Ashlynn’s Plan

By Heather Duncan, Region 7 Water, Waste & Pesticides

asthma

My daughter Ashlynn is seven years old. She loves the color pink. She enjoys reading but she would rather play outside. She is a daddy’s girl. Her favorite school subject is math. She dreams of being a spy someday.

And, my daughter has asthma.

Ashlynn’s asthma is triggered by sudden changes in the weather (otherwise known as spring and fall in the Midwest), respiratory viruses, acid reflux, poor air quality, and by dry ice at high school theatrical productions. (You can imagine how “fun” it was to discover that last one…)

No matter how well controlled it is, asthma redefines a family’s version of normal routine. Our family has had five years to adjust to our version of normal. It currently includes:

  • An asthma action plan involving a full rainbow of colored inhalers and nebulizer treatments with names like Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, and DuoNeb®;
  • A calendar on the kitchen counter, where we track Ashlynn’s asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses;
  • Family budget line items for co-pays, annual family flu shots, monthly prescription refills, and caffeine (that last one is for me, not for Ashlynn);
  • A roll of quarters in the glove box of my vehicle, for the vending machines during an unexpected journey to the emergency room; and
  • A thankfulness for our employers who understand when our family’s schedule changes suddenly – and for the medical insurance they provide.

In other words, our routine involves accepting that from August to April, normal is just a setting on the dryer. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. That goal is a family goal, and most days, we accept whatever version of normal comes with it.

And, we hope for a better day tomorrow.

Implementing The Plan

3:07 p.m.        Just as the meeting conversation picks up, my cell phone buzzes. Caller ID says “Pathfinder Elementary”. I duck into the hallway to answer the call before it goes to voicemail.

3:11 p.m.        I thank Nurse Brooke and hang up the phone, sighing with relief. Thank goodness for amazing school nurses, I think. I step back into the room and reengage with the meeting.

5:35 p.m.        Ashlynn tells me about her day as we walk out of after school club. “I was squeezy after recess. Nurse Brooke gave me my rescue inhaler,” she relays. “How are you feeling now?” I ask. “A little better,” she says hesitantly. Probably time for the yellow zone of her asthma action plan, I remind myself.

5:40 p.m.        I set out the yellow zone inhaler when we get home. Ashlynn takes a daily controller medication in her green zone, and she adds a second controller medication during her yellow zone. There is also a red zone. The red zone is not fun. We hope it doesn’t come to that this time.

6:45 p.m.        Was that a cough I heard? I glance at the clock. It’s been less than four hours since her last asthma treatment. After my not-so-subtle Mom stare, Ashlynn gives in. “Four puffs of your red albuterol inhaler…,” I remind her. Dulera®, Flovent®, albuterol, prednisone… Asthma is a language all its own!

7:15 p.m.        “Mommy, I’m still squeezy,” Ashlynn says, wearily. Her hands jitter from the side effects of the albuterol. I begin to think through our asthma action plan options. Do we try an albuterol stack? “Let’s get your nebulizer and the iPad. You can watch a movie while you take your next treatment.” Ever the daddy’s girl, Ashlynn climbs on her father’s lap to finish her treatment.

8:30 p.m.        Ashlynn’s bedtime. As I tuck her in, I wonder how long the medicine will hold her. Asthma is usually worse at night than during the day, and well, today wasn’t that great. Best get to bed early yourself, Heather. Get some sleep while you can. Meanwhile, I ponder what may have triggered this attack. Was there a big weather change? Is she coming down with a cold? How was Kansas City’s air quality today? Most times, we can point to something.

9:22 p.m.        “I’ll take the first shift,” Jason says. My husband and I have learned to subdivide the night during asthma flares. First shift means asthma duty from bedtime until 1am; second shift involves from 1am to wakeup. This way, we’re both guaranteed a few hours of sleep and someone is fresh enough to help the rest of the family get ready in the morning.

5:15am           I turn off my alarm clock and wander to the kitchen. Ashlynn’s asthma calendar – the calendar where we track her asthma symptoms and her yellow and red zone medication doses – sits on the kitchen table. Only one treatment after bedtime... Not too bad!

6:35am           Ashlynn is not a morning person.

6:40am           Ashlynn begrudgingly gets out of bed, and trudges to her closet to pick and accessorize her outfit. Odds are, she’s wearing something pink.

6:52am           Cough.

6:54am           Cough. Coughcoughcough.  Sometimes, getting out of bed is too much activity for an already irritated airway. I instinctively load another DuoNeb® treatment in the nebulizer.

7:15am           After the treatment, the coughs have subsided, and Ashlynn’s takes her daily and yellow zone medications. I leave a voicemail for Ashlynn’s asthma coordinator at the pediatrician’s office – they will want to know we’ve used four treatments in the past 24 hours.

7:25am           Jason and I agree Ashlynn should go to school today. I shoot a quick email to Nurse Brooke and Mrs. McCall, letting them know how the overnight went and when Ashlynn’s last treatment was. The goal of Ashlynn’s asthma action plan is to prevent asthma from being her limiting factor. Most days, we succeed. Today, even as her asthma flares, Ashlynn will get to be a first grader who loves math class. We hope for an uneventful day today, a restful night tonight, and a better day tomorrow.

Heather Duncan has been with EPA Region 7 since 2006. Since 2006, Heather has also married her husband, purchased a house, gave birth to three children (one with special medical needs), and unsuccessfully attempted to give up caffeine three times.

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.

Where Do Plastic Bags Go?

By Shannon Bond

Each season has its unique traits. Some are good, some are not so good. This depends upon who you talk to of course. One of the benefits of winter is the view, which brings a barren type of beauty. There is no doubt that leaves and green landscapes are appealing, but as an outdoor enthusiast and trail junky (both on foot and on wheels), I can appreciate the outdoors in every variation. There is a lot to be said for increased visibility too. When the trees are bare, you can see the contour of the land and the flow of the trail.

Sadly, I can also see litter; particularly, plastic bags. When you are hiking down a trail it’s easy to reach down and pick that trash or stray bag up. The easy cleanup opportunity is lost when you are barreling down the highway on the way to work though. It is especially discouraging to see hordes of plastic bags clinging to the tops of trees. These bags have obviously been ejected from passing vehicles to be carried by the wind to their final resting place. I’m sure they are present all year, but the winter draws back the veil of leaves to reveal just how much wasted plastic we generate.

What happens to the rest of the plastic bags that don’t get stuck in our suburban forests? And, what can we do to mitigate our waste? For years I was under the impression that we could not recycle these plastic grocery haulers. I’ve reused them as trash bags, lunch bags and anything else I could think of, but ultimately that just prolongs their life before they end up in the landfill. Luckily, just like a lot of our modern day materials, these can be recycled. So plastic bags really end up in three places (like everything else really).

The landfill

In 2011, Americans produced around 250 million tons of waste, 32 million tons of that solid waste was plastic. That’s 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day! It’s up to you to help keep plastic bags and other waste out of landfills.  (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf)

landfill

Recycled into other goods

There is hope because recycling and composting helped prevent 87 million tons of material from reaching the landfills that year. That gives us an average of about 1.53 pounds of recycled and composted waste out of our 4.4 pounds per person per day. About 11 percent of the recycled waste from the overall count was the category of plastics that include plastic bags. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated was recycled in 2011. We can change this. There are more than 1,800 businesses in the U.S. that handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. Put simply, bring your used plastic bags to the grocery store when you shop and drop them at the bag recycle bin. If your store doesn’t have a recycle service for plastic bags, ask the store manager why not or what the alternatives are. You can also find a curbside drop off. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/plastics.htm.

Buy Recycled

Where does recycled plastic go? You handle it all the time and probably don’t realize it. Products include bottles, carpet, textiles, paper coating and even clothes.

In the trees (or anywhere else as litter)

Don’t let your bags end up here. It’s an eyesore for your community, dangerous for the animals in your environment and doesn’t contribute to the reduction of source materials needed for plastic manufacturing.

Plastic Bags

What’s the bottom line? Recycle your plastic bags, it’s easy. Why? It helps keep trash off the streets. It helps reduce the need for raw resources in manufacturing and it reduces the amount of waste that goes to the landfill; it even helps generate power. Did you know that you can save enough energy to power your laptop for 3.4 hours by recycling 10 plastic bags? You can find these fun facts and other great information here: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle.

 

Shannon Bond  is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.

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.

Gleaning Gourds

By Jim Callier

Last month I shared with you about noteworthy efforts to feed the poor here in Kansas City by “gleaning.”  I wanted to follow up by sharing the conclusion to this story and the positive impact this experience had on me, the community, and the environment.

Food is Too Good To Waste!

One of the reasons for my enthusiasm about the gleaning effort is that EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, places feeding hungry people near the top in terms of preferred alternatives to wasting.  Considering higher uses of food is important because in addition to the social and economic benefits of not wasting food, alternatives to landfilling are important for the planet.

Food waste, especially when disposed of in a landfill, is a significant contributor of greenhouse gases through the production and release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change.  In the US, a significant amount of food waste is disposed of in landfills every day – more than 34.5 million tons in 2011.  This is enough food waste to fill the Rose Bowl each day!  What’s more, many in the US do not have enough to eat.  Hunger is a serious problem in the US – with 1 in 5 children going to bed hungry.

The gleaning effort organized by SoSA West that took place in Kansas City this past November was one of many notable efforts to take food that otherwise would be wasted and get it to those in need. I was honored to be a part of this effort and am glad to be able to share my account.

Getting Squash to Those in Need

A couple of days following the gleaning event, squash1I met up with volunteers to make deliveries of gleaned squash to pantries and shelters.  I met Scott, a volunteer for Operation Breakthrough who would drive the truck and Jesse, another volunteer who would sack and deliver the squash.  Scott and Jesse were interested in my involvement in the project so I explained EPA’s food recovery program and the importance of food recovery to the economy and environment.  When I mentioned feeding people as a beneficial alternative to wasting and our partnership with USDA, they were enthusiastic and better understood the bigger picture of food waste in the US.

We began our journey for the day with an initial list of 6-7 stops and loaded with 4 full skid boxes — over 4000 pounds of squash, and numerous bushel-sized sacks to fill.   At every stop, we met incredible people.  Some were chefs that would prepare the squash and some were people in need.  Everyone we met was incredibly appreciative, but I felt the most privileged, having the opportunity to be part of the effort.

squash22One of the stops that had a particular impact on me was a men’s shelter.  While we were there a number of men came over to our truck to help unload a couple hundred pounds of squash.  Although the honor was ours, they were truly grateful.  As we prepared to leave the shelter, a couple of men who were in a van leaving for an errand backed up, stopped, rolled the window down, and called us over to once again express appreciation.  This totally unexpected, additional act of gratitude really hit home for me on the value of the effort made by all of the organizations and volunteers.

As I walked back to the delivery truck, I noticed a black POW MIA flag.   Subsequently, I did a little research and learned that this organization’s mission includes helping veterans and houses close to 200 veterans.  This really made a mark on me because Veterans and active duty service personnel have a special meaning for me.  One reason is that my father and eldest brother were veterans; my father served as a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II and my brother served in the Army during the Vietnam era.  Also, I have met numerous veterans and service members throughout my work at EPA.  While working in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands assessing and cleaning up WWII sites, I met current and former Navy Explosive Ordnance Detachment Officers, also known as “bomb techs.”  squash3

Meeting these appreciative vets and others on our journey that day was a fantastic experience.  In all, we made about 13 stops and delivered most of the squash that day.   I felt uplifted to meet the generous volunteers and grateful recipients.  It is encouraging to know that efforts like this are going on and that what we do at EPA through the Food Recovery Challenge is necessary and important.  As I witnessed by participating in this gleaning effort, the work of many at food waste reduction is turning what would have been left behind as waste into an opportunity to make lives a little better.

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

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.

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Squash Harvest Part 2

By Jim Callier

 

helping

Welcome back from Thanksgiving week.  And what better way to welcome you back then with some leftovers, perhaps more accurately a second helping.  Before the Holiday I shared with you a blog entry about efforts here in Kansas City at “gleaning.”    Here in Kansas City, the Society of St. Andrews – West, or SoSA-West, was organizing a “gleaning” event to donate all of the food to pantries, shelters and other organizations that feed people.  Gleaning, is where a farmer opens up his fields after the harvest to individuals and organizations to gather food that remains in the field for use, leftovers if you will.   We contacted SoSA  and they agreed to join forces by signing on to EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program.

bobcat

The plan was for the actual gleaning to begin on Sunday, November 3rd and continue for four days, weather permitting.  This was great timing as November 15th was America Recycles Day, our annual opportunity to raise national awareness of the importance of recycling and a great way to highlight gleaning.  After all, isn’t putting food to a better use than tossing it in a landfill or leaving it in a field an excellent way to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?  With the date settled, I contacted the USDA to join in the effort.   This past June, EPA and USDA had also joined forces to conquer the issue of wasted food through the US Food Waste Challenge.   USDA offered to assist with publicizing this effort as an example of a community activity that promotes food recovery and reduce food waste while feeding the hungry.

In the week leading up to the 3rd, numerous local organizations donated pallets, heavy-duty packing containers, heavy equipment, equipment operators, and volunteers to fill logistical needs.  All of these organizations pulled together to ensure success of an activity that is good for the community (reduces hunger and feeds people), good for the economy (recognizes the value of the crops and investment a farmer has made) and good for the environment (reduces waste and greenhouse gas production from decaying waste).

As the weekend began, the weather forecast did not look good for gleaning and SoSA – West made the call to glean only on Sunday the 3rd.  However, on Sunday, over 1,000 volunteers arrived to help glean, filling the numerous large corrugated containers lining the roads at the farm.   The volunteers collected an estimated 250,000 lbs in only one day of gleaning!  The next day, more volunteers and organizations loaded the containers of produce and bushel sacks into trucks ready to deliver.  Good thing because the rain came Tuesday as forecasted!  Stay tuned for more, and to find out what happens next on our gleaning journey!

boxes

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7.  Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

 

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.

Fall Classic 2013 – Baseball and Squash

By Jim Callier

A few Mondays ago, I fired up my computer to check email and plan my work for the week. It had been a good weekend. I watched the World Series games between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. Each team took one game. We know how the series ended, but in my mind both teams are champions and winners on and off the field. Both teams recover food following games for donation to hunger relief organizations or composting as part of their commitment to EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Numerous other sports teams, have also established other programs and activities that benefit the environment and focus on sustainability. Earlier in the year I got a chance to visit with the Cardinals and see firsthand how they are working to keep food waste out of landfills.

Jim

Hosei Maruyama, St. Louis Cardinals stadium management, explains recycling effort at Busch Stadium to Jim Callier

With wasted food on my mind, I read an email from one of my staff members, Marcus, about a charity event he attended on his own time outside of work. He explained that a local not-for-profit, the Society of St. Andrews – West, or SoSA-West, was organizing a “gleaning” event for next week and plans to donate all of the food to pantries, shelters and other organizations that feed people. Gleaning, is where a farmer opens up his fields after the harvest to individuals and organizations to gather food that remains in the field for use. Gleaning can also occur at Farmer’s Markets, grocers, and other places that have surplus food.

In this case, SoSA – West received permission from a local farmer to glean his field, and recruited over 1000 volunteers to glean. The goal was to collect 1 Million pounds of food for charities, weather permitting. The product in the field is over ten different varieties of squash, including acorn, butternut, cushaw, buttercup, turban hubbard, delicate, spaghetti, banana, cheese pumpkin, kobacha and pumpkin and more.

Jim

A variety of squash collected by SoSA – West

Hearing this , I clearly see the connection to our National Sustainable Materials Management Program and the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC). How can I use this information to raise awareness about the world-wide issue of food to good to waste, and encourage others to join EPA, USDA, and others in the FRC?
I’ll let you know what steps we took in next blog in this series. Please come back to see what’s next!

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

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.

Environmental Impact Statements Are on the Map!

By Aimee Hessert

Do you ever wonder how a proposed project will affect the environment where you and your family live, work and play? We’re making it easier to find out. We’ve developed a simple, interactive map to help you learn about environmental impact statements in your area.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies proposing major projects or making decisions on major federal actions to develop environmental impact statements (EIS), which describe the potential environmental effects (both good and bad) of proposed projects that require federal approval, or other federal actions. The idea is to give you a view into, and a voice in, the federal agency decision-making process.

The map allows you to see what projects have EISs that are currently open for public review and comment, while also viewing EPA’s comments. Now it’s easier for local residents to access valuable information, stay informed and get involved, right at their fingertips.

Take a few minutes to check out the EIS Mapper. All you need to do is hover your mouse over your home state for easy-to-understand information about projects that may affect you. From there, you can review each project’s environmental impact statement and find out how to share your thoughts while the comment period is open.

In this information technology age, transparency empowers progress. Stay informed and get involved.

Check out EPA’s EIS Mapper here: http://eismapper.epa.gov.

EPA's Environmental Impact Statements by State Mapper

EPA’s Environmental Impact Statements by State Mapper

 

Aimee Hessert is the Deputy Director of EPA’s NEPA Compliance Division.  She has worked on GIS and IT initiatives for EPA’s NEPA program since 2004.

Learn More!:  The web-based mapping tool, NEPAssist is designed to help promote collaboration and early involvement in the NEPA process by allowing the user to raise and identify important environmental issues at the earliest stages of project development.  Read the full blog post here.

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.

Water, Wind, and Sun

By Neftali Hernandez Santiago

In Kansas City we briefly glimpsed spring before having another snowstorm come through the area.  There were a couple of patches of green before the white stuff covered everything again.  It got me thinking about diagrams in my old textbooks, the ones showing the cycle of photosynthesis and respiration.  As you know photosynthesis is the name we give to the process of converting light into energy that can be used to support plants which create their own food.  Nutrients, water and daily sunlight are almost enough to maintain their life styles.  Plants could be totally independent but they are not.  They also rely upon the wind, pollinators, and other animals to carry seeds and assist with propagation.

If someone asked me what the bare minimum for human beings to survive is, I would say food, water, shelter and clothing.  Thankfully, plants don’t only produce energy for themselves, but they share their transformed energy by producing wood, fibers and edible fruits to help us cover our very basic needs.  Plants do all these by utilizing the sun as their primary source of energy.

Our modern world, however, is full of needs beyond the basics.  Our society is maintained with many complex networks such as transportation, communications, energy supply, water and wastewater.  As part of our society we need energy to power our industries, cars, appliances, computers, tablets, and the heating or cooling of our homes.  But if we had to act like plants, just getting our needs met by the water, wind and sun, could we do it?

Currently the world human energy consumption during an entire year is 15 terawatts (10 to the 12th power watts give or take).  Each day, 89,000 terrawatts of solar radiation (energy) reaches the earth.  In a year, this totals almost 32.5 million terawatts.  Doing the math, 15 terawatts is a really, really, small percentage (in fact a decimal place with six zeros) of the energy the sun sends our way.  In fact, a professor at Stanford (Mark Z. Jacobsen) has put some numbers to it.  According to his calculations, we would need: 3.8 million (5-mega watts) wind turbines; 720,000 (0.75-mega watts) wave devices; 5,530 (100-mega watts) geothermal plants; 900 (1300-mega watts) hydro plants; 490,000 (1-mega watts) tidal turbines; 1.7 billion (3-kilo watts) roof PV systems; 40,000 (300-mega watts) solar PV plants; and 20 (300- mega watts) concentrated solar panels plants.  This sounds like a lot of Green (both figuratively and metaphorically) but lots of work is already being undertaken.

EPA has established the Green Power Partnership,  a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. The Partnership currently has more than 1,400 Partner organizations voluntarily using billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually.   The National Renewable Energy Lab, (part of the US Department of Energy) has as its goal, developing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and practices and transferring knowledge and innovations to address both the nation’s energy and environmental goals.  They also have great GIS data and maps relating to solar radiation.

So, can we fulfill the energy needs of modern human civilization and improve our environment at the same time as we move forward as a civilization by being more like plants?  It may be a long way off, but the math says YES.  Plants have been doing a good job of converting sunlight into energy a lot longer than humans.  For them it is easy to be green.   If we continue to find new ways to be green ourselves, someday we might not find ourselves singing Kermit’s famous song.

About the Author: Neftali Hernandez grew up in Puerto Rico and is an Environmental Scientist with EPA Region 7′s Drinking Water Branch.  He is a member of EPA’s Water Emergency Response Group and has a bachelor of science degree in biology and a masters of science degree in environmental health from the University of Puerto Rico.

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.

First Helping of Acronym Soup with a Side of Data

By Jeffery Robichaud

I was standing up in front of a class of students comprised mostly of seniors at Park University last Monday for their last class on U.S. Environmental Regulations.  One of the questions I asked of them was which environmental law do they believe is the most important and why?  Driving home after class I realized I’m not sure I could answer that question easily.

The reality is that it is tough to compare environmental laws, and even tougher to choose amongst those if forced to choose a single one.  So I won’t, however the drive home gave me the idea that I might highlight environmental laws and regulations in the context of data and information, particularly of the geospatial kind.   Most environmental regulations are better known by their acronyms; RCRA, SDWA, FIFRA, EPCRA, NEPA, etc.,  so today I bring you the first spoonful of environmental acronym soup.

My choice for the first environmental law was easy, since I briefly mentioned it in a January post.  The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was established in 1973 to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend.  It is administered primarily by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  You can find out more about the ESA by clicking here.  The Environmental Protection Act interacts with the USFWS regarding the ESA routinely, most notably around what is known as consultations (Section 7 of the Act for those that want to look it up).

In conducting our work it is important to ensure that our actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify critical habitat.  Regarding the latter, the USFWS has helped all of us out with a Critical Habitat Portal, which allows individuals to search for habitat based on a particular species.  You can download shapefiles and metadata for use in your own mapping projects or, use their convenient Critical Habitat Mapper to get some quick results (like the locations of Critical Habitat for the Topeka Shiner, a threatened and endangered (T&E) species here in Region 7).

Data on the locations of T&E species is a bit trickier.  They can obviously be inferred from the Critical Habitat Mapper and many states maintain information usually at the county-level regarding known and historic ranges of T&E species.  However, an organization called Nature Serve can provide more specific information regarding locations depending on the intended uses of the data and the project.    They serve as the repository for detailed and reliable locality data (“element occurrences”) from State Conservation departments documenting the precise locations of rare and endangered species and threatened ecological communities.  From time to time we need this information at a finer scale to ensure that a specific activity is mindful of the presence of these species.

So there you have it… the ESA with a side of T&E data.  I haven’t decided what acronym I want to tackle next, but I’m taking requests.  Be sure to tip your GIS specialist (with data of course).

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division. Jeff’s favorite T&E species is the Gray Wolf but he also thinks the Plains Spotted Skunk is pretty darn cute.

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 Devil’s Corner

By Regina Klepikow

 
     I grew up in South Texas. My father’s family was from Laredo, Texas and occupied a half a block of El Rincon del Diablo, the Devils Corner for years and still do to this very day. My father was born on one of the first streets in America, Ventura Street. The house he grew up in had minimal luxuries and his back yard was the Rio Grande. As a child, my brothers and I would visit our aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived there. We would play kick ball in the open area next to our families’ houses. We could clearly see the U.S Border Patrol Bridge and across that Mexico. We used to explore the edge of the Rio Grande and skip rocks across its waters. When I was walking along the banks, I could clearly see trails and personal belongings that others had left behind. Into the dark murky waters of the Rio Grande, I watched even darker waters pouring into the river from drains and spouts at various points along the bank. As a kid, no one really thinks of water quality and the health impacts of poor waters; but I thought in my mind that something was amiss.

 

     Growing up, I always wondered who was in charge of the river. I thought there has to be someone out there that checks up on this. As I did some research, I found some articles written by EPA about the water quality of the Rio Grande, and realized that Mexico was not subject to our policies. Upon entering college, I wrote an essay about Water Quality in the Rio Grande for a scholarship.

     Now that I am out of college and an EPA employee, I have learned a lot about our nation’s water bodies. I feel that I am an important part of analyzing our water quality here in Region 7. I have analyzed water samples for inorganic contaminants, nutrients, and currently for microbiological contaminants. I never thought that I would ever be doing something that pertained to my scholarship essay or my childhood thoughts. It seems as though it has all come full circle.

     Region 7 has a great app called KCWaterBug.  During warmer months, I use this app a lot. My daughter and I love to go out to our local creeks and rivers to look for fossils and insects. She has a large insect collection and we are building on our fossil collection. Upon checking the app, my daughter and I will determine if we will go to a nearby stream or wait for another day. If the water quality is good, we go on a little hike. It is fun to pass time by skipping rocks and following the banks and turning over rocks. It is even better when we come across fossils like Rugose coral or fossilized bivalves. We have also run across others who search for fossils or arrowheads along the banks too. Hopefully some day, my daughter will recall our fossil hunting trips as fondly as I remember skipping rocks back near the Devil’s Corner. I know she is just as interested in learning how to restore and preserve our waters for the two of us to enjoy, and one day, for her own children.

 

Regina Klepikow was born and grew up in south Texas. She relocated to Kansas City with her family in the 90’s where she attended high school and college. She loves art and photography but not wanting to live the life of a starving artist she majored in Biology. Currently she is a Life Scientist at the Region 7 Laboratory. In order to let her artistic creativity out, she has devoted herself iPhone photography and is avid Instagrammer.

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.

Remembering a Colleague

By Jeffery Robichaud

I’m a couple of years younger than the Environmental Protection Agency, which had its 40th birthday back in 2010.  There aren’t many charter members of EPA still working for the Agency today.  Here in Kansas City I think we might be down to our last one.  Most have retired.  Unfortunately, we lost one last week, Les our former videographer.

I will always remember the time I spent working with Les on a video almost a decade ago in 2003.  The next year (2004) marked the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; the Corps of Discovery.   A set of men were going to re-enact the entire two year journey as the Corps of Discovery II and the National Park Service was creating a travelling exhibit to accompany Corps II.  The Park Service had reached out to its Federal Partners to help with educational activities.  Since EPA doesn’t have field offices along the route, we decided to develop a video that could accompany the travelling exhibit, led by Les.

Les attacked the project with vigor.  I marveled at what he was able to do with a shoestring budget, working with A/V equipment that was a cross between home and professional, and a rag tag bunch of folks willing to help on the side.  A few of us had a chance to moonlight with Les to develop a script, storyboard shots, and collect footage all while continuing with our normal work.   Somehow Les found a way to pull it off, even managing to capture footage of the Corps II in St. Louis, work the footage into the end credits, and cut copies of the DVD before they began their journey up the Missouri.  The DVD was the Agency’s contribution to the Tent of Many Voices which served as the centerpiece for educational activities of the Corps over the next two years.

Large festival-like celebrations greeted the Corps II at big cities like Kansas City and Omaha, their schedules jammed with local speakers and exhibits, including Les’s video as a small piece of a tremendous program.  But as the keelboat moved further upriver and away from the cities, the speakers and the festivities waned yet Les’ video stayed with the Tent of Many Voices.  It was seen by children and teachers at small towns all along the historic route.  Towns like Kamiah, ID, a small village on the Nez Perce Reservation, where young children were able to watch the following video, which still holds up today.

By the time the Corps II returned through Kansas City two years later, I had moved into a different position and didn’t really get a chance to circle back with Les.  I wish I had told him how amazing I thought it was that his efforts were seen by thousands…and how important it was in helping to show kids how history can be relevant to them, and to protection of the environment.  Thanks Les.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

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.