The Charge for Our Current Generation

By Virginia Till

One thing folks don’t always know about us is that many of our programs are voluntary and proactive, and assist communities. While I do much of my work in the office, I relish opportunities to get out into the public and “put a face” to government.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Westerly Creek Elementary School in Denver, CO.

I was looking forward to interacting with kids about the 3 R’s: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” When I found out the students were ages 3-4, I was a bit intimidated since “Recycle Rita” had never done her Recycle Relay for a group this young. However, I decided I was up for the challenge and forged ahead.

Surprise, surprise, the kids already knew a lot about my topic. If you can believe it (and I’m sure the parents out there will), some kids even knew the word “landfill!” I was very impressed. After a bit of introduction, including a relay demo, we got started. The kids had a great time running back and forth and figuring out what was landfill, recycle, reuse, or compost. Some choices had more than one answer, which got their wheels turning, but they all enjoyed it.

This experience got me thinking about how current generations often pin their hopes on future generations. I hear talk about younger folks knowing more about the environment, and caring more about it, than we did in the past. We also talk about protecting the environment for future generations. I would propose that while it’s true many children might have an ever-increasing awareness of global issues and access to information, it’s current generations that are in still in a position to get things right.

There are many opportunities to adjust our current policies and processes to include more “systems thinking” and learn lessons from nature by focusing on long-term adaptability. Customizing our activities to community needs and addressing barriers to behavior change is also a great strategy. What are the most relevant health or environmental issues you experience in your community? How can you reduce the barriers to changing behavior?

While kids today might be more aware of the environment, we have many excellent opportunities to make our communities more resilient, now and into the future. If you get a chance to slow down this spring and take in the sights, I recommend it. And next time you chat with a 4-year old, ask her or him if they know what a landfill is or about the 3 R’s. You’re bound to be impressed!

Find resources for teaching and learning about the environment.

About the author: Virginia Till is an Environmental Protection Specialist for EPA’s Denver Office Environmental Stewardship Unit. Virginia works to reduce wasted food and educates others about waste diversion (source reduction, recycling, composting). Her alter ego, “Recycle Rita” often helps out in describing strategies for reducing waste in the first place.

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 Education is for Everyone….

By Wendy Dew

As the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, and Sound Dakota, I’ve attended and hosted many environmental education events for numerous students. I love spending time with the kids and teachers while they learn about the environment. I recently encountered a program unlike others I’ve seen before. The students of this amazing program are senior citizens who are interested in learning more about the environment and the local park they love.

The Senior Naturalist Program at Bear Creek Lake Park in Morrison, Colorado has started reaching out to its senior community to continue learning about the world around them. I recently attended one of these environmental education sessions and was enthralled with the enthusiasm and interest these students of the environment had.

Seniors learned all about the watershed and the water quality of the park they enjoy so much. A guest speaker from the local water board demonstrated how water testing equipment is used and explained how the local tributaries feed the parks lakes and streams. He also explained what they can do at home to help conserve and protect water resources such as:

  • Turn the water off when you brush your teeth or wash your dishes
  • Water the yard only when it needs it
  • Wash your car at a green car wash
  • Use plants that are native to the area for landscaping
  • Use only the water that you need

Seniors got to observe fish, snails, and insects that are typically found year round in the local lakes, wetlands and streams. They also played a game where participants had to guess what the object they were holding had to do with wetlands. After more fun classroom activities, the group went out for a hike to examine the watershed first hand.

I was very inspired by the dedication these folks had to learning, the park and the environment. It provides for a great learning environment, creates a fun social interaction and they even get in exercise with a hike. I have seen many “young” students learn about the environment, but these students were truly young at heart!

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for EPA’s Region 8 Office (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, and Sound Dakota).

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 Education Week 2015

Stan Meiburg Stan Meiburg

This week, April 19-25, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) are celebrating National Environmental Education Week along with thousands of students and teachers across the country. Through environmental education, educators show students how science is a part of our daily lives, teach them the skills to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues, and encourage them to make responsible decisions. Earth Day, which falls in the middle of Environmental Education Week this year, is an important time to reflect on our environmental impact and what we can do to protect our planet.

Over the past several years, NEEF has led Environmental Education Week by focusing on “Greening STEM,” encouraging teachers and students to explore the connection between the natural world and STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education provides the building blocks for questioning, investigating, interpreting, and ultimately protecting the world around us. Within the STEM classroom, environmental education can help students relate the formulas on the whiteboard to real world, outdoor experiences. Environmental education and STEM together equip students to critically analyze and identify effective solutions to environmental problems.

This Environmental Education Week, EPA offices across the country are working with their communities to connect with educators as well as recognize outstanding young environmental stewards—the new winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award. This year’s winners are directly restoring damaged ecosystems, exploring exciting new alternative fuel options, and mobilizing their communities to support sustainable solutions to environmental problems. Later this year, our Office of Environmental Education will announce recipients of our Environmental Education Grants. Each year, we award $3.5 million to school districts, local governments, universities, tribal education programs, and other partners to support environmental education projects promoting awareness, stewardship, and skill building.

On Earth Day, NEEF staff will visit Nizhoni Elementary School in Shiprock, New Mexico, for the unveiling of a brand new Schoolyard STEM Lab, a unique learning space where students and teachers can participate in hands-on activities that exhibit the “greening” of STEM activities, from a greenhouse for science investigations to outdoor stations for engineering projects and more.

These unique experiences are what environmental education is all about—encouraging students to combine the skills they learn in the classroom with their curiosity about the natural world. It’s up to all of us to give them the chance to discover solutions to environmental challenges. We’re excited to explore the connections between environmental education and STEM throughout the year and to help teachers find the most engaging ways to enrich education through environmental themes.

There are many ways to get involved. Be an Environmental Education Week ambassador. Get outside this week and learn something new about the natural world. Share your understanding and encourage those around you to do the same. Find resources for your classroom or your child at http://www2.epa.gov/students/lesson-plans-teacher-guides-and-online-resources-educators and visit http://eeweek.org/ to learn more about how you can join the environmental education Week celebration.

About the authors: Stan Meiburg is the U.S. EPA Acting Deputy Administrator and Diane Wood is the President of the National Environmental Education Foundation.

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.

Abby vs. SB3442

In my last blog, I told you about my project to have plastic bags banned in my community because of the impact it has on nature and our health.  It was all going smoothly until I found out that the Illinois legislature had passed a bill that stated we couldn’t do that.

SB3442, an Illinois Senate bill barring any community from banning plastic bags, passed on June 1, 2012.  It’s a set of rules with a feel good compromise of recycling plastic bags. I was crushed with the realization that politics and money fueled what wasn’t necessarily best for the environment. Illinois wanted to make the plastic bag makers happy, the retailers happy and its citizens happy, thinking that recycling would be the solution. Recycling plastic bags is not the solution; I think it’s just a band-aid to the problem.

I had to find some way to stop this bill! Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had to hear me and I had to convince him to veto the bill. I learned I would be up against politicians, the Illinois Retailer Association and plastic bag makers.  Being 12 years old, I wasn’t sure how to navigate through this system or if anyone would listen.

The idea of an on-line petition was suggested to bring attention to the matter.  I also made a video and wrote a letter to a well-known social action platform website. They were impressed with my passion and helped with getting the word out to their base. Initially, I got quite a few signatures. I was hoping for about 5,000. Then it really took off!  Social media was a blessing to get my message out and talk to supporters. I was able to use Twitter, message on Facebook and e-mail. I was not alone.  I heard from a retail employee who was disgusted by the amount of bags she gives out on a daily basis. She had also been writing letters to our politicians. Soon, I had my first interview and then it snow balled into more.  I’ve met some amazing people because of this petition, who also think this bill is a bad idea and have been trying just as hard to ban the bag. This includes the Mayor of Champaign, Illinois, Environment Illinois, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Chicago Recycling Association. If it weren’t for this petition, they and I would not have had our voices heard, or the public’s voice for that matter. Once people knew that this was about political lobbying, we got even more support. The Governor has yet to make a decision, but hearing from folks around the country and coming together as a team might sway his decision.  Nonetheless, I’m grateful for all the support and amazed by the impact of my project on the democratic process.

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.

Project Plastic

My name is Abby and I am a student in Grayslake, Illinois.   As a seventh grader, I am required to start a C.P., which stands for culminating project.   It is a two year project with a goal to better the world we live in, positively impact our environment and community and show all that we have learned in the nine years at an environmentally focused school.   I chose trying to get the Village of Grayslake to ban plastic shopping bags.   I wanted to do this because I love animals and I saw a picture of a sea bird with a plastic bag around its neck.   I also live within a mile of a landfill and saw that on windy days, the employees put up extra fencing to catch HUNDREDS of bags.   Soon, my school project led me to more information on the dangers of plastic bags, a better understanding of my government and a feel for what activism is about.

It started with research –like all projects do –and contacting other towns that have had similar bans.  I wrote a research paper, as well as letters to editors of local papers and politicians.   The environmental issue surrounding plastic bags is more complex than just littering and the harm they cause animals.   There’s a possibility that the chemicals used to make the bags damages our soil. One day I studied my local grocery store for two hours counting how many leave just one checkout lane.    There were 175 plastic bags used, some with only one item in them!

Finding out that many communities, states and countries were successfully banning the bags, I was excited.  I thought it would be easy to convince my village to ban bags with numbers, pictures and examples.   It would be an exciting project to convince the adults that we wanted to ban the bag!   I even contacted a video producer who made an awesome video called Plastic State of Mind.

Just as I was beginning to start, it suddenly became an issue about choice.  The Illinois legislature passed SB3442, a Senate bill that would bar any community from banning plastic bags, in June 2012.

I’m 12 years old and I can’t vote, so how do I fight bill SB3442?  How do I get people to listen?  My project just seemed to grow more difficult.  Stay tuned for what happens next.

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.

GRADUATING…NOW WHAT?

graduationIts spring and graduation is just around the corner.
High school juniors and seniors are probably being asked all sorts of questions, like:

Where are you planning on going to college?
What are you majoring in?
What do you want to do?

However, you may be freaking out at the thought of having a stranger for a roommate or about living 100 miles from home. You’re also starting over in college with new clubs, interests and experiences, and you don’t know where to begin. There’s no time to think about what you may be interested in majoring in yet.

What if you could bring your passion for the environment with you and expand it in college?

The EPA’s OnCampus ecoAmbassadors program could be what you’re looking for. You can help implement projects from EPA programs to green your campus, promote environmental awareness and find resources to learn about EPA related careers.

Want to know how to start? Check out EPA’s You Tube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAx6CzUx8Vc&feature=plcp&context=C4e6434dVDvjVQa1PpcFPdEiR2XqqsvQ-y5cmqldEtmAnKSHxtQRk%3D

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul 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.

Why should we understand climate change?

student

All grown-ups tell kids to clean up after they play, and to leave things as they found them.  I think that we should use the same rule for the planet too. We need to leave this planet clean and healthy, so life can thrive on it for many more years. To take care of our planet, we need to first understand the factors that affect our planet, and learn more about  them.  One major factor is the change in climate.

Changes in climate have been happening since the beginning of the planet. Naturally, these changes would take place over thousands of years, but because of recent human activity changes have been happening within our life time.  When changes happen slowly, organisms learn to adapt to the changes and survive through the changing conditions. But with these recent, drastic changes in climate, ecosystems are not able to adapt fast enough. If we keep continuing  on this same path, this planet may not be able to sustain life for millions of years.

If recent human activity is a main contributor for the increase in greenhouse gases, and could cause such drastic effects, then we need to understand our actions and their consequences. I asked myself if I wanted to be the change and bring positive impact, and it occurred to me that this should not even be a choice, but my responsibility towards this planet.

There are also many controversies and speculation involving climate change.  This really puzzled me because I could not understand how people could not believe in something that has so much evidence behind it.  Because of all these conflicting information it is hard for kids to understand and obtain unbiased information.

I realized that the best way is to find the answers ourselves, by doing our own science experiments and explorations. We also have to learn how to question science, and debate it, challenge the data, which would not only help us in understanding the topic better, but also we would be able to identify false experiments.

If humans have caused an increase in greenhouse gases, then we can certainly reduce it too. It is not impossible. Look at all the plants, and the coral in the ocean; they use carbon dioxide as raw material, whereas we are pumping excessive carbon dioxide into the air. Let’s learn from nature and reduce our carbon footprint.

About the Author:
Pavan is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show.

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.

Fuel to the Future

University of California Riverside students have developed clean, renewable grid-independent energy for 1.6 billion people currently without the convenience of electricity as part of EPA’s P3 – People, Prosperity, and the Planet—Program, a competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future.

Through P3, they are getting quality hands-on experience that brings their classroom learning to life and may lead to real world applications.   The UCR students have created a model that produces efficient, affordable, and sustainable energy.  The bonus…..it releases zero emissions!

Want to learn about how their project works?  Go to EPA’s YouTube Channel at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDtHCKCqoS8&feature=relmfu

Interested in the P3 program in your future?  Go to http://www.epa.gov/p3/

Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She is currently pursuing a dual graduate degree at DePaul 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.

How Big is Your Footprint?

Our teacher, Ms. Tilson , asked us how big our footprint was today. We started to take our shoes off and measure our feet, but she stopped us and asked if we knew the size of our Carbon Footprint.  The class looked around confused because we didn’t know that we had another footprint.

We leave footprints when we walk on the sand at the beach or when get our feet wet and track mud into the house. Our carbon footprint is a little different. We can’t see it, but it’s there and it impacts the earth by leaving a mark just like the ones in the sand and mud.

When we use fossil fuels like heating oil or coal to keep our homes warm in the winter and our cars running, that’s creating a carbon footprint.  These actions emit carbon dioxide, also called CO2. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and makes up our carbon footprint.  The more CO2 that is created, the more carbon dioxide is released and the bigger our carbon footprint gets.  A big carbon footprint is not good for the earth. 

I know. I know. It’s easy to get picked up by our parents after school but doing so contributes to the carbon footprint. Instead, we should walk or bike to and from school or our friend’s homes. At the grocery store, check out where the fruits and vegetables come from. If they’re from another country, think about the amount of energy and gas it took just to reach the store.  That’s another big carbon footprint.

The best way to make your carbon footprint smaller is to use less electricity and less fossil fuels. Be sure to turn off your computer, television and lights when you’re not using them. Keep temperatures lower in your house during the winter even if you need to wear a sweater to stay warmer. Walk and bike whenever you can instead of using the car or bus. It’s great exercise too. I found out local farmers markets are a great way to get fresh fruit and vegetables. Buying from them reduces carbon footprints because it doesn’t take a lot of energy or gas to get them to us. Even though I still haven’t figured out how to get my favorite fruit, avocados, locally I’m going to try shrinking my carbon footprint.  

Lorenzo is a middle school student in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood.  He’s into spectrology, the TV show Ghost Hunters and watching the NHL.

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.

Know your Surroundings

studentBeing a kid is wonderful. You see the world in a different perspective from grown-ups. You also feel a different way about things like the environment. Many people in the US take what they have for granted like clean air and clean water. My sister and I found out that 21,000 people in the US die due to radon every year; and we were shocked.  About 500 people die in Colorado each year from radon and not enough is being done about it.

Our family spends a lot of time in our basement which increases the amount of radon we inhale. I have asthma and this makes me passionate about promoting clean air. We started a Radon Awareness Project to spread the word about Radon. In the past year, we have helped a lot of people learn about radon, its harmful effects and what can be done to test for it and reduce radon levels.

Think of what you are passionate about and how you can help that cause. Being a kid does not mean you cannot make an impact. You could start in your backyard with being more green and recycling or tackle global warming.  Go take action!

Learn more at:  http://www.epa.gov/radon/justforkids.html and http://www.radonawarenessproject.com

Eric in Colorado is 12 years old and in the 6th grade.

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.