Lebanon (Illinois) Public Library begins lending seeds

From the Illinois Heartland Library System member newsletter. The Helen Matthes Library in Effingham, IL also has a seed library program.

The Lebanon Public Library is pleased to offer an exciting new lending program in spring 2014. They now offer their library patrons the opportunity to ‘borrow’ heirloom and open-pollinated seeds for free! Their goal is to create a self-sustaining seed library where growers who ‘borrow’ our seeds will save and return seeds to the library after they have harvested their crops. They can then offer the more seeds to borrowers during the next growing season and the cycle can repeat itself. Over time, the seeds will become stronger and increasingly acclimated to the local growing conditions.

Seed saving has been practiced for thousands of years and is vital part of our agricultural heritage. A seed library is also an invaluable tool for community building, through the exchange of ideas and experiences that growing from seeds can bring about. There are currently over 60 seed libraries in 23 states and the number is continuing to grow. Public libraries have long encouraged ideas of sustainable living through the circulation and sharing of free library materials and resources among communities. These ideas are also aligned with the sustainability brought about by seed saving and sharing, making our public library a natural home for such a program. They hope this program is an asset to their community and the surrounding area. Lebanon has a long history of gardening and supporting those with a passion for the beautiful as well as the bountiful.

In setting up this program the library had input from area seed geneticists, garden club members and a plant geneticist from Cambridge University. “So far the program has been a hit,” says director Kelly Wilhelm. “People have been checking out seeds and more gardening books as well. We hope this seed library becomes a staple in our community and an asset to gardeners throughout the area.”

For more information on this trend, see Seed lending: New role for public libraries and their card catalogs!, a post from 2013 on Wolper’s Insight & Outlook blog.

Collaboration helps higher ed graduate to a greener future

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra once declared. He wasn’t talking about climate disruption, but he could have been. And few institutions are better positioned to provide the leadership required to avoid runaway climate change than higher education.

Indeed, it is hard to see where else the necessary leadership will come from if universities and colleges don’t step up to take on this responsibility. Not just any kind of leadership will do the trick, however. It must be collaborative, adopting an ethos of cooperation and mutuality rather than top-down hierarchical structuring.

Universities and colleges in the United States historically have been crucibles of social change and laboratories for new ideas and creative solutions to some of society’s toughest problems. What is new is the scale of the problem and the threat it poses to human civilization. Simply providing models of sustainability on campus will not suffice. Universities and colleges can become truly sustainable only if they adopt the perspective of “ecosystem awareness” and work with the communities around them to become sustainable. They must commit to dramatically reducing the carbon footprint of campuses and become examples of ecological integrity, social justice and economic health. Beyond that, they must collaborate with the larger community and, in so doing, enable solutions to be scaled up and replicated.

5 top reporting frameworks: A crash course

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

CDP, DJSI, GRI, GRESB, SASB. It’s confusing enough to know these acronyms, let alone understand how these sustainability reporting standards actually work.

CDP and DJSI are considered to be the most credible and familiar reporting frameworks by sustainability experts, according to a recent GlobeScan/SustainAbility survey. GRESB is one of the fastest growing, industry-specific standards, as well as Measurabl’s first commercial reporting solution. GRI is a household name in the CSR world and SASB soon will be one in the financial reporting world. All five frameworks provide a representation of the flavors of sustainability reporting, both industry-specific and industry-agnostic, integrated and non-integrated.

Here’s a chart to help you navigate the “who, what, how and when” of some of the world’s top reporting frameworks at a glance.

EPA Awards $860,000 to Communities to Reduce Water Pollution, Build Resilience to Climate Change

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced $860,000 to help 14 communities expand their use of green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and boost resilience to the impacts of climate change. The funding supports President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which directs federal agencies to support community-based preparedness and resilience efforts across the country.

“Investing in green infrastructure pays off for our environment and our economy. It reduces water pollution and energy consumption while creating jobs,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These investments help local communities build resilient systems to protect from severe storms, floods, and other impacts of climate change.”

In the last three years, EPA has provided $2.2 million to 39 communities for green infrastructure. This new funding continues the agency’s support for communities using green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and protect human health while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space. Green infrastructure builds resilience to the impacts of climate change, in large part by reducing the burden on local water infrastructure.

The 14 communities are:

  • Ada County, Idaho – EPA assistance will help explore stormwater mitigation techniques, concepts, and financing options to support green infrastructure in an area undergoing redevelopment.
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico – EPA assistance will help with the design and specifications of a rooftop vegetable garden, which will recycle captured rainwater for irrigation.
  • Bath, Maine – EPA assistance will help produce a feasibility study and conceptual design for a green infrastructure project in order to mitigate flooding and combined sewer overflows while stabilizing and improving the neighborhood.
  • Buffalo, New York – EPA assistance will help develop a protocol and institutional controls for post-demolition stormwater assessments to verify stormwater control performance and ensure that properties retain their stormwater control during redevelopment.
  • Clarkesville, Georgia – EPA assistance will help design green infrastructure solutions for a highly impervious downtown area within a small community.
    Denver, Colorado – EPA assistance will support the completion of green infrastructure practice criteria suited for ultra-urban environments and transportation projects including design elements, maintenance procedures, and schedules.
  • Fall River, Massachusetts – EPA assistance will help with the evaluation and concept design of tree plantings to address combined sewer overflows, stormwater and air quality issues, urban heat island effect, and climate change adaptation.
  • Iowa City, Iowa – EPA assistance will help develop conceptual designs for green infrastructure practices for a riverfront property prone to flooding, which is being converted into park space.
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin – EPA assistance will help develop a model utility operation and maintenance plan to ensure green infrastructure practices are properly maintained and effective in reducing stormwater runoff.
  • Norfolk, Virginia – EPA assistance will help identify green infrastructure alternatives to improve water quality and address shoreline erosion for a waterway in an urban area with a need to plan for how changes in sea level rise will affect green infrastructure methodology.
  • Pueblo de Cochiti, New Mexico – EPA assistance will help prepare a plan that will integrate green infrastructure into land use planning, stormwater management, infrastructure improvements, transportation planning and open space for community members.
  • Saint Paul, Minnesota – EPA assistance will help produce a green infrastructure feasibility study for a waterfront stormwater park in a vacated industrial area undergoing redevelopment.
  • Santa Monica, California – EPA assistance will help develop a conceptual design for a 100,000- gallon storage tank that will be used to harvest stormwater from a storm drain system, reducing runoff and replacing potable water used to irrigate parkland.
  • Scranton, Pennsylvania – EPA assistance will help incorporate green infrastructure included under the city’s combined sewer overflow long-term control plan into a comprehensive master plan for a newly developing arts district.

Green infrastructure decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement or substitute for “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds.

More information on the green infrastructure assistance, progress reports and strategy: http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/gi_support.cfm.

Are Special Fees For Driving Green a Penalty?

Read the full story on Stateline.org.

A tax on virtue or a matter of fairness? The question ripples through states trying to prop up their ever-shrinking highway funds while eyeing the “free ride” enjoyed by green vehicle owners.

The fast-growing cohort of people who drive zero- and low-emission cars and trucks can take satisfaction in their lower environmental footprint. But there’s a downside, at least for states and the federal government: When cars gas up at the pump less often, governments collect fewer fuel tax dollars for highway needs. The lost revenue is just a part of the well-documented decline in highway funds as the federal gas tax remains static, auto fleets achieve ever higher fuel efficiency and new technology enables alternative fuels.

Enter the notion of recouping at least some lost revenue by slapping special fees on green drivers—notwithstanding ongoing efforts by Washington and many states to instead encourage these vehicles through income tax credits, lower registration fees and even free parking spaces. The fees are meeting sporadic success, rankling many drivers and environmentalists.

Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability

Download the report (free registration required).

This report, Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, evaluates how well 613 of the largest, publicly traded U.S. companies are integrating sustainability into their business systems and decision-making. The report— a collaboration between Ceres and Sustainalytics—assesses corporate progress across the four strategic areas first outlined in 2010 in the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability: Governance, Stakeholder Engagement, Disclosure and Performance.

Key findings include:

  • While many companies are taking action to reduce GHG emissions, few have set time-bound targets.
  • A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages
  • More companies are setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers

In addition to informing the sustainability efforts of companies, the report provides important information to shareholders about how the companies in their portfolios are performing in key areas, such as disclosing material issues and engaging with stakeholders.


Change Is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution

Download the document.

This study evaluates the implications of using end-use energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. It does so by quantifying the energy, economic, and pollution-reduction impacts of selected energy-saving policies on a state-by-state basis. We evaluate four of the most common and effective energy efficiency policy options available to a state:

  • Implement an energy efficiency savings target
  • Enact national model building codes
  • Construct combined heat and power systems
  • Adopt efficiency standards for products/equipment

The results of this study show that an emissions standard for existing power plants set at 26% below 2012 levels can be achieved at no net cost to the economy. This standard will create 611,000 new jobs, and it will have a positive economic impact on the country. If enacted, the energy efficiency policies in our study can significantly reduce greenhouse gases while states maintain the flexibility to make use of all of their energy resources. The policies and technologies included in our analysis have already been tested and are deployable now. The benefits can be quantified. There is no need to delay.

How A Former Corporate Lawyer Stood Up To Fracking Companies, And Won

Read the full story at Fast Company.

With her innovative legal strategy, Helen Slottje showed upstate New York communities how to head off the dangerous natural gas drilling boom sweeping the region. Now, as she’s honored with this year’s Goldman Prize, her ideas are spreading across the nation.


Meet The Russian Environmentalist Standing Up To Putin To Save The Country’s Ecosystem

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Suren Gazaryan tried to keep the Sochi Olympics from being an environmental disaster. After years battling the Russian government, he’s still fighting even though the rest of the world stopped paying attention.


Air Quality Awareness Challenge

Air quality affects how you live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Up-to-date information allows you to make decisions based on air quality forecasts.

EnviroFlash is a system that sends e-mails about your daily air quality forecast. The message is the same air quality information that the local radio or television stations provide, plus suggested safety measures when levels are unhealthy. The service is provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency and partnering agencies across the U.S (for Minnesota, the MN Pollution Control Agency).

Exposure to high levels of air pollution can aggravate heart disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases. By being aware of the air quality levels, you can take precautions to protect your family.

Between April 21st and May 30th, the EPA is conducting a friendly competition between its partners to register subscribers to EnviroFlash. Stay on top of important air quality alerts while helping your state to “take gold” by signing up at http://www.enviroflash.info/signup.cfm.