Day: July 23, 2012

Air Pollution: EPA Needs Better Information on New Source Review Permits

Air Pollution: EPA Needs Better Information on New Source Review Permits. GAO-12-590, June 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-590
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591820.pdf

Electricity generating units that burn fossil fuels supply most of the nation’s electricity and are major sources of air pollution. Under the Clean Air Act, such units are subject to NSR, a permitting process that applies to (1) units built after August 7, 1977, and (2) existing units that undertake a major modification. Owners of such units must obtain from the appropriate permitting agency a preconstruction permit that sets emission limits and requires the use of certain pollution control technologies. EPA oversees states’ implementation of NSR, including reviewing and commenting on draft permits issued by state and local permitting agencies. GAO was asked to examine (1) what information EPA maintains on NSR permits issued to fossil fuel electricity generating units; (2) challenges, if any, that EPA, state, and local agencies face in ensuring compliance with requirements to obtain NSR permits; and (3) what available data show about compliance with requirements to obtain NSR permits. GAO reviewed relevant documentation and interviewed EPA, state, and local officials, as well as representatives from industry, research, and environmental groups.

CU-Boulder student investigates biochar for water treatment in developing countries

Read the full story at Phys.org.

A variety of public health issues plague the refugees from Burma living on the Thai border, not the least of which is drinking water contaminated by bacteria and pesticides. Yet few low-cost, sustainable and appropriate treatment technologies are available to people in rural and developing communities to ensure water safety.
University of Colorado Boulder doctoral student Joshua Kearns may have a solution involving a 4,000-year-old technology — filtering water through charcoal — made more robust through intensive research and development. He just returned from six months in northern Thailand where he conducted field work on gasification methods for making sustainable, locally generated “biochar” from common agricultural residues such as corn cobs, sugar cane, bamboo and wood pruned from orchards.

How Recycling E-Waste Avoids $1 Billion in Cost to Sprint

Read the full story at Forbes.

Chad Lander, Sprint’s Director of Cell Phone recycling, knows firsthand the impact that Sustainability programs have on the bottom line of a business. Sprint’s phone recycling programs have helped the company avoid over $1 billion in cost.

“I have to give a lot of credit to our CEO Dan Hesse,” said Lander. “His passion for sustainability has permeated the company, and allows for creative solutions that are good for business and good for the environment.” Just last July Hesse joined Michael Dell and Senior Executives from Sony as founding members of the Obama Administration’s “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship” – a strategy for the responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling.

UT Studies Energy Benefits of Algae Fuels

Read the full story in Algae Industry Magazine.

A recent study at the University of Texas at Austin demonstrates that it is theoretically possible to produce about 500 times as much energy from algae fuels as is needed to grow the fuels. However, limited by existing technology, the researchers found in a separate study that their algae growing facility is getting out about one-five hundredth as much energy as it currently puts in to grow the fuels.

In the Philippines, turning plastic waste into fuel

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Plastic waste is a problem all over the world. And it is especially troubling in the Philippines where plastic waste piles up in Manila’s Payal landfill, unable to decompose. But one inventor thinks he might have found the answer to this chronic problem.

Jayme Navarro, founder of Poly-Green Technology and Resources is converting plastic waste into fuel through a process known as Pyrolysis.

Can Coca-Cola’s new water system be a game changer?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) says it has developed a first-of-its-kind beverage process water recovery system that can cut its water use by 35 percent.

According to the beverage giant, the new system meets or exceeds drinking water standards for use in non-product activities and is used for clean-in-place and bottle washing. Coca-Cola said the system takes highly treated process water and further treats it by using a combination of membrane bioreactor, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, ozonation, and ultraviolet disinfection.

The Atlanta-based company said it believes that its system stands out from current treatment processes used in its business sector.

Will the plastics industry kill LEED?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The latest skirmish in a decade-old battle broke out this week, as 20 trade groups announced a new coalition to challenge the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system as the dominant standard for buildings. In many respects it’s déjà vu all over again.

The new coalition, the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Vinyl Institute, the Vinyl Siding Institute, the Flexible Vinyl Alliance, the Society of the Plastics Industry and 20 other industry associations. The group is lobbying the U.S. General Services Association, which requires the LEED standard for all federal buildings, to reconsider, opting instead to require the Green Globes standard (“The Practical Building Rating System,” according to its website), considered to be friendlier to industry, including the plastics industry, which has invested heavily in the building products space.

The members’ make a wide range of materials and products widely used in buildings, including heat-reflecting roofing membranes, PVC piping and foam insulation.

Design It: Create the International ”Reuse’ Symbol

Read the full story at Earth911.

While recycling is an effective means of preventing waste, reuse is just as crucial of a step. Resources are inherently conserved by reuse, because it removes the need to buy new products by repurposing those already in-hand.

Earth911.com hopes to make reuse as prevalent and recognizable as recycling by hosting a competition to design a reuse symbol. The winning design will receive a $500 prize, and the symbol will be made a part of the public domain to be reused, remixed and distributed without royalties.

To do this, Earth911 partnered with GOOD Maker, a tool that gives individuals and organizations the ability to tap into the public’s creativity and energy to address an issue that’s important to them.

Public Libraries as Community Sustainability Leaders: A Guest Post

I wrote a guest post for Growing Greener Libraries that went live this morning. I’m re-posting it here:

According to the Institute for Sustainable Communities, a sustainable community is one that “is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of those goals at the expense of the others. And it takes a long-term perspective — one that’s focused on both the present and future, well beyond the next budget or election cycle.”

Public libraries help to build sustainable communities because they focus on all three aspects of sustainability – social equity, environment responsibility, and economic stability. They fulfill the economy role by being good stewards of the public’s money and adding value to the communities they serve. They foster social equity by being a center for community activities and individual development. Many public libraries have also embraced environmental responsibility, both through green building projects and by educating their communities about responsible environmental practices. One such example is the Fayetteville Public Library (FPL).

When FPL’s Blair Library opened in 2004, it became one of the first LEED certified buildings in Arkansas. Sustainability was first mentioned during the public input process when citizens began asking specifically for green building technologies. Although LEED certification required an extra $26,000, the city’s administrators were convinced by the argument that a LEED building would be more efficient and save the city money. Then-Executive Director Louise Levy Schaper wrote in a 2003 article for Library Journal, “Public input drove home the need for our participation in the LEEDTM program, which resulted in a greener design — a compelling argument for libraries to use construction projects as community learning experiences.”

FPL’s commitment to sustainability did not stop with the dedication of the new building. Once the new library opened, Schaper realized that the library was designed and built on a set of values that was not being carried out in daily operations. In a 2010 interview she gave to Library Journal, Schaper said that she felt the disconnect immediately but really experienced it, “when I gave or went along on our building tours. Most of our tours for adults include some green component. I saw the library from a wider perspective — in all that we do and all that we stand for. I am going around explaining all these great features, and then I’d look around and see things that clashed with values, and I’d think, ‘Please don’t notice that we printed out ten zillion newsletters, or that we’re giving you water bottles.’”

To improve the situation, Schaper focused on finding and supporting champions who could recognize where change needed to happen and move those changes forward. Change occurred slowly but “the things we’d begun to do were simple, like [which] cleaning products we used, and how and when we did our cleaning. That reduced the amount of electricity we were using. It made for a much healthier climate for our employees and our customers. Those were pretty obvious impacts.”

One champion is Lynn Yandell, the library’s Director of Information Technology, who was just named one of Library Journal’s 2012 Movers & Shakers. Under his direction, the library has cut server energy use by 66% and at catalog stations by 90%. He accomplished this in part by installing remote systems to power the computers on and off and by replacing tower computers needing 250 watts of power with thin clients, which are low-end terminals sufficient for searching the catalog that require only 25 watts to operate.

Yandell also spearheaded the library’s solar test bed project. In 2008, the library was awarded a $60,000 International City/County Management Public Library innovation grant for the project. The library raised an additional $109,000 in labor and in-kind funding. FPL contributed $7,600. The system went live in 2010, generating 13 kW power. The array supplies both the library and the local energy grid. The library hosted a series of green energy programs and received an $8,500 grant from the Arkansas Energy Office to fund a solar energy kiosk. Real-time energy information from the array is available via the web at: http://www.solrenview.com/cgi-bin/cgihandler.cgi?&view=0,2&cond=site_ID=316.

The library’s project qualified for two alternative energy rebate programs for energy production in 2011. The library plans to save the rebate income, which totaled over $34,000, to fund additional green projects and initiatives. The project blog is available at: http://www.fplsolar.org/. This solar demonstration has inspired similar projects at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and L’Oreal USA.

For FPL, LEED certification was only the beginning of their sustainability journey. Rather than stop with the building itself, Schaper and her staff changed their thinking and continued to identify ways that they could integrate sustainability into their operations. As Schaper said in the 2010 interview, “I can promise you that if a library is greener and the staff have been involved in [the process], you’ll have a better work environment, you’ll have more networking between the library and other local organizations. More people are going to want to work in that library, everyone is going to be learning, residents are going to respect you even more, and you are going to be modeling great behaviors for the whole community.”

As this example illustrates, library directors, staff, and board members need to think past a one-time project or program and aim to start a community conversation. For librarians to become true sustainability leaders, they must rethink their operations to ensure that their actions match their message. They must identify, nurture, and support champions who will continue to improve, innovate, and integrate new green technologies and practices. Finally,
they must inform and educate the public about their practices and explain how they apply throughout the community.

Such changes don’t have to start with a green building project, although that is a valuable opportunity for a library to make an impact. Libraries can also start small. A good place to begin your research is the Prairie Research Institute’s Green Libraries LibGuide. It offers a wealth of information on sustainability planning, green library buildings, greener facilities management, and environmentally preferable purchasing, as well as resources for developing green library programs.