Pick 5 for the Environment

Expedition Day 1: Paddle, Listen, Learn

By Robert Courtnage

ELN Members with kayaks

ELN Members with kayaks

A 4:30 AM wake-up is rough. But on the first day of our 4-day Chesapeake Bay Expedition, it didn’t feel so bad as the excitement had me extra motivated to be up and ready to go. Eighteen dedicated EPA Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) athletes trained for months to physically prepare, while ELN volunteers and Georgetown University Outdoor Education guides spent months planning logistics and outreach activities. As we stood on the dock in Ft. Washington, MD getting ready for the first leg of the journey, the calm water and sunrise rendered the scene breathtaking. An osprey let out its distinctive call and drifted overhead as folks readied their kayaks.

As a volunteer for our 4-Day Expedition, I helped setup listening sessions with local Bay experts and the public, and keep our athletes safe, well fed, and in good spirits. Judy Lathrop with Atlantic Kayaks led and educated the Team down a beautiful stretch of the Potomac, just south of Colonial Farm, MD. After helping to fix a flat tire on the kayak trailer, I shuttled the athletes back to our campsite to hear from members of the Accokeek Foundation, Mattawoman Watershed Society, and the public.

I always try to buy organic, locally grown foods, so I was really excited for the first part of the listening session which featured a tour of Accokeek’s Ecosystem Farm. The team learned about community-supported-agriculture operations and its benefits to our health, the environment, and the community.

ELN members listening to presentation

ELN members listening to presentation

Next we listened to a presentation by Jim Long, President of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, and his passion for the Mattawoman Creek, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. Our session was open to the public and we were joined by a young family concerned about the role of government in protecting the Bay. I gained a lot from this form of public engagement as it’s a great way for the Agency to actively connect with people knowledgeable about the problems facing their community.

It felt great to be a part of the Expedition and its three purposes: the outdoor athletic challenge, fellowship among EPA employees, and a unique opportunity for our emerging leaders to meet with folks challenged with environmental issues at the local level.

About the author: Robert Courtnage works for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention on toxics issues including asbestos management in buildings and the phase-out of mercury in products. Robert loves fly-fishing and helping to increase awareness about the need to improve the declined health of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that feed it.

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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Expanding the Conversation about the Chesapeake

By Scott Fraser

ELN members kayaking

Would you kayak, bike and run over 100 miles in the sweltering August heat? OK, how about if it were for a good cause? Well we’ve got a few takers for such an adventure here at EPA.

An EPA employee  group called the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) is setting out on an Expedition from DC to the Chesapeake Bay to help raise awareness about one of our nation’s environmental treasures. This group of athletes and volunteers has been preparing for months not only for the physical endurance needed, but also to plan for listening sessions with the public along the way.

Now I like a good challenge and have raced in several Olympic distance triathlons over the years, so I was looking forward to joining the athletes. However, when ELN began planning the Expedition months ago I was already signed up to compete in the Timberman ½ Ironman the weekend before the Expedition. As it turns out, I had to withdraw from that competition due to a sore back. Let’s just say it’s important to use proper form when shoveling through feet of snow – thanks Snowpocalypse 1 and 2!

Back to the Expedition: it runs from August 26th through the 29th and the ELN Expedition Team will make their way through some of the Chesapeake Bay watershed – which covers over 64,000 square miles – to generate conversation about the environmental issues facing the Bay. The team will meet with citizens along the way to hear their ideas for protecting this vital resource. En route, athletes will describe their trek and what they’ve learned from the listening sessions through blog posts, Facebook entries, Flickr photo galleries, and Twitter. Check back to follow the Team and contribute to the conversation.

I think it’s so cool how this Expedition effort coincides with the work I’m now focused on in my new position with the Office of Public Engagement. So although I’m bummed I can’t endure the August heat exercising with the athletes, I’m excited to accompany this group and interact with the public on the lessons we’ll learn along the way (every successful expedition needs its sherpa).

About the author: Scott Fraser is currently working in the Office of Public Engagement in EPA’s Office of the Administrator. He has been with the Agency for five years and is fired up to expand the conversation on environmentalism! Stay tuned next year when he hits the triathlon circuit again and describes the joy of training outdoors.

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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Blessing in Disguise

In times of uncertainty, the natural tendency for people is to look for ways to limit expenses. Whether you’re a recent graduate just venturing into the workforce, whether you are a small business owner who has seen limited economic activity in your shop, or whether you’re the head of a household concerned about the future, you’re probably looking at ways to save money right now.

As we look for savings in our daily lives, we should start by looking at our everyday activities at home. How can we save water? For example, taking short showers instead of baths conserves water and saves money. How can we save energy? Using energy efficient appliances saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. How can we generate less waste? How can we reuse what we have? The fact is that all these steps to save money are also green actions. In other words, by saving greenbacks, we are also going green and protecting the environment all in one! Furthermore, many of those green actions can also be taken at the community level as we develop smart strategies for a sustainable future.

So, as we actively pursue a green lifestyle, why not take a few minutes to share with us how you plan on going green? Visit our Pick5 Web page where you be able to get information on how people from all over the world are joining efforts to become true environmentalists. You won’t have to drive a car nor fly to a faraway destination. The information is just one click away.

Ultimately, this saving trend may be a blessing in disguise.

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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Pick5 Goes International!

I’m a little excited, (says something after Palau!) Last Earth Day, EPA created Pick5 for the Environment to encourage environmental action, commitment and advocacy. Now it’s GLOBAL!

Ever wonder what more EPA could do internationally? Some of us here did too. An enthusiastic team at the State Department and EPA joined together to launch our first joint environmental advocacy effort! Now let’s hope for participation to rise, from all over the world.

Also, thanks to all the inspiring environmental efforts out there who have some incredible websites that we couldn’t help but admire when redesigning ours. We hope to inspire together!

So what’s Pick5 International about? Doing your part.

Excuses are easy. Long work hours, no recycling bin or reusable option handy. Greenies like me can whine and bug our friends to change, but you know – those swimming polar bears in Planet Earth did a much better job wrenching your heartstrings, and that’s great! Those images remind us that every action has a consequence, usually someplace else that’s easily forgotten.

The effects of our actions compile where we don’t see them. Plastics finding their way to far off lands, creating NEW land or ending up in landfills: somebody sees it. That ‘stuff’ will be around for generations. The condition of the planet doesn’t restart at the beginning of a child’s life. When has air pollution ever stopped at a border security check point? Last time I looked into it, the air and water this planet started with, is the only batch of it we’ve got.

Pollution knows no bounds. Neither should environmental action. Pick5 International was created with this in mind. We understand not everyone can do the same thing to help the environment. It’s about doing what fits your lifestyle, your home, your country. Leaving this planet better off than how we found it takes little steps from all of us. It’s that simple. It’s fun. It can save money. It can also, by the way, help save those places and species that we adore so much when we see them on TV. So let’s all Pick 5 today and every day, so generations to come might have a chance to still see them for real.

About the author: Jeanethe works for EPA New England in Boston doing Superfund Community Involvement, and social media outreach for EPA’s Office of Web Communications in Washington D.C.

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.

Pick 5: Spread the Word!

Hey Pick 5’ers, it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done and how you did it. If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment. Today we cover action #10: Spread the word! Please share your stories as comments below.

Over the past several months I’ve done a series of Pick 5 blogs. I’ve shared with you my “Pick 5 experiences” and have encouraged you to commit to environmental action. It has been a great experience making changes in my life to benefit the environment. I’ve learned so much that I’ve wanted to share with you.

I’ve also spoken to kids of all ages about “Pick 5 for the Environment.” My neighbor’s five-year-old son asked me, “what do you mean, Pick 5 for the Environment?” I explained to him some simple steps he could take to help the environment. He was thrilled! He said, “you mean I should recycle instead of throwing everything in the kitchen trash can?” I explained to him why recycling’s important. After a couple of weeks went by, my neighbor said “I can’t believe how serious he is about this!” She said he went to school and told his teacher and friends that they are ruining the earth by throwing trash in the trash can, and that they need to recycle. Now his teacher has recycling bins in the class room. By spreading the word about the environment, you never know how far it will go. Tell a few friends to Pick 5; if they each tell their friends, in no time at all there’ll be thousands of Pick 5’ers. So spread the word!

Don’t hesitate to share your other Pick 5 tips on how you save water , commute without polluting, save electricity , reduce, reuse, recycle , test your home for radon , how do you check your local air quality, use chemicals safely , eCycle, and enjoy the outdoors safely!

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs 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.

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.

Test Your Home for Radon!

Hey Pick 5’ers, it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done, how you did it, etc.  If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment. Today we cover action #5: Test your home for radon! Please share your stories as comments below.

I never really thought that radon would ever become an issue in my home. Radon is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and chemically inert. Unless you test for it, there is no way of telling how much is present in your home. According to EPA estimates, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. I’m a non-smoker and I needed to know if radon is present in my home.

So on my day off, I decided to visit my county health department to get a free radon test. I received the test. It was easy to set up. So I did the testing for three days. I then sent the kit back to the manufacturer for my results. Later I went on line and used my serial number from my test and got my results. I was really happy to know that my home was radon-free.

EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month.  Please get your home tested; radon is serious.

Now it’s your turn: how do you test your home for radon? If you’re not sure what you can do, learn more on our site.

You can also still share how you save water, commute without polluting, save electricity, and reduce, reuse, recycle.

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs 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.

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.

“Commute Without Polluting”

Hey Pick 5ers, it’s time again for you to share what you’ve done, how you did it, etc.  Today we cover action #2: commute without polluting. Please share your stories as comments below. If you haven’t done it yet, Pick 5 for the Environment and then come back to comment (you can also still share how you save water !).

My experience with commuting without polluting may be a little different than others. I live in a rural area, where there’s no rapid transit. We do have a commuter bus, but it runs only during the week. A lot of places I’m unable to walk to, but I ride my bike to the post office and the local grocery store. I make my trips in the car count, like I make my necessary stops along my route coming home from work. Keeping my car well maintained saves me money on fuel and also helps cut air pollution from my car.

Now it’s your turn: How do you commute without polluting? If you’re not sure how, learn more on EPA’s site.
Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs 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.

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.

Pick5ers, Speak Up!

Go to Pick 5 for the EnvironmentIf you’ve Picked 5 for the Environment, this is your chance to share your stories and exchange tips with others to help you achieve your environmental goals. If you haven’t, head over there now, commit to at least 5 actions out of the 10, and come back to share (we’ll add you to our mailing list so you’ll get advance notice, too).

This is the first time we’re “opening up the lines,” but we’ll post regular items like this to help Pick 5 community members talk to each other.

Thanks for committing to helping protect the environment!

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements in our comment policy. But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them.

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.

Earth Day Overkill – Has Earth Day Been Too Commercialized?

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.

The week prior to Earth Day I was surprised by the number of “green advertisements” on TV, in print, and on the Web. Everywhere you looked businesses where jumping on the Earth Day bandwagon. Eco-marketing was alive and well! While surfing the Web on Earth Day, I even came across a blog of some one who was complaining of the waste generated by all these so call “green ads.” Personally, I don’t necessarily classify these green ads in the same category as junk mail in terms of paper waste. But you do wonder if given all the resources used in the process—are people getting the true message about Earth Day? Well, my response is a resounding yes! Is this attention excessive? Definitely not! And should we do more? Absolutely! Let me explain.

I think in the last couple of months or so, the general public is starting to wake up to the idea that Earth Day goes beyond that one day of the year, April 22nd. Many schools and business were celebrating Earth Week. At EPA, we were gearing up to Earth Month many months prior to April. I believe that the willingness to take action in favor of environmental protection today is very similar to the first days of the green movement nearly 40 years ago. It’s true that thanks to the leadership of many known and unsung heroes, the environment is much better today than it was in 1990. Nonetheless, today we have new challenges that need to be addressed and require immediate attention.

More and more people are realizing that Earth Day is each and every day. We only have one Planet Earth with finite natural resources that have to be protected. Increasing awareness is just the beginning. Taking action is the most important part. So what are you going to do for the environment today?

We’ve made it simple. Pick 5 for the environment so you can go green everyday!

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.