Colorado

That’s Not What My School Lunches Looked Like…

By Wendy Dew

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Salida Colorado School District to learn about the Farm to School Initiative the local community has embraced.  Providing local foods for student lunches is very beneficial for schools, communities and the environment:

  • Reduced carbon footprint by reducing the distance from food source to food consumption
  • Healthier and sustainable food opportunities
  • Environmental, cultural and agricultural education hands-on learning
  • Supporting local communities and economies

My visit to Salida was amazing!  The day was filled with so many environmental and educational best practices and I was completely in awe.

The day started with a visit to the main farm that supplies the school district with healthy foods for school meals.  The farm was created collaboratively by the Salida School District, LiveWell Chaffee County and Guidestone Colorado with additional support from citizens, local businesses, and Colorado foundations. The farm was being harvested and maintained by Guidestone Colorado and the Southwest Conservation Corps volunteers when I was there.  A variety of volunteers, students and citizens help maintain the farm throughout the year.

A collage of people working and taking care of a farm.

A collage of images from daily farm life.

Many types of crops make up the farm:

After leaving the farm we visited the middle school garden and I was able to meet the Salida School District Superintendent who is very excited about the Farm to School Initiative:

The school gardens that are in place at the schools act as outdoor classrooms.  At the elementary school, students learned about how plants grow, how to take care of them and even about the cultural significance of certain plants to Native Americans.

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

Students visit the school garden for a lesson at the local elementary school

I was then informed that lunch would be provided to us by the local high school to celebrate Colorado Proud School Meal Day.  I have to admit my eyes got a little wide at this announcement.  I am a bit of a foodie and my recollections of school lunches were cardboard-like pizzas and greasy deep fried burritos.  I was a little leery standing in line, but once I got up to the serving area the “lunch lady” proudly told me about all of the great farm fresh ingredients that were going into the various dishes she had created.  I was super impressed!   The meal was low waste:  by using serving trays as plates that are then washed and reused, the students learn about waste reduction.  I also noticed that just enough food was made for the amount of students and that each student got a reasonable-size portion.  This helps contribute to healthy eating and less wasted food.  I wolfed down my very healthy and super tasty lunch with colleagues, teachers and students.

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

Wendy Dew enjoying lunch with colleagues at the local high school

One student was very clear about how great it is to know where your food comes from is, and how “creepy” it is to not know:

The day ended with a shopping trip at the Youth Farmers Market, hosted by the Salida Boys and Girls Club, where the other shoppers and I happily went home with bags of veggies.  I snagged two cucumbers, a bag of green beans and two bunches of kale.  My homemade kale chips for dinner that night were my best batch yet!

Buyinig vegetables at the Yout Farmers Market.

A day of shopping at the Youth Farmers Market.

I cannot express how impressed I was with this community and this program.  Guidestone Colorado has managed to generate support from literally every player in the farm to school food cycle within the rural town of Salida.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

A LiveWell Garden sign showing the types of vegetables grown on the farm.

 The educational importance of kids understanding where their food comes from is, to me, one of the most important environmental learning experiences.   Helping to plant, care for and eat locally grown food, teaches children so many different aspects of environmental science.  It is a very personal, hands on educational opportunity that every child should have.  School districts across the country could learn a lot from the Salida community that is raising food-wise, healthy kids.

To learn more about local foods visit: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/local-foods-local-places

To learn more about sustainable food management visit: http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.

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.

Leadville, Colorado: Some great environmental happenings

by Wendy Dew

I’ve spent a lot of time in Leadville, Colorado.   Also known as the Two-Mile-High City, Leadville is the highest incorporated city and the second highest incorporated municipality in the United States. In the late 19th century, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado, after Denver.

An image of Leadville, ColoradoBut what I know most about Leadville is EPA’s work on cleaning up the California Gulch Superfund site and a local conservation group’s efforts to educate citizens on energy and environmental issues.

The California Gulch site covers 18 square miles in Lake County, including Leadville and a section of the Arkansas River. Former mining operations contributed to metals contamination in surface water, groundwater, soil and sediment. Over the years, EPA has worked with the state, the local community and the site’s potentially responsible parties to clean up the site, coordinate ecological restoration work and redevelop specific portions of the site.

While there are still portions of the site that are being cleaned up, 11 miles of the Upper Arkansas River have been restored and the area was added to the Gold Medal Trout Waters in Colorado.  These fishing areas are noted by Colorado Wildlife Commission as places where trout are plentiful and larger.  The designation has been 20 years in the making, and although anglers have enjoyed the improved conditions for years, it is an official acknowledgement of the myriad efforts by state and federal agencies, local governments and stakeholders to turn an impaired river into one of the most popular fishing destinations in Colorado.

Gold medal waters are not the only great environmental happenings in Leadville. The Cloud City Conservation Center (C4) was awarded two EPA grants for environmental justice work and environmental education work.  I got the chance to visit C4 and see firsthand how they are making a difference in the community.

The environmental justice project focused on helping low-income and minority residents in Lake County reduce energy use and address under-insulated and leaky housing. It focused specifically on residents who have limited access to information due to language barriers, immigration status and other hurdles facing this EJ population. C4 conducted workshops using EPA grant funds to educate the community about conservation and efficiency measures they could implement in their homes to save energy and money. Thirty home energy audits and follow up support services provided participants the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of their homes while becoming more knowledgeable about energy conservation.

An image of a corroding vent.

Vent that is corroding due to corrosive combustion gases coming from the boiler

As a result of this initiative, the community enjoys lower greenhouse gas emissions and more comfortable homes. Additionally, the impact of global climate change is addressed through local solutions, thereby empowering the community to make a difference on the sustainability of our environment.

The environmental education project, awarded in 2015, seeks composting materials stored in one placeto make Lake County youth the environmental leaders of the community, ultimately expanding Lake County’s capacity for environmental stewardship. Approximately 1,100 Lake County K-12 students will increase their environmental understanding through daily composting and hands on education.

This will increase capacity in each Lake County School to reduce waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a valuable environmental product, establishing a model program Compost poster.for the community as a whole. The compost will be used in a future greenhouse project for the local schools.  The kids who are involved in managing the compost bins are incredible proud of the positive local environmental impact they are having at their school.

The transformation from mines to parks, gold medal trout waters, environmental justice initiatives and future environmental leaders is impressive. Visiting grantees is one of my favorite things to do in my job.  It gives me a chance to see for myself all the great work EPA grant funds make possible.  Talking to kids who are excited about the environmental changes they are making is amazing.  It motivates me and makes me feel like I am part of a very large movement to restore, protect and improve our environment.  C4 is continuing to work with the Leadville community to address environmental and public health issues.

About the author:

Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA Region 8.

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.

Seeing the Devastation First Hand

There are many roles a Regional Administrator must play in the daily work of protecting the environment and human health. Recently, I played what I consider to be one of my most important roles: listening to and assisting the citizens in our region as we recover from devastating flooding.

The small mountain town has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in Search and Rescue operations. Photo credit: Steve Zumwalt FEMA

This small mountain town has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in Search and Rescue operations. Photo credit: Steve Zumwalt FEMA

I saw firsthand how an extreme weather event can impact an entire state. Seven lives were lost in the floods in Colorado this year. Over 2,000 square miles spanning 17 counties have been affected. Numerous roads are destroyed and thousands of homes are lost. It’s a sobering reminder that such extreme events are predicted to become even more frequent because of the changing climate.

More

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.

Inspired by the Next Generation

IMG_1439

(left to right) Emma Hutchinson, Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eric Bear, Milo Cress, and Christina Bear

After serving as EPA’s regional administrator in Denver for only a few months, I am already impressed with the incredible staff we have here at EPA. I am also equally encouraged by what I have seen from our younger generations and the level of their environmental commitment. I recently had a chance to visit with several young people who are making a huge difference. These young folks attended the recent Climate Change Panel in Boulder, Colorado and had a chance to talk with me and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

More

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.

Life Along The Colorado

By Kasia Broussalian

A sense of adventure runs deep in my blood. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and onto the proverbial “open road.” I set off on that road for a few sweltering months in the summer and fall of 2009. With my last undergraduate class just behind me and a passion for community-based issues, I set out. My goal: to document populations living along, and dependent on, the Colorado River. The idea grew out of an interest I’d developed in water; an interest that began with an environmental policy class I had taken two years earlier. The differences among the people I encountered were staggering; from urban skate park teenagers and leggy accounting majors handing out drink coupons, to onion pickers and a Hoover Dam engineer.

I traveled along the Colorado River, from origin to delta, photographing the livelihoods of the communities thriving on this life-providing resource. My time spent along the shores of the river made me realize that while the Southwest is unlikely to run out of water anytime soon, it will run out of cheap water in the coming decades. How will this affect the communities dependent on its precarious flow? That is the underlying theme of my documentary.

Embedded in each of these communities is a unique sense of self. Though they vary drastically from one another, in another sense they are alike: all are completely reliant upon that one necessary resource, the Colorado River.

But, my main question still remains: once something as necessary and vital as water begins to change and become more expensive, what are these places going to look like? What will we lose in terms of culture and history as populations pick up and move on?

To view my documentary, please visit and click “Multimedia &Video”, “Life Along the Colorado.”

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a Public Affairs intern for EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at New York University, and has been with the agency since 2010.

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.

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.

Learning In Your Own Backyard

CU-Boulder Professor Jeff Mitton

CU-Boulder Professor Jeff Mitton

By Wendy Dew

Here in Colorado we have an abundance of environmental education opportunities with a diversity of flora and fauna. You can even see prairie dogs from the side of the road at a shopping center!

Unfortunately, one the best educational examples we have right now is Pine Beetle. Rocky Mountain kids can see firsthand the effects of climate change and drought on our local forests with the pine beetle epidemic. The mountain pine beetle is in the midst of its most intense and widespread epidemic in recorded history. The geographic infestation extends from New Mexico to the Yukon Territory and from the front range of Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. In Colorado alone, more than 3 million acres of forests have already been affected.

The University of Colorado – Boulder recently released a new film on mountain pine beetle and its effects in Colorado. They have also created a lesson on mountain pine beetle appropriate for high school but adaptable to middle school. They have a variety of other lesson plans and videos and resources for teaching about local climate change.

Every student has the opportunity to learn about the environment. Whether it be the pine beetle, the Chesapeake Bay or in your own backyard. Look to your local environment to find out what issues are happening and what you can do about them.

For more information

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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.

The New Teen Scene: Leaf Looking!

(c) JVick 2010

(c) JVick 2010

You hear a lot about kids and teens not spending enough time outdoors these days. Teens are constantly “plugged-in” texting and staring at the TV all afternoon, etc. I know when I was growing up we played both outside and inside. This past weekend I was incredibly pleased to see a ton of teens out “leaf looking” at the base of Pikes Peak.

Here in the mountains of Colorado, you always see the “leaf lookers” come out every fall to see the beautiful colors of the changing trees. We always giggle a bit because they are usually older and drive REALLY slow through the mountain roads.

But this year, I was amazed to see how many kids, especially teens, were out enjoying the beautiful fall colors. Teens were running, laughing, taking photos on their phones and sending them to their friends. Nature and texting DO mix!

I think teens and parents hear a lot about getting outside more. I worry it becomes a “to-do-list item” instead of an enjoyable, repeatable experience. So, in my view, let the kids play video games, tweet and text, but balance it out with fun outdoor family or group activities – like going to a favorite hiking trail and seeing all the great fall colors. Make it an annual family event!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

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.

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.

Saving Some For The Fishes And Rethinking The Future of Our Water Supply

When I first moved to Colorado, I spent my summers hiking streams and collecting aquatic insects. I visited many high mountain streams that were dammed and diverted to provide water to cities along Colorado’s Front Range. In their natural state, these rivers flowed raucously over boulders, watering streamside plants, flooding wetlands, and creating fabulous habitat for fish and other aquatic critters. Downstream of the dams, the streambeds were sometimes completely dry – other times with only a thin trickle of water.

At this very moment, there are thousands of dams in Colorado that are withdrawing water from Rocky Mountain streams. Once diverted, the water moves through networks of ditches and aqueducts, sometimes tunneling through mountains and across the Continental Divide, to distant farms and cities. But the water taken from these streams is not enough to meet growing demands. In the future, water demand will far exceed supply. In response to this need and recent drought conditions, water developers in Colorado are proposing to exercise some of the last remaining water rights – for spring snowmelt peak flows in the wettest of years.

Diverting snowmelt flows from our rivers is a controversial and complex issue, both politically and environmentally. On one hand, cities want this water to support economic growth, including new commercial and residential development. However, these flows are critical to aquatic ecosystems, rearranging sediments for fish habitat, assisting Cottonwood regeneration, recharging groundwater and flooding backwater wetland habitats. Countless plants and animals rely on these flows for their long-term survival. Many of these rivers are already anemic from water withdrawals and we are approaching a tipping point beyond which the resiliency of these ecosystems will be tested.

What are our options?

As scientists, we must apply our knowledge to better balance human needs and the needs of our rivers’ inhabitants. Various water supply and smart growth solutions are available that could maintain natural ecosystems while meeting the needs of communities. Water conservation will play an increasingly critical role in allowing for a sustainable water future. Moving forward, researching and implementing state of the art water conservation technologies is key.

Your perspective on water differs whether you live near the Great Lakes, in the arid west, or by the coast. We must all begin thinking about the sustainability of our water supplies and how we can meet our needs while also protecting our rivers, lakes and wetlands.

What do you think?

About the author: Julia McCarthy is an Environmental Scientist with the EPA Regional Office in Denver, CO. She works in the Clean Water Act regulatory program on rivers and wetlands. Her background is in aquatic ecology and freshwater conservation. She recently worked on a video titled ‘Wetlands and Wonder: Reconnecting Children With Nearby Nature.’ Check it out at http://epa.gov/wetlands/education/wetlandsvideo/

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.