pick 5

Science Wednesday: Saving the Bay Means Getting Your Hands Dirty!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Kerry Hamilton

How would you prepare for a 100+ mile triathlon across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed? If you’re like me, your training regimen is not exactly running 10 miles a day. (Does switching from cookies and cream to strawberry ice cream count? It’s fruit!) Instead, I’m preparing for the Chesapeake Bay Expedition by attending pre-expedition events to lend a hand cleaning up and learning more about the Bay.

The expedition is being led by EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), a group of young professionals from across the Agency who are volunteering their time to learn and promote awareness about Chesapeake Bay environmental issues.

ELN members on cleanupTo prove I am not a cubicle environ- mentalist, I joined fellow ELNers on July 31st for a cleanup event at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary. There’s nothing quite like digging my hands into piles of garbage to remind me how important it is for communities to take a role in protecting their backyard! It also humbles me to know that as a researcher and former lab junkie, I’m only a piece of the puzzle in tackling these environmental issues—just one of the reasons I’m most excited to get out there to see the Bay and the people it affects firsthand!

To prepare the Expedition Team, I helped organize a discussion panel with several Bay experts. The panel members were Lee Paddock, an environmental lawyer from the George Washington University faculty; Michael Haire, the EPA headquarters TMDL (a measure of water pollution) guru; Joel Dunne, co-editor of A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation; and Travis Loop, Public Affairs Director from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program in Annapolis, MD. This Bay “dream team” painted a picture of the complex factors that affect the health of Chesapeake Bay. Communities, businesses, farmers, scientists, and government agencies all have important roles to play, and we hope to interact with many of these groups along our journey.

Armed with some more knowledge of the issues, I’m ready to get my hands dirty again and participate in the Expedition’s kick-off cleanup on the Anacostia wetlands—part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed right here in DC. ELN will be joining forces with Earth Conservation Corps this Wednesday, August 25th from 9am – 12pm for the cleanup of this neglected treasure right in our own backyard. Consider this your invitation to join! Stay tuned for more lessons learned from the road…we’re just getting started.

Follow the Expedition on:

About the author: Kerry Hamilton is a public health fellow in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. As a former soccer player, she is psyched to be watching ELN athletes suffer through the running, biking, and kayaking. She also can’t wait to share lessons learned on the Expedition with others!

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.

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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No hay mal que por bien no venga

En tiempos de incertidumbre, la tendencia natural de las personas es buscar maneras para limitar sus gastos. Independientemente si uno es una persona recién graduada que entra a la fuerza laboral, o un pequeño comerciante que ha visto actividad limitada en sus negocios, o un padre de familia preocupado por el futuro, probablemente usted está buscando maneras de ahorrar dinero ahora mismo.

A medida que buscamos ahorros en nuestra vida diaria, deberíamos empezar por analizar nuestras actividades cotidianas en nuestro hogar. ¿Cómo podemos ahorrar agua? Por ejemplo, si toma una ducha rápida en vez de un baño de tina conserva agua y ahorra dinero. ¿Cómo podemos ahorrar energía? Si utiliza enseres eléctricos eficientes, puede ahorrar energía y reducir emisiones de gases con efecto invernadero. ¿Cómo podemos generar menos desechos? ¿Cómo podemos reutilizar lo que tenemos? La realidad es que estos pasos sencillos para ahorrar dinero son acciones denominadas como “verdes”. En otras palabras, el ahorrar dinero puede conducir a actividades sostenibles beneficiosas para el medio ambiente simultáneamente. Además muchas de estas acciones verdes tomadas a nivel comunitario pueden fomentar el desarrollo de estrategias inteligentes para el desarrollo sostenible en el futuro.

Por lo tanto, si quiere emprender un estilo de vida sostenible, ¿por qué no toma un momento para compartir con nosotros lo que planifica hacer? Visite nuestra página Web Pick5 (Elija 5) para obtener información acerca de cómo personas alrededor del mundo se están uniendo a estos esfuerzos como verdaderos ambientalistas. No tiene que manejar un auto ni volar a un destino lejano para llegar. La información está al alcance de sus manos. Sólo haga clic.

En fin de cuentas, esta tendencia ahorrista puede ser una bendición después de todo. Como reza el dicho, no hay mal que por bien no venga.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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Reveling in Palau

reveling-in-PalauEach dive in Palau was magnificent. It’s not every day you come eyeball to eyeball with creatures appearing to wonder; ‘just what are you doing with that funny contraption on your back?’ Such was the case when my dive instructor signaled me to turn around on our safety stop. To my surprise and glee, there was an enormous manta ray staring right at me. I could have touched him, but out of respect I held back as we gazed at one another. That is, after spinning my head around motioning and gurgling “HOLY MOLY!” My instructor proved that you can in fact laugh while scuba diving. I’m hooked.

The biodiversity above and underwater was captivating. Kayaking was a perfect way to catch both along the craggy limestone. Before departing on our carefully planned, 7 night kayaking, camping expedition, we took a day to paddle out for some snorkeling, and practice navigating with the waterproof expedition maps that Planet Blue provided. With countless, similar-looking, uninhabited islands you would too!

Putting our kayaks into the deep turquoise water, surrounded by jungly trees and mangroves, it occurred to me that if I were a salt water crocodile, this would be top notch. So I asked our friend who helped us launch, ‘just out of curiosity – should we keep an eye out for those wily reptiles?’ He grinned, “In Palau? Always Crocodile!”

Super!

Reveling-in-Palau-2Vines swooping to the water provided kayak parking as we snorkeled, and I looked behind, below, all around us for croc eyeballs – at which point it would be too late anyway, so why bother? The corals were a vast array of colors, shapes and textures appearing preserved since the dawn of time.

I’ll never forget though, the eerie feeling that also hung in the air that day. It was especially prominent, listening as our paddles interrupted the buzzing, ringing sounds of the birds and insects. I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like for soldiers surviving in hiding for years, or decades in the caves. What it must have been like not knowing if the war was over, if it was safe to come out at all. How explosions must have shattered the stillness that now hung in the air. You could feel it, you could just feel the suffering and fear that had once dominated this beautiful place.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, EPA New England, on detail, EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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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Palau’s Sharks – Plight to Protection

Most trek to Palau to behold beneath its sea. Become a certified diver? Check. My EPA dive team colleagues warned it would be hard to top, until I’m diving off Massachusetts this summer I can’t say, but I’ve likely been completely spoiled.

I started caring about animals far earlier than usual. Natural instincts were supplemented by growing up outside catching pollywogs, and when indoors, watching a 1980s, taped, National Geographic special on whales and sharks, incessantly… (Where scientists test which wetsuit colors attract Jaws the most, I think it was a tie, and divers caress sleeping Tiger sharks?!) While Palau didn’t have whales, it is the first country to create a shark sanctuary throughout its marine territory; and thank goodness.

We probably saw 50 sharks on the trip, I lost count. White tip, black tip, grey reef! I never felt threatened as they gently swam by. Diving Blue Corner, seeing these beautiful creatures, catching a glimpse into their behavior, just feet away took my breath away. I wanted to dive deeper and watch them for hours.

I heard of shark finning, seen atrocious images, but it really hit me there. How unnecessary to destroy these fascinating animals? Palau’s shark population and diversity had been devastated by foreign vessels, but heroic efforts in the community over the past decade helped the government enact some of the toughest shark protection legislation in the world.

Concerned Palauans had Ron Leidich’s help (told you he knows his stuff) along with Noah Idechong, Delegate to Palau’s National Congress and founding member of the Palau Conservation Society. Local efforts were aided by the help of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” Both Ron and marine biologist Ethan Daniels helped the film crew capture the plight of Palau’s threatened shark population by surprising a foreign vessel with holds full of shark carcasses and fins. While it wasn’t yet illegal, the ship falsely declared the cargo as “tuna and other permitted catch” to Palau Customs officials. This captured for the world to see, caused international outcry and support to protect Palau’s top, living, attraction. Dermot Keane, another friendly face at Sam’s Tours, who we met after diving went on to launch the Palau Shark Sanctuary in November 2001, to continue the fight to end shark finning in Palau and around the world.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, EPA New England, on detail, EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

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.

Beware of Silent Killers

Old Man Winter definitely has been hitting with a vengeance this season. While these spells of subfreezing temperatures and wintry mixes cause numerous problems on the nation’s roads, one of the areas of greatest risk might be in our own homes if we don’t take the right steps to protect our families.

Snow and ice storms can lead to blackouts. People often resort to portable generators to power up the house. Others use combustion appliances to stay warm. Please note, that generator exhaust is extremely toxic! These generators need to be outside, away from doors, windows, and vents. They produce carbon monoxide (CO) which builds up quickly and is deadly. Since you cannot smell, see, or taste this exhaust, this gas can buildup with tragic consequences.

Furthermore, area heaters which operate as combustion appliances also present their own environmental hazards if not used properly. These appliances that burn fuels liquid kerosene, coal, and wood have to be properly maintained and installed in order to minimize the production of toxic gases in the home such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Once again, ventilation is key!

While we’re addressing those invisible and silent killers like carbon monoxide, we cannot forget radon. It is a radioactive gas that may be present in your home. Exposure to radon causes lung cancer in non-smokers and smokers alike. In fact, EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month. The Agency recommends that homeowners and renters have their home tested for radon. Test kits are easy to use. They can be ordered online or purchased at a local hardware store.

For other suggestions on how you can do something today to protect the environment where you live, work, and play, just visit our Pick 5 page. That’s a good way to start the new year.

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.

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.

Ojo a los asesinos silenciosos

La temporada invernal ha sido implacable este año. Mientras las gélidas temperaturas y nevadas pueden ocasionar numerosos problemas en las carreteras a nivel nacional, una de las áreas de mayor riesgo podría estar en nuestros propios hogares si no tomamos las precauciones necesarias para proteger nuestras familias.

Las tormentas de nieve y hielo pueden ocasionar apagones. Hay personas que utilizan generadores portátiles para producir electricidad en las casas. Otras usan enseres a base de combustión para calentar. Tengan en cuenta que los gases de escape de estos generadores son extremadamente tóxicos. Estos generadores tienen que ser colocados al exterior de la casa lejos de puertas, ventanas o rendijas. Estos generadores producen monóxido de carbono (CO) que se acumula rápidamente y puede ser mortal. Como no se pueden oler, ver ni saborear los escapes, este gas se puede acumular con trágicas consecuencias.

Además, las unidades de calefacción a base de combustión también presentan sus propios riesgos medioambientales si no son operados adecuadamente. Estos enseres que queman combustibles como querosén líquido, carbón y madera deben ser instalados y manejados debidamente para minimizar la producción de gases tóxicos en el hogar como el monóxido de carbono, el dióxido de nitrógeno y el dióxido de azufre. ¡La ventilación es clave!

Al mencionar los asesinos invisibles y silenciosos como el monóxido de carbono, no podemos olvidarnos del radón. Este es un gas radioactivo que puede existir en su hogar. La exposición al radón ocasiona cáncer pulmonar entre los no-fumadores y fumadores por igual. De hecho, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos ha designado enero como el Mes Nacional de Acción del Radón. La agencia recomienda a los propietarios e inquilinos que hagan la prueba del radón en el hogar. Estas pruebas son fáciles de hacer. Se pueden ordenar vía el Internet o comprar en una ferretería cercana.

Para más sugerencias sobre lo que usted puede hacer hoy mismo para proteger el medio ambiente donde vive, trabaja y juega, visite nuestra página de Seleccione 5 Esa es una buena manera de comenzar el nuevo año.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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: eCycle!

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 #8: eCycle! Please share your stories as comments below.

While helping my grandparents prepare for their summer home to be remodeled, we came across various outdated electronics, including a number of ancient TV’s. I convinced them to upgrade. I explained how some stores offer rebates if you turn in your old TV when you purchase a new one. So instead of disposing of them, we decided to eCycle!. Grand Dad said “I remember when we use to just throw these things in the trash.” Like a lot of us, he didn’t know that many appliances contain hazardous substances that should be kept out of landfills.

Once we finished the house, it was amazing to see how many electronics we had for recycling. Amazingly, my Grand Dad still owned a Beta style VCR! I explained to him how each state has recycling programs to take old computers, DVD players or other electronics for recycling. We took the time to locate a facility near us and made several trips to the recycling center. We had two desktop computers that we were no longer going to use that we donated to the local boys’ and girls’ club. Cleaning out the summer home and disposing of the items in the proper way was a lot of work but it was well worth it for the Earth!

Learn more about eCycling

Plug-In to eCycling is a partnership program between EPA and leading consumer electronics manufacturers, retailers and mobile service providers that promotes opportunities for individuals to donate or recycle their electronics.

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 , and  use chemicals 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.