New minors at the University of Notre Dame address global challenges

Read the full story from Notre Dame.

Two interdisciplinary minors, in Sustainability and in Energy Studies, will be offered to all undergraduate students beginning in the fall of 2011. “The only way that we can confront some of the most difficult challenges facing humanity today is with an interdisciplinary perspective,” said Jessica Hellmann, Associate Professor of Biology and chair of the committee that developed the Sustainability Minor. “One of the really compelling things about the Sustainability Minor is that its gateway course will be taught by several faculty from different fields who will debate and share complex ideas with students in the classroom.”

AASHE Earth Day Special Report

Read the full post at AASHE.

In a video recently released by Second Nature, Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow recalls a conversation with a New York Times reporter who said: “Who cares whether or not the colleges and universities reduce their carbon footprint? You only got 2 or 3 percent of the carbon footprint in the country.”

“Well, yeah, that’s true,” Crow answered the reporter. “But we have 100 percent of the student footprint.”

The impact that students can have on the environment is one of the founding reasons behind Earth Day. That, and a faith in students to influence change. Inspired by the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” happening on college campuses all across the nation in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to the environment. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 was targeted to higher education campuses in an effort to raise awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.

Earth Day has since expanded to a global event coordinated by the Earth Day Network and Earth “Day” is often celebrated on campuses with weeks of panel discussions, volunteer opportunities, film screenings and other events that envision a sustainable future. New York University, for example, organized too many events to fit into one week and is now hosting a supersized Earth Week from April 11 – 26.

While higher education students, faculty and staff make significant strides in the campus sustainability movement year-round, Earth Day is a chance to step back and celebrate these achievements, to be inspired by sustainability leaders and success stories, and to recognize the work still ahead. Here is a snapshot of some of the campus sustainability efforts initiated in honor of Earth Day, Week, Month and Year.

Robot Finds Recyclable Material Among Construction Waste

Read the full story at EcoGeek.

Currently, about 100 percent of construction waste ends up in landfills, although much of it could be recycled or reused.  A Finnish robotics company called ZenRobotics wants to change that.  It has created a robot to sort through construction waste and find recyclable material and deposit it in appropriate bins.

Unconventional “Hydraulic Hydro Storage” System Offers Energy Storage for the Grid on a Grand Scale

Read the full story from the Worldwatch Institute.

One of the main barriers to the diffusion of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power is their inherent variability. If excess energy produced could be stored cheaply and used during times of lower production, this issue could be largely mitigated. Several technologies are under development as possible options for storing energy from the grid, including batteries that store energy in chemicals, mechanical flywheels that store energy as rotational energy, and hydroelectric dams that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy by retaining and channeling rivers.

LED bulbs move in and mix up home lighting

Read the full story at CNET.

In the space of a few years, I’ve gone from one lighting technology to another and now to three lighting types in my home. I suspect others will be in the same shoes as lighting options expand, notably those involving LEDs.

Eager to cut down my electrical load, I essentially converted to compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) years ago. Recently, though, I’ve replaced CFLs with efficient LED bulbs and even energy-hogging incandescents to address an unfortunate feature of CLFs: turning them on and off frequently degrades their life.

Solar Panels Rise Pole by Pole, Followed by Gasps of ‘Eyesore’

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Installations have been popping up across New Jersey for about a year, but some residents worry aloud about the effect on property values.

DOE Webinar May 17: Sustainability for the Global Biofuels Industry – Minimizing Risks and Maximizing Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Biomass Program is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 17, 2011, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EDT, entitled “Sustainability for the Global Biofuels Industry: Minimizing Risks and Maximizing Opportunities.” This Web conference is the next installment in the Biomass Program’s webinar series, which will cover many of the Program’s activities and feature discussions on “Hot Topics” relevant to the development of renewable fuels, power, and products from biomass resources.

This webinar will feature an overview of sustainability issues related to the development of a global biofuels market. A panel of speakers from Conservation International will be discussing results of the DOE-supported Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project, including identified risks and opportunities for global biofuels production, results of field studies to develop responsible biofuel crop management strategies, and implications for land-use planning, policy and developing markets.

DOE’s Biomass Program welcomes interested stakeholders from industry, academia, research institutions, government, non-profits, other organizations, and the general public. Presenters include:

DOE Biomass Program

  • Alison Goss Eng, Sustainability Lead
  • Ranyee Chiang, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

Conservation International

  • Christine Dragisic, Director, Agriculture, Biofuel, & Forestry
  • Lucio Bede, Atlantic Forest Program Manager, Conservation International Brazil
  • Jenny Hewson, Technical Advisor for Land Use Monitoring and REDD Analyses
  • Tim Killeen, Senior Research Scientist
  • Manuel Oliva, Director, U.S. Climate Policy
  • Conrad Savy, Senior Science Advisor, Business & Government Engagement

Registration: This webinar is free to all participants, but space is limited, so be sure to register in advance to secure your spot. You will receive the URL, password, and phone number via email prior to the webinar. You will need this information in order to connect.

The three-year Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project was launched by Conservation International in early 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The overall goal of the project was to support the development of a sustainable global biofuels industry by ensuring that biofuel crop production does not threaten biodiversity. The project included three major work programs that: analyzed the potential overlap of biofuel crops with areas of high importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services provision; worked with partners in Indonesia and Brazil to implement field studies to develop techniques for siting and managing biofuel crops responsibly; and informed the development of policy and standards for sustainable biofuel crop production. The Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project was implemented by teams working in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Suriname.

Download the executive summary and major results of the Sustainable Biofuel Crops Project .

Biomass is a clean, renewable energy source that can help to significantly diversify transportation fuels in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Biomass Program is helping transform the nation’s renewable and abundant non-food biomass resources into cost-competitive, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. To learn more, visit the Biomass Program website.

2011 Green Book Festival — Final Deadline

The 2011 Green Book Festival’s final deadline for entries to its annual competition honoring books that contribute to greater understanding, respect and positive action on the changing worldwide environment arrives on May 7.

All entries must be received by the deadline date. The 2011 Green Book Festival will consider published, self-published and independent publisher works in the following categories: non-fiction, fiction, children’s books, teenage, how-to, audio/spoken word, comics/graphic novels, poetry, science fiction/horror, biography/autobiography, gardening, cookbooks, animals, photography/art, e-books, wild card (anything goes!), scientific, white paper, legal, business, mystery and spiritual.

Entries can be in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese or Italian. Our grand prize for the 2011 Green Book Festival is $1500 and transportation to our May 21 awards in San Francisco OR an equivalent amount donated in your name to the environmental charity of your choice.

A panel of judges will determine the winners based on the following

  1. The overall writing style and presentation of the work;
  2. The potential of the work to enhance understanding of the environment and its issues.

TO ENTER: Entry forms are available online at or may be sent to you by emailing or calling 323-665-8080.

The Green Book Festival is produced by JM Northern Media LLC, producers of the Hollywood Book Festival, New York Book Festival and DIY Convention: Do It Yourself in Film, Music & Books.

EPA Proposes Stronger Air Toxics Emissions Standards for Secondary Lead Smelters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing stronger air toxics standards for secondary lead smelters, improving air quality and protecting people’s health in communities where the smelters are located. The proposed standards would cut lead and arsenic emissions and would, for the first time, require these facilities to control emissions of dioxins. Exposure to toxic air pollutants can cause cancer and other serious health issues. Even at low levels, exposure to lead can impair a child’s IQ, learning capabilities and memory.

Secondary lead smelters use furnaces to remove and recycle lead from scrap material, mostly from automobile batteries, keeping a significant amount of lead from polluting our environment. These facilities have already made significant emissions reductions due to the current standards that were issued in 1997 as well as other state and industry actions. The new proposal would result in an additional 63 percent reduction in lead and arsenic emissions. These reductions will also help areas meet the new, more protective air quality standards for lead the agency issued in 2008.

EPA’s proposal would give these facilities the option to choose the most practical and cost-effective emissions control technology or techniques to reduce their emissions, which are readily available and already being used by many of the facilities.

There are currently fewer than 20 secondary smelters located throughout the United States and its territories that would be covered by this proposal. Some of these facilities have taken additional steps beyond what is required by the existing standard to further control and significantly reduce their emissions.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to perform two types of reviews after air toxics standards have been issued. The first determines if additional reductions from regulated facilities are needed to protect public health and the environment and the second determines if any new, cost-effective emissions control approaches, practices or processes have been developed since the standards were issued. Both reviews showed that updates to the standards for secondary lead smelters needed to be made.

Lead emitted into the air can be inhaled or can be ingested after it settles in the environment. Ingestion is the main route of human exposure. Children are the most susceptible to lead poisoning because they are more likely to ingest lead, and their bodies are developing rapidly. There is no known safe level of lead in the human body.

EPA will accept comment on this proposal for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency is under court order to issue a final rule for these sources in December 2011.

More information:

Landfill-Bound Lobster Shells Find Home in Recycled Products

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

Ever wonder what happens to all those lobster shells after seafood processors de-shell them before packaging?  Millions of lobster shells end up in the landfill each year, while only a small portion become seafood garden compost or lobster meal, an additive in animal feed.  A few innovative academics and businesspeople took on this waste stream challenge and figured out how to create a sundry of value-added products.

Chemical and biological engineering professor David Neivandt at the University of Maine is currently making prototypes for a biodegradable golf ball comprised of ground up lobster shells.  It is estimated that 300 million golf balls are thrown away or lost in the United States annually and that golf balls take 100 to 1,000 years to decompose naturally, meaning this biodegradable golf ball could tackle two big waste streams at once.