Day: August 14, 2014

U.S. EPA won’t grant Clinton landfill PCB permit

Read the full story in the News-Gazette.

The federal chemical waste permit that a DeWitt County landfill had been waiting on for years will not move forward, the U.S. EPA said on Wednesday.

The decision is based on the state EPA’s action at the end of July to ban certain chemicals at Clinton Landfill, which sits above the underground source of drinking water for 750,000 central Illinoisans. Before that, the landfill had been waiting for seven years for the federal EPA to approve a request to start accepting polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated waste.

State of the World 2014: Governing for Sustainability

The latest edition of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World series is now available. The theme is Governing for Sustainability. Here’s the summary, from the publisher’s web site, where they also offer a free preview:

Citizens expect their governments to lead on sustainability. But from largely disappointing international conferences like Rio II to the U.S.’s failure to pass meaningful climate legislation, governments’ progress has been lackluster. That’s not to say leadership is absent; it just often comes from the bottom up rather than the top down. Action—on climate, species loss, inequity, and other sustainability crises—is being driven by local, people’s, women’s, and grassroots movements around the world, often in opposition to the agendas pursued by governments and big corporations.

These diverse efforts are the subject of the latest volume in the Worldwatch Institute’s highly regarded State of the World series. The 2014 edition, marking the Institute’s 40th anniversary, examines both barriers to responsible political and economic governance as well as gridlock-shattering new ideas. The authors analyze a variety of trends and proposals, including regional and local climate initiatives, the rise of benefit corporations and worker-owned firms, the need for energy democracy, the Internet’s impact on sustainability, and the importance of eco-literacy. A consistent thread throughout the book is that informed and engaged citizens are key to better governance.

The book is a clear-eyed yet ultimately optimistic assessment of citizens’ ability to govern for sustainability. By highlighting both obstacles and opportunities, State of the World 2014shows how to effect change within and beyond the halls of government. This volume will be especially useful for policymakers, environmental nonprofits, students of environmental studies, sustainability, or economics—and citizens looking to jumpstart significant change around the world.

New energy-rich sorghum offers ethanol without the corn

Read the full story in The Guardian.

California startup NexSteppe presents a new brand of sorghum, bred for optimal energy production, designed as a greener alternative to corn for ethanol fuels and biomass boilers.

Here’s help with solving the new ‘sustainability math’

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Last week I went surfing for the first time. The quote on my instructor’s shirt read : “Life, like surfing, is all about wave selection and balance.” For me, finding the right balance and wave was not easy — as continuous adjustments are needed to remain on the board.

Companies are facing similar challenges adapting to the “new sustainability math” as finding the right balance between investor, consumer and stakeholders interests is riddled with complexity and confusion. Which sustainability reporting standards to adopt? Which rating survey to respond to? Which environmental initiative to engage with?

At the core of this challenge is finding the sweet spot between providing investors with the quantitative demonstration of the direct link between sustainability initiatives and value creation, while authentically telling consumers the company’s sustainability story through qualitative communication.

NCR-SARE Announces 2015 Call for Research and Education Preproposals

The 2015 NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant Program Call for Preproposals is now available online.

NCR-SARE’s Research and Education (R&E) program supports sustainable agriculture innovators with competitive research and education grants. Individual grants range from $10,000 to $200,000. NCR-SARE expects to fund about seven to ten projects in the twelve-state North Central Region.

NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Research and Education Grant Program using our online submission system. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals.  The deadline for Research and Education Program preproposals is October 23, 2014.

NCR-SARE administers each of its grant programs with specific priorities, audiences, and timelines. The focus for each of the NCR-SARE grant programs is on research and education. Funding considerations are made based on the relevance and potential of the project to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the region, as well as how well the applicant articulates the research and education components of their sustainable agriculture grant proposals.

NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council (AC) members decide which projects will receive SARE funds. The AC includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in the region. Council members hail from regional farms and ranches, the Cooperative Extension Service, universities, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, regional representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and NCR agribusinesses, state agencies, and foundations sit at the table to distribute grant money.

For questions or additional information regarding the R&E Grant Program, contact Beth Nelson.

Beth Nelson, Ph.D.
Regional Coordinator (Chapter 1) and Director of Research and Education Programs
120 BAE, University of Minnesota
1390 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone: 612-626-4436
Fax: 612-626-3132
bethnelson@umn.edu

Why a Global-Warming Pact Won’t Stop Global Warming

Read the full story in The National Journal.

Don’t expect too much from the global climate-change accord that’s expected to emerge from high-stakes international talks in Paris next year.

A new MIT study concludes that even if negotiators reach a deal at the United Nations conference, it probably won’t be enough to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That’s the level many scientists say would help stave off some of the most dangerous and disruptive effects of climate change.

NCR-SARE Announces 2015 Call for Partnership Grant Proposals

The 2015 NCR-SARE Partnership Grant Program Call for Proposals is now available.

NCR-SARE’s new Partnership Grant program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture.

Individual grants are limited to $30,000. For the current year funding of the Partnership Grant Program, up to $200,000 of the partnership grant pool of $340,000 in funds is available for projects focused on cover crops and soil health. For consideration under the cover crops and soil health funding, applicants are asked to use cover crops and/or soil health in their project title and to make the topic of cover crops and/or soil health the main focus of the application. Other criteria for these applications remain the same. This special request for proposals on cover crops and soil health is made possible by a match of funds between NCR-SARE and the Harvest the Potential program of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. For the remaining funds of $140,000 or more, other project topics appropriate to the NCR-SARE program will be considered for funding.

NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Partnership Grant Program using our online submission system. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals.  The deadline for Partnership Program proposals is October 30, 2014.

NCR-SARE administers each of its grant programs with specific priorities, audiences, and timelines. The focus for each of the NCR-SARE grant programs is on research and education. Funding considerations are made based on the relevance and potential of the project to increase the sustainability of agriculture in the region, as well as how well the applicant articulates the research and education components of their sustainable agriculture grant proposals.

NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council (AC) members decide which projects will receive SARE funds. The AC includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in the region. Council members hail from regional farms and ranches, the Cooperative Extension Service, universities, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, regional representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and NCR agribusinesses, state agencies, and foundations sit at the table to distribute grant money.

For questions or additional information regarding the Partnership Grant Program, contact Beth Nelson or Rob Myers.

Beth Nelson, Ph.D.
Regional Coordinator (Chapter 1) and Director of Research and Education Programs
120 BAE, University of Minnesota
1390 Eckles Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone: 612-626-4436
Fax: 612-626-3132
bethnelson@umn.edu

Rob Myers, Ph.D.
Regional Coordinator (Chapter 3) and Director of Professional Development (Extension) Programs
University of Missouri
238 Ag Engineering Bldg.
Columbia, MO 65211
Office phone: 573-882-1547
Fax: 573-884-5650
Email: myersrob@missouri.edu

GEMS study uncovers leaders, laggards in environmental management

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Calls for greater transparency and meaningful advancements in sustainability and corporate responsibility continue to grow. It is important to consider the extent to which U.S. corporations disclose meaningful information on their environmental policies, practices and performance.

Along with my data provider, IW Financial, I have just released a newly updated and expanded study, “2014 GEMS Benchmarking Analysis of U.S. Corporate Environmental Practices.” It identifies the U.S. firms with the strongest reported environmental policies and infrastructure and finds that — notwithstanding noteworthy improvements during the past several years — many publicly traded companies have limited discernible capability with which to manage complex environmental and sustainability issues.

The comparative environmental impact of e-mail and paper mail

Several days ago, a friend made a sarcastic comment on Facebook about how much better e-mail is for the environment (in the context of spammers choosing e-mail over paper mail). That made me wonder about the relative impact of paper vs. electronic mail. So, I did what librarians do: I went to Google and started searching. Here’s what I found.

There have been a couple of life cycle studies of paper mail delivery. Pitney-Bowes published a study in 2008 which found that:

…the distribution of letter mail by the Posts generates, on average, about 20 grams of CO2 per letter delivered. In addition, a survey of more than a dozen studies shows that the indicative range of CO2 emissions associated with the upstream mail piece creation process is about 0.9 – 1.3 grams of CO2 per gram of paper. (p. 2).

The U.S. Postal Service commissioned a similar study in 2008, which found:

  • Total energy consumed by the four mail products accounts for 0.6% of national energy consumption, a figure that seems reasonable given the quantities of mail in the U.S. economy, and the energy-intensive nature of paper and board production, printing, and motor vehicle transportation.
  • At the household level, energy and CO2 emissions associated with the entire mail life cycle are roughly comparable to those from operating any of several common home appliances over the same period of time. (p.ES-2)

Both the Pitney-Bowes and USPS studies also looked at other environmental impacts, including waste generation and recycling rates. The Pitney-Bowes report also did a preliminary investigation of electronic communications compared to mail, which found that energy use of information communication technology is about 2% of total U.S. energy use, which is comparable to that of the paper industry. They were unable to calculate a comparative environmental footprint for the two methods.

In 2009, McAfee commissioned a report on the environmental impact of junk e-mail (spam). The results were eye-opening:

  • An estimated worldwide total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent in 2008
  • The average spam email causes emissions equivalent to 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per message
  • Globally, annual spam energy use totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh). That’s equivalent to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, with the same GHG emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars using two billion U.S. gallons of gasoline. (Key Findings)

There are also several research papers which explore the overall environmental impact of electronic communications, including e-mail and e-commerce. These include:

Although on a per message basis, it appears that e-mail has a lower environmental footprint that of paper mail, the comparative ease and perceived low or no cost of e-mail makes it more likely that people will choose it over paper mail, which requires a stamp and a trip to a mailbox or post office. In aggregate, e-mail has a significant environmental footprint, which may be even higher than that of paper mail.

The bottom line: Although e-mail appears to be a better environmental choice than paper mail because there is no obvious up-front waste stream, the research paints a much more nuanced picture, particularly when the including the environmental impact of electronics manufacturing and data center operation.

Groups to EPA: Stop muzzling science advisers

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

 

Journalist and scientific organizations accused the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday of attempting to muzzle its independent scientific advisers by directing them to funnel all outside requests for information through agency officials.

 

In a letter Tuesday, groups representing journalists and scientists urged the EPA to allow advisory board members to talk directly to news reporters, Congress and other outside groups without first asking for permission from EPA officials. An April memo from the EPA’s chief of staff said that “unsolicited contacts” need to be “appropriately managed” and that committee members should refrain from directly responding to requests about committees’ efforts to advise the agency.

 

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