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Career Advice from Dolly

2013 May 30

 

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Every summer my family would take a vacation to a small town in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior to visit my great aunt.  My great aunt would love to take us to visit the Red Cliff Reservation just outside her town.  It’s not every day you meet someone who is familiar with this area, but Dolly Tong is.  She has even done a dumpster dive there!  I sat down with her to learn more about her position at the EPA.

 

 

What is your position at the EPA?

 

I am the Regional Tribal Solid Waste and Pollution Prevention Coordinator.  I work with the 35 federally-recognized tribes in our Region to manage waste issues.

 

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

 

No, but I started as an intern at the EPA in what was called the Technology Transfer Program back then.  This eventually evolved into EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which I have been involved with over many years.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

 

I work with a team to assist tribes in whatever waste management issue comes up, and analyze what kinds of technical assistance we can provide to tribes over the long term. I also communicate as a liaison for other tribal solid waste coordinators in the other EPA Regions with Headquarters to address national tribal waste issues.  I oversee two part-time Senior Environmental Employees’ work and monitor their work status. 

 

Sometimes I get to do field work on tribal reservations as well.  This is the most interesting part of my job.  We have done dumpster dives with tribes and visited their recycling facilities and household hazardous waste collection events.  When you visit tribal reservations, you can better understand what the tribes are doing, what they need, and how you can help.

 

What is the best part of your job?

 

Because EPA has a direct government-to-government working relationship with federally-recognized Indian tribes, I feel like my work directly impacts tribal communities. It is great to see the positive impacts with the work you do and see the immediate results. In addition, at the EPA we are encouraged to be creative and think of solutions on our own.  If you think something is workable, you can try it.  I like the independence and creativity.

 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

 

Yes.  When I was little, the other kids used to call me “nature freak.”  I just loved animals and nature.  My whole family was actually like that as well.

 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

 

I majored in Environmental Studies, which was a multidisciplinary program.  I took advantage of a variety of classes, to get a feel for what interested me.  I wish I could have taken classes on Native American Law.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

 

It is important not to use so much stuff or buy a lot of things.  Everything you purchase has an impact on the environment because of all the pollution that comes from the extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transportation to bring you the finished product.  Using less has a direct impact on avoiding the generation of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

It is really important to learn about community based social marketing to promote sustainable behaviors in people. It is more than just handing out flyers to get people to change their ways.  We need more people to learn how to apply community-based social marketing techniques to get to the root causes of why people don’t practice certain sustainable behaviors, and come up with effective ways to encourage positive behaviors that are better for the environment.

 

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

 

 

 

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.

Helping Rural Guatemala… One Stove at a Time

2013 May 29

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Ever wonder how you might be able to make a difference in another country? Recently, the environmental team at West Geauga High School had the same question. We had already helped our own community in many ways relating to the environment, like organizing a battery recycling program, hosting seminars about hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” and sponsoring “Go Green Nights” at our school, but wanted to make an impact in the wider world.  After making a few phone calls to several environmental organizations, our team finally decided on partnering with another group to help with our project. We contacted the Social Entrepreneur Corps, an organization focused on micro consignment in Guatemala and other Central American countries. Once our team settled on an organization and agreed on goals, we put our plan into action. Because our other projects focused on water and air issues, we wanted to keep the same theme in Guatemala. With previously won grant money, our team was able to sponsor the installation of water purification systems and distribution of cook stoves. Our water purification systems provided Guatemalan children access to clean, fresh water in their schools, which allows them to stay healthy and stay in school, receive an education and break the vicious cycle of poverty. The systems were sold to schools and community centers for a small fee, ensuring that the recipients’ dignity stays intact and also creates commerce in these villages. The water purification bucket has a ceramic element inside that removes common contaminants such as E-coli and silver. The filter removes 99.5% of E-Coli. The filtration device holds up to 8 liters of water and the rate at which the element filters the water is 2.5 to 3 liters per hour. Villagers who purchased our locally made cookstoves from the initial recipients made their investment back in the first two months at a reduced rate in which these cookstoves use firewood. The firewood efficiency of the stoves resulted in total savings of about $140, or the cost of corn for 9 months and 10 days for a family, 3 months of a child’s college fees, or 2 goats. Of paramount importance, the cookstoves reduced the amount of smoke inside of homes that the inhabitants would ordinarily inhale on a daily basis by 70%, benefitting the health of residents and substantially reducing CO2 emissions.  Our team helped rural Guatemala has become a cleaner, greener environment.  We received immense satisfaction from seeing our goals realized. 

Lilly  is a sophomore at West Geauga High School in Chesterland, Ohio. She has been an active member of her school’s environmental team, the West Geauga Environmental Discovery Project, for about three years now. Lilly enjoys helping and promoting sustainability in as many ways as she can.

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.

Career Advice from Lilly

2013 May 28

Lilly-PictureMy sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, but we both always had a strong interest in protecting the environment.  Now we are both doing environmental work, but in different ways.  You may remember my interview with Nefertiti.  Turns out her sister, Lilly Simmons, works at the EPA as well.  I decided to sit down with Lilly and find out more about her role at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Environmental Scientist in the Underground Injection Branch within the Water Division.  I work with the regulation of shallow and deep injection wells. I help protect drinking water.

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

I started at the EPA as an intern the summer before my senior year of college and have been here since.  During college I worked in my schools Admissions Office and have an appreciation for organized files, which is very helpful at the EPA.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day by checking my email and responding to any pressing matters.  I use excel to create spreadsheets for tests and tracking.  Some of my work involves technical review of permit files, mechanical integrity tests to make sure deep injection wells are not leaking, compliance assistance, and public notices. 

What is the best part of your job?

There are times when I almost forget about what I am doing at work because it is so specific, but then realize that I am helping to protect drinking water.  My work does have an impact.  This is my dream job, knowing I am doing my part to help the environment. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Pretty much!  As a child I grew up in California when literally everyday was Earth Day.  Every day was about saving water, turning off lights, and planting trees.  I remember the first time I saw rain and I was actually frightened by it. 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

Math classes are obviously helpful.  I also took two engineering classes, where we did a lot of work in spreadsheets.  The environmental policy class I took was helpful for understanding the context of what we do at the EPA.  I have my Masters in Public Administration, which has also helped contextual.  I can understand the budget, policy and planning of the Agency more. 

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

Learn everything you can about the environment.  Tell people that is what you want to do, and it will happen. 

 

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.

FLIP TAP STACK

2013 May 23

By: Wendy

Do you want to know how it feels to be part of the Green Team? Well in January, at Wagner Middle School, the Green Team and I helped the school to go greener.  We noticed that when we finish eating lunch, we simply dump our food, trays, and milk cartons right in the trash bin. Most people ignored the recycling bin and the liquid bucket where you pour the leftover milk. This has to stop and that was why we started to “Flip, Tap, Stack.”

The Flip Tap Stack helped in a major way even though there are still people who are not throwing their things in the right bins, but it did help make the school greener.  “Flip, Tap, Stack” is basically something that the Green Team has settled on for the lunch routine. What we do in lunch is that once we finish eating, we pour the liquids out of our milk cartons in the liquid bucket, and then recycle the milk carton. After that, we flip our trays in the trash bin, tap the leftover foods in the tray, and then stack the trays. Obviously people didn’t know how to do this process properly at the start, so we guided them.

For one week, the Green Team and some student volunteers help guide where to throw food. At first, it was pretty confusing for them, but as they did it day by day, they seemed to get a good sense of where and what to do with their food. They didn’t know if plastic cups were to go into the trash or the recycling bin and if aluminum foil was to go to recycling bin or trash too. Therefore, we told them that aluminum foil was to be recycled and plastic cups were to be thrown in the trash. When they were no longer guided, very few threw their things in the wrong bin.

Doing this process was just a little more work, but it’s worth it if it can make the world a little bit greener! That’s how our school worked with recycling and throwing out trash. How do you make this world a little bit greener?

Bio: Wendy is a student at Wagner Middle School in NY, NY. She enjoys being part of the Green Team.

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.