Water Efficiency

Send Your Showers to Boot Camp

By Christina Catanese

Saving water doesn’t have to be blood, sweat and tears.  Lately, I’ve been trying something called a Navy shower, an easy and effective way to cut down water use from showering.  Here’s how it works:

Turn on water.  Get in shower.  Get wet.Showerhead
Turn off water.  Soap and lather.
Turn on water.  Rinse off.
Turn off water.  Done!

Basically, it’s as simple as only running the water when you need to rinse, and having it off for the parts when you aren’t.

With a Navy shower, you can have the water running in your shower for as little as two minutes!  Depending on your showerhead’s flow rate, that can be as low as 3 gallons, compared with 150 for a 10 minute shower.  Since showering is one of the leading ways we use water at home, practicing Navy showers will help your water use (and bill) beat a hasty retreat.  And the bathroom at your house might even seem a little less crowed during the morning rush.

If you have water conservation in your sights, try this out: First, test your fixtures and see how much water you’re using with every minute of your shower. Then, test yourself: Time your normal showers to get a baseline, then see how much time and water you can shave off.

And once you’ve challenged yourself to close the ranks on your shower’s length, you can also change your fixtures to low flow showerheads.

You don’t have to be in the Navy to have military discipline about your showers.  And practicing Navy showers most of the time will make you feel better about taking the occasional long, luxurious shower!

As the old saying (sort of) goes, never leave a gallon behind.  How are you taking your water use to boot camp?  Would you try a Navy shower?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Photo Essay: Old and New Environments Coming Together in Pittsburgh

Blog and Photos by Christina Catanese

A few months ago, home in my native Pittsburgh, I paid a visit with my family to a place I went to many times growing up – Phipps Conservatory.  My childhood recollections of the place mainly revolve around the stunning plant displays, and the plethora of colors and types of flowers that seemed to grow out of every possible surface.  I was enchanted by the re-creation of various ecosystems, like the tropical plant room that thrived even in the bleak Pittsburgh winter.  But during this visit, I encountered a new aspect of the Conservatory that changed how I saw the place, and indeed, my hometown itself.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes was opened last year as Phipps’ hub for education, research, and administration.  Striving to be “one of the greenest buildings on earth,” the Center utilizes innovative technologies to generate all its own energy, as well as treat and reuse all water captured on site.

Taking a stroll through the Center for Sustainable Landscapes’ grounds. The center building’s exterior incorporates repurposed wood salvaged from barns in Western Pennsylvania.

Taking a stroll through the Center for Sustainable Landscapes’ grounds. The center building’s exterior incorporates repurposed wood salvaged from barns in Western Pennsylvania.

While a beautiful architectural construction, I was most impressed with the stormwater management measures the Center took, from the green roof, to rain gardens, to the pervious pavement used on the walkways.

Click “read more…” below to read the rest of this photo essay!

More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Drop It While It’s Hot!

By Christina Catanese

We had to break out the little inflatable pool this weekend – the multiple days of temperatures over 90 degrees just demanded it.  The cool water from the hose was refreshing, but when it came time to empty the pool, I couldn’t believe how much water it held and how long it took to drain it.  I captured some of it to water my droopy plants, but there was still more water than I could use.

Filling up the pool on a hot summer day

Filling up the pool on a hot summer day

During the summer, you might use four times as much water as you do during other months.  Your water bill likely reflects the extra water you need for your lawn and garden, and to keep yourself cool!  Your local waterways and systems are feeling the heat, too – the more water we use, the more has to be withdrawn and treated before it goes back to rivers and streams.

So what are some ways we can use less water in the summer?  Part of it is using the water effectively.

While up to 90 percent of the water used outdoors is for irrigation, having a beautiful landscape doesn’t have to mean using a lot of water.  Watering by hand is most efficient, but lots of us have automatically timed irrigation systems for convenience.  It turns out that homes with automatically timed irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than those without. Your system can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak.  Lots of water can be lost through evaporation if you water at the wrong time of the day, and leaky hoses, dripping faucets, and improper landscaping can keep your garden from looking its best.  Here are some tips from WaterSense for watering wisely this summer.

Another way to use less water outside is to capture it yourself.  By using a rain barrel, you can capture free rainwater to use when you need it most to water your lawn and garden (but not for drinking or your kiddie pool).  Rain barrels can be purchased at your local hardware or garden supply store.  Better yet, many local government programs offer them at reduced prices.  Check out our short video and this longer video from GreenTreks for more on installing your own rain barrel.

You can even design your landscape to be water efficient.  Some plants are thirstier than others, so choose plants that are defined as low water use or drought tolerant for your area. These plant species will be able to survive in your climate with minimal, if any, need for supplemental watering.  See these simple tips for water-efficient landscaping for more ideas on lowering water use in your yard.  Visit this link to explore lists of native plants available for by state, and this one to see some Mid Atlantic resources.

So tell us: how are you dropping your water use this summer?

 

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Lowdown on Why Water Use is Down in DC

By Ken Pantuck

It turns out that when it comes to water conservation, what goes up sometimes does come down.  And what each of us does in our homes really does have an impact.

Water consumption in the District of Columbia is down from an average of 125 million gallons per day in 2004 to 100 million gallons today, according to recent reports from DC Water.   Similarly, the amount of wastewater going to Washington’s Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant has declined over the past decade.

A shot of DC’s urban water resources Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer ad454 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

A shot of DC’s urban water resources. Photo courtesy of Flickr photographer ad454 from EPA’s State of the Environment Photo Project

How did this reduction occur?  It seems to be a combination of factors.  Homeowners have decided to use water-saving appliances in new homes and to replace water consumptive fixtures.  DC Water has pushed an effective and ongoing program to repair and replace aging and deteriorated sewer segments.  Proactive steps have been taken to eliminate other sources of water in the system, like tidal intrusions. And rainfall and ground water levels have been lower than normal.

Although earth is often referred to as the “water planet” with about 70% of its surface covered by water, less than 1% of the water is available for human use.  Water supplies are finite, and the residents and wastewater utility in DC are helping to protect this critical and precious resource where they live.  The story of water use in the district shows that the collective action of individuals can make a big difference to ensure there is enough clean water for generations to come.

The water conservation message is simple and something that any municipality, large or small, can easily promote.  Encouraging residents to use less water is low cost and can produce significant savings.  For example, the 25 million gallons of water savings in DC also results in a savings of $2,500 per day in processing costs at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant.  Even more important, lower rates of water use means that less water is going through a wastewater system, which can relieve the pressure on treatment plants during large storm events.  In a smaller plant, this could mean the difference between expanding the plant or not.

What can you do to help reduce water use where you live?  One thing is to look for WaterSense-labeled water appliances for your home.  WaterSense is an EPA partnership program that seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, homes, and services.  Get lots of tips for how you can save water in your home here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Water Savings on Tap for Fix a Leak Week 2013

By Kimberly Scharl

Fix a Week 2013 bannerMarch 18-24, 2013 is the EPA WaterSense program’s 5th annual Fix a Leak Week, a time when we remind you to check your household plumbing for leaks.  American households waste more than 1 trillion gallons of clean drinking water each year due to leaky pipes, toilets, showerheads and other fixtures. But fixing leaks can be easy and inexpensive, and can save you nearly 10 percent on utility bills!   Need some ideas to mark the occasion of Fix a Leak Week?   We’ve got some for you…

Save water in your own home!

Being handy around the house doesn’t have to be difficult. Common types of leaks found in the home are worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves.  These types of leaks are often easy to fix.  You might only need a few tools and hardware, and these fixes can pay for themselves in water savings.  Check out this video by Spartanburg Water on detecting a leaky toilet.

Check it out!

There are tons of events happening all over the country to celebrate Fix a Leak Week!  Here are two in the Mid-Atlantic Region:

Charlottesville, Virginia is hosting the “Fix a Leak Family 5k”, an event where runners and non-runners alike can learn about water conservation.  Besides the trail run itself, the event will feature local vendors and non-profits sharing information on water and energy savings.  This event is also featuring face painting, a DJ, and a nature trail making it fun for the whole family!

The West Virginia Public Service Commission in Charleston will be visiting local elementary schools to discuss the importance of water conservation with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Hands-on demonstrations will illustrate scarcity of potable water, areas of the country where shortages of water are a problem, and how those shortages affect individuals in other regions of the country.

Do you know of other events happening near you next week?  Tell us about them in the comments!

Come Chat with Us!!!

To kick off Fix a Leak Week, WaterSense is holding its 2nd Annual Fix a Leak Week Twitter chat on Monday March 18th from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  Log into your Twitter account during that time and use the hashtag #fixaleak to tweet messages about your plans to make a difference during Fix a Leak Week!

Flo, our spokesgallon, will be joining in too!  Throughout the Twitter chat, we’ll be posting pictures of Flo as she travels around the Mid-Atlantic Region sharing water saving tips.  Here’s a sneak peak of Flo, can you guess where she is?

Our Spokesgallon Flo with the Liberty Bell

So join in the conversation!  Make sure to follow @EPARegion3 to catch all Flo’s journeys in our region, and follow @EPAwatersense and the #fixaleak hashtag to get more tips during the chat.

Take the Pledge!

Join us and thousands of your friends and neighbors in taking simple actions to save water.  Take the “I’m for Water” pledge, and make a resolution this year to save this precious resource.

For more information on Fix a Leak Week and the WaterSense program, go to www.epa.gov/watersense.  You can also follow WaterSense on Facebook and Twitter!  Make 2013 about water and take the pledge today!

Tell us how you are saving water this Fix a Leak Week in the comments!

About the Author: Kimberly Scharl has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency since 2010, after moving to Pennsylvania from Mississippi.  She is a financial analyst and project officer for the Water Protection Division, Office of Infrastructure and Assistance.  She is also the Regional Liason for the WaterSense Program.  Kim enjoys bowling and spending time with her family.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Saving Water Saves Money and our Planet

By Lorne LaMonica

Here in New York, water is relatively abundant compared, say, to Arizona or Nevada.  However, did you know that almost 30% of New York State has experienced a moderate drought for over the last nine weeks?  Right now, over 23% of the state is experiencing a moderate drought (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/DM_state.htm?NY,NE ).  And, New York is not alone: this summer, the drought that has settled over more than half of the continental United States is the most widespread in more than half a century and it is likely to grow worse. ( http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/drought/index.html ).

How can we do our part to use water more efficiently?  We encourage everyone to learn about WaterSense, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency partnership program.

The WaterSense program seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes and services.

WaterSense brings together a variety of stakeholders to:

•Promote the value of water efficiency.

•Provide consumers easy ways to save water through product labels and information.

•Encourage innovation in manufacturing.

•Decrease water use and reduce strain on water resources and infrastructure.

Look out for products with the WaterSense label to save energy and cut costs.

The WaterSense program can help consumers make smart water choices that save money and maintain high environmental standards without compromising performance. Products and services that have earned the WaterSense label have been certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance.

If only one in every 10 homes in the United States were to install WaterSense labeled faucets or faucet accessories in their bathrooms, it could save six billion gallons of water per year, and more than $50 million in the energy costs to supply, heat, and treat that water!

The WaterSense program is making a difference. Since 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 287 billion gallons of water and over $4.7 billion in water and energy bills. To learn more about how you can save water and money, visit the WaterSense (http://www.epa.gov/watersense/index.html ) web site.

About the author: Lorne LaMonica is a senior Environmental Scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. LaMonica has been with the EPA for over 20 years and has worked in many of EPA’s environmental programs, including its hazardous waste, NEPA, and State Revolving Fund programs.  Lorne is the Region 2 Liasion for the national EPA WaterSense program, a contributing web content author, and is a Project Officer for several grants under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Pollution Prevention grants programs. Lorne works in the Pollution Prevention and Climate Change Section in EPA Region 2.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Plants and Fat Wallets: Water Conservation Tips for the Summer

By Elisa Hyder

After all the hard work during the spring, proper watering can help relieve some of summer’s challenges to a flourishing outdoor lawn and garden.  However, outdoor watering can easily turn into wasted watering if not done properly. Residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for more than 7 billion gallons of water each day, and it is estimated that up to 50% of this water is wasted due to overwatering. That is 3.5 billion gallons of water down the drain every day, along with money spent for the water bill.

Overwatering draws down our water resources and your wallet, and it may also affect your beautiful plants. Overwatering may also lead to drooping or wilting plants and stunted growth.  Plants need a very specific amount of water for the best growth results, depending on weather and soil conditions.

There are lots of ways to save money and water when using water outside.  Always make sure that the water you are using is going towards the plants, not your house walls or sidewalks. Also, water your plants earlier in the morning or later in the evening; if done in the early afternoon, most of the water is lost to evaporation.  You can also think about rainwater harvesting like rain barrels as a source of water for your plants.  Check out our new video about rain barrels on youtube!

[youtube width=”400″ height=”300″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSBKqFrxoZA[/youtube]

Do you know just how much water to give your plants? It can be hard to track what’s going on with the weather and soil. But, now it can be a lot easier. There are technologies out there that can handle all of the effort.

Some of these technologies include irrigation controllers that, with proper programming, can do wonders for your garden and your water bill. Instead of using a clock or preset schedule, they work like a thermostat for your sprinkler system. There are access points that can be plugged into either an Internet router or personal computer which communicates wirelessly with the controllers.

Click for more about WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers

Click for more about WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers

So, the controllers are able to use the Internet to check local weather and landscape conditions to adjust the watering schedule. These controllers are designed to make sprinkler systems more efficient. With them, you can enjoy a beautiful outdoor lawn and garden while keeping some money in your pocket. In fact, it is estimated that they can help you save up to 40% on your water bills.

How are you watering your garden efficiently this summer?  For more tips on more efficient outdoor water use and technologies, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/ and check out WaterSense on Facebook and Twitter.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Conserving Water Resources With Green Infrastructure

Environmental Science Center at Ft. Meade, Maryland

By Trey Cody

EPA employees in Fort Meade, Maryland at the Environmental Science Center recently added some unique environmental features to their building, which is home to Region III’s chemistry and microbiology labs. EPA staff helped construct a rain garden with native grasses, goldenrod, coneflowers, and http://www.epa.gov/greeningepa/glossary.htm rerouting rooftop drainage pipes to a rain barrel to help reduce splash erosion as stormwater falls from roof gutters to the garden. The rain garden makes for a beautiful sight for workers at the front of the building and is watered both naturally and with the rain barrel.

These improvements and more are helping this facility in its effort to meet the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings as well as working towards achieving a U.S Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design existing building certification.

Read about more environmentally positive features of the Environmental Science Center.

This is just one way that EPA is helping to improve water quality by the construction of green infrastructure in our region. There are numerous other examples of how new products, technologies, and practices can use natural systems to enhance water quality. Some of these can be implemented in your local household or business. The great thing about green infrastructure is that while it is improving water quality, you can save water, money and energy.

Below are some examples of green infrastructure that you can implement to your house to promote water quality. You can click each one to view more information, fact sheets, benefits, examples and web sites.

  • Downspout Disconnection: The rerouting of rooftop drainage pipes to drain rainwater to rain barrels, cisterns, or permeable areas instead of the storm sewer.  Home owners can disconnect and reroute these pipes with little to no effort!
  • Rain Gardens: Shallow, vegetated basins that allows for the collection and absorption of runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets.  Rain gardens mimic natural hydrology by infiltration, evaporation, and returning water vapor to the atmosphere.  They can be installed in almost any unpaved space. This is a great way for a homeowner to beautify their homes and improve water quality!
  • Permeable Pavements: Paved surfaces that allow infiltration, treating, and storage of rainwater where it falls.  Permeable pavements may be constructed from pervious concrete, porous asphalt, and several other materials.

Have you installed any of these or other examples of green infrastructure in your household?

Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences!

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource.  Throughout the year, EPA will be highlighting different aspects of the history and successes of the Clean Water Act in reducing pollution in the past 40 years.  The month of August will focus on Science and Innovation.

About the Author: Trey Cody has been an intern with EPA’s Water Protection Division since graduation from high school in 2010. He is currently attending the Pennsylvania State University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Saving Water and Energy – the Trickle Down Effect on Your Wallet

By Matt Colip and Walter Higgins

Just like homeowners, wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities have to control their energy usage because their budgets are so tight.  While you and I can install attic insulation or turn off lights when they aren’t in use to lower bills, plans for reducing energy use can be a little more complicated at water and wastewater treatment facilities. Still, there are many strategies available to reduce energy usage at water treatment facilities.  Oh, and you can help too.

One way a treatment facility can trim down its energy use is to start from the source and reduce the overall community demand for drinking water and waste water to be treated.  Less water used in communities means a lower cost to you on your water and sewer bill.  By promoting the use of water efficient WaterSense products and water conservation practices by the citizens within their service area, water utilities can reduce energy use significantly. Just think about how much less water facilities would have to treat and the energy that could be conserved if all of us used even a little less!

Have you ever driven by a waste water plant and noticed a large flame coming off one of the stacks?  That’s gas that is produced in the operations of the plant and is typically burned off.  Instead of flaring, it can be beneficially used to run turbines that can generate heat and electricity for the plant (otherwise known as Combined Heat and Power).  Also, some facilities are beginning to install solar photovoltaic panels on the plant grounds to offset the total electricity used by the plant.

On May 8th, EPA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, hosted an Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately their carbon footprint.  This conference highlighted several areas related to energy efficiency along with innovative solutions to wastewater treatment.

Interested in hearing more about what happened at the conference? The presentations can be found on our website. For additional information, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Authors: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. Walter Higgins is in Region 3′s Water Protection Division where he manages grants that fund water quality and drinking water projects.  He is also involved in working with water and wastewater facilities on energy efficiency and has been with EPA since 2010.  Prior to EPA he was a soil scientist with the Montgomery County Health Department, in Pa.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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On the Road to Wastewater Energy Savings

By Matt Colip

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

Kent County Wastewater Treatment Plant has implemented some innovative energy efficiency measures, like solar panels, instrument optimization, and sludge drying greenhouses.

It’s a fact that a modern, four-cylinder hybrid engine gets much better gas mileage then a larger, earlier generation, eight-cylinder engine.  Both get us where we need to go, but at different levels of energy use and fuel costs.

A similar concept can be applied to our local wastewater and drinking water facilities.  Operators of these facilities  are becoming more aware of just how much energy they use and more informed about ways to reduce energy usage. There are many methods of wastewater treatment, but just like cars, these processes vary in energy use and cost.

One easy way for water treatment operators to learn about the latest strategies in making their facility energy efficienct is by referring to EPA’s guidance document Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities.  It’s designed to guide treatment plant operators through the process of maximizing their facility’s energy efficiency, while also reducing their costs.  The guidebook utilizes a four-step approach: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

They can also attend the May 8 Energy Roundtable Conference in Harrisburg that we blogged about recently. This event (held by EPA in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) is for wastewater treatment operators interested in reducing their facilities’ energy costs and ultimately carbon footprint, and will highlight several areas related to energy efficiency.

As a homeowner, you can help your drinking water and wastewater plants save operating costs by becoming more water efficient yourself. One way to do this is by utilizing WaterSense products in your household.

For more information on energy efficiency, please visit our website. For information about the Energy Roundtable event, please contact Walter Higgins at Higgins.walter@epa.gov, or by phone at 215-814-5476.

About the Author: Matt Colip works in the region’s NPDES Enforcement Branch and focuses primarily on enforcing wastewater and stormwater regulations. Originally a Texan, turned Pennsylvanian, Matt graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., with a BA in Special Studies – Public Health and is currently working on an MS in Environmental Protection Management at Saint Joseph’s University. He is also interested in technologies that promote efficient living, strives to practice what he preaches, and is moving to a house on a pervious pavement street in Philadelphia. Matt’s love of bicycling took him on a solo cross country tour (riding from San Francisco to the New Jersey shore) as well as around Puerto Rico and across Ohio with colleagues and friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.