The View from Vermont

By Jeffrey Levy

Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913.  Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty.  I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes.  In other words, it’s heaven.

Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Our water is another subject related to EPA’s mission. For the first 15 years I came up here, we couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it came out of the lake; we had to buy water. Now we have a well, but I worry about getting it tested regularly. There’s never been heavy industry here, so swimming has always been ok. But when I consider how many lakes and rivers were seen as places to dump toxic chemicals, I can see how most U.S. water bodies weren’t fit for swimming or fishing when EPA was founded in 1970.

One of the best things about camp is the clean air. We come in August, when DC is at its hottest and haziest. No code red days up here! When we hike up nearby mountains, and I’m sucking in lungfuls of air, I appreciate EPA’s efforts to make sure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

I don’t mean to say that I’m constantly thinking about EPA when I come to Vermont. But it’s good to be reminded so directly why EPA’s mission is so important.

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you ever think about the environment when you do?

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993. Before becoming Director of Web Communications, he worked to protect the ozone layer and end acid rain.

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