A Summer at the EPA by Cindy Asano

This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity of interning at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (E.P.A.) headquarters. Going into the internship, I had no idea what to expect. I remember the nervous excitement I felt as I carefully picked out the suit I would wear the night before my internship (which I had borrowed from my mom), and repeatedly checked my alarm clock three dozen times before bed to ensure I wouldn’t be late.

The first day was a blur full of awkward initial introductions and jittery excitement—there was so much for me to absorb. From the security guards and the metal detector at the entrance to the huge glass meeting doors etched with the E.P.A. logo, I was surrounded in an entirely new environment. My coworkers gave me brief explanations of the projects they had been working on using complex jargon which had no doubt become second nature to them. I was excited to devote my summer towards working with like-minded professionals who were as passionate about environmental sustainability as myself.

My project this summer was to organize the National Stakeholder Forum promoting Sustainable Materials Management in the Built Environment (B.E.) which would be held the upcoming fall. The built environment encompasses everything from buildings, infrastructure, parks, and public transportation systems, and is a crucial component of our daily lives. At the forum, the E.P.A. would work to promote a relatively new concept called Life Cycle Thinking amongst stakeholders, which focuses on reusing and recycling at all stages of a product’s lifecycle rather than just the end.

Within the first few days, I learned of the dire environmental impacts of the built environment—something I as well as most have probably never considered. In the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. received a D+, which has negative implications for the reliability and safety of our nation’s infrastructure. Approximately $4.59 trillion in investments will be needed in the near future to refurbish the built environment, and demand for these materials are expected sky-rocket. Because these materials are becoming scarcer to find in their natural form, it is all the more critical that we begin to reuse and recycle them to preserve them for the future.

To further our work on the National Stakeholder Forum, I sat in on key stakeholder phone calls and worked with groups such as the U.S. Green Building Council, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the World Economic Forum. My weeks were always packed with meetings, ranging from intra-agency briefings to those with the U.N. Environmental Program (U.N.E.P.) that covered briefings from the G-7.

During my seven weeks at the E.P.A., I was shocked to realize just how much of the skills I had obtained from UniversalGiving had translated. Even the simplest tasks such as drafting professional emails to co-workers were something I had first learned to do during my time at UniversalGiving. At the E.P.A., I was able to manage time-sensitive tasks efficiently and thoroughly, to independently solve problems I encountered, and to easily adapt to changes in the workforce, all of which I attribute to my experience in UniversalGiving’s fast-paced environment.

Another reason I was excited to work at the E.P.A., a larger governmental agency, is because it would allow me to compare the work I did there with the work I did at UniversalGiving, a smaller-scale nonprofit. Both were driven by a similar mission of helping others, and I wanted to determine first hand, how the different organizational structures would play out in their work. Though I believe both sectors had their pros and cons, what struck me was the passion and kindness that were commonplace in both work environments. There was not a time when I smiled more, or felt as passionate about my work than when I was working with like-minded individuals at the E.P.A. or at UniversalGiving. Oftentimes, it is easy to become discouraged and to feel alone when facing a battle as large as tackling poverty in developing nations, or combating climate change. However, through my time in both organizations, I have come to understand the value of community. Community is what keeps us grounded in our goals despite hardships, it is what keeps us passionate, and it is what gives positive change a place in the world.

NGO Spotlight: Osa Conservation

Today is World Environment Day!

osa-map-1024x758.jpg

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? You might know this tiny country in Central America by its breathtaking forests and its abundant and varied wildlife. In 2015, these natural wonders attracted over 2.6 million tourists! However, Costa Rica will not continue to be the beautiful attraction that it is today without conscious, driven organizations like Osa Conservation, who are striving to protect these delicate ecosystems.

Founded in 2003, Osa Conservation aims to conserve and restore the biological diversity of the Osa Peninsula. Located in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, this location has been deemed by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth.” In this small area of land, there are various species of birds, mammals, plants, trees and insects, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Osa Conservation’s goal is not only to protect such diversity but also those who directly benefit from this ecosystem. For example, the people in the area are dependent upon clean air, drinking water, food, jobs, cultural resources, and climate to survive. If any part of the peninsula were to disappear, this could lead to disaster for local inhabitants.

Here are three volunteer opportunities on our site that can help Osa Conservation reach their goals!

  1. Volunteer to help restore the forest ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula – participate in reforestation efforts from planting seeds to analyzing success rates
  2. Protect Costa Rican sea turtles – patrolling the beaches and moving vulnerable nests to Osa Conservation’s hatchery drastically increases the survival rate of this vulnerable species
  3. Help research jaguars and other big cats  – by studying these important animals, Osa Conservation is better able to protect their homes now and in the future.

 

Take Action for Earth Week

Earth Day is celebrated in over 192 countries.  Here are just a few ways the UniversalGiving team has contributed.

Volunteering for the SPCA, and saving sea turtles in Mexico.

Cleaning Ocean Beach with Surfrider Foundation!

Picture01Day of service at the park!

You can take action by donating to UniversalGiving’s amazing environmental NGO partners.

  1. Help reduce CO2 emissions by providing energy efficient lights for people in Sierra Leone.
  2. Help save endangered species.

Or volunteer your time to save the planet.

  1. Fight to conserve and protect Costa Rica sea turtles.
  2. Restore the forest ecosystems of the Osa Penninsula.

Environmental Injustices Surrounding Bottled Water

By Caity Varian       

Every second of every day in the United States, a thousand people buy a plastic bottle of water and a thousand more people throw one of these bottles away, adding up to more than thirty billion bottles purchased every year and resulting in tens of billions of dollars in profits for the beverage industry. Water was first sold for emergency storm supply purposes in grocery stores in the United States and is now being marketed and sold all over the world by multinational corporations. Public water supplies are increasingly being pressured by beverage companies to privatize their services. The emphasis on profit in the bottled water industry has exacerbated existing inequalities on local, national and global scales.

In the United States, the beverage industry has capitalized on public fear of tap water, marketing bottled water as a healthy alternative and a safe solution. The imagery and rhetoric employed in bottled water marketing and advertising has worked to construct the consumption of bottled water as the solution to the global water crisis, hindering any sort of political or collective action towards improving the quality of municipal water sources and the quality of freshwater more generally.

water-in-the-desert

Companies such as a Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo extract water and harness municipal water sources, damaging these sources for local communities and future generations. If the bottled water industry continues to grow and thrive, aquifers and groundwater sources will become depleted and only those that can afford to do so will be able to purchase clean drinking water. Bottled water costs 240-100,000 times more per gallon compared to tap water. If the bottled water industry continues to thrive, municipal sources will become more and more scarce and expensive, making clean drinking water more expensive and less accessible.

Bottled water does have an important role to play during emergencies when municipal water systems are temporarily disrupted and in some major cities and countries of the world, bottled water may be the only available source of safe drinking water. However, the perception of bottled water as a status symbol in the United States or as the main source of clean drinking water for the American people needs to be dismantled.

Resistance to the bottled water industry must be addressed at the level of both production and consumption. A “take back the tap” campaign needs to be employed to promote a cultural shift away from the consumption of bottled water. Creating awareness about environmental injustices that persist within the bottled water industry and establishing transparency within the industry will be crucial. Environmental Justice activists must work to persuade consumers to avoid bottled water whenever possible and to pressure public institutions and local governments to stop buying it. In terms of production, local communities need to actively oppose and protest specific instances of spring water extraction by the beverage industry, advocating for the preservation of municipal water sources. We need to think about drinking water as a cultural resource, a political resource, and as an economic resource, and deeply consider the implications of all of these perspectives.

 

Ecosia – Plant Trees with Every Search!

By Bronte Kass

This week, replace your search engine with Ecosia!  Ecosia, founded in 2009, is a company that plants trees with its ad revenue; you search the web, and the ads generate income for tree planting projects in Burkina Faso, Africa.  There’s a free browser extension, and you can set it as your home page or even download the Ecosia app to search on your phone!

Through planting millions of trees in West Africa, Ecosia is bringing water, plants and animals back to drought-ridden areas and reviving the land for people’s health, jobs and independence.  Based in Germany, they donate an impressive 80% of their income after expenses.

Here are some testimonials from Upworthy, Scientific American, The Guardian, and Salon.

trees planted

More than 2.5 million people use Ecosia every month.  Their next goal is planting 1 billion trees by 2020, so bookmark their page and give them support!  It’s an incredibly easy way to spend zero dollars, change one small habit, and help the Earth.

So far, I’ve planted over 2,000 trees with my searches – can’t wait to see how many you will!

 

NGO Spotlight-Let Kids Be Kids

Speak for those without a voice!

Along with “advocating for those that are sick, homeless, displaced or looking for assistance with making their lives slightly better” Let Kids Be Kids uses their voice to support animals who cannot speak. Michael Barrett Miller, Co-Founder of Let Kids Be Kids writes about a cause he is passionate about!

Support “Endangered Species” across the globe! 

Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. financially supports, volunteers, and advocates to protect endangered and threatened species across the globe. We were very involved with the passage of Washington State Initiative 1401, which passed with a greater than 70% margin in every county. It is now a crime in Washington to sell or trade elephant ivory, shark fins, parts of elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, sharks, rays, and pangolins.

Our involvement with organizations like the Woodland Park Zoo, Audubon, Earthwatch, Save the Elephants, and others in the United States, Australia, and various countries around the world allow us to advocate for animal protection and animal rights at different venues. We stress conservation, preservation, and education in an attempt to build empathy for our fellow creatures, who are often in dire situations. Depending on the geographical location, the Gray Wolf and Arctic Fox are considered threatened or endangered. The Lowland Gorilla is severely endangered with the realistic potential of ceasing to exist in the wild.

screenshot-2017-01-24-19-00-20Another way we promote empathy for endangered species is through the photographs and videos that we distribute on many social media sites, articles, and blog posts. By June I will have completed a collection of photographs that will be included in a book entitled “Friends.” This will be our fourth book on the work of Let Kids Be Kids, Inc., “Advocacy for those Seeking a Voice” as described on our website.

We are extremely thankful for the wonderful work many people do to ensure these amazing animals are allowed to continue to share the planet with us.

Support Let Kids Be Kids! 

NGO Spotlight: Osa Conservation

 

osa-map-1024x758.jpg

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? You might know this tiny country in Central America by its breathtaking forests and its abundant and varied wildlife. In 2015, these natural wonders attracted over 2.6 million tourists! However, Costa Rica will not continue to be the beautiful attraction that it is today without conscious, driven organizations like Osa Conservation, who are striving to protect these delicate ecosystems.

Founded in 2003, Osa Conservation aims to conserve and restore the biological diversity of the Osa Peninsula. Located in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, this location has been deemed by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on earth.” In this small area of land, there are various species of birds, mammals, plants, trees and insects, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Osa Conservation’s goal is not only to protect such diversity but also those who directly benefit from this ecosystem. For example, the people in the area are dependent upon clean air, drinking water, food, jobs, cultural resources, and climate to survive. If any part of the peninsula were to disappear, this could lead to disaster for local inhabitants.

Here are three volunteer opportunities on our site that can help Osa Conservation reach their goals!

  1. Volunteer to help restore the forest ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula – participate in reforestation efforts from planting seeds to analyzing success rates
  2. Protect Costa Rican sea turtles – patrolling the beaches and moving vulnerable nests to Osa Conservation’s hatchery drastically increases the survival rate of this vulnerable species
  3. Help research jaguars and other big cats  – by studying these important animals, Osa Conservation is better able to protect their homes now and in the future.