Day: July 21, 2015

Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Lands, Landfills, and Mine Sites

EPA is encouraging renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. This initiative identifies the renewable energy potential of these sites and provides other useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.

White House, EPA Honor Environmental Education Award Winners

On Friday, July 17, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will recognize the winners and honorable mentions for the annual President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) and Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). The 44 students and 27 teachers from across the country will be honored at a ceremony at the White House for outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship.

The event will be live streamed at

In addition, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation will announce the winner of NEEF’s 2015 Bartlett Award. The Bartlett Award is given to an outstanding PIAEE winner for demonstrating creative integration of environmental education across subject areas, engaging others in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges, and increasing student achievement within and beyond the classroom.

“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world — and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe, and safeguard the water we drink.”

The PIAEE awards are given to environmental educators who use innovative, hands-on, experiential approaches. Winning teachers led unique programs such as conserving nearby aquatic ecosystems, building a hydrogen fuel-cell powered Model T car, and developing outdoor laboratories and classrooms.

PIAEE Winners:

  • Ross McCurdy, North Scituate, RI
  • Minnuette Rodríguez, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Sven Strnad, Plainsboro, NJ
  • Liam McGranaghan, Purcellville, VA
  • Anne Moore, Goochland, VA
  • Robert Hodgdon, Richmond Hill, GA
  • Jenna Mobley, Atlanta, GA
  • Lisa Bircher, East Palestine, OH
  • Jolie Hobbs, Van Buren, AR
  • Michael Hotz, Kansas City, KS
  • Sara Forness, West Fargo, ND
  • Sarah Lord, Billings, MT
  • James Powell, Atherton, CA
  • Ryan Monger, Sultan, WA
  • Robert Shepard, Edmonds, WA

PIAEE Honorable Mentions:

  • Morgan Cuthbert, Yarmouth, ME
  • Kim Preshoff, Williamsville, NY
  • Jessica McAtamney, Philadelphia, PA
  • Kevin Willis, Carmichaels, PA
  • Kathleen King, Stockbridge, GA
  • Carrie Settles, Lawrenceville, GA
  • Joseph Brady, New Philadelphia, OH
  • Lesley Zylstra, Milwaukee, WI
  • Josh Armstrong, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Jackie Lacey, San Bernadino, CA
  • Barbara Bromley, Silverdale, WA
  • Sarah Gotschall, JBER, AK

The PEYA awards celebrate student leadership in service projects to protect the environment and build a livable, sustainable global community.

PEYA-winning projects:

  • “Operation Ban the Bottle,” Lincoln-Sudbury High School, Sudbury, MA. Team Name: Lincoln-Sudbury High School Environmental Club
  • “It’s a Pressing Matter,” Little Egg Harbor, NJ. Team Name: Pinelands Eco Scienteers.
  • “Conversion of Plant Waste Materials into Useful Fuel Blocks for Combustion,” Fairfax, VA. Individual Project Lead: Eugene Jeong
  • “A Green and Novel Technology for Recovering Copper and Wood from Treated Wood Waste—Part 1,” Durham, NC. Individual Project Lead: Sharon Chen
  • “EcoErek,” Curtice, OH. Individual Project Lead: Erek Hansen
  • “Arsenic: It’s What’s for Dinner,” Whiteface, TX. Team Name: Arsenic Arresters
  • “South Boulder Creek Flood Restoration,” Boulder, CO. Individual Project Lead: Seth Blum
  • “Don’t Be a Nurdle, Help the Sea Turtle” Watsonville, CA. Team Name: Mount Madonna School
  • “Creating an Efficient and Novel Method for Remediation of Marine Oil Spills through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Principles,” Portland, OR. Individual Project Lead: Sahil Veeramoney

Today, EPA is also announcing a new interagency agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support both research and on-the-ground work that will help foster the student-nature connection through environmental education, stewardship and conservation. The agreement will help advance the Hands On the Land (HOL) program, a national network of partnerships between federal agencies and local schools that creates opportunities for students to learn in America’s largest classrooms – national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments, and other federally-owned public lands. Formed in 1999, HOL now has more than 150 partnerships around the country. This agreement will support development of 20 new school partnerships. The agreement will also support environmental education research, including a review of citizen science and experiential outdoor youth education programs. This research effort will seek to improve the understanding and recognition of the role of environmental education in achieving environmental and conservation goals, helping students develop lifelong learning skills, and fostering a greater sense of respect and responsibility for the environment among communities.

5 lessons the building industry can learn from a Fitbit

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Personal fitness tracking has taken hold of people in a big way. Wearable tracking devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone and FuelBand allow consumers to track their physical activity, heart rate, calories burned and more.

Demand for these devices has grown incredibly over the last few years, with one in 10 U.S. adults owning one. Fitbit has sold more than 20 million devices since 2007 and has just gone public.

This growing trend of gathering more data and performing more data analysis can be applied to buildings as well. Just as tracking your physical activity can improve your fitness, tracking a building’s energy use has the potential to reduce a building’s energy use.

Smart buildings minimize energy cost, support a robust electric grid and mitigate environmental impact. As the number of smart buildings grows and the technology matures, we can learn some lessons from wearable fitness trackers.

How Big Water is trying to stop the National Park Service from cleaning up plastic bottles that are fouling the parks

Read the full story from the Washington Post.

The National Park Service thought it had a good strategy for reining in the discarded water bottles that clog the trash cans and waste stream of the national parks: stop selling disposable bottles and let visitors refill reusable ones with public drinking water.

But Big Water has stepped in to block the parks from banning the plastic pollutants — and the industry found an ally on Capitol Hill to add a little-noticed amendment to a House spending bill that would kill the policy.

These Lego-Like Roads Are Made From Plastic Trash

Read the full story in Fast Company.

We may soon be driving on last year’s plastic bags and bottles, fished out of the ocean. A new project in the Netherlands is turning plastic waste—especially scraps that couldn’t be used for anything else—into new roads.

A Brief History of Household Recycling

Read the full post at CityLab.

Recycling programs might seem ordinary today, but it wasn’t long ago that the vast majority of households sent 100 percent of their waste to landfills. These days, the most ambitious cities are adding “zero-waste” goals to a growing list of “green” policies. Will any of them truly arrive at a future without trash? If the past is any guide, the best ideas for how to get there will be the result of years of testing and tinkering.

The tech industry is threatening to drink California dry

Read the full story in The Guardian.

We hear a lot about what the tech giants are doing with our data, but what are they doing with our water?

Water keeps our internet-based economy afloat by ensuring equipment in data centres stays cool enough to funtion. Yet in California, the drought-ravaged epicenter of the technology industry, water is in ever-shorter supply. Nasa scientist Jay Famiglietti predicts the state has only one year of water left. This raises serious questions about the environmental impact of our burgeoning data demands.

Serving up plant-based plastics

Read the full story in Plastics News.

The ownership of Stillwater, Minn., mold maker and manufacturer VistaTek LLC created an independent company to manufacture plates, bowls and other items from plant-based plastics.

Called SelfEco, the company produces various food service items — plates, bowls, cups, cutlery — and other supplies that are compostable in commercial composting facilities. The company will introduce a new line of home and garden products this month at Cultivate’15, a horticulture show in Columbus, Ohio.

5 ways to cash in on the circular economy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Buy a product or material, use it, then figure out a way to reuse it — or hand it off to someone who will.

This type of multiple use value chain sounds good in theory, and has propelled buzzy concepts like the circular economy or closed loop systems, thanks to the desire to realize dual economic and environmental upsides.

The issue is that several barriers still exist when it comes to executing on both of those fronts. For a circular economic model to truly function, vendors must shift away from a linear make, use and dispose model, instead maximizing the lifecycle of materials and then repurposing them once they have reached end of life.

7 drought lessons from the West: ‘It’s all about the data’

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The drought was front and center as leaders of the parched Western U.S. states came together to discuss how to mobilize their resources to combat water scarcity.

That was the pressing question at the opening panel at the Western Governor’s Association annual meeting in June, in which I participated alongside 10 western governors. We explored the following seven recommendations from the WGA Drought Forum Report (PDF):

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