National Environmental Education Advisory Council 2015 Report Now Available

The 2015 Report of the National Environmental Education Advisory Council (NEEAC) is now available. As one of the primary duties under its charter, the NEEAC is tasked with providing independent recommendations to the EPA Administrator to inform the agency’s strategic vision and enhance EPA’s activities on environmental education.

In this report, the NEEAC reviews the current challenges and opportunities across the environmental education field and provides a resource for both EPA and the broader environmental community to further the effectiveness and availability of environmental education.

Find a factsheet and full text of the report.

Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth

Download the document.

As many U.S. communities are struggling to support growing populations with limited water resources, very few of them are utilizing water connection charges to increase water-savvy residential development projects in their communities. So concludes a new report by Western Resource Advocates, Ceres, and the University of North Carolina’s Environmental Finance Center evaluating water connection charges used by 800 public water utilities in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina and Utah.

This first-of-its-kind report entitled Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth found that 93% of the fee structures in the Southeastern states and 62% of the fee structures in the Western states used uniform water connection charges for single-family homes that took no account of key factors in influencing the design of a home’s water footprint. As a result, owners of new homes are typically paying the same amount.

Hotel ‘greenwashing’ dirties eco-friendly reputation

Read the full story from Washington State University.

Hotels across the globe are increasingly encouraging guests to embrace green practices. Yet while guests think they are supporting the environment by shutting off lights and reusing towels, they may in fact be victims of “greenwashing,” a corporation’s deceitful practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs while hiding ulterior motives.

Greenwashing practices, such as a sign that reads “save the planet: re-use towels,” coupled with claims of corporate social responsibility, have soiled the trust of American consumers who are increasingly recognizing hotels’ green claims may be self-serving. This could cause hotels to lose valuable repeat customers.

Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Washington State University hospitality researchers Imran Rahman, Jeongdoo Park and Christina Geng-qing Chi investigate the consequences of greenwashing in the lodging industry and suggest ways hotels can establish credibility in consumers’ minds.

Flame Retardant Breakthrough is Naturally Derived and Nontoxic

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans.

Flame retardants are added to foams found in mattresses, sofas, car upholstery and many other consumer products. Once incorporated into foam, these chemicals can migrate out of the products over time, releasing toxic substances into the air and environment. Throughout the United States, there is pressure on state legislatures to ban flame retardants, especially those containing brominated compounds (BRFs), a mix of human-made chemicals thought to pose a risk to public health.

A team led by Cockrell School of Engineering associate professor Christopher Ellison found that a synthetic coating of polydopamine — derived from the natural compound dopamine — can be used as a highly effective, water-applied flame retardant for polyurethane foam. Dopamine is a chemical compound found in humans and animals that helps in the transmission of signals in the brain and other vital areas. The researchers believe their dopamine-based nanocoating could be used in lieu of conventional flame retardants.

The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Chemistry of Materials on Sept. 9.

The College Wild: How College and University Green Landscapes Provide Havens for Wildlife and “Lands-on” Experiences for Students

This new guide highlights how colleges and universities are playing a dynamic role protecting wildlife and restoring habitats in campus green spaces, including on-campus landscapes and natural areas, as well as distant campus-owned lands. It explores how such green places benefit the campus community through hands-on learning, energy and water conservation, and leadership opportunities.

Ancient Soil Samples Link Fires to Climate Change

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the case of global warming, that can have dangerous, smoldering-hot implications. Global surface temperatures are expected to go up at least a degree over the next century, and the last time that happened, in the Middle Ages, the frequency of wildfires in the Colorado Rockies nearly doubled.

A number of recent studies suggest the weather is likely to get a lot harsher in the decades and centuries to come, with more intense (though not necessarily more frequent) hurricanes, longer and more severe droughts, and increasing numbers of severe thunderstorms. More droughts in particular also means a greater risk of wildfires. Less water, after all, equals more fire. But just how bad are things likely to get?


The outlook’s not too rosy, according to John Calder, a University of Wyoming geophysics graduate student, and his colleagues. Their findings, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “indicate a significant risk that … fires will burn large areas in the coming century if temperatures continue to rise,” they write.

Making Crops Naturally Insect-Resistant

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

When herbivorous insects indulge in a smorgasbord of leafy greens, some wild plants boast a variety of mechanisms to prevent their destruction at the roving pincers of their attackers.

“Wild plants commonly emit natural odors when they are damaged that attract natural enemies of pest insects—even as humans we smell it when our neighbor is mowing the lawn,” said Martin Heil, of Mexico’s CINVESTAV-Irapuato. “Odors can carry very precise information.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, herbivorous insects are responsible for destroying one-fifth of the world’s crops.

In an opinion piece in Trends in Plant Science, Mexican and Swedish researchers review potential options to incorporate such defenses into organically grown crops.