Author: Laura B.

I'm the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator, which is a fancy way of saying embedded librarian. I'm also Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. When not writing for Environmental News Bits, I'm an avid reader. Visit Laura's Reads to see what I'm currently reading.

Requirements for water assessment tools: An automotive industry perspective

Sherry A. Mueller, Andrew Carlile, Bert Bras, Thomas A. Niemann, Susan M. Rokosz, Heidi L. McKenzie, H. Chul Kim, Timothy J. Wallington (2015). “Requirements for water assessment tools: An automotive industry perspective.” Water Resources and Industry 9, 30–44. (Open access journal).

Abstract: Water availability is one of the greatest global sustainability challenges. Water is not available in adequate quantity and quality in many areas and water shortfalls are expected to increase. Businesses are facing water-related challenges due to inadequate water availability and poor resource management. Identifying and quantifying impacts is key to enabling companies to make effective management decisions. Several water assessment tools have been developed to help companies understand the complex nature of water challenges; however, there remain significant gaps in the datasets and inconsistencies in measurement and reporting of geographic water shortfalls. There is a need for more complete datasets containing information on water withdrawal and discharge, freshwater availability and depletion (spatially and temporally), water quality monitoring, reuse and recycling. We discuss four of the available water assessment tools (Global Water Tool, India Water Tool, Water Risk Filter and Aqueduct) and highlight those elements most critical to water-related business decisions.

Full disclosure: Another toxic villain rides into the sunset

Read the full story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

This year is the deadline for phasing out PFOA and related compounds, which have been commonly used in waterproof clothing, firefighting foam, nonstick cookware and other products. On Jan. 15, the EPA announced that it would also seek the power to block any new use or imports of those chemicals.

Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes At Environmental Absurdity Of K-Cups

Read the full post from The Salt.

You want a cup of decaf. Your significant other is craving the fully caffeinated stuff. With the simple push of a button, Keurig’s single-serving K-Cup coffee pods can make both of you happy.

But those convenient little plastic pods can pile up quickly, and they’re not recyclable. And that’s created a monster of an environmental mess, says Mike Hachey. Literally…

The point, says Hachey, is to use cinematic tactics to raise awareness of the waste. Consider this startling statistic: In 2013, Keurig Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups — enough to circle the Earth 10.5 times. (In 2014, output shot up to 9.8 billion portion packs.)


Food Industry Drags Its Heels On Recyclable And Compostable Packaging

Read the full post in The Salt.

Let’s face it: We are people who consume many of our meals on the go. That means we’re not eating on real plates or bowls but out of plastic containers and paper boxes. And perhaps daily, we drink our coffees and sodas out of plastic or plastic-lined paper cups.

Overall, Americans recycle at the lamentable rate of 34.5 percent and recycle plastic packaging at the even measlier rate of 14 percent. So the majority of that food packaging is ending up in landfills, or on the street as litter, where it may eventually get swept into the ocean. There, our wrappers and cans and cups become a much bigger problem — a direct threat to marine life that may ingest it and die.

According to a report published Thursday by the environmental groups As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, most of the major players in the restaurant and beverage industry are not doing a whole lot to ameliorate this problem. There’s a big onus on the makers of packaged foods and beverages to reduce plastic and paper waste and also make it easier for us to recycle and compost the materials we use.

R&D 100 Awards now accepting applications

Entry Deadline: April 20, 2015
For more information and to enter, visit

Known widely as “the Oscars of Invention,” the R&D 100 Awards allows you to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and compete with the elite of the research & development world. With the countless hours and substantial resources invested to bring it to market, your new product deserves to be showcased along with the year’s most significant new technology.

Winning an R&D 100 Award will enhance your product’s marketability and deliver a message that your organization and development team are leaders and innovators. An R&D 100 Award:

  • provides a positive initial marketing boost to many new technology innovations
  • recognizes the efforts of the development team and partners
  • signifies a mark of excellence known to industry, government, and consumers
  • tells potential customers that the product has successfully competed against other new technologies in open competition

This year, there are four Special Recognition Awards: Green Technology, Corporate Social Responsibility, and two “Market Disruptors,” one for products and one for services.

Entries submitted before February 6, 2015 are eligible for early review by R&D Magazine editors. Upon request, the editors will provide recommendations to improve the entry and increase your chances of winning an Award. Revised entries must be submitted by April 20, 2015.

Minnesota tops nation in pollution prevention

Via the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Moving away from toxics

Minnesota businesses are the best in the nation at reducing or eliminating some dangerous pollutants, according to a Toxic Release Inventory report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This information is reported by manufacturing and other industrial facilities around the U.S. 2013 data showed Minnesota led the nation in implementing measures that resulted in toxic reductions. These activities helped contribute to a reduction of nearly 1 million pounds in toxic releases from 2012 to 2013 in Minnesota.

What are some examples of pollution prevention or source reduction activities?

  • An electroplating facility in Minneapolis reduced their releases of solvents by nearly 50 percent after changing to an aqueous cleaning system for some of their processes.
  • Logic PD of Montevideo and Eden Prairie and Benchmark Electronics of Rochester and Winona are leading the way in pollution prevention by working with their customers to change product specifications to allow lead-free solders to be used in the printed circuit assemblies they manufacture.
  • Reworking production schedules allowed a paint and coating manufacturer in Blaine to reduce their generations of solvent waste by 42 percent by reducing feedstock changeovers and minimizing solvent use.

“MPCA and our partners congratulate Minnesota companies for their continued leadership in driving down environmental impacts and driving up the efficiency of their operations” says MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine.

MPCA works with the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) to help Minnesota businesses develop and implement industry-tailored solutions that prevent pollution at the source, maximize efficient use of resources, and reduce energy use and costs to improve public health and the environment.

Report explores future of green energy in Michigan

Listen to the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Green energy has made big strides in Michigan over the past several years. That’s thanks in large part to a 2008 law that required the state to get 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.

The “10 by 2015” mandate is about to expire…and the state is on track to meet its goal.

But what happens next? Can Michigan continue its move toward renewables? Or will efforts to green the energy industry stall without a legislative mandate?

A report by the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute tries to answer those questions.

Current State talked about the report’s findings and the future of renewable energy in Michigan with co-author Jeremiah Johnson, who is also an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.