Education

Artificial sweeteners pollute streams

Read the full story in Science for Students.

In the past few decades, diners have been turning increasingly to soft drinks and foods sweetened with fake sugar. The idea is to get the sweet taste without loading up on calories. But a new study finds an environmental cost to these sweeteners: In short order, they can end up polluting lakes and streams.

Original Journal Source: B. Subedi and K. Kannan. “Fate of artificial sweeteners in wastewater treatment plants in New York State, USA.” Environmental Science & Technology. Published early online Nov. 3, 2014. doi: 10.1021/es504769c.

2015 Collegiate Sports Sustainability Summit Call for Presentations

June 24-26, 2015
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
Conference web site

This Summit offers attendees the chance to network, learn, and exchange ideas with peers from around the country on ways in which athletic and sports programs can join the campus movement to engage students, fans, and alumni in making collegiate sports socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.

Please consider answering the call for presentations and discussions by completing the Call for Presentations form and submitting it to the Summit organizers no later than January 9, 2015.

Illinois Food Scrap Coalition releases video on the benefits of composting

This short video from the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition explains what composting is and why it’s important. Excellent resource to use when talking to businesses about the benefits of composting.

A People’s Curriculum for the Earth Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis

Available from Rethinking Schools for $24.95. From the web site:

A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is a collection of articles, role plays, simulations, stories, poems, and graphics to help breathe life into teaching about the environmental crisis. The book features some of the best articles from Rethinking Schools magazine alongside classroom-friendly readings on climate change, energy, water, food, and pollution—as well as on people who are working to make things better.

Solution Generation

ecoAmerica and the Solution Generation Executive Committee are pleased to announce the launch of a new national program, Solution Generation. Solution Generation aims to catalyze higher education leadership on climate change by inviting and empowering college and university leaders to lead by example and engage others in climate solutions. The web site provides a range of communication tools, inspirational success stories and resources that higher education leaders can use right away to design and implement strategies to inspire and empower their students, faculty, staff and peer leaders. The program is designed to empower higher education leadership, whether they are climate leaders or are just getting started.

Computers Use More Energy Than Previously Thought

Via the California Energy Commission.

According to two studies commissioned by the California Energy Commission, computers are not going into sleep mode or automatically being turned off as often as users think, leaving opportunities to save more energy. The implications of the research are that workplace desktop computers consume significant amounts of energy even when not in use.

The first study, “A Survey of Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population,” surveyed more than 2,000 respondents to obtain detailed information about the use of more than 3,000 office desktops, home desktops, and laptops. This large user-centric study is unique compared to most previous studies because of the focus on user behaviors regarding power management features.

“People think when they leave their workstation, the computer will reduce its own energy consumption after a specified amount of time,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the agency’s lead on energy efficiency issues. “These studies show a strong desire and intent by computer users to reduce energy use. Identified user error and knowledge gaps indicate significant room for improvement in the power management options and interfaces available to computer users.”

Computers have built-in power management software—with settings such as sleep, hibernate and shutdown—that enables computers and monitors to consume less energy when not in use; however, these features are not delivering the full energy savings potential.

Additional findings:

  • Respondents report using automatic power management features over manual modes. The survey showed that 39 percent of the time users regularly use manual controls to put office desktop computers into sleep, hibernate, or off modes. Of those office desktops not taking advantage of automatic power management, 61 percent are left on all the time.
  • Users changed power management settings themselves in 50 percent of laptops, 41 percent of home desktops and 20 percent in office desktops. Respondents have less control over their office desktops than their laptops or home desktops.
  • According to the survey, the two main reasons computers were left on, even when not in use for hours, are that users felt restarting is too slow and the belief the computer will automatically go into sleep or other lower-power mode. For office desktops, two other main reasons were “need to leave computer on for updates or backups” and “needs to be available for remote access.”

The second study, “Monitoring Computer Power Modes Usage in a University Population,” used software to remotely monitor 125 computers in the first study, 24 hours a day for several weeks. Research was gathered by monitoring actual computer usage patterns, a supplementary questionnaire, and direct observations of computers’ power management settings. The findings were compared to those of the first study.

Among the findings of the second study:

  • The monitoring study showed a large difference between direct observation of user’s computer settings and their survey responses. Researchers observed that 20 percent of computers had automatic power management enabled whereas the survey responses indicated that 84 percent of computers had at least one automatic power setting enabled. The data suggest users incorrectly believe automatic settings are engaged when they are not.
  • Workplace desktop computers are on 76 percent of the day, even though they were only being used 16 percent of the day. Sleep mode was enabled for about 7 percent of the day.
  • Overall, workplace desktop computers in the study were on and not being used more than 60 percent of the time. If computers had manually or automatically been turned off or put in sleep mode, energy use would be less.
  • The majority of computers (69 percent) are off for less than 5 percent of the time, and most of those are off for a few minutes a day, likely when rebooting.

“The considerable amount of energy that is being consumed by computers that are on, but not in use, shows that with better power management alternatives, a large amount of energy could be saved with improved power management features,” McAllister said.

The California Plug Load Research Center conducted the two studies to better understand computer use patterns and identify potential ways to reduce energy waste in California. The Energy Commission will use these studies to supplement other research as it develops a draft staff proposal for computer and monitor energy efficiency standards.

Getting the Picture: Our Changing Climate

The adventures of scientist-photographer James Balog and the Chasing Ice team come to life in a newly released climate science education resource. Getting the Picture provides a unique, interactive, multimedia experience for students and educators to learn about the latest climate science and witness real-world changes occurring around the world. This comprehensive educational resource is aligned with national educational standards, including NGSS.