Environmental and Socioeconomic Impacts of Utilizing Waste for Biochar in Rural Areas in Indonesia–A Systems Perspective

Magnus Sparrevik, Henrik Lindhjem, Verania Andria, Annik Magerholm Fet, and Gerard Cornelissen (2014). “Environmental and Socioeconomic Impacts of Utilizing Waste for Biochar in Rural Areas in Indonesia–A Systems Perspective.” Environmental Science & Technology 48(9), 4664-4671. DOI: 10.1021/es405190q

Abstract: Biochar is the product of incomplete combustion (pyrolysis) of organic material. In rural areas, it can be used as a soil amendment to increase soil fertility. Fuel-constrained villagers may however prefer to use biochar briquettes as a higher-value fuel for cooking over applying it to soils. A systems-oriented analysis using life cycle assessment (LCA) and cost benefit analysis (CBA) was conducted to analyze these two alternative uses of biochar, applying the study to a rural village system in Indonesia. The results showed soil amendment for enhanced agricultural production to be the preferential choice with a positive benefit to the baseline scenario of −26 ecopoints (LCA) and −173 USD (CBA) annually pr. household. In this case, the positive effects of carbon sequestration to the soil and the economic value of the increased agricultural production outweighed the negative environmental impacts from biochar production and the related production costs. Use of biochar in briquettes for cooking fuel yielded negative net effects in both the LCA and CBA (85 ecopoints and 176 USD), even when positive health effects from reduced indoor air pollution were included. The main reasons for this are that emissions during biochar production are not compensated by carbon sequestration and that briquette making is labor-intensive. The results emphasize the importance of investigating and documenting the carbon storage effect and the agricultural benefit in biochar production-utilization systems for a sustainable use. Further research focus on efficient production is necessary due to the large environmental impact of biochar production. In addition, biochar should continue to be used in those soils where the agricultural effect is most beneficial.

Does Long-Term Irrigation with Untreated Wastewater Accelerate the Dissipation of Pharmaceuticals in Soil?

Philipp Dalkmann, Christina Siebe, Wulf Amelung, Michael Schloter, and Jan Siemens (2014). “Does Long-Term Irrigation with Untreated Wastewater Accelerate the Dissipation of Pharmaceuticals in Soil?” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (9), 4963-4970. DOI: 10.1021/es501180x

Abstract: Long-term irrigation with untreated wastewater may increase soil microbial adaptation to pollution load and lead to enhanced natural attenuation. We hypothesized that long-term wastewater irrigation accelerates the dissipation of pharmaceuticals. To test our hypothesis we performed an incubation experiment with soils from the Mezquital Valley, Mexico that were irrigated for 0, 14, or 100 years. The results showed that the dissipation half-lives (DT50) of diclofenac (<0.1–1.4 days), bezafibrate (<0.1–4.8 days), sulfamethoxazole (2–33 days), naproxen (6–19 days), carbamazepine (355–1,624 days), and ciprofloxacin were not affected by wastewater irrigation. Trimethoprim dissipation was even slower in soils irrigated for 100 years (DT50: 45–72 days) than in nonirrigated soils (DT50: 12–16 days), was negatively correlated with soil organic matter content and soil-water distribution coefficients, and was inhibited in sterilized soils. Applying a kinetic fate model indicated that long-term irrigation enhanced sequestration of cationic or uncharged trimethoprim and uncharged carbamazepine, but did not affect sequestration of fast-dissipating zwitterions or negatively charged pharmaceuticals. We conclude that microbial adaptation processes play a minor role for pharmaceutical dissipation in wastewater-irrigated soils, while organic matter accumulation in these soils can retard trimethoprim and carbamazepine dissipation.

Strong Sorption of PCBs to Nanoplastics, Microplastics, Carbon Nanotubes, and Fullerenes

I. Velzeboer, C. J. A. F. Kwadijk, and A. A. Koelmans (2014). “Strong Sorption of PCBs to Nanoplastics, Microplastics, Carbon Nanotubes, and Fullerenes.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (9), 4869-4876. DOI: 10.1021/es405721v.

Abstract: The presence of microplastic and carbon-based nanoparticles in the environment may have implications for the fate and effects of traditional hydrophobic chemicals. Here we present parameters for the sorption of 17 CB congeners to 10–180 μm sized polyethylene (micro-PE), 70 nm polystyrene (nano-PS), multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT), fullerene (C60), and a natural sediment in the environmentally relevant 10–5–10–1 μg L–1 concentration range. Effects of salinity and sediment organic matter fouling were assessed by measuring the isotherms in fresh- and seawater, with and without sediment present. Sorption to the “bulk” sorbents sediment organic matter (OM) and micro-PE occurred through linear hydrophobic partitioning with OM and micro-PE having similar sorption affinity. Sorption to MWCNT and nano-PS was nonlinear. PCB sorption to MWCNT and C60 was 3–4 orders of magnitude stronger than to OM and micro-PE. Sorption to nano-PS was 1–2 orders of magnitude stronger than to micro-PE, which was attributed to the higher aromaticity and surface–volume ratio of nano-PS. Organic matter effects varied among sorbents, with the largest OM fouling effect observed for the high surface sorbents MWCNT and nano-PS. Salinity decreased sorption for sediment and MWCNT but increased sorption for the polymers nano-PS and micro-PE. The exceptionally strong sorption of (planar) PCBs to C60, MWCNT, and nano-PS may imply increased hazards upon membrane transfer of these particles.

Indiana University hiring Associate and Assistant Director of Sustainabilty

Associate Director of Sustainability (Job #11037)
Assistant Director of Sustainability (Job # 10981)
Indiana University Bloomington
For more details and to apply, visit jobs.iu.edu enter job number

11037 – Associate Director of Sustainability, Capital Planning and Facilities

Job Summary: Supports the Director of Sustainability in the creation of the Living Learning Lab (LLL)*; and directs and manages both the LLL program as well as associated co-curricular programs including the Sustainability Internship Program and the Sustainability Peer Educator Program. With the LLL program the Associate Director will interact with academic and operational programs, external stakeholders (in collaboration with the Office of Engagement), faculty, staff, students and student organizations, and community members. Additionally, engages in long-range planning efforts; and co-facilitates connections and collaborations with departments, schools and offices to support new LLL project development. The Sustainability Internship Program duties will include: planning and intern project development; program development and evaluation; direct mentorship, management, and scheduling of 6 out of 18 interns; and curriculum development for seminar, hiring, evaluation, time management, and symposia. The Sustainability Peer Educator Program duties will include: recruitment, hiring, training, and managing of a coordinator; and evaluation and program improvement. Additionally, the Associate Director will direct and manage two other employees in the office including the SPEA Service Corps Fellow and the Advocate for Community Engagement Cox Scholar.
Applications accepted until May 22, 2014, or until position is filled. 

10981 – Assistant Director of Sustainability, Capital Planning and Facilities

Job Summary: Supports the Director of Sustainability in campus-wide strategic planning and coordination for the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board’s working groups; sustainability data acquisition and tracking; and program documentation and evaluation. Co-facilitates connections and collaboration with departments, schools and offices across campus to foster a culture of campus sustainability. Directs and manages: office functions, including budget tracking and compliance, procurement and travel, web development, event planning and implementation, and communication and design; professional development for all office staff; operational initiatives relating to behavior change and the expansion and improvement of sustainability infrastructure; and office including the Projects Coordinator, two Cox Exploratory Scholars, six sustainability interns placed with the working groups, and additional project based interns.
Qualifications: Review your qualifications prior to applying to ensure that you meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Resume and cover letter required.
Applications accepted until May 15, 2014, or until position is filled. 

A Tale of Two Futures: Sustainable Buildings or Unsustainable Climate Change

From the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Today’s existing buildings use 72% of our nation’s electricity, much of which is wasted. We cannot transform our energy system and prevent runaway climate change if America’s commercial buildings continue to consume dirty fossil fuels at today’s rates. Join the movement to change this by visiting http://www.rmi.org/stand and get involved!

Winners of 2013 Campus RainWorks Challenge targeting green infrastructure announced

Four winners of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) second annual Campus RainWorks Challenge were recently announced. The competition, launched last year, was created to engage college and university students in reinventing the nation’s water infrastructure and developing innovative green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Further, it encourages them to apply green infrastructure principles and design, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of this infrastructure on campuses across the nation.

This year, EPA introduced two design categories for the challenge: a master plan category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a broad area of a school’s campus; and a site design category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a particular site on the team’s campus. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students, working with a faculty advisor, developed innovative green infrastructure designs in both categories, showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.

The 2013 challenge winners are:

  • University of Florida, Gainsville, FL (1st Place, Master Plan Category) — The team’s design plan centers on a 67.6-acre subwatershed in the northeast corner of campus. To engage students with the journey of water, the three-phase plan would transform two detention facilities into campus amenities and daylight the flow of stormwater into above ground pipes and vegetated bioswales. In addition to treating and retaining stormwater and improving groundwater recharge, the team’s plan would improve aesthetics and safety along a major road.
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS (1st Place, Site Design Category) — The team’s design plan calls for a stormwater pocket garden in a high-traffic area in front of Hale Library. Consisting of disconnected downspouts, wet meadows, rain gardens, and stormwater runnels, the system is designed to retain 100 percent of runoff from a one-year storm. The team’s plan also incorporates native prairie vegetation, allowing the site to support native songbirds and pollinators and reducing maintenance and irrigation needs.
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI (2nd Place, Master Plan Category) — The team’s design plan centers on a 15-acre area in the center of campus currently dedicated largely to surface parking. To create new spaces for interaction while demonstrating sustainable stormwater controls, the team proposed the addition of several campus amenities interwoven with green infrastructure. Among the proposed green infrastructure features are an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by rain gardens, a rain garden system in the shape of a Spartan shield, and a stormwater cistern with glass-viewing pyramids. The team’s plan would reduce runoff from the 10-year, 24-hour storm by 30 percent and would restore soils and native plant communities.
  • Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS (2nd Place, Site Design Category) — The team’s design plan centers on the 1.3-acre Union Green in the heart of campus. To create a multi-functional space that provides an educational experience, the team proposed a three-phase design. The first phase adds a 1,000-gallon aboveground cistern, an aqueduct, and a bioretention to the west side of the site. The elevated aqueduct would provide visual water conveyance and irrigation and educate passersby about stormwater management. The design would manage the 95th percentile storm and would reduce peak flows for the 2-year, 24-hour storm below the pre-development condition

Teams from University of Texas at Austin (Master Plan Category), Purdue University (Master Plan Category), Kansas State University (Site Design Category), and University of Maryland (Site Design Category) were recognized as honorable mentions for their entries.

EPA plans to conduct the third annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the fall of 2014.


Winners announced in DOE’s Challenge Home Student Design Competition

In its inaugural year, 28 teams from U.S. and Canadian universities competed in DOE’s Challenge Home Student Design Competition to develop cost-effective zero energy ready homes for mainstream builders. The winning teams produced market-ready, state-of-the-art design solutions for high-performance homes that are energy efficient, comfortable, and durable. The designs are for zero energy ready homes, meaning their high performance features sharply reduce energy use and all or most of the remaining energy use can be offset with renewable energy.

The teams were judged by national experts including leading high-performance builders, building science professionals, and researchers. The main criteria for selection were design/construction strategies, clear project plans, required analyses, overall competency applying best practice solutions and principles of building science from the Department’s Building America program. Building America is the research and development arm of DOE’s Residential Buildings Program, focused on developing cost-effective, market-ready zero energy ready solutions, guidance and tools for new construction and existing homes.

View the list of winners and learn more about there projects at http://www.homeinnovation.com/DOEChallengeHomeStudentDesignCompetition.

Identifying and Reducing Environmental Health Risks of Chemicals in Our Society: Workshop Summary

Download the document or read it online.

On November 7-8, 2013, the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine held a workshop to discuss approaches related to identifying and reducing potential environmental public health risks to new and existing industrial chemicals present in society. Industrial chemicals include chemicals used in industrial processes or commercial products, not including those found in food, pesticides, or pharmaceuticals.

Identifying and Reducing Environmental Health Risks of Chemicals in Our Society is a summary and synthesis of the presentations and discussions that took place during the two days of the workshop. The workshop examined successes and areas for improvement within current regulatory programs for assessing industrial chemical safety, frameworks for chemical prioritization to inform targeted testing and risk management strategies, concepts of sustainability and green chemistry that support the design and use of safer alternatives, and efforts to reduce the risk of chemicals in our society.

The Ocean Floor Is Littered with Humanity’s Garbage

Read the full story in The Wire.

Down at the bottom of the ocean, it’s not just thermal vents and whale bones. There’s a vast accumulation of bottles, plastic bags, and other human-generated rubbish – perhaps the world’s largest hidden waste dump, drifting on the currents for a virtual eternity.

Getting a full picture of this Atlantis of waste has been difficult, due to the high cost and physical challenges of reaching the seafloor. But over the past 10 years a number of scientific institutions have worked together to investigate deep-marine garbage, and this week they finally published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE. After performing nearly 600 video and trawl surveys in European waters, they’ve come to the depressing conclusion that the trash is everywhere, from the deepest to shallowest points, to near-coast shelves and regions as remote as the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. Here’s roughly where that is on Google Maps:

Shareable’s Top 16 New Books for Spring

Read the full story in Shareable.

A few times a year, we round up the best new books about the sharing economy, community, and all the other good sharing stuff. It’s amazing that there’s never a shortage of good reads for our book finds. It speaks to the growing number of people who want to create a better world through sharing. Below are our top 16 reads this spring.