Day: September 17, 2012

Forced Manufacturer-Led Recycling ‘Costlier and Less Successful’

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

States and cities that have implemented alternatives to extended producer responsibility policies achieve higher municipal solid waste recycling rates at a lower cost than mandatory EPR programs aimed at food, beverage and consumer product packaging, according to an industry study.

The Evaluation of Extended Producer Responsibility for Consumer Packaging study, conducted by consulting firm SAIC for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, found the municipal solid waste recycling rate in the US where there is no packaging EPR is 24 percent, higher than Canada and the European Union – two places where EPR is widely employed – which stand at 18 and 23 percent.

Kroger: Simple Truths revealed

Read the full story in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

When it comes to environmentally sound and savvy practices, The Kroger Co. is boasting some impressive progress that’s saving the company millions of dollars and boosting sales.

In 2011, the world’s largest grocer saved enough energy to power every single home – more than 175,000 of them – in the city of Columbus for a year. Kroger also has 19 manufacturing plants that operate without sending any waste to landfills. And, the company has just begun converting unsold organic food into renewable energy that powers its Ralphs/Food 4 Less facilities.

The results stem from a company-wide sustainability effort that’s being led by group vice president Lynn Marmer. We caught up with Marmer to get the latest on the initiative’s progress and other highlights from Kroger’s recently published sustainability report.

Finding the Right Biofuels for the Southeast: A Range of Alternatives

Read the full story in Agricultural Research.

Thanks to sunny skies and long growing seasons, farms and forests in the southeastern United States will play a major role in efforts to produce biomass for biofuels that reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. And Agricultural Research Service scientists are focused on finding ways to tap into the region’s potential.

Government mandates call for producing up to 36 billion gallons of biofuel to help meet the nation’s transportation needs by 2022. While 15 billion gallons of that is expected to come from grain ethanol, the remaining 21 billion gallons will be derived from other feedstocks, such as sugarcane; perennial grasses, like switchgrass; and oilseed crops, such as rapeseed, pennycress, camelina, and soybean.

To achieve that goal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has forged a number of strategic partnerships through its five USDA Regional Biomass Research Centers to coordinate research and tap into its nationwide resources and expertise.The centers are networks of scientists and facilities from two USDA agencies—ARS and the Forest Service Research and Development—in five regions across the United States: Central-East, Southeastern, Northern-East, Western, and Northwestern. (See related stories in this issue.) Of the five regions, the Southeast has the greatest natural capacity in the continental United States, with sufficient sunshine, soils, water, and other natural resources to produce more than 10 billion gallons of advanced biofuels each year, nearly a third of the 36 billion-gallon production target.

Zero-Energy Residential Test Facility Unveiled

Read the full story at Occupational Health & Safety.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s new lab is designed to demonstrate a suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.

Beyond energy savings: How green buildings can cut labor costs

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Many sustainability-minded businesses realize that green buildings usually have lower energy costs, but that may not be the most significant reason to incorporate sustainable design in your facilities. That’s because utility bills, and even construction costs, are typically a relatively small part of a business’s bottom line. The larger portion – as much as 92 percent of a building’s design, construction, operations and maintenance – comes from labor and labor-related costs. (A white paper published in Building Design+Construction puts those costs at 78 percent, while CTG Energetics President Malcolm Lewis estimates they make up an average of 92 percent.) The good news: Buildings that utilize sustainable design can realize substantial savings in their labor expenses.

The relationship between green buildings and reduced labor costs is strong, with documentable reductions in the real costs of labor and overhead. Most of the labor benefits arise from some of the less sexy aspects of green building, the ones affecting indoor environmental quality. IEQ includes indoor air quality, which is enhanced in green buildings by fewer pollutants from building materials, cleansers, equipment, etc. Less obvious green building attributes, such as quality; the availability of fresh air, daylight and views of nature; as well as the controllability of lighting, heating and cooling, all contribute to better IEQ.

10 Ways to Reuse an Old T-Shirt

Read the full story at Earth911.

If you’re anything like me, you have tons of old T-shirts laying around in your drawers collecting dust. Instead of dumping them all in a collection bin, turn them into something useful. You’ll be amazed at how many things you could actually make from a humble tee. Here are ten of our favorites.

NRCS Announcing Grants to Help Farmers, Ranchers Adapt to Drought

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced the availability of up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. NRCS is taking applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to help producers build resiliency into their production systems so they can adapt to climatic extremes, such as the historic drought impacting the nation.

NRCS is offering the grants to partnering entities to evaluate innovative, field-based conservation technologies and approaches. These technologies and/or approaches should lead to improvements such as enhancing the water-holding capacity in soils and installing drought-tolerant grazing systems, which will help farms and ranches become more resilient to drought.

“Severe drought conditions across the U.S. have greatly impacted the livelihood of our farmers and ranchers,” said NRCS Chief Dave White. “Conservation Innovation Grants allow us to generate and deploy as soon as possible cutting-edge ideas that help farmers and ranchers run sustainable and profitable operations.”

Grant applications are due Oct. 15, 2012. Private individuals, Tribes, local and state governments and non-governmental organizations can apply.

Funds will be awarded through a competitive grants process for projects lasting for one to three years. Apply electronically at www.grants.gov or contact the NRCS National CIG office at (703) 235-8065.

NRCS is especially interested in projects that demonstrate:

  • Cropping or grazing systems that increase resiliency to drought through improved soil health;
  • Increases in available soil water holding capacity by enhancing organic matter with reduced tillage, cover crops and organic amendments;
  • Improvements in water use efficiency for agricultural production;
  • Coordination with NRCS Plant Material Centers in using drought resistant plants and practices;
  • Recommendations for appropriate nutrient management following an extended drought;
  • Analysis on a regional basis of how agricultural production and conservation systems faired during drought conditions;
  • Agricultural approaches that flourished in low-precipitation areas;
  • Traditional/historical production practices that have proven effective in dealing with drought;
  • Alternative feeding systems for confined animal operations that incorporate novel drought-tolerant feedstocks;
  • Alternative housing or cooling systems for improved energy efficiency and better climate control in confined animal operations; and
  • Technologies that reduce water use in confined animal operations.

View the complete Announcement of Program Funding at www.grants.gov or http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/cig.

Building walkable cities cuts emissions more than fuel taxes, study says

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

New Urbanists have advocated walkable cities and shorter commutes for years. But does investing in this approach — what behavioral economists call “smart growth” — simply look good on paper, or does it produce tangible results?

It does, according to a new study published in the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy.