Day: November 12, 2013

Power Chords Pump Up Solar Cell Efficiency

Read the full story at Discovery.

Researchers from Queen Mary University and Imperial College in London built a solar cell that generates current from both the sun and sound waves.

GSA Seeks Green Building Technologies to Test

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

The US government is seeking green building technologies that have the potential to improve economic and environmental performance in federal buildings.

The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Green Proving Ground program uses the GSA’s own real estate portfolio as a test bed to evaluate the viability of emerging technologies and practices to save energy and water, and reduce operational costs.

The GSA’s request for information online asks industry, commercial organizations, educational institutions and nonprofits to submit information on building technologies to test as part of the Green Proving Ground’s 2014 program. It’s seeking information on building technologies that can be donated or provided via testing agreements. Submissions will be accepted until Dec. 9 at 5pm EST.

Rural and Small Systems Guidebook to Sustainable Utility Management

The Guidebook is designed to introduce rural and small water and wastewater systems to the key areas of effectively managed systems. It provides background information on ten key management areas, as well as instruction and assistance on how to conduct a system assessment process based on the key management areas. It also includes information on how to prioritize areas for improvement, while developing measures of progress that can help small systems with performance improvement.

USGS: Energy & Minerals

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2013.

USGS: Energy & Minerals

The Energy and Minerals Mission Area of the United States Geological Survey
(USGS) “conducts research and assessments on the location, quantity, and
quality of material and energy resources, including the economic and
environmental effects of resource extraction and use.” Visitors to the site
can click on thematic sections such as Energy Resources and Mineral
Resources. Each of these areas contains information about each program,
along with fact sheets, databases, and detailed geospatial maps. The
Program News area contains links to documents such as “Understanding the
Global Distribution of Nonfuel Mineral Resources” and a host of summary
documents on mineral commodities. Finally, the site is rounded out by the
Mineral Resources Products area. Here, visitors can look into hundreds of
statistical reports, bulletins, and data sets intended for scientists,
journalists, and members of the general public. [KMG]


Denialism: the shifting relationship between science and industry

Read the full story from The Guardian.

Science’s influence on the business world has been diminished due to its role in highlighting the dangers of climate change.

USDA funds research to convert beetle-killed trees to bioenergy

Read the full story in Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The USDA has announced it has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. The award, provided under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, is part of USDA’s effort to develop modern solutions for climate challenges in agriculture and natural resource management. AFRI is provided under the Farm Bill, and Secretary Vilsack highlighted the need for passage of a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to continue groundbreaking agricultural research across the nation.

Australian officials outlaw Katy Perry’s seed-embedded ‘Prism’ packaging

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

It looks like Australians eager to get their hands on an imported version of “Prism” — the latest chart-topping confection from American pop princess Katy Perry — and promptly bury the godforsaken thing under a thick layer of dirt in their backyards, will have to wait as the CD (remember those?) has been quarantined by government officials.

Like numerous consumer products (sneakers, pencils, coinage,comic booksfuneral invites, etc.), the paper packaging included with the deluxe version of “Prism” is embedded with wildflower seeds — or “seed prisms” — that allows fans, in Perry’s words “to spread the light” by planting it in the earth instead of chucking it in the trash. It’s a cutesy, clever, and not entirely uncommon concept but also one that presents a huge problem Down Under. The seedpaper itself has been deemed as a full-on “bio-security concern” by officials given that it could potentially wreak havoc on Australia’s delicate ecosystems which are extremely sensitive to the introduction of invasive species.

Recycling 101 infographic

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and the Ad Council want to encourage the entire country to recycle more. Learn the facts on what materials can be recycled and what they can become in their new lives.

Recycling 101

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

GAO report on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Further Actions Would Result in More Useful Assessments and Help Address Factors That Limit Progress. GAO-13-797, September 27.
Highlights –

What GAO Found

The Task Force agencies use the Action Plan to implement the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and use an interagency process to enter into agreements among themselves to identify GLRI projects and with other stakeholders to implement GLRI projects. The Action Plan includes guidance for implementing the GLRI in five focus areas (such as invasive species and habitat and wildlife protection and restoration) that encompass the most significant environmental problems in the Great Lakes. Each focus area includes, among other things, long-term goals, objectives to be achieved by fiscal year 2014, and 28 measures of progress that have annual targets for fiscal years 2010 to 2014.

EPA uses the Action Plan’s measures to assess GLRI progress. However, its methods may not produce comprehensive and useful assessments of GLRI progress for several reasons. Among them, some of the goals and objectives do not link to any measures and, as a result, it is unclear how EPA will be able to assess progress toward them. In addition, some measures track actions that may not lead to the desired GLRI goal. For example, one measure tracks the reduction in concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in fish as part of the goal to lift all restrictions on consumption of Great Lakes fish. However, stakeholders reported that the measure is too narrow and that mercury and other contaminants need to be addressed as well. Consequently, reducing PCB concentrations in fish is not likely to lead to the desired result of lifting all Great Lakes fish consumption restrictions. Without useful measures, EPA may not be able to determine that GLRI efforts are producing the desired results.

In spring 2013, the Task Force agencies issued two reports about GLRI progress in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, which state whether the targets for the Action Plan’s 28 measures were being met (e.g., 15 of 28 measures met or exceeded in fiscal year 2011), but the reports include few specific examples of progress. As a result, GAO sought further insights into such progress by surveying nonfederal GLRI stakeholders. Overall, 87 percent of respondents cited at least one example of how one or more of their projects had, or was expected to, benefit the Great Lakes ecosystem. GAO and others have reported that quantifying overall Great Lakes restoration progress is difficult, that the environmental conditions of each lake are unique, and, according to a 2006 U.N. report, it is often impossible to attribute specific environmental changes to specific projects or programs.

In response to GAO’s survey, among the factors respondents most often cited as potentially limiting GLRI progress are several outside the scope of the Action Plan, such as inadequate infrastructure for wastewater or stormwater and the effects of climate change. These factors could negatively affect GLRI restoration efforts. For example, as a result of climate change, warming water temperatures can lead to increased numbers of aquatic invasive species and a decline in native ones, a GLRI focus area. The Action Plan touches on these factors but does not state how they will be addressed. In 2012, EPA took steps to incorporate climate change considerations into a small number of GLRI projects but has yet to decide if the GLRI will consider climate change impacts on all GLRI projects. Without addressing these factors in the next Action Plan, EPA will not be able to more fully account for their impacts on GLRI restoration efforts.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Great Lakes contain about 84 percent of North America’s surface freshwater and provide economic and recreational benefits in the Great Lakes Basin. However, the Great Lakes face significant stresses–such as toxic pollution–that have caused ecological and economic damage to the region.

Approximately $1.3 billion has been appropriated to the GLRI, created in fiscal year 2010, which an interagency Task Force of 11 federal agencies, chaired by the EPA Administrator, oversees. In 2010, the Task Force issued an Action Plan for fiscal years 2010 to 2014 to develop a comprehensive approach to restoring the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. GAO was asked to review the GLRI. This report examines (1) how the GLRI is implemented by the Task Force agencies and other stakeholders, (2) the methods that EPA has in place to assess GLRI progress, (3) the progress identified by the Task Force agencies and nonfederal stakeholders, and (4) the views of nonfederal stakeholders on factors, if any, that may affect or limit GLRI progress. GAO analyzed the Action Plan, surveyed 205 non-federal recipients of GLRI funding, and interviewed Task Force agency officials and nonfederal stakeholders.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA help ensure more comprehensive and useful GLRI progress assessments and account for factors outside of the Action Plan’s scope that may affect the GLRI’s long-term success. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

Turning Can Collectors Into Designers, One Melted Beer Can At A Time

Read the full story at FastCoDesign.

As a supplement to recycling, Studio Swine has created a mobile foundry that makes art of aluminum cans.

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