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Earth Week 2009 Kick Off

By Eddy Ball
May 2009

Assistant Project Officer Essie Jones
Assistant Project Officer Essie Jones was on hand for the kick off - complete with re-usable water container and recyclable coffee cup. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

EAAC co-chair and Biologist Danica Andrews
EAAC co-chair and Biologist Danica Andrews welcomed employees to the Earth Week kick off. EAAC is a volunteer group that advises the director on environmental issues and opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

"We know that Earth Day should be everyday for all of us," Birnbaum told the audience as she encouraged everyone to take the NIEHS Earth Week Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Fellow Xiaohua Gao, Ph.D., left, and Biologist Michelle Klippel
Visiting Fellow Xiaohua Gao, Ph.D., left, and Biologist Michelle Klippel look over their Earth Week Challenge forms as Birnbaum talked about how employees can do their part. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Staff Scientist Gary Bird, Ph.D., and Biologist Becky Boyles
Staff Scientist Gary Bird, Ph.D., and Biologist Becky Boyles get into the swing of Earth Week. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

EAAC co-chair Dick Sloane
EAAC co-chair and avid cyclist Dick Sloane prepares to get down as Andrews queues up James Brown's "I Feel Good." The patio challenge was one of the first times many employees have seen Sloane with a tie. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS kicked off its annual celebration of Earth Week on April 21 with remarks by Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., who addressed a group of staffers gathered on the patio outside the Institute's main building. Birnbaum's talk was the opening event of the three-day celebration sponsored and organized by the NIEHS Environmental Awareness Advisory Committee (EAAC), which was founded in 1991. The first Earth Day took place in 1970.

With the blue sky, the lush greenery of early spring and the waters of the campus lake as backdrop, Birnbaum urged listeners to make their personal commitment to increased environmental stewardship and promised that NIEHS would continue to be the "environmental institute at NIH" and work to improve global environmental health. She set a goal of environmental sustainability in every aspect of operations at NIEHS.

"Our research here at NIEHS reminds us continually that public health and environmental health can't be separated," Birnbaum began. "The overwhelming majority of scientists now believe that global climate change is a real threat, and there is an increasing awareness that changes in climate will impact our health."

As Birnbaum underscored the importance of environmental stewardship, she pointed to a "tradition of excellence" at NIEHS. She listed several impressive accomplishments, including the 2007 NIEHS Environmental Policy Statement, a comprehensive Environmental Management System, green building modifications, such as solar panels on the B-module, recycling two-thirds of the waste at the Institute, green purchasing and a water conservation program that saved NIEHS $90,000 last year by reducing water consumption by 20 percent.

Birnbaum described some of the many ways individuals can make an impact at home and at work. She suggested that employees can use promotional tote bags as reusable grocery bags, get in the habit of turning off lights and computer monitors when they're not being used, buy local food, bring reusable containers to work and meetings, reduce printing, recycle electronics and choose products with less packaging.

Looking to the future, Birnbaum promised "to hold ourselves to a higher standard" in all aspects of sustainability at NIEHS. She said she plans to issue the first NIEHS Sustainability Report this summer that will summarize all of the Institute's accomplishments and challenges as well as identify areas of future opportunity, including bringing all buildings up to green certification standards.

At NIEHS, Earth Day has evolved into a sustainability awareness and educational fair showcasing the practical ways that people can reduce their impact on the environment. Features included lectures by horticulturist Jeff Taylor, gardener Jeff Tucker, and a representative of Progress Energy's new green initiatives, free giveaways and samples, and a 5K EPA Fun Race.

EAAC members lured visitors with free cookies, organic, shade-grown coffee, and a book and video exchange to tabletop displays in the lobbies of Keystone and the main building. There, employees and contractors found tips for green cleaning, buying local, green home improvements, rain barrels, smart commuting and responsible disposal of hazardous waste.

IRB Administrator Craig Wladyka and Health Scientist Diane Spencer
IRB Administrator Craig Wladyka and Health Scientist Diane Spencer pose during the tabletop display at Keystone. Spencer is an EAAC member who baked cookies for the event. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Tabletop display with rain barrel information poster
The tabletop displays included this information poster on rain barrels. Visitors could enter a drawing for the rain barrel beside the table. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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