Day: February 12, 2013

Where Are the Pacific Garbage Patches Located?

Originally posted on NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog:

Microplastics in sand.

Microplastics, small plastics less than 5 millimeters long, are an increasingly common type of marine debris found in the water column (including the “garbage patches”) and on shorelines around the world. Based on research to date, most commonly used plastics do not fully degrade in the ocean and instead break down into smaller and smaller pieces. (NOAA Marine Debris Program)

The Pacific Ocean is massive. It’s the world’s largest and deepest ocean, and if you gathered up all of the Earth’s continents, these land masses would fit into the Pacific basin with a space the size of Africa to spare.

While the Pacific Ocean holds more than half of the planet’s free water, it also unfortunately holds a lot of the planet’s garbage (much of it plastic). But that trash isn’t spread evenly across the Pacific Ocean; a great deal of it ends up suspended in what are commonly…

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Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of several federal agencies responsible for protecting Americans against significant risks to human health and the environment. As part of that mission, EPA estimates the nature, magnitude, and likelihood of risks to human health and the environment; identifies the potential regulatory actions that will mitigate those risks and protect public health1 and the environment; and uses that information to decide on appropriate regulatory action. Uncertainties, both qualitative and quantitative, in the data and analyses on which these decisions are based enter into the process at each step. As a result, the informed identification and use of the uncertainties inherent in the process is an essential feature of environmental decision making.

EPA requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convene a committee to provide guidance to its decision makers and their partners in states and localities on approaches to managing risk in different contexts when uncertainty is present. It also sought guidance on how information on uncertainty should be presented to help risk managers make sound decisions and to increase transparency in its communications with the public about those decisions. Given that its charge is not limited to human health risk assessment and includes broad questions about managing risks and decision making, in this report the committee examines the analysis of uncertainty in those other areas in addition to human health risks. Environmental Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty explains the statement of task and summarizes the findings of the committee.

Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop Summary

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The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government. In turn, the U.S. Air Force is the largest consumer of energy in the DoD, with a total annual energy expenditure of around $10 billion. Approximately 84 percent of Air Force energy use involves liquid fuel consumed in aviation whereas approximately 12 percent is energy (primarily electricity) used in facilities on the ground. This workshop was concerned primarily with opportunities to reduce energy consumption within Air Force facilities that employ energy intensive industrial processes—for example, assembly/disassembly, painting, metal working, and operation of radar facilities—such as those that occur in the maintenance depots and testing facilities. Air Force efforts to reduce energy consumption are driven largely by external goals and mandates derived from Congressional legislation and executive orders. To date, these goals and mandates have targeted the energy used at the building or facility level rather than in specific industrial processes.

In response to a request from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, the National Research Council, under the auspices of the Air Force Studies Board, formed the Committee on Energy Reduction at U.S. Air Force Facilities Using Industrial Processes: A Workshop. The terms of reference called for a committee to plan and convene one 3 day public workshop to discuss: (1) what are the current industrial processes that are least efficient and most cost ineffective? (2) what are best practices in comparable facilities for comparable processes to achieve energy efficiency? (3) what are the potential applications for the best practices to be found in comparable facilities for comparable processes to achieve energy efficiency? (4) what are constraints and considerations that might limit applicability to Air Force facilities and processes over the next ten year implementation time frame? (5) what are the costs and paybacks from implementation of the best practices? (6) what will be a proposed resulting scheme of priorities for study and implementation of the identified best practices? (7) what does a holistic representation of energy and water consumption look like within operations and maintenance?

 

Clean Air-Cool Planet 2013 Fellowships

Clean Air-Cool Planet is inviting applications for its 2013 Fellowships program. The 10-week, full-time summer positions pair students with real-world projects to advance innovative climate change solutions and leadership. Fellows are provided mentorship, networking opportunities and a stipend. The deadline to apply is March 1.

Three BU Restaurants Get Four Stars for Eco-Friendliness

Read the full story from Boston University.

Leanne Ciccone wasn’t aware that Rize, the upscale café at the Center for Student Services that she visits “embarrassingly a lot,” is a four-star restaurant. Well, sort of. It wasn’t given that rating by Forbes or Michelin, but by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), and the stars honor the restaurant’s eco-friendly construction and practices.

“It puts merit behind what you eat,” says Ciccone (SED’16).

In fact, each of the three eateries at the Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Rd.—Rize, Late Night Kitchen, and Fresh Food Company at Marciano Commons—earned more than 300 points and a four-star rating to qualify as a Certified Green Restaurant®. And last spring the GSU’s Union Court received a GRA three-star rating.

Harvard University Creates Lab Reuse List

Read the full story from Harvard.

Incorporating sustainable practices into Harvard’s most energy and resource intensive spaces may seem like a daunting task, but for the laboratories on Harvard’s Cambridge and Longwood campus, green and labs are synonymous terms. For researchers, students, faculty, and staff at both campuses, sustainable lab practices just got even easier, thanks to the launch of the Harvard Labs Reuse List. Intended as a university-wide resource, the list encourages and enables trade, reuse, and sharing of working laboratory equipment and supplies.

Boston University’s 808 Gallery show kicks off collaborative project

Read the full story from Boston University.

How do we go about creating a sustainable future? That question is at the center of a new project titled Alternative Visions/Sustainable Futures, a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts School of Visual Arts and sustainability@bu. Taking place throughout the semester, the project features an art exhibition, speakers, and weekly forums that include collaborative art projects, film screenings, musical performances, and poetry readings.

Two years in the making, the cross-disciplinary project was the brainchild of Dennis Carlberg, BU’s director of sustainability, and Dana Clancy, a CFA assistant professor of visual arts, who wanted to explore the creative ways that artists, scholars, and members of the BU community might build a sustainable future.

U Illinois Springfield to Offer Environmental Studies Degree

Starting in Fall 2013, the new Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies will equip students with the analytical tools for understanding and engaging in concerns related to the natural and social world. The program will offer multi-disciplinary curriculum with interdisciplinary learning goals, incorporating the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities; to ensure that graduates will gain a holistic understanding of complex environmental concerns and their natural, social, and ethical implications.

Impact of Triclosan in Consumer Products

  1. Recent News Stories

  2. The first story appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, February 10.
  3. Health and Safety

  4. Triclosan Regulation

  5. Note that most of the U.S. regulatory activity is several years old.
  6. Recent Research on Triclosan and the Environment

  7. The following review articles highlight recent research into triclosan’s environmental fate and toxicity.

Do soaps with triclosan do more harm than good?

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

If co-workers and family members are coming down with infections this winter, you may be tempted to turn to an anti-bacterial soap for protection.

But some scientists are increasingly concerned that a common anti-bacterial ingredient called triclosan may harm people’s health. Laboratory studies have found that it may disrupt hormones, interfere with muscle function and promote the growth of stronger bacteria — and other research suggests it is building up in the environment to the possible peril of wildlife.

What’s more, there is no evidence that hand-washing with soap containing triclosan or other anti-microbial ingredients offers any health advantages over regular soap and water, according to advisory committees for the American Medical Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.