Colorado, EPA clash over state role in Gold King Mine deluge

Read the full story in the Denver Post.

Colorado officials are disputing Environmental Protection Agency accounts of the botched cleanup at an inactive mine that spilled 3 million gallons of toxic heavy metals into the Animas River, saying state experts gave advice but did not approve EPA actions.

An EPA internal review of the disaster found that state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety experts supported EPA work, aimed at draining the Gold King Mine above Silverton by digging through debris and opening the main portal. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation also investigated and in October concluded state experts approved EPA efforts to drain the mine.


How can drones help environmentalists? Aerial surveys and monitoring has never been so easy or inexpensive

Read the full story at EarthTalk.

Conservationists are utilizing drone or “unmanned aerial systems” (UAS) technology to gather highly detailed imagery and other environmental data that is traditionally challenging to obtain. Wildlife biologist John Takekawa and his team at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center (WERC), for example, are using drones to obtain aerial images of San Francisco Bay marshlands.

ISTC announces Illinois Green Office Challenge winners

GreenOfficeChallenge-logoThe Illinois Green Office Challenge has announced the winners of its first competition. Ten organizations from Peoria and Champaign-Urbana were named as top performers in the friendly competition, where employees in area workplaces can participate to save water and energy and to reduce waste at work.

The overall champion was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (CERL) in Champaign. The Army laboratory (7,011 points) edged out Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s Administration & Operations Building (6,164 points). The next highest score was achieved by Peoria’s Charter Coach Plaza with 5,775 points, the first place winner from the Peoria area.

Contestants earned points by completing specific activities to reduce waste and save energy and water which help make resource and cost reductions the norm in our workplaces.

Winners were presented with certificates at a celebration event Thursday at the Champaign Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign.

“Sustainability champions deserve this recognition because they are paving the way for the new normal where wasted resources and lost profits will become unthinkable,” said Kevin, O’Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. ISTC organized and administered the Challenge, which was launched as a pilot project in Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Bloomington-Normal this year.

For CERL, “IGOC provided a great mechanism, structure, and support to further define, identify and execute our ongoing sustainability efforts,” according to CERL spokesman Michael Jazdyk. “IGOC offered perspective and helped make many things we were already doing more tangible.”


“Becoming green, or encouraging sustainability, is the focus of a number of research efforts and activities at CERL,” Jazdyk continued. “The IGOC gave us the opportunity to demonstrate that CERL not only researches sustainability, it also strives to incorporate it into its daily business model.”

According to Jake Winkler account executive for Peoria Charter Coach the family-owned business has long made a priority of cutting vehicle pollution. “For this competition, it was our employees inside the office’s turn to join the revolution,” he said. “We have focused on creating an environment that is easier to do environmentally friendly activities such as: recycling, temperature control, and water usage. It has taken a team effort to help give everyone friendly reminders, until the changes become the norm.

“We have all greatly enjoyed our experience with the Green Office Challenge,” Winkler said. “It has been a great way to educate our managers and employees on the importance of leaving a smaller carbon footprint. We have been able to work as a team towards a common goal of becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We have been able to see the culture of our workforce transform into a ‘green-thinking’ environment.”

Everyone must be on-board for real change to occur in the organization,” Winkler explained. “The first step is educating everyone on the small steps that we can take that can lead to a big change. We have learned that creating a ‘Green Office’ does not happen overnight, but with continuous education and resiliency in our positive actions we can make a tremendous impact.”

For the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Transit District the competition helped make it easy to be green.

“One of our favorite elements of the Challenge was being able to watch the Leaderboard updates as we completed tasks,” said Jane Sullivan, CUMTD sustainability planner. “Our Employee Sustainability Committee enjoyed completing tasks together and watching the Leaderboard change.”

“Learning about green purchasing, energy management, and water management were all very interesting to us,” Sullivan said. “Understanding these elements of sustainability will definitely produce continuing benefits.”

“Urbana High School was able to use the Challenge in their Environmental Studies class,” Bart Bartels, IGOC program manager, said of the top scoring school. “Students analyzed the waste stream and used ‘kill-a-watt’ meters to measure plug load. The Challenge categories were a close match to the syllabus that was already in place.”

“The Illinois Green Office Challenge is an effort to extend the benefits of the successful Chicago Green Office Challenge to the rest of the state,” Bartels of ISTC.

Bartels acknowledged the support of the Peoria County Office of Sustainability, the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, the Delta Institute, and the University of Illinois Extension for the successful launch of the Green Office Challenge.

With the completion of this first year’s Challenge and the announcement of the winners, a new challenge for offices across Central Illinois as well as other communities will begin in the fall, he added. “Our hope is to make this opportunity available to more and more of the state,” he added.

How good is that environmental nonprofit, anyway?

Read the full post at Ensia.

Greenpeace rates tech companies on their data centers. Oxfam America ranks food brands on the sustainability of their supply chains. The League of Conservation Voters scores elected officials on their voting records.

But who rates, ranks and scores Greenpeace, Oxfam America and the League of Conservation Voters​?​ ​Or The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International or WWF? ​For now, no one. No independent organization has made a serious effort to evaluate the performance of environmental organizations. Nor, for that matter, do many environmental nonprofits report publicly on their effectiveness or admit their errors. Put simply, many green groups lack the accountability they demand from business and government.

New Grist Series: The real sharing economy

Via Grist.

Renewable energy is booming and countries are finally beginning to act committed to saving the climate, just as we’re approaching game over for the stable climate. But carbon emissions keep rising every year, in tandem with economic growth.

Sharing, real sharing, could allow humanity as a whole to produce, consume, and emit less while improving quality of life through greater social interactions, fairer wealth distribution, and stronger community relationships. But sharing needs to go far beyond profit-seeking smartphone apps for unregulated taxi services (Uber) and vacation rentals (Airbnb).

This series explores the real sharing economy — where wealth and power are shared, not just consumer goods and spare bedrooms. These real sharing entities share resources, knowledge, and decision-making responsibilities as they co-create community goods and services. Then they share the abundance together.

Troublingly, a grow-grow-grow economy makes us all more reliant on money. Real sharing economy projects make money less important, like the Buy Nothing groups on the Facebook and tool-lending libraries that Grist already writes about. This series will tour examples of Seattle’s emerging sharing movement: a bike cooperative, an urban food forest, and a community solar program.

Planting the seeds of a real sharing economy is no easy task. But it’s easier to share the work than go it alone.

Revving Up Energy Solutions Innovation

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

During the 2014 R&D 100 Awards event, R&D Magazine expanded the banquet to hold four technology panels during the day. The last panel of the day focused on energy/environmental solutions and the innovation behind four R&D 100-winning technologies and the complexity of bringing such technologies to the market.

Speakers of the panel included Nicolas Dube, Distinguished Technologist, HP; Qichao Hu, Founder and CEO, SolidEnergy Systems; Ty McNutt, Director of Business Development, APEI Inc.; and Edward Williams, CEO, Novinda. Each gave feedback as to the issues of creating new energy/environmental solutions and the complexity of the innovation process.

Stockholm Environment Institute

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2014.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is an independent international research institute. For over 25 years SEI has been gathering data on the interrelated systems of development and ecology, bringing together diverse stakeholders for dialogues and partnerships. For the past several years, the organization has focused its efforts on four targeted activities: Managing environmental systems, Reducing climate risk, Transforming governance, and Rethinking development. Scout the site first by clicking on each of these categories to reveal theme summaries, sub-themes, and theme fact sheets. From there, have a look at the News & Media, Projects, Tools, and People tabs. One of the most exciting aspects of this site is the Recent Publications column, where you can read free empirical articles on such topics as “The economic case for low carb” and “A new era in the fight against deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.” [CNH]


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