energy efficiency

EPA Partners Leading the Way On Climate Action

By Janet McCabe

Climate change is one of the most critical challenges of our time. We are committed to partnering with industry, communities, and government at all levels to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and to prepare for the changes that are already underway.

Some important collaborations are our voluntary climate partnership programs. For decades, we have been partnering with the private sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote the use of cleaner energy sources, and improve energy efficiency efforts. These voluntary programs have achieved significant environmental benefits: in total, more than 19,000 organizations and millions of Americans have participated in our climate partnerships and, together in 2013 they prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use of more than 57 million homes.

Today, we launched a new voluntary program to reduce harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and 41 companies have stepped up as founding partners. Our Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program builds on the success of our Natural Gas STAR Program and encourages partner companies to make company-wide commitments to cut emissions from sources within their operations by implementing a suite of best management practices.

We expect program participation to grow over time and are actively working to expand the options for participation by finalizing an additional Emissions Intensity Commitment option through the ONE Future Coalition. The ONE Future coalition is a group of companies from across the natural gas industry focused on increasing the efficiency of the natural gas supply chain.

To understand the potential of this program, let’s look at the successes of the Natural Gas STAR Program. When Gas STAR began in 1993, it promoted six best management practices that companies could take to reduce methane emissions; that list has increased to over 50 mitigation best practices. In 2015, a total of 103 oil and gas companies from across the natural gas value chain were U.S. Natural Gas STAR Partners. Since the Natural Gas STAR program started, our partners have collectively achieved over 1.2 trillion cubic feet of methane emission reductions, equivalent to the emissions savings associated with the use of over 1.4 million barrels of oil or reducing over 606 million metric tons of C02 equivalent emissions.

Our other voluntary programs are making similar strides. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR has helped consumers save $362 billion on their utility bills while significantly reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Since the Green Power Partnership was introduced in 2001, more than 1,200 organizations have committed to using about 33 billion kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable green power each year. Through the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, more than 480 partners have installed nearly 6,800 megawatts of new combined heat and power since 2001. And in 2013 alone, our methane and fluorinated greenhouse gas program partners used our tools and resources to prevent emissions equal to the annual electricity use from more than 12 million homes in 2013.

Our country has been building momentum towards a cleaner energy economy for quite a while, and with the help of our voluntary programs, our partners have been helping to pave the way. To address the global challenge of climate change, we need to use all the tools in our toolbox, and voluntary programs are an important complement to regulatory action. Through the innovation and leadership of our partners, our voluntary climate partnership programs have proven to be an important lever for change.

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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Family Dollar Battles to Trim its “Wastelines”

By Carsen Mata

A Family Dollar store at Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.

Family Dollar is one of the largest companies participating in this year’s Battle of the Buildings competition. Pictured here: A Family Dollar store at Fulton Street and Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency and ENERGY STAR are winding down their sixth annual Battle of the Buildings competition, as thousands of buildings are battling to see who can reduce their energy and water use the most in 2015, as compared to last year. In their efforts, participants have been retrofitting existing lighting, upgrading equipment, and even suggesting the occupants of their building alter their habits to help fight the cause. Throughout the competition, participants have been tracking their overall progress using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s online measurement and tracking tool. This tool measures a building’s monthly energy and water consumption, allowing for each competitor to strategize ways of reducing their emissions. At the end of the 12-month performance period, the team and individual building with the largest percent reductions will be declared winners.

This nationwide competition often garners a lot of attention from a great deal of big names. Companies like Target, Staples, and TD Bank have joined the battle in recent years with successful track records. This year, we’ve been paying close attention to the success stories within EPA Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight tribal nations. In total, the region boasts 178 buildings with 32 coming from 21 different New Jersey cities and 146 from 40 different New York cities. Some of the big names in our area include J.C. Penney, Samsung and Family Dollar Stores.

As most of you know, Family Dollar Stores offers a wide variety of products at affordable price points for families of all types. They provide communities with a mix of merchandise ranging from refrigerated and frozen foods to health and beauty items. Their recent partnership with the Battle of the Buildings competition is quite the story – to date, Family Dollar Stores, Inc. has over 5,500 of its sites benchmarked in the Portfolio Manager tool with more than 7,700 sites registered, making the company one of the largest users ever of the EPA tool.

Family Dollar’s building spectrum registered for the competition includes regular retail locations, distribution centers, and even their store support center. With 19 of their registered sites in Brooklyn, Family Dollar becomes a regional standout.

Commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for 17 percent of the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $175 billion annually. The Battle of the Buildings competition invites corporations and buildings of all sizes to improve the energy efficiency of millions of workplaces. If successful, competitors will ultimately reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, making it one huge fight you won’t want to miss. For more information on previous winners, current competitors and competitor resources visit http://www.energystar.gov/buildings/about-us/how-can-we-help-you/communicate/energy-star-communications-toolkit/motivate-competition-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.

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The Last Year of an Environmental Educator’s Career: Reflections on Sustainability

Introduction by Kathleen L. Fenton

I’m fortunate to manage EPA Region 7’s Environmental Education Program. I get to meet folks like Dr. Michael Hotz, who work tirelessly to ensure today’s students understand, value and enjoy learning. Dr. Hotz is one of those exceptional teachers who students remember long after they’ve graduated, an educator who makes a lasting impression. Most importantly, he’s influenced students to realize that science, technology, engineering and math are subjects they can understand and have fun doing, while actually learning – and it’s knowledge they can keep and use for years to come.

Dr. Hotz is a model teacher and representative of many fine teachers across the Heartland. I had the honor of watching him receive his Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. I wish him well on his career’s final year, and hope the teaching profession can employ more teachers like him. Thank you, Dr. Hotz, for an impressive 31-year run!

By Dr. Michael Hotz

As I begin the last of 31 years of teaching young people, I reflect on sustainability. Through the last 19 years in the Kansas City, Kan., Public School District, I’ve had the opportunity to create a school garden/outdoor classroom, conduct long-term watershed studies, create an aquaponic system where tilapia grow and greenhouse plants are nourished, and conduct energy audits to save more than $100,000 in utility costs.

Dr. Hotz and his wife, Catherine, at PIAEE award ceremony

Dr. Hotz and his wife, Catherine, at PIAEE award ceremony

It’s been a great experience, and I have an EPA employee to thank for, as she says, “planting the seed of ideas.” Roberta Vogel-Luetung sat with me as we brainstormed ideas over 15 years ago at an in-service meeting conducted by EPA. We discussed how an empty, unused courtyard at Wyandotte High School could be used for teaching environmental content. Since that meeting, the courtyard has been turned into a school garden and outdoor classroom with 20 raised beds, an automated sprinkler system, all-weather walkways, flower gardens, a water feature, and composting facilities.

Students were challenged and stepped up to the task of designing, building, and financing this area, which they also help plant and maintain. These students, as well as others, have reaped the fruits of their labors. Joanne Postawait has taken over the responsibility of planting and harvesting this area, while I continue to help with its hardscape maintenance.

School garden/outdoor classroom

School garden/outdoor classroom

The EPA video “After the Storm” inspired me to create a “challenge-based” learning experience for the Small Learning Community in which I teach at Wyandotte High School. Through collaboration with my fellow educators Ms. Hornberger (Math), Mr. Willard (English), and Mr. Zak (Engineering), we created a long-term project around Big Eleven Lake in Kansas City, Kan.

Each year, students study their watershed in my science classes. We bring the studies down to the local level of what the students can do themselves to help the watershed. They’ve been taught how to conduct water testing, and then go into the field and test Big Eleven Lake, Kaw Point (at the convergence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers), and other lakes in the area. Comparisons are made and reported to the Kansas Health Department. All of the curriculums are tied into this experience. Standardized test scores demonstrate that significant gains have been made because of this program.

I was also a member of the EPA Urban Lake Testing Group where EPA provided water testing techniques and equipment, and samples were sent to EPA laboratories for analysis. I was then able to train residents of the Big Eleven Lake area, who belong to the Struggler’s Hill/Roots Neighborhood Association, to do the water testing. These neighborhood association members were helpful in sharing their lives and experiences around the lake, and the EPA employees were just as helpful with the testing and field work.

Aquaponics system

Aquaponic system

We developed a pilot aquaponics program where tilapia are grown. The water from these tanks is sent to trays where plants are grown, establishing a symbiotic relationship between the fish and plants. Wastes from the tilapia nourish tomatoes, herbs, squash, and other plants in our greenhouse. This type of organic, non-polluting growing system is 10 times more efficient than traditional methods and saves water.

I initiated energy audits and plans to save on utility costs. Students use testing equipment to monitor lights, electricity, and temperature and then develop plans to reduce usage. More than $100,000 was saved in a single year. A recycling program also is in place, which is operated by our Environmental Club and is part of the Green Schools Program of the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education.

Aquaponic system

Aquaponic system

These programs helped me to be recognized as a proud winner of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). EPA and its employees have been instrumental in the development and teaching of these programs.

I am honored that my former student and 2015 graduate, Karina Macias Leyva, wrote the following in her letter of recommendation for the award: “When Dr. Hotz teaches anything that is part of the environmental education field, even with the smallest projects, he inspires students to gain awareness of their environment and acquire knowledge, skills, values, experiences and also determination, which will enable students to act individually and collectively that will lead to solving present and future environmental problems.”

I’m currently working with Towson University, investigating how environmental education happens in and out of the classroom and what impacts student understanding and attitudes about the environment and environmental science.

As I plan for this final year of teaching, my major concern is sustaining these programs. I’m training and encouraging other teachers at Wyandotte High School to keep them going. Our environmental future depends upon the teaching of young minds here in the Heartland and across the nation.

I have enjoyed and am thankful for the relationships that have been made with EPA, and I look forward to working with all of you at EPA during this final year.

About the Introducer: Kathleen Fenton has worked with communities on environmental health issues, environmental education grants, and Healthy Schools projects for over 20 years.

About the Author: Dr. Michael Hotz has been a teacher at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan., for the past 19 years, as part of his 31-year teaching career. He was awarded the PIAEE in 2015.

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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Slowing the Spinning Wheel

electric meterby Ken Pantuck

Whether we live in houses or apartments, we all probably share the same sense of hesitation when we open our monthly electric bill…especially after some frigid winter months.

Keeping the environment and our household budgets in mind, it makes sense to consider ways to reduce these bills with more efficient appliances, and conservation measures to use less energy whenever possible.

Just like homeowners and renters, most operators of large water and wastewater treatment plants are always looking for ways of lowering energy consumption and the costs that come with it, and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the process. The difference is that their power requirements are enormous.

Did you know that nationally, electricity accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the operating budgets for wastewater utilities and approximately 80 percent of drinking water processing and distribution costs? In fact, drinking water and wastewater systems account for nearly four percent of all the energy use in the United States.

EPA’s Net Zero Energy team is helping utilities to lower their costs by reducing waste, conserving water, and lowering power demand.

I recently attended a meeting at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the regional planning group for in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia where energy conservation and reductions were the chief topics. Each authority had used experts in the field to assist them in examining energy saving actions, and estimating the costs of implementing them.

While many of these energy projects involved little or no cost, others carried a more significant price tag. Each authority selected what actions would get them the biggest “bang for the buck” within their capital improvement budgets, and would pay for themselves within one to 10 years in energy savings.

While many large water and wastewater authorities are already benefiting from these energy saving measures, some of the smaller ones are just starting to learn about them. A couple of EPA publications entitled “Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Facilities” and “Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities” can provide the necessary first steps for a community or authority to begin such an effort.

Why not encourage your local utility to check out the savings?

About the Author: Ken Pantuck is the team leader for the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Innovative Technologies Team.

 

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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Greening the Game

Millions of Americans across the country tuned into the big game a couple weeks ago, which was played for the first time under energy-efficient LED lighting. Why the switch? These lights use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent, saving the venue money on its energy bill and energy, which helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The NFL isn’t alone in its journey to fight climate change by becoming more sustainable. Last week we highlighted a number of leading sports teams, organizations, and venues across the industry who are taking action, including our work with greening collegiate sports though the Game Day Recycling Challenge and the collegiate sports sustainability summit. Recycling conserves vital resources, saves energy, and, in 2012, reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 33 million cars off the road for a year. Recycling also creates green jobs and provides essential resources. And during her recent visit to the X Games in Colorado, our Administrator Gina McCarthy, heard first-hand from athletes and the businesses that support them how they are working to protect their winters from 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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This Dallas Habitat for Humanity Home Is Energy Efficiency in Action

R6-curry

Last week, during our Energy Efficiency Week of Action, I had the pleasure of visiting an energy efficient home in a Dallas neighborhood. The home I visited was being built as part of last year’s commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Texas Section of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and together with Habitat for Humanity they built a great home that is green and affordable.

These homes include many energy efficiency features including passive lighting, high efficiency windows and doors, spray foam insulation, tankless water heating, low volatile organic compounds paint, and ecofriendly materials. Some even have solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Because of these construction methods, these homes have received the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

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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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Powerful Partnerships

By Walter Higgins

The Selbyville Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of five that had an energy audit.

The Selbyville Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of five that had an energy audit.

This blog, the second of two Healthy Waters blogs this week, focuses on energy efficiency to reduce carbon pollution, a driver of climate change.

The power of partnerships means making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. When it comes to adapting to a changing climate and slowing the changes already underway, we’ve found that partnerships provide one of the best tools we have.

EPA has partnered with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS) and other partners to assist water and wastewater treatment plants, and the communities they serve, save energy and money.

These facilities use a lot of energy to treat and move drinking water and wastewater, and they are typically the largest energy consumers for municipal governments, accounting for 30 percent of all the energy they consumes. Energy efficiency and renewable energy from these facilities also cuts carbon pollution as outlined in EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Over the past year, the Delaware Water/Wastewater Energy Efficiency Partnership has conducted energy assessments of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. These energy assessments have helped operators and managers better understand energy usage at their plants, and identified low- or even no-cost options for achieving reductions. The partnership has shared these energy-saving practices with a wider audience through workshops for plant operators and managers.

The assessments have also generated a list of potential energy-saving projects offering serious savings, but with a higher initial price tag. Where can utilities find money to fund these projects? The partnership will offer a free workshop focused on funding energy efficient projects at water utilities on September 30. This workshop is a great opportunity for town managers in and around Middletown, Delaware, to hear about financing options for energy efficiency at water and wastewater utilities.

We hope our partnership with Delaware agencies inspires similar partnerships in other parts of the mid-Atlantic region and across the country. These types of energy efficiency projects at water and wastewater utilities have demonstrated undeniable environmental, economic and public benefits and provide fundamental investments in a more sustainable way of life.

About the author: Walter Higgins has been with EPA since 2010, working in the Water Protection Division on grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects. He also works with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency. Walter recently earned his Pennsylvania certification as a wastewater operator.

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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Celebrate Earth Day with ENERGY STAR!

Earth Day graphic

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Earth Day is here and people across the country are taking a few minutes out of their day to do something good for planet earth. What are your plans? We may be a bit biased, but here at ENERGY STAR we would love for you to make protecting the environment from climate change part of your Earth Day resolutions. Preventing climate change may sound like a tall order, but we’re here to show you how easy it can be to make a difference. And did we mention that it will also help you save money?  I think we now have your full attention. Check out our list of no-cost to low cost ways to save energy at home and at work this Earth Day!

ENERGY STAR’s Earth Day and Beyond Checklist

1.)    ENERGY STAR Lighting- Purchase an ENERGY STAR certified LED! This is one of the easiest ways to make your home more energy efficient. ENERGY STAR certified LEDs use 70-90% less energy and last 25x longer than your old incandescent bulbs. With the prices dropping fast, this is the perfect time to try out the light bulb of the future! Need help picking one out? Check out this video.

2.)    Computer Power Management– Are you reading this on your computer? Have you programmed that computer to go into sleep mode when you are away? Enabling your ENERGY STAR certified computer/monitor’s power management features can save you up to $90 a year.

3.)    HVAC Maintenance– Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy.

4.)    Build Your Team– You can also “Bring Your Green” to work! Create a Green Team with your co-workers, help build support for energy efficiency in your workplace, and reduce office waste. Set a goal to certify your building as ENERGY STAR.

5.)    Inspire Your Friends– The only thing better than saving energy yourself is inspiring your friends to do it with you. Share this infographic in social media and encourage your friends to get with the energy-saving program!

EarthDay_infographic_Twitter

It’s pretty amazing that simple changes like these can make a big difference in reducing carbon pollution in our environment, helping to stop further climate change. Need some assistance on your energy-saving journey? Take the ENERGY STAR Pledge and let EPA show you how simple it can be to save energy, save money and protect the environment. Try it out today and make this Earth Day the best one yet.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the communications team at EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. This Earth Day she plans on purchasing an ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb.  

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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How 3 Wastewater Treatment Facilities saved $69,000/year in Energy Costs

By Valerie Breznicky

We’re all familiar with the nightly routine of shutting off the lights and locking the doors, but that doesn’t happen at wastewater and water treatment plants.  Wastewater and water treatment is a 24/7 process and the amount of energy used for that treatment is huge.  But more and more utilities are finding ways to hold down those electric costs – and it helps the environment, too.

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority, PA – One of the many parts of water treatment is aeration, where air is forced through water to transfer oxygen to it.  This water authority identified that their aeration process was wasteful, and changed their computer program to aerate only when the treatment tank was completely filled.  This reduced the aeration time significantly, changing the process from aeration on a continuous flow to aeration of batches.  With this change, the Authority has seen an energy savings of about $10,000 a year.

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority

Broken Straw Valley Area Authority

Ridgeway Borough Wastewater Facility, PA – With the help of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Technical Assistance Team, the Borough changed the operation of the aeration system to run intermittently instead of continuously.  Consider your shower.  It wouldn’t make sense to keep the water running all day just so a few people could jump in and get clean.  The Borough invested in a $500 timer to control the timing of the process and, in turn, saved $31,000 a year in energy and chemical costs, while improving the quality of its effluent.

Ridgeway Wastewater Treatment Plant

Ridgeway Wastewater Treatment Plant

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility, PA – Like Ridgeway Borough, Berlin Borough changed the operation of the aeration system to run intermittently instead of continuously, installing a timer to control the process and, in turn, saved $28,000 a year in energy and chemical costs, while improving the quality of its effluent.

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility

Berlin Borough Wastewater Facility

Improving energy efficiency is an ongoing challenge for drinking water and wastewater utilities.  Facilities can make a number of small changes that add up to major energy and cost reductions.

Learn more about wastewater technology and energy efficiency here.  Do you know how your water utilities are saving energy and money?

About the Author: Valerie is an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency, and one of the Region III Sustainable Infrastructure Coordinators.  She has more than 28 years of experience managing infrastructure grants and has spent 5 and one-half years as a Sustainable Infrastructure (SI) Coordinator, insuring the sustainability of our water and wastewater infrastructure through information sharing and the integration of SI principles in all State 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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Energy Savings Start At Home

By Lina Younes

Just this week I received my home electric bill. When I saw the envelope I cringed because I feared the worst! Why, you may ask? Well, the reality is that this summer has been unusually hot in the greater Washington metropolitan area.  In fact, during the month of July we had a full week of sweltering temperatures hovering around the triple digits!

So imagine my surprise when I opened my electric bill and saw that we had actually consumed less electricity than the same period last year! What had we done differently? We already had Energy Star appliances  throughout our home. We already had Energy Star certified windows, a programmable thermostat, and energy efficient lighting. So, it had to be something else.

After doing a mental review of the situation, I only came up with two actions that must have had a positive impact on our energy efficiency. First we had done a major cleaning of air filters and air ducts throughout the house which obviously improved the overall performance of our air conditioning system. Furthermore, we were using more electric fans in the rooms where we spent the most time. This allowed us to actually increase the temperature of our thermostat while we were at home and still feel comfortable. Bottom line, we saved energy and money without sacrificing personal comfort.

So, simple actions can make a difference and why not start at home?  Have you taken any steps to improve your energy efficiently? We look forward to hearing from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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 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.