Month: April 2016

Using Competitors’ Data to Boost Your Firm’s EHS Performance

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Big data is changing how environment, health and safety managers do their jobs, from complying with environmental laws to managing risk and ensuring worker safety on the production floor.

Here’s another way big data can boost EHS performance and businesses: you can access other companies’ data to gain a competitive advantage.

In a P2 (pollution prevention) Impact blog, the EPA’s Kara Koehrn and Dave Turk write about competitors’ pollution prevention activities — publicly available through the agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program — can improve your company’s EHS performance.

Webinar: Making Climate Change Communication Stick with Framing

Monday, May 2nd at 6:30 pm CDT
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/123672342419364097

Have you ever wondered what would be the best way to talk about climate change? Have you felt unsure if your message is clear and connects to your students or audiences? If so, then this webinar is for you! Effectively communicating complex issues involves sound science and an element of artistry. The FrameWorks Institute interviewed over 18,000 Americans and conducted multiple experiments on the topic of communicating climate chanage to identify the “frames” or messaging strategies, which are most likely to help the public understand that:

  • fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change
  • our ocean is part of the climate change story
  • we need alternative energy solutions at the community-based level
  • these are all issues that we can and should tackle

Find out how you can use these simple, clear, and effective messages to communicate climate change in your classroom and beyond.

The U.S. oil and gas boom is having global atmospheric consequences, scientists suggest

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Scientists say they have made a startling discovery about the link between domestic oil and gas development and the world’s levels of atmospheric ethane — a carbon compound that can both damage air quality and contribute to climate change. A new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has revealed that the Bakken Shale formation, a region of intensely increasing recent oil production centered in North Dakota and Montana, accounts for about 2 percent of the entire world’s ethane output — and, in fact, may be partly responsible for reversing a decades-long decline in global ethane emissions.

Vote for your favorite data stories video

Science Magazine’s Data Stories competition is still accepting votes for their People’s Choice award. The competition asked people to submit short-form (90 second) videos that use data visualizations to tell stories. View all of the submissions here.

Taking the Stigma Out of Buying Used Electronics

Read the full story in the New York Times.

GameStop’s refurbishment of video game consoles underlines how a used electronic sold by a reputable brand can often be as good as buying new. While a used product may lack the original packaging or there might be some scuffs on it, the quality of many of the devices remains high and people who buy the gadgets do the world a favor by putting more use into the energy, metals, plastics and human labor invested in creating the product, said Carole Mars, the senior research lead for the Sustainability Consortium, which studies the sustainability of consumer goods.

Baths to washing machines: welcome to the (almost) waterless home of the future

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Domestic products that eliminate the need for water could mean you’ll never have to get wet in the bath or boil an egg again.

Scientists now know the psychology behind your worries about the environment

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

More and more, attempts to explain why people behave the way they do in politics have turned away from the actual substance of issues and toward the traits of individuals themselves. Thus, this election season, there has been considerable focus on why Donald Trump appeals to voters, with psychologists noting that traits like “authoritarianism” — a preference for clear, unambiguous and decisive answers — help to explain the phenomenon.

So what about other political identities — like, say, being a major tree-hugger? Clearly, such people aren’t authoritarians, but then, what are they?

Past research has highlighted that those who care about the environment tend to be “Open to Experience” — wanting to try out new things and new experiences — and also to have high levels of empathy, or sensitivity to the suffering of others (including not just humans, but plants and animals). New research, though, suggests there’s a more intellectual side to being green as well. In particular, it finds that those with a tendency to engage in what is called “systems thinking” — embracing complex, multifaceted causal explanations for phenomena and recognizing the unpredictability of how nature works — also tend to value the environment more and to be more concerned about climate change.

Carbon Tax based on Social Cost of Carbon: Cost Benefit Analysis in Disguise?

Read the full post at GreenLaw.

David Robert’s second installment of his ruminations on carbon taxes is out here, and is worth a read. Shorter David Roberts: a $10 per ton carbon tax based on low estimates of the social cost of carbon is still well beyond what U.S. households would be willing to pay to address climate change, but political resistance fades if the revenues are used to promote clean energy.  Ten dollars a ton works out to about ten cents per gallon of gasoline.

Even shorter Roberts: $10/ton too much (politically) to pay for climate. Much as I’d like, I can’t disagree with his political economics conclusion.

Roberts also asserts that:

A consensus has formed among economists, climate wonks, and progressives that a carbon tax is the best way to address climate change. In some quarters, rhetorical support for a carbon tax is seen as a litmus test for whether policymakers are serious about climate change.

Roberts then assumes that a carbon tax would or should be set at the social cost of carbon, per ton, even while acknowledging that estimates of the social cost of carbon almost certainly understate the true economic costs of climate change.

I think that even if one could calculate and monetize the true social cost of carbon, basing a tax on social cost would simply reinforce the imposition of climate harms on the global poor. Basing a tax on the social cost of carbon does not seek to prevent severe climate harm; rather, it simply seeks to reach the economically optimal rate of severe climate damage.  In other words, a “social cost of carbon” tax is simply cost-benefit in disguise – wealthy carbon emitters would rather pay the tax to continue their profitable carbon based economy, seeing the cost of compensation for the cheap social costs to poor people as a cost of doing business.  To add insult to injury, these “social cost” taxes would not be used to compensate those suffering the most severe climate harms, but rather would (in the best case) be recycled into making renewable energy cheaper in the developed economies best able to adapt to climate change.

 

EPA Administrator McCarthy Announces 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing 24 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across 12 states, the District of Columbia and Canada for outstanding achievement in the design, manufacture, promotion and use of a range of cleaning and other household products that carry the Safer Choice label. Administrator McCarthy announced the winners at an event at a local hardware store in San Francisco today.

“Everyone wants products with ingredients that are safer for their kids, pets, communities and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Using technology and innovation to turn challenges into profitable opportunities makes our businesses stronger and more competitive, our families and workers healthier, and our environment cleaner.”

The Safer Choice standards were developed through a multi-stakeholder process, with a range of businesses and public interest groups, including environmental and health advocacy organizations. EPA assesses ingredients for the Safer Choice program based on a full chemical identification. Where necessary, EPA requires studies to prove safety of the chemicals used, and applies the expertise of chemists and toxicologists who have assessed thousands of chemicals.

These stringent human and environmental health safety standards mean that consumers can know with certainty that a product’s safety claims are backed by science. Safer Choice currently has around 500 formulator-manufacturer partners who make more than 2,000 products for retail and institutional customers.

The 2016 Partner of the Year award winners represent a wide variety of leadership organizations. Participants include Fortune 500 companies, small- and medium-sized businesses, and non-governmental organizations. The 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards will be presented at 2:00 p.m. on May 9, 2016 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The winners fall under the following categories:

Safer Formulator-Manufacturer: Boulder Clean (Boulder, Colo.), BISSELL (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Case Medical, Inc. (South Hackensack, N.J.), Clean Control Corporation (Warner Robins, Ga.), The Clorox Company (Pleasanton, Calif.), Futurescape Inc. (Port Orange, Fla.), Jelmar, LLC (Skokie, Ill.), Osprey Biotechnics Inc. (Sarasota, Fla.), RB (Parsippany, N.J.) and Seventh Generation Inc. (Burlington, Vt.)

Safer Chemical Innovator: BASF Corporation (Florham Park, N.J.), Ecolab (Eagan, Minn.), Osprey Biotechnics (Sarasota, Fla.) and Virox Technologies Inc. (Oakville, Ontario, Canada)

Purchaser/Distributor: Solutex, Inc. (Sterling, Va.)

Retailer: Albertsons Companies (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. (Rochester, N.Y.)

Program Supporter: American Sustainable Business Council (Alexandria, Va.), The Ashkin Group (Los Angeles), Consumer Specialty Products Association (Washington, D.C.), Environmental Defense Fund (New York, N.Y.), Federal Sustainable Acquisitions and Materials Management Practices (SAMM) Working Group (Washington, D.C.), Healthy Schools Campaign (Chicago), ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (Northbrook, Ill.), Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (New York, N.Y.)

When companies demonstrate a commitment to the health of their customers and the planet, consumers respond. Not only does the Safer Choice program put the power of choice into the hands of consumers, it actually incentivizes manufacturers to change the ingredients in their products – so they can meet the strict safety criteria the Safer Choice label demands.

More on the 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners, and registration for the Awards Ceremony, can be found at http://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-choice-partner-year-awards.

EPA Honors Winners of 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the winners of its fourth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a design competition created to engage college and university students in reinventing our nation’s water infrastructure and developing green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Student teams proposed innovative green infrastructure designs help aid in the development of more sustainable communities.

Stormwater is one of the nation’s most widespread challenges to water quality. Large volumes of stormwater pollute our nation’s streams, rivers and lakes, posing a threat to human health and the environment and contribute to downstream flooding. The Campus RainWorks Challenge engages students and faculty members at colleges and universities to apply green infrastructure principles and design, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on campuses across the nation.

“Our Campus RainWorks Challenge winners inspire the next generation of green infrastructure designers and planners,” said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “All the submissions included innovative approaches to stormwater management. I want to congratulate the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Maryland for their winning submissions.” Mr. Beauvais announced the winners of the Challenge at an event at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday, April 21.

EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories — the Master Plan category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a broad area of a school’s campus, and the Demonstration Project category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a particular site on the team’s campus. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students, working with a faculty advisor, developed innovative green infrastructure designs in one of the categories, showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.

The 2015 challenge winners are:

University of Texas at Arlington (1st Place, Master Plan category) – The team’s design concept, titled, “Eco-Flow: A Water-Sensitive Placemaking Response to Climate Change,” transforms the campus through green infrastructure placed in relation to the natural water flow of Trading House Creek. The creek flows from northwest to south connecting the campus. The plan proposes to increase biodiversity, restore soil quality and watershed hydrology, and implement photovoltaic cells to supply alternative energy. The plan has the potential to reduce stormwater runoff 25 inches annually, generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours each year, increase campus tree coverage 89 percent, and mitigate 5,000 tons of CO2.

University of Maryland, College Park (1st Place, Demonstration Project category) – The design is centered on reimagining a major, five-acre parking lot to retrofit it for improved stormwater management. The design features reduce 40 percent of impervious surface; add over 17,000 square feet of new vegetation space, 56 new trees for shaded parking spaces, and 8,640 square feet of pedestrian space; and, reduce 12.3 metric tons of CO2 annually. The team’s design has good potential for implementing on other campuses.

Stevens Institute of Technology (2nd Place, Master Plan category) – The team proposed the first stormwater management plan for the Stevens’ campus, “The Living Laboratory.” The design includes 29 green infrastructure techniques, which have been applied to problem areas to reduce runoff, contaminant discharge and potable water usage. The Living Laboratory provides a practical example for urban campus green infrastructure and introduces classroom and community educational opportunities. The team worked with Stevens Facilities and Events Management to ensure the proposed design is aligned with future growth of campus, can be maintained, is aesthetically pleasing and economically responsible.

University of California, Berkeley (2nd Place, Demonstration Project category) – The team chose a creek site on campus that was the university’s first botanical garden with many artificial landscape features that cause drainage problems. While it is home to a legacy of exotic plants, the site lacks habitat conducive to supporting native species and reducing runoff. The team proposes a design that will store 37,000 cubic feet of stormwater runoff, increase pervious surface are by 33 percent and increase native plant species. The design has potential to reduce flooding and restore the ecological diversity of the area.

EPA also recognized teams from the University of Texas at Arlington (Master Plan category) and Northeastern University (Demonstration Project category) as honorable mentions for their entries.

EPA will announce the fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the summer of 2016.

Green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems. Utilizing these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/2015-campus-rainworks-challenge

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