Study: How existing cropland could feed billions more

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth’s strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture’s environmental footprint.

The report, published today in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world’s crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability to meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific “leverage points” where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries — China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan — along with Europe.

Unleashing Climate Data to Empower America’s Agricultural Sector

Food distributors, agricultural businesses, farmers, and retailers need accessible, useable data, tools, and information to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of their operations – from water availability, to timing of planting and harvest, to storage practices, and more.

Today’s convening at the White House will include formal commitments by a host of private-sector companies and nongovernmental organizations to support the President’s Climate Data Initiative by harnessing climate data in ways that will increase the resilience of America’s food system and help reduce the contribution of the nation’s agricultural sector to climate change.

Microsoft Research, for instance, will grant 12 months of free cloud-computing resources to winners of a national challenge to create a smartphone app that helps farmers increase the resilience of their food production systems in the face of weather variability and climate change; the Michigan Agri-Business Association will soon launch a publicly available web-based mapping tool for use by the state’s agriculture sector; and the U.S. dairy industry will test and pilot four new modules – energy, feed, nutrient, and herd management – on the data-driven Farm Smart environmental-footprint calculation tool by the end of 2014. These are just a few among dozens of exciting commitments.

And the federal government is also stepping up. Today, anyone can log onto and find new features that make data accessible and usable about the risks of climate change to food production, delivery, and nutrition – including current and historical data from the Census of Agriculture on production, supply, and distribution of agricultural products, and data on climate-change-related risks such as storms, heat waves, and drought.

These steps are a direct response to the President’s call for all hands on deck to generate further innovation to help prepare America’s communities and business for the impacts of climate change.

We are delighted about the steps being announced by dozens of collaborators today, and we can’t wait to see what further tools, apps, and services are developed as the Administration and its partners continue to unleash data to make America’s agriculture enterprise stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Read a fact sheet about all of today’s Climate Data Initiative commitments here.

Clinic Releases Newly Revised Edition of Their Fracking Guide

Via Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program.

The Clinic released a newly revised edition of their fracking guide today, entitled A Landowner’s Guide to Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing Environmental and Health Issues in Oil and Gas Leases (Revised Edition, July 2014).  This expanded version of the guide builds upon the previous edition.  In particular, it is aimed at landowners across the country and contains information relevant for property owners who are considering whether to sign a lease to allow either oil or gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, including proposed lease language.  The guide was prepared and revised by Clinic students, including Joshua Herlands (JD’12), Humu-Annie Seini (LLM’11), Zachary Kearns (JD’14), Sarah Peterson (JD’15), and Albert Teng (JD’15), together with the Clinic’s lawyers Shaun Goho, Wendy Jacobs, and Aladdine Joroff.

USDA, DOE and EPA release Biogas Opportunities Roadmap

Read the full story in Biomass Magazine.

The USDA has published its Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, a document that builds on progress made to date to identify voluntary actions that can be taken to reduce methane emissions through the use of biogas systems. It outlines strategies to overcome barriers limiting further expansion and development of a robust biogas industry in the U.S. The USDA also noted that the roadmap supports the U.S. dairy industry’s 2008 goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by 2020.  The Biogas Opportunities Roadmap is related to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was released in June 2013, and the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, which was released by the White House in March.

As part of the March 28 release of the Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the White House indicated the USDA, U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Energy would release a biogas roadmap this summer, an action that has now been completed with the Aug. 1 publication of the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap. In March, the White House’s strategy also noted the EPA would take action to reduce methane emissions from new landfills. Proposed rulemaking to do that was released on June 30.

The road to Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice

This video describes the momentum that led to the establishment of the environmental justice movement and the adoption of Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice.

What we can learn from Denmark’s near-zero-waste wonder

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

This article first appeared at Ensia.

When we look closely at systems in nature — coral reefs or rainforests, for instance — we see something we don’t often see in human systems: mutually beneficial relationships and energy flows among the various elements, such as air, water, rocks, soil, and plant and animal life. If we emulate these relationships in our cities and in our industrial infrastructure, we can vastly improve the sustainability of natural resources and energy use.

That’s exactly what the municipality of Kalundborg, 64 miles west of Copenhagen, is doing. In fact, for over 50 years, Kalundborg has been home to the first — and still the most advanced — example of this concept: the Kalundborg Symbiosis. Anchored originally by a power and district heating plant, this innovative industrial complex has grown to include some large and profitable enterprises, including the biggest oil refinery in the Baltic Region; an insulin-producing plant with 2,700 employees; factories making enzymes for use in everything from bioenergy to textiles, and gypsum for lightweight building materials; and the largest sewage treatment plant in northern Europe. Heat, water and a host of other resources that would otherwise be treated as waste supply some of the energy and many of the feedstocks to these operations and to the surrounding municipality, including farms.

Successful Practices in Combined Gas and Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Programs

Download the document.

Compared to single-fuel programs, combined natural gas and electric energy efficiency programs often deliver additional energy and dollar savings at lower cost to utilities and consumers. They also enhance customer satisfaction. Many leading dual-fuel programs demonstrate these benefits. This report presents successful examples of combined natural gas and electric programs—residential, commercial, and industrial—in every region of the country in which there are both types of programs.

Historically, electric and natural gas utilities have operated energy efficiency programs independently. State regulators have typically focused on each electric and gas utility as a separate entity. Challenges and barriers to creating combined and integrated programs include utility concerns about cross-fuel competition, the administrative effort involved, regulatory barriers and questions of program design and implementation.

Top-performing states in terms of utility program energy savings tend to have laws and regulations supporting combined programs. This report presents excerpts from statutes and regulations in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The authors share lessons learned and illustrate successful approaches within four institutional arrangements: combination utilities, integrated statewide programs, third-party administrators, and programs coordinated between separate utilities. ACEEE recommends that states adopt clear policies advancing integrated gas and electric programs, and that utility and other program administrators reaching for higher levels of cost-effective energy savings pursue these opportunities.

In-depth profiles of 16 programs describe program organization and structure, report on performance, address the motivations for collaboration, and share lessons learned.

Don’t Throw Out Your Leftover Coffee Grounds!

Read the full story in the Huffington Post.

When you’ve finished with your morning pick-me-up, and you’re ready to get rid of the breakfast rubbish, put your used coffee grounds aside for a simple, smart reuse. Get started, by trying some of these easy-to-follow great ideas from the Hometalk community.


Human Fetal Exposure to Triclosan and Triclocarban in an Urban Population from Brooklyn, New York

Benny F. G. Pycke, Laura A. Geer, Mudar Dalloul, Ovadia Abulafia, Alizee M. Jenck, and Rolf U. Halden (2014). “Human Fetal Exposure to Triclosan and Triclocarban in an Urban Population from Brooklyn, New York.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (15), 8831-8838 DOI: 10.1021/es501100w

Abstract: Triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC) are antimicrobial agents formulated in a wide variety of consumer products (including soaps, toothpaste, medical devices, plastics, and fabrics) that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In late 2014, the FDA will consider regulating the use of both chemicals, which are under scrutiny regarding lack of effectiveness, potential for endocrine disruption, and potential contribution to bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Here, we report on body burdens of TCS and TCC resulting from real-world exposures during pregnancy. Using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, we determined the concentrations of TCS, TCC, and its human metabolites (2′-hydroxy-TCC and 3′-hydroxy-TCC) as well as the manufacturing byproduct (3′-chloro-TCC) as total concentrations (Σ−) after conjugate hydrolysis in maternal urine and cord blood plasma from a cohort of 181 expecting mother/infant pairs in an urban multiethnic population from Brooklyn, NY recruited in 2007–09. TCS was detected in 100% of urine and 51% of cord blood samples after conjugate hydrolysis. The interquartile range (IQR) of detected TCS concentrations in urine was highly similar to the IQR reported previously for the age-matched population of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2004, but typically higher than the IQR reported previously for the general population (detection frequency = 74.6%). Urinary levels of TCC are reported here for the first time from real-world exposures during pregnancy, showing a median concentration of 0.21 μg/L. Urinary concentrations of TCC correlated well with its phase-I metabolite ∑-2′-hydroxy-TCC (r = 0.49) and the manufacturing byproduct ∑-3′-chloro-TCC C (r = 0.79), and ∑-2′-hydroxy-TCC correlated strongly with ∑-3′-hydroxy-TCC (r = 0.99). This human biomonitoring study presents the first body burden data for TCC from exposures occurring during pregnancy and provides additional data on composite exposure to TCS (i.e., from both consumer-product use and environmental sources) in the maternal–fetal unit for an urban population in the United States.

Scientists ask bird oglers to help study puffins

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Audubon Society wants bird lovers to contribute research to a project scientists hope will help save Atlantic puffins from starvation in Maine.