In Drought-Ridden California, the Classic Lawn Loses Ground

Read the full story in the New York Times.

With help from public rebates, yards are being redefined as grass gives way to less thirsty materials, including decomposed granite.

These Vertical Farms Turn Unused City Wall Space Into Gardens That Grow Your Lunch

Read the full story in Fast Company.

In most cities, where any available land tends to be quickly snatched up by developers, it can be hard for would-be urban farmers without backyards to find a place to plant crops. But if there aren’t enough community garden plots to go around, one urban farming company thinks cities have another resource: walls.

Bright Agrotech, a Wyoming-based vertical farming company, designs lightweight hydroponic farm systems that can attach to any unused wall space along sidewalks or behind buildings.

Game-Changing Process Mitigates CO2 Emissions Using Renewable Energy

Read the full story from the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Gold nanoparticles are at the heart of a new process conceived and developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) that can efficiently convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into usable chemicals and fuels—a breakthrough that could lead to an effective industrial scale way to reduce CO2 emissions for a positive impact on the world’s environment. The innovation was recently detailed by NETL in the American Chemical Society (ACS) publication ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Webinar: Are robots a boon or a bust in scientific research?

November 18, 2015 — noon-1 pm
To watch the seminar live, connect to https://umn.webex.com/umn/onstage/g.php?d=749731945&t=a. Connection instructions are available here.

Volkan Isler, IonE Resident Fellow and Associate Professor, College of Science and Engineering; and Mark Ditmer, Postdoctoral Researcher, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Robots are increasingly being put to scientific purposes. Autonomous aerial, ground and surface vehicles are used to assess fertilizer levels in cornfields and yield estimates for apple orchards. They are also being used in a variety of wildlife management and conservation situations, such as monitoring invasive fish and tracking free-roaming wildlife. A recent study, however, found bears to have an adverse reaction to drones in their environment. In this presentation, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this evolving technology.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Linked To Workers’ Low Cognitive Function

Read the full post from the Huffington Post.

Running into mental blocks at your desk job? A new Harvard study says you may be able to blame it on the air quality in your office.

In a paper published Monday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, a team of researchers found that people working in well-ventilated “green” buildings with below-average indoor air pollution and carbon dioxide, or CO2, showed better cognitive functioning than workers in “non-green” offices with typical pollutant and CO2 levels.

Illinois Companies, Organizations Honored for Achievements In Sustainability

Nineteen Illinois companies and organizations were honored October 27 for their demonstrated leadership in implementing sustainable principles and practices. The Governor’s Sustainability Awards, the “Emmy Awards for Sustainability,” were presented by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) during a ceremony in Chicago. ISTC is a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Since 1987, ISTC has presented Governor’s Awards to organizations in Illinois that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence through outstanding and innovative sustainability practices. Any Illinois public or private organization is eligible to apply for the award. Winners are selected through a rigorous process of review and examination by ISTC technical assistance experts.

“Businesses that invest in sustainability drive a thriving Illinois economy by creating jobs and making an investment in our future,” said Governor Rauner. “The Governor’s Sustainability Awards foster sustainable innovation and encourage our public and private sector to build a stronger, more sustainable Illinois.”

Sustainable economic growth is essential to the long-term competitiveness of the state, according to ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien. “These awards demonstrate that you can preserve natural and cultural resources and simultaneously grow your business,” he said. “That is why this award is very critical. It demonstrates it can be done, it’s being done in Illinois, and it is what sets us apart as Illinoisans.”

The complete list of 2015 award winners is listed below.

2015 Governor’s Sustainability Award Winners

  • Abbot Laboratories – Abbot Park
  • Abbie Inc. – North Chicago
  • Argonne National Laboratory – Lemont
  • Caterpillar – Morton Parts Distribution Center
  • Clarke – St. Charles
  • ComEd – Oak Brook Terrace
  • Cook County – Chicago*
  • Golden State Foods Chicago – McCook*
  • Griffith Laboratories – Alsip*
  • Hoffer Plastics Corporation – South Elgin*
  • Illinois Tollway – Downers Grove
  • J.L. Clark – Rockford
  • John G. Shedd Aquarium – Chicago*
  • McHenry County Government – Woodstock*
  • Public Building Commission – Chicago*
  • Saratoga Food Specialties – Bolingbrook*
  • Silgan Containers Manufacturing Corporation – Rochelle*
  • University Housing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*
  • Western Illinois University – Macomb*

 * Indicates a first-time winner of the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award.

Additional information on the Governor’s Sustainability Awards program, lists of previous winners, and information on technical assistance for Illinois companies and communities are available from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, One Hazelwood Drive, Champaign, IL 61820, phone (217) 333-8940, http://www.istc.illinois.edu/

To Request Photos of Winning Teams, please contact jdexter@illinois.edu

Pooped out: absence of big mammals foils ecosystem fertilization

Read the full story at Planet Ark.

You can call it the fertilization cessation, and scientists say it has had a disruptive effect on ecosystems around the world.

A study unveiled on Monday showed that the extinction or precipitous population declines of large land and sea mammals starting at the end of the last Ice Age and continuing through today has deprived ecosystems of a vital source of fertilization in their dung, urine and, after death, decomposing bodies.