EPA at Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

by Assistant Administrator Michelle DePass

Next week EPA will join people from across the US government to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.  Our team of experts will be engaged in government-to-government negotiations, while also connecting with partners from the US and around the world to identify steps we can take as individuals, as institutions, and as a global community to make our world more sustainable and prosperous.

Rio+20 is an opportunity to not only set a vision for the next 20 years of sustainable development, but also strengthen global cooperation at multiple levels – including non-profits and community organizations, students of every age, Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. Rio+20  also gives us the chance to utilize the incredible progress in technology and social media in the last 20 years to engage in a new ways and bring more voices to the discussion. The commitments and actions taken by everyone participating in Rio+20 – physically and virtually – will be as important as any negotiated document, so please take part by visiting http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ over the coming weeks!

Here are a couple of items to watch for:

  • There has been considerable discussion about reforming international institutions that focus on sustainable development. We believe that efficient and effective global coordination on sustainable development can be achieved by strengthening existing institutions like the UN Environment Program (UNEP), rather than creating a new institution.
  • We have called on each conference participant to bring their own voluntary commitments to sustainable development. Making clear and transparent commitments, when linked together and made accessible through a global platform, can advance sustainable development by showing what everyone – governments included – can do.  This broad list of commitments should reflect the spirit and goals of the Rio conference, using modern technologies and platforms to share information and increase transparency and accountability.

Keep track of what EPA is doing on the ground by checking back here and following us on Facebook and Twitter using our hashtag #EPArio.

About the author: Michelle DePass, Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, US EPA. Michelle DePass has spent her career working to support environmental progress here at home and around the world, at EPA she remains committed to expanding the conversation on environmentalism and ensuring access to clean, safe and healthy communities.

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.

Happy Anniversary Clean Water Act

waterDuring Earth Month I’m getting plenty of questions from EPA employees as well as students and teachers about how they can become involved in learning more about the environment. The 40th anniversary website of the Clean Water Act has plenty of opportunities and information. You can use the Clean Water Act milestones for a school paper or use images of water for a poster or an art project. There are even games and experiments that you can try.

Let us know if you tried any of the games or activities. Which was your favorite?  http://water.epa.gov/action/cleanwater40c/

Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

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.

Tomato vs Tomato

tomato

When I was 5 years old, I used to pull a stool up to the stove at my grandma’s house, open a package of bacon, start the stove, and begin frying the bacon.  I was always in trouble because using the stove without my parent’s supervision was not allowed.  I think my parents and grandma were more surprised that I knew exactly what to do.  I could hardly tie my shoe but I knew what to do with bacon.

The sizzling sounds and smells of cooking make me happy. It is my favorite thing to do, especially with fresh ingredients.  My grandma taught me how to cook, but I wanted to know more so my parents signed me up for a summer cooking camp for kids! We learned all about growing and using fresh ingredients and vegetables for meals.

At camp we learned the differences between store bought and home grown tomatoes.  Sometimes you can’t tell the difference because they sort of look the same.  The only difference might be the little sticker on the store bought ones that point out it’s from Florida.

For my first camp project, I wanted to grow tomatoes. Dad helped me find a good spot with plenty of sunlight to have a garden. We tested the soil to make sure that it was healthy for food to grow. At camp, I learned that rotting kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and worms make great natural compost, which is the fertilizer the tomatoes need to grow.  I didn’t use store bought chemical fertilizer because I wanted to grow them naturally.   We built a raised bed and watered the plants daily.  It took almost 7 weeks for them to grow! They weren’t super bright red or big. Some had streaks of purple.  Most didn’t look as nice as the store bought ones.

Then, I noticed a difference one night while making the spaghetti sauce for dinner and using our tomatoes. Cutting into it, I noticed it was fleshier and juicier. When tasting the sauce, it was sweeter and it brought out the flavor of the spices that we added too. This never happened when making sauce with the store bought tomato.  It usually tastes more watery and mild.

Growing your own food is hard work but it is fun.  My dad was happy too because he saved money by growing them instead of buying them! Carrots are next.

Fourth-grader Naima attends a Montessori school in Chicago’s northwest side. She enjoys cooking experiments and is visiting Rick Bayless’s garden in the summer.

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.

Poster contest for kids!

Students in grades K-8 can help raise awareness about sun safety and win great prizes by entering the 2012 SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest, organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SunWise Program and the SHADE Foundation.

The due date for entries is April 1, and more information is available at: www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html

Original, hand-drawn posters should show sun safety action steps. Participating students are eligible for state and national prizes. The national winner will be chosen through an online vote open to everyone. The grand prize is a family trip to Disney World and a shade structure for the winner’s school. Top posters will be displayed at the National Children’s Museum during summer 2012.

Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

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 Fairview Net Zero Club’s Experience with Energy Audits

energy star logo

The main concept behind an energy audit is evaluating the energy use in a building to find the best way to reduce energy consumption and optimize savings. A proper audit can be complicated, especially if you are not a professional. However, the Fairview Net Zero Club has found that a simplified version may be just as effective in achieving the basic goal reducing energy use. We walked through Fairview High School and recorded the appliances and other electronic equipment in every single room. Using an electricity usage monitor, we measured the wattage of each device. In the end, we discovered wasteful uses of energy. For example, we counted a total of 51 refrigerators in the entire school. It gets worse. Most were empty and left running during the summer, some were from the 70s, and none were Energy Star rated.

Our proposed solution was to replace the 51 refrigerators with fourteen larger Energy Star refrigerators. We could pay for the new appliances with the energy savings in less than two years. Also, we invited the school district’s sustainability coordinator to join us for part of the audit. Partly as a result of our findings, she is coordinating an energy reduction challenge at fourteen of the district’s largest schools, getting employees to turn off appliances over breaks.

Overall, the process of walking through a building and identifying unnecessary uses of energy can be done anywhere—at home, at an office. Solutions to reduce energy use are often quite obvious and one doesn’t need to be an expert to figure out how to make your home or office more efficient.

Cindy Zou is a senior at Fairview High School and the Co-President of the Net Zero club. She is an IB Diploma candidate and plans on studying biological chemistry in college. Outside of school, she figure skates, and works as a tutor at Kumon Learning Center.

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.

Green Tips on the Go

earth image

Want to get green tips for on the go?  Find out how to reduce your carbon footprint, protect yourself from the sun and save water.  Check out our “Green Tips” podcasts on your MP3 player.  You can also go into iTunes®, and search the iTunes Store for “epa green tips.”  Be green everyday!  EPA doesn’t endorse any particular software or music service.

http://www.epa.gov/earthday/podcasts/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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.

Community Service…Pick a Project!

Many students need to complete a community service project as part of a class in school.  The new student’s website has a whole webpage dedicated to community service projects and ideas.

Be sure to check it out,  and let us know what your community service project is!

http://www.epa.gov/students/communityservice.html

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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.

Pick 5 for the Environment

pick 5 banner

Environmental action can mean doing different things in different places, but it begins by taking the simple steps where you live.  You can do your part to protect the environment by choosing five or more actions and sharing your own ideas.  By doing so, you are joining thousands of others who are doing their part.  Together we can make the biggest difference, so make your actions count today!

http://www.epa.gov/pick5/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

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 to Deliver Your Opinion at City Council

Members of Fairview’s NetZero club have spoken several times at Boulder, Colorado City Council’s Open Comment to push forward a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper bags. Through the process, we have gained insight on how to create a concise and specific speech and deliver it successfully to the city council members.

Each person has a time limit of how long he/she can speak, so the speech should not repeat itself. It is best to arrive at the session early (unless you already know the order of speakers) and having practiced a few times. Dress appropriately for the session (no jeans or T-shirts), address the council members as “Mr./Ms. Councilmember,” and speak with a cooperative tone rather than accusatory.

Be specific with what it is you want them to change, for example, “We want Boulder City Council to address the bag issue in the 5 Year Update for the Master Plan of Waste Reduction” rather than “We want you to ban bags.” The more detailed your proposal is, the easier it is for them to make changes.

If you’re pooling in a group of people, again, make sure that the points in the argument don’t repeat. Assign specific topics to each person so that the group can be concise with time.

Speaking at City Council is a great way to let the city know about problems you wish to change. If done correctly, the city council members will be glad to help if possible.

Vivian Chen is a junior at Fairview High School in the IB Diploma program.  She is an active member of the Fairview Net Zero Club.  Her hobby is drawing and painting.

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.

Introducing the New Student's Website

flowEPA has launched a new student’s website where you can find games, homework reference resources, awards, events and contests!

Parents and teachers can also find resources and lesson plans.  Get the latest and greatest environmental info!

Check out the new EPA student’s website at http://www.epa.gov/students/

Tell us how you like 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.