Rule Your Attic and Save Energy and Money This Winter

This is the first installment of blogs related to ENERGY STAR’s “Rule Your Attic!” outreach campaign encouraging homeowners to insulate their attics to reduce energy use, decrease utility bills, and increase comfort this heating season.

By Doug Anderson

Homeowners throughout the U.S. are starting to wake up to frost on the grass and furnaces or boilers running full blast. Cold weather is here! Now is the time to do a quick, simple check of your attic insulation levels to save money on energy bills and be more comfortable this winter. We call checking your attic insulation level: RULE YOUR ATTIC!

Don’t waste your hard earned money, just check your insulation level today to know if you have a problem or not. It only takes a few minutes. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Grab a tape measure or ruler and a flashlight. (You can also bring your cell phone)
  2. Carefully climb up your attic stairs or ladder and raise the attic hatch or door.
  3. Reach out and stick the ruler into the insulation and measure the depth in inches. Jot down the number or take a picture with your cell phone to record the number.

Now, check your results. For commonly used blown (loose-fill) fiberglass, mineral wool or cellulose insulation (assuming an R-value of about R-3 per inch):

  1. If you live in a Northern State and have less than 16-18 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.
  2. If you live in a Southern State and have less than 12-14 inches of insulation you are below the recommended levels.

 

insulation map

 

In the map above, zones 4-8 are considered Northern, zones 2-3 are Southern.

Now, if your levels are good, relax and have a cup of hot cider. If you are below the recommended levels, don’t sweat it. It’s not too late to make an improvement and lower your annual energy bills by up to 10% by sealing air leaks and adding insulation to your home.

From now through November 26, post a picture or short video of your attic floor insulation using the hashtag #RuleYourAttic and include @ENERGYSTAR in your post. ENERGY STAR experts will then provide feedback on how to improve your attic insulation. For more information visit www.energystar.gov/ruleyourattic. To learn how to measure your attic insulation level watch our short video. If you haven’t already followed us, check out the ENERGY STAR Twitter page.

Now, the next question is: should you do it yourself or hire a contractor? We have helpful information whatever you decide to do.

rule your attic

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including sealing and insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

 

 

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

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circle

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

“Official” winter may be more than a month away, but all I have to say is brrr! After spending the last four years at college in sunny South Carolina, I’m a little unprepared for the chilly weather in Washington DC. Especially this many days before Thanksgiving!

Thankfully, there are plenty of indoor activities to get you through the cold days ahead – like reading our weekly EPA Research Recap!

Here’s some EPA research that has been highlighted this week. I suggest enjoying them with a hot cup of tea.

  • EPA’s Bio-Response Operational Testing and Evaluation Video
    EPA has released a video on its Bio-Response Operational Testing and Evaluation (BOTE) project which helped EPA and partners advance real world techniques to decontaminate anthrax bacteria.
    Watch it here.
  • Picturing Algal Blooms in Local Waterways
    This summer, EPA teamed up with the National Environmental Education Foundation and the North American Lake Management Society to bring attention to algal blooms and their association with nutrient pollution by hosting the 2014 Algal Bloom Photo Contest. Out of hundreds of entries, three were chosen as winners.
    Read more.
  • EPA Researchers in Duluth Profiled by White House for Protecting Honey Bee Habitat
    About 10 years ago, EPA’s Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 1.9 acres of manicured lawn back into native prairie, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers, providing an important place for bees and other pollinators to thrive. The lab was highlighted in the recently-released White House’s Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
    Read More.
  • A Tool for Tribal Communities
    EPA and partners developed the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (T-FERST) to help Native American Tribes address some of the unique environmental and related public health challenges they face. It serves as a source for a plethora of environmental and geographical information and allows for the continual input of data by its users.
    Read more.

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.

A Tool for Tribal Communities

November is Native American Heritage month. Throughout the month, we will be featuring blogs related to Tribal Science.

By Diane Simunek

The following story was shared at a recent workshop:

On a warm summer morning an elder, his dog, and his grandson go down to the river. The dog jumps in for a swim; a few days later the dog falls gravely ill. After reexamining the river the elder identifies that the illness was caused by harmful algal blooms in the water. On closer inspection, it was easy for him to figure out what had caused the dog’s illness. Preventing the algae from blooming again, however, poses a more challenging question.

This scenario was one of many examples used at the “Train the Trainer” workshop held by the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) last October to teach tribal communities how to use the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (T-FERST), a web-based, geospatial decision support tool.

EPA partnered with USET to develop the tool to help Federally Recognized Tribes address some of the unique environmental and related public health challenges they face. It serves as a source for a plethora of environmental and geographical information and allows for the continual input of data by its users.

There are some 250,000 rivers within the United States.

There are some 250,000 rivers within the United States.

As part of the workshop, the students were asked to propose short- and long-term solutions to the formation of harmful algal blooms. Using T-FERST, they looked at satellite imagery to identify where nutrient pollution (which sparks harmful algal blooms) was coming from. Within the watershed, and upstream, they saw cattle grazing, a wastewater treatment plant, and a large housing development—all known sources of excess nutrients. For the immediate future the students suggested installing warning signs around the river to prevent potentially dangerous exposures to unsafe water. For the long-term, they planned to take water samples to determine where the highest concentrations of nutrients were coming from, giving them insight into where to take action to cut off the source of nutrient pollution.

These are the types of questions that can be answered using the web-based geospatial data provided by T-FERST. The tool provides tribes with the best available human health and ecological science. In addition to the wealth of information already available, the platform was designed to allow new data to be continuously input by users.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

November is Native American Heritage Month.

So far, beta tests are very encouraging. “Tribal communities have already encompassed the tool and taken ownership of it. It’s really great to see their eagerness,” says Ken Bailey, EPA’s lead scientist for the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool.

Bailey and his colleagues expect to publically release the tool in early 2015. With more than 550 recognized tribal nations and 250,000 rivers within the United States, T-FERST will be helping to protect Tribal members and their environment in the near future.

About the Author: Diane Simunek is a student contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.

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.

Picturing Algal Blooms in Local Waterways

By Marguerite Huber

Mother duck and ducklings swim through algae-topped water.

Patricia M.’s photo of some wood ducks swimming through algae in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

For years now, I have been learning about algal blooms: from seeing and studying them first hand in a lake and watershed management course in graduate school, to watching bloom events unfold and writing all about them here at EPA.

But you don’t have to be studying algal blooms or work at the EPA to see them. Algal blooms can occur in lakes, rivers, and oceans, where there is an excess of nutrient pollution, sunlight, and slow-moving water. Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems.

This summer, the National Environmental Education Foundation teamed up with EPA and the North American Lake Management Society to bring attention to algal blooms and their association with nutrient pollution by hosting the 2014 Algal Bloom Photo Contest. Contestants used Facebook, Instagram, and #AlgalBloomPhoto14 to enter their photos of algal blooms in their local waterways. The submissions from all over the country will help build a photo library that can be used to educate others about algal blooms and their impacts. Out of hundreds of entries, three were chosen as winners.

Along with the winning image of the duck family above, here are a couple more of my favorite entries.

Green covered pond in Central Park, NYC

Brad W.’s photo of Central Park in New York City.

 

A green lake is not something you probably would expect to see on a stroll through Central Park.

 

Beachgoer under an umbrella

Dick R.’s photo of Tainter Lake in Menomonie, Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by sand, water—and algae!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can pick your own favorites from all the entries and the finalists as well!

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a student contractor with EPA’s science communications team.

 

 

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.

Veterans Love the Environment Too!

By Victoria Robinson and Dr. Marva E. King

Admiral Michelle J. Howard

Admiral Michelle J. Howard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Veterans Day Celebration on November 6 gave participants the pleasure of hearing an inspiring speech by Admiral Michelle Howard, the first woman to achieve the rank of admiral in the Navy and the first African-American woman to achieve a 4 star ranking in the U.S. Armed Forces. Listening to the Admiral talk about her military experiences as well as her proud interest and commitment to our environment inspired the Office of Environmental Justice to begin exploring how other veterans, inside EPA, in other federal agencies, and in other sectors, are putting their love for the environment and for their communities into action.

What we found was that here at EPA, more than 1,500 of our colleagues are veterans or continue to serve as reservists in the U.S. armed forces. Starting in 2012, EPA developed a series of videos about some of our home grown champions. These EPA sheroes and heroes share their love for the military, their love for the Agency, and their love for the environment.

As daughters of veterans, we have seen first-hand the dedication and commitment of veterans who came home to make our world better for others. We’re also keenly aware of national environmental justice champions who served our country. Many of you may know the story of Hilton Kelley, who served in the Navy before serving his Port Arthur, Texas community. Dr. Robert Bullard, author of more than 18 books about environmental justice, served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps after college.

Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project

Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project

In addition to these leaders of the environmental justice movement, many new veterans are joining the fight for healthy environments in their neighborhoods by working in the non-profit sector. Take a look at Kelly Carlisle, a Navy Veteran, who founded Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, a non-profit urban farm focusing on serving at-risk youth, who also plans to establish a farmers market with educational opportunities for involved youth in basic gardening and composting. To learn more about what Kelly is doing, please visit the Farmer Veteran website.

Former Army and National Guard Veteran Sonia Kendrick founded Feed Iowa First, a nonprofit with a mission of combatting food insecurity by raising food and farmers, and was honored earlier this year at the White House as one of 10 leaders who are White House “Champions of Change – Women Veteran Leaders.” The event highlighted the incredible contributions of women veterans to our nation’s business, public, and community sectors. Go here to find out more about Sonia and Feed Iowa First.

Sonia Jo Kendrick, Feed Iowa First

Sonia Jo Kendrick, Feed Iowa First

As a local Washington DC veteran, Joe Wynn, President of Veteran’s Enterprise Training and Services Group, recently remarked “veterans are people too!” The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice wants to learn about the other veterans who “love the environment too!” and are working on social justice and environmental concerns in communities across the country. Please let us know who you are, which branch of the military service you served in, and what work you are doing to make a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically-distressed communities.

Please post in the comments section below because we want to hear from our homegrown sheroes and heroes. We thank you for your service abroad and here at home.

About the authors: Victoria Robinson currently is the Acting Communications Director for EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. Recently she served 5 years as Designated Federal Office (DFO) of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. She also works as the OEJ point of contact for climate change. She has been served EPA in the Office of Environmental Justice for more than 11 years.

Marva E. King, PhD, a U.S. Air Force veteran, recently rejoined the staff of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice where she had worked for over 10 years as a Senior Program Analyst in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice managing the EJ Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement Program and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Previously she served as Program Co-Chair for the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) Program. She also serves as a community expert on several EPA teams across the Agency. Dr. King holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Delaware and a Ph.D. in Public Policy at George Mason University.

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.

Rise Higher

By Meghan La Reau

Scrambling toward the finish line.

Scrambling toward the finish line.

My brother recently started an active outdoor lifestyle company. Its mission is to return fitness back to its outdoor roots and their philosophy is “nothing compares to the authentic challenges provided by Mother Nature.” It’s much more than just a race, rather it’s an experience from camping to fireside speakers to promoting environmental stewardship.

O2X, the company, has an environmental stewardship plan that pledges to leave each mountain as well or better than when they arrived. Their post-‐race remediation plan is critical, and begins with responsible course design – to not disturb the mountain. The plan also includes leaving no wrappers, water bottles or trash on the course – “pack in, pack out.” O2X encourages everyone to bring reusable water bottles with plenty of water stations to refill, providing only compostable paper products, and collecting donations of old running shoes to be recycled. As an EPA Waste Wise partner, they are striving for zero waste events. All waste was sorted into compostable and recycled containers. O2X reduced its carbon footprint by providing solar panels to recharge phones, promoting carpooling to the event, and requesting all applications be submitted online to reduce paper use. The company also sources all food and beverages for each event locally.

I had to support my brother in his new endeavor so I registered for a race!

The challenge I signed up for is an off-trail mountain race traversing natural obstacles up a mountain, in this case, Windham Ski Resort in New York. The race was four miles experiencing a

The team pauses for a photo during a water break halfway to the top.

The team pauses for a photo during a water break halfway to the top.

net elevation gain of 1,350 feet. The race at Windham went from Base Camp in front of the Windham Base Lodge, journeying through winding switchbacks crossing first on to East Peak, then on and off trail and through rugged natural terrain. The Finish Line, atop West Peak Summit, overlooks the awesome view of East Peak, Windham Mountain Village, Hudson Valley and the Catskills.

While working and raising three kids, I tried to train as well as I could. Training included road running and running up the stairs at 290 Broadway, EPA’s New York City offices. However, nothing I did prepared me for this adventure. We ran up rock outcrops, crawled through caves of rock, and climbed up nearly vertical ski slopes. All the leaves had fallen and it rained for the previous three days making conditions very slick. Thank goodness for the three water stops! One hour and 31 minutes later, at an elevation of 3,035 feet, we reached the summit! Never had I experienced such a challenging race. Sign me up for the next one!

 

About the Author: Meghan La Reau is an Environmental Scientist in EPA’s RCRA Compliance Branch for the past 16 years conducting enforcement of hazardous waste facilities and solid waste landfills. Meghan enjoys indoor activities such as wine making and outdoor activities such as running, hiking, and attending sporting events. Meghan holds a B.S in Environmental Resource Management from Penn State University and a Masters in Environmental Science from NJIT.

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.

Catch the Latest Buzz from EPA Connect…

The following excerpt is cross-posted from “EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA leadership.”

EPA Researchers in Duluth Profiled by White House for Protecting Honey Bee Habitat

Bee in a bright yellow flower

By Lek Kadeli

About 10 years ago, EPA’s Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 1.9 acres of manicured lawn back into native prairie, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. This lab, recognized across the scientific community, centers its research on the effects of pollution and chemical exposures on the environment—particularly aquatic ecosystems, fish and wildlife.

EPA research lab surrounded by pollinator habitat.

EPA research lab surrounded by pollinator habitat.

The results of restoring the prairie have been inspiring. The lab saves $3,500 in maintenance costs every year, and EPA staff get to see butterflies, birds and spring and summer blooms that brighten their workdays. Instead of the periodic roar of lawnmowers, they can stroll the grounds during their breaks in quiet solitude, maybe even catching an occasional glimpse of deer, fox and other wildlife.

These 1.9 acres of prairie have also provided an important place for bees and other pollinators to thrive—and this relationship between the pollinators flying about and the habitat of native plants recently caught the attention of the White House. EPA’s Duluth Lab was highlighted in the recently-released White House document, Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The document supports President Obama’s memorandum recognizing the critical role pollinators play in food production and our economy.

Read the rest of the post.

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.

Cities on the Edge: Tools and Assistance for Revitalizing Distressed Communities

By Katherine Takai

“While municipal bankruptcies have gotten a lot of national headlines, it’s not the bankrupt cities that are the widespread problem. It’s the ones on the edge—the ‘distressed’ cities. These are places that likely will never declare bankruptcy but are nonetheless struggling to become economically viable again.”

This quote from Liz Farmer’s March 2014 article in Governing Magazine refers to the plight of cities, like Scranton, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and others across the nation, facing the effects of population decline, job loss, and high rates of poverty. Vacant properties, brownfields, and other remnants of lost manufacturing industry are common.

Population and job loss, decreased public service capacity, and abandoned, vacant land are issues that are all too familiar to me as a native of Metro Detroit. Through my work with local governments on sustainability issues, I have observed cities that are home to declining urban centers in many areas of the country that face similar challenges. Low-income and minority communities are disproportionately represented in these cities; and these communities are most susceptible to environmental harm, often with little capacity to voice their concerns with decision-makers.

This isn’t always the case though. We’ve seen the effectiveness of integrating environmental justice principles to enhance economic competitiveness in the Regenesis effort to revitalize Spartanburg, SC. Spartanburg’s city and county governments’ partnership with local community groups and leaders demonstrated the key role that local government can play in efforts to address economic development and environmental justice issues.

National Resource Network

And Spartanburg isn’t alone – efforts to increase the economic competitiveness of cities across the country are introducing an opportunity to integrate equity and environmental justice considerations for more sustainable and resilient communities. One such effort is the National Resource Network, recently launched through funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide local leaders in city governments with the expertise and resources necessary to tackle the biggest barriers to increasing economic competitiveness. The Network, a core component of the White House’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2), offers access to experts, technical advice, and information to address the biggest barriers to economic competitiveness.

Through the Network website, you can explore customized tools and advice, such as:

  • The Resource Library – a searchable database of vetted published resources with information about targeted topics for overcoming obstacles faced by distressed cities, including public health, economic development, sustainability, citizen engagement and more.
  • The Technical Assistance Clearinghouse – the country’s first-ever searchable database of more than 100 technical assistance programs offered to local governments and communities from federal, state, and local agencies and non-government organizations.
  • 311 for Cities” – an online assistance resource where local public agency staff in selected cities can connect with a rich a network of private and public sector expertise and receive strategic help on key issues their cities are facing. See if your community is eligible to participate in “311 for Cities.”
  • The Request for Assistance (RFA) portal – a direct technical assistance program designed to help local governments and their partners develop and implement strategies for economic recovery. The Network is now accepting applications from eligible cities to have a team of the Network’s private and public sector experts provide on-the-ground help to implement locally identified projects and initiatives that will deliver economic benefits in the near term. See the FAQs for more details.

To address issues facing cities similar to those in Detroit, finding the resources, knowledge, and expertise to identify and implement solutions presents a seemingly overwhelming challenge. This is especially true for smaller communities with less staff and capacity. As a comprehensive resource for distressed communities, the Network aspires to decrease the size of the challenge and broaden the federal government’s reach to those cities who may not traditionally have the capacity to apply for government assistance and truly transform communities through local action.

HUD Secretary Julián Castro recently said, “knowledge is fuel for progress and innovation. The National Resource Network will be a valuable tool in helping local governments address their challenges and achieve their goals. It will provide on-the-ground technical assistance and human resources that cities can use to build for the future. Working together as partners, I know we’ll expand opportunities for more Americans.”

About the Author: Katherine Takai has been a project manager with the International City/County Management Association’s Center for Sustainable Communities since 2012. In addition to working on the National Resource Network, she supports EPA’s National Brownfield Training Conference, the Local Government Environmental Assistance Network (LGEAN), and a number of other local government sustainability projects. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy & Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

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

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circle

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

This morning I heard “Jingle Bells” on the radio and an announcement alerting me of the exact number of days I had left to shop. My coffee cup has made the switch from standard white to holiday red and all that pumpkin spice hype has been replaced by demands for gingerbread and peppermint.

Sometimes it seems like we skip right from October to December! But there is still a lot to celebrate in November, including Native American Heritage Month. Over the next few weeks, we’re highlighting some of the research we and our partners have done to advance Tribal environmental health and science.

  • Tribal Environmental Health Research Program
    For more than a decade, EPA’s Tribal Environmental Health Research Program has supported studies to better understand the health effects of environmental contaminants on tribal populations. The Agency has awarded funding in a diversity of research areas that explore environmental risks, particularly cumulative chemical exposure and global climate change, affecting tribes. Read more.
  • Technical Models Informed by Indigenous Cultural Values
    EPA-supported researcher Len Necefer is developing a technical decision tools to help tribal policy makers make more informed decisions on future energy resource development. The tool will track and display culturally-relevant outcomes from different environmental decisions. Read more.

And here’s some more EPA research that has been highlighted this week.

  • On a Roll with “SustainableJoes”
    Stephen Szucs of SustainableJoes.com is traveling from Canada to Key West on a solar- and pedal-powered trike called an ELF. He made a stop in North Carolina last week to visit with EPA officials and talk sustainability with them at an event at a local school. His “Rethink” tour aims to create the world’s largest sustainability network. Read more.
  • Visualize Air Quality with RETIGO
    EPA scientists recently developed the Real-Time Geospatial Data Viewer, or “RETIGO,” a free, web-based tool that allows users to visualize air quality data derived from any number of monitoring technologies. RETIGO puts the power of analysis in the user’s hands with its interactive platform and easy-to-navigate interface. Read more.

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.

Technical Models Informed by Indigenous Cultural Values

November is Native American Heritage month. Throughout the month, we will be featuring blogs by EPA and EPA-supported Native American environmental and public health researchers, and about issues related to Tribal Science.

Technical Models Informed by Indigenous Cultural Values

By Len Necefer

Researcher interviewing a women.

Len Necefer conducting surveys with the Navajo Nation.

Growing up in the Navajo Nation, I learned firsthand about the link between the environment and the health of our people. A nonsmoker, my grandfather developed silicosis and had his entire left lung removed at the age of 45, the result of years of unsafe uranium mining practices typical across the Navajo Nation. His health problems were complicated later in life by poor air quality from large coal power plants in the region.

While both uranium and coal provide significant revenue and employment for the tribe, I believed that there must be a way to develop energy resources with fewer consequences to the environment and its people. I believed there could be a way to draw upon the Navajo teachings from my family about my responsibilities to the environment to guide this new path.

I was awarded an EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship in 2012 to pursue my doctoral work at Carnegie Mellon University. My dissertation is focused on developing technical decision tools to help tribal policy makers make more informed decisions on future energy resource development. The tool will track and display culturally-relevant outcomes from different environmental decisions, such as specific impacts on land and water resources uniquely important to the Navajo Nation cultural practices, such as sacred sites and medicinal herbs.

The technical model that I am developing has already been used to illuminate the long-term environmental impacts of energy resource management policies. It will be building upon Tools for Energy Modeling Optimization and Assessment, to consider non-technical factors of energy resource management decisions.

While the technical model provides a necessary framework for assessing different energy resource management pathways, it is important to understand what the Navajo public understands about these issues and what cultural values inform their opinions. In order to understand these perspectives, I conducted interviews and surveys in the Navajo Nation community. In addition to my studies at Carnegie Mellon, I have continued learning about ceremonial traditions in order to accurately represent Navajo perspectives on the environment.

I hope to extend this tool to help other American Indian and Alaskan Native groups make better informed, lower impact energy resource management decisions that are consistent with their own unique cultural values.

About the Author: Former EPA STAR fellow Len Necefer is a member of the Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2012 with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. His doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University focuses on the intersection between technical and social issues of energy resources, climate change, and sustainability of native nations.

 

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