Repurpose Electronics Instead of Recycling

Via EcoGeek.

A lot of electronics recycling events are scheduled on and around Earth Day each year. And, if you have old computers, cell phones, or other electronics gear, it is far better to take it to be recycled rather than adding it to the landfill.

But, there are also hardware hackers, robotics enthusiasts, Makers, and others who would like to get those components to use for their creations. Due to privacy and security concerns, donated materials cannot be given to these people. Hard drives and memory cards may have some data on them, but those can be separated, and the useful electronics can find new life in a new creation.

Some groups are now organizing to hold swap events before the big recycling collections to have an opportunity to have some of these materials find new purpose and new life, rather than having them shredded. In Ann Arbor MI, a group called GO-Tech is planning a materials swap like this the day before the annual local electronics recycling event.

If you’re a Maker and that’s not enough stuff for you, or you aren’t near a repurposing event like this, we also recently noted on TreeHugger that the online store Think Geek has a scrapbox subscription program that will send you a box of “borked stuff” that they can’t resell or donate, but that enterprising people might be able to make use of.

Meet the woman leading the charge to green America’s schools

Read the full story at Grist.

Recently I was at a climate conference dominated by Baby Boomers, mostly white men, droning on about the nigh-insurmountable challenges of climate change and laying out their ponderous academic theories for how to change things. In other words, a typical climate conference.

Into this dolorous atmosphere came something different: a young woman, bright-eyed and quick-witted, sharing practical tips and stories of tangible achievement — unaware, apparently, that the academics had deemed success impossible. It was like stumbling across a cool drink of water in a desert of navel-gazing wankery. I resolved to find out more about Rachel Gutter and the green schools program she runs.

Gutter joined the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) around the time it was developing a LEED rating system for schools in 2007. She expanded those efforts and eventually started a dedicated green schools program inside the organization. It has since taken off, finding unlikely allies in state legislatures, rural school districts, and inner cities — all the places do-gooder greens have failed to reach. I gave Gutter a call to chat about the program’s approach and what’s next for the green schools movement.

Guiding the future of green IT

Read the full story from the University of Calgary.

A Cybera research project has become one of the first Canadian test cases in a study that will help outline protocols for international “green” IT. Researchers from the University of Calgary’s Grid Research Centre (GRC) are aiding in the investigation, which forms part of the GreenStar Network (GSN) project, an initiative that aims to reduce the environmental impact of information and communication technology (ICT). This industry is becoming one of the world’s largest carbon emitters.

Five business models to boost electric cars

Read the full story from CNET.

Everybody wants an auto battery breakthrough that will lead to longer driving range and lower prices than what’s found with oil-powered autos. But while scientists are busy at work on the technology, there are a number of clever business ideas to make transportation cleaner and cheaper.

To a large degree, the toughest part of making electric vehicles take hold is sorting out new business models, according to speakers at last week’s annual conference of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Here are examples of how existing technology is already being used and of the approaches being explored to redefine the auto industry.

Fertilizer giant Scotts Miracle-Gro redefines healthy lawn to prevent water pollution

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Healthy lawns and gardens improve infiltration, reduce runoff and filter the water. But now, a company that for years has promoted healthy lawns by selling products containing phosphorus has changed its tune.

In March, Scotts Miracle-Gro announced that its products will be phosphorus-free by the end of 2012. The company also announced that it will use technology to develop more efficient uses of nitrogen in its lawn fertilizers.

NextGen Oil Sets the Stage for Valvoline’s Sustainability Strategy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Valvoline recently unveiled its latest product NextGen — an even split of virgin and used oil — following years of research into making a recycled product as good as any other product it sells. Preliminary sales are brisk as retailers, which have worked aggressively to burnish their own green credentials in recent years, welcome the product with in-store promotions and prime shelf real estate.

A 5-Step Litmus Test for Sustainable Power Utilities

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Join the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘power utilities’ together and you can be forgiven for thinking it’s an oxymoron.

The very nature of power utilities is to make money from energy consumption, so it’s hardly surprising that clients are skeptical about what motivates utilities to encourage energy saving in the first place. But as Verdantix research shows, market dynamics are shifting, and the traditional role of power utilities is changing (although the speed of change varies considerably between suppliers).

NIST Prototypes Framework for Evaluating Sustainability Standards

As manufacturers and other businesses step up efforts to cut waste, reduce energy use and improve the overall sustainability of their products and processes, the number of planet-friendly standards and regulations also is increasing at a rapid clip, creating a sometimes-confusing array of options for “going green.” National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers have prototyped a framework to help organizations of all types sort through the welter of choices and evaluate and implement sustainability standards most appropriate for their operations and interests.

The NIST team will unveil their framework for analyzing sustainability standards on May 4 at the 18th CIRP International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering in Braunschweig, Germany.*

Many incentives—some are carrots, others are sticks—motivate businesses to improve their sustainability performance. These range from bottom-line concerns, like cutting costs and reducing scrap, to compliance with regulatory and customer requirements to good corporate citizenship. Whatever the drivers, businesses are boosting their sustainability efforts. In a recent international survey of more than 3,000 business executives and managers, nearly 70 percent said their organizations would increase their investments in sustainability this year.

As they plan and implement their efforts, businesses often implement sustainability standards as best practices. But which ones should they adopt?

“Despite their noble intentions, the ever-growing number of voluntary and regulatory standards related to sustainability makes it difficult to select standards well suited for a particular product line,” explains NIST computer scientist Rachuri Sudarsan, lead author of the paper. “Small and medium-size enterprises, in particular, face challenges in identifying the standards that warrant their time and resources.”

They need to understand and determine what to measure, how to measure, how to report the results, and how to verify and validate the reported data, he explains.

To help answer these questions, the NIST team adapted the so-called Zachman framework, a formal approach developed in the 1980s to define organizational structures and to classify and organize specifications and data accordingly. More recently, the Zachman framework has been used to describe and categorize complex health-care and cyber security standards.

With the NIST-customized framework, stakeholders can view individual sustainability standards from their particular perspective, such as that of a manufacturer, software supplier, regulator or consumer. Complex standards are broken down into six different levels of detail—from the contextual view of a planner down to the actual data to collect and use—and distilled into categories to answer six questions: what, how, when, who, where and why. Results are arrayed in an easy-to-scan, 36-cell matrix.

NIST is piloting testing the framework on its new Sustainability Standards Portal, or SSP ( Also a work in progress, the SSP presents and distills information on a wide range of voluntary and regulatory sustainability standards. For many of these standards, stakeholder requirements have been identified and described. The portal contains an example of the results of an analysis of a regulatory standard (the European Union’s Restriction on the Use of Hazardous Substances Directive) using the NIST-customized version of the Zachman framework.

*S. Rachuri, P. Sarkar, A, Narayanan, J-H Hyun Lee and P. Witherell. Towards a methodology for analyzing sustainability standards using the Zachman framework. 18th CIRP International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering. Braunschweig, May 2-4, 2011. Available at

Free Energy Code Training for Illinois

The International Code Council, through a grant from DCEO’s Illinois Energy Office, is providing free training on the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code® for those living or doing business in Illinois.

Participants receive, at no charge, critical information on code requirements, methods to achieve compliance, and energy performance enhancing alternatives.

If you reside or do business in the ComEd or Ameren Illinois Utilities territories, click here to register.

If you do NOT live or do business in any of the Energy Efficiency Program Sponsors (EEPS) Eligible Communities, click here to register.

Walmart, HP, J&J Share Green Chemistry Supply Chain Strategy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The growing demand for safer products — whether from customers, manufacturers or governments — has led to more pressure on suppliers to reveal details about the chemicals they provide and to bring cleaner goods to market.

With the likes of Nike, Johnson and Johnson, HP, Method and Herman Miller demanding more of their suppliers, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council put together a guide explaining why companies want more information and how it can benefit the entire supply chain.

The guide, “Meeting Customers’ Needs for Chemical Data,” is peppered with input from major companies about how they interact with chemical suppliers, with methods varying by what kind of business they are and what industry they’re in.