The Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE) program is premised on the belief that when residents, businesses, organizations, schools, and governments join together to leverage tools and resources, they will find the best solutions to solve local environmental health problems. The CARE model is simple: join together, identify and prioritize issues, take action, and throughout--work toward becoming self-sustaining. I have traveled to many CARE communities across the U.S. and have met with CARE grantees, community leaders, and business people who are working together to improve their environment. I've seen that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) regional and headquarters staff, as well as our federal colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), are committed to providing these communities with the resources and knowledge they need to succeed.
As I traveled to the northeast; Denver, Colorado: Gary, Indiana; and the northwest to meet with close to a dozen CARE communities, I was excited both to hear about the environmental results our older projects are realizing and to see that recent grant recipients are learning from each other as they work to improve environmental health.
In Marquette, Michigan, the Earth Keepers CARE partnership used CARE funding to focus pollution prevention approaches on pharmaceuticals, household hazardous waste, e-waste, mercury, and toxics from household burn barrels. The partnership recycled 320 tons of e-waste, collected and removed one ton of pharmaceuticals from the waste stream, and reduced mercury entering Lake Superior by almost 20% by convincing more than 30 dental offices to voluntarily install mercury amalgam separators.
Many CARE communities focus on environmental health in schools using U.S. EPA voluntary programs as well as innovative locally driven approaches. Overall, CARE projects have reached out to a total of 28 schools using U.S. EPA tools. The Montana Indian Country CARE Project reduced children's exposure to toxic chemicals in 11 reservation schools through U.S. EPA's School Chemical Cleanout Campaign. The Grace Hill Settlement House Clean Air Project in St. Louis, Missouri, worked with the local school board to pass an "anti-idling" resolution. All 88 public schools in St. Louis have signed up to be "no-idling" zones. Grace Hill estimates that reducing school bus...