Day: October 11, 2011

Pharmaceutical compounds contaminate the Great Lakes

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Tracking pollution in the Great Lakes takes more than monitoring goo spilling out of factories or oil gushing from a pipeline.

The International Joint Commission recently highlighted a subtler source of contamination lurking in medicine cabinets throughout the region. Pain medicine, birth control, anti-depressants and other pharmaceuticals make their way into the Great Lakes through municipal water systems and stormwater runoff. That threatens human health, harms wildlife and contaminates drinking water, according to the report.

Scientists puzzled by rising mercury contamination in some Great Lakes wildlife

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Giant leaping fish, millions of mussels and a changing climate often push old school threats to the Great Lakes off front pages and minds.

But after decades of decline, mercury levels are increasing in some Great Lakes fish and birds, according to a recent study.

And health problems are occurring at lower concentrations than expected.

New EU Proposals on E-waste to Help Consumers Recycle

Read the full story in PC World.

All but the smallest electronics retailers in Europe could soon be required to take back unwanted electronics under new measures aimed at reducing e-waste.

The European Parliament’s environment committee voted Tuesday for the proposals that include requiring retailers, including those online, to accept old laptops, computers, phones and other electronic devices, whether the customer has made a new purchase or not.

Call2Recycle Hosts Webinar Series Highlighting Municipalities’ Recycling Efforts

The three-part webinar series, “Municipality Recycling: Lessons from the Experts,” serves as a forum for community leaders to hear insights and gain valuable information about recycling efforts unique to municipalities across the country. Hosted by Call2Recycle®, the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America, the webinar series will begin November 2, 2011 and run through mid-December.

“Lessons from the Experts” brings together recycling managers, coordinators, household hazardous waste supervisors and other experts from across the United States to discuss issues that are critical to extended producer responsibility (EPR) and recycling programs within municipalities large and small. As one of the first and most successful product stewardship programs in North America, Call2Recycle believes that the responsibility for end-of-life product management should be shared and not fall only on the manufacturer, but also on local governments and municipalities, as well as retailers, consumers and recyclers.

“While recycling batteries is just one way communities and businesses can make a difference,” says Linda Gabor, Vice President of Marketing and Account Management for Call2Recycle, “this webinar series provides an opportunity for sustainability leaders to discuss comprehensive recycling efforts in their own communities and hear what’s working for other municipalities too.”

This complimentary webinar series will spotlight community recycling programs in New York, Washington and Texas. In addition to highlighting their rechargeable battery recycling efforts, the programs will share lessons learned and tips for coordinating a successful recycling strategy. Social media posts, case studies and webinars will provide a unique opportunity for municipalities to share best practices and lessons learned in an effort to increase visibility and education of product stewardship programs.

There is a lot of pressure on municipalities to provide recycling programs and education throughout their communities, but with resources stretched and budgets limited, these programs can sometimes “end up in the trash.” The goal of this series is to educate and inform current participants, as well as the industry-at-large, while opening up a dialogue that will encourage the growth of responsible recycling programs throughout the United States.

For more information on this series or to learn more about battery recycling, visit call2recycle.or/webseries.

Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property

Michael W. I. Schmidt, Margaret S. Torn, Samuel Abiven, Thorsten Dittmar,  Georg Guggenberger, Ivan A. Janssens,  Markus Kleber, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, Johannes Lehmann, David A. C. Manning, Paolo Nannipieri,
Daniel P. Rasse, Steve Weiner & Susan E. Trumbore. “Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property.” Nature 478, 49–56 (06 October 2011). doi:10.1038/nature10386. Published online 05 October 2011.

Abstract: Globally, soil organic matter (SOM) contains more than three times as much carbon as either the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. Yet it remains largely unknown why some SOM persists for millennia whereas other SOM decomposes readily—and this limits our ability to predict how soils will respond to climate change. Recent analytical and experimental advances have demonstrated that molecular structure alone does not control SOM stability: in fact, environmental and biological controls predominate. Here we propose ways to include this understanding in a new generation of experiments and soil carbon models, thereby improving predictions of the SOM response to global warming.

The Big Biochar Experiment

Read the full post at Carbon Commentary.

Heat wood or agricultural wastes strongly in the absence of air and you will eventually get charcoal through the process known as pyrolysis. Charcoal is almost pure carbon. When ground up and then added to the soil as a means of improving fertility or reducing water use, it is known as ‘biochar’. An Oxford company, staffed with academic researchers who work in related fields, is sponsoring a country-wide experiment to see if biochar can help domestic gardeners improve their crops.

Biochar & Yeast Nutrition

Read the full post at Notes from the Winemaker.

I love Twitter. For example, biochar would not be on my radar today if I was not following @RandallGrahm on the platform. I remember reading an article on terra preta some time ago (might have been this article in National Geographic) but it is Randall’s sustained expression of enthusiasm for biochar as a vineyard amendment that has me thinking of it more specifically.

The Biochar Economy

Read the full post at Geo-engineering. Includes a pretty nifty infographic.

The idea behind the “Biochar Economy” is to try to embed biochar production into as many processes as possible, as pictured on above image, from open source ecology.

Big money for the big thinkers

Read the full story in the San Jose Mercury News. One of their projects focuses on using biochar for carbon sequestration.

When they’re not curing diseases, reversing global warming or unlocking the secrets of the cosmos, they’re piloting their own planes, writing symphonies and studying Chinese for fun.

Meet the Hertz fellows, winners of $250,000 fellowships that are given to some of the world’s great thinkers.

The brain power generated by these innovators — a group of about 1,100 Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, entrepreneurs, military leaders and others — could fuel an intergalactic mission (a project some of them may very well be working on at the moment).

Plant a Tree, Boost Your Property Value

Read the full post at Good.

Living on a street lined with tall, leafy trees is as much a part of the American dream as a  green front lawn and a brand-new car in the driveway. While the latter two are fairly expensive and unsustainable (think pesticides and carbon emissions), it turns out that trees reward property owners with more than just shade.

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