educational materials

Green Reading—One Leaf at a Time

By Lina Younes

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Just recently I had the opportunity to read at my youngest daughter’s school. While I eagerly volunteered for the reading assignment, selecting the right book was not that easy. I went through several children books we had at home. At first glance, I didn’t find any one particular book that caught my eye. I was leaning toward a book about the Puerto Rican tree frog commonly known as the coquí which would allow me to talk about one of my favorite subjects. However, my daughter did not seem that enthused with the idea. Even though I was not issued any specific educational instructions for this reading opportunity, I knew I had to meet some other standards set by my daughter and her classmates: the book could not be “lame.” So then, I had an “aha moment” and thought of the perfect book to teach them about taking care of the environment: The Lorax.

Thanks to a colleague, I had a Lorax plush toy while I read the classic tale of this forest creature that spoke on behalf of the trees. I was pleased to see that the children listened attentively as I read the book. I even had time to spare to ask them questions about what they had heard and their thoughts on how we can all protect the environment. What were some of their recommendations? Many of the same actions that we encourage here at EPA:

  • Do not litter
  • Recycle
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room
  • Turn off the water faucet when you brush your teeth
  • Ride your bike
  • Plant a tree

These are all very good suggestions from these fourth graders! So, if you’re looking for some good reading material for your children, The Lorax is a good book to consider. If you are looking for some educational materials to use in the classroom or at home, there are some good tools inspired by this classic and the upcoming movie. And when spring officially starts, why not plant a tree?

Before I sign off, I’d like to leave you with some food for thought. Playing devil’s advocate here—do you think all the merchandising associated with the release of the new movie might actually go against the commercialization denounced in the original Lorax book? What are your thoughts? Would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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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Gardening With Water Use In Mind

By Amber Lefstead

This year, for the first time in my life, I purchased a gardening spade and seeds for my garden. I love a beautiful garden, but the task of creating and maintaining one has always been daunting. But from the moment I began, I fell in love with it. There is something so satisfying about gardening—feeling the dirt crumble between your fingers as you loosen the earth, planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is. But, seeing your yard transform into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment makes it so rewarding. Before I started my garden, it was barren with a Magnolia tree stump in the middle. Now, it is full of flowers, ground covers, and mulch. The flowers feed the neighborhood bees, butterflies, and birds, while the ground covers and mulch blanket the soil, keeping it moist and cool.

After planting my garden, the real trick has been maintaining it. With this hot, dry summer in Washington D.C. , that has been no easy task. As temperatures rise during the peak water season, it’s a good time for everyone to consider their outdoor water use. Peak water season is usually late July and early August and is the time when residential water use is highest.

Water use was a big concern in creating my landscape. I work for the EPA WaterSense program and, among other things, I create educational materials for consumers on water-efficient landscaping, so I kept water in mind at every step:

  • I purchased low water use plants and seeds that would need minimal supplemental water
  • I amended sandy soil patches with compost to help hold moisture at the root zone
  • I loosened plants’ roots from their potting soil before planting to encourage deep root growth
  • I covered exposed soil with mulch to hold in moisture and minimize evaporation

I also make sure to water at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. And I water deeply and infrequently to encourage the plants’ roots to spread into the surrounding soil so they are resourceful and drought tolerant. In the next year or so after their roots establish, they should need minimal supplemental water beyond normal rainfall. I’ll let you know how that goes!

About the author: Amber Lefstead joined EPA in 2009 as the Outdoor Coordinator for the WaterSense program. Her recent low water use garden installation was inspired by her work at the Agency.

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.