Region 1

Climate Leaders Collaboration

Understanding Climate Change impacts in the New England region is one thing, and actually working to improve vision, capability and capacity to confront climate change and make our communities more resilient is an even bigger challenge. It is a challenge that the New England states are focused on because the vulnerabilities we are facing are real. We have seen a 74 percent increase in extreme precipitation events between 1958 and 2011. Hurricanes and tropical storms are increasing in intensity and that is expected to continue. We saw our vulnerabilities come to life in our inland states after Tropical Storm Irene. We saw the coast get slammed after Hurricane Sandy. Fifty percent of New Englanders live in coastal counties, and depend on critical infrastructure there. With sea level rise, and increased extreme precipitation events, these areas are vulnerable to flooding and storm surge in ways that they have never been before.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Keeping Warm and Cleaning our Air: Public Hearing in Boston on New Wood-Heater Standards

With a New England winter in full bloom, many of us burn wood to help heat our homes. People may not know, however, that burning wood – either in indoor or outdoor heaters – can be inefficient, as well as emit more pollution into the air than oil or natural gas heat sources.

Last month, EPA issued a proposal to update standards for wood-burning stoves and heaters used by people in homes and other residential buildings. We have proposed that, beginning next year (2015), new stoves and heaters will be a whopping 80 percent cleaner than units built and sold today.

This will mean better air quality, and better public health, in communities all across the country. It will improve winter air quality in many parts of New England, especially in rural areas where more people use wood as a fuel source to keep their homes warm. In some areas of New England, especially in valleys, fine particle pollution from wood smoke significantly reduces air quality in winter.

Wood smoke contains fine particles and toxic pollutants, which can reach levels that are harmful to peoples’ health – for your family and for your neighbors. Fine particle pollution is linked to serious health effects, including heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Don’t Trash Your Old Clothes

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Gina Snyder

The public schools in my town now host smart new boxes that collect unwanted clothing and textiles for recycling. Not only do these boxes look really sharp, they actually are “SMART” – they are from Baystate Textiles, a member of the “Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.”

I’ve seen clothing collection boxes before, but this new program will accept almost any fabric (even things like handbags, shoes, and stuffed animals). Stained, torn or ragged, as long as a textile is clean and dry, they’ll take it.

With 25.5 billion pounds of useable textiles thrown away each year (70 pounds per American), there is a lot of waste that can be prevented. Contrary to popular belief, donations in any condition are welcomed by both for-profit and non-profit textile collectors.

You can even donate items with stains, rips, missing buttons or broken zippers because textiles are a valuable commodity. Items that don’t sell in a thrift store are baled and sold to brokers or graders who sell to other markets. This income helps thrift stores support their mission.

The boxes at my town’s schools provide work for local companies, which turn about 30% of the donated textiles into industrial wiping cloths. A Massachusetts company cuts used clothing and other textiles into rags and sells them to commercial garages and public works operations. The remaining 20 percent is sent to fiber converters -another local textile recycler – where textiles are broken down into their basic fiber components to be re-manufactured into insulation for autos and homes, carpet padding, or sound-proofing materials.

Reusing textiles uses less energy and less water than any competitive products made from newly produced paper or textiles, according to SMART. You may even have used wipes made from recycled fabric in your home or for your car (for example, soft lint-free wipes or super absorbent rags). By recycling my old or unwanted fabrics, I can help my town save trash disposal costs, help generate revenue for the schools and have a positive impact on the environment.

When cleaning out your closets, donate your textiles rather than throwing them away!

More EPA info on textile waste and recylcling

More EPA information on Trash and Recycling

About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee.

 

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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Energized to Act Locally on Climate Change

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) provides keynote address at the New England Climate Leaders Summit, Nov. 8, 2014

 

On November 8, EPA’s New England office held a Climate Leaders Summit at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Leaders from municipalities, state agencies, academia, NGOs and businesses discussed how to prepare for the impacts of the changing climate. For example, in New England, we have seen a 74% increase in extreme precipitation over the last fifty years—what does that mean for our municipalities in terms of storm damage? Increases in stormwater? Overflowed water systems? Climate change is a condition we are currently living with, and it is a condition we must start adapting to.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Morning By The Lake

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

My family arrived at our campsite to a gray, evening drizzle. Not too wet to enjoy a kayak, nor too wet to keep us from making a fire and eating turkey dogs off sticks. The beach umbrella propped against a picnic table was ample protection. And we got our reward for persevering. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” remarked a woman on the lake trail as she ogled the double, 180-degree arch of vibrant color like you only expect in children’s books. I looked for the pot of gold.

The rain stopped in time to set up in the dark. The winds whispered above, sending droplets onto our tent. By morning the sky was clear and the islands of Pawtuckaway Lake were calling us out in our kayaks.

Pawtuckaway State Park sits in the middle of southern New Hampshire. Straddling the towns of Raymond and Nottingham, Pawtuckaway has trails, waterfront campsites, rock walls, marshes and a lake with nooks, crannies, big islands, little islands, blueberry-filled islands and a beach.

Unfortunately, it also can have contamination. The beach was half-closed when we were there. Not totally closed, but trimmed with yellow warnings signs that it might not be safe to swim. The problem, according to a nice woman who got my phone call, is that sometimes the bacteria count is too high at the beach. It was only 125 counts per 100 milliliters of water, close to the 88 count cut-off. Outside the beach area the lake was fine, and a few days later, by August, it was all fine again. The bacteria is caused by people and animals, mainly geese and recreating crowds. Beavers and other animals that love the marshes don’t help, nor does rain. But the warning signs didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of people grilling recipes from India, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Maine. The sun blazing overhead, dozens of people were splashing about happily.

The state tests the water every other day or so. Since 1996, and more regularly since 2000, they have taken 461 samples. Of those, 34 have come back above acceptable standards. The geese, and people who feed them, are apparently among the first offenders.

When we tumbled out of our tent in the morning, a great blue heron was sitting comfortably at the water’s edge, as if to say “Welcome to my campsite; you may stay, if you like.” We stared at him for about 30 minutes.

Then we decided to make breakfast, smokey toast and hot cocoa. We knew not to share it with the ducks, and the heron knew not to ask.

More EPA info on beach monitoring in New England states, including New Hampshire lakes.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure,  dog and a great community.

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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One of EPA’s Finest

A longtime leader of EPA passed away suddenly on Friday, July 26, 2013.  Ira Leighton was the Deputy Regional Administrator in New England; more importantly he was my colleague and friend.

EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding (left) and Deputy Administrator Ira Leighton (right)

EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding (left) and Deputy Regional Administrator Ira Leighton (right)

Ira started his legacy at EPA on June 11, 1972, just over two years after the Agency was created.  He participated and helped lead EPA through historic environmental progress.  Ira was an early pioneer in the Waste programs at EPA.  He began his career working with states before Superfund law existed, and he participated in not only developing but executing on our Superfund law in communities around New England.  To put that in perspective, there are 118 Superfund Sites in the region, and Ira Leighton has touched every single one of them in some way or another.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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It’s Not Always About You – or – Environmental Gratitude in my Work and Life

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Eric P. Nelson

Having recently emerged from the holiday season that now runs from the day my Jack-O-Lantern takes up its position on the compost pile to the day my Christmas tree gets tossed onto the grim-faced Jack-O-Lantern, I feel rather drained from all the sentiments of gratitude and goodwill that I have both expressed and received during this extended season. They’re genuine, mostly, and seem appropriate at the time, but I’ve now shifted into New England-style winter survival mode, and quite prefer it after a long season of excess.

Recently, I read an article about “environmental gratitude.” The term was new to me, but after I read the article I realized I had discovered what motivates and guides me at work, and in many aspects of my life. Environmental gratitude was defined as, “a finely tuned propensity to notice and feel grateful for one’s surroundings on a regular basis, which generates pervasive attitudes of concern for planetary welfare and commitment to contribute ecological benefits to the extent of one’s ability.” It’s a bit dense to digest, but the article goes on to describe the phrase in simpler terms.

Unlike the gratitude one may feel during the holidays, environmental gratitude is not beholden to particular benefactors, does not require mutual intentionality (Thank you for that 2,000-calorie holiday meal!). Instead, simply recognizing and appreciating the very existence of the natural world and your connection to it can instill a sense of gratitude that can, in turn, influence your general attitude about protecting nature and motivate you to take action.

This has happened to me over the course of my life, and it’s how I approach my work at EPA, at least most days. No thanks sought, or needed, from those living things in the watery world that hopefully benefit from my actions. In truth, though, I do get thanked through my interactions with the natural world. And while I’ve seen nature in some of its most impressive forms, I’m just as enchanted by brief encounters close to home: a passing glimpse of a hawk flying through Boston Common; a hummingbird pausing on a branch above my shed; crows calling, winter quiet in snowy woods; a pungent whiff of exposed mudflat on a lonely beach; the jewel-like stars overhead at my bus stop on a clear, dark winter morning; the iridescent beetle that landed oh so briefly on the back of my wife’s neck. Such encounters are everywhere for all those who care to take notice. And to me, they matter.

The article, “Environmental Gratitude and Ecological Action,” by Richard Matthews, was featured on the website.

About the author: Eric Nelson works in the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit of EPA New England in Boston, but prefers being underwater with the fishes. He lives in a cape on Cape Cod with his wife and two daughters, and likes pesto on anything.

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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