Food for Thought: Haskell Indian Nations University Conducts Food Waste Audits

By Kris Lancaster and Shannon Bond

Haskell Indian Nations University Conducts Food Waste Audits

Haskell Indian Nations University conducts a food waste audit, Nov. 10, 2015.

The sound of plates clattering onto the return belt fills the air after a typical lunch at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. It is a mix of leftovers and empty plates, bowls, and cups, depending on the student and the meal served.

On Nov. 10, 2015, however, students were met by a collection of faculty, other students, and EPA staff surrounding four orange buckets. Each bucket had a label and a picture taped to the side, declaring the contents to be fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates, dessert, or protein/dairy.

Haskell Indian Nations University Conducts Food Waste Audits

EPA Public Affairs Specialist Kris Lancaster interviews students during a food waste audit at Haskell Indian Nations University, Nov. 10, 2015.

While curious students handed over their plates, an EPA staff member explained that Haskell was working with EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge team in an effort to reduce food waste, and as such, would they answer a few questions.

“Is there a particular reason you didn’t finish the hotdog, and what would you do to reduce food waste here at Haskell?” While some of the students declined to answer, most of them were happy to offer opinions, ranging from having differently sized serving spoons to donating the leftovers.

These students were in luck, since Haskell a few days later offered a Food Show, which allowed them an opportunity to try foods from different vendors. During the show, students were able to visit the dining facility, taste food from several vendors, and vote on their favorites.

Haskell conducted two food waste audits in September and November 2015, where discarded food and drink was sorted by type, weighed and logged. The goal is to avoid sending food waste to the landfill. In 2013, Americans generated 37 million tons of food waste, with only 5 percent diverted for composting. Food waste is the largest stream of materials in our landfills, accounting for 21 percent of the nation’s waste stream.

EPA Life Scientist Lisa Thresher explains that these audits help keep food from the landfill by providing Haskell a way to analyze food consumption data. Once trends are identified, the university can implement changes that will have the most impact. Along with these audits, Haskell has met with EPA staff several times in order to identify food recovery strategies.

Haskell Indian Nations University Conducts Food Waste Audits

EPA Region 7 Air and Waste Management Division Director Becky Weber awards food waste management certificates of appreciation to dining services staff and students during a ceremony at Haskell Indian Nations University, Nov. 10, 2015.

After the lunchtime food recovery efforts, EPA Region 7 Air and Waste Management Division Director Becky Weber awarded certificates to dining services staff and students for their food waste recovery contributions. EPA staff also participated in a roundtable meeting with university staff on campus.

EPA’s Food Recovery Program is a national initiative aimed at encouraging organizations to find better alternatives to throwing food away. This is accomplished by working with organizations such as universities, K-12 schools, grocery stores, restaurants, sports stadiums and other organizations to set annual goals to reduce the amount of food they send to landfills. EPA helps organizations reach their food recovery goals by offering technical expertise.

Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In addition to helping slow climate change, other potential benefits of food recovery include the reduction of food disposal cost and the opportunity to feed community members in need through food donation.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

 

About the Author: Kris Lancaster specializes in agricultural relations for EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. After graduating from Central Missouri State University, he worked for the chairman of the Missouri House Ag Committee and the ranking member of the U.S. House Ag Committee. His family owns a row-crop farm in Scotland County, Mo. Kris has three decades of media relations experience.

About the Author: Shannon Bond is the digital communications lead for EPA Region 7. He spent many years in the technology sector as a network specialist before serving as a multimedia producer, photojournalist, broadcast specialist, and public affairs superintendent. As a student of health and wellness, Shannon believes that the ecosystem of the self is intricately connected to the environment. His chosen method of enjoying the environment is pedaling a bicycle wherever the path will take him.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Week in EPA Science: Thanksgiving Edition

By Kacey Fitzpatrick research_recap_GI_thanksgiving-3

Here at EPA, we are thankful for our researchers who work every day to protect our health and the health of the environment (and for giving me a lot to write about).

For this special edition of Research Recap, we’ve asked our researchers what they’re thankful for in the field of environmental science.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • I am thankful for researchers who work collaboratively and openly share data and knowledge to advance our understanding of the environment.
    Havala Pye, Physical Scientist
  • I am thankful for the many supportive, talented, and hard-working scientist and science-loving mentors and friends that I have. The effort that they put forth is allowing my kids can grow up in an area where they aren’t worried about clean air or water. Because of where they were born, they currently cannot even imagine some of the concerns that others have.
    Sherri Hunt, Assistant Center Director for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy research program
  • I am thankful for being able to work with a group of people who are continuously innovating when it comes to answering the most important environmental health questions; all stemming from the love of science! This desire to continuously reinvent ourselves will lead to not only protection of the environment but public health as well.
    Mehdi Hazari, Physiologist
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to work with and train outstanding students and young scientists who will be protecting human health and the environment for the next generation.
    Bill Mundy, Research Toxicologist
  • I am thankful for being surrounded by a great group of scientists and more importantly friends who love working for the EPA and making a difference in the area of emerging technologies.
    Ron Williams, Research Chemist
  • I’m truly thankful for the outstanding group of individuals that I am blessed work with every day.
    Tim Shafer, Research Toxicologist
  • I am most thankful for the power of the almighty computer and the data driven science that it enables.
    Vasu Kilaru, Physical Scientist
  • I am thankful for my colleagues’ extraordinary science to protect human health and the environment, particularly for assuring potable water and clean air throughout the nation.
    Cynthia Yund, Epidemiologist
  • I am thankful to be working at an agency that values human subjects research and that protects and respects research participants as valuable partners in the research process.
    Toby Schonfeld, EPA’s Human Subjects Research Review Official
  • I am thankful to work with the dedicated and intelligent scientists that surround me at EPA.
    Kira Lynch, Biologist
  • I am thankful to be working alongside others who know the importance of keeping our Grandmother healthy and whole so she can continue to nourish and nurture her children for generations who come after us.
    Ken Bailey, Physical Scientist
  • I’m thankful for the chance to work with so many outstanding EPA colleagues making a real difference on the toughest environmental problems we face.
    Chris Weaver, Physical Scientist
  • I’m thankful that I get to work in an organization that is making real progress towards integrating the social sciences into its research programs, and where the contributions of our growing group of social scientists are increasingly recognized as vital to the advancement of our mission.
    Michael Nye, Sociologist
  • I am thankful for long-term environmental monitoring programs (and that scientists who keep them going) because they are so important to help us understand how our environment is changing.
    Joel Hoffman, Research Biologist
  • I am thankful for working at a regulatory agency in which science matters!
    Cecilia Tan, Research Physical Scientist
  • For a contribution toward a sustainable society, I am most grateful to work for EPA, a well-respected organization that gives scientists like myself the mandate and support to protect the environment and human health.  Many times we are compelled by the need for effective and practical solutions to think out-of-box and build our solutions on a solid scientific and technological foundation.  This makes the job challenging and exciting.
    Jeff Yang, Physical Scientist
  • This holiday I’m most thankful for being able to contribute to our understanding of human exposure to environmental pathogens by developing and applying a multiplex immunoassay using antibodies in human saliva samples as biomarkers of exposure. Saliva collection is non-invasive and easy and we now have the ability to measure multiple analytes simultaneously in very small volumes of saliva in a short period of time. Potentially, the data obtained can be used to develop risk assessment models, as well as to help epidemiologists design better health effects studies.
    Jason Augustine, Research Microbiologist
  • This Thanksgiving week I’m reflecting on environmental advances that will provide a cleaner, greener, and healthier future. I am grateful for the great strides in recycling, the increase in electric cars, wind and solar energy.  I am most grateful for the great group of people I get to work with and the research I perform to find solutions and ensure sustainable materials management.
    Diana Bless, Chemical Engineer
  • I am thankful for having sufficient resources to do the job of analyzing environmental information to determine its effect on people and communities. I am also thankful for having colleagues who are great to work with and who are true professionals.
    Eric Hall, Physical Scientist

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Working for Clean Water is a Dream Come True

Joel Beauvais Joel Beauvais

By Joel Beauvais

I grew up in rural Connecticut in the Housatonic River watershed. My childhood revolved around water, whether it was swimming and fishing in the lakes and streams near my home or hiking in the forested foothills of the Berkshires. It’s a remarkably beautiful part of the country and its waters are a big part of that. But I also learned that problems can lurk beneath the surface, as we were taught early on not to eat the fish we caught because of legacy contamination.

My first job out of college was in Central America, where I worked for several years with indigenous communities to protect the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, the second largest tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere. I spent much of my time traveling by river, living a couple days travel by dugout canoe from the nearest road, electricity or running water. For the communities with whom I worked, water is everything – not just drinking water, but their primary mode of transportation, source of food, and the key to understanding their whole landscape. That experience really brought home to me how critical water is – and how vulnerable poorer communities can be to environmental degradation.

These days, I work in an office instead of the jungle, but I find myself returning to the water again and again. My family loves to canoe and we get out to hike trails by the water every chance we get. Like many families, we visit the ocean every summer – in our case, the Maine coast. When I look at our family photos, it seems every other one is on the water – those experiences are a touchstone for us, as for so many others across the country and the world.

While I’ve worked most of my career on energy and climate issues, my real passion is environmental conservation. Water, to me, is at the heart of that. It’s central to our health, our communities, and our economy.

So I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to lead EPA’s Office of Water. I have immense respect for the office and those who work here, as well as for our regional water offices and all of our partners across state and local government and the private sector. I’m really looking forward to listening to, learning from, and partnering with all of you.

During the past two years leading EPA’s Office of Policy, I’ve had the opportunity to play a key role in finalizing some of our key water rules, including the Clean Water Rule to better protect our nation’s streams and wetlands, the Steam Electric rule that keeps 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollutants out of waterways each year, and the Cooling Water Intake rule that protects fish and shellfish in rivers.

I’ve also played a leadership role on the Agency’s efforts to help communities grow sustainably and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which has given me a lot of exposure to the Office of Water’s work on green infrastructure, stormwater management and sustainable water infrastructure.

As we look to the year ahead, this is an exciting time for the Office of Water and there’s no question that there’s a tremendous amount to get done. We must continue to help communities build resilience to climate change, finance improvements to infrastructure, provide safe drinking water, and reduce pollution in waterways where people fish and swim. EPA’s continued support for the work of our state, local, and tribal partners and for innovation and technology in the water sector will be critical.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you on all these fronts.

Joel Beauvais serves as the acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at EPA. Prior to his appointment in the Office of Water, Joel served as Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy, the agency’s primary arm for cross-cutting regulatory policy and economics. He also served as Associate Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he oversaw a broad portfolio of domestic and international air quality and climate policy issues, and as Special Counsel to the Office of the Administrator in EPA’s Office of General Counsel. He previously served as counsel to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, worked in private practice, and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Changing the Water Distribution Model

By Kelsey Maloney

A recent picture of Lake Mead

A recent picture of Lake Mead

If you’ve ever been to the Hoover Dam, you know that a picture just doesn’t do justice to its actual size. Here’s a fun fact: the Hoover Dam stands at 726 ft., a whopping 171 ft. taller than the Washington Monument. Although the Hoover Dam is a sight in itself, Lake Mead is nothing short of spectacular. On a recent trip there, I was surprised to see the striking mineral lines along the rock walls, a clear indicator that water levels were once significantly higher. It’s a stark reminder that areas in the United States, such as the Southwest, are increasingly facing water challenges, including droughts.

Through the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), EPA is helping investigators from small businesses develop new technologies that can help change the water distribution model, putting less stress on freshwater resources (for example, Lake Mead). Researchers are looking towards desalination, a process that treats brackish (slightly salty) and seawater to turn it into usable freshwater.

Okeanos Technologies, a recipient of one of EPA’s SBIR awards, is developing and testing a new technology that they believe is more efficient than the conventional desalination processes.  The researchers believe that this new energy-efficient seawater desalination technology could provide “clean, cheap and plentiful water for everyone, anywhere.” Instead of using large conventional desalination plants, they are developing a microdevice that can desalinate water more efficiently. The technology will cut costs to a point where desalination can take place off-grid, allowing it to be used where it’s needed most.

Another business— Physical Optics Corporation, also a recipient of an EPA SBIR award—is developing a novel, cost-effective desalination system that will enable small water systems to include lower quality source water at their intake, further reducing the demand of ground and surface water supplies. The system is based on a portable desalinator unit that can convert brackish water and seawater into quality drinking water. Because of its size, the unit can not only be used to transform the intakes of small systems, but also in places where freshwater is unavailable.

Many challenges continue to threaten the quality and quantity of our drinking water resources, but through these two projects, we’re moving another step closer to expanding our drinking water sources.

To learn more about the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), visit: http://www2.epa.gov/sbir.

 

About the Author: Kelsey Maloney is a student contractor working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Goes Green Every Day

PPPL Dress

Dana Eckstein shows off her dress made of recyclable CDs for an America Recycles Day fashion show.

By Rachel Chaput

 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) is focused on sustainability every day with everything from a composting program in the cafeteria to awarding prizes for employees caught “green handed” to celebrate America Recycles Day.

PPPL is a national laboratory that is funded by the Department of Energy and managed by Princeton University. The campus sits on an 88-acre parcel with woods and wetlands. There, since the 1950s, researchers have been experimenting with ways to produce clean, renewable, and abundant electric energy from nuclear FUSION. Yes that’s right, fusion, not fission. It’s the same energy that powers the sun and the stars. PPPL’s main experiment, the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) is going to reopen this year after completing a $94 million upgrade.

PPPL Compostable

Compostable service ware used at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

There is an open collaborative relationship with researchers in other countries to get this done, and the beneficial payoff to the world if it could be achieved would be huge. We wish them the best of luck!

PPPL shows its commitment to the environment in other ways as well. They are a long time, committed partner within EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and WasteWise programs, and also participate in the Federal Green Challenge. These are sustainability partnership programs run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which strive to conserve natural resources and promote sustainability. PPPL has been recognized by EPA for good performance in these programs repeatedly, notably with the 2012 EPA WasteWise Program’s Federal Partner of the Year award.

Margaret Kevin-King and Leanna Meyer, PPPL employees who manage the sustainability efforts at PPPL, try to cover all the bases. While PPPL participates in all of the routine recycling of cardboard, paper, plastic and metal, they also do a lot of extras. They compost their food waste and recycle cooking oil to produce biodiesel. They purchase compostable service ware. The Lab also collects razor blades (a safety issue) and universal waste, including lithium batteries.

These ladies bring real commitment to their jobs. Ms. Kevin-King says that on Earth Day, her family and friends text her holiday greetings, because they know it’s the most important holiday of the year to her! Ms. Meyer has made a careful project out of color-coding the recycling bins and trash disposal areas within the lab facility.

They try to bring a creative flair to many of the sustainability efforts at the PPPL. For example, they and members of PPPL’s Green Team offered prizes this year for America Recycles Day to employees who were caught ‘green-handed’ with a reusable cup or reusable lunch bag. They also collect electronics for America Recycles Day and Earth Day. This year, PPPL is recycling everything from office supplies to goggles and hardhats. Check out the pictures of the fashion show they held in years past to celebrate American Recycles Day! These outfits were put together using materials that would otherwise be discarded. It’s good to make work fun!

PPPL Sign

An example of PPPL’s advanced recycling guidelines. How does your office measure up?

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Moving Forward on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

Janet McCabe Janet McCabe

By Janet McCabe

Today, we are proposing a notice that supplements the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Specifically, we are proposing to find that including a consideration of cost does not change the agency’s determination that it is appropriate to regulate air toxics, including mercury, from power plants.

Power plants are the largest source of mercury in the United States. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage children’s developing nervous systems, reducing their ability to think and learn.  Three years ago, we issued MATS, which requires power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants as well, protecting Americans from a host of avoidable illnesses and premature death. All told, for every dollar spent to make these cuts, the public is receiving up to $9 in health benefits. The vast majority of power plants began making the pollution reductions needed to meet their MATS requirements in April of this year and the rest will begin doing so in April of 2016.

After MATS was issued, the federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court both upheld the standards in the face of a host of challenges – but in a narrow ruling the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA should have considered costs when determining whether to regulate toxic air emissions from the power sector.

With today’s proposal, we are addressing the Supreme Court’s decision: we have evaluated several relevant cost metrics, and we are proposing to find that taking consideration of cost into account does not alter our determination that is appropriate to set standards for toxic air emissions from power plants.

In the proposed supplemental finding, we considered the power industry’s ability to comply with MATS and maintain its ability to perform its primary and unique function – the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity—at reasonable costs to consumers. These analyses demonstrate that the costs and impacts of MATS are reasonable and that the power sector can cut mercury and other toxics while continuing to provide all Americans with affordable, reliable electricity. And with MATS still in place today, the steps that many plants across the country have already taken to reduce toxic air emissions and comply with the final standards show that the standards really are achievable.

For 45 years the Clean Air Act has been working to clean up the air that we breathe while our economy has grown. MATS is an important step in our progress towards cleaner air and healthier children, as today’s proposal confirms. We will be accepting comments for 45 days after the proposed supplemental notice is published in the Federal Register. A copy of the proposed notice and a fact sheet are available on our website. We look forward to hearing from you.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_GI_thanksgiving-3

Want to impress those long distance relatives you see only once a year? Keep up with the latest in EPA science by reading Research Recap!

Here’s what we’re highlighting this week.

  • Small Business Innovation Research
    EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is the small program with a big mission—to protect human health and the environment. EPA is calling for small businesses to apply for Phase I awards up to $100,000 to develop and commercialize innovative environmental technologies in the following topic areas: air and climate, integrated cookstove-heating-electricity generation for small homes, manufacturing, toxic chemicals, water, building materials, and homeland security.

    Read more about the SBIR funding opportunities here.

  • Partnering for Planetary Health
    EPA joined partners Aclima and Google Earth Outreach about at the recent GreenBiz VERGE Conference for a panel discussion to share how they are working together to usher in the next generation of air pollution monitoring: visualizing city-scale pollution at the street level, in real time. Aclima recapped the panel, highlighting the top questions and the answers panel members provided.

    Read the recap in Aclima’s blog Aclima, Google, and the EPA Discuss Their Partnership for Planetary Health.

  • EPA Scientist Interviewed by Springer Journal
    EPA Senior Scientist Rajender Varma is an Editorial Board Member of the green chemistry journal Sustainable Chemical Processes. He was recently interviewed by the journal and they discussed green chemistry, his research, and his experiences as a Board Member.

    Read Rajender’s interview here.

  • Building Bridges: Environmental Justice
    EPA researchers work to provide data and scientific tools to advance environmental justice—ensuring that every community enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and has equal access to the decision-making processes it takes to have a healthy environment.

    Read more about these EPA tools in the blog Building Bridges: Environmental Justice.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Building Bridges: Environmental Justice

By Andrew Geller, Ph.D.

I know I’m not alone in that I’ve found my mind wandering a bit this week eagerly anticipating my plans for Thanksgiving festivities. Whether you are like me and will be travelling to visit family elsewhere, or rushing to get a big bird in the oven in time for hosting others, the best part of Thanksgiving is seeing friends and family.

And of course, catching up always includes talking about what we’ve been up to at work over the past year or so.

As an EPA scientist immersed in the broad, and sometimes hard-to-explain arena of research designed to advance sustainable and healthy communities, I find Thanksgiving a good opportunity to hone my science communication skills. Once I remember to drop the acronyms and jargon and engage my 90-plus-year-old father in a casual conversation about EPA research, I know I’ve done a good job.

Just this week, I got an assist from my local paper. The headline in the Durham Herald-Sun immediately grabbed my attention: “Community activists tackle ‘environmental justice’ issues in Durham.”

Providing data and scientific tools to advance environmental justice—ensuring that every community enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and has equal access to the decision-making processes it takes to have a healthy environment—is a top EPA priority.

As the article points out, moving environmental justice from a process to action depends on resources such as visualization tools that communities and other stakeholders can use to pinpoint how particular neighborhoods might be disproportionately impacted by proposed actions.

EnviroAtlas showing urban tree cover of Durham, NC.

EnviroAtlas showing urban tree cover of Durham, NC.

EPA’s researchers are delivering just those kinds of resources. For example, our EnviroAtlas is a web-based mapping tool built on a robust platform of more than 300 data sets that help users explore place-based environmental conditions and impacts. It is designed to help us all to see and make decisions about the many benefits we derive from natural ecosystems themselves and in relation to our built environment and the people who live in a community.  The Eco-Health Relationship Browser, part of EnviroAtlas, illustrates scientific evidence for linkages between human health and ecosystem services.

Users can use both of these resources, and others, to see how local conditions differ from surrounding areas, and to find potential solutions to existing challenges.

One place that has already made great progress is the Proctor Creek neighborhood in Atlanta. The city and local civic groups partnered with EPA’s Regional Office and Agency researchers to conduct a Health Impact Assessment, a systematic process to guide investigations on how to maximize the health and well-being benefits (or minimize the detrimental impacts) of a proposed action.

In the case of Proctor Creek, EPA researchers and the Region produced a Health Impact Assessment to help the community reduce flooding and the contamination associated with combined sewer overflows through the use of innovative techniques that increase or mimic the natural ability of ecosystems to absorb and cleanse storm water runoff, collectively known as “green infrastructure.”  This solution has the added benefit of adding shade and green space to sun-baked streets, increasing walkability and the attractiveness of the area to local businesses to raise the local economy.

Those are just a couple of examples that I can point to where EPA research is advancing environmental justice and making a visible difference in communities. I’m eager to share more here on the blog, and even with local reporters, in the near future. But first I have to pack for a trip to see the family.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew Geller is the Deputy National Program Director for EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) research program and lead author on EPA’s Environmental Justice Research Roadmap.  Dr. Geller led SHC’s strategic planning effort to develop science and tools to help communities identify and reach sustainability goals.  Andrew can often be found riding a bike across the trails, fields, or roads of Durham NC and the surrounding area.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Greening the Federal Purchasing Machine – Leading By Example

Jim Jones Jim Jones

By Jim Jones

Did you know that the Federal government is the single largest consumer in the world, spending close to $500 billion each year on a wide variety of products and services?

And did you know that in March the President issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to meet a goal of buying 100% environmentally preferable products and services? This can make a big difference in reducing our environmental footprint. It can also spur consumers and the private sector to use and demand safer and greener products.

Of course the big challenge for federal agencies is how to sort through the hundreds of products with private labels that claim to be safe or environmentally friendly.

Now it just got easier for federal agencies.

First, the Executive Order directs feds to buy products identified by EPA’s Safer Choice, EnergyStar, WaterSense, SNAP, and SmartWay programs, USDA’s BioPreferred, and DOE’s FEMP programs to meet their needs.

Second, we are evaluating current private eco-labels to help federal buyers sort through which ones are the most credible and environmentally-preferable. We are using our draft Guidelines for Environmental Performance to do this pilot. We’re focusing on standards and ecolabels for 1) furniture; 2) flooring; and 3) paints and coatings. The results will help us with evaluations of other product categories in the future. For more information on our pilot, see http://www.resolv.org/site-guidelines/.

And third, in the meantime, we’ve released interim recommendations of standards and ecolabels to help federal buyers green their purchases. These include standards and ecolabels for construction, adhesives, flooring, insulation, paint, wood, custodial products, electronics, grounds/landscaping materials, office supplies, operations, fleets, shipping and a whole host of other products and services. These sustainability standards and eco-labels have been researched and verified by GSA and DOE, and feds can use them to ensure their purchases perform well and are readily available in the market. So if you need paper towels, there are recycled content requirements, as well as a recommended private label for paper products. We plan to regularly update these recommendations as we implement our Guidelines for non-governmental ecolabels and standards.

All of these efforts will help reduce our environmental footprint, support manufacturers that produce environmentally preferable products, and stimulate supply of greener products and services across the globe. By purchasing environmentally preferable products and services, federal agencies are leading by example, and protecting our health and the environment — for generations to come.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Carpet Beetles in Kindergarten

By Marcia Anderson

A few weeks after summer recess, some preschool and kindergarten students came into their school nurse’s office with red welts on their legs. The bites were large, itchy, and had a burning sensation. The problem escalated until a few students from different classrooms, had over 20 red welts on their legs. Some students seemed to be bitten daily, while others in the same classrooms had no bites at all. The students began to recover on long weekends, but got worse when they came back to school. This continued for two months.

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Mosquitoes, lice, fleas, spiders, bed bugs? The usual culprits were eliminated one-by-one. The nurse reported the problem and a pest management professional (PMP) was deployed to investigate. The PMP suspected carpet beetles instead of bed bugs due to the fact that some children were being bitten while others were not. Some people are allergic to carpet beetles and some are not; however, almost everyone has some sensitivity to bedbugs. Upon inspection the PMP found carpet beetles but no bedbugs.

Carpet beetles are similar to bedbugs in that they are tiny, hard to find, and most active in the wee hours of the morning. The difference is that bedbugs bite, but carpet beetles do not. Carpet beetles eat natural fibers, like wool blankets and feathers, and naturally occur in most homes.

Through further investigation the nurse discovered that the reading areas in all six affected classrooms had their carpets replaced over the summer with new carpets made from mostly natural fibers.

When children walk or move around on the carpet, especially on dry days, there may be a build-up of static electricity that causes the fine hairs cast off the carpet beetle larvae to pass though all but the finest of weaves of clothes. In these classrooms, it appears that static caused the carpet beetle hairs to impale themselves in the surface of the children’s skin, thus creating small pin prick wounds that looked similar to insect bites. Carpet beetles cause a medical condition where the piercing of the skin causes a reaction, either as a result of the insertion of a foreign object (the hairs) into the skin or as a reaction to pollution that enters the open wound.

Anthrenus_verbasci_-_larva_front_(Andre Karwath)

The most commonly found form of carpet beetle is the larvae, which are often termed wooly bears. They are small hairy caterpillars, the skins of which can often be found in dark places. Perhaps they originated from the enclosed, dark conditions in the warehouse where the carpets were stored.

The good news is that no chemical treatment was necessary as it was not the live insects causing the allergic reaction but their prickly little hairs. The solution was to make sure all the allergens (the hairs) were removed from the carpets. The school had the carpets vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum then steam cleaned. The problem was solved.

Read a 2012 story on carpet beetles.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.