Month: July 2015

Organic Landcare Solutions at Lewis & Clark College

Read the full post at EcoBiz.

Founded in 1974, Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization that certifies farmers as well as landscape professionals nationwide.  Oregon Tilth actively promotes a more sustainable approach to landscaping via the Organic Landcare program.  Through examinations and extensive training, landscapers can become accredited as an Oregon Tilth Organic Landcare professional.  Periodically, the Organic Landcare program offers Peer Learning Sessions to share knowledge and techniques among industry professionals.  On July 22nd, Oregon Tilth presented an organic land care peer learning session on the campus of Lewis and Clark College.  Suzie Spencer, arborist and ground steward for Lewis and Clark College, led a tour of the campus, highlighting unique landcare features along the way.

How Can Daycare Facilities Minimize Toxic Exposures?

Read the full response from the Pollution Prevention Resource Center.

The question relates to facilities that provide temporary, drop-in day care for children, ages three to ten. The facility consists of: a mat zone (for jumping and tumbling), a snack area, general toys and books, an arts and craft area, and periodic trips to the outdoor playground.

Since it is not a licensed day care, it is not bound by the same regulatory cleaning requirements as a daycare facility, but it does use bleach and various disinfectants including aerosol sprays and wipes.

The facility wants to prioritize and minimize toxic exposures to visiting children. The following sections provide some information and suggestions, categorized under cleaning exposure, cleaning and disinfection, building materials, toys, art, and pest management.

A ‘Third Way’ to Fight Climate Change

Read the full opinion piece in the New York Times.

Two options for dealing with climate change — reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a global agreement, and geoengineering proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere — tend to dominate current thinking. But there is a “third way” that is almost entirely neglected in political negotiations and public debate. It involves capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it or using it to create things we need. Because of the scale of the climate problem, I believe that in coming decades third-way technologies will become a major focus of activity.

Water Scholars Website Launched

unnamedThe Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) has announced a new website to coalesce the dozens of water scholars on the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus.

The website showcases Illinois research, education, and engagement programs integrated across four main categories of water-related “needs”:

  1. Adaptation to a changing climate and extreme weather events;
  2. Sustainable water, food, and energy resources;
  3. Safe drinking water and public health; and
  4. Resilient watersheds and ecosystems.

In addition, Water at Illinois has individual pages for scholars, plus a page describing who the scholars are and the Water Council that steers them. It is a “front porch” to various water centers at Illinois — including the state surveys, academic units, and grant-based centers — as well as to laboratories, facilities and field stations that specialize in water research.

For more information, please visit water.illinois.edu.

How Mars is greening pet food with bycatch and grain

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

The United States is home to 85.8 million cats and 77.8 million dogs. They all have to eat. And that’s a problem — particularly when owners decide to feed their pets as if they were people.

The environmental impact of pet food is big, although no one knows just how big. Like the rest of us, dogs and cats consume meat, fish, corn and wheat, thus creating pressures on the global food system, along with carbon emissions as the food is manufactured and transported.

What we do know is that pet food is big business, generating about $22 billion in sales a year, industry groups estimate.

Much could be done to “green” pet foods — dogs and cats are getting more meat and fish than they need, for starters — but the industry is just starting to grapple with its sustainability issues.

Beyond carbon: Emissions cuts the energy industry has missed

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

As we enter the second half of the year, activity is picking up in advance of the United Nations’ COP21 climate summit in Paris this December.

China just released its “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” to peak its carbon-dioxide emissions around 2030. And in June, six oil and gas majors — BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total — published a joint letter to the U.N. and international governments to affirm their own climate commitments and call for action to ensure we remain within the 2 degrees Celsius threshold.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, responded with her own open letter to welcome the oil and gas industry’s efforts and suggest ways they can support government action.

Whatever Paris delivers, the energy sector can make immediate progress to build momentum for the transition to a low-emissions economy. The industry is uniquely positioned to address short-lived climate pollutants — black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and hydrofluorocarbons — through fast mitigation.

Indeed, up to 1 degree C (PDF) of temperature rise can be avoided this way. Based on BSR’s work with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), there are three main areas where the sector can make progress on short-lived climate pollutants:

Yes, recycling is still good business — if this happens

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Municipalities and recycling companies should redefine recycling contracts to value each commodity type individually in order to share in the true costs and benefits of the recycling market.

Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs – in Water

Read the full story from the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).

Remember the science fair?

For some of us it was an exciting time of creative experimentation. For others it was a time of botched and badly displayed data. For 16-year-old Maria Elena Grimmett, it’s a blast. And she isn’t peddling baking soda and vinegar volcanoes.

Grimmett is tackling serious water quality issues that threaten the health of rivers, streams and groundwater. When she was just 14 years old, Grimmett was the youngest person published in the Journal of Environmental Quality. Now at 16, she has just put the final touches on her research of a plastic adsorbent that removes pharmaceutical drugs from water sources…

Read the details of Grimmett’s research in her article, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

EPA Reaches Agreement with Manufacturer to Stop Use of TCE in Spray Fixative Products Used on Arts and Crafts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with a manufacturer to voluntarily phase-out the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in an aerosol arts and crafts spray fixative product as part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to reduce the public’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

“We are pleased that a company’s voluntary efforts to eliminate TCE from their aerosol fixative product used for arts and crafts will soon mean that all consumer products of this type are TCE-free,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We are also proposing a rule that will give EPA the opportunity to review and, if necessary, block introduction, including imports, of new TCE spray fixative and other consumer products before re-entry into the marketplace. This will ensure a level playing field for American companies who step up and do the right thing. In addition, we are pursuing regulatory action to reduce the risks from exposure to TCE in other products that are not voluntarily addressed.”

TCE is an example of how EPA’s assessment of existing chemicals can lead to real results that protect health and the environment. After identifying health risks associated with a number of TCE uses in its June 2014 Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment conducted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA worked with the manufacturers of TCE on possible voluntary efforts to reduce exposure.

The PLZ Aeroscience Corporation, of Addison, IL, has committed to cease manufacturing its aerosol spray fixative product containing TCE by September 1, 2015. This type of product is used by artists, picture framers, graphic designers and printers to provide a water repellant and protective finish. It is the only TCE-containing spray fixative product on the market still used in arts and crafts.

EPA is issuing a proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under TSCA which requires anyone intending to initiate manufacture (including import) or processing of TCE for these uses to notify EPA at least 90 days before doing so. The notification will allow EPA to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit the use prior to entering the marketplace. Current uses of TCE are not subject to the proposed rule.

In addition to the phase-out and SNUR, the Agency is taking a number of additional steps to reduce the risks from exposure to TCE. EPA is encouraging the transition to safer chemicals and greener processes/ technologies, promoting the use of best practices, and pursuing regulatory action under TSCA to reduce or limit the manufacture, import and use of TCE in a range of products.

EPA is requesting a 60 day comment period that will begin upon publication in the Federal Register at www.regulations.gov and searching for EPA-HQ-OPPT-2014-0327.

A pre-publication copy of the proposal and more information can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/tce.html

Learn more about EPA’s TSCA Work Plan Assessments.

Three recent biochar research articles

“Biochar Supported Nanoscale Iron Particles for the Efficient Removal of Methyl Orange Dye in Aqueous Solutions.” PLOS One, July 23, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0132067.

Abstract: The presence of organic contaminants in industrial effluents is an environmental concern of increasing global importance. One innovative technology for treating contaminated industrial effluents is nanoscale zero-valent iron supported on biochar (nZVI/BC). Based on Transmission Electron Microscopy, X-Ray Diffraction, and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller characterizations, the nZVI was well dispersed on the biochar and aggregation was dramatically reduced. Methyl orange (MO) served as the representative organic contaminant for verifying the effectiveness of the composite. Using decolorization efficiency as an indicator of treatment effectiveness, increasing doses of nZVI/BC yielded progressively better results with 98.51% of MO decolorized by 0.6 g/L of composite at an nZVI/BC mass ratio of 1:5. The superior decolorization efficiency of the nZVI/BC was attributed to the increase in the dispersion and reactivity of nZVI while biochar increasing the contact area with contaminant and the adsorption of composites. Additionally, the buffering function of acid-washed biochar could be in favor of maintaining the reactivity of nZVI. Furthermore, the aging nZVI/BC for 30 day was able to maintain the removal efficiency indicating that the oxidation of nZVI may be delayed in the presence of biochar. Therefore, the composite of nZVI/BC could represent an effective functional material for treating wastewater containing organic dyes in the future.

“Sorption of arsenate onto magnetic iron-manganese (Fe-Mn) biochar composites.” RSC Advances Accepted 28 Jul 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C5RA12137J.

Abstract: Bimetal adsorbents attract much attention because of their good sorption ability to arsenate (As(V)). In this work, biochar-supported bimetal adsorbents were prepared through either direct pyrolysis of Fe and Mn ions treated pinewood biomass (FMM) or co-precipitation of Fe and Mn ions onto pinewood biochar (FMB). The two Fe-Mn biochar composites were characterized using X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and energy-dispersive X-ray (EDS) analyses. Characterization results suggest that maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) and manganosite (MnO) are dominant metal crystals in FMM, while manganese ferrite (MnFe2O4) is the dominant bimetal crystal in FMB. Batch sorption experiments showed that maximal As(V) sorption of FMB and FMM were 3.44 and 0.50 g kg-1 respectively, which were higher than that of the unmodified biochar. As(V) sorption by FMM and FMB decreased with increasing solution pH (between 3-9). Results of this work suggest that co-precipitation is more effective in preparing magnetic Fe-Mn biochar composites for As(V) removal.

“The effect of paper sludge and biochar addition on brown peat and coir based growing media properties.” Scientia Horticulturae 193, 225–230. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scienta.2015.07.032.

Abstract: Peatlands are crucial sinks for carbon in the terrestrial ecosystem, but they are jeopardized by their use as fuel or as growing media. Much research has been performed aiming to find high quality and low cost substrates from different organic wastes, such as coir, compost, sewage or paper sludges, and thus decrease peat consumption. The main objective of this work is to study the effect on peat and coir-based growing media of deinking sludge (R) and biochar obtained by pyrolysis of deinking sludge at 300 °C (B300). For this reason, mixtures of peat or coir with deinking sludge and corresponding biochar were prepared mixing them at 50/50 v/v ratios. The results showed that it is possible to improve the chemical and hydrophysical properties of peat and coir with addition of biochar and deinking sludge. Indeed, biochar increased air space, water holding capacity and total porosity of peat-based growing media whereas for coir, the best hydrophysical properties were obtained after deinking sludge addition. Finally, the use of biochar plus peat as growing media can increase lettuce yield by more than 100% with respect to peat growing media, which can be related with the improvement of hydrophysical growing media properties. This yield increment along with the reduction of the over-exploitation of peat can justify the use of biochar as growing media in spite of the cost associated to the pyrolysis process.

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