit. The park will use green infrastructure elements to reduce stormwater runoff, protecting local waterways during storms that can be made more intense by climate change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Climate Justice: A Fight for Equal Opportunity

By Gina McCarthy and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.

(Cross-posted from EPAConnect)

Fifty years ago, Americans facing racial injustice marched the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest discriminatory voting laws. It was a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, influencing the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and forever redefining and improving our cherished values of freedom and fairness. February marks Black History Month—a time to reflect on past injustice, and refocus efforts on injustices that persist.

Today, too often, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately burdened by pollution and health risks. Those same communities are excessively vulnerable to the devastating floods, fires, storms, and heatwaves supercharged by climate change. To make matters worse, the carbon pollution fueling climate change comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants that cause chronic disease and chase away local businesses and jobs. Power plants, our biggest source of carbon pollution, are often located in these areas, casting their shadow over communities already vulnerable to environmental health hazards.

Pollution and climate impacts are a barrier to economic opportunity, blocking the path to middle-class security. President Obama calls ensuring America’s promise of opportunity for all a defining challenge of our time; however, it’s impossible to climb any ladder of opportunity without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to live on.

That’s why at the core of EPA’s mission is the unwavering pursuit of environmental justice. The Hip Hop Caucus joined the fight for Environmental Justice after Hurricane Katrina, a disaster that underscored communities facing risks from climate impacts: low-income families and people of color.

With President Obama’s leadership, EPA is ramping up efforts to cut air and water pollution, expanding public outreach, enforcing laws to defend public health, and holding polluters accountable. And through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking historic action to fight the economic and public health risks of a changing climate by cutting carbon pollution from power plants.

Organizations like the Hip Hop Caucus are critical to climate progress by ensuring at-risk communities are a part of the conversation—and part of the solution. To balance the ledger of environmental disenfranchisement, we must confront today’s risks with a focus on communities that need it the most.

We’re moved by the words of Jibreel Khazan spoken in Greensboro, NC on the 55th anniversary of the Greensboro Four sitting down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth store on February 1st, 1960:

“Climate change is young people’s ‘lunch counter moment’ for the 21st century. When my three classmates and I sat down at that lunch counter to end segregation we did not know what the outcome would be. We simply knew that we had to act. We had to take bold action for necessary change to come about. It is in the tradition of civil and human rights struggle that young people today are calling for action on climate change. It is the biggest threat to justice and opportunity our planet has ever seen.”

Fighting for environmental justice, and climate justice, echoes the spirit of America’s great civil rights leaders; it’s a spirit fueled by our moral obligation to leave our children a world safer and rich with opportunity. History proves even the most wrenching strains on justice can be unwound, with a committed, diverse, and vocal coalition of people calling for change. That’s why EPA, the Hip Hop Caucus, and organizations around the country are fighting for climate justice—so we can further fairness and opportunity for all.

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.

Climate Justice: A Fight for Equal Opportunity

Fifty years ago, Americans facing racial injustice marched the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest discriminatory voting laws. It was a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, influencing the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and forever redefining and improving our cherished values of freedom and fairness. February marks Black History Month—a time to reflect on past injustice, and refocus efforts on injustices that persist.

Today, too often, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately burdened by pollution and health risks. Those same communities are excessively vulnerable to the devastating floods, fires, storms, and heatwaves supercharged by climate change. To make matters worse, the carbon pollution fueling climate change comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants that cause chronic disease and chase away local businesses and jobs. Power plants, our biggest source of carbon pollution, are often located in these areas, casting their shadow over communities already vulnerable to environmental health hazards.

Pollution and climate impacts are a barrier to economic opportunity, blocking the path to middle-class security. President Obama calls ensuring America’s promise of opportunity for all a defining challenge of our time; however, it’s impossible to climb any ladder of opportunity without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to live on.

That’s why at the core of EPA’s mission is the unwavering pursuit of environmental justice. The Hip Hop Caucus joined the fight for Environmental Justice after Hurricane Katrina, a disaster that underscored communities facing risks from climate impacts: low-income families and people of color.

With President Obama’s leadership, EPA is ramping up efforts to cut air and water pollution, expanding public outreach, enforcing laws to defend public health, and holding polluters accountable. And through President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking historic action to fight the economic and public health risks of a changing climate by cutting carbon pollution from power plants.

Organizations like the Hip Hop Caucus are critical to climate progress by ensuring at-risk communities are a part of the conversation—and part of the solution. To balance the ledger of environmental disenfranchisement, we must confront today’s risks with a focus on communities that need it the most.

We’re moved by the words of Jibreel Khazan spoken in Greensboro, NC on the 55th anniversary of the Greensboro Four sitting down at the lunch counter inside the Woolworth store on February 1st, 1960:

“Climate change is young people’s ‘lunch counter moment’ for the 21st century. When my three classmates and I sat down at that lunch counter to end segregation we did not know what the outcome would be. We simply knew that we had to act. We had to take bold action for necessary change to come about. It is in the tradition of civil and human rights struggle that young people today are calling for action on climate change. It is the biggest threat to justice and opportunity our planet has ever seen.”

Fighting for environmental justice, and climate justice, echoes the spirit of America’s great civil rights leaders; it’s a spirit fueled by our moral obligation to leave our children a world safer and rich with opportunity. History proves even the most wrenching strains on justice can be unwound, with a committed, diverse, and vocal coalition of people calling for change. That’s why EPA, the Hip Hop Caucus, and organizations around the country are fighting for climate justice—so we can further fairness and opportunity for all.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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.