great outdoors

Seeding the Streambanks of our Country

With summer upon us, including the opportunity to once again enjoy the great outdoors, we are reminded of the many important roles of our nation’s water bodies. Whether it be fishing, swimming, boating, a source of drinking water, or just enjoying the view, we need to be reminded that protecting our nation’s water bodies must be a priority for each and every one of us. While there are traditional ways for ensuring that water bodies are protected by issuing permits and taking enforcement, EPA is working ever more closely with local governments, organizations and the public on more collaborative ways involving voluntary initiatives and innovative partnerships. One of the things I enjoy most about being the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region is seeing these partnerships at work.

Several weeks ago, on my way to deliver a speech about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan at the Virginia Military Institute’s 25th Annual Environmental Symposium in Lexington, Virginia, I drove through the naturally spectacular Shenandoah Valley to visit Waynesboro, Virginia and tour Ridgeview Park.

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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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Keep Bad Bugs At Bay

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By Lina Younes
During the summer months, we enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends. We actively seek opportunities to have fun in open areas. Whether it’s gardening in our backyard, swimming at the local pool, or taking a stroll at a nearby park, we will likely encounter some small creatures that are even more active than us during this time of year. What creatures am I referring to exactly? Bad bugs, those that feast on humans and animals and may spread diseases. Whether they are ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes, you should take simple steps to keep these bugs at a distance to avoid getting bitten.

In the case of mosquitoes, there is one thing you should do around the home to eliminate mosquito habitats. Get rid of standing water!  Mosquitoes need still water to lay their eggs and develop. In fact three stages of their live cycle occur in water! So without water, they cannot grow and multiply! Look around your home to find objects where water can accumulate, such as buckets, plastic toys, bird baths, wading pools even potted plant trays. If you have a bird bath in your back yard, clean it frequently. Don’t let the water rest for more than 3 days. Remember, mosquitoes only need a very small quantity of water to lay their eggs and thrive.

As a virtual “mosquito magnet,” I know that during the summer I have to stock up on insect repellents as much as sunscreen! Given the fact that mosquitoes find me anywhere I go, I have to apply insect repellents  frequently to avoid being bitten. As with any type of pesticide and insect repellent, you should read the label first and follow the instructions carefully to protect your family and stay safe.

If you are travelling in the U.S. or abroad, visit the CDC website for any travel advisories with destination-specific information for any outbreaks or other health-related issues. And especially if you are traveling, don’t bring some unwanted hitchhiking guests like bedbugs back home! While bed bugs do not transmit diseases, they are definitely an annoyance. So follow some tips to keep them at bay.

Do you have any tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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Make Your Child’s Summer A Learning Experience!

By Lina Younes

As the school year comes to an end, children are eagerly making plans to do “fun things” during the summer. In other words, their idea of “fun” is basically anything that doesn’t have to do with getting up early to go to school. So, as parents how do we address this issue? How do we allow them to take a break from school and have fun while ensuring they are doing something constructive?

Well, I saw a Benjamin Franklin quote that inspired me to write this blog: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. I truly think that he was on to something. Studies show that if you engage children in hands-on activities they improve academically and can even develop an interest in the sciences and math! Engaging children through hands-on “real-life activities” makes their learning experience more relevant and meaningful. So, how can we engage children this summer?

How about taking up a hobby that both you and your child enjoy? Have you thought about a cooking class? Your child will learn about math and chemistry in the process while also learning about a new cuisine and good eating habits. How about learning a new instrument? Music helps open the mind and you even have to learn math to have the right rhythm. How about enjoying the great outdoors by taking up hiking or bird-watching?  Have you considered gardening together?

Have you considered engaging in environmental education activities?  How about volunteering with a community organization to clean a local watershed? How about promoting the 3Rs in your community by organizing a recycling program? Actively engaging your child to protect the environment has numerous benefits. Instilling your child with values like the love of nature and environmental awareness will last a lifetime!

As the saying goes, “a mind is a terrible thing to go to waste.” Don’t let the summer months be a wasteful period. Make this summer a fruitful experience for your child, your family and the environment!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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Things My Mother Taught Me

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By Lina Younes

As I look back at my relationship with my Mom over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve become an environmentalist largely due to the values that she instilled in me as a child. The love of nature, the interest in protecting wildlife, especially birds, the appreciation for flowering plants are some of the things that my mother taught me, not only in words, but through her actions. Lina's-Robin#

As far as I can remember, we always had flowering plants in the garden and indoor house plants as well. For many years, my mother had birdfeeders in our back yard. Given the fact that we lived in Puerto Rico where we enjoy summer-like weather all year round, our home definitely felt like a tropical oasis.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, my parents, both my grandmothers, and even great grandmother, were fortunate to have a green thumb. It seemed that anything they planted bloomed easily and flourished. I’ve tried to replicate their gardening skills at home as best as possible. I like to joke that our family’s green thumb seems to have skipped a generation in my case.

Nonetheless, I still try to create a welcoming natural environment around my home and a green environment indoors as well.

Lina's-Maple#So as we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day,  I would like to thank my Mother for what she has taught me. I hope that I will transmit those teachings to my children so they will also appreciate nature and protect the environment. This Mother’s Day, as we have done during similar celebrations, we’ll probably go to Brookside Gardens. I promise I’ll take pictures.

Do you have any special plans for Mother’s Day? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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My Sister, Car-less Linda

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

My sister Linda was feeling left out recently because she never makes it into my blogs. And really, she is quite deserving. After all, she gave up her car more than two years ago. As in no car. As in buses and bikes and walking and car-sharing. Oh, and her husband’s car for late night trips to the hardware store.

Only 5 percent of adult Americans live without a car. I venture to say most of them live in New York City, where only half the people own cars. Which makes Linda, who lives in the almost urban suburb of Brookline, an anomaly.

According to government statistics, we in the US are the densest car-owning population in the world, except the tiny country of Monaco. And the countries right behind us are Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.

Linda came by this way of life when she traded her old wagon to a contractor in exchange for construction work. He really, really wanted her vegetable oil car. And she was sick of worrying she would destroy the thing by pumping regular gas instead of diesel.

So Linda admits she uses a car sharing service about three times a week at $7.50 to $9 an hour. And that this may amount to as much as owning a car. (I kind of doubt it.) But she is still committed to the beauty of this carless life.

“I don’t want to figure it out because it might be more expensive this way but it makes me happier,” she said.

Like the other night, she considered walking the two minutes to Cypress Street to get a car to go to Jamaica Plain for takeout Cambodian food. Then she nearly changed her dinner plans to avoid the drive. But in the end she jogged around Jamaica Pond for her dinner and came back smiling.

“I was in the best mood. It was snowing and it was beautiful,” she reported. “But if I had a car I certainly would have gotten in it and that would have been that.”

Furthermore, said this mother of a ninth- and fourth-grader, “The kids even talk more if we’re walking.”

And to justify the economics, Linda has a foolproof fallback thought.

“The other day when I was speed walking I thought, you know, I really don’t have to go to a gym, so I am saving money there. I am getting so much more exercise.”

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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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Reducing Emissions Can Be Habit Forming

By Karen Dante

Every day, there are dozens of things we do without even thinking. When we wake up, we brush our teeth. Before we eat, we wash our hands. When we leave home, we lock the door. These habits, like fastening our seatbelts or looking both ways before we cross the street, keep us healthier and safer.

It’s not such a big step to build similar habits that reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. There are lots of simple habits you can acquire to reduce emissions and protect the climate. If everyone does their part, small simple steps add up to big changes.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate habits to protect the climate –

  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Check your tire pressure regularly.
  • Recycle bottles, instead of throwing them out.
  • Print double sided, instead of single sided.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
  • When a light burns out, replace it with an ENERGY STAR light.
  • Get in the habit of unplugging electronics not in use. Consumer electronics account for 15% of household electricity.
  • Give your car a break. Bike, walk, carpool or take public transportation. This action not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also promotes an active and healthy lifestyle.
  • Turn your thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter, and warmer in the summer.
  • Calculate your household’s carbon footprint and learn ways to reduce emissions, energy use and waste disposal costs.

Other easy things to do that can be slightly bigger investments –

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying appliances/ office equipment. The typical household spends more than $2,100 a year on energy bills. With ENERGY STAR, you can save over one-third or more than $700 on your household energy bills.

If you keep following the simple steps, you can make reducing climate change a daily habit – as easy as brushing your teeth!

Click here to learn more about other ways to protect the climate, reduce air pollution and save money.

About the author: Karen Dante is an ORISE Fellow supporting the communications team in the Climate Change Division within the Office of Air and Radiation. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in biology and psychology from Queen’s University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy at John’s Hopkins 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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Seize the Moment!

By Lina Younes

In my first blog of the New Year, I described how a lively cardinal greeted me during my first morning walk of 2013. Since I was not able to capture the scene with my camera at the time, I was determined to do so this past weekend.

On Saturday morning, I decided to go out on my morning walk equipped with my camera from the start. I retraced my steps in search of the animated bird. Although I could hear chirping in the background, the little cardinal was nowhere to be found. On Sunday morning, I repeated my quest and was quickly rewarded with the sights and sounds of the little cardinal that was flying from branch to branch chirping away. It seemed that he was courting another female cardinal that was quietly perched on one of the higher branches of the same tree. Since I was able to capture the scene this time, I decided to share some pictures with you.


While spring is officially several months away, I already noticed some increased activity among the birds in our neighborhood. It definitely helps having bushes and trees in the area that are welcoming to birds and other of nature’s creatures all year round.

I’m eager to explore activities that will allow me and my family to enjoy the great outdoors. Bird-watching offers such an opportunity. Regardless of your interests, taking a walk, breathing the fresh air, enjoying nature are nice ways to start the day. What are you interested in? Please share your thoughts with us.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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.

A Fresh Start

By Lina Younes

On the first morning of the New Year, I was taking my dogs out for their morning walk. There was a vigilant cardinal chirping away from a tree top watching our every move. I was fascinated by the little bird. That cardinal infused new life, color and sound to the otherwise bleak, wintry morning. It seemed as if the lively bird was eagerly embracing the new day and, in fact, the New Year!

I quickly went back in the house to fetch my camera. However, the lively cardinal was long gone by the time I returned. All that was left was the cold morning silence occasionally interrupted by the sound of the bushes and trees rustling in the wind.

With that in mind, I decided that in 2013 I would look for more opportunities to enjoy nature and outdoor activities. Every season has its own special beauty. While I must confess that personally I prefer the summertime, I have begun to enjoy the wonders of winter as well. Even the shorter days and gray surroundings have their own special charm.

So, I decided to share some snapshots of my recent outdoor experiences. Do you have any outdoor plans for the New Year? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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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What New Projects Are You Planning For The New Year?

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By Lina Younes

As 2012 comes to an end and 2013 is about to begin, I would like to share some thoughts with you for the new year. I don’t want to call them New Year Resolutions because those don’t seem to survive longer than the month of January.  So, how about talking about healthier choices,  or even green projects? Essentially, I’m thinking about actions that will lead to a healthier lifestyle on the personal level and for the Planet as a whole.

  • How about dedicating more time to the important things in life such as family and friends? We often get so tied up with work and rushing from place to place that we often forget to really value those who mean the most to us in our daily lives.
  • Let’s enjoy the great outdoors!  We don’t have to live in a wide open space to enjoy nature.  So, how about get away from those electronics that seem to dominate our lives for a moment? Take a walk, visit a local park or do some gardening.
  • Let’s take the clutter out of our life! Look around you. Do you really need to keep all those things at home or in the office that you never use?  We have a great website with useful tips as what you can do at home, on the go, in the office, or at school to practice the three R’s: Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling!
  • How about saving one of our most valuable resources—water? Simple steps like closing the faucet while you brush your teeth or taking shorter showers can go a long way to conserving water.
  • How about saving energy? It’s as easy as turning off the light when you leave the room. Simple steps will allow you to save money and protect the environment.
  • Want more suggestions on how you can protect our natural resources and engage others in environmental protection in your community? I recommend our Website www.epa.gov/pick5 that has numerous tips on how you can adopt a greener lifestyle today and everyday of the year.

As the saying goes, our actions speak louder than words. Let’s lead by example so that our children may also learn how to be healthier and better environmental stewards for years to come.  And finally I would like to wish you a happy New Year!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA.

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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Even in Winter

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By Lina Younes

Recently, my youngest daughter went to Great Falls Park, VA with her fifth grade science class. Since the weather forecast called for a cold day, the teacher recommended that the children bundle up in several layers of clothing to fully enjoy their time outdoors. As part of the field trip preparations, the teacher also warned the children about the possibility of ticks in the park. She suggested using insect repellents safely.

Personally, I was puzzled. I didn’t think that ticks and other insects could survive cold temperatures. I always associated bugs like ticks and mosquitoes with the summer months. Outdoor bugs and winter didn’t make sense to me. I asked the experts in our Office of Pesticide Programs for the facts and was even more surprised with the results. Thus, I decided to share the information with you.

How cold does it have to be in order not to risk get bitten by mosquitoes and ticks when you go outside? The answer: Below 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 degrees Fahrenheit) for mosquitoes.

And, how about ticks? “For ticks—they can bite year round. It is less likely below freezing temperatures due to lack of movement, but they can attach if you come in contact with them.”

In my case, I confess, that I will be more vigilant when I hear about outbreaks of tick and mosquito-borne diseases such as lyme disease, West Nile Virus,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, when I go outdoors. And, when traveling to subtropical and tropical areas, such as U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) we need to be careful with mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, too.

Furthermore, do you have pets? Do you take your dog for a walk outside? Make sure your pet doesn’t bring any ticks home with him even during winter. Ask the veterinarian for tick control products that will help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet so everyone can stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and 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.