kids

This Spring, Look for the Safer Choice Label

Today, we’re unveiling a new Safer Choice label, which will make it easier to find household cleaners and other home products that are safer, more environmentally friendly—and still get the job done. If you missed the video where I shared the new label, check it out here:

The name says it all: Safer Choice products are safer for you, your kids, your pets and the environment. Our scientists employ a stringent set of human health and environmental safety standards when reviewing products for the Safer Choice program, so a product with the label is backed by EPA science. Consumers know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.

Safer Choice products are a winning idea for the companies that make them, too. Major producers and retailers like Clorox, Walmart, Jelmar/CLR, Earth Friendly Products, Bissel, Wegmans, and hundreds of others have agreed to start putting Safer Choice products on the shelves this year.

These companies know that developing and selling safer products is good for business. When they demonstrate a commitment to the health of their customers and the planet, consumers respond. This spring and summer, products will start to carry the Safer Choice label, and we expect many more will be added over the coming months and years.

So look for products with the Safer Choice label in stores later this spring. I’m looking forward to using them in my home.

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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EPIC Team ENERGY STAR Drive

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By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Summer is winding down and for kids across the country, school is just around the corner (if it hasn’t started already). But as you run around buying new book bags and other school supplies, you may be pining for just one more fun activity for the whole family to enjoy. Well look no further because Team ENERGY STAR is the perfect way to end the summer!

EPA knows that young people are great influencers when it comes to spreading the word about protecting our environment. That’s why ENERGY STAR teamed up with PTO Today, LG Electronics USA and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (with support from Samsung Electronics) to teach the next generation how they can take action against climate change. With the help of the characters from the movie EPIC, Team ENERGY STAR teaches young people about saving energy in order to better protect the planet. You can join the team on ENERGY STAR’s website and get immediate access to fun and educational resources that teach the whole family about saving energy. Your child can take the EPIC Pledge and get the chance to bring home the newly available DVD of the hit movie EPIC! Teaching your kids about protecting the environment through Team ENERGY STAR will also make you eligible for rewards from LG Electronics.

It may sound like a cliché, but today’s kids are truly our future. Engaging young people in making a difference today will make a big difference in securing a cleaner, more sustainable future. For the past two years Team ENERGY STAR has shown thousands of kids how they can help their family save energy and protect our environment. Sign your family up by September 30th, and end the summer with a great lesson that will stick with your kids for years to come.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the communications team for the ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch. She does not have any kids, but plans on signing up her Goddaughter Victoria for Team ENERGY STAR.  

 

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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Equipping Students To Monitor and Improve Their Local Air Quality

By Joni Nofchissey

I live and work in Shiprock, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation. It’s a rural place, far away from any big city, and yet, despite the community’s rural setting, the rates of asthma and pulmonary diseases are comparable to those found in highly populated urban areas. In fact, Shiprock Indian Health Service Center sees five times the number of children with upper respiratory health problems than other centers on the Navajo Nation.

Surrounding Shiprock are two large coal-fired power plants and thousands of natural gas wells, each with a diesel engine. During the winter, air pollution is highly visible because thermal inversions trap particulate matter and smog near the ground. You can see this smog, and it’s only made worse by the use of wood and coal stoves in residential homes, which many students at Diné College and families in Navajo Nation depend on for warmth and cooking.

Last year, I co-led an EPA Tribal ecoAmbassadors project with some Diné College professors, staff, and several groups of students to collect and analyze air quality samples collected by M-PODs part of the Mobile Air Quality Sensing System (MAQS)—devices you can wear that collect data on five gases, one of which is nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO2 is produced when natural gas or other fuels undergo incomplete combustion. One of the very useful and fun applications of the MAQS was the Android application and website interactive user-faces developed by University of Colorado Boulder.

At the end of the project, three classes of students were able to use advanced air quality sampling technology to collect and assess the air quality in the Shiprock area, as well as in their homes and schools. What they found was that each of the residences tested exceeded the recommended healthy levels of 0.05 parts per million of NO2 for the sampling period. Further testing showed high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in homes. According to the department of health guidelines for indoor air quality, the recommended range of CO2 concentration indoors is 600–1000 parts per million. In one of the homes tested, the readings were more than five times the maximum recommended healthy range.

While these findings were troubling, I wouldn’t say they were necessarily surprising. Going into the project, we knew there were concerns—we just needed a “from the ground up” way to assess the degree of indoor and outdoor air pollution Shiprock residents faced. Now that a group of Diné students and professors have the ability to do this, we’re placing the emphasis on continued monitoring, awareness, and low-tech solutions like proper ventilation and safe wood-burning practices. To create a greater awareness of the issue, each student shared the results of the data with their families and communities through poster sessions and presentations. Diné College also strengthened partnerships with University of Colorado-Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and surrounding air quality labs, where students now have access to all kinds of data.

My students even provided insight to the developers of the M-POD and MAQS technology on how to improve the air quality monitors—and stressed the importance of exploring alternative heating sources (such as solar, wind, and biomass) to improve residential air quality in the northern regions of the Navajo reservation in and around Shiprock.

This year, I’m delighted to co-lead a second-year Tribal ecoAmbassador project that will result in a curriculum using these air quality monitoring tools to relate carbon emissions to climate change. DEI Spring interns have been able to use particulate counters “Dust Tracs” to measure levels of 2.5 μ particulate matter (PM2.5) in their families home to create discussion on occupant behavior and PM2.5 levels. In addition to looking at indoor heating behaviors effects on PM2.5 levels, interns also assisted in assessing ambient CO2 levels with readings collected by the Autonomous Inexpensive Robust CO2 Analyzer (AIRCOA) developed and maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). We’re sharing the results through college classroom presentations, college science labs, K-12 hands-on workshops, professional conferences, and community hands-on workshops/seminars/presentations. Something I’ve learned over the last two years is that you can collect all the data in the world, but you’ll never get anywhere on a problem like air quality without the involvement and support of your local community.

I am very excited to start our summer internship which includes two weeks of intensive air quality studies in July with six DEI interns and DEI staff as well. The eight week internship pertaining to environmental science will end with a series of workshops and presentations to community members and K-12 students. The interns will also be very instrumental in providing insight to a meeting regarding another DEI project, the Indoor Stove Coal Use Project.

 About the author: Joni Nofchissey serves as the Environmental Technician of Diné College – Shiprock Campus, Diné Environmental Institute (DEI).  As the co-lead of the Diné College Tribal ecoAmbassador project, she helps interns design studies and analyze data collected with a stationary carbon dioxide monitor developed and maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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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Walking to School

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Gina Snyder

At a recent visit to Birchmeadow Elementary School in my hometown to talk to students about our watershed, I noticed a poster on the wall saying “October is National Walk to School Month”. I was delighted – not just because walking is good for public health and the environment, but also because I had just learned that this would mean students would be more attentive when I spoke.

At a recent lecture by Mark Fenton, an adjunct professor at Tufts University, I learned that teachers can tell when children walk or bike to school. “They are better behaved in class and more ready to learn,” Fenton had said.

Fenton, a nationally known public health and transportation consultant and former host of the “America’s Walking” series on PBS television, noted that obesity among children is so widespread that this generation will be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Whether we have children or not, we can all help students to live healthier lives.

For instance, by driving respectfully and stopping for pedestrians, we can encourage walking and biking. Like many people living in the Boston area, I have nearly been run over by crazy drivers, so I know the role drivers play in making walking safer.

Drivers can also become role models by leaving cars home. It’s healthier and better for the environment when we use our own people-power to get around.

And remember, children learn through experience. Walking with adults lets children practice crossing streets.

As you walk, follow these tips:

  • Look for traffic at each driveway and intersection. Be aware of drivers in parked cars getting ready to move.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals.
  • Cross the street safely.

Wear bright-colored clothes, and carry flashlights or wear reflective gear if it is dark or hard to see.

As days get shorter, don’t let darkness keep you from walking. When walking or biking at dawn or dusk, wear light-colored clothing and add reflective gear. Also, carry a flashlight – point the beam downward and slightly outward, and move it as you swing your arm with your natural walking rhythm.

When bicycling in dark or low light, have a headlight. Massachusetts law requires a front white headlight and a rear red reflector or red light on bicycles operated between 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after sunrise.

So, keep stepping, peddling, or pounding the pavement – safely! It will be good for your health and for the environment.

About the author: Gina Snyder is an engineer at EPA’s New England office and volunteers with the Ipswich River Watershed Association and Walkable Reading. A 10-year participant in the Garden Club’s Adopt-an-Island program, Gina is hoping to help her home town plant rain gardens.

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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Team ENERGY STAR!

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Every time I brush my teeth, I still remember the first environmental lesson that I learned at school. I don’t remember who said it or when I heard it, but “don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth,” is etched in my memory.  Because of that lesson, wasting water has always been a no-no during my morning routine. Memories like this one make it easy for me to understand the power of educating young people about protecting the world we live in. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to work on the launch of EPA’s Team ENERGY STAR this year.

Team ENERGY STAR is a new component of the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR campaign, focused on teaching young people about protecting our climate by saving energy. EPA launched the Team ENERGY STAR section on our website this summer, allowing families to join the team and download educational (and fun) tools to help their kids learn about energy efficiency. We asked young people to come back to the website after they started helping their families save energy to share their story. The best stories were showcased on the ENERGY STAR Facebook page, with our social media audience picking the top story as the “People’s Choice.” Families could even go one step further and also join the DoSomething.org and LG Electronics Team ENERGY STAR Challenge.

Team ENERGY STAR was a great success with thousands of families joining the team and learning more about saving energy in their homes. Hundreds of Boys and Girls Clubs (with the support of ENERGY STAR partner Samsung) across the country joined in by spreading the word about energy efficiency in their communities. It was inspiring to see so many young people making climate protection an important part of their everyday lives.

Check out the Team ENERGY STAR photo album on ENERGY STAR’s Facebook page to see all of the top stories. Congrats to the “People’s Choice” top vote getter, Alexandra S.! Alexandra was also one of five top picks in the DoSomething.org and LG Electronics challenge, along with Bryce P., Caleigh G., Imelia G. and Renee L!

Reading the energy-saving success stories from these kids showed me once again that young people can truly change the world. Are you interested in hearing more stories of young people making a difference? Check out our first-ever live Facebook broadcast on Tuesday, October 23, at 1:15pm CDT where we will have young people and adults from across the country sharing their stories live! Hope to see you there!

Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the communications team for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

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 Not Just About Litter

I’m Abby and I see plastic bags everywhere.

We can recycle them, but I don’t think that’s the solution to their environmental impact. As we pack our groceries, we need to think about the harm plastic bags have on our environment. Sure it may be hard not to use them, even I know this. It is a hard habit to break! But, I now know that these convenience items are devastating.  I saw a picture of a sea bird with a plastic bag around its neck. What kind of life could it have with a bag around its neck?

I hope my village has the choice to ban the bags and not be barred by the IL legislature’s bill SB3442, which recently passed, that allows towns, cities, and villages in Illinois to only recycle bags. That’s what my petition is about – having the choice to ban the bags. I want to teach even younger kids about the issues surrounding plastic bags and even have them pledge not to use plastic shopping bags.

My other message is that kids have power, too. A grass-roots effort can be a tool for kids who want to do the right thing. We have no other choice, as we don’t have money, political power or special interests backing us! My petition project to ban plastic bags is an example of what we kids can do. We can become our own coalition.

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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Going Green As You’re Going Back to School

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Summertime is coming to an end, and kids are heading back to school. And even though they’ll be spending less time outdoors, we should still be thinking about how to protect the environment and safeguard our children’s health. Fortunately, small actions can turn into big results for protecting the environment, and can even save extra money for the school year.

For example, try to cut down on waste. More than 30 percent of what we throw away comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. Look for pens, pencils, and other supplies that are packaged with recyclable materials. That goes for spiral notebooks and notebook paper, too. For every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper, an entire tree is saved.

Buying school supplies every year can get expensive. A good way to save money is to conserve energy use around the house. Energy Star products – from lightbulbs and laptops to televisions and air conditioners – are more energy efficient, which means you’ll pay less in utility bills every month. In 2011, the use of Energy Star products helped Americans save $23 billion on their utility bills, and prevented more than 210 million metric tons of green house gas emissions.

There are also ways to make sure our schools are environmentally friendly. In addition to choosing products made from recyclable materials and using energy efficient appliances, check to make sure the products used to clean your child’s classrooms carry the “Design for the Environment” label. This label means those products are safer for students and better for the environment.

Every child deserves a clean and healthy place to learn – and all parents should be able to trust that their children’s health is not at risk when they send them off to school. The EPA is working hard to reduce health threats in the air we breathe and the water we drink, and we want to make sure schools and parents have what they need to minimize pollution in and around classrooms and give all of our kids healthy places to learn.

Last but not least, these actions help teach children the importance of a clean, healthy environment. Making “green” a part of everyday learning – both inside and outside the classroom – is an easy way to engage our kids in the efforts to safeguard the planet they will inherit, and protect their future.

<em>About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</em>

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 does the little blue label mean to you?

By: Kristinn Leonhart Vazquez

Have you ever tried to explain what you do to friends and family? Or folks you’re just meeting for the first time? You likely boiled it down to the simplest possible form. If not, for sheer entertainment value, you should try explaining what you do to a six-year-old, or more specifically, my 6-year-old. Here’s a recent exchange with Sofia when she learned I got a new job. “But Mom (*with visible consternation, i.e., the furrowed eyebrow and hand on hip*), you’re still helping to save the planet, right?” Me: “Yes, Sofia, I still work to save the planet, and do you know how you can help me? You can start by turning the light out in the room you just left.” Sofia: “Mom [*insert eye roll here*], how does turning out the lights help the whole planet?” Me: “Because the energy that it takes to keep that light on has to come from somewhere, Sofia. And do you know where it comes from? Most of our energy is created by burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and when we burn these things, we also make pollution that warms our planet.” Sofia (*eyes now light up*): “So if we turn out the light, we’re really helping the planet?” Me: “You got it, AND, Mommy has to pay less for our electric bill each month.” Sofia: “What are some other ways we can help save the planet, Mom?”

I ask her to tell me what she thinks, and I get to hear about recycling, how we shouldn’t litter, how we can plant trees, and even how to catch water in rain barrels and use it to water our plants. These are the things she knows from kindergarten. It’s amazing what kids learn from their teachers about protecting the environment today!

We talk about power strips – how easy power strips make it to unplug a whole room and how when we leave a room, we should make sure all of the outlets are unplugged. We talk about air drying our clothes during the summer, and we talk about the spiral lightbulbs we use in our home. And then there’s turning the thermostat up during the day and bringing it back down when we return home. I explain why we clean the vents and run the ceiling fan instead of making it cold with the air conditioner. We talk about the shower races we have and why they’re important – I time the kids when they take showers to encourage them to take shorter showers. A little competition goes a long way! We feel the same way at ENERGY STAR: check out our latest competition – the Battle of the Buildings!

We talk about keeping the drapes and blinds closed to keep it cooler inside. And then there’s walking to the grocery store (or riding our bikes, she exclaims) instead of driving. We talk about only watching TV and playing computer games for one hour a day. I try to help her understand how each action helps protect the planet. Occasionally I am reminded of a popular comedian who does a skit on how children continuously ask, “But why?” And then, when her older brother joins in, we have a funny side conversation about “energy vampires” that has me in stitches, and I know I am going to get the best drawings from the kids after this conversation.

We talk about my new job and the little blue label, and I ask both kids to help me find it wherever we happen to be. I tell them they can find it on products, on buildings and on homes. They are fast becoming ENERGY STAR ambassadors with the ENERGY STAR brand manager as their proud mom. What actions do you take to protect our environment?

For more fun activities to do with kids, click here.

To join the 2.8 million others who have already pledged to fight climate change, click here.

About the author: Kristinn Leonhart Vazquez joined the ENERGY STAR Team on June 18 as Brand Manager. She has been with the U.S. EPA for eight years supporting a wide range of voluntary programs and regulations to protect peoples’ health and the environment, and prior to that time, worked as a book and journal editor. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteer teaching, not just kids, but adults too.

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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Join the Team!

Join Team ENERGY STAR

Team ENERGY STAR

By: Brittney Gordon

School is just about out for summer, and for many kids across the country this starts the most wonderful time of year. Like many people, my memories of summer bring back some of my most favorite memories of childhood. From summer camps and vacations, to riding bikes with the kids in the neighborhood, my summers were filled with the kind of excitement that can only a child can truly appreciate.

Many parents are probably finalizing their child’s summer plans right now, hoping to find that perfect balance of relaxed fun and intellectual stimulation.  If you are looking for a fun and educational activity to help them fill their day, I have the perfect addition. Get your kids to join Team ENERGY STAR! This is an exciting new initiative from EPA developed to help educate kids about saving energy in order to protect our climate.

This year EPA is working with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax to help kids save the trees by saving energy at home. By joining Team ENERGY STAR your kids will have access to fun and educational resources that will help them understand the importance of saving energy. After they join, your kids will get access to downloadable resources to help them in their journey, including a comprehensive action kit, a Lorax Activity Booklet, a Lorax Mustache making kit and more. Your kids can even share their energy-saving story with EPA, and get it featured on our website and ENERGY STAR’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Several EPA partners are joining with ENERGY STAR on this project, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Do Something.org. Our partners at Do Something.org are even hosting a Team ENERGY STAR Challenge that your kids can join to win prizes from LG Electronics.

Check out Team ENERGY STAR at www.energystar.gov/team and get your summer fun started today!

Brittney Gordon is a communications team member for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. During the summer months she enjoys trips to the beach, great books and lazy weekends at home with her husband.

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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