pick 5

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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Some Things Never Change

By Jeanethe Falvey

Documerica has me reflecting on time and change all over the place. Revitalizing and conversing about the project to others, we’re mostly hoping things have improved. With forty years of increased government attention to environmental issues it certainly has, but new challenges have also risen.

Yet, there are a few strands within what Documerica captured in its web of moments that leaves plenty of room for nostalgia. Glancing at some of the photographs you might find yourself wistful about what might have been or simply what was.

For me, as someone who didn’t live through it, I’m simply not over nor will I ever be, the incredulity that the project happened at all and was protected so that we can reflect on it forever.

Life was slower back then for one thing. What would happen now if we pulled into the station only to find another sign that said “Sorry, No Gas Today.” There are world crises, and there are individual events in our lives that force us into the slow lane, and it’s not so bad there for a little while.

Recently, I let up on my breakneck pace to go “fishing” with my father.

That morning we set out with two different ideas of where we were going. I thought we would explore my favorite lake in western, Maine. He thought, to my second favorite. It’s my second favorite for a few secrets, but one fact in particular: something always goes wrong.

Laughing, I brought this up as we took a right instead of a left, reminiscing about the last time my mom camped with us. She’s tough, but I’m not sure if it was the severe lightning or the monsoon washing away our tent that nailed that coffin.

Another time, the engine gave up in the middle of the lake. Somehow, my father pulled off the herculean effort of SWIMMING the boat back.

But it was a new day, and we had a full tank of gas.

The day was pleasant, I with a book and dad with two poles to catch that unlucky trout. Moving to a calmer cove, the familiar sound of a four-stroke struggling came back to present day.

We eventually made it back, but it wasn’t without a few photographs of the engine cover off so I can prove to our family that some things never change.

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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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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Sea Mammal Therapy

By Jeanethe Falvey

Traveling down the coast of California this week, I’ve been thinking about the state of the environment the entire way. It’s hard not to. There seems to be a greater connection to nature here. Perhaps it comes with the territory of dealing with forest fires and mud slides on a regular basis. Yet you don’t see anyone walking around constantly worrying about those things. Instead, they’re on the beach watching the sunset, surfing, and taking photographs.

Recycling bins are everywhere. Compost bins are everywhere (I’ve leapt for joy over that a few times). In Monterey, every single garbage bin had a recycling section on top. You couldn’t possibly throw something away without first seeing the option to recycle it. Brilliant. Why this isn’t universal befuddles me.

Maybe if the rest of the United States coastline was covered in sea lions barking, elephant seals oompfing their way down the beach and sea otters rolling about in kelp forests, things would be different. You would want to prevent pollution and litter from ever harming that seal right there that’s making eye contact with you.

In San Francisco, I watched the sea lions push each other around the piers, sadly seeing one with a cut around his neck from fishing line. In Big Sur, I saw seals and sea otters looking content along the dramatic coastline. In Cambria, I went numb taking pictures of elephant seals enjoying the ‘warm beach’ in 30 mph winds.

Since federal protections began in 1977, the small family of sea otters that were left after the species was brought to near extinction have grown to a few thousand. Plump seal pups can rest at ease by their mothers and sea lions can bark away at each other without living in fear of us.

When nature can take a deep breath, it’s a mind-blowing thing.

It’s worth it to experience the results of the federal laws designed to protect these animals, California’s additional conservation and protection efforts, and the individuals who had the drive and passion to start it all.

If you haven’t picked the 5 actions you can do for our environment where you live, get on it! Join the the 8,000 others around the world who have made the official pledge. Share your story and inspire others to do the same!

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.

The Three R’s

Every so often I wake up with the “The Three R’s” by Jack Johnson stuck in my head. Given where I work it’s an appropriate mantra to be bopping around to. I guess that part of my brain that runs on kids tunes doesn’t need coffee.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle…”

There are worse tunes to have on repeat in your brain, way worse! I’m grateful the catchy number exists on the less than glamorous subject of waste disposal. Perhaps it’s the warm-up to my workday. Fitting.

The concept of the three R’s has been around for a long time and the three arrows are a recognizable icon, but there’s a new kid in town and they need to make some room.

How about accomplishing all three, while making something really cool? Two weeks ago I posed a challenge to encourage readers to submit photos and accounts of an upcycled product they created. As promised, it’s time to show off your goods! Congratulations to Dennis Mijares who submitted this photo on January 31, 2012 on Flickr of purses made from plastic bags.

nescafe

Upcycling is like a landfill diet, why toss what we can use? Who knew that waste could look so good? I hope these photos inspire you to give it a try, do share photos of what you create! Professionally constructed to kids crafts alike are welcome. I must admit, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t see any cardboard mantelpieces…

Talk to a friend about it and ask them if they’ve heard of the concept. Be sure to share that it’s good for us by cutting down on waste, helps spread environmental awareness and action and can even support local artisans and communities.

It’s a great idea for a community or school fundraiser, start an upcycling project and let us know how it goes!

If you haven’t Picked the 5 actions you can do for our environment where you live, get on it! Join the 4,000 likes on Facebook and the 8,222 others around the world who have made the official pledge. Share your story and inspire others to do the same!

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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Pick 5 for the Environment

pick 5 banner

Environmental action can mean doing different things in different places, but it begins by taking the simple steps where you live.  You can do your part to protect the environment by choosing five or more actions and sharing your own ideas.  By doing so, you are joining thousands of others who are doing their part.  Together we can make the biggest difference, so make your actions count today!

http://www.epa.gov/pick5/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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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Documerica in Focus: Gary Truman

“You’re capturing a slice of history, every time that shutter closes,” says Gary as our phone call comes to an end.

Documerica is full of stories; after all that was its intent. In my incredible opportunity to speak with some who were involved, I’m finding out a few stories behind the stories and that’s where the fun is.

Gary Truman was one of several graduate students who accompanied Flip Schulke to the quaint, German town of New Ulm, Minnesota in 1975. Flip knew Gifford Hampshire who was the life, energy, and vision behind Documerica. One of Flip’s contributions for the project was to head back and cover the life and environment; as Gary puts it, “in a town that adopted him.”

Documerica photo by Gary TrumanTaking his advanced students, some like Gary who were already working professionally, Flip asked for their ideas to cover this community. What resulted was a week of moments in a small American town; its births, its deaths, its churches and schools, its streets and its faces. Hundreds of photographs forever captured a slice of New Ulm’s history.

I mentioned to Gary that we’ve gotten questions about State of the Environment, “Can it really match up to Documerica?” Given that Documerica was often times so up close and personal. State of the Environment by name more easily evokes the idea that we’re looking for photos of landscapes, but it’s about everyday life too. That is the reality of how we’re interacting and living within our environment. So I asked, “Did you consider the environment during your work there?”

“The life there was absolutely about the environment. New Ulm could not have been the same town surrounded by mountains, or coal mines. The older couple I photographed, with their hybrid stove, you wouldn’t see that today. That’s a picture of history, the reality of their environment at the time.”

Growing up in West Virginia, he watched a nearby river go from “a place I wouldn’t enter unless it was to pull a friend out, with mutated and dead fish, to a clean place where you can now catch small mouth bass.”

Sometimes the connection isn’t obvious, the story of change isn’t as easy to see without a ‘then’ and ‘now.’ We took a moment to reflect on the potential power that State of the Environment holds.

“Yeah, there’s work to be done,” he says, “but boy we’ve come a long way.”

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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A Healthier You In 2012

By Lina Younes

At the beginning of the year, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year for me to get healthier. I thought that if I used that as my guiding light for the months ahead, this resolution would likely survive beyond the month of January.

Granted that in order to get healthier, I needed to make some changes to my daily habits. Lifestyle changes and making better choices are definitely required to be successful in reaching my goal. There is no doubt that losing weight seems to be in everyone’s top five New Year resolutions. However when the pounds don’t come off as fast as we like, we are likely to be disillusioned and return to our unhealthy practices. So, what are some of the lifestyle changes that I’ve made to achieve my healthier goal? Well, I’ve started by making healthier eating choices. How about eating more fruits and vegetables? How about looking at our  old cookbooks for creative recipes that not only include healthier foods, but add some variety to the menu? How about exercising more? I’m not talking necessarily about going on the treadmill that has been collecting dust in the basement. I mean we can take longer walks even when we walk our dog. That’s a nice way of getting some fresh air and getting some exercise without really trying. Also, don’t forget the sun block even if it’s wintertime.

What other choices can we make to have a healthier lifestyle?

  • Well, reducing the amount of clutter around the home is a great start to get in the right state of mind.
  • Increasing our recycling rate is another good habit at home and at work.
  • Testing your home for radon will also help you to have a healthier home.
  • Reading the label first before using household chemical products and pesticides

These are just a few of  the healthy habits that should lead to a healthier 2012. Why don’t you commit to taking action for a healthier you and a healthier environment? Visit EPA’s Pick 5 for some suggestions.

As always, we would like to hear from you. What have you done to make 2012 a healthier year for you and your family?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. 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 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.

Boogiemen and Radon

By Jeanethe Falvey

Both are colorless and odorless. Both, I believe are also in the gaseous phase, but to tell you the truth when I was little I didn’t stick around in any darkened room or hallway long enough to find out for sure. I booked it to my room well before any chance of that.

Radon and boogiemen each have the potential to come up into your house from your basement, this I know. The biggest difference however, is that radon is unquestionably real, despite the fact that you can’t see, smell, hear or taste it. As a result, there are quite a few more facts available about radon too.

About 1 in every 15 homes has elevated levels of this naturally occurring, radioactive gas. Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium which is just about everywhere in the rocks, soil and water on Earth. It can become a problem for your health if your home traps elevated levels of it. Radon can move up through the soil from bedrock, soil or groundwater underneath your home and can come inside through cracks or holes in your foundation.

Luckily for you and your families, it’s easy to test for and the remedies often cost the same as other minor home repairs. Put bluntly, testing for radon and fixing the problem can save your life. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

This month, we’re asking you to take action and test for radon as part of your Pick 5, for the health of you and your loved ones.

Learn more from Dr. Oz about radon and check out our map of radon zones too. Even if you live in a ‘low potential area’, be safe and test anyway as every home is different. Have questions? Use our map of EPA contacts by state for local information nearest to you.

It’s an easy Do-It-Yourself project: test, fix, save a life. Now if only getting rid of boogiemen were so simple.

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.

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.