greenhouse gas emissions

Climate Leadership Provides Inspiration – and a Cleaner Environment 

Intel, a 2013 Climate Leadership Winner, has multiple solar arrays on its corporate campuses in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. This photo shows a solar support structure at the company’s parking lot in Arizona.

Intel, a 2013 Climate Leadership Winner, has multiple solar arrays on its corporate campuses in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. This photo shows a solar support structure at the company’s parking lot in Arizona.

By Melissa Klein

Part of my job is helping organize EPA’s annual Climate Leadership Awards. Through this work, I’ve been greatly inspired to learn about and highlight the steps companies are taking voluntarily to manage and reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Earlier this year, we honored 23 corporations, public agencies, and individuals for their exemplary leadership in reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. The winners demonstrated their commitment to conducting operations in a more sustainable way – diversifying their energy supply, mitigating fuel cost risk, and cutting their energy-related emissions.

Their forward-thinking actions to reduce GHG emissions can have exciting ripple effects. For instance, when a business takes action on climate, the whole supply chain often improves, encompassing efficiency related to operations – from purchased goods and transportation – to distribution and product use. The ripple effects result not only in cleaner air and water and improved public health, but also in money savings on energy costs and economic growth.

It’s encouraging and inspirational that four of the five top winners were local governments, who often face budget and staffing constraints, but still made incredible progress. Sonoma County Water Agency in California, The Port of San Diego, City of Austin, Texas, and Boulder County, Colorado, have all taken impressive and meaningful steps toward carbon-neutral operations and have mobilized large networks of partners to enable change. Check out the full list of award winners here to see if your hometown made the list.

Planning for the third annual awards in 2014 is underway and the application period is open until September 13, 2013. We, in collaboration with our co-sponsors – the Association of Climate Change Officers, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and The Climate Registry – are challenging organizations to think creatively and comprehensively to cut GHG emissions. For more information on the awards, please visit

About the Author: Melissa Klein, MPH, is the communications director for the Center for Corporate Climate Leadership within the Climate Protection Partnerships Division at the U.S. 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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Summer Isn’t the Only Thing Heating Up!

By Natalie Liller

EPA Climate Change Program

EPA Climate Change Program

My friends couldn’t believe that, instead of sleeping till noon, I was spending my first week of summer vacation rising early to attend a Climate Change Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Research Triangle Park, NC.  My interest in climate change had grown since my AP Environmental Science class, and I applied, yearning to find out what I could do to help combat the impacts of rising global temperatures. The EPA Climate Change Program was the way to go!

The first morning of the weeklong program arrived, and I jumped into my car – with a cup of highly caffeinated coffee in hand of course – and embarked into unknown territory.  As I approached the EPA, I could only gaze up and all around in awe of its grandeur.  Such a large building, but what and who did it hold? I couldn’t wait to get started and meet people just as interested in the cause and curious about what careers climate change could offer.

The Program’s 31 students had the privilege of meeting with and hearing from scientists, researchers, analysts, and more — from EPA, NC State University, Duke, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the Alliance for Climate Education.  Students came from high schools all over central NC: Panther Creek, Northern, Enloe, Riverside (go Pirates!), and many more.

We learned about greenhouse gas emissions, global impacts of climate change, environmental policy, and ways to reduce the impacts of climate change. It was engaging and thorough. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the enthusiasm of my peers – asking questions, providing input and opinions, and being curious about a speaker’s work and career path.

The program was full of hands-on activities. One included building particle sensors to monitor atmospheric carbon and another focused on pretending we were researchers in frigid Greenland. Each activity offered us a chance to use our hands, work collaboratively, and have fun. Even more so, we were offered a taste of what climate change careers.  It is encouraging to know that opportunity is out there—that I can take my knowledge and love for the environment anywhere I chose. I can combat global climate change from a cubicle, focusing on computer models, or I can engage in field research halfway across the world.

The program opened doors, connected me to a network of people I would not have met otherwise, and made me realize I can make a difference in my home, my school,  my community, and worldwide. Now, let’s go fight climate change and save the world!

About the Author: Natalie Liller is a rising senior at Riverside High School in Durham, hoping to pursue a career in politics with a concentration in environmental policy. She was excited to participate in EPA’s 2013 Climate Change Summer Program. Learn more about the Climate Change Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Our Built and Natural Environments

By Melissa Kramer

I remember like it was yesterday the first solo drive I took with my newly minted drivers’ license. Being able to drive myself where I wanted to go meant so much to me as a 16-year old who had no real alternatives to a car for meeting up with friends, getting to my first job, or going shopping. Somewhere along the way though the freedom and excitement that I felt behind the wheel was replaced with frustration as I sat in traffic, anxiety any time I had to drive unfamiliar roads, and stress about the cost of keeping my old clunker running.

As a resident of Washington, D.C., I have left behind the life where a car is necessary for most things. I live in a vibrant, bustling neighborhood within walking distance of downtown. Most days I walk to work, but I can also bike or take the bus. My husband commutes 8 miles by bike to work in Arlington, Virginia, and is happier and healthier for it. There are at least a half dozen grocery stores, a couple of hardware stores, countless restaurants, and just about anything I need close by. Several major bus lines run within two blocks of my house, and the Metro is just a 10 minute walk away when we need it.

EPA’s new report Our Built and Natural Environments helps explain how the kind of places where I live can minimize the environmental impacts of development. While the population of the United States roughly doubled between 1950 and 2011, the number of miles traveled increased nearly six-fold, and with it air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and stormwater runoff from roads have increased. Choosing where to build our communities to safeguard sensitive ecological areas; redeveloping already developed places; and putting homes, workplaces, and services close together near transit can help preserve natural areas that provide many ecosystem services. Beyond where we build, how we build is also important. Building compact neighborhoods, mixing uses to reduce travel distances, designing streets to make walking and biking safer, and using better building practices also help protect the environment and human health. This report describes the research documenting these environmental benefits and helps explain why neighborhoods like mine are not just great places to live, but also help minimize residents’ environmental footprints.

Find the report .  Learn about the Our Built and Natural Environments webinar on July 24.

About the author: Melissa Kramer, Ph.D., is a biologist working in EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. She likes biking, cooking, and tending to her native plant garden

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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Recognizing EPA’s Extraordinary Team of Public Servants

By Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator

This week is Public Service Recognition week, and as acting administrator at EPA, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary public servants I work alongside every day. Public service is a high calling. I know how keenly aware my colleagues are of the service they provide every day to our country. They are answering the call to duty and heeding the words of President Kennedy, “Ask what you can do for your country.”

Thanks to the hard work of the men and women who serve at EPA, the Agency has helped cut pollution and improve health benefits at a record level, while delivering more assistance and making more investments to help businesses and state and local governments meet health standards. In the 43 years since the EPA opened its doors, the American population has grown by more than 50 percent. During the same time frame, we have cut harmful air pollution by more than half. And as our country’s air, water and land have become cleaner, we have also seen our national gross domestic product (GDP) grow more than 200 percent since 1970.

We’ve developed and supported the most efficient and effective environmental enforcement programs in our history. We’ve advanced our science and our approaches to testing chemicals – and met challenges like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Sandy and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by helping to keep those regions clean and the people there safe and healthy. We’ve expanded our partnerships with local communities and tribal nations, and consequently, we’ve been able to target our resources more effectively to address the most pressing environmental problems they face. And we’ve doubled down on our own commitment to sustainability by dramatically cutting the Agency’s overall energy use, reducing our water use, and slashing greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80 percent. That’s the equivalent of taking 21,700 cars off the road or planting more than 2.7 million trees.

EPA employees have also found innovative and unprecedented ways to address the complex environmental challenges – and tight budgets – Americans face today. For example, in 2011, EPA announced a new water technology innovation cluster in Cincinnati, a public/private partnership to develop and commercialize technologies to solve water quality challenges, encourage sustainable economic development and create jobs. Last year EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance announced the public release of an online mapping tool called NEPAssist to help make federal agencies conduct environmental reviews and project planning more efficiently and more effectively. And just recently EPA launched the Green Button on our Home Energy Yardstick. Now American homeowners can measure – and improve – their home’s energy efficiency using this free online energy-assessment tool.

This is exciting work, and you don’t have to take my word for it: Last week the Partnership for Public Service ranked EPA as third in innovation among large federal agencies, according to a survey they conducted of federal employees. In the many ways they contribute to EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment, my colleagues are remarkable public servants. I’m proud to work with them, and this week, to celebrate them.

About the author: Bob Perciasepe is Acting Administrator of the U.S. 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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Evaluating Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

To celebrate Earth Day and the Agency’s effort to expand the conversation on climate change, we are highlighting EPA climate change research with Science Matters articles this week.

Breaking Through? Evaluating Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
EPA modelers develop innovative methods to assess low-carbon technologies.

Much of the energy we use to power our homes, cars, and industries is also the main source of greenhouse gases (GHG) responsible for global climate change. It follows then, that limiting emissions from the combustion of these energy sources could contribute toward a stable, sustainable environmental future.

Developing new “game changing” technologies and energy sources will be important to mitigate GHG emissions cost-effectively. But how can today’s decision makers identify technologies with true transformational potential for reducing global climate change over the long term?

EPA scientists and engineers are helping answer just that question. They are using sophisticated computer models to support decision makers by comparing potential mitigation technologies in terms of cost, environmental performance, economic impact, and more.

In one such effort, the results of which were recently presented in the journal Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, EPA physical scientist Dan Loughlin and his research colleagues used an innovative modeling approach tapping the MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) model to demonstrate a “breakthrough analysis” that researchers can use to identify technologies that can make a true difference in reducing GHG emissions.

MARKAL was created in the late 1970s by Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists to help partner researchers and others wade through the complex and far reaching differences and tradeoffs involved in making decisions and policies related to energy use. Over the next several decades, the model was improved and reworked to support new functionality, and to take advantage of increasing computational power. It is now one of several models that EPA’s own climate change researchers use.

“Breakthrough” in this case refers to a technology that can limit GHG emissions significantly and cost-effectively over the long haul, explains Loughlin. “We developed a methodology to examine the breakthrough potential of energy-related technologies, taking into account the complexities of the entire energy system.”

The researchers focused on MARKAL because of its comprehensive coverage of the energy system, from the importation, production, or manufacture of a particular energy source, right through its distribution and end use by a whole variety of interacting sectors.

“For example, using MARKAL we might ask ‘What would happen if the cost of solar photovoltaic technology goes down to 20 cents per kilowatt hour? Would it penetrate the market and yield significant reductions in GHG? Using MARKAL this way allows us to incorporate important multi-sectoral interactions in our analysis that would not be possible with less powerful tools,” says EPA engineer William Yelverton, who contributed to the breakthrough technology approach.

To demonstrate how such an approach could be used to support greenhouse gas mitigation decisions, Loughlin, Yelverton, and their EPA colleague Rebecca Dodder focused on a breakthrough analysis of utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV). Their calculations suggest, for instance, that an 80% drop in the price of photovoltaics would lower the cost of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the United States in half by $270 billion—potentially making it a technology breakthrough.

The research team plans to use this approach to evaluate and compare the breakthrough potential of additional energy technologies. In their paper, they and their coauthors write:

 

Fortunately, as a society, we have shown a great ability to innovate. Technology breakthroughs have led to putting humans on the moon and to downsizing electronics so that the smart phones in our pockets are more powerful than the supercomputers of several decades ago. Similar breakthroughs in low- and zero-carbon energy technologies will be needed to meet GHG mitigation goals identified as being necessary by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. This need raises important questions, such as ‘What constitutes a breakthrough?’ and ‘Where would breakthroughs be achieved most readily and most cost effectively?

Together, EPA researchers Loughlin, Yelverton, Dodder and their partners are working to answer those questions, and help provide the science and tools needed to address global climate change.

Learn More

EPA Climate Change Research

EPA Climate Change Methods, Models, Tools, and Databases

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Story of “Less” Stuff

By Ellie M. Kanipe

A couple of weeks ago, I met the coolest person. Stephanie totally inspired me. She’s part of a movement called the “Small House Movement”, and is actually moving into a tiny house.  And, when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  Her house is 130 square feet.  She’s chosen to live simply and in doing so to live sustainably.

This totally inspires me for a ton of reasons, but one that stands out is that by choosing this life style, Stephanie is significantly lowering her carbon footprint. Approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.  42 percent! (Learn more.)

At EPA, I work on sustainability – specifically looking at materials and how we can be more sustainable with the materials / stuff we use in our daily lives. The program I work on (Sustainable Materials Management Program) looks at what we use in our daily lives a little differently – to rethink the norm and instead look through a life cycle lens. In other words, when I think about the shirt I’m wearing today, I wonder where and how were all the materials to make this shirt extracted? Is the cotton organic, or is it made of recycled materials?  Where and how was the shirt manufactured, and how and how far was it transported to get to the store where I bought it? The problem is that we don’t think about our stuff’s lives before they come into our life.  Imagine dating a person without sharing life experiences before you met?  That’s what we do with the stuff we use daily!

While we might not feel like we’re able to lower our own carbon footprint by joining Stephanie in the small house movement, we can all rethink how we view our stuff, and take actions to simplify our lives. We can know where our stuff comes from, and in knowing make smart choices about what we choose to have in our lives. We can reuse, repair, and share. We can buy durable goods. We can stop wasting food, recycle and compost. We can use EPA’s iWARM widget. We can reflect on what we really need in our lives to be happy and act on it.

Stephanie inspires me. She reminds me that often less is more.

About the author: Ellie M Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. In her spare time, she helps people to simplify their lives by teaching yoga.

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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Earth Day with the Home Team

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 Dave Deegan

Happy Earth Day!

The first Earth Day was held in 1970. It was organized as a series of “teach-ins” to hold conversations about the serious environmental challenges of the day. Here at EPA, celebrating Earth Day on April 22 sometimes feels like the biggest holiday of the year.

Today, our celebration will be especially memorable as several dozen EPA employees will volunteer their evening hours to be the recycling “Green Team” at Fenway Park.

Since 2008, I’ve been one of dozens of EPA employees from our local Boston office who have occasionally volunteered to help with the Red Sox’ recycling efforts. And the results are impressive – this goes way beyond the novelty of being at a game from a different vantage point. For example, in 2012 alone, the Red Sox averaged recycling approximately 3.4 tons of plastic and other items, and donated or composted 1.4 tons of food waste – at each game. That’s a lot of material being kept away from landfills, especially when you consider that there are 81 home games per season.

But wait. Isn’t climate change the biggest environmental issue? How does recycling relate to that? Building, moving and using the products and food we rely on in our daily lives – and then managing the waste left behind – requires a lot of energy.  This energy mostly comes from burning fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling everyday objects, such as paper, bottles, and magazines saves energy and helps to slow climate change. The materials that you recycle are used to create the products you buy. This means less virgin material need to be mined or harvested, processed, manufactured, and transported—all of which consume energy.

To make tonight’s game even more green, the Red Sox this year are actually undertaking a carbon-neutral game in addition to promoting recycling of all plastic bottles, cups and containers.

On Earth Day, people often ask us how they can make a positive difference for a clean environment. Recycling is actually one of the best things we can all do in our daily lives. Just as Earth Day in 1970 led to creating major laws including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, maybe the activities held on this year’s Earth Day will spur greater action on the biggest environmental challenge facing us today: climate change.

What will you do to make an Earth Day difference?

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, you might find him working in his yard or being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

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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It’s ENERGY STAR Day!

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Today, EPA celebrates the first-ever ENERGY STAR Day in honor of the program’s 20th anniversary. It is a chance for EPA, our partners and everyday people to celebrate the amazing strides that we have made together in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by saving energy. If you made a change to become more energy efficient this year, today is your day to celebrate with EPA!

For those of us at ENERGY STAR, this day is the perfect opportunity to highlight what people across the country are doing to protect our climate. Over the past few years EPA has witnessed a growing grassroots movement toward energy efficiency, and in 2006 we launched the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR campaign to help people in their energy saving journey. Six years later we are excited to see the amazing things that are being accomplished as people across the country commit to becoming more energy efficient.

This year’s campaign featured something for everyone interested in learning more about protecting the climate:

  • This year the ENERGY STAR Pledge reached a huge milestone. Over 3 million people have taken the pledge, committing to making simple lifestyle changes to help protect the environment from climate change.
  • Thousands of young people joined Team ENERGY STAR this year, committing to learning about energy-efficiency and teaching their friends and families how to save energy. Check out the Team ENERGY STAR success stories here!
  • ENERGY STAR’s industry partners held over 950 energy-efficiency educational events as part of the ENERGY STARs Across America event series. EPA hosted an online map that allowed people across the country to find events in their local area, in order to encourage their energy saving journey.

As EPA wraps up the campaign in the next couple of weeks, we are calling on people to tell the world what they have done to protect the climate. One easy way to do this is by joining our Twitter Party this afternoon! At 2 pm EDT EPA will be engaging the social media universe in a discussion on energy saving and we want you to share your story. Just follow the hashtag #TeamENERGYSTAR. EPA and its partners will be hosting ENERGY STAR Day events from Oct. 10th-24th, so follow us on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information on events that you can participate in.

Happy ENERGY STAR Day!

About the Author: Brittney Gordon works on the ENERGY STAR communications team. She has worked for EPA since 2010.

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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Summer Tips: Get That Car Ready Before You Hit The Road

By Lina Younes

Summer is my favorite time of year. Days are longer. There are more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends. As some of you may be planning a family road trip this summer, there is one thing that you should consider as part of your travel preparations. If you’re driving, make sure the car is ready to hit the road.

Proper car maintenance will make your car more fuel efficient, save you money and protect the environment by producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping tires properly inflated is a simple step that can go a long way to improve fuel efficiency and enhance your safety on the road as well. By following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule you’ll also reduce the overall wear and tear of the vehicle.

Do you want another useful tip to increase your gas mileage without any additional cost? No, you won’t find it in a store. Simply obey the speed limit! Avoid sudden stops and hard accelerations. Aggressive driving only wastes gas, increases emissions, and makes you waste money at the pump.

So, simple steps can go a long way to have a great summer this year. Do you have any special plans? We will love to hear from you.

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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I Spy a Blue Label

By Una Song

This year my husband and I went on vacation to Boise, Idaho to visit his parents, and then to San Francisco to attend my husband’s boss’s retirement party. The last time I was in Boise was before I started with the ENERGY STAR program. At that time, while I recognized the ENERGY STAR label, I didn’t know that the program qualifies more than 60 product categories—from TVs to dishwashers to light bulbs. Now that I help the program promote ENERGY STAR qualified consumer electronics, I am always looking around at what products people have in their homes to see if they are ENERGY STAR qualified.

I was pleased to see that my in-laws recently replaced their kitchen appliances and washing machine with ENERGY STAR qualified models. I also noticed that their electronics were ENERGY STAR qualified– the TV in the kitchen, the computer in the den, even the digital-to-analog adapter in the bedroom all had the familiar blue label.

When we went to our hotel in San Francisco, I also looked around at the electronics. Again I was pleased that not only was the television qualified, but so was the DVD player. The one electronic that did not have the label was the MP3 docking station. Since the hotel was built in 2006, perhaps they purchased these docking stations before the program started covering them in 2010.

My in-laws and the hotel in San Francisco have both taken small but important steps that make a big difference in protecting the climate. These little steps add up: if every TV, DVD player, and home theater system purchased in the United States this year earned the ENERGY STAR, we would prevent more than 10 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions from about a million cars. We would also save more than $700 million in annual energy costs. So the next time you are in the market for a new electronic, consider ENERGY STAR in your purchase.

About the author: Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program focused on consumer electronics marketing. In her free time she plays tennis and likes to try new restaurants.

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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