environmental issues

Staying Sustainable at School

By Maddie Dwyer

As fall approaches, there’s one thing on every college kid’s mind: living on campus. Whether you’re excited or not, dorm life is coming, and it’s time to start getting ready. For me, this means using the things I learned at EPA this summer. Below are some tips for green living, which can help you whether you’re living in a dorm or an apartment, or at home.

  1. Saving Energy: It’s easy to save energy by making a few simple changes to your routine. Remember to always turn off the lights when you leave your room. If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, and the luxury of controlling it, make sure it’s not left on if no one’s around.
  2. Conserving Water: There are lots of ways to use water efficiently. Take shorter showers and turn off the water when you are using soap, shaving, or brushing your teeth. Also, fixing leaky faucets is an important way to reduce wasted water.
  3. Reducing Waste: College is a great time to get into sustainable habits. Make a commitment to recycle everything you can, even if it means carrying recyclables until you find a recycling bin. Most campuses offer green dining options, like reusable take out boxes, glasses, and silverware. Take advantage of all the green options your school has to offer!
  4. Getting Involved: Every school is different, and will have different environmental issues to address. For example, as part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, my school is working to construct bioswales to filter run-off before it reaches the bay. Check out EPA’s resources for students looking to be greener at school. Whether you are advocating for safer cleaning products or encouraging energy efficient appliances, your school will be better off with your involvement.
  5. Make a Green Agreement with Your Roommate: Helping one another is a great way to make both you and your roommate more sustainable. Ask if it’s okay to unplug each other’s unused electronics, do laundry together, and figure out a schedule to keep the lights and AC off. I’ve been lucky to have lovely roommates and other amazing friends who are committed to green living, and it has helped me to become more sustainable every day.
Maddie and her roommate Grace

Maddie and her roommate Grace

So when moving back to campus, be sure to keep these tips in mind and have a wonderful, sustainable school year!

About the author: Maddie Dwyer studies environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland. She works as an intern for EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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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Saving Energy and Money: Go Team Go!

Cross-posted from “It’s All Starts with Science”

Introduction By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

We know that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. That’s why, today, we announced that 21 small businesses in 14 states are receiving funding from the EPA to develop and commercialize innovative, sustainable technologies to address current environmental issues. Read more about one recipient, also a former winner of our agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet award, whose company is challenging kids to get involved and spurring competition to lower energy consumption in schools.

By Lek Kadeli

Spirited competition between local schools is a time honored tradition. From the football and soccer teams to the debate club, nothing beats taking on your arch rival to spark school spirit, get the neighbors talking, and build community pride.

That spirit of competition has helped schools here in the District of Columbia save more than 76,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, thanks to Lucid—an EPA-supported small business started by previous winners of the agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award.

The schools vied to see which could most dramatically reduce their energy consumption as part of the three-week “Sprint to Savings” competition. The DC Green Schools Challenge set up the competition to help schools conserve energy and save money while “engaging students in real-world learning opportunities.”

To monitor their progress and take action, students used Lucid’s “Building Dashboard,” a software program that monitors a building’s energy and water consumption in real time and presents that information in easy-to-understand graphic displays on computer screens or other devices.

Students were able to use Building Dashboard installed at their schools to gauge their progress in 15-minute intervals and help the school take corrective action, such as switching lights off when not needed, shutting down unused computers and monitors, and turning the heat down after hours. A District-wide leader board helped them keep an eye on the competition.

The idea for a data monitoring display system begin when the now principal partners of Lucid were students at Oberlin College. In 2005, their prototype won an EPA P3 Award. The P3 program is an annual student design competition that supports undergraduate and graduate student teams to research and design innovative, sustainable methods and products that solve complex environmental problems. Since then, there’s been no looking back!

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Lucid is among 20 other small businesses—including two other former P3 winners—selected to receive funding as part of the EPA’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The program was designed to support small businesses in the commercialization as well as the research and development of technologies that encourage sustainability, protect human health and the environment, and foster a healthy future. Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, and SimpleWater, LLC are the other two former P3 winning teams.

Thanks to Lucid, Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, SimpleWater, LLC and the other innovative small businesses we are supporting today, winning ideas are bringing products to the marketplace that protect our environment while sparking economic growth. I’ll bet that even arch rivals can agree that’s a win for everyone.

About the Author: Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in the Agency’s Office of Research and Development.

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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Improving Access to Environmental Data through ECHO

By Rebecca Kane

I work at the Environmental Protection Agency because I care about protecting communities from pollution. I believe that information is critical to taking action, be it working with stakeholders to affect local policies or empowering citizens with tools to reduce their environmental footprint.

I manage EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online website, known as ECHO, which provides information about environmental inspections, violations and enforcement actions for EPA-regulated facilities, like power plants and factories. As one of our most important and popular resources, ECHO houses information about more than 800,000 facilities nationwide, and last year, it was visited more than 2 million times. I consider it an important tool to staying informed about my community in suburban Washington, DC.

Recent updates to ECHO allow me, and all who want to stay informed about environmental issues in their community, to find information more efficiently and accurately. Here are some examples of how these upgrades help me use the data:

  • We’ve brought back the popular Clean Water Act features, and now it’s easier to find data about water violations and inspections.
  • I can search for Clean Water Act dischargers based on type of pollutants discharged. For example, I can quickly find facilities in the area that discharge metals and check to see whether they are meeting their permitted discharge limits. This matters if my family wants to fish or swim in nearby streams and rivers.
  • When I download data to analyze violations at facilities near my neighborhood, I can see information that’s been updated within the week.
  • I can now encourage web developers to build EPA’s enforcement data directly into their own web pages and apps, because ECHO reports are now built on web services.

I’m proud to be a part of ECHO’s continued development, and there’s more to come as we continue to advance our commitment to inform and empower the public. We’re always working on enhancements to ECHO, and welcome your feedback about the site.

About the author: Rebecca Kane is a program analyst who has worked at EPA for 13 years. She’s spent most of her time in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and is leading the ECHO modernization effort.

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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Students Lead the Way on Climate Change

In recognition of Asthma Awareness month, we recently had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando where we were greeted by a group of incredibly knowledgeable and passionate students enthusiastic about environmental issues. Our discussion ranged from upcoming legislation and the role of EPA in improving air and water quality to pollution and how we can live healthier, cleaner lives, especially with growing threats from climate change.

The juniors and seniors at Dr. Phillips high school explained to us how they were learning to reduce pollution and environmental health concerns such as asthma.  These kids are doing great work, but Orlando, is not the only place where these students can be found. College Board Statistics showed that at least 118,000 students were enrolled in AP Environmental Science (APES) classes across the country in 2013, which is 10,000 more students than the year before. Interest in the environment is growing among this demographic at an amazing rate. More

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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A Different Way to Connect

By Curt Spalding

The calendar finally tells us that spring is coming and a long, cold winter is ending. With this welcome season of change and growth, we at EPA New England are excited to offer a new way for you to stay in touch with our office and get the latest updates on our work: our brand-new regional Facebook page.

We’re looking forward to finding new, creative, and interesting ways to broaden our environmental dialogue with our neighbors in New England, as well as with other citizens interested in how EPA works for a cleaner and healthier environment in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

While we’ve had a successful regional Twitter account for several years now, and we regularly discuss New England issues on the EPA blog, we’re only now joining “Facebook Nation” as a way to have a less formal discussion on New England environmental issues. Social media provides interesting and effective new ways for us to stay in touch with you, and vice-versa. We hope we can better explain EPA’s work to you: the citizens, who rely on our good work for clean water, good air quality, and healthful land. We’re interested in talking with you, not talking at you.

New England is home to intelligent people who care deeply about their environment. How could it not be so, when you consider our beautiful landscapes, ranging from the towering sand dunes on Cape Cod to the rocky coast of Maine, from the Berkshires to the Green and White Mountains, and everything from pastoral towns to major cities.

We hope you will check out both the EPA New England Facebook page and Twitter account. Let us know what you think, and please feel free to “Like” or “Follow” if you want to keep up to date on our work or view the latest terrific photo taken by one of our folks in the field.

About the author:  Curt Spalding is the Regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office, located in Boston.

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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My Confidence in Future Young Scientists

Crossposted from “It’s All Starts with  Science”

By Thabit Pulak

I watched as the young students of Magnet Science and Technology Elementary poured the sand and rocks into their soda bottles. The kids were learning how sand water filters work, and making their own mini versions of the filter. The interest and pride the kids took in making their filters gave me confidence that the next generation of Americans would apply the same degree of care and attention to important environmental issues, such as water quality.

The students were taking part in “enrichment clusters,” sessions in which they learn about one important public issue in depth. I was invited by 2nd-grade teacher Ms. Claborn to visit her cluster on water purification and to present a real-life example of a water filter.

I had recently worked to develop an affordable filter that removed not only bacteria and contaminants from water, but also arsenic, a poisonous substance that affects nearly 150 million people across the world today. I had the opportunity to present my water filter at the 2012 Intel International Science Fair, where I won 3rd place and EPA’s Patrick J. Hurd Sustainability Award. The Hurd Award included an invitation to present my project at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which showcases EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program.

I presented the filter to the class and answered questions, learning just as much from them as they did from me. I was invited to stay for the remainder of the cluster, where the students were putting final touches on their own water filters. Ms. Claborn gave each of the students some muddy water to run through the filters. It was exciting for me to see the children’s smiles as they looked at the clean water slowly trickling out of the open edge of the soda bottle after traveling through the sand and rocks. The filters were based on a water filtration activity that EPA designed specifically for students.

Afterwards, I was invited to attend the upcoming STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) exhibit that the school was hosting. The students’ mini filters would be on display, and I was invited to display my filter alongside theirs. As the stream of curious parents and students came in, I gladly talked about both what the students did and my own filter, and what this means for the future of environmental sustainability issues like water.

This was my first opportunity to present my work outside of my school and science fairs. I felt very honored and happy to be able to give something back to the community. I hope to find ways to keep doing so!

About the Author: Guest blogger Thabit Pulak of Richardson, Texas was the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2012. As part of this award, he was invited to attend and exhibit at the National Sustainable Design Expo, home of the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, DC. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Davidson Fellows Award.

 

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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Export Promotion Work at Power Industry Conference

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Marc Lemmond 

I am excited to be in Orlando, FL at POWER-GEN, the largest power generation sector trade event in the world, to help showcase EPA’s export promotion efforts by highlighting EPA analysis of environmental issues for power generation in the U.S. and around the world.

According to Environmental Business International, in 2010, the United States environmental technologies industry had $312 billion in revenue, employed 1.7 million Americans, had a trade surplus of approximately $13 billion, and included 61,000 small businesses. Because of statistics like these, we know that EPA’s work to support environmental protection around the world creates a unique opportunity for U.S. businesses and economic growth. That’s why in response to the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI), EPA has partnered with the Department of Commerce to promote exports of U.S. environmental technologies by integrating EPA’s technical analysis into broader export promotion activities.

Here at POWER-GEN, EPA experts are participating in the Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program to help promote U.S. industry to international customers. We are doing this by meeting with power industry representatives from international markets and U.S. companies at the conference’s Global Business Center. We are also participating in training for the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service Energy Team and presenting analysis on the importance of multi-pollutant control strategies for the power generation sector.

Throughout the conference, we will be showcasing the Environmental Solutions Exporter Portal – an on-line one-stop shop for U.S. environmental companies interested in government programs that could help support their efforts to grow abroad. The portal also connects EPA’s analysis of key global environmental issues to U.S. solutions providers in an Environmental Solutions Toolkit. Right now, the analysis focuses on groundwater remediation, municipal nutrient removal in water treatment, emissions control in large marine diesel engines, and mercury control in power plant emissions, but nitrogen oxides emissions from power plants, air emissions issues for the oil and gas industry, and non-road diesel emissions are among the new focus areas that are currently being added.
It is our hope that this work will help support the export of environmental protection goods and services, which not only means a healthier global environment but also a more productive green American economy.

For more information on EPA’s export promotion strategy or the Environmental Solutions Exporter Portal, visit

About the author: Marc Lemmond works on trade and finance issues in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs. He has extensive experience with the environmental technologies industry. Marc holds a Master’s degree in Science, Technology, and Public Policy from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University.

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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Discovering Local Hidden Treasures

By Lina Younes

Recently I took several days off to stay home with my youngest daughter who was off for spring break. Let’s call it a staycation. Although I definitely had quite a long “to do list” of chores at home, I still wanted to make it fun for her so that she would feel that she had done something special during her time off from school.

So, what were we going to do? The movies? Check. The mall? Check. A trip to a museum? Check.  Staying home and watching TV? That definitely was not on my list of special memorable experiences for our staycation. As I was looking for activities in our local area, I remembered the sign on the road that I had seen and ignored many times before. The National Wildlife Visitor Center. Interesting. So, one afternoon I took my youngest to the visitors center at the Patuxent Research Refuge just five miles away from our house and found a hidden treasure in our neck of the woods.

It turns out the facility is the largest science and environmental education center in the Department of the Interior located on the Patuxent Research Refuge. During our visit, we explored interactive exhibits focusing on global environmental issues, migratory bird routes, wildlife habitat and endangered species. We also ventured on some of the hiking trails along the way. Since we were not equipped with a good set of binoculars, we didn’t see much wildlife, but we saw some geese leisurely walking by.

We definitely look forward to visiting the center again. The fact that it is so close to our home makes it even an ideal place to spend some time on a nice afternoon. Do you have any hidden treasures in your local community? Would you like to share them with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for 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 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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Empowered C3 Volunteers Work to Improve Chicago’s Environment

By Karen Mark

I am usually known as the “environmentalist” in many of my graduate classes. Recently, a classmate invited me to attend an informational meeting about becoming a “C3.” My immediate reaction was “Sure, but what does C3 mean?” Turns out this is a group of dedicated Chicago volunteers tackling the city’s environmental issues.

The Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) is an environmental volunteer program of Chicago’s Department of Environment. It recruits, trains and supports a network of volunteers who work together to conduct environmental service projects that improve local surroundings and the quality of life.

I attended an informational meeting about the Environmental Leadership Training program and was incredibly impressed by the comprehensiveness of the program and the knowledgeable staff. Any resident of the city can apply for the training. Those accepted attend five courses that cover conservation principles and skills in water, land, air and energy, community organizing and project development. The word is out about this opportunity! Residents from many Chicago neighborhoods come to C3 meetings with ideas, environmental questions, or simply to look for ways to make a difference in their communities.

To complete the training program, participants carry out an environmental service project with support from C3 that includes project development guidance, mentoring on community outreach, and up to $400 worth of materials and supplies for the project. Graduates of the training program can continue environmental service projects with guidance from C3 leaders and funding. The opportunities to give back are endless!

Trainees gain a wealth of knowledge and skills but even those with an in-depth knowledge of environmental issues learn community organizing skills and build connections within the city. Additionally, the C3 Student Club program enables teachers and students in grades 8-12 to become involved in C3 efforts.

True to their motto, “You Care. Do Something. We’ll Help!” C3 gives the knowledge, skills and resources for Chicago residents to make a direct impact in local communities.

Are you interested in doing an environmental or community project? Your first step is to find similar organizations in your community. Try contacting your local (town, city, county or state) environmental agency.

I am really into this program and I know I will be applying this October for the next training series. I encourage you to find a similar opportunity wherever you live!

About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Bilingual labeling

By Lina Younes

When I first joined the Agency in 2002, I was responsible for doing outreach to Spanish-language media and Hispanic organizations. As part of my job, I worked closely with EPA offices, especially with the Office of Pesticide Programs, to increase Hispanic awareness on the safe use of pesticides and other environmental issues. Even today, I recall one of my very first live radio interviews during National Poison Prevention Week At the end of the interview, there was a call-in segment. The last question was from a lady who painted the following scenario: “What if I don’t have a phone and my child swallows some detergent accidentally, what do I do? Do I make him throw up or do I give him milk? What should I do?” Well, I told her to “read the label first” where she would find valuable information regarding what to do in case of an emergency. Still to this day I think of the situation and imagine if she was physically isolated by not having a phone, it was possible she might be linguistically isolated as well. Therefore, if she only read Spanish having an English-only label would not provide the necessary information to help her child in their time of need.

I remember that the issue of bilingual labeling came up during a meeting of the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee ,  a federal advisory committee, in 2006. Both the Consumer Labeling Workgroup and the Workgroup on Worker Safety discussed the issue of bilingual labeling, although they couldn’t reach agreement on a recommendation for the Agency. Since then, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies that produce household use pesticides with bilingual labeling. I spoke with several company representatives who noted they had taken those steps both for health AND economic reasons. With the increase in Hispanic purchasing power, bilingual labels improved their bottom line.

In December of 2009, EPA received a petition from the Migrant Clinicians Network, Farmworker Justice and other farm worker interest groups asking the Agency to require that pesticide manufacturers produce their products with labels both in English and Spanish. The Agency is currently accepting public comments on this petition from interested stakeholders. We would like to hear from you. For more information on the announcement and how to submit public comments, visit our website.   What do you think?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for 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.

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.