Author: Laura B.

Laura L. Barnes is a librarian at the Prairie Research Institute Library, embedded at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. She founded and writes for Environmental News Bits.

Stanford study shows how to power California with wind, water and sun

Read the full story from Stanford.

Imagine a smog-free Los Angeles, where electric cars ply silent freeways, solar panels blanket rooftops and power plants run on heat from beneath the earth, from howling winds and from the blazing desert sun.

A new Stanford study finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert California’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by clean, renewable energy. Published in Energy, the plan shows the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply in California that could create tens of thousands of jobs and save billions of dollars in pollution-related health costs.

EPA Funds Environmental Health Research for Tribal Communities

To identify and reduce tribal health risks associated with climate change, indoor wood smoke exposure, environmental asthma, waterborne diseases, and other unique tribal concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding tribal environmental health research grants to six groups, including universities and tribes.

“We’re working together to help tribal communities combat the threats from climate change, and reduce environmental and public health risks,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “After more than a decade of funding this research, which addresses the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities, we have important data, tools, products and knowledge available to help communities determine a path forward to take action on climate change.”

EPA funds research focused on tribal communities through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. Because many tribes rely on natural resources, it is essential for tribal-focused research to identify possible environmental health risks and the most efficient methods of avoiding or addressing these risks.

Over the last decade, EPA grants have helped tribes make significant progress in addressing health risks. For example, the funding has resulted in the creation of fish advisory maps that have helped various tribal fishing communities avoid mercury and other contaminant-laden fish. The funding has also caused Washington and Oregon to revise their water-quality standards to offer greater protection. In addition, a library of resources in the Mohawk language was created to enhance education about toxic substances and empower the community to protect the health of its citizens.

For additional examples of outcomes from the Tribal Environmental Health grants, view the Tribal Synthesis Report: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/tribalresearch/news/results-impacts.pdf

The six grants total about $5 million. The recipients are:

  • Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska -to assess, monitor, and adapt to threats to the sustainability of food and water in remote Alaska native villages
  • Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, La Conner, Wash. -to examine coastal climate impacts to traditional foods, cultural sites, and tribal community health and well-being
  • Yurok Tribe, Klamath, Calif. -to identify, assess, and adapt to climate change impacts to Yurok water and aquatic resources, food security and tribal health
  • Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, Mont. –to research climate change adaptation and waterborne disease prevention on the Crow Reservation
  • University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Okla. -to improve indoor air quality and reduce environmental asthma triggers in tribal homes and schools
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Mass. –to measure indoor air quality in tents as related to wood smoke exposures and identify potential health risks in remote communities in North America

More information

State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY Oneonta) researcher patents green chemistry discovery

Read the full post in the Nexus Blog.

Dr. Jacqueline Bennett has invented a new chemical process that’s safer, greener and more efficient than traditional methods used to make imines, a class of chemical compounds that has household and industrial applications.

Chemical processes used to create essential materials often consume large quantities of relatively toxic compounds that are later disposed of as hazardous waste. Bennett’s research focuses on finding more environmentally friendly ways to make imines, which are found in a wide range of products, from automotive rust inhibitors to antibiotics.

Because traditional imine synthesis uses solvents that pose inhalation hazards, Bennett experimented with a benign alternative solvent called ethyl lactate, a naturally occurring, FDA-approved food additive that breaks down quickly and harmlessly in the environment. Unlike the established method, Dr. Bennett’s process does not require heat, agitation, recrystallization or purification. Yet it forms imines more quickly, producing higher yields.

The Water Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Water Use

Read the full article in Environment Magazine.

The long-term sustainability of many urban water supply systems in the United States is under assault from a confluence of forces. Climate change, an aging and increasingly obsolete water infrastructure, an expanding population in water-scarce regions, and economic growth are several of the formidable challenges to meeting present and future freshwater demands.1 Water conservation (broadly defined as reducing water use) offers a cost-effective and environmentally benign way to address these challenges in comparison to capturing, transporting, and treating new supplies.2 American households, a key end user of publicly supplied water, can play a vital role by curbing their own water use through installing water-efficient appliances (e.g., clothes washing machines) and fixtures (e.g., faucets) and adopting conserving habits. Determining the extent to which overall water use can be curbed can demonstrate the potential broader role that households can play in contributing to more sustainable water systems. Furthermore, identifying the most effective actions can help individuals and households with limited time, attention, and resources prioritize actions with larger savings.

States Against E.P.A. Rule on Carbon Pollution Would Gain, Study Finds

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the most vocal Republican skeptics of the science that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, but a new study to be released Thursday found that their states would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change.

The study, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group, both research organizations, concluded that the regulation would cut demand for electricity from coal — the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution — but create robust new demand for natural gas, which has just half the carbon footprint of coal. It found that the demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, which, in addition to Oklahoma and Texas, include Arkansas and Louisiana.

Intermarché – “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”

Intermarché, a French supermarket chain, launched the Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables, a media campaign, celebrating the beauty of less than perfect fruits and vegetables. The chain also made this produce available at a 30% discount and offered samples to show consumers that they taste the same as their more perfect counterparts. The goal of the campaign was to raise awareness about how much food is wasted because it doesn’t look perfect. The video below gives an overview of the campaign and its results.

The geography of the global electronic waste (‘e-waste’) burden

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society.

As local and national governments struggle to deal with ever-growing piles of electronic waste (or “e-waste”), scientists are now refining the picture of just how much there is and where it really ends up. Published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, their study found that nearly a quarter of e-waste that developed countries discard floods into just seven developing countries — with major potential health risks for the people who live there.

Under Water: The EPA’s Struggle to Combat Pollution

Read the full story at ProPublica.

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been frustrated in its efforts to pursue hundreds of cases of water pollution — repeatedly tied up in legal fights about exactly what bodies of water it has the authority to monitor and protect. Efforts in Congress to clarify the EPA’s powers have been defeated. And two Supreme Court decisions have done little to decide the question.

Most recently, in April, the EPA itself declared what waters were subject to its oversight — developing a joint rule with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that sought to end the debate and empower the EPA to press hundreds of enforcements actions against alleged polluters across the country.

The new rule, for instance, explicitly defines several terms — tributary, floodplain and wetland — and makes clear that those waters are subject to its authority.

But the EPA’s effort has been met with immense opposition from farmers who say the agency is overreaching. An expansive online campaign organized and financed by the American Farm Bureau Federation has asserted that the new rule will give the EPA jurisdiction over farmers’ irrigation ditches, watering ponds and even puddles of rain.

Hacker Musician Turns E-Waste Into an Awesome Instrument

Read the full story in Wired.

We tend to think of musical instruments in fixed terms: that’s a guitar, this is a saxophone, that’s a synthesizer. Colten Jackson, however, plays an instrument that’s hard to classify. The Illinois musician hacked together what he calls the Hard Rock Guitar out of e-waste: six obsolete hard drives, and an old keyboard number pad, powered by an Arduino board. At Jackson’s command, it emits a range of synthy, ambient tones. If he wants to change the notes or scales, he need only tinker with the software. “Instruments are this free-form art; they just have to make sound,” he says. “Whatever you start with, whether it’s garbage or e-waste, it lends itself to something.”