Day: May 24, 2013

How to Make a Free Things Box

Read the full post at Shareable.

Knowing that people like to share things they no longer need with their neighbors, Berto Aussems decided to construct an easy way to do so. His Free Things Box is sturdy and weatherproof, and it only comes with three rules:

  1. Open only during the daytime.
  2. Take only things you can use.
  3. Take only one thing at a time.

An up-close assessment of Walmart’s sustainability index

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

In Marc Gunther’s recent article about Walmart and its efforts to make toy production more sustainable, he calls the Walmart supplier Sustainability Index “the biggest environmental initiative in the company’s history,” and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) agrees. He also questions whether “Walmart is taking this too far””and “how the world’s largest retailer is exercising its market power.”

With a 25-year track record challenging companies to make decisions that are good for the environment and the economy, we at EDF are used to asking such tough questions.

That’s precisely why we have an EDF office based in Bentonville, Ark., dedicated solely to working together with Walmart to advance sustainability. Because we don’t take money from the company, we can push hard to achieve the kinds of transformational change of which it is capable.

When it comes to the Sustainability Index, we’re on board. And here’s why…

Sustainability and Our Horizontal Infrastructure

Read the full story in Governing.

Green building-rating systems have been around for well over a decade. The best known in the United States is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the certification system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED is for the “horizontal infrastructure” world of buildings. But what about “horizontal infrastructure” — our roads, bridges, railways, landfills, water and wastewater-treatment plants, power-transmission lines, and public spaces in our cities and towns?

At a recent sustainability conference, I learned about an intriguing effort to bring to infrastructure what LEED brings to buildings. It’s called the Envision Rating System, and it’s a joint project of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) and Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure.

Better Appliances: An Analysis of Performance, Features, and Price as Efficiency Has Improved

Download the document.

Efficiency standards have played a major role in saving energy and water and reducing utility bills. This report analyzes how the choices available to consumers have changed over time as efficiency standards have taken effect for ten residential, commercial, and lighting products. The report compares the performance, features, and price of products available before and after each standard was implemented. As products have become more efficient, product performance generally stayed the same or improved, and manufacturers offered new features to consumers. Prices declined or stayed the same for five of the nine products for which price data were available, and for the other four products, observed price increases are outweighed by electricity bill savings.

Next Steps for Campus Sustainability: Connection, Integration & Transformation

When sustainability has been included in a few courses and all of the light bulbs have been changed, what comes next? Taking place August 26-28 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, this AASHE workshop will focus on helping you build the connections across disciplines, across campus and into the community, that will transform the way your institution works toward sustainability. You will leave this workshop with: the ability to identify both opportunities for and barriers to transformative change in academics, operations and administration; and the skills to initiate strategies for meaningful change for sustainability. The deadline to register is July 25.

Bio-oil and Biochar as Additional Revenue Streams in South American Kraft Pulp Mills

Marcelo Hamaguchi, Jussi Saari, Esa Vakkilainen (2013). “Bio-oil and Biochar as Additional Revenue Streams in South American Kraft Pulp Mills.” BioResources 8(3), 3399-3413. Online at
Abstract: Pulp and paper companies are seeking opportunities beyond the traditional production of market pulp. One interesting alternative is to expand their revenue streams by adding value to the wood residues that they generate. Considering that excess heat and electricity can be used for biomass pre-treatment and conversion, the aim of this work is to show how the integrated production of bio-oil or biochar would affect the operation of a 1.5M t/a kraft pulp mill in South America. Detailed balances with a focus on modern eucalyptus mills are then developed for this purpose. Since the attractiveness of increasing renewable energy is often influenced by energy policies or local market development for the new products, the target was not to determine the best investment decision. Nevertheless, an economic analysis was performed to observe the main variables affecting the viability of these technologies. The results showed that satisfactory internal rates of return can be achieved for multiple technologies depending on the price of electricity, torrefied pellets, or bio-oil.

WEBINAR RECORDING: How to Start a Seed Library

At a seed library, patrons can check out seeds for free. They then grow the fruits and vegetables, harvest the new seeds, and “return” those seeds so the library can lend them out to others.

In April 2013, New Dream hosted a webinar about how to start a seed lending program at your public library. Topics include funding models, obtaining starter seeds, patron orientation, and more. The webinar features speakers from seed libraries around the country. The archive is available at

Guest speakers:

  • Kelly Becker — Seed Library Coordinator, La Crosse Public Library (La Crosse, WI). Seed library opened in February 2013.
  • Justine Hernandez — Seed Librarian, Pima County Public Library (Tucson, AZ). Seed library opened in January 2012.
  • Stephanie Syson — Institute Manager, Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, Basalt Seed Library Project (Basalt, CO). Seed library opened January 2013.

Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Observations on States’ Role, Liabilities at DOD and Hardrock Mining Sites, and Litigation Issues

Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Observations on States’ Role, Liabilities at DOD and Hardrock Mining Sites, and Litigation Issues, by David Trimble, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-13-633T, May 22.
Highlights –

What GAO Found

States, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), participate in the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in several ways. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, sites that meet certain risk thresholds are eligible for placement on the National Priorities List (NPL)–a list that includes some of the nation’s most contaminated sites. In this context, states may notify EPA of potential hazardous waste sites, evaluate the health and environmental risks at sites being considered for the NPL, or oversee cleanups of NPL sites. In some cases, EPA may elect to defer sites that are eligible for the NPL to other federal or state cleanup programs. As GAO reported in April 2013, EPA had deferred to states the oversight of the cleanup of 47 percent of sites eligible for the NPL. GAO recommended that EPA provide guidance on the most common type of deferral to states, and EPA agreed with GAO’s recommendation. In addition, 47 states have their own versions of the Superfund program.

As of April 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for cleanup at 129 NPL sites (over 80 percent of federal facilities on the NPL). In addition to its NPL sites, GAO reported in 2010 that DOD had over 50,000 areas that required cleanup and that the agency had spent almost $30 billion on cleanup from 1986 to 2008. In July 2010, GAO found that CERCLA requires federal agencies to enter into an interagency agreement with EPA to guide cleanup within a certain period but, as of February 2009, 11 DOD installations had not signed such agreements after 10 or more years on the NPL. DOD has made progress on this issue by decreasing the number of such installations from 11 to 2, but both sites still pose significant risks. GAO recommended that EPA pursue changes to a key executive order that would increase its authority to hasten cleanup at these sites. EPA agreed but has not taken action to have the executive order amended.

GAO’s work has identified challenges and liabilities for the federal government stemming from hardrock mining operations, primarily at abandoned mines on federal land. In many cases, mine operators abandoned mines and did not have adequate financial assurance to pay for cleanup. As a result, the government may have to cover these costs. In 2011, GAO found that 57 hardrock mines on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had inadequate financial assurance to cover estimated reclamation costs and recommended that BLM improve its ability to evaluate the adequacy of financial assurances. In 2012, BLM reported implementing GAO’s recommendation.

CERCLA and other major environmental statutes involve litigation among numerous parties. In addition to cases brought by EPA to enforce laws, litigation includes citizen suits to compel EPA to take action when it does not meet deadlines, and to question regulations and permitting decisions. In addition, potentially responsible parties at hazardous waste sites often file lawsuits against each other or EPA. In 2011, GAO found that about 5 percent of lawsuits against EPA for fiscal years 1995 to 2010 involved CERCLA and that, across 10 environmental statutes, trade associations and private companies comprised 48 percent of the litigants, followed by environmental groups (30 percent), nonfederal governments (12 percent), and other parties (10 percent).

Why GAO Did This Study

According to EPA, the agency that manages the nation’s principal hazardous waste cleanup program, one in four Americans lives within 3 miles of a hazardous waste site. Many such sites pose health and other risks, and their cleanup can be lengthy and expensive. EPA’s Superfund program, established under CERCLA, provides a process to address contaminated sites. Under CERCLA, parties that contributed to the contamination of a site are generally liable for cleanup and related costs. These parties may include federal agencies, such as DOD, and companies. Based on the risk a site poses, EPA may place the site on the NPL, a list that includes some of the nation’s most seriously contaminated sites. As of April 2013, the NPL included about 1,300 sites, and states and federal agencies may address additional contaminated sites outside of EPA’s Superfund program. GAO’s prior work has identified challenges cleaning up DOD’s NPL sites and abandoned mining sites and has assessed litigation related to the Superfund program.

In this testimony, GAO summarizes its work from March 2008 to April 2013 on (1) the role of states in cleaning up hazardous waste sites, (2) DOD’s management of its sites on the NPL, (3) federal liabilities from contaminated hardrock mining sites, and (4) litigation under CERCLA and other statutes.

GAO is not making new recommendations but has made numerous recommendations to DOD, EPA, and Interior to better address hazardous waste sites. As described in this statement, the responses to these recommendations have varied.

For more information, contact David Trimble at (202) 512-3841or