energy efficiency

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.

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Partnership for Sustainable Communities: Four Years of Helping Communities Become Economically Stronger, Environmentally Healthier

Join us for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Twitter Town Hall on Monday, June 17, at 1:30 PM ET.

Posted online by HUD, DOT and EPA on respective websites.

By Bob Perciasepe, Maurice Jones,  and John Porcari

June 16, 2013 marks the four-year anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 2009, our three federal agencies have been working together to help communities build stronger regional economies, improve their housing and transportation options, and protect the environment.

As President Obama said when the Partnership launched in 2009, “…by working together, [the agencies] can make sure that when it comes to development—housing, transportation, energy efficiency—these things aren’t mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand.”

Our collaboration helps communities plan the housing, transportation and economic development they need as infrastructure for economic growth, helping them attract businesses and improve quality of life for residents.

The Partnership is a one-stop shop for communities to access federal resources that can help them become more economically and environmentally sustainable. To date, the Partnership has provided more than $4 billion in funding for projects in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, coordinated investments across our agencies are supporting the revitalization of the East Side neighborhood. (Read the case study; watch the video.) An EPA Environmental Justice Showcase Community Grant facilitated renewed access to the waterfront for residents. An $11 million DOT grant for TIGER multimodal transportation is helping build and upgrade roads around the East Side’s Steel Point Peninsula to prepare for redevelopment. And a HUD Regional Planning Grant helped study the opening of a proposed rail station on a cleaned-up brownfield in Bridgeport’s East End. The station will anchor the East Side redevelopment plan, leading to new business investment; mixed-use, transit-oriented development; and affordable homes.

To celebrate the four-year anniversary of work on these and similar projects, the Partnership is undertaking three major activities this summer:

  • EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones, and DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari will respond to your questions and comments about the Partnership in a Twitter Town Hall on Monday, June 17, 1:30 PM ET. Twitter users may ask questions in advance and during the Town Hall using the hashtag #sustainableqs. You may also join us through the live webstream.
  • Throughout the summer, the Partnership agencies will host roundtables in Arlington, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Toms River, New Jersey, and other communities across the country. Municipal staff, community leaders, business and industry representatives, and other stakeholders will be invited to tell us about the successes and challenges of their projects—and what the Partnership can do to help.
  • In July, the Partnership will host a webinar series about three of the topics on which EPA, HUD, and DOT offer coordinated support: investing in green infrastructure, creating context-sensitive streets, and integrating housing and transportation planning. See www.sustainablecommunities.gov for dates and further details.

Staff from HUD, DOT, and EPA continue to regularly work as a team to find ways to serve tribal communities, small towns, rural areas, suburbs, and cities more effectively. We feel privileged to be a part of this collaboration, and hope that you will join us in celebrating the progress of communities across the country that are investing in a sustainable approach to economic growth.

About the authors: 

Bob Perciasepe is acting administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Maurice Jones is deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
John Porcari is deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

 

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 ENERGY STAR Awards

ENERGY STAR Awards

Award Recipient Evergreen Public Schools with EPA's Director of the Climate Protection Partnership Division, Elizabeth Craig

By: Brittney Gordon

From the moment I came to EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, I could tell that the annual announcement of the ENERGY STAR Awards was a BIG deal. Every year EPA honors organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR’s partners in industry work hard all year long to educate consumers about making energy-efficient purchases and decisions, and hundreds of them submit applications to receive a coveted ENERGY STAR award. This year I was chosen to coordinate the ENERGY STAR awards, and after months of reviewing applications and debating their merits, I have definitely learned a few things along the way.

1.)    ENERGY STAR partners are truly leading the way in the energy-efficiency movement. Across the country, ENERGY STAR has over 18,000 partners, and this year 119 won an ENERGY STAR award for their efforts in protecting the environment. I work with ENERGY STAR partners every day in my normal capacity, but coordinating the ENERGY STAR awards showed me a totally different side to the work they do. ENERGY STAR may be a government program, but it would not be successful without the daily work put in by partners across the nation. From new home builders and home energy raters to commercial building owners and product manufacturers, our partners are leading the way in helping Americans to protect the climate by becoming more energy efficient. They have invested their time and their resources to put energy efficiency near the top of their priority list, and American consumers—and our environment—are the beneficiaries. After reading about the work done by these organizations, I will look at my next purchase in a totally different way, as I now understand just how much effort it takes for them to help all of us become more energy efficient. This year’s recipient list reads like a “who’s-who” of the business world, and included names like The Home Depot, Hanesbrands, Colgate-Palmolive Company, Food Lion, USAA Real Estate, Samsung, and Toyota.

2.)    The ENERGY STAR Awards are REALLY important to businesses across the country. From the moment I took on coordinating the ENERGY STAR awards, it became clear that EPA’s partners hold them in high regard. These organizations put in a lot of effort to make this country more efficient, and they look at these awards as acknowledgement for a job well done. As EPA staff members reached out to partners with the good news of their award, you could literally feel their excitement over the phone. Within days those partners began producing press releases and marketing campaigns to tell the world about this honor. With 85 percent of Americans recognizing the ENERGY STAR label, they know just how powerful that little blue label is, and they want consumers to know that they are being recognized as one of the best-of-the-best when it comes to energy efficiency and protecting the environment. Perhaps even more importantly, winning the award also helps them with internal acknowledgment for their work and can result in greater support for sustainability efforts.

3.)    The announcement of the ENERGY STAR Awards is important in the movement to better protect the environment from climate change. Just as I learned that winning an ENERGY STAR award can put a company on cloud nine, I also learned that not winning can inspire other partners to work even harder to help Americans save energy. EPA received hundreds of applications this year and of course, they did not all get selected. But the first thing non-winners do is reach out to EPA to find out what they need to do to become a more powerful contender in 2014. These awards prove to be an incentive for protecting the environment year after year—and that is something to celebrate.

Brittney Gordon is a member of the ENERGY STAR communication’s team and this year served as the ENERGY STAR awards coordinator. For a complete listing of winners, click here.

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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Cooking and Being Green

By Nora Lopez

Brrrr … It’s cold!  I want to eat things that warm up my belly once I get home from work. But my schedule is pretty hectic. I am lucky, I only work 10 minutes from the office, but when I get home it is around 5:30 pm and I usually cook a real meal every night as we are not into picking up food on the way home… there is nothing like a home cooked meal! However, I do need to be out of the house by 6:30 pm to go to the gym, every night … a commitment I set for myself once the kids were out of the house :)  Dinner needs to be ready in one hour….oh and by the way, I just started a Paleo diet this week  (if you do not know what it is Google it… and it will open your eyes to a new way of cooking!).

So  what does my ordeal have anything to do with cooking and being green? Let me introduce you to my solution to the rat race: The CROCKPOT! I just put it on early in the morning, before I leave to go to work, and when I come in I have a meal ready, add a salad and voila! Yummy food :)   I am so much into it that I was trying to convince my sister to get one, but she was very hesitant … she lives in Puerto Rico and electricity is extremely expensive there. So she was concerned that having a Crockpot on all day would increase her electric bill.

So the scientist in me was turned on and went digging for information on the energy efficiency of this pot.  What I found was great information that says that it depends on your stove and type of fuel. The following table I found the most helpful because it was simple to understand. Obviously you need to adjust per your watt costs, but it gives you an idea of the energy consumption:

What I also found is that there are so many web sites for people who are concerned about the energy consumption issue; what is better or not; weighing the pros and cons, that it really made me feel good that so many people think about how our behavior can influence how we can save in energy resources.

As for my sister, once she saw all the information I gathered on how she would be saving money in electrical … she ran to the department store and got an energy efficient Crockpot and she invited me over to delicious pulled pork the next time I was in Puerto Rico.

My first convert! …. Anyone else?

About the Author: Nora works out of EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, where she manages the Region’s Toxics Release Inventory Program.  After work she can often be found channeling her inner chef.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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