green living

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.

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 Bronx’s Via Verde Wins a Well-Deserved Smart Growth Achievement Award

The exterior of Via Verde, showing off its stepped roof

The exterior of Via Verde, showing off its stepped roof

By John Martin

For people old enough to remember, it’s hard to believe how far the Bronx has come since the 1970s.

Between 1970 and 1980, the South Bronx lost over 300,000 residents, as crime spiked and people made way for the suburbs. The borough became synonymous with urban decay, a stigma it continues to fight decades after it began its dramatic rebound.

Today, the Bronx is flourishing, as the public and private sectors continue to make the borough a healthier and more pleasant place to live. It’s hard to find a better example of how far the borough has come than Via Verde— the mixed-income housing development in the Melrose neighborhood that opened in 2012. Since then, it has earned international acclaim for its bold design and its focus on creating a green urban environment for its residents.

The project, which sits on a cleaned-up former rail yard, provides 222 units of living space, views of the Manhattan skyline, and healthy-living amenities galore. A string of green roofs dot the building’s terraces, as do solar panels, which provide electricity to all the building’s common spaces. Residents have access to shared gardening beds, a children’s playground, a fitness center, and an outdoor amphitheater. Throw in the building’s easy access to subway and bus lines and it becomes easy to understand why Via Verde has been held up as a model for environmentally sustainable development.

As of today, we can add the EPA to the list of those who have officially recognized Via Verde’s accomplishments. This morning, the EPA announced that Via Verde received an Honorable Mention for the 2013 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Built Projects. Of the 77 Smart Growth Achievement applications the EPA received from across the country, Via Verde was just one of seven to be recognized.

For a borough that has come so far and fought so long to create livable, thriving communities, Via Verde is a crowning achievement and an inspiration to urban areas everywhere.

To read more about Via Verde and the other projects receiving National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, visit: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/awards.htm.

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.

My Brother – Quietly Taking On Green Living

By Amy Miller

I want you to meet Bobby. But you have to call him Bob. A public school teacher, a father, a resident of suburban Boston – and my brother – Bobby has slowly and quietly added more and more activities to his green-living repertoire.

He has joined local committees, made changes in his house and heating, scaled back motorized transportation and begun experimenting with different forms of sustainable living. What impresses me about Bobby is that he does not proselytize, he does not flaunt his righteousness and he does not pretend he will give up that which he loves (skiing, traveling and the rare chance to jet ski, for instance).

Bob does what he can. I imagine if we all tried as hard we could save a lot of trees, or glaciers or lungs. It may not be enough to save the planet, but it’s enough to make a difference.

So this is the first in a periodic posting about my brother Bobby and what he is up to.

When I talked to Bob recently he had just graduated from his town’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At 57, he had volunteered to become one of 100 Brookline citizens trained over the years to help when disasters strike.

About 350 towns nationwide have trained citizens to help in emergencies. Like what? Like power outage, snowstorms, chemical spills, nuclear war, you name it.

Bobby decided to do the training after receiving an email from a town rep. His second child left for college this fall and he had more time on his hands.

“It sounded fun so I signed up,” he said.

And indeed it was fun. “I liked learning about things I didn’t know,” he said.

Two local police officers taught students about first aid, fire-training, shelter operations and traffic control, among other things, during 10 weekly classes.
At graduation, Bob was one of two students invited to speak.

Acknowledging he might have been attracted by a certain geek quality to the whole thing, Bob ran to retrieve goodies given to students: a glow-in-the-dark vest, a CERT hat and helmet, duct tape, goggles, a CERT backpack, work gloves, a first aid kit, a flashlight, an emergency blanket, a mask and a wrench.

And truth be told, my brother was not completely out of place. “Now,” he reported, “I want to get into ham radios.”

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 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.

Getting a Personal Tune-Up

By Matt Bogoshian

I like to save money.

As a husband and dad, finding more ways to save money is just part of living and raising a family.

From a national perspective, the same thing applies. To make an America built to last, making smarter choices not only can save REAL money but it often also means preventing pollution at the same time, it’s a twofer!

So to save money at home I first ask myself, how do I start to make smarter choices to “tune-up” my own use and consumption habits?

There are many web tools like EPA’s guide to make smarter green living choices. Yet despite so many useful tools, I’m still sometimes slow to change my ways.

That’s why, with many others, I have accepted the Sustainability News & Entertainment for the Planet™ 5 Day Trash on Your Back Challenge April 22-27. The challenge is inspired by Dartmouth College and MIT’s Climate Interactive Team and I’m hoping that my participation will help me realize how much trash I generate so I can then start to figure out smarter alternatives.

I’ll report back soon and let you know what I learn about my own habits and what insights it gives me toward my work. Writing this blog has already made me wonder if 5 Day Trash On Your Back challenge can motivate me to take the first step to tune-up my own habits, could it motivate millions of Americans to do the same? Could a challenge like this lead to greener, safer products in the marketplace and accelerate our economic recovery in a way that improves our health all at the same time? Could a challenge like this motivate more of our over 300,000 manufacturers to tune-up their factories so they spend less money on waste and have more money to hire workers and create new market innovations?

When Americans come together with common effort and common purpose, we have a solid track record of getting the job done. In fact, the challenges we face now remind me of those faced on the home front by the great WWII generation that came together to build our defenses to protect the nation. That great American effort and the famous iconic Rosie the Riveter who embodied it, is the same kind of “can do” American spirit that will help us come together now to make an America built to last.

Stay tuned……

About the author: Matt Bogoshian is Senior Policy Counsel for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Matt is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

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.

Go Green on Martin Luther King Day

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.” Those words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have inspired millions of Americans over the years to step up and serve. And they’re the words that come to mind each January, when we honor Dr. King’s legacy on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Each year, people across the country come together for volunteer service, to strengthen their communities and make a difference for the people around them.

On Monday, January 16, the EPA is honoring Dr. King by calling on volunteers to participate in environmental service projects and help make it a Green MLK Day. In recent years, I’ve joined EPA employees and community volunteers for neighborhood cleanups, urban greening efforts and other environmental service projects. This year, we’re hoping you will mark the MLK Day of Service with a service project that protects health and the environment in your community.

One way to get involved is to participate in projects that help reduce waste, or cut water and energy use in your home and community. Take a look at our WaterSense, WasteWise and Energy Star websites for more information, or check our Green Living page for ideas.

Young people can help their communities raise awareness and address environmental issues through our OnCampus ecoAmbassadors program. This program helps students develop valuable leadership and project management skills as they improve the quality of their campuses and surrounding communities.

There are countless ways to be part of a Green MLK Day: Start using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Learn about composting and give it a shot in your own backyard. Pick up litter at a local park or field. Organize a “green club” in your workplace, school or community.

EPA’s Pick Five website can help you find simple ways to clean up the environment in which you live, work and play.

Finally – be sure to tell us about your Green MLK activities. EPA Staff will be tweeting live from various volunteer activities, and you can follow along through @EPALive and @lisapjackson on Twitter. Share your own service experience by tweeting with a #greenMLK hashtag. If you have any photos from what you’re doing, we invite you to share them on our Flickr page.

I look forward to hearing about how you spent this year’s MLK Day of Service taking on environmental challenges in your 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.

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.