Monthly Archives: November 2010

Don’t Just Sit There……

By Megan Gavin

Have you ever seen someone littering and you think to yourself….say something!…but you don’t? How many of us know that switching your light bulbs to CFL type blubs save energy but haven’t gotten around to making the switch? Recently, I heard about a 15-year-old boy from California who saw the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” back when he was 12. Something hit home and he wanted to tell everyone he knew about what he learned. Unfortunately he was too young to be one of Al Gore’s climate change spokespeople. But instead of doing nothing – Alec Loorz decided to do something. He designed his own climate change presentations aimed at youth. Alec said that something just “clicked” when watching the film and he felt a calling to stop global warming. Wow! You don’t hear a lot about the feeling of being called upon to do something and here’s a kid who has done exactly that!

With his mom’s support, Alec ended up creating Kids vs Global Warming, a non-profit organization committed to creating opportunities for youth to learn about the science and solutions of climate change and then take action. Not only did this teen start a non-profit but he created a website highlighting his speeches and projects.

Listening to his speeches on his web site, I was drawn in to his message, youth are smart NOW, creative NOW, involved NOW. He repeatedly says that youth need to be taken seriously, their voices matter, they are motivated and inspired, they just need a push with direction, support and mentoring. Could you give that push to a young person? Do you know someone who can?

I wasn’t surprised to learn Alec went beyond giving presentations on climate change, he created a lot of different projects such as: Sea Level Awareness campaign, a Declaration of Independence from fossil fuels and a California Youth Climate Council. His message must be getting out; he’s been on national news programs, won a variety of awards and inspired kids nationwide. Alec’s latest project is the iMatter March with a goal of one million youth standing up for the planet. I can’t wait to see what kids like Alec will do next.

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

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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My Black Friday Experience

By Denise Owens

While preparing to go shopping for Black Friday, I decided to do things differently. I brought my own bags from home to use for my purchases instead of receiving plastic bags. My girlfriends and I carpooled to the shopping mall instead of everyone driving separately.

Once we arrived at the mall I was amazed how the employers were passing out reusable bags to be used instead of using the plastic bags. As they passed out the bags, they informed the shoppers that by using these reusable bags, this will help the environment.

While shopping this past weekend I made sure I shopped green. I purchased lights to decorate my home inside and out. I was on an alert for the Energy Star Label for more reasons than one. Not only were the lights prettier it was safer for the environment. I explained to my girlfriends why I had to have Energy Star products. My girlfriend said it does not matter. Well as she shopped for a TV she asked a few questions and the first thing the salesman said was, “This is an Energy Star television” I laughed and said to her, “I told you so”.

During my shopping experience I was really pleased to find that people are really going green for the holidays.

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 25 years.

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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Let's Make Black Friday A Green Friday

By Brittany Gordon

The Thanksgiving leftovers have barely been touched, and already it’s time to start thinking about hitting the stores for that perfect holiday gift. Ready or not, holiday shopping time is here, and EPA’s ENERGY STAR program wants to help you pick the perfect gift, that will keep on giving for years to come.

So, what’s on your list this year? Perhaps a new TV for Dad? Maybe a new video game system for the kids? No matter what you plan to buy, there is a great chance that you can find it with the ENERGY STAR label. With over 60 different kinds of products to choose from, there is an energy saving gift for every person on your list. Let’s face it…anyone can pick out a great gift. But choosing a present that will save your loved ones money –and helps protect our environment– is the gift that they will never forget.

If home entertainment is on your list, the ENERGY STAR label has everything you want. From Blu-ray disc players to home-theaters-in-a-box, you cannot go wrong giving the gift of energy efficient entertainment. If a brand new TV is on your wish list, just check out this statistic: ENERGY STAR qualified TVs use about 40 percent less energy than standard models!

You can also find the ENERGY STAR label on a slew of office products, including the latest in computer technology. Many gifts also use ENERGY STAR qualified battered chargers, like video game controls, digital cameras and even cordless lawn mowers. Looking for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing these products means a 35 percent energy savings compared to conventional chargers.

Once you have purchased all of those gifts for other people, don’t forget about fighting climate change in your own home. Before trimming the tree, make sure the on LED decorative light strings have earned the ENERGY STAR. These light strings use 75 percent less electricity than conventional incandescent light strings, and they come in a great selection of colors, shapes and sizes.
Hopefully you are now armed with a long list of gift possibilities that are good for both the environment and the wallet. Happy shopping!

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of the ENERGY STAR products communication team. Previously she worked as a broadcast journalist at TV stations in NYC, Erie, PA and Baltimore, MD.

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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The Long and Winding and GREEN Road

Click here to visit the Green Highways Partnership website.The first question for most people I’m sure is “What is a ‘green road’?”  Do they paint the asphalt? What makes it green and why is it important?

Green streets and highways help mitigate the amount of pollution and damage caused by a road or highway to the environment. 

Greening a street may involve environmental practices and its surrounding habitat:

-Pervious (porous) pavement is used – This means that instead of straight runoff when it rains, the water percolates through the surface to reduce runoff- related problems and to help minimize the effect of paving an area.

-Stormwater management – Techniques such as Bio Retention and Filtration are used to minimize the impact of roads during storms.  These techniques help to re-route runoff from storm drains to specially landscaped areas on the side of the street.

-Recycled materials – By using recycled materials builders can reduce land filling, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Many reused and recycled materials perform as well or better than their conventional/virgin counterparts.

-Street lights use clean energy (i.e., solar or wind power)

-Increased native tree canopy and forest buffers

-Wildlife crossings to give safe passage for species

To learn more about green highways visit the Green Highways Partnership.

A particular project in the Mid-Atlantic that exemplifies green streets and low-impact development (LID) is in the town of Edmonston, Maryland.  They rebuilt their main residential street (Decatur Street) to be a green street.  Edmonston was a prime location to implement a project of this kind, due to its proximity to the Anacostia River and the Chesapeake Bay.  Edmonston is at the forefront of LID, being the first town in Maryland (and possibly on the East Coast) to build something of this kind.  Visit the Edmonston city website for more information on the project.

 Have any new ideas about what can be done to help ‘green’ your neighborhood?  Get out there and put them into practice! Plant trees at the edge of your yard, have a gravel driveway instead of a concrete one or plant a rain garden at the bottom of your gutter spout.  And don’t be shy about sharing what you’ve learned with your neighbors or in the comments section below.

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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Science Wednesday: The Sustainability Bowl. (Go Team Go!)

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Aaron Ferster

It’s that time of year again. Time for preparations, gathering the appropriate supplies, and making necessary travel arrangements. Naturally, I’m referring to the annual ritual of figuring out what college football team is the best.

By ushering in the holiday season, Thanksgiving Day marks the unofficial beginning of the earnest debate over which handful of college football teams are worthy of consideration for the big-time bowl games that will decide which team is this year’s champion.

But while college football is sure to command gobs of newsprint and hours of sports talk radio over the next six weeks or so, another kind of competition has recently unfolded on campuses across the country to somewhat less fanfare. Instead of athleticism, this one aims to recognize colleges for their sustainability prowess.

According to its web site, “the Campus Conservation Nationals 2010 is a nationwide resource use reduction competition that challenges college and university campuses to achieve the greatest electricity and water use reductions during a 3-week period.”

The contest is sponsored in part by a company founded by a winning team from EPA’s P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition. The team used their funding awards to develop a “dashboard” system that allows building occupants, such as dorm residents, to wirelessly monitor their electricity and water usage in real-time.

To test their idea, the P3 team pitted two dorms against each other to see who could reduce their energy and water usage the most. As you would expect, when residents were able to keep a close eye on energy use, they were more motivated to conserve.

The idea proved to be a real winner, and the team was able to parlay their success at the EPA P3 sustainable design competition into launching a successful small business. It’s one of several P3 success stories that have not only brought sustainable ideas to the marketplace but helped create jobs.

While a college competition for energy and water consumption savings may not fill a stadium full of spectators, in the long run it could provide just as important a legacy as a national football championship.

About the Author: A science writer-editor in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, Aaron Ferster is also editor of Science Wednesday.

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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Play Again…and again…and again!

By Wendy Dew

I have been involved with the national movement to reconnect kids with nature for a few years now. Children play less and less outside and spend a vast majority of their day inside looking at TV, the internet or playing video games.

The disconnect between children and nature has a profound impact on our children’s physical, mental health and sense of environmental stewardship. In the last twenty years, childhood obesity has more than doubled and adolescent obesity has tripled. Studies have shown that time in nature uniquely benefits children’s health, improves a child’s academic performance, concentration, and self esteem. It has even been shown to reduce symptoms associated with attention deficit disorder. In order to create an environmental responsible citizen we need to reconnect our children with nature.

I attended the Colorado Environmental Film Festival this past week and the opening night film was called “PLAY AGAIN.” This film unplugs a group of media savvy teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure – documenting the wonder that comes from time spent in nature and inspiring action for a sustainable future.

It never ceases to amaze me how different childhood is for kids now versus just 20 years ago. One young girl in the film really struck me. It was a joy to watch her spirit and creativity come out once she was out in nature. It was upsetting to see how dependent kids have become on media for their social interactions. This film re-inspired me to increase our efforts to get kids outside so they can enjoy a wider variety of activities, be healthier and gain a life-long appreciation for the natural world.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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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Compras verdes para el Viernes Negro

Por Lina Younes

En los Estados Unidos, el viernes después del Día de Acción de Gracias es denominado como el “Viernes Negro” y se considera como el comienzo extraoficial de la temporada de compras para las fiestas. Como muchos estarán buscando los mejores precios especiales en las tiendas, ¿por qué no aprovechan la oportunidad para asegurarse que estas compras sean favorables para el medio ambiente también? He aquí algunos consejos verdes que aplican al Viernes Negro o cualquier día del año.

JUGUETES

Como padres, queremos asegurarnos que los juguetes de nuestros niños sean seguros y libres de sustancias químicas tóxicas. Hemos visto ocasionalmente informes que advierten sobre juguetes populares e incluso joyería infantil de juguete que tienen contenido tóxico. La Comisión para la Seguridad de Productos de Consumo de EE.UU.  ha logrado importantes avances en asegurar la seguridad de los productos que encontramos en las tiendas durante esta época festiva.

ELECTRÓNICOS

Computadoras, video juegos, enseres domésticos son muy populares durante las fiestas. Si está buscando una compra verde en esta área, considera aquellos productos con la etiqueta Energy Star para ahorrar dinero y proteger el medio ambiente a la misma vez. Por ejemplo, si cada hogar en los Estados Unidos comprara un producto para oficinas en el hogar como una computadora con la etiqueta de Energy Star este año, la nación en conjunto podría ahorrar más de $75 millones en costos anuales de energía y evitaría mil millones de libras en emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero lo que equivaldría a las emisiones provenientes de 90,000 automóviles.

BATERÍAS RECARGABLES

Muchos juguetes, efectos electrónicos y productos portátiles requieren baterías. Las baterías recargables son esenciales en cualquier lista de regalos verdes. Los beneficios son dobles. Por ejemplo, no tan sólo ahorra en la compra de baterías a largo plazo, sino también minimizará los desechos.

Tenemos consejos adicionales sobre compras verdes.  Nos encantaría escuchar sobre sus prácticas sostenibles durante las fiestas.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

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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Go Green on Black Friday

By Lina Younes

Increasingly Black Friday has become the unofficial kickoff of the holiday buying season. As many of you seek good deals at the nation’s stores, have you thought of ensuring that your purchases are environmentally friendly? Here are some green tips that apply to Black Friday or any day of the year.

TOYS

As a parent, we want to ensure that our children’s toys are safe and free of toxic chemicals. We still see occasional reports that popular toys and even children’s toy jewelry may have some toxic content. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has made major strides to ensure the safety of the products we’ll find in stores this holiday season.

ELECTRONICS

Computers, video games, household appliances are popular during the holidays. If you are looking for a green purchase in this area, consider those products with the Energy Star label to save money and protect the environment at the same time. For example, if every home in the US purchased a home office product like a computer with the Energy Star label this year, the nation as a whole would save more than $75 million in annual energy costs and prevent 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, equivalent to emissions from 90,000 cars.

RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES

Many toys, electronics, and hand held products require batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a must on any green gift list. The advantage is twofold. Not only will you save on batteries in the long run, but you’ll also minimize waste .

We have additional tips on green shopping.  We would love to hear about your green practices during the holidays.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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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EPA at 40

By Deb Berlin

Question: What do burning rivers, lead, and President Nixon have in common?
Answer: EPA in the 1970’s.

December 2, 1970 is the EPA’s birthday. We were founded by an Executive Order from President Nixon, during the turmoil of the Vietnam War and shortly after the first Earth Day.

Skyscraper of Manhattan veiled in Smog, 05/1973

Skyscraper of Manhattan veiled in smog, 05/1973

This was a time when a river in Ohio, the Cuyahoga, could be so fouled with industrial pollution, garbage and oil, that it could support no wildlife whatsoever and catch on fire 13 times – trash burning where people should swim and fish.  The Agency coalesced quickly and within two years helped create the Clean Water Act, which provides broad protections and limits dumping of industrial pollution into waterways.

At the same time, we started the phase out of leaded gasoline. You can see why from this smog-obscured view of the 1973 Manhattan skyline, representative of other American cities at the time.  Lead exposure was widespread and could give children permanent brain damage.

Question: What’s the state of burning rivers and lead inside people these days?
Answer: The Cuyahoga is cleaner than it has been in generations and thousands of water bodies across the country have been revitalized. Lead in our air is down more than 90% from a generation ago.

Over forty years we’ve cleaned the country’s drinking water, reduced exposure to dangerous chemicals, and penalized polluters. EPA helps protect human health and the environment in so many ways, such as helping save energy dollars through the Energy Star label, working to increase your gas mileage, classifying second-hand smoke as a cause of cancer, and removing arsenic from apples.
For more examples, see our whole history in 3 minutes (“40th Anniversary Video”) or
view the milestones on our timeline. Please be part of our anniversary – help us make the country cleaner tomorrow – Pick 5 for the Environment.

About the author: Deb Berlin works in the EPA Office of Public Affairs on strategic 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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A Tale of Two Beaches

By Lina Younes

The images of my summer vacation are still vivid in my mind, but not for the reasons you may think. During the first part of my vacation, my family and I had the opportunity to go to a beach resort with pristine waters and powdery white sands. The ambiance was like heaven on earth. It was the perfect setting to get away from it all. I wish to capture that moment in time forever.

The second part of the vacation was dedicated to family activities and friends. During the course of the vacation, we often went to pastry shop right on the coastal road. We noticed that the pastry and ice cream shop was connected to an outdoor restaurant. So one evening, we decided to have a relaxing family dinner at sunset enjoying the ocean breeze. Boy, were we in for quite a surprise! From the road, you could observe the turquoise waters. But when we actually sat down for dinner by that beach, it looked like a wasteland!!! Mounds of plastic bottles and trash strewed across the beach. There were even black patches of burnt sand where people had burned garbage in the past. The waves kept taking the debris out to sea and back who knows how many times. The saddest part was that people didn’t seem to mind. They didn’t care! I was in a foreign country beyond EPA’s reach. Who could I report the incident to?

While enforcement of environmental laws and regulations is key, we all have to do our part to minimize waste and recycle whenever possible. So when packing for the beach or any outdoor activity, dispose of your waste properly to make this Planet Earth a better place for us all.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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.