Pick 5 for the Environment

Pick 5 for the Environment

By Ashley McAvoy

Quick! Pick your top 5 favorite movies of all time. Now what about your top 5 favorite songs? Have you thought of any? Ok, now what are the top 5 activities that you will do to help the environment this year? If you’re like me, this is a much harder question to answer. There are so many things that we can do to help the environment, but sometimes we need some help to narrow down all our choices. That’s what’s so great about Pick 5 for the Environment.

Now you might be asking, what exactly is Pick 5 for the Environment? It’s a site that makes it super easy to decide what you can do to help the environment. Just visit Pick 5 and choose from one of 6 topics: Water, Air, Land, Energy, Waste, and Advocacy. When you click on one of the topics, a list will pop up with different actions that you can commit to. For example, when I clicked on Water, a list came up that gave me 4 actions that I could do to conserve water. You can pick any of those options, as long as you pick at least 5. The most important thing is to pick actions that you think you can complete. That’s it! It’s that easy. Share your choices with your friends and family and try to get them to Pick 5 too.Then the rest is up to you.

Here’s what I’m doing to help out the environment:

  1. Use only the water you need, and reuse when possible.
  2. Buy locally, or grow your own! Reduce air pollution caused by food and goods transport.
  3. Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non native plants and animals in the environment. Plant native species in your gardens, encourage important pollinators such as bees and birds by planting gardens full of their favorite plants. Join a team in your community that removes non-native species.
  4. Reduce. Cut back on the amount of ‘stuff’ that could later end up as waste.
  5. Talk to a friend about Pick5!

Now only one question remains: what will be your Pick 5 for the Environment choices?

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

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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Behind the Scenes

By Jeanethe Falvey

Nature and what we build in it has a way of redefining our notion of worst-case scenario. What more can we do, but forge ahead hoping it doesn’t happen to us?

‘Deepwater Horizon,’ ‘Katrina’, ‘Yellowstone River’… The list goes on. We live on a dynamic planet and while we have masterfully become creatures of comfort, we still live in an environment. The same environment that provides rain, earthquakes, oil, also brings sunshine.

When something devastating happens to our known space and our livelihoods it’s hard to comprehend much beyond each unfolding moment.

When it does, suddenly many things so often in the background of our lives are at the forefront needing to fix everything, yesterday.

The confusion that sets in at a disaster response is something that individuals working in all levels of government, from local enforcement officials to many of us within state and federal agencies having been trying to improve together since September 11.

Each time is emotional, each time is different, each time it can’t be fixed fast enough, if ever.

The time to get better is in between. The best we can do is learn, improve and communicate. From the day I started at EPA, communication has been at the forefront of my expectations, a responsibility I do not take lightly.

This week, I was joined by a roomful of my colleagues at EPA as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, to learn from one another as we discussed how communication can be improved during an incident – whether drums have been found in a field, or oil is gushing freely.

From public meetings, on door steps, behind EPA’s social media, I find myself constantly wanting to improve my, and EPA’s connection with the public. What we practice and strive to improve behind the scenes could become a direct part of any of our lives at any time. If it were me, I would desperately want help and expect information that I could easily see and understand.

EPA deals with complex science about our lives on a daily basis that is never easy to explain, especially when emotions are high.

Awareness of our surroundings, connection to our environment, thinking a little ahead is all a part of getting through something together. In the in between, take a moment to not only revel in our incredible environment, but consider how you too could be more prepared.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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2 Flower Pots, 4 Herbs, and My Pick 5 for the Environment

By Jessica Orquina

When I was growing up we always had a garden – rows of vegetables and herbs to eat throughout the summer. I remember picking fresh tomatoes, corn, or herbs to help make dinner.

Balcony flower pot herb gardenNow, I live in an eight story condominium building surrounded by a paved-over world of sidewalks and asphalt in Washington, DC. While I enjoy the culture, energy, and convenience of living in the city, I sometimes miss the connection to nature I had during my childhood. I try to shop at farmers’ markets whenever I can. It is not quite the same as picking a fresh vegetable from my own garden, but it’s close. And I started planting a small garden in flower pots on my apartment balcony. Last year I had chives and basil. This year my chive plant returned and I’ve added a new basil plant, oregano, and parsley. It’s tiny, but it’s my patch of green. Next year I’ll add a few more plants (maybe even tomatoes).

At EPA I work in communications. My daily tasks focus on sharing information with the public about protecting the environment. But, I also do things in my everyday life – like planting my small garden (greenscaping), saving water, using less energy, recycling, and taking public transportation – to reduce my impact on the planet. These are my Pick 5 – the simple actions I take every day to make a difference.

You can make a difference too! Join our Pick 5 for the Environment and learn how to make your actions count! Share your Pick 5 in the comments below.

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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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When Will I Learn?

By Jeanethe Falvey

Years ago, my best friend called me while leaving the movie theater specifically to say, “my mom says you’re exactly like Dory!”

I replied, “I really want to take that as a compliment, but I’m not so sure that I can.”

You see, I had already seen this movie. Images of the permanently optimistic, exuberantly playful, but ever-forgetful blue fish bouncing on the jellyfish in Finding Nemo came to mind and I was pondering at the time how to feel about this conclusion.

As if I had a choice.

Though I haven’t mastered my whale communication skills as much as I yearn to, I have long since accepted that it’s a fairly accurate representation. There are worse cartoon characters to resemble.

This past weekend is a prime example. For the 20-somethingth time (this seems to happen once a year ever since I’ve been in control of it) I managed to completely forget that I was in fact, soaking up rays of sunshine while out enjoying myself soaking up rays of sunshine. I roasted my exposed body parts in the process.

I EVEN went to the dermatologists for the first time in my adulthood to get a checkup two weeks prior. I EVEN remarked that fact to a friend I was sitting with at the time, and we began to compare sun spots.

Sometimes I wonder about myself. Both of us in this case.

So now, a few days later with shoulders that are STILL hot to the touch, I’ve applied my fill of pure, all natural aloe – none of that diluted fake stuff – and I’m once again vowing to never step out of doors without anything less than SPF 30 on. SPF 5,000 where I’m already fried.

As EPA spreads the word about safely enjoying the rays for Don’t Fry Day today (but really every day, HEY just like Earth Day!) I thought I might add my lack of cents to the mix. We all forget. Especially if you live somewhere that’s gray, rainy and you deal with snowfall (usually) at some point during the year. If you’re anything like me you migrate like a sunflower to the brightly lit side of the street and if you could physically hug the rays you would, just because you’re so grateful they exist.

Just do so safely. It’s not worth the burn (again).

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Jeanethe Falvey

To date, most of the photos submitted to State of the Environment have been stunningly beautiful; artistic landscapes and captivating creatures. If that’s what the cumulative picture of our planet is right now, incredible! However, I know there is work to be done and that beauty is one side of the story. You know this too and we’re OK with that. We’re OK with photos that show the environmental challenges and problems that exist. That’s part of the picture and that’s what made Documerica great.

This photographic documentary is an unprecedented opportunity for every one of us to make a statement about our environmental quality right now. What is our drinking water like? Can we fish without overfishing? Swim and enjoy our lakes and beaches without getting sick? Is our air healthy to breathe? Where is our food coming from and what does it take to get it there? Are we protecting wildlife and conserving open space?

These photos show our priorities and our struggles. This documentary is coming together on a scale that can’t be genuinely replicated by a small group of people no matter how well traveled you are. It’s thousands of unfiltered opinions coming right to EPA’s doorstep, resulting in a picture that just may lead to greater awareness and perhaps a better way forward that we can all take ownership in.

Not only is State of the Environment showing what our world looks like now, the result of how we’ve cared for it in the past, but it will show our actions for the future. Based on today, what might our environment look like decades from now?

Not every country is as lucky as we are. We’re an involved public. We’re involved in our government and we’re passionate about what happens inside and outside of our national boundaries. We can expect a lot for our quality of life and we CAN air our discontent. There were times and places in history where doing that would have put you into a moat of lions.

So grab your camera, even your smartphone, sign up on Flickr and show us what you see. The good, the bad, even the ugly.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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.

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CommUnity

By Jeanethe Falvey

I live just outside of Boston, but never saw myself as a city mouse. Someday the country will be my happy place again, but for now, I love where I live.

I love supporting small, local shops to buy groceries, coffee, repair clothing; I can easily find recycling and trash bins; environmentally friendly products are available, so I know I’m not harming Boston Harbor at the other end of my apartment’s pipes; I can walk to get just about everything I need and take public transportation to get to work. Best of all, I can breathe a little deeper because others before me were kind enough to build sidewalks that allowed the big trees to get bigger.

Sometimes I like to imagine a map of my day, just like the Family Circus illustrations: little red footsteps of the kids going around the yard, up into the tree house, down the street, in and out of the house. Only I think of mine as green footsteps wherever I’ve been with bright green “poofs!” when I’ve come across someone else doing something for the environment and their little green footsteps trail off in another direction.

Even the smallest efforts for the environment have always felt good and happily I can report there are others like me! In fact, one girl beat me to a plastic bag blowing across the street in downtown Boston a few weeks ago – kept me a whole notch cheerier for the rest of the day (…still actually).

A second ago, someone was a total stranger in a big city; the next, you feel like you’re a part of a community.

I’ve never seen a community service project that wasn’t filled with people smiling; happy to be helping others where they live and making their community a brighter, healthier place to be.

This weekend, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, we hope you’re able to give back and take pride in your community. Find a project where you live. If you join a cleanup event, please share your photos or tweet using #GreenMLK ! I can’t wait to see what you help to accomplish and look forward to featuring your work in a future post.

Watch the world go green with you, tally up the steps you can take to leave your path a little greener.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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.

Too Much Cookie Dough

By Jeanethe Falvey

It’s not the holidays until you feel sick from intercepting dough before it hits the oven. There are only so many times a year where this is justifiable and I make the most of it.

It’s a morsel of pleasure for yourself, during a month long frenzy to think of everyone else in your life. Between cards, gifts, baking, in the effort to be thoughtful, you can lose yourself in the holiday stress. You owe it to yourself before we ring in 2012 to take a deep breath. Let us all hope for it to be a year of greater health, peace and happiness.

Hope is where change begins.

Right now is the single greatest time when most of us are doing a bit of self-reflection. Whether it’s to eat healthier, go to the gym regularly, send real cards instead of e-mails, laugh at least once a day, recycle more, drive less and car pool more often. There are endless possibilities to make yourself feel better and do a bit of greater good at the same time.

It’s also a season to be concerned about what’s contagious, as the cold and flu make their annual rounds. Here’s the funny thing though, not all things contagious require extra vitamin C – in fact – some turn out to be real gifts that keep on giving. Ever noticed that happiness bounces from person to person? It’s spread through laughter, small gestures of thoughtfulness, it can even jump across a room with a smile.

They sum it up in the beginning of the movie Love Actually when they talk of standing in the arrivals gate at an airport. You’re quickly reminded that the world is a place full of smiles. It’s all what you choose to focus on, it’s all a choice. Throughout each day there are zillions of opportunities to take a brighter outlook on life, those choices add up to either make a day that was horrible, just ok, pretty good actually, or one you’ll never forget.

I’m choosing more happiness this year. I hope it spreads to others in my life. I’m also choosing to use and toss less ‘stuff’ and continue communicating about our environment, I hope it helps us collectively live in a world of greater health and peace.

What are your choices for 2012?

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, U.S. EPA Pick 5 for the Environment and State of the Environment project lead based in sunny and crisp Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

From Botswana to Brazil

by Jeanethe Falvey

Last Friday, I wrote to you all to say we would be reporting out and helping to share your ideas about the simple ways we can all help our environment. With 8,028 sign ups now around the world, I’ll first share a little international tidbit. One of the comments left last week was a kind note from ‘Lauro’ in Brazil saying that they were also doing their part.

BrazilPick5

I typed Brazil in our Map of Action and sure enough a few green spots appeared!

I encourage you to type in a country, a city, maybe your own zip code in that search bar and see where the green shows up. It’s fun to see where the action is, probably in some places you might not expect! Comment below with your most unexpected find, I’m curious to hear what surprises you. It certainly made me think about who I knew overseas that I could share Pick 5 with.

Now it’s your turn to share. This time of year is filled with holiday markets, festivities, and gatherings of friends, families, and communities. Pick 5 choice number 1 under ‘Advocacy’ encourages you to participate in an environmental festival or event. In that ribbon of thought, let’s see what you have for ideas about how to make a community festival to a small holiday party, a greener event.

While the celebrations aren’t necessarily focused on the environment, there may be elements of it that are, or could be if you speak up. Share your ideas below, whether they are original or observed! Maybe you noticed more green than ever during a recent holiday fair, or craft market. If that’s so, tell us! For those of you planning events, what are some helpful tips our readers can share about running a more successful and sustainable gathering?

Events and ideas large or small, share your stories with us. We’ll help you spread the word and the green!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, US. EPA Office of External Affairs. Pick 5 and State of the Environment project lead, based in rainy Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

Friday! A Moment to Reflect

By Jeanethe Falvey

It’s time to catch my breath and begin an archaeological dig to find my desk again. Utterly astounding what happens to it, even protected from the natural events that douse, drench and sock Boston this time of year.

As I recycle used post-its and make a fresh to-do list, I find myself excited about the past week. Two of our biggest green programs; Pick 5 and State of the Environment continue to grow in interest as we head into 2012. Nothing excites me more than when you join in and help us spread environmental awareness and action!

Together, we surpassed a milestone this week: over 40,000 acts of green have been pledged through our voluntary Pick 5 program. Over 8,000 of you have signed up to do at least 5 things for our shared environment. Take a look for yourself! 8,000 may not sound like many, but it’s remarkable to see the reach of the program worldwide.

What if every participant had a friend or family member do the same? What if more connections were made across oceans and continents, to share ideas? Say, how someone in Botswana protects their environment, compared to what we do here in Boston? Pick 5 has always been about learning and sharing the small, different things we can do to leave our place on Earth a little greener.

In that spirit, each week I’ll be talking about a particular Pick 5 action and asking for your ideas! Share what you’re doing either as a comment here below or on our Facebook page, and I’ll also share what you told me in a following post.

So check back each Friday for Pick 5 or State of the Environment updates, if for no other reason than a little good news at the end of your work week. I’d also like to hear from you on how we can expand either program – I may just feature your idea!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a little game: who can be the first to find the Documerica photographer who joined in with State of the Environment? He last shared photos with EPA in 1973 to help document our way of life and environment then, what a perfect time to reflect on that.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs Pick 5 and State of the Environment project lead, based in damp and chilly Boston, Massachusetts.

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.