The EPA Blog The EPA Blog Wed, 09 Sep 2015 13:09:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 EPA at GLACIER Summit Wed, 09 Sep 2015 13:09:26 +0000 Last week I led our delegation to GLACIER, the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience, in Anchorage, Alaska.  The U.S.-hosted conference convened foreign ministers of Arctic nations and key non-Arctic states with scientists, policymakers, and indigenous communities from Alaska and the Arctic to highlight opportunities and challenges in addressing climate change in this fragile region.  The conference also included public sessions on a range of issues including strengthening emergency response, development of renewable energy, and community health.

As part of the public sessions, I chaired a panel on “Protecting Communities and the Environment through Climate and Air Quality Projects,” which included discussions of the challenges of providing clean, reliable energy in remote communities; the particular environmental and public health needs of indigenous communities; and opportunities for local and global cooperation to address black carbon in the Arctic. Black carbon is the third largest warming agent globally, and because it causes ice melt, its effect on the Arctic is even more pronounced. In addition to its impact on the climate, black carbon also affects the health of local communities, causing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Our panel highlighted international mechanisms and our programs to address black carbon, including our effort to reduce black carbon emissions in the largest city in the Arctic Circle.

Also showcased at the GLACIER Summit was the EPA-supported Local Environmental Observer (LEO) network, created by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Alaska Native LEO members raise awareness about emerging climate change-related events and develop adaptation strategies to address environmental and public health concerns.   LEO provides a critical bridge between local knowledge, traditional knowledge, and Western science. Through our two-year U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, we are supporting the expansion of this network across the polar region.

Another discussion, “Strengthening International Preparedness and Cooperation for Emergency Response,” highlighted the efforts of the Alaska Regional Response Team (ARRT). This partnership of state and federal agencies makes plans and preparations to support the EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, who are responsible for responding to oil spills and hazardous materials releases anywhere in the state.  The ARRT works with a special emphasis on overcoming the unique challenges of responding in the Arctic. The session emphasized working closely with communities to incorporate indigenous knowledge into response planning.

To close the conference, President Obama delivered an impassioned call for international action on climate change and to protect our shared Arctic. President Obama is the first president to visit America’s Arctic and to witness firsthand the impacts of climate change on this region. During his trip, President Obama also visited with Alaska Natives in Kotzebue and Dillingham.

I am proud to have represented EPA and the United States at this event, grateful for the hospitality we were shown by Arctic communities, and inspired by their commitment and resilience in meeting the climate challenge. My sincere thanks to all of them, and everyone who is contributing to the preservation and protection of our shared Arctic.

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Classroom Clutter and Pests Go Hand-in-Hand Tue, 08 Sep 2015 18:59:05 +0000 By Marcia Anderson

Classroom clutter attracts pests including roaches, spiders and rodents.

Classroom clutter attracts pests including roaches, spiders and rodents.

Schools and childcare centers, by their nature, are prone to the accumulation of boxes, papers, posters and books that are utilized by teachers. Unfortunately, some of the nation’s finest school teachers have reputations for being pack rats. The use of multiple materials for learning is to be applauded, not discouraged. However, materials in classrooms and storage areas left undisturbed for long periods of time may lead to pest issues.

Pests gravitate toward cluttered areas because they provide a safe environment for them to eat, hide and reproduce undisturbed from predators and people. Some cockroaches, rodents, spiders and silverfish prefer layered clutter, such as stacks of paper. These pests carry with them the potential for bites, or are potential allergens or asthma triggers. If a pest infestation occurs, all of the items may have to go anyway. The best way to save the most precious items for the future is to eliminate potential pest harborages today.

Clutter can be dangerous: The brown recluse spider prefers to hide among layered papers and within forgotten boxes in cluttered corners and similar areas. Spiders and other pests have bitten children and teachers reaching into piles to retrieve papers or other items.

Consequences of Clutter: A cluttered space can be overwhelming and waste precious time for both teachers and students. There just comes a time when you simply can’t be efficient anymore because chaos has overtaken the classroom when you can’t find things where they’re supposed to be. Searching and hunting wastes time. Alternately, an organized area helps to promote quick work starts and facilitates an efficient use of time. And once an area is organized, it is easier to keep it this way. Clutter also creates a disturbance in student focus. It is distracting and doesn’t maintain a conducive learning environment.

Keeping a school classroom pest-free is challenging, but utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can reduce the number of pests and the use of pesticides in the school. IPM is a smart approach to prevent and get rid of pests by using what we know to make classrooms, kitchens and cafeterias less attractive to them. Pests come inside because they’ve found the things they need to survive – food, water, and shelter.

Classroom Storage Tips:

  1. Reduce clutter in bite-size pieces. Allocating 30 minutes twice a week to clearing cluttered areas will allow you to get cleaned up and organized in just a few weeks.
  2. Store materials in clear, plastic boxes to better organize, eliminate clutter and prevent pest infestations. Such boxes exist in nearly every size, shape and color for storage needs.
  3. Don’t use cardboard boxes. Cockroaches love to hide in their corrugations and will hitchhike into and set up house in your classroom!
  4. Store boxes on shelves instead of the floor whenever possible. Shelves should be a minimum of six inches and preferably 12 inches off of the floor to allow for access for sweeping and mopping. This space will also discourage any insects and rodents from hiding beneath the first shelf. Leaving space helps the custodial staff to see and clean behind and under stored items. Mice and roaches love to travel right next to the walls, so if you have clutter next to the walls, they can run to and fro undetected during the day.
  5. Clear out clutter to improve pest inspections and treatment effectiveness. Clutter makes pest management almost impossible – pest inspections are difficult when the pest control technician’s access is limited and pests have no reason to venture into treated areas.
  6. Encourage children to help clean up after activities. These clean-up chores can be placed on a Classroom Helper Chart, especially in the younger grades where the help is needed the most.
  7. Keep food items used as math manipulatives, such as dried beans or toasted oat cereal, in tightly sealed containers. Likewise, store animal feed in tightly sealed containers, clean up spills immediately, and clean cages regularly.

Reducing unused items, eliminating clutter, and following IPM practices will improve the air quality in your school, reduce pest problems, and improve the learning environment. It’s time to clean house!

To read more on de-cluttering the classroom, review Purdue University’s recommendations on reducing pest problems by reducing clutter and the University of Arizona’s articles on clearing up and cleaning out for summer and clutter control.

 About the Author: About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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EPA and Unilever: Teaming Up to Advance Chemical Safety Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:45:12 +0000 By Rusty Thomas

A researcher using EPA’s high-throughput screening lab

EPA researchers are using high-throughput screening methods to make chemical management safer.

There are somewhere around 80,000 chemicals listed or registered for use in the United States (plus an additional thousand more introduced every year), of which only a small percentage have been significantly tested for their relative safety.

That’s because we are still largely relying on methods for chemical testing that were developed 30 years ago that are expensive, time consuming, and rely heavily on the use of laboratory animals. I’m fortunate to work in a place filled with people trying to change that: EPA’s National Center for Computational Toxicology. Our Computational Toxicology research (CompTox) is aimed at finding new, more efficient, ways to test and screen chemicals, developing new techniques such as computer-based models and even robots-assisted high-throughput screening programs to make chemical management safer and faster by several orders of magnitude.

The success of EPA’s CompTox research has opened the door to partnerships with industries who are the experts at knowing how much of a chemical people are exposed to through their different products. In the past, we collaborated with L’Oreal to explore the safety of chemicals used in cosmetics. This week, we’re happy to announce a new partnership, with Unilever, a global consumer products company. Together, we are kicking off a research collaboration to advance chemical safety for consumer products.

EPA researchers will work with our Unilever partners to develop a series of case studies based on five chemicals of mutual interest. A major component will include using EPA’s Toxicity Forecaster (ToxCast), which uses automated chemical screening technologies to expose living cells or isolated proteins to chemicals, and then screening those cells or proteins for biological or structure changes that may suggest potential toxic effects.

While EPA uses the ToxCast program to develop and provide data, Unilever will use their expertise in consumer products to estimate exposures for each chemical. We can then marry these two, the dose and the exposure, to estimate the health risks.

If successful, research from this collaboration will result in better ways to evaluate the potential health effects of new ingredients and chemicals we currently know little about. These methods could be used by both industry and governmental agencies to reduce the costs associated with safety testing and ultimately address the thousands of untested chemicals in our environment. I am excited to be part of this partnership as we work to make  chemical safety testing faster, cheaper, and more relevant to people.

About the Author: Rusty Thomas is the director of the National Center for Computational Toxicology at the EPA.

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This Week in EPA Science Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:50:02 +0000 By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap graphic identifier

It’s unofficially the last weekend of summer so it’s totally acceptable to lounge around for three days, enjoying every last bit of sun. Take advantage by kicking back and relaxing with this week’s Research Recap.

Here’s what we’re highlighting this week.

  • Are Some People More at Risk from Air Pollution?
    Researchers at EPA and Duke University are using a database called CATHGEN to see how factors like age, sex, race, disease status, genetic makeup, socioeconomic status, and where a person lives can put someone at greater risk from the health effects of air pollution. Ongoing studies are expected to provide more answers to the question of whether air pollution may affect people differently.
    Read more about the CATHGEN studies in the blog Are Some People More at Risk from Air Pollution?

  • Small Business Innovation Research
    This week EPA announced almost $2 million for 19 small businesses nationwide to develop and commercialize technologies that tackle critical environmental problems. This year’s projects focus on air and climate, manufacturing, toxic chemicals, water, building materials, and homeland security research. Each of the 19 companies will receive a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I contract of up to $100,000 to develop their green technology.
    Read more about these businesses in this EPA press release.

Photo of the Week

Two people observe researchers demonstrating an application on a screen

Sharing EPA Science-EPA’s Michael Nye and Bob Sachs demonstrate the soon-to-be released Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz), a user-friendly, on-line tool designed to help communities tap the best available data and resources for managing stormwater runoff. The demonstration was part of a “Tools Café” to showcase EPA research and tools, held this week in conjunction with the fall meeting of The Environmental Council of the States.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a student contractor and writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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In My Grandfather’s Footsteps: A Worthwhile Summer Spent at EPA Thu, 03 Sep 2015 19:08:05 +0000 Every summer, EPA brings in students to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread is proud to feature several blogs written by these interns, focusing on what motivates them to work in the environmental sector and what attracted them to EPA. Andrew Speckin’s blog launched this series. Our second blog is by Sara Lamprise, who has worked in our Drinking Water, Water Quality, Wastewater, and Pesticides programs.

By Sara Lamprise

My grandfather and I share the same spirit. He is what I think of as a practical idealist. Softhearted, with a deep love of nature, he is not one to turn a blind eye to struggles. As ever, he continues to shape my sense of ethics and accountability.

When I was younger, he told me that idle worry is a way of avoiding responsibility. I never heard him say, “I wish someone would …” If he thought it needed doing, he did it, which meant he was usually busy.


Sara’s grandfather, Paul Deshotel, on 70th birthday

As an adult, I’ve wanted to be someone my grandfather would respect. I’ve stayed busy, but not always with things I found worth doing. Countless times I thought, “I wish I could …” or “I wish I was qualified to do something else.” Idle thoughts.

I sat on them. And I definitely didn’t tell my grandfather about them.

Meanwhile, I pestered my friends about plastics in the ocean and the erosion of the Gulf coast and fish that change from male to female. It seems pretty obvious in retrospect, but I think my friends caught on before I did. Long story short, I decided to change fields. To do that, I needed to go back to school.

I see a need for skilled people who care about others and the environment. So I’m developing the skills to fill that need. I could have spent my summer learning to fetch coffee … probably. But I wanted a worthwhile experience in a positive environment. EPA was my top choice.

Sara Lamprise at Myrtle Beach, S.C., summer 2012

Sara Lamprise at Myrtle Beach, S.C., summer 2012

I heard that this was a great program, that even as an intern, my work would be relevant and meaningful. I also heard many times that I would be working with great people. Check and check.

Plus, I respect EPA’s strategy. From my perspective, a critical role of EPA is providing the information to make sound environmental decisions. Information can spur action. It can bring about voluntary changes that are enduring and contagious. I know it doesn’t always work that way, and that’s where enforcement comes in. But information is a good Plan A.

Also, I heard tales of a fish grinder that I really want to see in action. Major selling point.

Anyway, I’m stoked. I figure whatever I work on will be time well spent, and something my grandfather will be happy to hear about.

About the Author: Sara Lamprise is working as a Student Intern at EPA Region 7. She is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in environmental science. Sara loves board games, hiking, and any excuse to travel.

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Great Lakes Successes – Part 2 Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:00:47 +0000 We’ve all made remarkable progress in the first five years of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), much of it visible. (see Opinion)

The Isle Royale Coaster-Credit Phyllis Green

The Isle Royale Coaster-Credit Phyllis Green

But behind every official success there are many other successes. Here a few of the unofficial successes that aren’t required for reporting, but are just as important:

  • The Initiative isn’t just about restoration. It’s about protection. Though the agencies don’t plan on removing “restoration” from the Initiative’s name, they understand we have to protect what’s left. Otherwise we’ll be spending much more to restore those things, too. For example, the Initiative has funded work to protect a small population of native coaster brook trout on Isle Royale for its own sake and so that it can be used to restore other populations around Lake Superior. “Thanks to GLRI funding, we are gaining critical information to help restoration efforts,” says Phyllis Green, superintendent at Isle Royale National Park, punctuating the notion that restoration and protection go hand in hand.
  • The Initiative continues to support overburdened and disproportionately impacted communities. For example, in its recent Requests for Applications under the Initiative, we provide extra points for applications that help advance environmental justice, as recommended by the agencies’ Great Lakes Advisory Board. This also helps EPA make good on its commitments under Plan EJ 2014. Check out the most recently-released Requests for Application (RFA). This means projects like the recently-completed Marquette Park Lagoon Stormwater project in Gary, Indiana, will help this important community. This means the agencies will keep cleaning up Areas of Concern, located largely around post-industrialized communities. This means we’ll keep reducing contaminant levels in fish, on which people depend for a food.
  • The Initiative is spending what comes in. This is one indicator that the demand for Initiative support remains high for attacking the most complex, long-standing threats to ecological health. In August, the Government Accountability Office published an examination of the Initiative and confirmed that in fiscal years 2010 through 2014, $1.68 billion of federal funds were made available and as of January 2015, we had allocated nearly all of the $1.68 billion.
  • As important, the Great Lakes community is cooperating in unparalleled ways. Chaired by our Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force of 11 federal departments works with states, tribes, municipalities, environmental groups, business, academia and just about any other interest that helps to restore the Lakes.
Marquette Park Lagoon-Banneker Achievement Center

Marquette Park Lagoon-Banneker Achievement Center

Though there’s still so much more progress needed—a century of abuse doesn’t disappear in five years—there’s little doubt that the first five years of the Initiative have made historic progress.

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Safety First! Thu, 03 Sep 2015 13:36:03 +0000 by Virginia Thompson

Stay safe in your local pool.

Stay safe at your local pool.

Swimming at our local pool is one of my favorite summer activities.  As I recently reflected on the accomplishment of logging 1,000 laps annually for nearly a decade, it dawned on me we often don’t give a second thought to the water we’re swimming in.

Ironically, many of us have read the book Safety First to our preschoolers, but we may not think about safety when it comes to ourselves as adults.  This year, my fellow swimmers and I got an unexpected refresher lesson in pool safety.  After a horrific storm in June, our pool was closed for four days because there was no electricity to power the pumps that mix the chemicals to  keep our pool in compliance with our state’s safety standards for swimming pools.

Local social media was abuzz about the pool’s status. Once the electricity came back, pool staff continued pumping the water, and adding appropriate levels of chlorine and other chemicals to ensure the safety of swimmers. When the staff was certain the water could maintain the health standards for a full day and beyond, they allowed us back in the pool.

It was an unfortunate break for those of us trying to earn that recreational swimmer’s badge of honor – the 1,000 lap t-shirt – but no one objected to putting safety first.

Swimming pool staff add chlorine and other chemicals like algicides, to the water to kill bacteria, control algae, and clean the walls and bottom of the pool.  These antimicrobial pesticides, need to be added in Goldilocks quantities  that are “just right” –  with too little chlorine tankstreatment, swimmers can get sick; too much can cause harmful reactions to our skin or lungs from touching, breathing, or drinking the water.

Ever wonder about those chemicals? And, where and how pools keep them?  Because storing chlorine and other potentially dangerous chemicals is a serious concern for communities, EPA has resources to help people in our communities such as Local Emergency Planning Committees to make sure that the chemicals are handled, used, and stored safely, and that local responders are well prepared if an emergency occurs.

As I make it a point to get to the pool as often as possible as summer winds down, I know I’ll be thinking about everything that goes into keeping our water safe.


About the author:  Virginia Thompson works for EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region and is an avid swimmer.



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Are Some People More At Risk from Air Pollution? Thu, 03 Sep 2015 13:16:29 +0000 By Dina Abdulhadi

Rearview mirror during an early morning commute.

A study by researchers from EPA and Duke University reflects how traffic-related air pollution can impact the health of people living in nearby communities.

I’m driving in rush hour traffic, waiting for the slow crawl of cars to reach the speed I would be moving had I biked home. My heart rate rises slightly; it’s a beautiful summer day and I’m thinking of the many things I’d rather be doing than sitting in traffic.

The congestion eventually eases though, and I’m home. I breathe deeply, and my heart rate lowers.

The stress I felt had an immediate but temporary effect on my health. For people who live in communities near these congested roadways, however, traffic can have a longer-term impact on heart health. And even then, air pollution does not affect everyone equally.

A new study suggests that women and African-Americans who live near busy roadways may have a greater risk than their white male counterparts for developing high fasting blood sugar levels, a risk factor for heart disease.

The study used a database called CATHGEN, developed by Duke University. It contains health information on nearly 10,000 people who received cardiac catheterization, a common test for heart disease. Researchers at EPA and Duke University are using the participant’s health data to see how air pollution also affects the progression of heart disease.

A large body of research has connected fine particulate matter, a common air pollutant, to health effects, including heart problems. Many studies have even found that consistent exposure to the same elevated level of air pollution can have a stronger impact on blood glucose for women than men. But the race-related disparity is a new observation, researchers conclude in the study.

This study is one in a series that aims to see how factors like age, sex, race, disease status, genetic makeup, socioeconomic status, and where a person lives can put someone at greater risk from the health effects of air pollution. The knowledge gained through CATHGEN studies can be used to develop public health strategies for protecting those at greater risk from air pollution and to support review of the Air Quality Standards under the Clean Air Act.

Ongoing EPA CATHGEN studies are expected to provide more answers to the question of whether air pollution may affect people differently. In the meantime, read this first CATHGEN study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives and titled, Association of Roadway Proximity with Fasting Plasma Glucose and Metabolic Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in a Cross-Sectional Study of Cardiac Catheterization Patients.

Air pollution most strongly effects those already at risk for heart disease, mainly older adults and those with high blood pressure, cholesterol, or history of heart problems. Though I’m young and healthy, days with higher pollution levels can still make me winded while exercising even if they don’t trigger a heart attack. Reading papers like this reminds me to check the Air Quality Index before planning long summer bike rides and makes me appreciate how important environmental quality is to human health.

About the Author: Dina Abdulhadi is a student contractor working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Great Lakes Successes Take Front & Center – Part 1 Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:00:46 +0000 It’s official. The first five years of the precedent-setting Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are history. And the Initiative has made history.

The Initiative is the largest Great Lakes-only investment in restoring and protecting the ecosystem in U.S. history. Recently, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force chaired by U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy sent its progress report covering the first five years of the program to Congress and President Obama. Not all such reports inspire you to stand up and cheer, but this one should.

When President Obama proposed the Initiative and a bi-partisan Congress stepped up to fund it, the reason was clear. After more than a century of abuse, the integrity of the ecosystem that comprises some 95 percent of the nation’s fresh surface water—the supply for tens of millions of Americans—was unravelling fast. Decades of projects needed to bring back the health of the ecosystem and fulfill our international obligations with Canada had remained unfunded.

The Initiative changed all that. In the 25 years before the Initiative, only one of the then 31 Areas of Concern—waterfront communities with ecological or health impairments—had been taken off the cleanup list. In the first five years of the Initiative, the Presque Isle Area of Concern (AOC) in Pennsylvania has been taken off the list and cleanup has been completed in five more for ultimate delisting. Waukegan Harbor, once called the “world’s worst Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) mess,” is now a case study in persistent restoration action prevailing over persistent toxic pollution. In other AOCs, people who once thought cleanup would never be completed are now finding hope that it will be completed, and in their lifetime.

Asian carp. Asian carp, which can eat many times their body weight in plankton—one base of the food chain—could further undermine the Great Lakes ecosystem if they ever get in and become established. Within months after my appointment in the summer of 2009, a newer monitoring technique called “environmental DNA” was turning up genetic material from two kinds of Asian carp—silver and bighead—further upstream toward Lake Michigan than previously expected. We used the Initiative, whose first funding came through only months before, to provide emergency funding to plug holes in the permeable Chicago Area Waterway System. That, and tenacious work by representatives from agencies in the United States and Canada, has meant that in the past five years, these equally tenacious fish have not made it to Lake Michigan to become established.

With the shutdown of the Toledo metro area’s water supply from toxic cyanobacteria having taken place a year ago, the thick, almost florescent green growth is a reminder along too many coastlines that phosphorus doesn’t just fertilize crops on land. Too much of it washing downstream fertilizes dangerous algal growth in the water. Under the first five years of the Initiative, the amount of farmland acreage under conservation program management in three priority watersheds—the Maumee and Western Lake Erie Basin, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay watersheds—has increased by more than two thirds from previous levels.

That’s the official report. Check it out at

But if you want to know some of the unofficial successes under the first five years of the Initiative, check out the next post for Part 2.

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Reforesting: a new tune for community resiliency Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:00:22 +0000 Untitled-2

About the author: Carolina Diaz de Villegas is a recent graduate of the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University, where she, Kiara Rodriguez, and Michelle Bravo have been providing technical assistance to the Town of Medley as part of projects developed under EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program.

As many of you may already know, the Everglades — home to countless native plant and animal species — is not only one of Florida’s greatest treasures, but also the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the United States. Unfortunately, the Everglades ecosystem faces constant threats from urban and agricultural expansion.

In an effort to shift to a more sustainable way of life, efforts are underway to counteract decades of human driven land use by reforesting the small town of Medley, Florida – one tree at a time.

Medley is home to about 1,100 residents in northwest Miami-Dade County. For nearly 85% of the residents, Spanish is their first language. Residents have to drive several miles to get to the closest grocery store. Medley also is home to approximately 1,800 businesses, bringing the weekday population to nearly 60,000. More than 80% of the city is covered in impervious paving due to this industrial activity. As a result, this largely industrial town has become a food desert with heavy air pollution. An urban food desert typically has plenty of convenience stores, liquor stores, and fast food joints, but little or no access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.

With the support of Medley Town Mayor Roberto Martell and EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP) , my fellow Florida International University students and I are working with local residents to address these issues.

We began by planting native trees at Medley’s Lakeside Retirement Park. We also planted a variety of native flowers and shrubs near the entrance to attract not only passersby but also pollinators. The change is so dramatic that students have informally dubbed the area the “Medley Botanical Garden.”


Click on picture to watch video

Since education is the key to progress, we worked to help local community members better understand the importance of trees and living a sustainable lifestyle in their urban landscape. My colleague Kiara Rodriguez and I talked about the importance of these principles to kids in the local afterschool care program. We taught them about carbon sequestration, the importance of recycling, and even climate change — a term most had never heard before! We also visited the Community Center during its Saturday food distribution and spoke with the elders about these topics.

This summer, supported by grants from our university, we planted more trees and created two “All-in-One” food gardens. Because much of the land surface around the Medley Lake retirement center is covered by paving and other impervious surfaces, we created an aboveground garden that uses harvested rainwater. We planted several summer crops and are working with the community center to supplement the garden soil with food waste from the cafeteria. The project has many benefits – it produces fresh food for a community in the middle of a food desert, it uses a water-efficient method for watering, and it will reduce food waste by generating compost to supplement the garden.

Here we are standing proudly next to some of our newly planted trees, along with our professor Dr. Tiffany Troxler.

Here we are standing proudly next to some of our newly planted trees, along with our professor Dr. Tiffany Troxler.

My fellow student Michelle Bravo led other volunteers who built a pergola that is a central feature of the developing Medley Botanical Garden. Ms. Bravo is conducting research that showed that a botanical garden could both improve the health of elderly residents and increase carbon sequestration with the new trees planted. In a continued commitment to Medley, other Florida International University students will be working with the town to develop an economic development plan.

By increasing the amount of green mass available for carbon sequestration, we are helping Medley in the ongoing battle against climate change on a local scale, while also increasing awareness about these issues in future generations.

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