Outdoors

Drop It While It’s Hot!

By Christina Catanese

We had to break out the little inflatable pool this weekend – the multiple days of temperatures over 90 degrees just demanded it.  The cool water from the hose was refreshing, but when it came time to empty the pool, I couldn’t believe how much water it held and how long it took to drain it.  I captured some of it to water my droopy plants, but there was still more water than I could use.

Filling up the pool on a hot summer day

Filling up the pool on a hot summer day

During the summer, you might use four times as much water as you do during other months.  Your water bill likely reflects the extra water you need for your lawn and garden, and to keep yourself cool!  Your local waterways and systems are feeling the heat, too – the more water we use, the more has to be withdrawn and treated before it goes back to rivers and streams.

So what are some ways we can use less water in the summer?  Part of it is using the water effectively.

While up to 90 percent of the water used outdoors is for irrigation, having a beautiful landscape doesn’t have to mean using a lot of water.  Watering by hand is most efficient, but lots of us have automatically timed irrigation systems for convenience.  It turns out that homes with automatically timed irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than those without. Your system can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak.  Lots of water can be lost through evaporation if you water at the wrong time of the day, and leaky hoses, dripping faucets, and improper landscaping can keep your garden from looking its best.  Here are some tips from WaterSense for watering wisely this summer.

Another way to use less water outside is to capture it yourself.  By using a rain barrel, you can capture free rainwater to use when you need it most to water your lawn and garden (but not for drinking or your kiddie pool).  Rain barrels can be purchased at your local hardware or garden supply store.  Better yet, many local government programs offer them at reduced prices.  Check out our short video and this longer video from GreenTreks for more on installing your own rain barrel.

You can even design your landscape to be water efficient.  Some plants are thirstier than others, so choose plants that are defined as low water use or drought tolerant for your area. These plant species will be able to survive in your climate with minimal, if any, need for supplemental watering.  See these simple tips for water-efficient landscaping for more ideas on lowering water use in your yard.  Visit this link to explore lists of native plants available for by state, and this one to see some Mid Atlantic resources.

So tell us: how are you dropping your water use this summer?

 

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

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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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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EPA @40: Tell Us Your Story

By Melissa Toffel

I knew one thing growing up as a kid: I loved being outdoors. While other kids struggled with what they were going to major in, I just knew I was going to learn more about the outdoors, in whatever form of major that might be. I ended up studying Wildlife Conservation and loved my ornithology, mammalogy, and forestry classes.

After college I moved to the Philadelphia area and got a job with EPA Region 3. I started at EPA in the Pesticides and Asbestos branch — and it couldn’t have been further from the type of work I thought I was going to be doing when I finished college. I was at a desk, reading reports and visiting pesticide distributor facilities! But as it turned out, I loved it. A few years ago I joined the Underground Storage Tank Enforcement branch. Again, it was nothing I would have imagined myself doing. And again, I loved it.

Growing up I cherished the green all around me. After working at EPA I notice all the things that, even if you don’t see them right in front of your eyes, go into protecting the environment. When I fill up my car at the gas station, I think, “What condition are the tanks in that are holding the gasoline in the ground?” I actually wonder if the facility has been inspected recently. I check any chemicals we might use at home for EPA registration numbers. I’ve even gotten my mom to switch to a biodegradable cleanser to use around the house! I love the awareness that working at EPA has brought me. I think that is what I most appreciate from this job; I don’t blindly take things for granted or at face-value anymore.

I’ve taken on my fair share of tough cases in the decade I’ve been at EPA, and I know how to ask the tough questions and how to get answers. I have worked to bring a number of facilities back into compliance, and it makes me feel very fulfilled when I go home every day. I can see with my own eyes where we have made a difference, the latest being where I helped to get about a dozen leaking underground storage tanks removed from the ground and getting the facility to preserve a parcel of land to remain untouched from development. This case made me feel like every minute I’ve spent here at EPA has been put to good use.

This agency accomplishes amazing things, a lot that probably goes unnoticed by the general public. But I think that is part of what I’m so proud of. We may not be shouting from the rooftops what we do, but with our accomplishments we are genuinely making this earth a better place every day that we work, and for that I am beyond proud.

About the author: Melissa Toffel joined EPA Region III’s Philadelphia office in 2000, and currently works on underground storage tank enforcement. From learning so much at EPA, she’s made such energy-efficient choices as installing a tankless hot water heater in her home, changing out lightbulbs to CFCs, and participating in a CSA program.

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.

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Question of the Week: What Outdoor Plans Have You Made to Enjoy Your Environment This Spring?

Spring has sprung (at least meteorologically), the days will be getting longer and warmer. This new season offers much for many of us, including the ability to get outdoors to exercise and play, visit a park or zoo, or just to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy your environment. While you’re at it, why not check out our new video project, “It’s My Environment”, and be a part of something new and innovative.

What outdoor plans have you made to enjoy your environment this Spring?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Qué tipo de planes al aire libre tiene para disfrutar de su medio ambiente esta primavera?

La primavera ha comenzado (al menos meteorológicamente hablando), los días empiezan a ser más largos y cálidos. Esta nueva temporada nos ofrece mucho, inclusive la habilidad para salir al aire libre a hacer ejercicios y jugar, visitar un parque o zoológico, o hasta respirar el aire fresco y disfrutar de nuestro medio ambiente. Mientras tanto, por qué no se entera de nuestro nuevo proyecto de video, “Es mi medio ambiente”, y participe en un esfuerzo nuevo e innovador.

¿Qué tipo de planes al aire libre tiene para disfrutar de su medio ambiente esta primavera?

Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

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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CHILDHOOD OBESITY PART II: Staying Active

Every morning I walk through the lobby of my apartment building, passing a group of kids who are waiting for the school bus. What are they doing as they wait? They aren’t talking to or playing with one another. They’re “playing” on their BlackBerrys. The BlackBerry: a gadget made for business people, not for seven-year-olds as a substitute for tag or basketball.

Not only cell phones, but other technological advances have made children more sedentary. Videogames, computers, and iPods have given children a way to stay “active” without actually being active. These activities do not involve much movement beyond the comfort of their own home or couch. It seems that children are having more fun interacting with technology rather than with one another. They are choosing inactive doings rather than active, such as, participating in sports teams or playing outside.

Physical activity seems to be diminishing more and more everyday. No longer do we see kids playing outside until dark. We don’t even see kids out on the playground at recess much anymore. In some of the schools that I have volunteered, the children are even given a choice as to whether they want to go outside or play inside on the computers or in the library. Only for asthmatic children who can’t play outside with poor air quality is this a choice worth having. Physical education is seen less in school systems as well. Although it still may be present, the time spent in P.E. is much shorter and it can be said that the activities are less strenuous than in the past.

The purpose of this two-part blog is to show the two main causes of childhood obesity. It is not enough to just eat right or to just exercise appropriately. The two must be done together. Obesity is a two-part fiend that can be solved with the right diet and exercise. We must ensure that our kids are healthy now such that they can be healthy in the future and for the rest of their lives.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana 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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Tire Crumbs on our Playgrounds

When I was younger I lived only a few blocks away from a large playground. I used to go there with my family and friends to do the ‘usual’ playground activities: run, swing, race the boys on the monkey bars, and ride down the slides into sand, grass, or my personal favorite, concrete. I was, and still am, a very active person and because of this a have acquired my fair share of bumps, bruises, and scars from my exciting playground sessions. Perhaps this is why we are beginning to see a shift in the way in which playgrounds are being constructed.

More and more we are starting to see playgrounds, and playing fields covered in artificial synthetic turf. While there are some benefits to artificial turf, including low-cost maintenance and less potential for injuries, artificial turf may have potential environmental hazards that could overshadow its advantages. The crumb rubber used in artificial turf may include chemicals such as latex and other rubbers, phthalates, and toxic metals.

The EPA has done studies in attempts to uncover the potential harms of artificial turf. So far, the studies have not revealed any hazards of concern. It is suggested, however, that more studies should be done to better understand the potential environmental hazards of artificial synthetic turf.

The two sides of the argument have very strong points, each bringing issues even beyond the health standpoint and into the financial and environmental positions as well. I believe it is appropriate to view the issue as “unresolved.” More research should be done to learn more and make accurate decisions as the whether artificial turf is here to stay or needs to be taken away.

What are your opinions on artificial synthetic turf? Do you play on artificial turf?

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana 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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Don’t Let Pests Spoil Your Outdoor Activities

As it starts to get warmer across the U.S. mainland, we’re beginning to plan more outdoor activities or just think of new ways to communicate with nature in the great outdoors.  Whether it’s gardening, swimming, hiking, fishing, or visiting our national parks, some of these outside activities might lead to some unwanted close encounters. I’m not talking about mountain lions, bears, wolves or snakes. I’m talking about other much smaller creatures—some creepy crawlers or flying insects. I know, I know…not all insects are bad. In fact, many invertebrates are actually good pollinators, like bees and butterflies. Others have a positive impact on the environment such as ladybugs and earthworms. The creepy crawlers I’m concerned about are those pests such as mosquitoes and ticks that can actually carry diseases. Those are the ones we want to avoid at all cost, if possible.

image of birdbath with standing waterGiven the unusually wet days we’ve been having in certain areas of the United States, we can anticipate a larger number of mosquitoes in urban and rural areas. A first piece of advice is to get rid of these flying pests with minimal use of chemicals? The most important thing you can do is remove their habitat (where they live and breed) in areas around your home. You have to eliminate standing water from rain gutters, old tires, toys, any open container where mosquitoes can breed. By the way, mosquitoes do not need a large quantity of water to breed and multiply. Did you know that over 150 mosquitoes can come out of a tablespoon of stagnant water? So, if you have bird baths or wading pools, please change the water at least once a week to prevent mosquito breeding. If you’re going to spend some time outdoors, use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent when necessary. Above all, read the label and follow directions closely. If there have been warnings of increased mosquito borne diseases in your area, such as the West Nile virus, check with your state or local health department for more information on mosquito control measures being taken where you live.

When enjoying the great outdoors, other biting pests such as ticks may carry Lyme disease. Personal protective measures are necessary, but repellents are effective as well. So, don’t let these pests spoil your vacation in the great outdoors.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  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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Question of the Week: What’s your favorite place out in the environment?

Relaxing in your backyard. Hiking in a national park. Birding in a wetland. We all have a favorite place where we go to connect with nature. June is Great Outdoors Month.

What’s your favorite place out in the environment?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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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