Science Wednesday: Black Friday, a Winter Garden, and a New Name for EPA’s Ecosystem Services Research Program

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About the Author: Susan Lundquist works in EPA’s Ecosystem Services Research Program. She has been with the Agency for almost seven years.

Like so many consumers out there, I admit I spent time Thanksgiving Day combing through newspaper ads in preparation for the next day. It’s my usual thing, coffee early in the morning when it’s still dark, lending a certain mystic quality to an otherwise silly tradition of planning my shopping attack—solidifying my vision of goodies bought at bargain prices.

I indulged until I ran across an ad for a mini indoor garden for fresh herbs and lettuces grown under a sophisticated lighting system. Great idea, but suddenly I realized I already had an environmental bargain of my own, a raised-bed, outdoor winter garden.

image of womand standing next to a I’m growing a winter garden using simple raised garden beds, a hoop house for each bed, and plastic covering. I’m eating seasonally with fresh cilantro, arugula, thyme, parsley, red and green leaf lettuces, chives, and mesclun.

Seeing the ad for the mini garden made me think about my job. I work in the Ecosystem Services Research Program at EPA. After all, my makeshift outdoor garden is a mini ecosystem in its own right. My indulgence in Black Friday ads made me ponder the significance of the Ecological Research Program recently changing its name to the Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP).

We changed the name so it would more accurately reflect how the goods and services we get from nature may be adversely affected or positively enhanced by management actions. On the tiny scale of my garden, an adverse action might be using pesticides that harm the bees and other pollinators that are the basis for my harvest.

The goal of the ESRP is to transform the way we account for the type, quality and magnitude of nature’s good and services, what we call “ecosystem services.” So even though my winter garden is on a small scale, it provides a great example of one of the fundamental ecosystem services: food production.

Isn’t it time we start thinking about ecosystem services on a larger scale and how we can begin to more accurately account for the cost of using these services? It’s certainly food for thought in early morning hours before Black Friday.

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