Day: May 3, 2012

Environmental Evidence publishes its first articles

Yesterday marked the launch of Environmental Evidence, the official journal of the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE), led by Editor-in-Chief Andrew Pullin.

Environmental Evidence will provide a visible and accessible platform for formal systematic review and evidence synthesis on environmental issues. The central purpose of this journal is to encourage scientists to fully engage in the development of evidence-based environmental management by providing a publication outlet for systematic reviews and their associated materials such as protocols and systematic maps. The journal will also welcome methodological papers providing guidance on systematic reviews as well as commentaries and letters to the editor, in order to facilitate debate and discussion.

In his launch editorial, Professor Pullin outlines the function of the journal in seeking to use environmental data to address impacts and improve management effectiveness; it aims to unite what is currently a fragmented literature on environmental sciences. Professor Pullin goes on to discuss the close links between human wellbeing and environmental quality, and the importance of managing the health of the environment in order to ensure that it remains suitable for human habitation.

The first articles to be published in Environmental Evidence highlight the broad application of systematic reviews in environmental sciences, as well as the journal’s aim to provide sound methodologies on which to base these. Pearson et al. present a systematic review protocol surrounding the technologies used to mitigate arsenic groundwater contamination; Bowler et al. use a systematic review to identify the benefits of wooded riparian zones on stream temperature in order to mitigate climate change; Randall and James produce a systematic map covering areas of research related to changes in agricultural practices in Europe.

The ultimate goal of the journal (and the CEE) is to benefit the environmental science community through providing evidence that will lead to more effective environmental management. It is therefore the Editor’s hope that the journal will answer the call for a rigorous methodology of systematic review which can be used to inform decision making and policy.

For further information on Environmental Evidence, please visit the journal website or contact the journal editorial office.

A Critical Look at Hotel Sustainability

Read the full post at HuffPost Green.

The hotel industry is in the midst of a sustainability awakening — and on a level deeper than offering guests the option to reuse bath towels. Industry leaders are beginning to get serious about their energy and environmental footprints. If we’re lucky, this transition could include consumer accessibility to hotel sustainability data that does for the lodging industry what nutrition facts and organic labeling have done for the food industry.

Save the planet marketing ‘won’t change consumer behaviour’

Read the full story at Marketing Magazine (U.K.).

Brands rolling out catch-all “save the planet” initiatives, such as Procter & Gamble’s ‘Future Friendly’ drive, will fall foul of consumer complacency, according to new research.

NCSE Launches New Environmental Internship Clearinghouse Portal

As an extension of the National Council for Science and the Environment’s (NCSE’s) Campus to Careers (C2C) program, NCSE has created an environmental internship clearinghouse with support from the UPS Foundation. The clearinghouse enables university students to search for internships in the environmental field and provides a forum for internship providers to tap into a solid community of quality applicants.

Thanks to the UPS Foundation, all services provided by the Environmental Internship Clearinghouse are 100% free.

Students: Looking for a summer internship? Visit to look through over 100 internships (and counting) already uploaded to the platform. You can apply directly through the clearinghouse portal.

Internship Providers: Need a talented, passionate and energetic intern? You can post internship opportunities today at

10 simple steps (and pedals and rides) cities are taking to move beyond the automobile

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

One of the most difficult hurdles in the quest for urban sustainability is a phenomenon that behavioral economist Dan Ariely calls the “endowment effect.” Stated simply, the endowment effect refers to our innate tendency to massively overvalue the things we have over the things we stand to gain.
In Ariely’s excellent and highly readable behavioral economics primer, “Predictably Irrational,” he describes an experiment he conducted with students at Duke University who camped out for days to enter a lottery to win Blue Devils playoff basketball tickets. When Ariely asked a cross-section of the campers after the lottery what the tickets were worth, the students who won them gave them an average price of $2,400; those who lost the lottery were willing to pay an average of $170 for a ticket. There was literally not a single buyer who could agree with a single seller on an amenable price. In the moment of the lottery win, the tickets became impossibly valuable to the winners and merely a take-it-or-leave-it thing to the losers.
Urban drivers, it seems to me, are a roaring case study in the endowment effect, treating the everyday grind of gridlock and gas-pump price shock and the futile quest for a good parking space like precious commodities essential to urban living. I’m not sure how we completely overcome this sense of impending loss, but I have a hunch it begins by showing, in very tangible form, what cities look like —how valuable they can be — when you plan them around the needs of people instead of their cars. The fantastic documentary, “Moving Beyond the Automobile,” available in 10 bite-sized episodes from the ever-excellent, provides just such a window on (liberated) city living after the car.
Each episode of the Streetfilms doc highlights a different tool in the post-car urban design toolbox, using concrete up-and-running examples from across urban America. The films mostly speak for themselves, but I’ll highlight my three favorite lines from my three favorite episodes to give you a taste.

Laptop research benefits landfills, chickens … and UI students

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

A student-centered research group at the UI has set out to prove that it is possible for the concepts of academic exploration and commercial practicality to peacefully coexist – and that Earth’s environment can benefit from the union.

The work is being done at the School of Art and Design’s Product Innovation Research Laboratory in conjunction with the Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a unit within the Prairie Research Institute. The collaboration is led by a diverse group of faculty members and students and supported through a grant from the Dell Corp.

Tuesday Webcast for Industry: Tax Rebates/Credits Available for Energy Efficiency Actions

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Register at

Savings generated by tax rebate and credit programs can make the difference between a company’s ‘go-no go’ decision on whether or not to implement an energy efficiency project. However, many companies are unaware of the tax rebate and credits available to them at the local, state, and federal level. Presenters will share how to increase company awareness of available programs and how to establish inter-company relationships between energy teams and tax departments. They will also provide best practice examples of how this form of financing has been successfully implemented to achieve improved energy management.

Subway Switches to Recycled Salad Containers

Read the full story at Earth911.

Subway’s motto is “Eat Fresh,” but now you can keep green while you eat greens.

The world’s largest fast food chain, which surpassed McDonald’s in number of total restaurants early last year, has announced that its salad containers will now be made from 95 percent post consumer recycled materials. The plastic mainly comes from recycled soda and water bottles.

From Wood Waste to Diesel Fuel

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

An IREE grant recipient and international partners aim to develop carbon-neutral diesel fuel from Minnesota paper mills.

New study sheds light on debate over organic vs. conventional agriculture

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

Can organic agriculture feed the world?

Although organic techniques may not be able to do the job alone, they do have an important role to play in feeding a growing global population while minimizing environmental damage, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and McGill University.

A new study published in Nature concludes that crop yields from organic farming are generally lower than from conventional agriculture. That is particularly true for cereals, which are staples of the human diet – yet the yield gap is much less significant for certain crops, and under certain growing conditions, according to the researchers.

The study, which represents a comprehensive analysis of the current scientific literature on organic-to-conventional yield comparisons, aims to shed light on the often-heated debate over organic versus conventional farming. Some people point to conventional agriculture as a big environmental threat that undercuts biodiversity and water resources, while releasing greenhouse gases. Others argue that large-scale organic farming would take up more land and make food unaffordable for most of the world’s poor and hungry.

Full citation for the article:Verena Seufert,Navin Ramankutty, & Jonathan A. Foley (2012). “Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture.” Nature Published online 25 April 2012. DOI: 10.1038/nature11069.

Abstract: Numerous reports have emphasized the need for major changes in the global food system: agriculture must meet the twin challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while simultaneously minimizing its global environmental impacts1, 2. Organic farming — a system aimed at producing food with minimal harm to ecosystems, animals or humans — is often proposed as a solution3, 4. However, critics argue that organic agriculture may have lower yields and would therefore need more land to produce the same amount of food as conventional farms, resulting in more widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss, and thus undermining the environmental benefits of organic practices5. Here we use a comprehensive meta-analysis to examine the relative yield performance of organic and conventional farming systems globally. Our analysis of available data shows that, overall, organic yields are typically lower than conventional yields. But these yield differences are highly contextual, depending on system and site characteristics, and range from 5% lower organic yields (rain-fed legumes and perennials on weak-acidic to weak-alkaline soils), 13% lower yields (when best organic practices are used), to 34% lower yields (when the conventional and organic systems are most comparable). Under certain conditions—that is, with good management practices, particular crop types and growing conditions—organic systems can thus nearly match conventional yields, whereas under others it at present cannot. To establish organic agriculture as an important tool in sustainable food production, the factors limiting organic yields need to be more fully understood, alongside assessments of the many social, environmental and economic benefits of organic farming systems.

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