EPA

EPA Blog Re-Post #5

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted October 21, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Turning Back Time: Repairing Water Infrastructure

By Marguerite Huber

I am about to turn 25 years old—the quarter century mark! Yikes! While I may start to feel “old” when I consider that number, I am in considerably better shape than some of the pipes and sewer mains that make up the country’s water infrastructure, some components of which are more than four times my age.

Homes, apartment buildings, and businesses in nearly every neighborhood and city across

sink-hole

Aging water infrastructure: fixing old, leaking sewer pipes in downtown Washington, DC.

the country are connected to miles and miles of pipes carrying wastewater and drinking water. That’s a lot of pipes to take care of!

The estimated costs of fixing old, leaky, and cracked pipes through the traditional methods of digging them up and patching or replacing them could cost water utilities in excess of $1 trillion dollars over the next 20 years. Innovative, lower cost technologies that could provide alternatives would have enormous impact, but how do utilities know where to turn before they make investments in long-term solutions?

To answer this question, scientists and engineers from EPA’s aging water infrastructure research program reported on innovative and emerging technologies in their study, Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program (Matthews, et. al., 2014). They and their partners conducted field demonstrations to test these new technologies, such as those that aim to repair existing pipes “from the inside out,” under real-world conditions.

EPA’s work with industry partners gathered reliable performance and cost data on technologies that line the inside of the aging pipes to fill in the holes and cracks, prolonging their life. They shared what they learned with water and wastewater utility owners, technology manufacturers, consultants, and service providers.

They tested two types of liner technologies. One was a cured-in-place method that essentially is a pipe-within-a-pipe. The second was a spray-in-place method that uses a computer-controlled robot to apply a new pipe liner.

The researchers provided reliable information on the performance and cost of the emerging technologies. Stakeholders can benefit from the work: water and wastewater utility owners can reduce the risk of trying out unproven technologies by using technologies that have undergone evaluation; manufacturers and developers will realize the opportunity to advance technology development and commercialization; and consultants and service providers will have the information they need to compare the performance and cost of similar products.

Overall, these innovative technologies can be efficient and economical alternatives to full-blown replacements of water infrastructure. I hope I have similar options when I pass the century mark myself!

Read the post in its original format here

Literature Cited: Matthews, J., A. Selvakumar, R. Sterling, AND W. Condit. Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 39:73-81, (2014).


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EPA & the Super Bowl: Blog Re-Post #5

If you did not know, the Super Bowl was yesterday. If you were aware of that, I bet you didn’t know sustainability aspects are taken into account when planning such a large and impactful event.

In 2012, I got the chance to interview the NFL’s Environmental Program Director about the work they were doing. Are you surprised such a program exists? I was too! It does not even have a dedicated website.

Fortunately, I wrote this blog for the EPA, so this ties perfectly in with my quest to repost my old blogs as you can see in the disclaimer below.


Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted February 8, 2012.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI


By Marguerite Huber

On Sunday, February 5th 2012, thousands of people descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana to watch Super Bowl XLVI. While millions watched the game, they were probably unaware of the sustainability actions that were put forth at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I spoke with NFL Environmental Program Director, Jack Groh, about what his job entails. He describes his job as incorporating environmental principles into sporting events, all the while making good business decisions. In the 18 years Groh has been with the NFL, they have kept expanding their sustainability actions, moving from just solid waste recycling to green energy seven years ago.

This year the NFL will be offsetting the energy for the stadium with Renewable Energy Credits for an entire month! “We are renting the stadium for a month, so we believe we are responsible for our tenancy,” states Groh. In addition to the stadium, the program will be offsetting the city’s convention center and four major hotels. That’s an estimated total offset of 15,000 megawatt hours.

“Every year there is something new and exciting. We want to push the envelope and look for new impacts and strategies,” Groh proclaims. For example, diverting waste from landfills by promoting recycling and reuse, collecting extra prepared food for donations for soup kitchens, donating building and decorative materials to local organizations, and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases from Super Bowl activities. My favorite is the 2,012 Trees program, which will help plant 2,012 trees in Indianapolis to help offset environmental impacts.

What I found most interesting from talking with Mr. Groh was that he does not spend a lot of time with publicity, which is why many of you may have never heard of this program. “People are amazed that we have been doing this for two decades. We don’t do it to create an image or green presence in the media, but do it because it’s the right thing and a really smart way to run things. Our goal is make the Super Bowl as green as we possibly can make it.” Groh admitted.

Sustainability and sports is a growing trend, even if it is not seen on the surface of our favorite sporting events. I am excited to see how professional leagues will mold the core of their existence into a new form of competition that is not just for teams, but for the professional leagues themselves. With sustainability, everybody wins!

Read the post in its original format here


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EPA Blog Re-Post #2

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the second one. Originally posted January 17, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Street Trees: More than Meets the Eye

By Marguerite Huber

Tree-lined street

Ever since I took an urban forestry course in graduate school, I can’t help but always look at trees. I look at their bark, their roots, and their leaves. But when I look at trees, I am not just seeing their physical attributes. I also see all the conceptual benefits they provide to our communities.

Trees are not just a pretty fixture in your backyard. They provide many ecosystem services to our cities and towns, including: improving air quality, absorbing and storing carbon, supplying privacy, reducing noise, increasing property value, and decreasing building energy use. Trees are an important aspect of the green infrastructure that helps reduce storm water flow.

Amazingly, you don’t have to be an arborist to calculate tree benefits; you can use i-Tree , a USDA Forest Service model that uses sampling data to estimate street tree benefits.

In the fall of 2013, EPA scientists began research on “street trees” (trees growing in the public right-of-way, usually in between the street and the sidewalk) in nine communities in the Cincinnati, Ohio metropolitan area. The randomly selected communities all differ in geographic setting, socioeconomic characteristics, and street tree management practices.

Their research aims to answer such questions as: Can street tree structure and benefits be explained by management practices, socioeconomic conditions, or historical or geographic factors? How might invasive pests affect street trees and their benefits? How will existing street tree structure and benefits change in the future under various scenarios of tree growth and mortality, management practices, and pest outbreaks?

Researchers sampled more than 53 miles of street right-of-way along more than 600 street segments and inventoried nearly 3,000 trees. The street tree benefits were estimated using i-Tree Streets.

At this time researchers are still analyzing street tree benefits and their relation to community characteristics such as management practices, socioeconomics, and geographic setting. So far they have found management practices to be particularly important, with Tree City USA  participants gaining greater benefits than communities that do not participate. Since analyses are still continuing, the findings on the other community characteristics will be released in the coming months.

When the project is completed, the researchers will have deliverables such as street tree inventory data that can be shared with community officials and an understanding of which community characteristics influence street tree structure and ecosystem services.

I invite you to check out i-Tree for yourself; I suspect as you’ll realize there are more to street trees than meets the eye.

Read the post in its original format here


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Let’s Make 2017 Better: Resolutions for a Less Wasteful Year

2017 is here. It is a whole new year and a fresh start, but it is going to be a tough road ahead.

The United States will inaugurate and swear in two men who do not believe in climate change as President and EPA Administrator respectively.

That is a tough pill to swallow, but not a time to back down. 2017 will be a year of trying even harder to make a change.

New Year’s resolutions are all about making a change, and I have plenty. These are not the generic resolutions everyone makes and breaks by February, but instead specific Waste Not Want Not resolutions that can make a difference beyond yourself.

I am looking forward to seeing the changes I can create in my own environment and the one around me.


 

resolution1

I am not going to focus on shedding pounds from my body, but instead, remove pounds of organic waste from ending up in the landfill. Since I was able to compost about 51 pounds in a 5 month period, I feel this is a good goal for next year.


 

resolution2

Eating healthier means paying more attention to what you are putting into your body, but it is often overlooked as to where your food is coming from. Sure you can eat broccoli that traveled across the country on a truck, or you can eat broccoli that was grown less than 100 miles away (0r even grown in your own backyard).

To find your local foods, head to a farmers market near you or a store specializing in local products. In Chicago, I love to shop at Green City Market which is just a 5-minute walk from our apartment. I recently started shopping at Local Foods and am considering joining a co-op like Chicago Market.


 

resolution3

Everyone wants to save money, but we can save even more by not buying the things we don’t necessarily need. Buying a shirt because it is marked 50% off, doesn’t save you 50%. You just spent 50% more because you made a purchase on a whim.

For the purchases of items you know you will need, do your research. Find a high-quality version of what you are looking for. Chances are it will be more expensive upfront, but in the long run, it should save you money because you’ll never have to purchase it again.

One more thing we can stop wasting money on is our food! Every time you let food go to waste, dollar signs are flying out the window. I try to repurpose leftovers into other meals, compost organic waste and freeze older vegetables to make stock.


 

resolution4

I think the Container Store is a hilarious idea. They preach how buying more stuff at their store will make you more organized. Hang your 45 infinity scarves on this specially made scarf hanger! Buy more plastic bins to store your fake plastic Christmas tree and non-recyclable wrapping paper!

How about we just pare down our belongings so we don’t constantly have to be organizing? I already read about Marie Kondo’s method in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which basically involves going through everything you own and asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” In 2017, I plan to ask myself that question with more of my belongings.


 

resolution5

I have already purged a lot of my clothes, but there are still plenty hanging around that I don’t wear that often. I want to be at the point where I do not have any more clothes left at my parent’s house.

There are many other options on what you can do with your clothes besides donating them. First, you can reuse them for a different purpose. T-shirts, for instance, make great cleaning rags. Also, consider trading clothes in a clothing swap with friends and family. Probably most important is to repair your clothing! I just noticed a hole in one of my 2 pairs of jeans. I am going to learn how to properly repair that rip!


 

resolution6

Did you know that basically half of the trips you make are 3 miles or less? Most of the places we need to go, like the pharmacy, the bank, and the grocery store are not far away (of course, this only applies if you live in a high-density area).

I, of course, advocate for everyone to get physically moving at least once a day, but another way to escape our sedentary lifestyles is to use walking and biking as our mode of transportation. I personally hate having to get into the car to run an errand while living in the city (I don’t want to lose my parking spot!). Being able to get things done by foot or bike is way better for your health and the environment.

Let’s bring on 2017! Did you plan to make any similar resolutions? Or are you inspired to add some of these to your list? Let me know! 

 

 

 

 

How to: Get Excited Again Post-Election

Many of the people I follow on WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter expected last Tuesday to come out a little different than we thought. I woke up that morning at 4:40 AM to head to my polling place to serve as an election judge. I was excited. I was ready to contribute to and witness history. I had planned on saving my “I Voted” wristband, writing “11/8/16 Election of First Female President” on it and saving it forever.

election-day-2

So much excitement the morning of. 

 

Unfortunately, when I woke up Wednesday morning my world was a completely different place. I was in denial and not really sure how to accept the next four years of my life. For myself and my colleagues in the environmental field, this was a huge blow. I took Wednesday to sulk,  be sad and eat a bowl of cereal in bed. I avoided watching the news or looking at articles on the internet.

By the time Monday rolled around, I had come to a different place of acceptance. For those of us who care about our planet and climate change, we have to remember that this election was not a vote on climate. It wasn’t a hot topic and wasn’t talked about as much as it should have been. As much as we tweeted and emailed, it was never asked about in any of the 3 presidential debates.

Monday night, I attended a meeting with my fellow Environmental Defense Fund Chicago Ambassadors and others interested in talking about how EDF planned to move forward post-election. This meeting was already planned well before the results of the election were known and our gathering had a much more somber feeling than originally intended.

Everything is a little blurry still, but this is what we know so far:

  • The President-Elect wants to end the “War on Coal”
  • The President-Elect wants to eliminate the Clean Power Plan
  • The President- Elect wants to abandon the Paris Agreement
  • Myron Ebell will be leading the EPA transition

Unfortunately, we are fortunate that the battle for clean air and water has always been a battle. It was never easy in the first place to get the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the EPA established. So this time, it is no different. Fighting for the environment is all we know how to do. Protests, petitions, writing to support legislation, and sharing sound science are actions we are all very familiar with.

Richard Nixon despised environmentalists, yet he was the most pro-environment president the US has ever seen. His administration created the EPA and charged it with protecting human health and the environment. Our outcry was enough for Nixon to give in.

So what we have to do now is stand and fight. EDF will be working hard to defend the work they have already accomplished. This is going to go down to the states. In Illinois, our legislators will be voting on the Clean Jobs Bill after Thanksgiving. SO WRITE TO YOUR LEGISLATORS!

We need the public to tell this new administration we won’t stand for a rollback on environmental rules and regulations. We won’t stand for a president that does not believe in climate change despite the overall consensus from scientists AROUND THE WORLD.

It was a battle from the very beginning and that battle is not going to end in the next four years. Because it is a battle, the wins are that much more worth it. We will keep moving forward and hopefully, our destruction won’t catch up to us.