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A Peanut Fueled World

A few days ago, I stumbled across the EPA’s YouTube Channel, and learned about peanuts. Yea, I know. What could the peanut surprise us with now?

Well, two college students have found a way of producing peanut shell briquettes to replace wood as a cooking fuel in rural Gambia in Africa. Gambia is facing significant deforestation, so wood is scarce.  However, peanut shells may be the answer.

Want to know how?  Watch their video demonstration at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqHqdrW6U_U&feature=plcp&context=C49bba42VDvjVQa1PpcFPdEiR2Xqqsvb0l5CWjfB8rYVRgIVpF3qM%3D

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received a dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

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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What I Want

videoWhat do you want to do for earth day? Do you want to make a difference? What about committing to reducing your carbon footprint or turning your lights off when not in the room? Would you consider planting a  tree? Check out EPA’s you tube channel to learn about what others wanted for earth day during a celebration last year in Washington, DC.

What do you want for earth day this year?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=1i26L03Vu9g&NR=1

Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

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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Making an Environmental Video

studentMany grants require a video application: the Green Makeover Contest was no exception for the Fairview Net Zero club. We made a ten minute video to apply for an award of $65,000: but how could we create a plan of action to green our school and portray it effectively in a video? We decided to address three solutions and integrate them into our budget proposal: Efficiency, Visibility, and Involvement. From these, we created ideas to impact the community through our proposed purchases: placing solar lights in highly visible areas such as the parking lot rather than just a few classrooms, purchasing trees for students to plant, and buying environmental documentaries for teachers to show students. We structured our video exploring our three solutions and explaining how our budget proposal reflected these goals. Several students showed interest in our green initiatives; we filmed them expressing their excitement and interviewed important administrators and environmentalists about our ideas. For the technical aspects of video making, we teamed up with the film teacher and one of his students to facilitate video production. By enlisting their help, interviewing, and finding three simple and broad solutions, we were able to create a highly effective video application as well as envision future goals for our club and community.

Lizzy is a junior in the Fairview High School Net Zero Club. She is in the IB program and also enjoys swimming for her high school team as well as playing the violin in local music groups. In college, Lizzy hopes to pursue her interests in science and the environment; she aspires to help find a solution to global warming.

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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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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Multimedia Portal Gets a New Face

By Danny Hart

I’m constantly amazed at the wide range of newly emerging technologies and techniques to deliver rich media. I’m equally a fan of usability so it’s interesting to me when I see really well done new media (or rich media or multimedia, whatever the term du jour is) that happens to be usable as well.

So, recently when I was challenged to find a better way to present our multimedia to the public I looked to how we currently delivered content in other areas of the site as the basis. I felt we could give folks great content without reinventing the wheel and still make it visually interesting.

Like other agencies, EPA has been shifting our rich and social media publishing to sites that specialize in usable interfaces and specialized infrastructure. We found we didn’t need to build whole new photo hosting sites or video platforms, they already existed and our users were already there. These sites had already worked out ways to deliver fast content that is easily searched and deliver it full screen with well-known interfaces. Leveraging our existing relationships with other sites seemed like a slam dunk. Take a look and let us know your thoughts.

About the Author: Danny Hart has been with EPA since 2006. He’s the Associate Director of Web Communications.

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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Looking for Environmental Justice at USC

EJvidHi! My name is Charlene and this past semester, I found myself in a six-person upper-division Communication class called Environmental Communication. All of us entered the class with an interest in environmental issues, but no clear idea of what the class would actually cover. Gradually, we came to develop a sense of how communication, both interpersonally and through the media or advocacy campaigns, really changes how people think about and behave towards the “environment.” When it came time for us to decide on a class term project, we weren’t really sure what to do, until one of us happened upon the EPA’s Environmental Justice video contest online. We decided that it was the perfect opportunity to look at an important issue from a communication perspective. In filming our video submission, we started by walking around campus and just asking people what they thought the words “environmental justice” meant. We found that while a few people had a vague idea, nobody really knew the actual answer. Furthermore, many people have never considered the fact that it is the world’s poorest people who in fact bear the largest environmental burden and are often left without an audience willing to hear and help them. We realized that one of the most important things everybody can do is take the time to give opinions about pending environmental issues. We cannot achieve environmental justice if people do not know it is a goal. Therefore, we focused our video on an explanation of what “environmental justice” is, in the hope that we would inspire other people to get involved. Making the film was definitely a great experience, and being chosen as a finalist was so exciting. Although I cannot say for sure what is to come, for our class or for the Earth, I have so much hope that people will believe they can make a difference in terms of climate change and environmental justice. I know that the hardest times are yet to come, but I truly believe that people can overcome these challenges.

About the author: Charlene Fowler is a junior at the University of Southern California.

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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Using Web 2.0 Technology to the Government’s Advantage; EPA’s Water Quality Video Contest

After the success of President Obama’s political campaign, it became impossible to ignore the importance of emerging Web technologies. A Web presence characterized by information sharing, social networking and online communities emerged as a powerful way to transform a fledging grassroots movement into a national campaign. In 2008, Craig Hooks, former Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds, recognized the opportunity for EPA to utilize Web technology to get citizens involved in addressing environmental challenges together. He proposed the idea of a video contest to engage the public and to help solve problems associated with non-point source water pollution.

Although there have been great improvements in water quality over the past three decades, there is still a massive problem resulting from human activity on the land. Educating citizens about actions that they can take to reduce their impact is vital to improving the nation’s water quality.

The contest was a new way for the Office of Water to experiment with participatory governance using the Web. I’m happy to say that it worked well beyond our expectations. We marketed the contest using social media channels, creating a special EPA group on YouTube and filming our own promotional video, publicizing it on various Web pages, such as VidOpp.com and Fastweb.com, creating a Facebook group page as well as using more traditional outreach such as listservs. It helped that I am a twenty-year-old intern, comfortable with these cutting-edge marketing technologies.

We had modest expectations. The Radon Video Contest conducted last summer by the Office of Air and Radiation generated thirty videos, and we assumed we would receive about the same number. We were wrong. As the contest drew to a close, we began to get overwhelmed. By midnight, more than 250 videos had been submitted.

The judging proved somewhat challenging because of the range of topics and variability in quality. But in the end, we selected two outstanding top videos, “Protect our Water-Check Cars for Oil Leaks” by Lucas Ridley and “Dastardly Deeds and the Water Pollution Monster” by Nora Parren, along with twenty-one videos honorable mentions.

This contest was a monumental success. Collectively, our YouTube contest channel generated more than 18,000 collective views at the contest close and 28,839 views as of today. The interest it has generated has been amazing, and EPA has begun to realize the potential for government to gain the public’s interest using emerging Web technologies. We have been flooded by calls and emails from other EPA offices as well as other government agencies and nonprofit groups that wish to run similar Web contests. On June 10, 2009 Web 2.0 became the one millionth word to be added to the English language dictionary, showing how truly epic this movement is. This is the beginning of a new age for the government and with social media tools at our disposal, individuals can truly participate in their government.

Check out the contest winners.
View all the contest entries.

About the author: Rebecca Neary has been interning with the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds at Headquarters since January 2009. Rebecca will be beginning her Masters Degree in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management at Indiana University this fall.

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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