Saving Global Food Sources: ISAT Experiments with Biochar as Method of Sustainable Farming

Read the full story from James Madison University.

In the Integrated Science and Technology department at James Madison University, one professor and a handful of students are attempting to unlock a 3,000-year-old secret of the Amazonian Indians. For hundreds of years, the knowledge of “biochar,” a soil enhancer made from all-natural ingredients, was lost, but researchers had long wondered why dark-colored Amazonian soils known as “terra preta” were the most fertile in the region. Within the last 25 years, interest in these indigenous people grew, leading to the rediscovery of bio-char. The challenge now lies in the hands of scientists, who are attempting to find workable methods of production and use. As the world’s population continues to grow at an exponential rate, the task becomes pressing, for farms cannot continue to produce enough food for all without seriously depleting soil quality. Eventually, these soils will succumb to ruination – leaving behind a very large, very hungry population.

Trends in Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity

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U.S. renewable energy consumption grew by 6 percent, from 7.600 quadrillion Btu in 2009 to 8.090 quadrillion Btu in 2010. The relative share of renewable energy to total energy consumption has grown to 8 percent in 2010.

Of the major renewable fuel categories, biomass accounted for over half (53 percent) of total renewable energy consumption in 2010, while hydroelectric power accounted for nearly a third (31 percent). Wind was the source of 11 percent of total renewable energy consumption, and solar and geothermal combined contributed 5 percent.

Higher education sustainability news roundup

BHSU students use art to send sustainability message
Americans annually use and dispose of 100 billion plastic shopping bags; however, only 1-2 percent of these shopping bags are recycled. Some of these plastic bags are now hanging from the ceiling of Black Hills State University’s David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union attached to photographs of the plastic bags in nature and facts on the effect these bags have on the environment. The creatively displayed environmental messages are the work of art students in Ann Porter’s three-dimensional design class. The associate professor of art decided on the assignment after reading some statistics on the widely used plastic shopping bags.

Campus Kitchen: UVA students recycle the food
Third-year Mike Rusie spent a recent Friday morning volunteering at the Local Food Hub. In exchange, he received sweet potatoes, carrots, and spaghetti squash– “donation-grade produce”– for UVA’s Campus Kitchen Project, food that will end up on the table at Salvation Army.

Design for America: BurgFinder project
The Design for America chapter at Virginia Tech has started a project called “The BurgFinder,” where it is working to make alternative forms of transportation easier for students to access and understand. The group is trying to accomplish this by designing signs for Blacksburg presenting information regarding biking and walking in a simple and informative format that hopes to promote alternative transportation.

K-State making plans to turn used vegetable oil into biodiesel
K-State leaders are looking to take the next big step in creating an environmentally conscious campus by installing a sustainability initiative to refine used vegetable oil from campus dining centers into biodiesel fuel.

EE Week 2013 – Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors

Join us for Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors. EE Week 2013 (April 14-20) will explore how technology can enhance environmental learning both inside and outside the classroom.

As part of Taking Technology Outdoors, EE Week will highlight the growing opportunity to engage today’s students in learning about the environment with new technologies that enable scientific research and develop 21st century skills, including creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.

Educators who register for EE Week 2013 will be able to take advantage of:

  • Free educator webinars and toolkits offering tips, resources and ideas for using the latest technology to excite students about learning in their community
  • Case studies, success stories and examples of technology in action and the teachers who are using it to enhance environmental learning and achievement in core subject areas
  • Discounts, giveaways and special offers from our partners, including: a 10 percent discount from Nature-Watch on any online order, a $10 coupon on purchases of $50 or more from the Acorn Naturalists online store, and a 25 percent discount on the Sustainability Specialist Certificate in K-12 Sustainability Education Strategies from the Green Education FoundationRegister for details.

Shareable’s Top 5 Alternatives to Holiday Shopping

Read the full post at Shareable.

The holidays don’t have to be about shopping. Let that simmer for a minute. It’s possible to coast through the season, spreading cheer and goodwill, expressing gratitude, celebrating abundance, connecting with loved ones near and far, and not get sucked up in the machine of over-consumption. Chances are, you have more stuff than you need, or a skill you can offer as a gift. Or maybe you’d rather make a donation or treat someone to an event. These gifts tend to be far more meaningful and valuable than the random gift-picking that takes place as holiday deadlines approach. Here are five shareable ways to celebrate the season while strengthening community, reusing goods and staying out of the mall.

12 Ways to Adopt the Sharing Economy This Holiday!

Read the full story at Shareable.

The sharing economy has spawned hundreds of websites all offering new methods for trading, bartering, renting, teaching, learning, riding, biking — you name it. With Facebook and Twitter you get a headstart on who you’re dealing with beforehand, making it more fun (and less awkward). Many of these sites are benefitting local communities, local commerce and all the while decreasing resource consumption.

This holiday season try out some alternatives to the usual. I guarantee you’ll learn, think and laugh your way into 2013 with a little bit of extra cash in your pocket. Some of these also make great alternatives to traditional gift ideas!

Spoofing Peer Review: Sock Puppets Publish or Perish

Read the full story at Pacific Standard.

Academic research is the lifeblood of Pacific Standard, and without getting too high and mighty, its rigor is really important to us. So imagine the distress we feel seeing that the system for handling the peer-review process at Elsevier, one of the globe’s major academic publishers – they call themselves “the world’s leading provider of science and health information”—has had fake reviews inserted.