pick 5

Are Green Business More Likely to Attract Your Green?

By Lina Younes

During the holidays, I was waiting in line at a major retailer. While waiting, I noticed that they had several displays near the cashiers highlighting the retailer’s commitment to protecting the environment. In fact, they prominently displayed their actions in favor of sustainability practices such as recycling/minimizing waste, energy efficiency, emission reduction, and encouraging environmental values. I was so impressed on seeing how committed the company was to reducing its carbon footprint nationwide that I visited its website to learn more about their green practices. I was pleased to see that the retailer had been recognized by EPA for achieving several milestones in the past years such as increasing the number of Energy Star certified stores, LEED-certified locations, using solar energy, increasing their water efficiency, and recycling efforts to name a few. The retailer was an active participant in several of EPA’s partnership programs such as Energy Star, EPA Green Power Partnership, EPA WasteWise, and EPA SmartWay Shipper.  They even noted how they encouraged their employees to volunteer in numerous environmental protection activities throughout the year. All this information made me look at the retailer with a new light. It was evident that the company was trying to do its best to be a good green corporate citizen. Have you encountered similar situations with companies you buy from or do business with? Do their green practices influence you in any way? We would love to know.

And on a similar note, while we’re discussing green business practices, there are many green activities we can engage in at a personal level. At the beginning of 2012, it’s not too late to make a new year resolution. So if you are interested in pledging to do something good for the environment, just visit our Pick5 website.  Join others in going green.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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.