About the author: Donald Welsh is EPA's Region 3 Administrator in Philadelphia.
The best measures of environmental results, most agree, are the ones that gauge things happening outside our offices, like pounds of pollution that do or don't enter the air and water, or contaminated sites that do or don't get cleaned up, or asthma attacks that do or don't happen – rather than inside our offices, like the number of permits written, plans approved or grants awarded.
It's a lot easier tallying the “inside” measures, but they don't give us a true indication of how well we're doing to identify and fix the environmental problems that have the greatest impact on the people in our Region.
At Region 3 in Philadelphia, we think we've found one way to take a better look at the things that really matter. We're breaking out of the traditional program “silos” that can stifle imagination and collaboration, and learning to use our collective talents and resources to take on the toughest tasks.
Think of it as a bucket brigade.
These buckets represent specific environmental problems we need to solve, or opportunities we want to seize to accelerate environmental improvement.
We're using some cool new tools like logic models and the mysterious sounding Multi-criteria Integrated Risk Assessment system to evaluate environmental indicators and program efficiency measures, and to factor in the professional judgment of our people, to identify the best opportunities and most important challenges in the region.
We then visit each of the program silos to collect the most appropriate and effective resources to put in each bucket.
Looking across the silos in this way has taught us some surprising lessons, for instance:
- The Resource Conservation Challenge, a program aimed primarily at better materials management, is one of our strongest tools for fighting global warming.
- The Superfund site clean-up program has an important role to play in protecting indoor air quality.
- The wetlands regulatory program can help restore oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay.
You can learn more about how we are using these tools by visiting Region 3's Website.
What we've learned so far is that sometimes you can carry more in a bucket than you can hold in a silo.