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.

How to turn a boring old book into a stash box

Read the full post on Grist.

Instead of buying cheap, mass-produced gewgaws to give out this season, show your loved ones you care with a little DIY. During Grist’s 12 days of DIY gifts, we’ll share some crafty projects, with instructions that even we can follow. There’s sure to be a whatsit or wowsit for everyone.

Everyone has secrets. Some of us keep them in boring old shoeboxes. And some of us — the best of us, really — make old books into the hidden compartments a Victorian spy would be proud of. Just do us a favor and pick a really boring book — no one will ever open it!

 

These Green Roofs Are More Than Just A Garden, They’re Also A Power Plant

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Green roofs produce food, cool buildings, and add a dash of color to the skyline. In the future, could they also generate electricity?

That’s the vision of Marjolein Helder and her Dutch startup Plant-e. Helder has developed a modular system that generates power from submerged plant roots. Eventually, it could power whole households, she says.

New climate plans would cut projected warming levels

Read the full post at EnvironmentalReseachWeb.

Climate change analysts say latest commitments by China, the US and Europe on emissions cuts could mean significant progress towards ensuring that global average temperatures this century will rise less than predicted.

NASA-USGS Climate Data App Challenge: An Invitation for Innovation

NASA in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is offering more than $35,000 in prizes to citizen scientists for ideas that make use of climate data to address vulnerabilities faced by the United States in coping with climate change.

The Climate Resilience Data Challenge, conducted through the NASA Tournament Lab, a partnership with Harvard University hosted on Appirio/Topcoder, kicks off Monday, Dec. 15 and runs through March 2015.

The challenge supports the efforts of the White House Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available climate-relevant data resources to spur innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in order to advance awareness of and preparedness for the impacts of climate change. The challenge was announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dec. 9.

According to the recent National Climate Assessment produced by more than 300 experts across government and academia, the United States faces a number of current and future challenges as the result of climate change. Vulnerabilities include coastal flooding and weather-related hazards that threaten lives and property, increased disruptions to agriculture, prolonged drought that adversely affects food security and water availability, and ocean acidification capable of damaging ecosystems and biodiversity. The challenge seeks to unlock the potential of climate data to address these and other climate risks.

“Federal agencies, such as NASA and the USGS, traditionally focus on developing world-class science data to support scientific research, but the rapid growth in the innovation community presents new opportunities to encourage wider usage and application of science data to benefit society,” said Kevin Murphy, NASA program executive for Earth Science Data Systems in Washington. “We need tools that utilize federal data to help our local communities improve climate resilience, protect our ecosystems, and prepare for the effects of climate change.”

“Government science follows the strictest professional protocols because scientific objectivity is what the American people expect from us,” said Virginia Burkett, acting USGS associate director for Climate Change and Land Use. “That systematic approach is fundamental to our mission. With this challenge, however, we are intentionally looking outside the box for transformational ways to apply the data that we have already carefully assembled for the benefit of communities across the nation.”

The challenge begins with an ideation stage for data-driven application pitches, followed by storyboarding and, finally, prototyping of concepts with the greatest potential.

The ideation stage challenges competitors to imagine new applications of climate data to address climate vulnerabilities. This stage is divided into three competitive classes based on data sources: NASA data, federal data from agencies such as the USGS, and any open data. The storyboarding stage allows competitors to conceptualize and design the best ideas, followed by the prototyping stage, which carry the best ideas into implementation.

The Climate Resilience Data Challenge is managed by NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation at NASA Headquarters, Washington. The center was established in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to advance open innovation efforts for climate-related science and extend that expertise to other federal agencies.

For additional information and to register (beginning Dec. 15), visit the Climate Resilience Data Challenge website.

Making paper from algae

Watch the video at Algae Industry Magazine.

A paper-making project at Pablo de Olavide University in Seville, Spain, uses different types of algae to avoid the highly contaminant products used in conventional paper production. The result is a paper with similar characteristics as that from wood. The ECOWAL research group is also studying possible applications of this algae cellulose for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

Congress To Nutritionists: Don’t Talk About The Environment

Read the full story from NPR.

A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.

Congress now has slapped them down.

Trees are fed up with our carbon, refuse to grow faster

Read the full post in Grist.

Scientists have long expected extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to boost tree growth — the climate-changing waste product of our fuel-burning ways is plant food, after all. But a new study suggests that trees in tropical rainforests around the world are not in fact growing any faster, even as CO2 levels in the air shoot past 400 parts per million.