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Citizen Science, Environmental Outreach and Water Quality

By Ibrahim Goodwin

Spring is here, the eaglets in the Anacostia River Basin have hatched and so has another opportunity to make a visible difference in our nation’s watersheds.

Earth Conservation Corps prepare and discuss their next event where they work with EPA and a group of youth scientist on testing water quality parameters like pH, temperature, phosphates, salinity etc..Here in DC’s Anacostia watershed, EPA and the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) are working together as part of the Anacostia Watershed Outreach and Education Initiative. We’re encouraging citizen science field research with ECC members, students and others. We test for water quality parameters like pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, phosphates, nitrates, salinity, and we’re analyzing samples for aquatic macroinvertebrates (water bugs you can see with the naked eye that are important indicators of water quality).

At the ECC Pumphouse, EPA is helping to make this urbanEarth Conservation Corps (ECC) are working together as part of the Anacostia Watershed Outreach and Education Initiative to educate students . river a classroom. We recently sponsored “Protecting the Anacostia Watershed – A Workshop on Water Quality Standards.” This activity, held on World Water Monitoring Day, also highlighted the Urban Waters Federal Partnership between EPA, ECC, the U.S. Forest Service, National Geographic and DC Water.

The interactive water quality workshop and hands-on water sample collection and analysis program offered over 75 students and citizen scientists an intimate look at how everyday pollution affects our local environment. We also discussed simple solutions to curbing complicated pollution problems. The young citizen scientists from St. Augustine Catholic School in Northwest Washington, DC were captivated by activities like the owl encounter, water quality monitoring, macroinvertebrate identification and National Geographic’s FieldScope GIS and data system.

This workshop can be modified to fit any watershed.  Our workshop, ‘’Watersheds and Water Monitoring,” is being held on the largest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States. The river is home to all sorts of wildlife, including over 300 species of birds.

The author tests water samples.Working with young citizen scientists in a hands-on setting reminds me how important my daily work at the EPA is in protecting the environment and educating the next generation of environmental stewards.

About the Author: Bryan “Ibrahim” Goodwin has worked in the Office of Water as an Environmental Scientist since 1987.   Mr. Goodwin has helped to train thousands of environmental professionals in the Water Quality Standards Academy and is currently working on initiatives to engage citizen scientists.   He received a B. S. in Geology from Howard University and is an avid gardener.

 

 

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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Top 5 Ways to Chill out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

By: Brittney Gordon

Even when the temperature goes up, your utility bills can still stay low. With help from ENERGY STAR you can keep your cool, tame those bills, and help fight climate change. The secret is to keep your cooling system from working too hard. Discover these Top 5 Ways to Chill Out with ENERGY STAR, so that you and your cooling system can both enjoy the summer!

1. Keep the heat out

Insulation_graphic (1)

Take advantage of shades, blinds, curtains, awnings and even trees to  keep the sun out during the day, especially on the south and west side of your house. If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which will keep even more heat out. Find and seal leaks (the biggest ones are in your attic and basement) – this will also help reduce humidity and keep out pests and pollen.  Consider adding attic insulation so less heat radiates down into your house from your hot attic.  Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill).  Finally, if you’re replacing your roof, you can reduce the effects of the hot sun by installing ENERGY STAR certified roof products.

2. Keep the cool in

Seal and Insulate 2

You’re paying for your AC’s cool air, so don’t let it leak out of your ducts before it gets to the vent and the rooms you want to cool. That’s YOUR air!  In most homes, 25 percent of air that flows through air conditioning ducts leaks out before it gets to you. So get a contractor to test your ducts, seal them, and insulate them so you’re not paying for cool air you don’t get to use. You could reduce your cooling energy bill by about 20 percent.

3. Maintain Your Cooling System

Thermostat

A simple tune up of your HVAC equipment can do wonders.  Make sure you also change your air filter regularly – EPA recommends every three months at a minimum.   And, if you do not have a programmable thermostat – install one and program it around your family’s summer schedule. Setting the thermostat up by seven degrees when you’re away from home and up by four degrees when you’re asleep can save more than $180 a year.

4. Be a fan of fans

ceiling fan

If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Use bedroom fans on those cooler summer nights when you might be able to turn off your central air conditioning and naturally cool your home for a lot less. Plus, don’t forget to use your ENERGY STAR certified vent fans to get rid of that unwanted humid air in your bathroom after a shower.

5. Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR Logo

If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. In the market for a new room air conditioner? Find one that has earned the ENERGY STAR and use about 15 percent less energy. ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifiers also use 15 percent less energy than a conventional unit.  One last easy tip is to change out those old, hot, incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs–they produce 75% less heat!

Looking for more great tips? Head to www.energystar.gov/cooling.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the ENERGY STAR communication’s team. Her summer cooling project will involve trying out ENERGY STAR certified LEDs in her new home.

 

 

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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How Hot is Hot?

By Michael Rohwer

When I complain about the DC heat to my Austin-bred housemate, he likes to remind me that I, a native Michigander, don’t know what hot really is.

But just the other day, I caught that same housemate saying “it is sweltering in DC.” AHA, it IS hot here, and getting hotter! It would be easier to refrain from saying “I told you so” if I didn’t also have the proof to back it up: EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the U.S. Report, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, shows the DC region has warmed at a faster rate than all of Texas over the last century.

Since 1901, the average surface temperature across the contiguous 48 states has risen at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade, which means that it gets warmer by 1.3°F per century. But that’s not the whole story. Temperatures haven’t risen at a constant pace over time or in different parts of the country. Average temperatures have risen more quickly since the late 1970s and seven of the top 10 warmest years on record for the contiguous 48 states have occurred since 1990. Some parts of the U.S. experienced more warming than others. The map below shows how quickly temperatures are changing across the country. The map is a darker red in DC (and Michigan) than it is in Texas. This means it is getting hotter faster in those areas than in Austin.

Concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are increasing in the Earth’s atmosphere. In response, the climate is changing and, among other things, average temperatures at the Earth’s surface are rising. But those changes haven’t happened uniformly, and regional differences are expected to continue with future warming. The North, the West, and Alaska have seen temperatures increase the most, while some parts of the Southeast have experienced little change.  Temperature is a fundamental measurement for describing the climate and the temperature in particular places can have wide-ranging effects on human life and ecosystems. For example, increases in air temperature can lead to more intense heat waves, which can cause illness and death, especially among children and the elderly.

So sure, Texas is still hot, but it’s growing warmer faster here in DC.  Maybe my housemate and I are both right?

How does the map look where you live?

About the author: Michael Rohwer is an ORISE Fellow supporting the communications team in the Climate Change Division within the Office of Air and Radiation. When he’s not pursuing a career in protecting human health and the environment, you can find him enjoying gardening and sports.

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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Get Your Heat On!

By Chandler von Schrader

For better or worse, cold weather has arrived and it’s time to “get your heat on.” You may have already switched your thermostat over to the heating mode and had one of those “please, please, please start” moments! While you are waiting to hear that familiar “whoosh” of warm air, you try to remember if you had a preseason heating maintenance service… was that this fall or last year? Did they check the heating system when they last serviced the central AC? Is it operating at its peak efficiency and doing so safely? Will it work all season long?

Then, the heat kicks on and those panicked thoughts melt away. Or maybe not…

Years back, I worked as a salesman for a heating and cooling company and was always amazed by the general lack of concern homeowners gave to their heating and cooling systems. If these folks had only paid half as much attention to their heating and cooling system as they do their car, they might not be replacing their systems quite so often. Regardless of how the age of your system, homeowners can take some simple actions to maximize the efficiency and useful life of their heating equipment:

  1. Manage your temperature settings at your thermostat or better yet get a programmable thermostat to set your house temperature smartly while you are home, asleep or away. High bills are directly related to how long your system operates.
  2. Check your air filter and change it when it’s dirty. Dirty filters reduce air flow and allow dust accumulation on the system’s components. This simple action can have a profound impact on your system’s longevity and efficiency.
  3. Walk your ducts in your house and look at where they are attached to the registers. See dust streaks? Feel air leaking out? Seal these little leaks with metal tape.
  4. If your home is uncomfortable or you have high bills and just don’t know where to start, seek a professional home performance contractor. They will perform a comprehensive review of your home’s energy use and provide detailed guidance on making the right improvements for overall comfort and efficiency. For more energy efficiency guidance, visit the ENERGY STAR website.

About the author: Chandler has been with EPA nearly ten years promoting energy efficiency best practices for home improvement contractors, remodelers, and HVAC contractors under the banner of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR. His prior experiences include owning a remodeling company, selling HVAC systems, managing weatherization programs and conducting thousands of energy audits.

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.