Day: November 18, 2013

A Climate-Change Victory

Read the full story in Slate.

Climate deniers like to point to the so-called global warming “hiatus” as evidence that humans aren’t changing the climate. But according a new study, exactly the opposite is true: The recent slowdown in global temperature increases is partially the result of one of the few successful international crackdowns on greenhouse gases.

Las Vegas resorts whittle away waste

Read the full story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

As resorts fight for customers on the Strip in the flashiest ways imaginable, a different sort of competition quietly unfolds on loading docks at the back of the house.

There, workers sift through bags of trash from the rooms, restaurants and casinos, culling and sorting reusable items from a shrinking stream of landfill waste.

A recycling arms race has broken out among the city’s gaming giants, and the battle for green supremacy continues to grow.

Webinars on Communications for Climate and Clean Energy Programs

On December 4, 11, and 18, 2013, EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program will host a three-part webcast series on communications. This series will provide information on communications strategies and methods that state and local governments can use to ensure the ongoing success of climate and clean energy programs. The structure of the three webcasts will parallel the general phases of program development and implementation: attracting stakeholder support and participation, sustaining change, and gaining momentum from program successes. Participants will learn how to design communications strategies to engage and empower stakeholders, use communications methods to instigate and sustain behavior change and foster individual and community solutions, and effectively communicate their programs’ successes and resulting benefits to diverse audiences.
December 4, 2013, 1:00-2:30 PM (EST)
This webcast will explore how to gain support from partners and attract participation in climate and clean energy programs. It will address the importance of developing a communications plan and using it as a framework throughout the course of the initiative and cover tactics that engage, empower, and transform community-level participation into actionable results. The importance of understanding intended audiences and tailoring strategies to their needs will be emphasized.
December 11, 2013, 1:00-2:30 PM (EST)
This webcast will address how communications tools can be used throughout the implementation of climate and clean energy programs to achieve behavior change and ensure sustained, lasting impacts. Key points that will be discussed include the role of behavior change in the success of a program; the value of communicating program results and successes in sustaining change; and how to assess behavior change.
December 18, 2013, 1:00-2:30 PM (EST)
This webcast will focus on how communities can effectively showcase the benefits and successes of a clean energy initiative to ensure additional funding opportunities, continued engagement, and sustained behavior change.  How to encourage replication of successes will also be addressed.

Professor, students receive grants to research biomass options

Read the full story in The Daily Eastern.

The Center for Clean Energy Research and Education is fueled by wood chips, but could there be a better, more sustainable energy source, such as corn stover, or even switchgrass? This is exactly what Peter Ping Liu and his students will be setting out to find.

Liu, the director of the Renewable Energy Center and current coordinator of the Masters of Science in Renewable Energy graduate program, has been awarded three grants to further his biomass research, which includes plant materials and animal waste used especially as a source of fuel.

New journal call for papers: Journal of Water Process Engineering

The Journal of Water Process Engineering will publish refereed, high-quality research papers with significant novelty and impact in all areas of the engineering of water and wastewater processing. The journal will particularly focus on contributions involving environmentally, economically and socially sustainable technology for water treatment.

The first issue of the Journal of Water Process Engineering, comprising of invited papers, will be published towards the end of March 2014.

We are now inviting submissions for subsequent issues of the journal. For the full Aims & Scope and to submit your papers online, please visit the journal homepage.

Throughout 2014 papers published in JWPE will be made freely available online on ScienceDirect.

The demographics of garbage: What are Minnesotans really throwing away?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is releasing a waste composition report today, which highlights trends of recycling in Minnesota. Some key findings:

  • The amount of plastic thrown away has increased from 11 percent of the waste stream to 18 percent since 2000.
  • Paper in the waste stream has decreased from 34 percent to 25 percent, likely due to decreased printing of newspapers.
  • Twelve thousand tons, or 24 million pounds, of aluminum beverage containers were discarded in Minnesota in 2012—the equivalent of 3.6 million aluminum cans per day.
  • Over 543,000 tons (1 billion pounds) of recyclable paper were discarded in Minnesota in 2012.
  • 21,000 tons (41 million pounds) of PET beverage container plastic were discarded in 2012.
  • Organics (food) accounts for 31 percent of the waste stream, which is a 21 percent increase from the 2000 study.

The study investigated what Minnesotans are throwing into the garbage and how much. The last waste composition study was completed in 2000. Due to their high cost, waste composition studies are not conducted regularly, but they do provide valuable information for the MPCA’s solid waste programs.  Data from this study will be used to target recyclable materials that are being thrown away in large quantities and promote increased efforts at recycling.

The 2013 waste composition study indicates there is less paper and less glass in the waste stream, but more plastic and more food waste. This speaks to the need to find a way to recycle more types of plastics, and to establish more organics collection opportunities to handle the large amount of food waste that is being thrown away.

“The organics information is the most obvious issue we can, and will, address with more organics recycling and composting,” the MPCA’s Peder Sandhei said. “There are many findings to discuss and strategize to improve from this report, but the main point is that we’re discarding valuable resources, and jobs are lost with every garbage truck that’s emptied.”

The study also shows that Minnesotans are discarding a large amount of material that is currently recyclable — material that can be used to create jobs in the local economy. Some of the Minnesota companies that make or produce products out of recycled material are Rock-Tenn in St. Paul; Bedford Technology in Worthington; By The Yard in Jordan; Master Mark in Paynesville; Liberty Paper in Becker; New Page in Duluth; and Gerdeau Ameristeel in South St. Paul.

“This report is a wake-up call. Minnesotans take great pride in environmental stewardship, but these numbers suggest we’re not living up to our reputation,” John Linc Stine, commissioner of the MPCA, said. “The amount of plastic and aluminum we’re still seeing going to the landfill is much more than a lost environmental opportunity: it’s a lost economic opportunity as well. We are literally throwing away valuable resources that fuel jobs and economic activity; we’re burying opportunity in landfills.”

When material is taken out of the waste stream, jobs are created. Recycling benefits the economy by:

  • Creating jobs: approximately 37,000 jobs in Minnesota are directly and indirectly supported by the recycling industry. These jobs pay an estimated $1.96 billion in wages and add nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota’s economy.
  • Generating profit: our recyclable material has tremendous economic value. In 2010, Minnesota recycling programs collected about 2.5 million tons of material worth $690 million.
  • Saving money: it cost Minnesota over $200 million to throw away 1 million tons of recyclable material in 2010. Instead, this waste could easily have been recycled for an additional estimated value of $217 million.

For more information and a copy of the report, go to

State Rainwater Harvesting Statues, Programs and Legislation

Read the full story from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Record droughts and water-supply worries have served as catalysts for state legislatures to consider legislation legalizing the catchment and use of rainwater for use in households and for lawns.

There has been increased interest over the past five years in legislation allowing, defining, and clarifying when rainwater harvesting can occur. Rainwater harvesting is the act of utilizing a collection system to use rainwater for outdoor uses, plumbing, and, in some cases, consumption. States have also passed legislation encouraging the use of Graywater. Graywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks (household wastewater excluding toilet wastes) for irrigation and other water conservation applications.

States must ensure water-quality standards and public health concerns are met. In some states, such as Colorado, previous water law stated that all precipitation belonged to existing water-rights owners, and that rain needed to flow to join its rightful water drainage. However, a 2007 study conducted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Douglas County determined that only 3 percent of rain actually reached a stream or the ground. Colorado followed-up by enacting two pieces of legislation, one allowing certain types of well owners to use rainwater and one authorizing pilot development projects.

Texas and Ohio are among states that have devoted a considerable amount of attention to this issue, and have numerous enacted laws regulating the practice of rainwater harvesting. Texas offers a sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment. Both Texas and Ohio allow the practice even for potable purposes. Oklahoma passed the Water for 2060 Act in 2012, to promote pilot projects for rainwater and graywater use among other water saving techniques.

State Statutes and Programs Concerning Community Gardens

Read the full story from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States and municipalities can encourage the development of community gardens in a variety of ways, including providing spaces for gardening on public lands, ensuring the existence of consistent funding sources, and simplifying bureaucratic requirements. Governmental provision of public lands and financial resources are particularly important to the development of lasting community gardens.

Gardens on public lands may have reduced liability when compared to community gardens on private lands, and may face fewer challenges to their continued presence than gardens on a private parcels. Governments are also in a unique position to either encourage gardening activities through the development of policies which prioritize financially or socially vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or youth groups for the disadvantaged, or by creating financial incentives to encourage gardening activities, such as the creation of  a tool share program.

How do we balance needs of energy, water and climate?

Read the full story from MIT.

In deciding how best to meet the world’s growing needs for energy, the answers depend crucially on how the question is framed. Looking for the most cost-effective path provides one set of answers; including the need to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions gives a different picture. Adding the need to address looming shortages of fresh water, it turns out, leads to a very different set of choices.

That’s one conclusion of a new study led by Mort Webster, an associate professor of engineering systems at MIT, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, he says, makes clear that it is crucial to examine these needs together before making decisions about investments in new energy infrastructure, where choices made today could continue to affect the water and energy landscape for decades to come.

Oberlin College: Assistant Project Manager for Environmental Dashboard

The Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College invites applications for “Assistant Project Manager for Environmental Dashboard”. This is a one-year grant funded position (potentially renewable based on grant support) intended for a recent college graduate.

The hire will assist in development, management, assessment and communication related to “Environmental Dashboard”. This novel technology combines environmentally and socially contextualized real-time feedback on resource consumption and environmental conditions in buildings and cities with pro-environmental images and text drawn from community members (see The goal is to develop, test and disseminate this as a technology and approach that enhances “systems thinking” and pro-environmental identity and that can be adopted by communities throughout the Great Lakes and beyond.

The incumbent will assist in all aspects of project management including overseeing students workers, coordination among community partners (including public school teachers, city government, businesses and non-profits) managing the website, assisting in research, assisting in curriculum development (K-12 & college), representing the project and soliciting participation from other communities.

Important skills and experiences include excellent oral and written communication, project management, web management, strong computer aptitude, and a demonstrated interest in promoting environmental sustainability. Exceptional organizational skills and a high level of responsibility are essential.  Review of applicants begins November 25, position starts 1/6/14.  A complete job description including instructions for applying is posted at

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