Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Sprint Declares Commitment as E-waste Impacts Grow

    E-waste is the largest growing waste stream in the country. Americans generate 2.5 million tons of e-waste a year— more than enough to fill a line of dump trucks from our Nation's capital to Disney World. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 140 million cell phones – 65,000 tons – are discarded in the U.S. each year. Some are shoved into drawers, others end up in landfills. Today, only about 10 percent are collected for reuse or recycling.
     
    On July 20 the EPA invited Sprint, along with Dell and Sony, to Austin, Texas to be among the first corporations to publicly commit to follow a new national e-waste strategy. We were honored to join EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, General Services Administrator Martha Johnson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley as they issued the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.
     
    The collaborative work of the EPA, General Services Administration (GSA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the dozen additional agencies represented on the e-waste task force that developed the National Strategy over the past eight months is an example to all who manufacture and distribute electronic products. Sprint commends the Federal Government's commitment to ensure that all electronics it uses are reused or recycled at a certified recycler. An e-waste solution will require on-going collaboration, shared commitment, accountability and meaningful action from companies in all sectors. I am proud that Sprint – along with Dell and Sony – has implemented sustainable business practices early on.

    The E-Waste Gang

    (Left to right): GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson; Round2 Recycling CEO Randy Weiss; Mark Small, Vice President for Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics Inc.; White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley; Sprint CEO Dan Hesse; EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell. (Photo by Eric Vance, US EPA)

    Sprint's Electronics Stewardship Policy sets aggressive e-waste goals, including the collection of nine phones for reuse or recycling for every 10 sold by 2017. To date, Sprint has collected more than 25 million mobile phones— keeping them out of landfills, helping to conserve resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing air and water pollution.
     
    For the second year, Sprint received the Sustainability Leadership Award from the International Electronics Recycling Conference for our full-lifecycle product approach. On the design end, we have more environmentally-friendly devices and accessories than any other carrier. We recently launched our fourth green device and first eco-friendly Android phone – the new Samsung Replenish. It's made with 82 percent recyclable materials, and is the first phone in the U.S. with a solar battery cover.  And it's the first mobile device to receive UL Environment's Platinum certification. 
     
    At the other end of the lifecycle, Sprint's industry-first Electronics Stewardship Policy gave us the opportunity to work with environmental organizations like BSR, Basel Action Network and ABI Research to develop goals. The new national e-waste policy will enhance progress in the area of sustainable electronics management. Sprint's commitment to the new national strategy will boost our goals in several areas including greater transparency in our operations.
     
    Sprint is honored to be among the first companies to sign the new sustainable electronics management policy and to make our commitment public.

    Dan Hesse is CEO of Sprint

  • America's Great Outdoors: Homegrown Community Revitalization

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Sally Prouty, President and CEO of The Corps Network, which mobilizes hundreds of thousands of youth and volunteers each year to improve their community and environment through service.

    Corps Network

    Community activists and Mr. Peanut roll up their sleeves at the Washington, D.C. Planters Grove. (Photo courtesy of Planters)

    Recently, I had the pleasure of joining forces with White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and several other leaders in Washington, D.C., including Mayor Vincent Gray and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to open a new urban park in the Northeast community of Lincoln Heights. Once an unused and overrun piece of land that attracted illegal activity, the space has been transformed into a sustainable and welcoming outdoor park through a partnership between Planters and The Corps Network, the national nonprofit I lead that represents the country's service and conservation corps.

    For the past month, we have brought together our local member Corps including Washington Parks & People, Earth Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association to work in tandem with the private sector, city government, community organizations and local residents to bring the vision of the park—called a Planters Grove—to life. Borne out of the ideas and goals laid out in the President's America’s Great Outdoors initiative, it is so much more than simply a new park. It is a nexus of neighborhood revitalization, community service and outdoor activity, and proof that public-private partnerships can seed community transformation and growth.

    We know this transformation of community transforms lives. Built by the local member Corps noted above, the park has already contributed to the employment and training of young people in Washington at a time when we know our country's youth face tremendous challenges and disadvantages. For example, one young woman who helped us build, Ashley, is originally from the Lincoln Heights neighborhood. After an abusive childhood, she has recently graduated from the Earth Conservation Corps, is now attending college and preparing to be a social worker and, through motivational speaking, is giving peers and youth inspiration through her story. Just one of several Corps members involved in the project, Ashley is representative of the powerful and lasting change these young people are driving in their communities and in themselves through this project.

    Service and learning will continue to define the Planters Grove for years to come. The opportunities to engage the community are endless. We hope the re-imagined urban park will soon be used to teach community members green job skills and offer opportunities for residents, especially local children, to spend time outdoors and take part in healthy-living activities. The Planters Grove is truly a model for the broader city of Washington, D.C. and the nation for connecting residents of urban communities to nature and each other.

    Sally Prouty is President and CEO of The Corps Network

  • The Health of Our Lands and Waters and the Health of Our Economy

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar at the Economic Rural Forum

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar engage with stakeholders at a breakout session on conservation, tourism, and the economy at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. (Photo by Tami Heilemann - Department of Interior)

    From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been a champion for the wise stewardship of America’s natural treasures, understanding the strong connection between the health of our lands and waters and the health of our economy. Smart, community-led conservation presents a tremendous opportunity to improve quality of life across America, and to build and grow local jobs in industries like recreation and tourism. In fact, one in every 20 jobs is related to outdoor recreation, making conservation integral to a thriving American economy. 

    Beginning very early in 2009 with the President’s historic signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, this Administration has invested in land and water protection by creating the most important conservation initiative in more than a generation. Through his America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the President has announced an action plan, built with ideas from the American people, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that communities care about, and to reconnect people – especially children – to the outdoors.

    In our most recent travels throughout the Northwest and the Northeast, we saw firsthand the intersection of conservation and economic growth in rural communities. Below are just a few of the highlights from our trips:

  • A Student Goes to Washington

    Teirra Scott

    Teirra Scott, Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden

    I am Teirra Scott, an incoming freshman at Howard University. I've been an employee at the Green Youth Farm in Chicago for three years, starting as a crew member and now a  crew leader. Recently, our organization had the pleasure of hosting White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley at our farm and showing her our organic gardens. With approximately 20 high school students working at each of our four sites every year, Green Youth Farm (GYF) harvests and sells sustainably-grown produce throughout the City of Chicago and neighboring areas.

    When I first heard of the opportunity to work at GYF, my initial reaction was "Yes! I can make some good money this summer!" But after starting, I realized that the work I did motivated me more than the pay I received. It felt good to grow healthy, organic produce for a community where obesity is too common. This is why I have returned to the Farm every year. Though I know I am still young, I want to help as many people as I can. GYF has taught me that anyone regardless of his or her age can do just that. In addition, I have learned many gardening skills that I hope to apply when I plant my own garden (or perhaps at the White House garden) in the future!

    Leaving high school, I'm glad to have been a part of GYF where I have developed leadership and communication skills and, most importantly, learned more about myself. I know that in college next year I will be better equipped to live in a new community and talk to people about the importance of eating healthy and sustainable food.

    Teirra Scott, age 18, is a Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden

     

  • Fostering the New Green Economy

    Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Fred Walti, Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited LACI prior to its official opening.

    LACI

    Chair Sutley visits the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator that is being launched to accelerate the development of innovative clean technologies in Los Angeles. Chair Sutley and to her left, Fred Walti, Executive Director of LACI, are joined by representatives from UCLA, Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Senator Feinstein's office, Senator Boxer's office, and JPL.

    White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited Los Angeles to discuss the Obama Administration's commitment to harnessing clean energy opportunities to create American jobs on Friday, July 22. She met with business leaders, city officials and top educators from UCLA and other institutions and toured the new LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), at the future site of LA Cleantech Corridor. Los Angeles is committed to leading the charge toward a new green economy, and it is LACI's mission to support that growth and be a central resource for the cleantech sector. It was a great opportunity to connect with an Administration official and to hear how President Obama’s initiatives, along with our work here in LA, will create thousands of local family-supporting jobs in green sectors in the years to come.

    Years in the making, Los Angeles launched its new cleantech business incubator to accelerate development of startups focused on sustainable solutions that can create both efficient clean technologies and green jobs. The incubator offers flexible ready-to-go office space, lab facilities, and a supportive environment where startup teams can share ideas with other entrepreneurs and fuel innovation. LACI also gives each startup the chance to work with a dedicated mentor, as well as access to a growing network of cleantech and business experts and introductions to prospective investors. LACI is the business equivalent of baseball's farm system: identifying local talent, nurturing it, and preparing the best prospects to perform on a global stage, resulting in more jobs and a bigger green economy in Los Angeles and beyond.

    LACI currently has partnerships with UCLA, USC, Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and will help accelerate the commercialization of their clean technologies in addition to championing and nurturing the growth of local entrepreneurs. Currently the largest market for electric vehicles and solar installations, Los Angeles is a great place for cleantech companies to make their homebase.

    LACI 2

    Chair Sutley and Fred Walti stand in LACI's permanent location, under construction now. The 25,000 square foot La Kretz Innovation Campus is located at the heart of Los Angeles's Cleantech Corridor.

    LACI offers its portfolio companies three game-changing services: (1) Fully built-out, furnished, and equipped office/lab space at flexible terms; (2) CEO coaching and mentoring from highly accomplished, senior advisors who have created and managed highly successful companies; (3) Access to our large and growing network of potential customers, industry experts, investors, and public leaders.

    Statement of Support from Alexandra Paxton, Project Manager, Downtown Region, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles:

    It was very gratifying to hear from Chair Nancy Sutley firsthand about President Obama’s initiatives to foster innovation for the clean energy economy of the future. As a redevelopment agency, our vision is that the young companies fostered here will move into the surrounding industrial area, revitalizing the district as a place to live, work, innovate, and manufacture. In this way, partnering with education and workforce development, we will be able to build opportunities and jobs for the people who live in our communities, as well as solve our environmental problems. Ambitious? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely!

    To find out more about the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, please visit http://www.laincubator.org/.

    Fred Walti is Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

  • Across the Administration, Action for Healthy Communities

    In too many American communities, low-income and minority families shoulder a disproportionate burden of pollution in the places where they live, work and learn. These disparities result in health challenges like asthma and heart disease, and end up turning away job creators looking for attractive, healthy places to set up their businesses.

    This past week the Obama Administration took an important step to address those disparities when Federal leaders signed their agencies into Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Environmental Justice. At the highest levels of the Obama Administration, we are intent on ensuring Americans have equal opportunity to enjoy the health and economic benefits of a clean environment.

    Across the Administration, agencies have already turned words into action to generate on-the-ground health, environmental and economic results for American communities. Agencies are:

    • Integrating environmental justice into Federal programs. EPA has launched EJ2014, an environmental justice action plan with specific actions taken over the past few months including: incorporating environmental justice into enforcement; expanding community engagement with initiatives like Gulf Coast Restoration Environmental Justice Roundtables; and initiating Brownfield area-wide planning efforts in 23 communities. The Department of Transportation has recently issued an Emerging Trends and Best Practices Guidebook to promote a deeper understanding of the responsibilities, opportunities and benefits of addressing environmental justice in transportation planning.
    • Increasing engagement with American communities. In response to feedback from environmental justice leaders at an historic White House Forum on the issue in December, many agencies have expanded their efforts to host listening sessions, sponsor conferences, and offer their programs up for public comment to ensure Americans have a chance to weigh in on issues that affect their daily lives. For example, the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations is working with the Forest Service to improve protection and preservation of American Indian and Alaska Native Sacred Sites. This initiative has already involved listening sessions with Tribal elected and spiritual leaders in more than 50 locations, and will result in a series of recommendations on ways to improve the Forest Services' sacred sites policy.
    • Making policy choices that prioritize communities that are shouldering a disproportionate amount of pollution.  For example, the Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration have implemented a set of policy priorities to help focus investment funding as part of the competitive grant process. Two of these priorities are aimed specifically at reducing the burden of, or bringing benefits to, communities experiencing environmental justice issues.
    • Revitalizing polluted waterways in under-served cities. Waterways are vital to the economic and public health of communities. Through an innovative new  Urban Waters Federal Partnership (http://www.urbanwaters.gov/), 11 agencies are working with communities to clean, restore and revitalize polluted urban waterways in under-served cities across the country. The goal is to stimulate local economies and create jobs while improving the environment and protecting public health. The partnership will focus its initial efforts on seven pilot cities – Baltimore, the Bronx, Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Northwest Indiana, and Washington.
    • Focusing on the health of low-income rural communities. The Department of Agriculture is working to better serve persistent poverty in rural communities and socially disadvantaged farmers through its Strike Force initiative. This includes identifying and addressing disproportionate environmental and human health impacts in persistently poor communities.
    • Helping communities tackle their health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it will make more than $100 million available in Community Transformation Grants for states and communities to make policy, environmental, programmatic and infrastructural changes to address the leading causes of death and associated risk factors. HHS also announced the Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project, which will make awards to community-based organizations to tackle health issues, placing a special emphasis on environmental justice, health equity, or healthy behaviors across all life stages.

    These actions are just the beginning of our efforts to lay the ground work for achieving environmental justice for all Americans. The many Agencies involved are advancing this work as a part of an Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG). Stay tuned to the EJ IWG home page (http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/index.html) for environmental justice updates in the coming months, including the release of Environmental Justice Strategies.

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

    Lisa Jackson is Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency