sustainable

99 Days to Prom

Did you know that between 16 and 33% of teens in the U.S. are considered obese? Part of the reason is not enough physical activity. How do I know?  I’m one of them.

My mom and I moved from the city to a subdivision in the suburbs a few years ago so she could be closer to work and we could live in a nicer neighborhood, an environment created for families. Growing up, I realized it wasn’t kid friendly like my grandmother’s house in the city –where I could walk or had access to the “green limousine” (what everyone else calls public transportation) to get around in the city.   In the suburbs, my mom has to drive me to get to school, practice or the mall. This is called sprawl because everything is so spread out that there isn’t much choice but to use an automobile to get around.

The combination of un-pedestrian friendly towns or neighborhoods and less physical activity contributed to the rise in obesity, diabetes and asthma.  We’re living “large” but it’s taking a toll! Some of us are struggling to fit into prom dresses this spring!  Let’s face it; we build our communities in ways that discourage daily physical activity like walking and bicycling. I didn’t think I had much of a choice and neither did many of my friends. 

But we do.

Town governments and planners call it smart growth.  Growth is “smart” when new development gives us great communities, with more choices, personal freedom and diversity. When communities choose smart growth, they can create new neighborhoods and maintain existing ones that are convenient and healthy. Public transportation is more readily available to use, but walking is also convenient. When a community is designed to be easier to get around, people can more easily incorporate and encourage social and physical activity. It also reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because people can choose to walk, bike, or take public transportation instead of drive.  Most of all, we can create more choices for kids, families, and older adults. These choices include where to live, how to interact with the people around them and how to get around!  

If it was easier to walk to school or travel to the mall instead of having my mom drive me, we’d save on gas and I wouldn’t have to think about fitting into my prom dress.  Smart growth is good for our health and our carbon footprint. 

Gabriella is a senior at Wheaton Warrenville High School in Illinois.  She’ll be attending SIU next fall to major in environmental forensics science.

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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Greening EPA's Seattle Office

A green roof has been installed on our downtown Seattle office building

A green roof has been installed on our downtown Seattle office building

By Bruce Duncan

The Region 10 Science Steering Council recently hosted our first “Science Café” to discuss how our Seattle office building is working toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification as we undergo a major remodel. LEED is a third party certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council that focuses on the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

I moderated the meeting and want to share some of the discussion. The first presentation focused on the building’s infrastructure (its green roof, pipes, and pumps) and participation in a private/public group committed to significantly reducing energy consumption by 2030.

Next, was a detailed look at the upcoming remodel of EPA space in the building and how we might get to a LEED “Platinum” rating. Presenters showed how the remodel is a unique opportunity to capture environmental benefits, energy efficiencies and cost savings. EPA is pursuing projects in:

  • sustainable site selection
  • water efficiencies
  • energy and atmosphere
  • materials and resources
  • indoor environmental quality
  • innovation and design process
  • regional priorities that further sustainability.

Each project generates points toward the LEED rating.

Our last discussion centered on what we can do in our individual spaces to be sustainable by recycling and reducing our use of resources.

Interesting information to me from the Q&A sessions included:

  • What is the cost to building management to register for LEED certification?

Approximately $10,000.

  • How is the return on investment working out for the building upgrade to LEED?

The payback horizon is reasonable for those components that do have a quantifiable return on investment. As we move forward, we would be comfortable with a 5 year payback horizon.

  • What are we doing to improve our office space that does not count toward LEED rating?

One example is the computer server room, which will be located to take advantage of cool outside air near windows.

What I liked most about our Science Cafe was seeing the linkage from my own office space and habits, to EPA’s space, to our building overall and how it sits within a self-led management community committed to sustainability.

Read more about EPA’s efforts to “green” our facilities.

About the author: Bruce Duncan is an Ecologist supporting risk assessments our Region 10 Office of Environmental Assessment. He is a member of the Region 10 Science Steering Council and has a long-standing interest in sustainability. Bruce also “walks the talk,” having installed solar panels on his Pacific Northwest home.

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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Building and Buying it Green

By John Martin

When it comes to buying furniture, I insist on finding a deal. In college, do-it-yourself shelving from Target was the answer to my growing CD and book collections. When it came time to furnish my apartment after graduation, Ikea got most of my money.

A few weeks ago, phase three of my bargain-furniture-purchasing life began when I came across Build It Green! NYC.
Build It Green! is a unique nonprofit that fills a useful niche. When contractors, building owners and anyone else is looking to move slightly used furniture or construction materials, Build It Green swoops in and takes it off their hands, free of charge. Instead of idling uselessly in some landfill forever, the furniture is put on display in the Build It Green! warehouse in Astoria, where the public can peruse its aisles. Although everything is assigned a price upon arrival, customers are encouraged to haggle if the cost is out of their price range.

Last Saturday, I came looking for a storage unit for my dad’s basement. Like most dads with basements, mine has too much stuff lying around, so I was hoping to help get him more organized. Although I didn’t find the perfect fit (the one piece that came close to what I was looking for had just been sold), the trip was worth it, if only for the educational experience.

Many of the thousands of items for sale were in need of a good cleaning, but just about everything was well-built and in good condition— there were enough ovens, cabinets, countertops, bathroom fixtures, chairs and tables to furnish a small upstate New York town. If you come in with time to browse, there’s a good chance you’ll find something useful, typically at a surprising price. Better yet, all Build It Green! NYC profits support environmental education, so you can be satisfied that your money is being put to good use.

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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Pedaling Into Spring

By Elizabeth Myer

The severe winter conditions we’ve endured have at long last subsided, leaving us yearning for spring weather. The snow has melted, the ice has thawed and the sunlight is sticking around deeper into each evening as the days progress, infinitely raising the spirits of outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. Residents of the concrete jungle are no exception, though long as we might for those warm and sunny days, the Big Apple is not always the obvious choice for an outdoorsy venture. Fear not, fellow New Yorkers; your thirst for a spring time lift has been answered– this time in the form of city cycling maps.

The biking trend is quickly taking hold of city folks across the globe — much to the delight of the eco-conscious, might I add – and the city has taken notice. Linked below you will find a gift from the NYC Department of City Planning that will lead you to a completely new way to explore each of the five boroughs, all while staying fit and healthy even as you reduce your carbon footprint. The 2010 Cycling Map is available on the main page in PDF format, and if you’re a beginner to cycling (like me) you’ll find a few sections particularly helpful, like the links to safety tips, bike laws and bike signage.

Here’s to a “green” spring. Happy cycling, New York!

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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Sustainable Agriculture Award Winners Conserve with Zeal

About the author: Timonie Hood has worked on EPA Region 9’s Resource Conservation Team for 10 years and is Co-Chair of EPA’s Green Building Workgroup.

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Feasting is something I really enjoy, and it’s so much better when the food is produced locally and sustainably! EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region recently recognized these amazing environmental and agricultural community leaders:

Innovative Family Farm Watershed Protection

The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District’s Voluntary Incentive Based Program on Agricultural Land in coastal Sonoma County is a small grass roots special district, and it is a special district indeed!

image of wetlandsBy working closely with small coastal family farms in the Estero Americano and Salmon Creek Watersheds they protected watersheds through direct on-farm conservation support.

Here are just a few of the things they did –

  • Worked closely with the agricultural community so a whopping 80% of landowners in both watersheds participated in reducing nutrient and sediment loadings,
  • Prevented 50,000 cubic years of sediment from entering streams through 25 restoration projects on 12 family farms,
  • Upgraded critical roads on 60% of all properties in the Salmon Creek Watershed, and
  • Conducted extensive soil, manure and water quality sampling.

This model watershed protection partnership has kept family farms both environmentally and economically sustainable, and I can’t wait to sample the harvest!

Another winner was recognized for developing super-sustainable fruit.

Zeal Brand Sustainable Fruit

Zeal brand was first introduced in the retail market in 2008 to promote sustainable farming practices. All Zeal fruit is certified by Protected Harvest to ensure that Zeal fruit is grown in compliance with the most environmentally and socially sound standards for soil, water, pesticides, and labor.

The Zeal brand is also pushes sustainability through the entire supply chain. All the brand’s packaging and marketing materials are designed to be low impact and sustainably produced. In addition, Zeal advertising materials are printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

I understand the company’s message is dear to every person involved — from field to fork. The production crews are proud to have a direct influence on the protection of the local environment and Zeal consumers are happy to buy fruit that supports growers making a difference.

For those of your with toddlers, I bet you’re thinking of that great tune, “Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy.” My fork is ready – is yours?

These groups have done amazing sustainable agriculture work in California. Please share your ideas and tips on sustainable agriculture.

To learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Environmental award winners, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/awards/09.

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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