energy efficiency

Putting Faith in Energy Efficiency

By Evonne Marzouk

“Stewardship in our Faith Traditions Panel” at the Greening America’s Congregations through Energy Efficiency event at the White House last Thursday featured, from left, Rohan Patel, associate director for outreach and public engagement at the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Arjun Bhargava, Hindu American Seva Charities; and Evonne Marzouk, Canfei Nesharim.

I came to work at EPA because of my deep commitment to sustaining our environment and natural resources for ourselves and future generations.

As an observant Jew, I’ve also expressed that commitment in another way: by creating and directing a national Jewish-environmental organization, Canfei Nesharim: Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah.

In my role as executive director of Canfei Nesharim, I was honored to participate on September 13th Greening America’s Congregations Through Energy Efficiency, hosted by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, in partnership with ENERGY STAR for Congregations.

The event gathered more than 100 leaders of different faith-based projects to protect the environment and save energy. Speakers included representatives of Baha’i, Catholic, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu traditions.

I spoke on the panel, “Stewardship in Our Faith Traditions,” drawing upon materials from my organization’s “Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment.” I explored the role of humanity in creation, the Jewish mitzvah of bal tashchit (do not destroy), the wisdom in cycles of rest (such as Sabbath), and the important value that spiritual wisdom can offer us today. As I explained, while it’s critically important for us to take environmental actions like saving energy, faith traditions also have wisdom that we must provide to help our society address environmental challenges.

Other speakers focused on concrete efforts in the faith community to save energy, and shared successes via ENERGY STAR for Congregations, a program dedicated to helping houses of worship reduce their energy use. They estimate that most congregations can reduce their energy costs by up to 30 percent. Many are working with them to do just that! To support our efforts, ENERGY STAR offered a wide range of tools.

Today our faith traditions have an important and meaningful role to play in fostering a more sustainable world. In such a diverse crowd, it was inspiring to see the shared commitment to making a difference. As part of the religious environmental community, I hope we’ll continue to come together to address today’s environmental challenges!

About the author: Evonne Marzouk works in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, and is also the executive director of Canfei Nesharim, an organization that educates and empowers Jewish individuals, organizations and communities to take an active role in protecting the environment, in order to build a more sustainable world. A version of this blog entry first appeared as an article in the Washington Jewish Week.

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.

Campus RainWorks Challenge Competition

By Nancy Stoner

Last October I visited the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition for college and university students throughout the country and the world to design environmentally friendly homes. The Solar Decathlon is a chance for students and faculty from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to collaborate on visionary and inventive ways to build comfortable, aesthetically pleasing houses that have a lower environmental footprint by utilizing energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency approaches, and recycled building materials in home design.

I was especially inspired by last year’s winning home from the University of Maryland, which also included green infrastructure and rainwater capture to manage stormwater on site and improve water quality. College students are the designers, builders and policy-makers of our future, and I wanted to find a way to capitalize on their creativity to provide innovations in the use of green infrastructure for integrated water management. That is why I’m proud to announce that EPA is starting the new Campus RainWorks Challenge this year.

EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge is a design competition open to colleges and universities to compete to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. This competition will help raise awareness of green design and planning approaches among students, faculty and staff, and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure principles and design. Effective green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems.

In this challenge, student teams, working with a faculty advisor, will submit design plans for a proposed green infrastructure project for their campus. For this first year’s competition, winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013, and winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 – $2,500, as well as $8,000 – $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. To participate, teams must register by October 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14.

The Campus RainWorks Challenge will provide a great opportunity for students to apply clever, cutting-edge approaches to stormwater management, while also encouraging the use of green infrastructure projects on college and university campuses throughout the country. I am really looking forward to seeing the results of this competition in its first year and for many years to come.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water

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.

School Light Monitors

light switchBy Wendy Dew

Have you ever heard of hall monitors?  How about ” light monitors “?  Students around the country have been creative in teaching teachers how to turn out the lights when not in use to save energy.  Student light monitors check out classrooms and other rooms to see if the lights have been turned off if no one is using them.  Teachers who do not turn out the lights when they leave the room get a ticket from the light monitors.  Great idea!

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.

College – An Opportunity To Live Green!

By Lily Rau

During this back to school season I have been reflecting on my college experience and the different places I called home. I lived in the dorms my first year and then moved to apartments off campus for my last three years. Reflecting on these homes reminded me of the fear and excitement of moving into your first place. For some of us, this is the first time we must think about paying bills, buying furniture, or cooking for ourselves. In addition to some tough choices, having your own place provides you with opportunities to make environmentally friendly decisions!

The largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities come from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity production and transportation. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, here are a few simple ways a recently independent college student can help reduce these emissions and protect the climate:

  1. Buy ENERGY STAR products: You may be deciding which mini-fridge or light bulbs to purchase for your dorm or apartment. Look for ENERGY STAR products that meet energy efficiency requirements and can save you money while protecting the environment.
  2. Turn off the lights: Our parents yelled at us for a reason. Leaving the lights on raises the energy bill. Whether you’re paying the bills in an apartment, or not paying the bills in a dorm, leaving the lights on uses more electricity and contributes to climate change.
  3. Unplug electronics: Did you know that appliances and electricity-powered devices use electricity even when they are turned off? When you leave for Christmas or Spring break, make sure to unplug all TVs, computers, DVD players, chargers, radios, cable boxes, and mini-fridges.
  4. Get familiar with public transportation: Many colleges don’t allow students to bring their cars to school their first year. If you can’t bring your car to school, embrace it! Get familiar with the public transportation in your area. Maybe you’ll discover you don’t need a car your second year. This is good for the environment and fuel savings, which is great for a student on a budget!
  5. Get involved: Become an OnCampus ecoAmbassador and work with your school and fellow students to make your campus more environmentally friendly!

For more ideas check out EPA’s back to school tips. Join the discussion with your own back to school tip. Tell us how you’re greening your dorm or apartment!

About the author: Lily Rau is an intern in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and is passionate 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.

Clean Those Filters!

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

With the record temperatures that blanketed the country recently, I’m sure that many air conditioners were working at full blast to keep homes reasonably cool. However, there are many ways to ensure that you get the best use out of your air conditioner without blowing the budget on your electric bill. A useful tip to stay cool and to save money and energy while protecting your health? Clean those filters! By maintaining your cooling system regularly and cleaning those filters, you’ll increase the efficiency of your air conditioning and keep your house cool. Furthermore, the filter also helps to reduce dust particles in your home which in turn can be very irritating to allergy sufferers and those individuals who may be sensitive to dust like asthmatics. For a maintenance checklist on how you should check your cooling system regularly, visit the Energy Star website.

Other useful tips to keep your house cool and save money?

  • Well, install a programmable thermostat. This is ideal for families who may be away for the home during set periods of the day or throughout the week. If you use the pre-programmable settings regularly, a programmable thermostat could help you save up to $180 yearly in energy costs.
  • Install a ceiling fan and use it year round. By adjusting the ceiling fan according to the season (summer-counterclockwise and winter-clockwise) you can freshen the air and use the energy more efficiently. In the summer time you’ll feel actually cooler and in the winter you can feel warmer by reversing the direction of the blades. This allows you to save energy and money at the same time.
  • Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs which are more fuel efficient and produce less heat, thus allowing your home to stay cooler.
  • Even if you don’t own your home, we also have tips for renters to save energy and money while reducing the risks of climate change.
  • If you have many chargers or electronic equipment plugged in around your house, use a power supply as a central “turn off” point when these electronics are not in use.

So what have you been doing to stay cool this summer? These extreme temperatures make me wonder: what did we use to do when we didn’t have air conditioning in our homes?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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.

Energy Independence Day

By Steve Donohue

Seventeen years ago when my wife and I went house shopping, we looked for a home with large kitchen windows that would let the sun stream in because I knew this would help heat the house and save energy.

As an environmental scientist in EPA’s Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia, I try to practice what I preach by doing everything I can to save energy at home. Many of my efforts are simple like switching to LED light bulbs and hanging my clothes to dry on the clothes line instead of wasting energy with a power-hogging dryer. Other efforts were a bit more complicated like crawling around in my attic to seal up drafts and add insulation. There were even some unexpected jobs too, like fixing the hole my son made by stepping through the ceiling while he was helping me. I knew these improvements would pay for themselves in no time and they did – reducing our power use by almost 50 percent.

In 2010, we decided to tackle the supply side of the equation by installing photovoltaic solar panels. This was not an easy decision. I wasn’t worried about the technology because I have a solar calculator from 1980 that still works fine, but the return on our investment was supposed to take five years, and by then I knew I would need some cash to replace my aging truck. On the plus side, our roof was new and the slope was just right for installing solar panels. After considering all factors, we decided to take the plunge and get full benefit of tax breaks, financing and rebates offered by Pennsylvania and the federal government. Also, it was nice to know in our own small way we were creating “green jobs” for a local contractor and a factory in Kentucky where the solar panels were manufactured.

A few days after the 4th of July in 2010 we had our own “energy” Independence Day. It has been great! We have had zero maintenance and we get credited for any electricity we don’t use that is sent out to the grid. In 2011, we generated 84 percent of our own electricity, spending less than $260 for power that year. Our goal is to have a net zero energy house in 2012 by swapping out our 17-year old refrigerator.

Sounds good right? Well almost. The market for clean power tanked and our payback is now more like 10 years. So, it looks like I’ll be keeping my old truck a little longer. In the mean time, I tell everyone my new truck is on the roof!

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on greening EPA and other government facilities.

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.

On the Road to Wastewater Energy Savings

By Matt Colip

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

It’s a fact that a modern, four-cylinder hybrid engine gets much better gas mileage then a larger, earlier generation, eight-cylinder engine.  Both get us where we need to go, but at different levels of energy use and fuel costs.

A similar concept can be applied to our local wastewater and drinking water facilities.  Operators of these facilities  are becoming more aware of just how much energy they use and more informed about ways to reduce energy usage. There are many methods of wastewater treatment, but just like cars, these processes vary in energy use and cost.

One easy way for water treatment operators to learn about the latest strategies in making their facility energy efficienct is by referring to EPA’s guidance document Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities.  It’s designed to guide treatment plant operators through the process of maximizing their facility’s energy efficiency, while also reducing their costs.  The guidebook utilizes a four-step approach: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

They can also attend the May 8 Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg that we blogged about recently. This event (held by EPA in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) is for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately carbon footprint, and will highlight several areas related to energy efficiency.

As a homeowner, you can help your drinking water and wastewater plants save operating costs by becoming more water efficient yourself. One way to do this is by utilizing WaterSense products in your household.

For more information on energy efficiency, please visit our website. For information about the Energy Roundtable event, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also interested in technologies that promote efficient living, strives to practice what he preaches, and is moving to a house on a pervious pavement street in Philadelphia. Matt’s love of bicycling took him on a solo cross country tour (riding from San Francisco to the New Jersey shore) as well as around Puerto Rico and across Ohio with colleagues and friends.

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 Competition Gets Green!

A few weeks ago, I heard “Class, we’re going green for the rest of the year!”

I lifted my head up from my morning desk nap, thinking that I’d see the entire class turn into the Incredible Hulk or maybe leprechauns since it is March and St. Patty’s day is right around the corner.  How cool would that be?  I was a little sad to find out my teacher was talking about doing stuff like recycling, emailing homework, and using water bottles instead of paper cups to cut down waste.

This was going to be boring and cause more work for us. But the teachers were sneaky and said it was a competition between classrooms. The goal: Whichever class cuts down the most waste in their room wins a pizza party at the end of the school year. Excited we wanted to learn more.  This is where we had our “learning lesson”.  Sneaky teachers always have lessons to teach.

My 7th grade class learned that many things we use everyday can be made from recycled materials.  Cereal boxes, soda bottles, paint, tissue paper and homework paper after we turned in homework (not before, I tried) are examples of stuff that can be used as recycled material.  Recycled materials also turn up in products that are very different from what you thought they’d be used for.  New playgrounds use recycled rubber as part of the ground underneath the swings.  You’ll know what I mean if you ever walk on a new playground. It’s bouncy. No more gravel or rocks like our parents had when they walked 5 miles to the playground!

For February, my class has recycled over 250 cans of aluminum and 100 pounds of paper. The classroom doesn’t look as dirty either because we try not to use a lot of paper and instead email our homework to our teacher.  We also made one student each week responsible for shutting the lights off when the class leaves the room, to cut down on electricity waste. We’ll find out how my class does against the other grades at the end of the school year in July.

Some basic information on recycling helped us get creative with what we can and cannot recycle.  Want to know more about all the benefits of recycling and what you can do, click on the link:  http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/recycle.htm

Brandon’s a middle school student on Chicago’s Southwest side.  He enjoys filmmaking and Whirlyball.

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.

Going Green with the Girl Scouts

By Brittney Gordon

I am lucky enough to have great memories from childhood, and some of the most memorable moments come from my days as a Girl Scout. Every week my mom would dress me up in my brownie uniform and take me to our troop meeting to have fun with some of my best friends. From selling cookies to telling stories around the camp fire, Girl Scouts allowed me to have the kind of wholesome American fun that all young girls should get to experience.

With these memories still fresh in my mind I became a Girl Scout leader a few years ago, and had the chance to experience the fun of scouting from the other side. Needless to say, I am a strong believer in the Girl Scouts and I am always excited to read about the latest ways that they are reaching young women. Imagine my surprise when I found out that EPA’s ENERGY STAR program is partnering with the Girl Scouts this year, and helping to make protecting the climate as common to scouting as selling those delicious cookies.

GS-Forever-GreenIn celebration of their 100th anniversary, the Girl Scouts are kicking off Girl Scouts Forever Green in 2012. This global action effort is focused on waste reduction, energy conservation and rain gardens. This March the Girl Scouts will begin engaging their friends and families in making small changes to lower their carbon footprint. The girls will be replacing incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs throughout their communities. On March 31st they will participate in the worldwide Earth Hour movement by turning off their lights for one hour.

EPA’s ENERGY STAR program is excited to work as the environmental education partner for the Girl Scouts during this anniversary year. Girl Scouts from across the country will be able to take a customized version of the ENERGY STAR Pledge on their own website, learning how to save energy and protect the environment with EPA’s help. For EPA this is a great way to spread the word about energy efficiency with the future leaders of America.

If you have a Girl Scout at home, make sure that she takes the ENERGY STAR Pledge on the Girl Scout’s website. If you have yet to take the ENERGY STAR Pledge, take it here.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of the communication’s team at EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

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.

Save the Date: Energy Roundtable Conference

washingtonaqueductBy Matt Colip

Drinking water and wastewater systems account for approximately 3% of energy use in the United States, and are typically the largest energy consumers in communities, sometimes accounting for 30% of total energy consumed. Energy as a percentage of operating costs for drinking water systems can reach as high as 40% and is expected to rise in the coming decades. So you may want to give your neighborhood wastewater treatment plant a heads-up about a way it can save money and save energy.

EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are sponsoring an Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg, PA.  This event is for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately carbon footprint, and will highlight several areas related to energy efficiency.  This innovative and collaboration-oriented event will start with a primer on Understanding Your Energy Bill, followed by a Discussion of Tools to Assess Energy Use, Energy Audits, and Available Funding Sources.  This conference is not your run-of-the-mill lecture – no, we want to hear from real, live wastewater treatment operators and help others learn from success stories at saving energy and reducing costs!  This event will be an open discussion roundtable.  If you are an operator and would like to be involved in the Roundtable as a “Champion” of energy efficiency or as a Mentor, please send an email to the contact below.

Here are the essential details:

ENERGY ROUNDTABLE CONFERENCE

May 8, 2012

Penn State University– HARRISBURG CAMPUS

Science & Tech Building – Room 128

777 West Harrisburg Pike

Middletown, Pa.

For more information on energy efficiency, please visit our website. For information about this event, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.  We hope to see your water treatment operator there!

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also interested in technologies that promote efficient living, strives to practice what he preaches, and is moving to a house on a pervious pavement street in Philadelphia. Matt’s love of bicycling took him on a solo cross country tour (riding from San Francisco to the New Jersey shore) as well as around Puerto Rico and across Ohio with colleagues and friends.

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.