Day: November 7, 2013

Rainwater harvesting: dismissed by Texas voters but embraced by business

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Texas approved funding for a $50bn water plan, but left out a tool that has been growing in popularity among corporations.

Is ‘natural capital’ the next generation of corporate social responsibility?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Accounting for environmental impact by placing monetary value on the natural world could allow corporations to manage resources sustainably.

Sprint wins on e-waste: why do AT&T and Verizon fall short?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Mobile phone sales – which totaled $24.6bn in 2012, according to eMarketer – are a key part of wireless carriers’ business models. And as those carriers push more and more frequent upgrades, many of the old phones are piling up in the trash.

All the major carriers say they are working hard to get consumers to bring mobile devices back into stores for reuse or recycling. But the hard numbers – overall – remain low. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 11% of smartphones and tablets are being recycled. Electronic waste has become a major environmental issue, with mercury and other heavy metals from devices crowding landfills across the US.

When it comes to e-waste, though, not all US carriers are equal. I asked the top US carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – how many phones they recycled in 2012 so I could compare those figures with the number of phones sold in the same year.

Enhancing microalgae growth to boost green energy production

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

A groundbreaking nanoparticle system which stimulates the growth of microalgae – a valuable resource used in the production of biofuels and medical compounds – has been developed by a team of Australian scientists, including Flinders University clean technology expert Professor Colin Raston.

The technique, developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Western Australia, creates an optical nanofilter which enhances the formation and yield of algae photopigments, namely chlorophyll, by altering the wavelengths of light absorbed by the algae…

The research – undertaken in collaboration with Dr Ela Eroglu, Dr Paul Eggers and Winthrop Professor Steven Smith from the University of Western Australia – has just been published in the international peer-reviewed journal Green Chemistry.

Federal Facilities Earn Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award for Carbon Pollution Reductions, Energy Savings

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today recognizes two federal facilities with the ENERGY STAR Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Award for their highly-efficient CHP systems, which increase the reliability of their electricity supply while reducing carbon pollution that causes climate change. The awards, which demonstrate how federal agencies are reducing carbon pollution in support of the President’s Climate Action Plan, were announced at the GreenGov Dialogue on Energy Management sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington, D.C.

“Combined heat and power is a highly efficient way to produce energy,” said Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “These federal facilities are leading by example and using this technology to help reduce their carbon emissions and make federal dollars go further.”

CHP, also known as cogeneration, simultaneously produces electricity and useful steam or hot water from a single heat source, using fuels such as natural gas or renewable landfill gas. By recovering and using heat typically wasted by the conventional production of electricity, CHP helps federal facilities achieve goals to reduce carbon pollution and energy use.

Award winners:·

  • Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany, Albany, Ga.
  • National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

The National Archives and Records Administration CHP system achieved an operating efficiency of 72 percent—much higher than the efficiency of conventional production of electricity and thermal energy, which can be less than 50 percent. The MCLB Albany CHP system uses renewable landfill gas to produce energy that supports essential base operations, saving approximately $1.3 million annually in energy costs and reducing carbon pollution equal to that from the generation of electricity used by more than 1,200homes.

CHP is ideally suited for many federal facilities as it provides reliable electricity, heat, and cooling for offices and other facilities, as well as protecting resources (like data servers) that are vulnerable to power outages. A Department of Energy assessment of the potential for CHP at federal facilities indicated that CHP could be used at hundreds of facilities, increase power reliability, reduce transmission congestion, save taxpayers more than $150 million annually, and prevent carbon pollution equal to that from the generation of electricity used by more than 370,000 homes.

Established in 2001, EPA’s CHP Partnership program seeks to reduce the environmental impact of power generation by promoting the cost-effective use of CHP. The partnership works closely with energy users, the CHP industry, state and local governments, and other clean energy stakeholders to facilitate the development of new CHP projects and to promote their environmental and economic benefits.

Changes to fisheries legislation has removed habitat protection for most fish species in Canada, new study says

Federal government changes to Canada’s fisheries legislation “have eviscerated” the ability to protect habitat for most of the country’s fish species, scientists at the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University say in a new study.

The changes were “politically motivated,” unsupported by scientific advice – contrary to government policy – and are inconsistent with ecosystem-based management, fisheries biologists John Post and Jeffrey Hutchings say.

Their comprehensive assessment, in a peer-reviewed paper titled “Gutting Canada’s Fisheries Act: No Fishery, No Fish Habitat Protection,” is published in the November edition of Fisheries, a journal of the 10,000-member American Fisheries Society.

“The biggest change is that habitat protection has been removed for all species other than those that have direct economic or cultural interests, through recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries,” says Post, professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary.

Before, “there used to be a blanket habitat protection for all fish species,” he says. “Now there’s a projection just for species of economic importance which, from an ecological standpoint, makes no sense.”

Studies cited by Post and Hutchings show that not protecting habitat is the “single greatest factor” for the decline and loss of commercial and non-commercial species on land and in water.

Yet the changes to the Fisheries Act removed the “mandated legal protection” of habitat even for fish species that are in decline, Post says.

About three-quarters of approximately 80 freshwater fish species in Canada listed as being at risk, threatened or endangered “are not going to receive the protection that they did in the past,” Post says.

Hutchings is a former chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada while Post is a current member. Both scientists’ research is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

One reason the federal government gave for making the changes last year was to streamline environmental reviews and make the regulatory process more efficient for development projects.

But Post and Hutchings’ paper cites peer-reviewed scientific studies which found that between 2006 and 2011, only one project proposal among thousands was denied by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Only 1.6 per cent of 1,238 convictions under the previous Fisheries Act between 2007 and 2011 pertained to the destruction of fish habitat.

Also, environmental review times for projects under the previous Fisheries Act were found to be already in line with new review times mandated by the federal government last year.

There were some improvements made to the Fisheries Act, Post and Hutchings say. This included recognizing recreational and Aboriginal fisheries as being important, provision for policy on invasive species, and increased fines for contravening the legislation.

But at the same time, the federal government has closed many regional Fisheries and Oceans offices – including one in Calgary – and eliminated about 30 per cent of fisheries personnel who manage habitat issues, “so they no longer have the capacity to police infractions,” Post says.

“Politically motivated dismantling of habitat protection provisions in the Fisheries Act erases 40 years of enlightened and responsible legislation and diminishes Canada’s ability to fulfill its national and international obligations to protect, conserve, and sustainably use aquatic biodiversity,” their paper says.

People or Parks: The Human Factor in Protecting Wildlife

Read the full story at Yale Environment360.

Recent studies in Asia and Australia found that community-managed areas can sometimes do better than traditional parks at preserving habitat and biodiversity. When it comes to conservation, maybe local people are not the problem, but the solution.

Can Fair Trade Chocolate Curb the Looming Cocoa Shortage?

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

The news seems dire: In seven years the world may be out of chocolate.

For most North Americans, doomsayers couldn’t paint a worse picture: first wine, and now chocolate may be out of reach by the average worker within a few years’ time. The cost for a simple chocolate bar is projected to become too expensive for the average person to afford in the near future.

Cocoa yields have been dropping across the world for years. In Ghana, crop harvests are down 5 percent from 2012, and more than 17 percent from 2011. In August, crop harvests in the Ivory Coast, which account for at least 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, were expected to drop during the fall harvest as well (cocoa is harvested twice a year in some areas).

Some experts are blaming the decreased production on pest infestation and not enough spraying of pesticides to ward off insects. Others have attributed it to increasing temperatures due to climate change that indirectly affect the delicate ecological balance that’s needed for cacao plantations. Cacao only grows in areas close to the equator in optimum conditions.

Yet other sources suggest that it is the age of the trees that is hampering the production. Some farmers in Ghana have been calling on the government to assist with replacing trees now, and to increase the spraying of older trees which are less able to sustain pest infestations. Cacao trees are slow growing and can take up to four years to produce their first harvest, so farmers must be able to rely upon old stocks (some of which are 60 years or older) while new trees are growing.

But what is the real problem at the heart of this cacao crisis? How could a plant that has been providing humans with confection for hundreds of years suddenly be suffering from not enough spraying, too much or too little sun, too old or too young trees? And which is the real culprit?

Obama Issues New Executive Order on Climate Change

Read the full story at Triple Pundit.

The timing is significant. Just a few days after the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, President Obama issued an Executive Order designed to encourage Americans to incorporate climate change awareness into their activities and plans.

Right-To-Know Network’s TRI and hazardous waste databases

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use way to locate Toxics Release Inventory and hazardous waste data in one place, I recommend the Right-To-Know Network’s databases. They provide free public access to environmental information from several databases managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With the information available on RTK Net, you can identify specific factories and their environmental effects, and assess how people and communities may be affected. Through RTK Net, you can access databases dealing with:

  • Toxic pollution (TRI)
  • Generation and transport of hazardous wastes (BRS)
  • Handlers of hazardous wastes (RCRIS)
  • Spills of hazardous materials (ERNS)
  • Plans for dealing with emergencies (RMP).

The most useful feature is the ability to display summary data by state. If you’re a fan of ranked lists, you will find the state summary displays particularly useful.

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