Reducing the Federal Carbon Footprint

About the author: Viccy Salazar joined EPA in 1995. She works in our Seattle office on waste reduction, resource conservation and stewardship issues.

Recently, we launched a new program to help federal facilities reduce their carbon footprint called the Federal Green Challenge. It helps federal facilities meeting their Executive Order requirements to green up their operations by focusing on Energy, Transportation, Waste and Water. When given a framework to act, it is amazing how much the federal community wants to make an environmental difference. Facilities across Region 10, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, have committed to reduce their carbon emissions by over 9 million pounds in 2009 alone. In addition, the program will be helping federal facilities during the year by hosting 12 webinars on topics including the four target areas – energy, transportation, waste and water and several others including green meetings, sustainability, and implementing you EMS. It is wonderful seeing the government begin to lead by example.

Even though the program is only open to federal facilities, all the information is public and hopefully, other organizations will use the information to measure their progress. On the website there are tips for making changes, tools for measuring your results, and examples of how others have done it. Let me know if the information is useful and what else would be useful.

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.

Reducing our Carbon Footprint

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the San Juan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Last year I was having a conversation with former Region 2 Deputy Administrator Kathleen C. Callahan about recycling. I told her about the many things we were doing in our household of six to reduce our carbon footprint and recycle as much as 60% of our waste. She encouraged me to share the experience. I forgot about her suggestion, until a few weeks ago when I had to prepare a presentation on the issue for an EPA outreach event.

For most people “carbon footprint” is still an unfamiliar term. During this specific presentation, I wanted to engage the public in seeking solutions. To explain things in laymen terms, I revisited my conversation with Kathy and incorporated many of the things we are already doing at home. Many of these are outlined in EPA’s Climate Change page.

For starters, we bought and remodeled an old house in Puerto Rico. We sought to take advantage of nature by installing windows and doors that let light and air in. Our garage door is perforated allowing cross ventilation and light inside the house while providing us with security and privacy. Thus, we rarely have to use compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) inside the house during the day. Also, all of our appliances acquired or replaced since 2003 are Energy Star. Since our weather is sunny most of the year, I have two clotheslines to air-dry our clothes. This is not an easy task, but the reduction in our greenhouse gases emissions and energy bill is worth the effort.

Around the house, strategic planting of native and tropical species reduce the amount of heat from direct sunlight and provides us with a lush backyard. A special insulating treatment in our concrete ceiling reduces the temperature during very hot days and ceiling fans keep the house cool even during 95F degree temperature. In our bathrooms, efficient showerheads help us save water thus reducing our carbon load.

Our shopping habits have changed dramatically in the last three years helping us recycle and compost more. We try to buy most of our fruits and vegetables from local farm stands and anything else has to come in a recyclable package.

Even though we still have a long way to go to further reduce our carbon load, please share with us the innovative and creative ways you have minimized your carbon footprint.

Reduciendo nuestra huella de carbono

Sobre la autor: Brenda Reyes Tomassini se unió a la EPA en el 2002. Labora como especialista de relaciones públicas en la oficina de EPA en San Juan, Puerto Rico donde también maneja asuntos comunitarios para la División de Protección Ambiental del Caribe.

El año pasado conversaba sobre reciclaje y reducción de desperdicios con Kathleen C. Callahan, ex sub-administradora de la Región 2, cuando me sugirió plasmar por escrito las medidas que tomábamos en nuestro hogar de 6 para reducir nuestra huella ecológica y reciclar hasta un 60%. Olvidé la recomendación de Kathy hasta hace semanas atrás cuando la agencia fue invitada a participar en un evento masivo y me asignaron una presentación sobre la huella de carbón para educar a los asistentes al evento sobre el tema.

Aunque para muchas personas el término “huella de carbón” es desconocido, tenía como meta hacer una presentación sencilla y en la que pudiese involucrar al público en la búsqueda de soluciones. Al preparar la presentación recordé todo lo discutido con Kathy e incorporé muchas de las cosas que hacemos en nuestro hogar. La mayoría de las medidas tomadas en nuestra casa están sugeridas en la página electrónica de la EPA sobre cambio climático.

Cuando comenzamos la búsqueda de una residencia decidimos que ésta fuese vieja para salvar el preciado espacio verde de nuestra isla. Remodelamos de acuerdo a la ventilación cruzada de la residencia y aprovechamos la abundante luz al instalar ventanas y puertas, incluyendo una puerta perforada de garaje, que permitieran el paso de la brisa y evitaran el encendido diurno de nuestras bombillas compactas fluorescentes. Además todos nuestros enseres adquiridos y/o reemplazados a partir del 2003 son Energy Star. Ya que nuestro clima tropical es soleado gran parte del año solemos tender la ropa al aire libre, lo cual no sólo ahorra energía, pero reduce las emisiones de gases de invernadero.

Alrededor de la casa, la siembra estratégica de árboles nativos y especies tropicales reduce la cantidad de sol directo que recibe esta además de brindarnos un patio fresco y verde. En cuanto al techo de cemento, éste fue insulado con un tratamiento especial que reduce la temperatura aún en el día más caluroso al igual que los ocho abanicos de techo instalados en los cuartos y áreas comunes de la casa. Adicionalmente, instalamos duchas eficientes en los baños para ayudarnos a ahorrar agua y reducir nuestra huella de carbón.

Por último, y no menos importante, hemos cambiado drásticamente nuestros hábitos de consumo en los últimos tres años. Tratamos de comprar menos alimentos enlatados y adquirir nuestras frutas y vegetales de vendedores independientes o que tengan empaque mínimo. El resto de nuestras compras tiene que estar empacadas en envases reciclables y no patrocinamos el uso de bolsas plásticas. Ahora reciclamos más y hacemos composta para abonar nuestras plantas con los desperdicios orgánicos.

Aunque todavía nos quedan muchas cosas por hacer para reducir nuestro impacto ecológico, ¿me encantaría conocer qué medidas creativas e innovadoras ha tomado usted para minimizar su huella de carbón?

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.

Making Green Repairs

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

We’ve been living in our “new” house for nearly 14 years. With the normal wear and tear of daily living, we’ve made our share of repairs, plus we’ve purposely made some changes for energy and water saving purposes.

Several years ago, we bought all new major appliances with the Energy Star label. In our effort to reduce our carbon footprint, we took the pledge and changed all the lights to Energy Star light bulbs. (In the kitchen alone—we have 12!) That didn’t seem to be enough to cut the energy bill, so last summer, we changed all the windows at home to high performance Energy Star windows. The draftiness had been sealed. We did experience greater temperature stability in the home, yet those energy savings were not yet there. Forget about the rising electric bill costs, that was a whole other issue. So after some procrastination, we finally purchased a new air-conditioning/heating system with the Energy Star label AND the Energy Star programmable thermostat. Combined with our previous updates, that really made the difference! We are finally feeling at home and in our energy bills the long promised and awaiting benefits. Our energy consumption has dropped about 40 percent.

Having addressed the electric bill, we had to tackle another area—leaking toilets. Yes, I know it’s not an appealing subject, but, we have five toilets at home and three were leaking quite often. According to our stats, “a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day”—you do the math. That’s a LOT of water wasted.

I learned about the WaterSense program through EPA and found out that the new toilets with the high-efficiency WaterSense label were finally available in the Maryland area where we live. We studied various options. We considered the dual flush toilets that we’ve seen in Europe and more recently in EPA’s Potomac Yard green building, but we finally opted for single flush toilets that use 1.28 gallons per flush and we couldn’t be happier. They do the job and we’ve put a stop to those leaky toilets, finally.

So, with the repairs in the home and greenscaping techniques in the garden, we’re trying to assume our green responsibilities starting at home

Haciendo reparaciones verdes

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Hemos estado viviendo en nuestra casa “nueva” por casi 14 años. Con el ir y venir del diario vivir, hemos tenido que hacer algunas reparaciones y nos hemos propuesto a hacer algunos cambios a fin de lograr ahorros de energía y agua.

Después de unos años, compramos todos nuestros principales enseres electrodomésticos con la etiqueta de Energy Star. En nuestro esfuerzo por reducir nuestra huella de carbono, asumimos la promesa—– y cambiamos todas las bombillas (o focos) a bombillas de la etiqueta Energy Star. ¡En la cocina nada más tengo 12!) Eso no fue suficiente para reducir la cuenta de electricidad y el verano pasado cambiamos todas las ventanas en la casa a ventanas de alto rendimiento Energy Star. Logramos reducir escapes de aire alrededor de las ventanas. También mejoramos grandemente la estabilidad en la temperatura en la casa, pero los anticipados ahorros todavía no habían sido realizados. (Dejemos aparte las cuentas de electricidad en alza, ese es un tema aparte.) Después de posponer la decisión, compramos finalmente un nuevo sistema de aire acondicionado y calefacción de Energy Star Y el termostato programable de Energy Star. ¡Combinado con las mejoras que habíamos hecho con anterioridad, por fin vimos la diferencia! Finalmente estamos sintiendo en la casa y en nuestras facturas de energía los beneficios prometidos y tan anticipados. Nuestro consumo energético ha bajado en un 40 por ciento.

Después de abordar el tema de la cuenta eléctrica, entonces abordamos otra reparación importante—los inodoros que estaban perdiendo agua. Sí, sé que no es un tema atrayente, pero, con cinco inodoros en la casa, y tres que estaban perdiendo agua frecuentemente, se imaginan. Según nuestros datos, “un inodoro con fugas puede desperdiciar 200 galones de agua al día, saque las cuentas. Esa es MUCHA agua desperdiciada.

Me enteré del programa WaterSense — mediante la EPA y encontré que los nuevos inodoros de la etiqueta de alto rendimiento WaterSense por fin estaban disponibles en el área de Maryland donde vivimos. Estudiamos varias opciones. Consideramos los inodoros de cadena dual que habíamos visto en Europa y recientemente en el edificio verde de EPA de Potomac Yard, pero finalmente optamos por un inodoro sencillo que utiliza 1.28 galones por tirada y estamos muy satisfechos. Están realizando su labor y por fin terminamos con los escapes de agua en los inodoros.

Por lo tanto, con las reparaciones y las técnicas de jardinería verde en el jardín estamos tratando de asumir nuestras responsabilidades hacia el medio ambiente empezando en nuestro hogar.

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.

On the Green Road: Hawaiian Sense and Sustainability

About the author: While Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoys vacation, he’s sending along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

Everywhere we go in Hawaii, we hear about taking care of aina (“eye-nuh”), the land. As an environmentalist, it’s really nice to find so much dedication to protecting the natural world.

That spirit is evident in Len and Jane Sutton, our innkeepers in Hilo. I was originally intrigued by the guidebook’s mention of a private waterfall on the property. There are other waterfalls to swim in, but I’m guessing they’re crowded. Whereas yesterday morning, my wife and I had the whole thing to ourselves for an hour. For an anniversary trip, that’s hard to beat!

shed-covered power plant and small waterfall in a lush tropical backgroundBut this place isn’t special just because of the waterfall. The natural beauty is matched by how the Suttons manage the place. Len built his own small hydroelectric plant that supplies all of their electricity, working extensively with state biologists and the Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources. Their roof catches rain and sends it to a treatment system. And soon, they’ll be composting and growing some of their own food. Basically, their goal is to have a negative carbon footprint.

Protecting the environment really does take all of us: regulatory agencies like EPA and individuals making good decisions. But it seems to me the best situation is when our lives intersect with the environment, because internal motivation will always be more powerful than external requirements.

Here in Hilo, the Suttons have found the perfect match of a magic location and a sustainable way to enjoy it.

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.

Bike to Work Day, 2008

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the science writer-editor for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He rides to work on the Capital Crescent Trail.

Some links exit EPA.Exit EPA Disclaimer

photo of Aaron Ferster and his bikeWhen I tell people one of the best parts of my job is the commute, they immediately think I must dislike my work. Actually, I have a great job. It’s just that I love my commute. I’m one of a handful of EPA employees hooked on commuting by bike.

The best part of bicycle commuting is that it’s fun; it is also good for the environment and my health. Bicycling reduces pollution and my carbon footprint. I get twice-daily workouts pedaling right past the gas pump and their ever-increasing prices. I have a bike locker at the Metro for those days when the weather or my schedule conspire to prevent me from tackling the trip all the way from Rockville, MD, where I live, to EPA in downtown Washington, DC. Leaving my car at home saves me some $95.00 a month in Metro parking alone.

For days when I can ride all the way to work, I’m treated to fresh air, bird songs instead of honking, and a great view overlooking the Potomac River from the Capital Crescent Trail. I share the skinny strip of pavement with lots of fellow bike commuters, plenty of early-morning dog walkers, and the occasional box turtle or deer.

Friday, May 16th is my favorite day of the year: Bike to Work Day. Bike to Work Day is held in cities across the country every May (National Bike Month) as a way of enticing people to give bike commuting a try and to promote bicycling as a green, healthy, and fun alternative to driving.

Here in Washington, DC the event combines my two favorite things: bicycles and free coffee. Morning convoys gather from across the metropolitan area to join together in ever-increasing numbers as they ride toward Freedom Plaza downtown (conveniently located just across from EPA headquarters). Freedom Plaza is the annual site of Bike to Work Day festivities, including speeches, music, free tee-shirts, raffles, and refreshments featuring bagels, energy bars, bananas, and—oh goodie!—hot, fresh coffee.

On Friday, May 16th, consider giving Bike to Work Day a try (May 15 in some cities like San Francisco). It could very well turn out to be your favorite work day of the year.

P.S. Tell us why you are or aren’t biking to work.

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.