Pick 5 for the Environment

What I Learned on My Summer Internship at the EPA

By Alex Gorsky

My internship at the Environmental Protection Agency was a whirlwind of excitement and opportunity. I was able to meet so many interesting and important people.  Not only did I meet directors of each of the EPA’s program offices, I also got to meet Administrator Lisa Jackson. At the beginning of my internship I went and heard Ted Danson speak and also got him to sign his new book, “Oceana.” I also got to write a couple of articles for the EPA’s Greenversations blog, attend two conferences related to aging and the environment, as well as the regular office work many interns have.

Even though I did so much over the summer, I still have a lot of work to do when I return home. I want to bring the things I learned on the job back to my home and school. For instance, there are many great programs that my school can take advantage of provided by the EPA’s OnCampus program. I am going to try to take the knowledge I have gained while working here and bring it back to my school in order to get it more environmentally friendly, which can help save money. At home, I can educate my family and friends about health and environmental issues, like simple ways to avoid heat stroke during the hot summer months. Even though my parents have chosen to “green” their house, such as making efforts towards recycling, there are some more things that they could do to further improve their overall environmental efficiency. For example, having a rain barrel to collect rainwater and use that to water plants during dry seasons. I will also look with them to find proper ways to dispose of medicines and electronic devices.

There are a bunch of easy things you can do to help the environment, and you don’t even need to work at the EPA to do them! Turn off the lights in a room you aren’t using, take public transportation to work, instead of turning the heat up put on a sweater, use a push mower instead of one powered by electricity or gas. The opportunities for environmentalism are endless! Look at EPA’s Pick 5 for the Environment for more examples.

About the author: Alex Gorsky was a summer Intern in the Office of Public Engagement. He is a senior at Beloit College majoring in Environmental Studies.

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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Photographer in Focus – Michael Manheim

Last week, I had the luck of place and time to meet one of the foremost photographers chosen to contribute to Documerica. When photography began in 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency was barely two years into working to better protect public health and the environment. Now, decades later, the inspiration behind this monumental project is once again gaining the attention it deserves.

Each photographer gave us reasons for disbelief and awe, but also for hope. In some places we can see the impact that their raising awareness had. How did you react to these images? In every sense, ‘reaction’ is a response to some influence or event. Perhaps again, State of the Environment can inspire individual awareness and environmental action the world over.

I met Michael Manheim last week at a gallery talk of his at the Griffin Museum in Belmont, Massachusetts. Among the exhibit of his early work, there quietly hangs one of the more eye-catching moments he caught from East Boston in 1973. Documerica was one of many photography endeavors he took on. Back then he says, “You did whatever it took to keep yourself going.” Today, his work reflects the freedom he has to focus deeper (take a look, you’ll see).  After a lifelong career in photography, any of his images could have been on display. There, when I saw “Landing at Logan,” the pride he felt from being a part of Documerica was self-evident.

Like the other photographers, Michael was tasked to submit subject matter of his choice for the project. It was about “connection;” he was excited with “the idea of reaching the public and raising individual awareness.” Ultimately, the struggle and anxiety felt by a close-knit community beside Logan Airport drew him in. Relatives from those who lived in the area are still in touch, and his living room photographs leave no doubt that he made the connection he was hoping for.  Today most of those houses are gone, replaced by concrete and airport service lots.  He wonders what could have been, if he could have raised awareness sooner.

One glimpse into the many stories told through Documerica. State of the Environment is your chance. Show us what you see.  What new stories will be told?

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment Project Lead U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs in 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.

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A Face Only A Newt Could Love?

By Jeanethe Falvey

Rather doubtful I’ve concluded. Honestly, look at them!

Excited “oh my goodness’s!” and in some cases squeals, were exchanged offices, halls and states apart. I haven’t been the only one to gasp over the tiny newt toes and the little orange (feet? my paleontology know how escapes me…).

Hugging newts has been just one of the many surprises we’ve seen since the State of the Environment call for photos began. If you think they aren’t hugging, well, to each their own opinion.

The first photo we chose to feature tells the other side of the story, that our environment needs help. A striking photo of an osprey in flight holds a black plastic bag securely in his or her talons. Speaks for itself doesn’t it? It’s our hope that these images will captivate and inspire all of us. If you’re reading this, you’ll probably agree that the environment isn’t isolated from any of our actions. It surrounds every one of us and the state of it is a responsibility shared by all.

We set up the Flickr group on April 1st and have enjoyed every entry. This is the really fun part. Not only do we get to see your best and favorite photos of the environment as you see it, but every photo is a window into the world of what you think is important, beautiful, troubling, in need of protection and deserving of widespread attention. It’s incredible to see what you see and we’ve only just begun this year long project.

As much as I loved the newts, the osprey, the breaching humpback, or the stunning artistic quality of the windmill against the Cincinnati skyline, my favorite photo so far is none of the above.

A little girl sits on a dock, with her sandals off and a notebook, backpack and water bottle handy for an afternoon of coloring. Swap out the cityscape in the distance and the swamp for evergreen trees in the deep woods of Maine and a few years ago that was me. After a double take and the conclusion that my parents did not learn Photoshop overnight, I just sat back and smiled. This, is what this project is all about.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment Project Lead U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs in 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.

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Our Environment: Your View

By Jeanethe Falvey

I could not take my eyes off the jar of brown water and the woman’s face outside her home in Licking County Ohio, the scuttled Volkswagen in Jamaica Bay, New York, or the black smoke as discarded automobile batteries burned away in Texas. I had pored over and studied countless environmental case studies of the 1970s before coming to work at EPA. Perhaps that’s what hit me when Documerica came to my attention: I had read, but had never seen what people went through before there were environmental laws in place to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. Imperfect and controversial as any regulations may be, they exist now. Every day they are providing a foundation for a better quality of life for all of us.

Documerica gave us photographs of the environment and primarily the state of American life from 1971-1977. What else the project inspired we may never know, but that decade marked the dawn of a new era. We would never again tolerate poisoned air and water. From 1970 to 1980, the United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and Superfund: a small laundry list for a brand new agency. There is no doubt that the awareness both from within our government, but also from the public, supported these monumental steps toward a safer environment. Maybe a few simple photographs helped out. 

As EPA heads through its 41st year of service, what’s your take on the State of the Environment? In this moment in time we’re asking you to capture photographs of your environment: where you live, work or play. From Earth Day 2011 to Earth Day 2012, we’re giving Documerica another go, challenging you to show your view, no matter how big or small.

Up for more? Follow our weekly challenge for a Documerica photo taken near you to get a current “after” photo in the same place.

Submit your photos and stay tuned as we feature weekly photos! Yours could be part of our Earth Day 2012 Exhibit in Washington D.C.

Hope to see you in Flickr-land.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs, 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.

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What Does Earth Day Mean To You?

As a kid, it was easy for me to describe Earth Day.  It was the Earth’s birthday (which was conveniently the day after my own).  Now I’m older and a little wiser (I hope), but I have trouble describing exactly what Earth Day means to me.

In a way, I think Earth Day is the time for those of us who try to balance our daily lives with passion for the environment to stand up and take action.  It is a day to think about our world; how beautiful it is and what we need to do to protect it.  41 years ago, millions of people across the country stood up for the environment during the first Earth Day (an action that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency).  Earth Day is the time to participate in festivals, environmental cleanups, tree plantings, recycling programs and community activities.

This year, the EPA celebrated Earth Day April 16-17 on the National Mall in Washington DC.  Thousands participated in our hands-on activities and thought-provoking exhibits. For example, students from the People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability (P3) exhibited their sustainability projects, which included (among others) an awesome green roof system, self regulating plant watering system & the use of bone char to remove arsenic from water! The Library of Congress Young Reader’s Center  co-hosted Earth Tales, where scientists, athletes and Administrator Jackson shared environmentally themed stories with kids on the mall. At Eco Art, we sent environmental messages around the world on recycled postcards using the new go-green stamp from our friends at the Postal Service.  We even made instruments out of recycled materials and had an earth symphony on the mall with Bash the Trash!

These exhibits celebrated Earth Day by portraying the different ways that we CAN make a difference.  Whether you’re starting a compost pile, switching to CFL light bulbs, pledging to recycle more or simply buying go-green stamps (which are cradle-to-cradle certified), there are countless ways to make a statement this Earth Day.

But Earth Day is so much more than an event or a day on the calendar.  It marks our commitment to protecting our environment the generations to come.

So I ask you again, what does Earth Day mean to you? How did you celebrate? Have you made the commitment to take action every day? I have!

About the author: Joshua P. Guterman is a public affairs graduate student at American University and an intern in the EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education.

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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2011 Resolutions for a Better You, a Better World

By Jeanethe Falvey

I realize that it’s past Thanksgiving, but I’m still thankful, thankful for the New Year holiday and the recent New England weather that’s forcing us to chill out. With the increasing pace of modern life, would we find time otherwise for a self check-in?

When planning your New Year, consider that healthy resolutions easily partner with helping the environment. If we all make one change in 2011, it should be to simply think about the impacts our choices have.

Get Inspired: Get outside and find your environment; a place to help protect for the future, just like someone did for you.

Decide to Act: Simply thinking about your purchases and where they came from is the right start. Our actions and our choices generate a domino effect beyond what we see, so make choices for a positive one.

Share and Maintain: Talk to friends and family, learn from others and keep it up! Simply talking about the environment spreads awareness; you never know who else you’ll inspire!

5 Simple Ideas to Improve Your Day, Your Environment

  • Think about your water and where your drain drains! Water Choices #2 & #3 Keep water clean by using biodegradable products, and remember don’t flush medications!
  • Learn about local food and produce, challenge yourself to a weekly recipe with a locally grown or organic ingredient. Air Choice #4 Buy locally, or grow your own. Reduce air pollution caused by food and goods transport.
  • Exercise goals can cut back on car exhaust. Go car-free or consolidate errands with friends. Air Choice #1 Use human power to get from A to B!
  • Lift at the gym, and keep our landfills slim and trim. Waste Choices #3 & #6 Cut back on your trash by recycling and buying items in less packaging to begin with. Learn about your recycling options in your city or town. If we counted our garbage like we count calories, would things be different? Label your trash bin “landfill” if you need a reminder!
  • Most importantly, talk to others. Compare ideas and involve kids, there’s no better way to get inspired. Advocacy Choice #9.

Find more ideas and talk with others about your Pick 5 New Years Resolution!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey works on the Pick 5 International program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 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.

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Celebrating EPA’s 40th Anniversary—Pick5 And Join The Festivities!

By Hanady Kader / Jeanethe Falvey

Tis the season for holidays and celebrations, and this year EPA has a particularly big reason to celebrate—we’re turning 40!

Maybe approaching the hill isn’t as thrilling for some, but we’re feeling festive. Every day we see the important work the agency has been doing for four decades: enforcing environmental laws, cleaning up hazardous waste, and assisting in the funding of environmental projects in communities, yet some serious work remains.

EPA is responsible for helping to protect a quality of life today, and for future generations. Yet, a single agency cannot take care of everything for everyone. We all drink water, breathe air and consume resources; we all use and depend on the environment. There’s no question that environmental protection needs action from the top down, but our efforts will go much further with equal action from the ground up. It’s all about you, your friends, your families and your neighbors and the ideas shared—here in the United States and across the globe—that can make an immediate positive impact.

EPA and the State Department’s Pick 5 for the Environment program is building a community where anyone can participate and pledge to do the simple and proven things that protect our air, water, and precious resources.

Leading up to EPA’s 40th anniversary on December 2, we are featuring a weekly video that shows how simple it is to do the right thing—so simple that kids are teaching their parents!

We hope you’ll check them out and submit your own It’s My Environment video, but if you do just one thing, join Pick 5 to see what others are doing across the world and share your ideas to make this truly a global community effort.

Is water conservation your calling? Feel passionate about recycling? You might just find your ideas and efforts put to action in another part of the country or world. Rest assured there are others like you making a difference. Happy Birthday EPA, and we wish you a Happier Holidays by enjoying and doing the simpler things in life that protect our livelihoods and loved ones.

About the authors: Hanady Kader and Jeanethe Falvey work together on the Pick 5 program from opposite ends of the U.S. Based in Seattle and Boston, both are committed to building environmental action from coast to coast and beyond.

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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Expedition Day 4 Finale: I Now Call the Chesapeake My Home…Do You?

By Peter Fargo

This is a great moment, I thought, as I joined 30 other voices in a glorious cheer: “Save the Bay!”

We had just finished running a half marathon to Point Lookout, MD. It was last leg of our triathlon journey of over 100 miles from DC to the Chesapeake Bay. After it all, we stood there on the beach where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake, beaming with accomplishment for the flash of our final team photo. Along the way, we experienced first-hand the environmental challenges and opportunities of this watershed.

finish1

In our kayaks, we explored the wetland ecosystem of Piscataway Creek where we saw bald eagles and osprey. Unfortunately, when we reached the Potomac, we had to paddle through the smelly product of over-fertilization and sewer overflows. (Hint: There is more than algae floating on the surface of the Potomac River.) On the same day, at the Accokeek Foundation, we learned the benefits of sustainable farming and saw how “rain barrels” and “green roofs” enable us to capture and use rainwater instead of letting it overwhelm our sewer system.

Half-marathonOn our bikes, we passed Amish families in horse-drawn carriages as we rolled through southern Maryland’s picturesque farm country. We also struggled with heavy suburban traffic as our route traversed busy roads and towns. The president of the Mattawoman (Creek) Watershed Society explained that suburban sprawl threatens the watershed, yet smart growth can protect the environment and promote economic development.

Before our run to Point Lookout, we visited St. Mary’s College and enjoyed an outdoor course in the ecology and history of the St. Mary’s River with Prof. Robert Paul. We witnessed an oyster-bed restoration project led by the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association.

_2All of these experiences gave us plenty to think about during our 13-mile run to the Bay. It was a hot day, so it’s no surprise that we celebrated our Expedition victory by diving in!

Somehow, even at the height of the algae season, the yellowish-brown water felt cleaner that day—especially after our months of hard work. As volunteers, we organized an Earth Day exhibit, river clean-up projects, and discussions with Bay experts. To expand the conversation on environmentalism, we found multiple ways to engage the public, including face-to-face listening sessions, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Greenversations blog posts such as this one.

And this was just supposed to be a pilot project! It started with an idea that I helped develop: What if we combined leadership development, experiential learning, and multi-media communications with a cause-driven expedition? Thanks to the collective energy and expertise of EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network and Georgetown University Outdoor Education staff, this idea transformed into more than we could have imagined. We all helped to create something extraordinary this year that I hope will continue to grow in the future.

Hands-and-Faces.1With this Expedition, I can identify more than ever with the people and places of my Potomac and Chesapeake watersheds. Even though I grew up in the West, I can say without hesitation, this is my home too. This is my environment.

About the author: Peter Fargo serves as the special assistant to the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He graduated from Georgetown University where he was (and still is) involved in their Outdoor Education program. Peter can’t wait for the next expedition!

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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Expedition Day 3: Did Someone Say “Oyster Spat?”

By Lisa McWhirter

I awoke to the 6 a.m. rally call on Saturday and quickly realized the long bike ride from the day before had taken its toll. It was the third day of the Expedition and barely awake, I tried to rationalize biking another 30 miles. As I took my first sip of French Press coffee (yum, my favorite) and saw the smiling faces of the Expedition team any doubts of the day’s success ahead faded instantly.

The plan for the day was a short bike ride to meet with St. Mary’s College professor Bob Paul, and then continue our ride to Point Lookout State Park for our final campsite.

Expedition-Day-3Thanks to fellow Team members Steve and Jeremy, I improved my gear shifting along the rolling hills of southern Maryland and felt great when we finished cycling to St. Mary’s College. What a beautiful campus; imagine having class right on the river! Professor Paul told us about the St. Mary’s River Project , a state and federal funded program that studies the water quality and ecological health of the St. Mary’s River and the Chesapeake Bay. We weren’t the only ones there to learn as it was a community service day for first-year students. They were there to plant spat (baby oysters) on protected oyster beds in the river close by. I was happy to let the kids shovel the dirty spat into the water, but really enjoyed learning why this is such an important project.

The goal is to build up the natural oyster beds. The Project team works with local homeowners to grow and monitor monthly the oyster spat for twelve months. The year old spat is collected and placed onto the oyster beds and the cycle is repeated each year. Oysters are extremely important to the Chesapeake Bay. They filter the water, removing excess nutrients as well as harmful toxins, and help maintain a healthy ecosystem. One mature oyster can filter 55 gallons of water each day. Just think how much water can be cleaned from a million strong oyster bed in a year!Expedition-Day-3-photo-2

As I said good-bye to Professor Paul, I wondered how this program could be expanded to other areas of the Bay. What’s the best way to get marinas and other homeowners involved to voluntarily grow oysters? We learned from our listening session the night before that “Chesapeake” is Algonquin where “chesa” means enormous size or quantity and “peake” means shell. I’d like to help return the bay back to its namesake and plant more oysters!

About the author: Lisa McWhirter works in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and specializes in the Underground Injection Control program. She enjoys fishing and kayaking in the Bay. The Expedition was her first triathlon, and she is excited to do it again!

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.

Expedition Day 2: Peddling My Bike and Thinking of “Kweti Lenu”

By Tina Chen

The second day of the Expedition was our first day biking and we had a 40+ mile ride ahead of us. Our trusty guides and volunteers marked the route and setup checkpoints with water, snacks, and words of encouragement along the way. We cheered, “To the Bay!” and we were off.

ELN membersRiding through Charles and St. Mary’s counties, I was able to witness firsthand the beauty of the surrounding environment. I couldn’t help but think how the rolling landscapes we passed ultimately affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Impervious surfaces, such as paved parking lots, bring run-off water – and the pollutants it may carry – quickly to the bay without giving the land time to help clean it. Many agricultural operations also will result in industrial waste run-off into the Bay and impact its health. What is the model paradigm we must implement so that cities can thrive, farmers can produce and harvest, and water bodies are able to be protected and enjoyed by future generations?

Later that day we were joined at our campsite by Rico Newman with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the Piscataway Indian Tribe. He led an energetic discussion about the evolution of tribal rights and how the native peoples continue to advocate not only for their own rights and level of recognition by federal, state, and local governments but also for their historic fight to bring recognition to the plight of our natural resources; the land, the water, and the people. I really connected with his emphasis on how we need to think about the people and the environment in a holistic framework. Nature must be thought of as “one” and we must realize that cities, towns and states are just artificial boundaries. Solving environmental issues cannot be left to each party to resolve on their own, all parties must come together to tackle the issues at hand. He explained the Piscataway term “Kweti lenu” which means “one man or entity,” which he used to describe how the water is one body and cannot be divided.

Rico Newman speaking to ELN members

Rico Newman speaking to ELN members

The native peoples have always harbored a deep respect for nature, with reverence to the “life force” that exists in all human and non-human life in this world of ours. We are all interconnected and the health of one impacts and affects the health of all. In this modern world, we need to find space at the table for ideas that may be “old”, but nonetheless wise and legitimate.

About the author: Tina Chen works in the Office of Environmental Information and specializes in data exchange. She is a fan of the outdoors and an avid dragon boater. The Expedition culminated in her running her first, and hopefully not her last, half marathon!

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.