From June 13-22, 2012, nearly fifty thousand people from all levels of government and almost every sector gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to prepare for and participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (often referred to as Rio+20) and related events. Through this Conference – the largest in United Nations history – the global community elevated the conversation on sustainable development and reached a landmark agreement on its two main themes: the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).
EPA played an active role in the United States government preparations for and presence at Rio+20, in partnership with a range of U.S. agencies, led by the State Department, and the stakeholder community. Besides playing an important role in negotiations and advancing multi-stakeholder participation, the Agency hosted a range of side events and promoted several key programs. These included the Youth Sustainability Challenge, the U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and events on sustainable public procurement and other key initiatives at the Corporate Sustainability Forum as positive, practical examples of how to achieve environmental and socially inclusive economic growth.
Ways you can get involved!
Children’s Health – Learn how you can help protect children from environmental health risks.
Drinking Water – Discover how you can ensure the quality of your drinking water and become informed about your local system.
Adopt Your Watershed – Take part in activities to protect and restore your local watershed.
Marine Debris Prevention Toolkit – Learn how you can help prevent marine debris from damaging our nation’s oceans, coasts, estuaries and beaches.
Volunteer Water Monitoring – Identify and restore pollution sites in your local streams, lakes, estuaries and wetlands.
Climate Change – 25 easy steps to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution, increase America’s energy independence and save money.
Great resources for youth:
EPA’s ecoAmbassadors Program – The ecoAmbassadors program provides training and guidance to young people for making communities healthier and safer. The program includes a focus for college students, tribal communities, and those interested in environmental justice.
Students for the Environment – EPA maintains a collection of materials for students and teachers in grades K-12 to better understand, protect and preserve our environment. Our site also includes additional resources such as student blogs, information on environmental community service projects, and opportunities for internships and summer programs.
WaterSense: Kids – A resource for kids explaining why preserving water is important with tips on simple ways to save every day.
EPA Programs on the Themes of Rio
During Rio+20, leaders, policymakers, and citizens from around the world discussed many of the key themes of sustainability and building a green economy. EPA is active on many of these key themes. The programs below describe areas in which EPA is working to improve air and water quality, protect human health, and promote innovation on sustainability.
- Energy Star – Energy Star is a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy to save consumers money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
- eCycling – Reusing and recycling used electronic products (e-waste) conserves valuable resources and helps protect the environment from dangerous chemicals and substances. Learn more about EPA’s role in promoting the responsible recycling of e-waste, as well as how to recycle your used electronics.
- WaterSense – WaterSense is a EPA partnership program designed bring together a variety of stakeholders to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services.
- Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS) – In August 2011, EPA established the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS) in Brazil, with local and federal representatives from Brazil, the City of Philadelphia, and representatives from the U.S. and Brazilian private, academic and civil society sectors. The JIUS brings together government, community and industry leaders from the US and Brazil to find innovative ways to generate economic growth, create decent jobs, eradicate poverty and protect the environment by focusing on increasing investment in green infrastructure and city-scale green technology strategies.
- Children’s Health Protection – Protecting children’s health from environmental risks is fundamental to EPA’s mission. Learn more about the most common environmental hazards, and how EPA is working to reduce the exposure of children to dangerous substances.
- Urban Waters – Environmental impacts on urban waters, which take on large amounts of pollution from a variety of sources, can quickly create public health hazards due to heavily used centralized water sources. Learn more about how EPA is working with local communities to improve and maintain wastewater and drinking water in urban environments.
- Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research – Sound science is at the core of EPA’s decision-making process and environmental policy approach. EPA researchers, working with other partners and stakeholders, are developing a deeper understanding of how to protect our natural environment while promoting human health and economic prosperity.
- Sustainable Technologies – Sustainability requires environmental stewardship that provides the best outcomes for people and the natural environment, both now and into the future. Learn more about EPA’s work in key areas including biofuels, Green Chemistry, life cycle analysis, and nanotechnology.
- Smart Growth – EPA helps communities grow in ways that expand economic opportunity, protect public health and the environment, and create and enhance the places that people love. Through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which includes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U. S. Department of Transportation, EPA is helping to improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.
- Lean Manufacturing - Lean manufacturing is a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating waste while delivering quality products on time, at least cost, and with greater efficiency. In the U.S., implementation is rapidly expanding throughout diverse manufacturing and service sectors such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, furniture production, and health care as a core business strategy to create a competitive advantage.
- Green Buildings – Green building is the practice of creating and using healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. Learn more about EPA’s work with the building and development sectors in improving the environmental performance America’s buildings.
- Food Waste – 33 million tons of food was thrown away in 2010, making food waste the single largest component of materials reaching landfills and incinerators in the United States. Learn more about how reducing, recovering and recycling food waste leads to economic, social, and environmental benefits.
- Public Participation Guide – Use public consensus and community participation to get the results you want and empower those you set out to help in the process. This international public participation toolkit is designed to help develop, plan for, and implement programs that engage the public in environmental decision-making. (Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, and Arabic.)
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For additional information on EPA's work with the Rio+20 Conference, contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460