Day: January 27, 2015

New ISTC Publication: Teaching Sustainability with Electronics

Download the document.

Changing perceptions about our place in, and relationship to, the rest of the natural world, is a crucial aspect of fostering sustainable behavior. Worldviews shape decisions. Lack of awareness, confusion, or apathy toward the effects of our actions on the greater system to which we belong, can be seen as the root causes of many of our collective environmental, social, and economic problems — in other words, as threats to sustainability. However, the concept of “sustainability” can seem abstract and complex without context to make it relatable to an individual’s everyday experiences. Electronic devices permeate our society, and serve as a point of interest and familiarity in discussions of sustainability issues. Considering the impacts of the production, use, and disposal of your smartphone, for example, can be more engaging and comprehensible than out-of-context discussions of issues like rainforest destruction, climate change, etc. One of the goals of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is to use examination of the product life cycles of electronic devices to teach concepts of sustainability and systems thinking.


REPORT: Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development Net Blue Initiative Will Help Communities Pursue Water-Neutral Growth

Amid growing demands on water resources, water demand offset and water-neutral growth programs show promise as an effective way for communities to support sustainable growth, according to a new report released today by the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE).

As the U.S. population continues to grow and urbanize, planners and decision makers are becoming increasingly challenged with the task of accommodating new water /assets/0/28/5164/1e56bf18-9ec6-441a-af09-5ca37f9f65d2.jpgcustomers with existing and possibly limited water supplies. Nearly 40 out of 50 states are experiencing or anticipating water shortages in the next decade, creating potential challenges for growing communities and industrial centers in both arid and traditionally water-rich regions.[1]

“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “Innovative strategies and new land use planning tools that consider and address natural resource constraints can help communities to thrive and become more resilient to potential climate-related impacts.”

AWE’s report, Water Offset Policies for Water-Neutral Community Growth, reviewed 13 communities throughout the United States that currently have a water demand offset policy or water neutral growth policy in place. These policies require offsetting the projected water demand of new development with water efficiency measures to create a “Net Zero” or neutral impact on overall service a rea demands and water use. The report found that the most common scenario where this has been applied entails issuing building permits for development that requires offset of the new water use through both on-site water efficiency measures and replacement of inefficient fixtures in pre-existing facilities. In numerous California communities and in cities ranging from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Sharon, Massachusetts, water demand offset programs have been utilized to help enable new construction that likely would have been prohibited due to supply constraints.

“We examined communities in which water demand offset programs have been applied and found that they seem to be effective, but that this is not a widely implemented practice,” said Bill Christiansen, Program Manager at the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  “We believe one barrier is the lack of a standard approach to determine how much water a specific action will save. A clear methodology for calculating savings would help communities more easily adopt a water demand offset strategy and ensure success.”

To guide more communities to utilize these strategies, AWE has partnered with the Environmental Law Institute and River Network to launch Net Blue, a new initiative aiming to offer a practical path to sustainable community development. The three organizations are developing a model ordinance template, including a consistent and industry-approved methodology for calculating offsets to ensure desired water savings, which communities can tailor to create a water demand offset approach that meets their needs. /assets/0/28/5164/efbdb977-0f7d-439d-933e-a1f1fda9d3a5.jpg

AWE’s report also revealed what components are necessary for a successful and sustainable ordinance or policy. This includes not only a methodology for estimating savings of eligible efficiency measures, but also a water demand offset requirement in proportion to projected demand, mechanisms to verify implementation of efficiency measures, and polices to ensure demand reductions are permanent.

“The Net Blue effort will help cities such as San Francisco that must balance growth projections with limited water supplies,” said Paula Kehoe, Director of Water Resources of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “A customizable ordinance, based on best practices and developed by water and land use experts is a valuable and timely resource.”

The project will preview the ordinances in communities in different regions throughout North America to develop the ordinance components and to ensure it is adaptable in communities with diverse political climates, legal frameworks and environmental challenges. The project partners are seeking additional pilot/partner communities to participate.

Further information on the Net Blue initiative and the full Water Offset Policies for Water-Neutral Community Growth report are available here.

About the Alliance for Water Efficiency

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water in North America. Working with more than 400 water suppliers, business and industry, regulatory and advocacy organizations, AWE delivers innovative tools and training to encourage cost-effective water conservation programs, cutting-edge research, and policy options necessary for a sustainable water future.  For more information, visit AWE’s website, like AWE on Facebook, join the discussion on LinkedIn and follow AWE on Twitter @A4WE.


Megan Chery
Alliance for Water Efficiency
(773) 360-5100

Why businesses should support the EPA’s pollution rules

Read the full story in The Guardian.

As the US political fight over climate change moves from Washington DC to 50 state capitals, companies that are serious about sustainability need to support the EPA’s proposed rules to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants.

So, at least, says Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a nonprofit that brings together companies, investors and public-interest groups to advocate for sustainability.

All that glitters? 10 problems we need to tackle in the gold supply chain

Read the full story from The Guardian.

Our panel of experts discussed how the gold industry could become more sustainable and transparent. Here’s what we learned.

We could end up with ‘as much plastic in our oceans as fish’

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A failure to address the mountains of waste in the developing world will result in as much plastic in our oceans as fish, the head of Ocean Conservancy has warned.

Andreas Merkl, CEO of the Washington-based environmental NGO, said the combination in the developing world of a burgeoning middle class and low recycling rates will lead to an exponential rise in the amount of plastic washed out to sea.

Climate change: how can we move beyond the committed few?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A decade on from a landmark letter arguing for business and government to work together to address climate change, there’s still a long way to go says Polly Courtice

Call for papers: Water in the World: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Access and Sustainability

Water in the World: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Access and Sustainability
November 6-7, 2015 @ Winthrop University
Rock Hill, South Carolina

The conference focuses on the uses, politics, art, history, and economics of water worldwide. It is open to faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, activists, and community professionals.

Examples of possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The privatization of water
  • Climate change
  • Development goals and their water implications
  • Water security and insecurity
  • The politics and economics of water reuse
  • Capacity building
  • Food, water, and the environment
  • Art and design contributions to water management
  • Financing and investment schemes
  • Historical droughts and floods
  • Climate justice, ethical, cultural and religious values
  • The role of water in post-conflict peace building
  • The impact of water policy on the poor
  • Creative solutions to water challenges
  • Water in creative practice
  • Media coverage of water issues
  • Perceptions of risk and water quality issues

Papers will be reviewed for connections to the theme and an interdisciplinary approach to the subject.
For more information on the Winthrop University Water Conference and for conference updates, visit our website at:

Abstracts (limit 500 words) for individual papers or panels should be sent by March 1, 2015 to: Dr. Ginger Williams (History) @ AND Dr. Laura Dougherty (Theatre and Dance) @

Abstracts (limit 500 words) for posters should be sent by March 1, 2015 to: Dr. Simone Camel (Human Nutrition) @ AND Dr. M. Gregory Oakes (Philosophy and Religious Studies) @

General questions can be addressed to Drs. Williams or Dougherty.

All participants will be notified on or before April 15, 2015.

Telecoms, Data Center Trends Heighten Climate Risks, Vulnerability

Read the full story in Triple Pundit.

Like water, energy and waste management, digital telecommunications and data centers have become utilities essential for modern societies to function sustainably. It is generally accepted that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events — and the onset of gradual, long-terms shifts in weather patterns and climate — pose existential threats to critical information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, as well as infrastructure.

But a recent report from Riverside Technology and Acclimatise found that the business risks of climate change as they relate to telecommunications and data centers are poorly recognized — particularly with respect to infrastructure and supply chains. Similarly, climate change resiliency and adaptation plans in this critical segment of the U.S. ICT sector are poorly developed, concluded the report, which was conducted on behalf of the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA).

Tossing Out Food In The Trash? In Seattle, You’ll Be Fined For That

Read the full story from NPR.

In Seattle, wasting food will now earn you a scarlet letter — well, a scarlet tag, to be more accurate.

The bright red tag, posted on a garbage bin, tells everyone who sees it that you’ve violated a new city law that makes it illegal to put food into trash cans.

How Climate Change May Lead to Bigger Blizzards

Read the full story in Frontline.

With every winter storm, including the blizzard hitting the Northeast this week, climate change skeptics return to a familiar argument: If the world is getting warmer, why am I stuck out here, shoveling so much snow?

Climate scientists tell FRONTLINE that blizzards don’t refute evidence of climate change — in fact, climate change can make blizzards more intense.  The first thing people need to understand, they say, is the difference between climate and weather.

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