Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Promoting Sustainability Through Sports

    NFL Fullback Ovie Mughelli

    NFL fullback and environmental activist Ovie Mughelli gives the closing remarks at the White House's event on Sports and Sustainability (Photo Credit: White House Council on Environmental Quality)

    I am honored to speak today as part of a White House Event on Sports and Sustainability. As a professional athlete and an advocate for clean, healthy communities, it is a privilege to speak on behalf of athletes and sports arenas across the country who are working to promote a sustainable future.

    In 2008, I established the Ovie Mughelli Foundation to help educate children about how their environment affects them. Through the foundation, I have had the opportunity to work with leaders across sectors who share the goal of educating millions of Americans about promoting sustainability in today's world. We also share the Obama Administration’s commitment to encouraging measures that save energy, reduce pollution, and foster healthy and successful living environments.

    A major part of my efforts has been to leverage the opportunities I’ve gained as a professional football player to encourage not only adults but also young people to take action at home. With the promotion of practical lifestyle changes within our everyday communities, we have encouraged people to champion actions that keep their communities healthy, including through fun activities that combine sports with environmental education. Most importantly, the Mughelli team strives to foster leadership in the next generation to build a green movement that addresses their needs and concerns.

    It’s an honor to participate in this White House event – I plan to continue to work with others in the sports community and outside of it to raise awareness about the steps we can all take to provide for a healthy and sustainable future.

    Ovie Mughelli is a National Football League Pro Bowl fullback and founder of the Ovie Mughelli Foundation, a nonprofit organization that educates children about the environment

  • Reducing Asthma Disparities

    As a primary care pediatrician and leader of the Community Asthma Prevention Program of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I am very excited about the Coordinated Federal Action Plan the Obama Administration recently announced to reduce asthma disparities. For years there have been a number of disparate efforts from various federal agencies to address asthma disparities; yet the gap in asthma-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths still exist. Asthma is a disease that is impacted by a host of environmental, health and social factors. Therefore it’s no surprise that efforts made in a singular fashion have not worked in the past. This Coordinated Federal Action Plan represents the coming together of 16 federal agencies to use their collective strengths to collaboratively and systematically reduce, and someday eliminate, asthma disparities.

    This plan recognizes the importance of the community’s involvement in efforts to reach disparate populations and the importance of collaboration among healthcare providers, community agencies, and social support systems. The following two strategies resonate with my experience in taking care of children with asthma:

    • The standardization of training and certification of Community Health Workers (CHW) and utilization of CHW’s in care of at-risk asthmatics

    The Community Health Worker is often the unsung hero in the frontline effort to intervene in the disproportionate burden of asthma on disadvantaged communities. These highly trained lay health educators are effective in working together with families to increase self-management skills and to remove asthma triggers as well as provide care coordination services. CHW’s are often the glue that connects caregivers to the healthcare system, community resources and social support systems and a key driver in community efforts to reduce asthma disparities. Given their important role in working with the most vulnerable populations suffering from the burden asthma places on their lives, standardization of curriculum and certification of CHW’s is a necessary step in providing wrap around asthma care to reduce asthma disparities and asthma costs.

    • Promoting collaboration across all systems that serve children with asthma including health care, housing, schools and childcare settings

    While disseminating best practices in implementing asthma guidelines is a step in improving overall asthma health outcomes, it is essential that the asthma care plan accompanies the child where they live, learn and play. Strategies toward this goal include: creating communication channels via federal interagency and private partnerships to provide comprehensive services to the people most affected by asthma; sharing data (including asthma care plans) between health care and school/childcare systems; and equipping federally qualified health centers and hospitals who serve disadvantaged populations to implement best practices.

    The Coordinated Federal Action Plan provides guidance for approaching asthma disparities in a holistic fashion recognizing that patients live in the “real” world where their housing, health and education are all interconnected. Using all resources available and intervening in an integrated, collaborative manner will give us the greatest chance for finally closing the gap on asthma disparities.

    Tyra Bryant-Stephens is Director and Founder of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

  • Advanced Vehicles: Advancing Our Communities

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Jules Toraya, Project Manager at the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability.

    Today at an event held at the White House, the Obama Administration recognized  innovators in the auto sector, and the positive impacts the resurgence of the auto industry is having in communities across the country. As the leader of the City of Atlanta's plug-in electric vehicle readiness strategy -- and an officer currently assigned to the Inactive Reserves -- I was honored to be recognized and to engage in a conversation on this topic.

    My interest in advanced vehicles and clean energy is tied to my history as a Captain in the U.S. Army. After two tours in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, I became motivated to find ways to reduce petroleum consumption and minimize the need for the Department of Defense to secure America's oil supply chain. 

    In my last year of active duty, I volunteered for Clean Cities Atlanta and the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability to help make Atlanta Electric-Vehicle (EV) ready -- and ended up working as a full time administrator on a Department of Energy EV Community Readiness Project with the Center for Transportation and the Environment. Now, I am also coordinating a local public-private partnership, Plug-in Georgia, which is taking a regional approach and working with communities throughout Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina to ease the deployment of EVs. As more plug-in vehicles become available, they are likely to become popular since the Southeast is home to some of the lowest electric utility rates in the country. Atlanta EV infrastructure is building as more plug-in electric vehicles become available. This past Memorial Day in Atlanta, City Council opened Atlanta's first Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Charging Station to the public in honor of those who have been killed in Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. 

    Today's event with diverse industry, labor and government leaders reiterated how far we have come in developing advanced vehicles that reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil, and grow jobs in our communities. The Obama Administration's new fuel economy standards, developed in partnership with stakeholders, will encourage even more innovation, and save consumers trillions of dollars at the pump. Mayor Kasim Reed has pledged that the City of Atlanta will become one of the top 10 most sustainable cities in the United States. Supporting advanced vehicles will help us achieve this goal, and keep our communities healthy and strong.

    Jules Toraya is Project Manager at the City of Atlanta's Mayor's Office of Sustainability

  • Announcing the Winners of the Youth Sustainability Challenge

    Right now, representatives from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, to take part in a global conversation about sustainability and economic growth. The Obama Administration believes that engaging and harnessing the energy and creativity of the world’s youth is critical for long-term sustainability. Innovative ideas and actions often originate from young people around the world, and have the potential to inspire a new generation to help build a more sustainable and prosperous future. Accordingly, the U.S. is making every effort to involve youth as a core part of our sustainability efforts. 

    That’s why we launched our first ever Youth Sustainability Video Challenge. Our hope was to showcase how youth are already playing an important role in the sustainability conversation. In early May, Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, challenged youth from around the country to tell the world what they are doing in their communities to foster sustainability and help create an America, and a world, built to last.

    The results are really quite impressive, and show how innovative young Americans are today. From high school students deploying a micro-grant program, to a young group of engineers creating a solar powered water purification system, the videos showcase a range of creative approaches to sustainability.

    Submitted videos were eligible for up to five awards reflecting innovation, contribution to sustainability, communication, and popular choice. After careful review by a panel of Administration officials, the winners are:

    • For best overall: “A Generation of Energy: Georgetown Energy”

    • For contribution to sustainability: “Every Day Actions, Enduring Results”

    • For success in communicating sustainability: “Carmel Green Teen Micro-Grant Program”

    • For innovation: “Operation Gulliver International”

    • The popular choice (voted by the public on Challenge.gov): “Growth”

    Susan Ruffo is Deputy Associate Director for Climate Change Adaptation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Celebrating Global Wind Day

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Christine Guhl, Associate Organizing Representative at Sierra Club.

    What could be better than a day at the beach flying kites? What if we could harness the power of all that wind to create homegrown clean energy? That’s just what people around the world are asking today, on Global Wind Day. And here at the Jersey Shore, we’re showing that investing in clean, safe energy like offshore wind is important to ensure our economy is built to last.

    This Global Wind Day I’ll be joining other Garden State residents and families at local beaches to get wind em-powered with a kite-flying rally in support of offshore wind. I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life and I want my state to be a leader in the clean energy economy by being one of the first in the U.S. to make offshore wind a reality. 

    New Jersey has 16,000 MW of offshore wind potential. That’s enough to power more than 4 million homes in our state alone. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the potential for offshore wind power in the U.S. is four times greater than the country's current total generating capacity from all sources.

    Global Wind Day

    Families celebrate Global Wind Day during a beautiful summer afternoon at the Jersey Shore. (Photo Credit: Sierra Club)

    The U.S. wind industry has already created more than 75,000 jobs and could support as many as 500,000 jobs by 2030. Here in New Jersey alone the wind industry already supports hundreds of jobs. New offshore wind installations would create real jobs for people who need them now.

    Wind power’s economic and environmental benefits are worth celebrating. But Global Wind Day is not just about discussing New Jersey’s offshore wind potential.  It’s about calling on our leaders to turn that potential into action.

    We need strong leadership on the state and federal level to listen to Americans’ call for a clean energy future. President Obama has already recognized that wind power is an important part of the country’s energy mix. It’s up to the rest of our leaders to ensure that wind can live up to its potential. 

    The U.S. has not yet begun to tap into its offshore wind resources, but we’re looking to change that through our work on events like Global Wind Day. I hope next year we can celebrate Global Wind Day knowing that our homes are being powered with clean, safe, renewable energy from wind.

    Christine Guhl is Associate Organizing Representative at Sierra Club

  • Supporting Appalachian Communities

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Earl F. Gohl, Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

    Throughout the Appalachian Region there is an incredible group of folks who get up each day and work to make their communities better places for their kids and grandkids. These folks have a variety of hopes and dreams, skills and talents; they are teachers, entrepreneurs, health care workers and myriad of other occupations and avocations. Meeting them, getting to know them, and seeing their energy, dedication and creativity is incredibly inspiring.

    The challenge for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is to figure out ways to partner with these “spark plugs” to support their work and help them achieve their dreams.

    The White House Rural Council provided ARC with a forum to do just this. Through the Rural Council ARC has developed the Livable Communities Initiative, a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) that provides technical assistance to small rural towns to help them develop and implement strategies for making their communities more livable and competitive. ARC has learned that early technical support and advice like this is often the critical piece of the development puzzle that provides the necessary boost to help a community succeed. Seven Appalachian communities will be receiving this Livable Communities technical assistance support.

    Recently I had the opportunity to visit with the leaders of three Appalachian communities who requested and were selected to receive this technical assistance. The towns of Uhrichsville in Ohio, and Connellsville and Brownsville in Pennsylvania have all devised ways to take what they already have, whether unused buildings or parking lots, and turn them into community assets.

    Brownsville

    Earl Gohl meets with a group of local high school student leaders in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Herald-Standard)

    I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where the proposal was initiated by a group of local high school students who were also recognized by the Jefferson Awards competition in April. It was their creative and entrepreneurial idea to transform a vacant lot into a traditional town square to revitalize and galvanize their downtown. One of the students told the local newspaper, “Brownsville is not what it once was. Our project hopes to bring back community spirit, to be a shot in the arm of adrenaline.” The above photo shows me with the students, and their teacher Kelli Dellarose. 

    Similar enthusiasm marked the work I saw in Uhrichsville and Connellsville, where a strong network of local partners, public and private, is committed to achieving the community’s vision. In each community, I was met by a large contingent of active and engaged project supporters. As Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, said during my visit, the technical assistance provided by the ARC-EPA-USDA partnership was advancing a revitalization project on which “many organizations, community volunteers, and city officials have worked diligently.”

    Because of the work of the White House Rural Council, those student “sparkplugs” in Brownsville and enthusiastic community partners in Connellsville and Uhrichsville, as well as in communities across Appalachia, have a better opportunity to use local assets to achieve their dreams and create more vibrant local economies. I am looking forward to spending the next few months visiting with these Livable Communities winners and seeing how their visions come to life.

    Earl F. Gohl is the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission