Climate for Action

Climate for Action: How Much Appreciation Do You Have For Your Water?

Did you know that water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface? With that much water, it may be hard to imagine that water could ever be in short supply. However, out of that total amount of water, only 2.5% is fresh water. And, more than half of that is locked up in the polar ice-caps, leaving just a tiny percentage of the Earth’s water available for our use. Ironically, this relatively small amount of fresh water is all there is to serve more than the 6.7 billion people that live on this Earth,

We need water to satisfy our thirst, bathe ourselves, wash our dishes, water our crops, and take care of our pets. For some of us, it is a fortune to be able to use water for these purposes with no fear of ever running short. However, for some 600 million people, satisfying their own thirst is an impossible task. Less than 50% of people in Africa have access to safe drinking water. 20% of people living in the giant continent of Asia lack access to safe water. In several villages in Vietnam where I come from, people have to use water in the same pond for bathing, cooking, and drinking. The government has not passed legislation like the US’s Clean Water Act to protect its citizens. There is no fund or expertise to upgrade the water treatment system. Therefore, many people are or will become susceptible to disease vectors, pathogens, or contaminants. Around the world, the number of deaths associated with unclean water has mounted to 2.2 million.

If you are the person with great heart and want to share your beautiful world with others, then it is time for you to start taking action. There are faucets in your home that need to be checked and fixed as soon as possible because one leaking faucet can waste up to 2,750 gallons of water per year. Likewise, if you are brushing your teeth, then turning off that running faucet in front of you is necessary because one stuck faucet can waste more than 2,500 gallons of water every day. Remember, there is no need to join an organization to start changing the world or to save someone’s life because you can do all these things yourself!

About the author: Thanh Pham is an undergraduate student at George Mason University. She is interning with EPA this summer.

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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Climate for Action: Save Some Money…and the Planet

image of the inside of a library with tables, chairs and shelves of booksIn almost every neighborhood there are local libraries and these libraries provide a great wealth of information. They provide books on many different subjects and also supply daily newspapers, magazines, movies and CDs—everything you could possibly need to keep you up to date. And, the best part about all the information you can get at a library is that it is all free to borrow.

The next time you want to purchase a popular book or CD, go to your local library and chances are they will have it and will lend it out to you for no cost. Borrowing books, CDs, movies and papers is a great way to save money. Borrowing these items could also help protect the environment in a big way. You can save a lot of resources by reusing items instead of purchasing them. By reusing books and CDs at a library, you can save energy, water, trees and metals, etc. thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Libraries are one place we can all go to borrow items for no cost. Can you think of any other places? Please let us know so we can all help reduce the amount of resources we use!

Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

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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Climate for Action: Reducing your Carbon Footprint on the Road

About the Author: Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

There are many ways to reduce your personal impact on climate change. An easy way to decrease your contribution is by reducing your transportation emissions. When we drive we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are many different steps you can take to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to save money!

There are plenty of alternatives to driving our personal vehicles. We can join carpools, which help save energy and produce fewer emissions. My county offers special carpool parking lots and designated highway routes for carpoolers. If you research carpooling in your area, you may find that your county provides benefits for carpool riders. Instead of driving a car you can walk or bike ride to school and work. Since summer is starting, walking or riding a bike also makes it easy to spend more time outside rather than cooped up in your car.

Another way to lessen your impact is to keep your vehicle well serviced. If you keep your car well tuned and follow the manufacturer’s guide to scheduled maintenance, you will produce fewer emissions. Not only will you reduce greenhouse gas emissions but you will have a more fuel-efficient car and it will be more reliable. You should also change air filters regularly and use the recommended motor oil. Having a well tuned engine can reduce fuel consumption. Regularly checking the amount of air in your tires can also decrease your fuel consumption, and the less fuel your vehicle consumes, the less it pollutes the air and the fewer greenhouse gases it emits.

Here are a few tips to becoming an environmental driver:

  • Avoid idling for long periods of time.
  • Turn off engine when sitting or waiting.
  • Reduce weight in your trunk and unload unnecessary items.
  • Be easy on brakes and gas pedal;, driving at moderate speeds uses less fuel.
  • Try smoother accelerations. They pollute less and save fuel.
  • Plan your trips and combine errands to reduce mileage.

For more information on climate change and what you can do while on the road, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/road.html

We can all do our part to help reduce climate change. Remember it’s never too late to start new habits! If you haven’t started driving yet, these tips could be helpful for your parents or friends who have their licenses. Spread the word. We all need to work together in this fight to reduce climate change!

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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Students for Climate Action: Celebrate the Year of Science

Go to EPA's Science Month pageAbout the Author: Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

EPA works to increase public awareness on many issues. This year EPA is collaborating with a grassroots network called the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) to initiate activism through science. The Year of Science 2009 is a year long nationwide initiative that encourages Americans to engage in activities that are related to science. For the past four months and the remainder of the year we will be celebrating the marvels of science as well as how we use science to protect ourselves and our environment.

Each month has a theme. EPA has a very informative site that highlights the theme for each month, and EPA environmental science events and activities. There are blog postings written by experts on the subject, along with podcasts, activities, and contests for people to join in and celebrate science.

These sites have helped me stay involved in celebrating this wonderful year of science!! May’s theme is Sustainability and the Environment. In order to celebrate sustainability we must celebrate the individuals and communities that have found ground-breaking ways to promote and live in balance with the environment. EPA’s website allows people from all over the country to post ideas on how to celebrate science.

You still have plenty of time left to get involved in the Year of Science. The remaining theme’s are:

  • June: Ocean and Water
  • July: Astronomy
  • August: Weather and Climate
  • September: Biodiversity and Conservation
  • October: Geosciences and Planet Earth
  • November: Chemistry
  • December: Science and Health

If you haven’t started celebrating The Year of Science 2009, don’t worry there are still seven more months left to become informed and involved!! Let us know how you celebrate science.

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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Climate for Action: Add Some Green to Your Community and Plant Some Trees

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

image of tree with red leavesOne of the best things you can do for the environment is plant trees. Trees have so many environmental benefits. Trees produce oxygen, reduce air pollution, save energy, reduce storm water runoff, prevent soil erosion, provide wildlife habitat and reduce carbon from entering into the environment. Trees also add beauty to the environment! Many people plant trees because it makes their lawns look nicer. People also travel from all over the world to see trees located in our national parks, preserves and old growth forests.

If you’re interested in planting trees in your city or neighborhood to add to its beauty or help protect the environment – here’s how you can start:

  • Call your local horticultural society or local nursery. They can tell you what trees are best suited for the area. Your local horticultural society may also be able to tell you if there are any free tree programs in your area.
  • Talk to your friends and neighbors about becoming involved in the planting process. It’s an easy process and can be a lot of fun too! But, be sure you contact a governing official if you are not planting the trees on your own property.
  • Don’t forget to take care of the trees once you plant them. Trees need some care during their first couple of years which includes watering, mulching and supporting the tree to stand up vertically.

Now that it is spring, it is the perfect time to get out and plant a few trees. Planting trees is always a good time and it would also be a great way for you to become a climate ambassador in your community. Planting just one tree will reduce 13 pounds of carbon from entering into the atmosphere in a year. And, the more you can plant, the bigger impact you can make in reducing carbon!! Do you want to plant more trees in your community? Be sure to tell us why and what plans you will want to make.

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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Climate for Action: Start a Paper Recycling Program at Your School

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

image of children dumping bins of paper into a mixed paper recycling collection bin.There are many successful paper recycling programs that schools start every year and their efforts certainly make a big difference. For example, 28 schools in Central Virginia started a paper recycling program in 2007 and have been able to collect more than 156 tons of paper to date. The 156 tons of paper that they recycled have saved more than 2,000 trees, 823,000 gallons of water, and 411 yards of landfill space.

Why not become a climate ambassador and educate your classmates about the benefits of paper recycling? By recycling your schools used paper, you can save water, energy, landfill space and you can reduce the impacts of deforestation and global climate change.

If you are interested in starting a paper recycling program at your school, here’s a guide for you to follow to help make your program successful:

  • Talk to your principal about setting up a collection for paper waste and finding a local paper recycler.
  • Educate your school about the importance of paper recycling and what bins to recycle their used paper in.
  • Organize a club to help make sure that the bins are being used properly.

You can make a big difference by starting a paper recycling program at your school. With every ton of paper that your school recycles, the EPA estimates that you can help save 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 yards of landfill space and reduce one ton of carbon from entering into the atmosphere. So, become involved in helping your school protect the environment – start a paper recycling program and educate others on the importance of recycling. Be sure to let us know if you plan on starting a paper recycling program and why.

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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Climate for Action: Choosing an Alternative to Polystyrene

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

I remember all throughout school, all the plates and cups in the cafeteria were polystyrene.  For the students, if we were buying lunch we had no choice but to use the polystyrene dishware.  Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t know the negative impacts on the Earth that we were all creating by using these products, or that because polystyrene is non-biodegradable, the dishware that I threw out after lunch would still be floating around in the environment today and continue to do so years from now.

Polystyrene creates waste that just does not go away.  In what ways then do you think polystyrene will impact our environment?  One of the most important ways, I feel, will be the health of our land and water environments.  I’ve already seen polystyrene dishware floating around in streams and in parks.  This is not only ugly to look at, but it’s also dangerous for the animals if they eat it.  In addition to affecting our land and water environments, polystyrene impacts our environment by releasing pollutants into the air.  In 1986, the EPA identified 57 chemical byproducts that were released into the air through its production and many of the pollutants are known to cause serious health effects such as the reduced functioning of the lungs and nervous systems.  Check out Earth’s Resource’s website to learn about the ways polystyrene can affect our health and environment.

So let’s reduce our impact!  Reduce air pollution and the waste in our environment by taking action.  How can you do this?  Can you think of ways to influence your school to change their polystyrene-only policies?  How?  Every year Americans waste enough polystyrene that it could circle the Earth 426 times.  Let’s protect our health and keep our environment clean by reducing this waste—and choose a different alternative to polystyrene.

Editorial Correction: The first version of this blog posting incorrectly used the term styrofoam® instead of polystyrene foam. Comments to the blog also reflect this misuse of the term. The DOW Chemical Company is the owner of several registrations for the trademark Styrofoam® which is used on Dow’s plastic foam insulation and construction products for use in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, and on floral and craft products. The term was incorrectly used in the blog as a generic description of foam products. We regret the mistake and any inconvenience this may have caused.

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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Climate for Action: President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA)

About the Author: Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

image of PEYA emblemAs some of you may know the EPA manages the President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA). This program involves young Americans who are dedicated to helping protect and create a better environment. Each year young people across the United States are invited to participate in this program. The program recognizes students for their work in school classrooms, youth organizations, summer camps, and individual projects. The youths who win PEYA awards are environmental stewards who have worked on projects to promote environmental awareness and community involvement.

I know there are plenty of PEYA candidates across this country who have worked to improve the environment and the community that they live in. Visit the PEYA website for more information on the program and the application form.
 
There are a few eligibility requirements that you must meet before applying:

  1. The project can be done by an individual student, but it must be completed while students are in kindergarten through 12th grade
  2. Participants must be citizens of the United States, its territories, or lawfully admitted to the U.S for permanent residency
  3. The project is sponsored by at least one adult.

Qualified applicants will receive a certificate honoring them for their efforts to protect human health and the environment. Once an application and project are submitted to the Regional office for consideration in the national competition, a regional recognition certificate is issued. The regional recognition certificate program is conducted year-round; therefore applications can be submitted at any time, however the submission deadline for consideration in the PEYA National Award Program is December 31st.

The national competition is conducted once a year consisting of all of the projects submitted to the Regional office. After this deadline, the regional award panel for each of EPA’s 10 regional offices will review the applications and select an outstanding project to represent that region and receive a presidential plaque at EPA’s National PEYA Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

I’m sure you are all are wondering what types of projects have won the national awards. Some included climate change, electronics recycling, water quality monitoring, and air quality reform. For more in-depth project descriptions please visit our PEYA website.

I urge you to apply for this prestigious award. Your efforts to protect our environment should be rewarded!!! If you have any questions about the PEYA program leave a comment and I will get back to you!!

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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Climate for Action: New Uses for Used Coffee Grounds

About the Author:  Loreal Crumbley, a senior at George Mason University, is an intern with EPA’s Environmental Education Division through EPA’s Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).

Many of you may be looking for effective green tips.  One tip I can offer you is to recycle used coffee grounds. Coffee mixed with soil can be used as a natural fertilizer. Used coffee grounds provide gardens with an abundant source of nutrition. Recycling coffee grounds is not only beneficial for gardeners but it helps in reducing the amount of waste going into landfills. When coffee grounds are dumped into landfills they create methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Methane is known to be more harmful than carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas that causes global warming. If we are able to keep coffee grounds out of landfills we’ll be one step closer to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Coffee grounds contain a high amount of nitrogen. When scattered across soil before rain or watering they will slowly release nitrogen into the soil. When compost is mixed with coffee grounds it causes the soil temperature to rise and stay hot for long periods of time. The high temperature kills weeds and will allow your garden to flourish beautifully. Coffee grounds are acidic, which benefits “acid loving” plants.  For instance roses, camellias, blueberries, and azaleas all flourish when sprinkled with coffee grounds.

Recycling coffee grounds also helps to feed worms, and keeps troublesome insects away. Earthworms love to feed on used coffee grounds; it helps them grow and reproduce. Having lots of worms is an excellent way to keep a healthy garden. It is important to have worm activity in your soil; this mixes the soil and helps in mineralizing your vegetation. As you all know the odor of coffee is very strong, the odor can sometimes be too strong for humans. In the case of insects like ants, slugs, and snails the odor works as a repellant.

There are many places you can find used coffee grounds. Some good suggestions include local coffee shops, gas stations, schools, or your workplace. You could ask coffee vendors to save coffee grounds for you, and coordinate a time to stop by and pick up your “green fertilizer.”

Other uses for coffee grounds:

  1. Can be used to dye paper or clothes
  2. Can retouch furniture
  3. Can be used as flea repellant, rub on pets (dog, etc.)
  4. Can repel odors around the home
  5. Can be used when cleaning grease

Learn more about recycling used coffee grounds, and remember recycling is one way we can keep our environment natural and beautiful!

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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Climate for Action: Save Big on Your Heating Emissions by Thinking Change

About the Author: Michelle Gugger graduated from Rutgers University in 2008. She is currently spending a year of service at EPA’s Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, PA as an AmeriCorps VISTA

In Philadelphia, it can get pretty cold in the winter. Tomorrow’s temperature is going to be a high of 18 degrees. On days like these it’s hard to think about being energy efficient. If you’re like me, you probably want to get out of the cold as soon as possible and into a heavily heated place. Fortunately, there are things we can do to keep nice and warm and energy efficient at the same time. Here are a few easy things that you can do at home:

  • Inform your parents that lowering your thermostat by 2 degrees can save 2,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year from entering our environment.
  • Also inform your parents that lowering your thermostat while no one is home or at night can save their energy bill an average of $180 a year — in addition to big greenhouse gas savings.
  • Put an end to wasteful heating. Some examples of wasteful heating include leaving your windows/doors open in the winter or putting furniture in front of radiators which prevents heat from circulating.
  • Use nature to keep your home warmer by leaving your blinds open during the day and shutting them at night.

At home, heating is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases according to the EPA. But, you would be surprised with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that you could save by doing a few simple things! If you want to find out just how much, calculate your emissions before and after you make the changes. When you’re done, I’d love to hear about the positive changes that you could make.

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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