Day: July 8, 2013

Bombs Bursting in Air: Environmental Regulation of Fireworks

Read the full post at Legal Planet. Tip of the Cubs cap to Waterlibrarian, who shared it in the comments of another post.

It seems only fitting as we approach the Fourth of July holiday to turn our attention to the environmental impacts and regulation of fireworks.  As it turns out, our age-old patriotic tradition of exploding packages of toxic chemicals in the air is not without its environmental drawbacks.  Although much is still unknown about the environmental consequences of fireworks displays, it is clear that fireworks can adversely impact water quality, air quality, biological resources, and possibly even human health through debris, noise, and toxic contaminant pollution.  Fortunately, there are many ways regulators and citizens can mitigate the adverse impacts of fireworks.

Bees and other pollinators: their value and health in England: Review of policy & evidence

Download the document.

The Secretary of State has asked officials to undertake an urgent review of the health and value of bees and other pollinators. We must develop a better understanding of the various factors that threaten populations of these beneficial insects and the changes that government, other organisations and individuals can make to counter their impact. This review will form the basis of a National Pollinator Strategy to bring together all the pollinator-friendly initiatives already underway and to provide an umbrella for new action.

Declines in the health and populations of bees and other pollinators are seen globally as posing risks to biodiversity, long-term food security and ultimately human health.

Pollinators are an essential component of England’s agriculture and the diversity of its animal and plant life. Many of our agricultural and horticultural crops (such as oilseed rape, orchard fruit, soft fruit and field beans) rely, at least in part, on visits by insect pollinators (bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, hoverflies) to produce seeds and fruits. They also contribute to the diversity of wild plant species, habitats and wildlife in England, as well as its resilience and natural beauty.

Our pollinators face many threats and there are growing concerns that these threats are leading to declines in diversity and the geographical ranges of individual species. There is no single threat that seems to be driving this change; intensification in land-use, habitat loss, pests, diseases, invasive species, inappropriate use of agrochemicals and climate change are all thought to be playing a part.

This document reviews current and proposed government-led policies and initiatives across seven policy areas for England and provides an initial assessment of where they are already or could benefit pollinators by reducing these pressures.

Ratings and rankings: How competition promotes corporate sustainability

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Competition breeds progress. Innovative products, remarkable technologies and consumer convenience are just a few examples of how competition improves our lives on a daily basis. Now, competition is changing the way that companies approach corporate sustainability.

Catching up with P&G’s sustainability optimist

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Len Sauers is among the most optimistic people I know in the world of corporate sustainability executives. For years, I’ve watched him enthusiastically and relentlessly extol the commitments and achievements of his company, Procter & Gamble, where he is Vice President for Global Sustainability. I know a few other eternal optimists in the field — McDonald’s Bob Langert comes to mind — but Sauers is right up there.

One might easily write him off as a corporate mouthpiece, someone paid to sing pitch-perfectly from the company’s hymnal. But as I’ve watched and talked with Sauers over the past decade or so, I’m fairly certain that’s not the case. Sauers not only believes deeply in his company and its sustainability mission, he cares deeply about it, too. He is part of a small corps of committed souls not often heralded in the world of corporate sustainability.

His unbridled optimism came through during two recent conversations — the first when I ran into Sauers at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference in May, the second during a follow-up phone call last month.

ES&T Letters now accepting submissions

Environmental Science & Technology Letters is now accepting manuscript submissions.

Published as soon as accepted and summarized in monthly issues, Environmental Science & Technology Letters is an international forum for brief communications on experimental or theoretical results of exceptional timeliness in all aspects of environmental science (pure and applied), and short reviews on emerging environmental science & technology topics. Manuscripts describing cross-disciplinary research or addressing emerging issues are of particular interest. Among the areas the journal covers are:

  • characterization of natural and affected environments
  • energy and the environment
  • environmental aspects of nanotechnology
  • environmental measurements methods
  • environmental processes
  • novel remediation and control technologies

U.S. Building and Industrial Efficiency Policy 101

Via the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Today ACEEE and Energy Foundation China released a pair of reports explaining the major components of U.S. energy efficiency programs and policies for the buildings and industrial sectors. The reports are available in both Chinese and English and were written to explain the basics of U.S. policy to Chinese policymakers and researchers as they work to develop and implement appropriate policies for China. However, the reports will also be useful to those new to energy efficiency policy in the United States as they provide the type of background one might get in an “Energy Efficiency Policy 101” type of course.

As the world’s two largest economies, there is much that the United States and China can learn from each other. In 2012, ACEEE, Energy Foundation China, and the Global Best Practices Network issued a report in English on Building Energy Efficiency Policies in China. With these two reports we turn to U.S. policy.

The report on the buildings sector covers the following 21 programs and policies:

  • Buildings Technology Program
  • State Energy Program (SEP)
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG)
  • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
  • Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Energy Efficiency Programs
  • Low Income Home Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Department of Defense Energy Efficiency Initiatives in Buildings
  • Building Codes
  • Building Rating and Disclosure
  • Voluntary Green Construction Codes
  • Residential Retrofits
  • Commercial Retrofits
  • Appliance and Equipment Standards
  • Appliance Labeling
  • ENERGY STAR
  • Utility Energy Efficiency Programs
  • Financing
  • Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives
  • Energy Savings Performance Contracting
  • Federal Government Support to International Programs/Projects/Initiatives

The industrial report covers more than a dozen topics as follows:

  • Federal
    • Utility Customer Energy Efficiency Programs
    • Research & Development
    • Financial and Technical Assistance
    • Regulations, Standards, and Labeling
    • Tax Incentives
  • Regional Networks
  • State Assistance Programs
  • Centers of Excellence
  • Local Financing
  • State and Local Tax Incentives
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Trade Organizations
  • Professional Organizations

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

A process combining some comparatively cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy.

And when perfected, this approach might also cook up the solar cells in a microwave oven similar to the one in most kitchens.

Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have determined that ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, can be a low-cost solvent that functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor—an approach to making thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial levels.

The research, published in Material Letters, also concluded this approach will work with CZTS, or copper zinc tin sulfide, a compound of significant interest for solar cells due to its excellent optical properties and the fact these materials are cheap and environmentally benign.

Environmental Justice and the Structure of Human Rights

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

In a very basic way, Environmental Justice is about the intersection of human rights, infrastructure and how people–rich and poor, living in rich or developing countries–equitably and sustainably access the resources and things they need to survive and prosper. Robert Bullard, an environmental sociologist and Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is passionate about the human side of Environmental Justice and “unequal” environmental protection.