vacation

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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“Don’t Bring Unwanted Guests Home From Vacation”

By John Butler

Summer is here, and that means vacation. Warm sunny days, relaxation, and maybe that family vacation to a seaside hotel or mountain resort. In hotels large and small, a problem is lurking: bed bugs. The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites, and generally irritating its human hosts.

Experts believe the increase in bed bugs in the U.S. may be due to more travel, lack of knowledge about prevention, and ineffective pest control practices by hotels.

So, I want to share some easy ways to avoid bringing bed bugs home from vacation.

  1. When you travel, take a flashlight along to inspect your hotel room. The most common place for bed bugs to hide is on the mattress and box spring. When not feeding, bed bugs can be found around the bed; near piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring; and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Check furniture, the floor around the bed, behind the headboard, and even the closet and drawers.
  2. Look for warning signs. Other than seeing actual bugs, warning signs to look for include dark spots about the size of a pencil point on bedding, which could be from their fecal matter. Also, look for small white specks, which may be eggs. Being aware helps avoid spreading these excellent hitch hikers.
  3. Keep your luggage off the bed and floor.
  4. Inspect, inspect, inspect! If you find signs of bed bugs, notify the hotel immediately. If they aren’t giving you any satisfaction, you can call the local or county health department. Last October, a couple of co-workers and I stayed at a hotel that at first glance was not top-of-the-line. I thought for sure I’d find bed bugs. We looked high and low and when we were finished it looked like a wild boar had run through the rooms. But, we didn’t find any signs of bed bugs and my colleagues and I felt much better during our stay.
  5. When you return home from a trip, it is a smart idea to wash your traveling clothes as soon as you can to kill any stray hitch hikers. You might want to also dry them on high heat. Also, do a final inspection of your luggage before storing it away.

For more information on protecting yourself and your family from bed bugs.

About the author: John Butler is the Pesticides Expert for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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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We’ve Come So Far, But Still Have So Far To Go

A few weeks ago, I took some time off for vacation. We traveled from our southern Maryland home to the mountains of West Virginia to visit friends for a few days, and then it was off to the shores of North Carolina. Throughout the trip, I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of the landscape and environment even in that little triangle of the world.

Driving through the mountains in West Virginia on our way to Nags Head, we saw what I assumed (and hoped) was a wind farm on the top of a mountain. I was really quite impressed, and thoroughly pleased to see that kind of progress and forward-thinking taking hold. About 20 minutes further on our drive, strip-mining was taking place and I wondered and hoped that the environment would be restored some day.

For the next hour or so on that ride, I was thinking about all of the progress that has been made to save our environment whether it be by recycling, or energy and water conservation, and locally, nationally or even globally.

It really stuck a chord with me that as much progress we have made, we still have so far to go. Many of us wonder what impact can really be made by just our household of say one or two people. It all adds up, and each and every one of us really can make a difference…one recycled bottle or can and reusable grocery bag at a time!

About the author: Kelly Chick has worked at EPA for many years. She currently works in the Office of Public Affairs at EPA Headquarters, and manages the EPA blog, Greenversations.

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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Question of the Week: How do you protect the environment during summer vacation?

No more homework! But now that you have free time in the summer, tell us the things you like to do (or your kids, if you’re a grown-up reading this) that help protect the environment during the summer.

How do you protect the environment during summer vacation?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

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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Traveling on an Environmental Budget

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

It is summer. I want to take my family on vacation but given all the focus on climate change, I am very concerned about how my travel plans might impact the environment. So, I sit down with my family and ask them – what do you want to do on vacation and how can me make it “green”? Of course, the first question was – what is a green vacation? Here is the list we came up with:

  • It is fun and we can all be together
  • Minimizes traveling
    • Car is better than airplane
    • Biking or Walking is better than car
  • Can cook for ourselves using fresh ingredients
  • Doesn’t damage existing natural resources
  • Can stay in either a tent, a friends house or one room together
  • Measure our carbon emissions and offset them

My kids wanted to know if this ruled out Disneyland. Not completely but it did make it harder to go. We would have to make choices about how we would get there, where we would stay, what we would buy while we were there and how we could offset our emissions.

Other trips we considered were camping at a lake, a train trip across Canada, the beach and a staycation – staying home and touring our own city, Seattle. Eventually, we decided to do a combination of camping, the beach and a staycation. When the kids looked at both the environmental and financial costs of all of the choices, they realized that they were getting more vacation for their resources if they stayed closer to home and chose less high profile activities. We decided to use some of the resources on EPA’s website to figure out exactly how much impact our vacations did have – tracking mileage, evaluating hotel stays, and figuring out how much we can recycle.

When I look back on the conversation, I realize that I learned lessons too. 1) being green means making substantially different choices – not just figuring out how to do the same thing using less, 2) my kids care about the environment and see it directly affecting their future and 3) it can be done but it isn’t easy. We are off on our vacations and staycations next week. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are all having both a fun and green summer too. I’d love to hear how you are making your vacation green.

The Sierra Club has a more detailed comparison of cars vs. planes.

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.