Six more Michigan employees charged with misconduct in Flint water crisis

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Six Michigan employees were charged Friday with misconduct in office for their alleged roles in the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply, which has exposed thousands of children to the toxin and left most city residents drinking bottled water for more than two years.

Here’s your sustainability summer reading list

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Summer is here, hopefully bringing more opportunities to catch up on leisure reading. While you may eat, drink and breathe news and feature articles, a deep dive into a good book can bring deeper knowledge and satisfaction.

Whether postcapitalism, billion-dollar brands, the circular economy or grand strategies pique your interest, there are plenty of great new titles this summer.

Below, find seven new books that should be on every corporate sustainability professional’s radar. (You’ll also find our latest excerpts of books here, which GreenBiz runs on Saturdays.)

Neonicotinoid insecticides can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives

Straub, Lars, et al (2016). “Neonicotinoid insecticides can serve as inadvertent insect contraceptives.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Online ahead of print. DOI:

Abstract: There is clear evidence for sublethal effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on non-target ecosystem service-providing insects. However, their possible impact on male insect reproduction is currently unknown, despite the key role of sex. Here, we show that two neonicotinoids (4.5 ppb thiamethoxam and 1.5 ppb clothianidin) significantly reduce the reproductive capacity of male honeybees (drones), Apis mellifera. Drones were obtained from colonies exposed to the neonicotinoid insecticides or controls, and subsequently maintained in laboratory cages until they reached sexual maturity. While no significant effects were observed for male teneral (newly emerged adult) body mass and sperm quantity, the data clearly showed reduced drone lifespan, as well as reduced sperm viability (percentage living versus dead) and living sperm quantity by 39%. Our results demonstrate for the first time that neonicotinoid insecticides can negatively affect male insect reproductive capacity, and provide a possible mechanistic explanation for managed honeybee queen failure and wild insect pollinator decline. The widespread prophylactic use of neonicotinoids may have previously overlooked inadvertent contraceptive effects on non-target insects, thereby limiting conservation efforts.

Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources accepting applications for Great Lakes Energy Institute

Over the past century, three fossil fuels – petroleum, natural gas and coal – have dominated U.S. energy production and consumption. In 2015, these fossil fuels made up 81.5% of total energy consumption in the country. While fossil fuels have held well above an 80% share for the last one hundred years, that 2015 number marks a new low. And it may be a sign of big changes to come.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is projecting that, by 2040, renewable energy generated by wind and solar will eclipse the contributions of biofuels and nuclear power and even rival coal in our national energy make up. Natural gas, meanwhile, will vie with petroleum for top billing.

IJNR’s Great Lakes Energy Institute will see how these changes are playing out on the ground. Journalists selected for the fellowship will enjoy a week-long field trip exploring everything from gas and oil pipelines and trains carrying crude through the Great Lakes region, to a potential new shale gas play in Michigan and Wisconsin’s largest solar array – built on the remains of a decommissioned coal operation.

Fellows will meet with scientists, business people, lawmakers, activists and local citizens as they take a deep dive into the stories that arise when economy, energy and our environment intersect.

The Great Lakes Energy Institute will begin and end in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Funding: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area

NIFA requests applications for the AFRI Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate Variability and Change (AFRI ANRCVC) Challenge Area Program for fiscal year (FY) 2016 to support research to facilitate the adaptation of agroecosystems and natural resource systems to climate variability and the implementation of mitigation strategies in those systems. The anticipated amount available for grants in FY 2016 is approximately $8.4 million.

There are two program areas, each with different application deadlines:

Climate and Land Use

Letter of Intent Deadline – September 14, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)
Application Deadline – November 17, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)

For FY2016, the AFRI Agriculture and Natural Resources Science for Climate and Variability Challenge Area (AFRI ANRCVC) encourages proposals that address the patterns, processes, and consequences (including GHG emissions and other climate feedbacks) of changes in land use and their drivers, particularly considering intensive farming and forestry systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales, studies that examine the social and behavioral aspects of adoption of adaptive measures and best management practice in the context of changing weather patterns and climate, to ultimately support sustainable and resilient agricultural landscapes into the future.

This program area explores how the mosaic of land use types affect and are affected by climate variability and change through integrated projects that focus on sustainable intensive agricultural systems, including crop, livestock, and forestry production. Projects should aim to promote and enhance resilient and sustainable food/fiber supply chain systems under a changing climate, and address mitigation-adaptation dynamics of responses to climate variability and change. Land use and how this might be impacted by climate change should be the focus. The goal of this program is to produce a greater understanding of underlying processes, drivers and consequences of land use change, including bio-physical and biogeochemical processes, climate feedbacks, and environmental outcomes, and social, behavioral, economic and land use interactions. Projects should use a holistic and systems approaches to identify and quantify the climate adaptation and mitigation tradeoffs associated with changes and trends in intensified agricultural production systems across the landscape to inform decision makers of best management practices, land use, and policies for resilient and sustainable agriculture and forestry production systems.

Applications should examine the entire food/fiber supply chain to 1) identify critical points of intervention along the entire supply chain that are most vulnerable to climate impacts in order to establish best practices; and 2) determine points of intervention that have greatest potential to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration for the mitigation of climate change. In addition to the ecological, biogeochemical and technical processes, the project should also evaluate tthe socio-economic matrix and land use impacts along the food/fiber supply chain system.

Applications for CAP Grants must take a holistic and systems approach to address each of the following technical questions with an emphasis on land use and climate change:

  • Where are the points along the supply chain that are vulnerable to climate variability and change? Proposals should evaluate the impacts of climate on the bio-physical and biogeochemical components of intensified agricultural production systems. Bio-physical aspects may include but are not limited to: water quantity and quality, flood control, soil retention and productivity, microbial communities, nutrient cycling, pest biology and ecology, pollinator health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
  • What are potential adaptation and mitigation strategies that can make the food and or fiber supply chain system resilient and sustainable in a changing climate? What are the points along the food chain system that can be adapted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance carbon sequestration, and lessen environmental impacts?
  • What are the drivers, effects, vulnerabilities, or resiliencies of the socio-economic system in relation to the sustainability of intensified agricultural production and in the context of climate variability and change? What are the behavioral and social responses, policy incentives or institutional frameworks that will foster desirable and sustainable food supply chain systems, enhancing the environment, human well-being, and the community and mitigating risks and consequences resulted from increasing climate variability and change?

Climate Masters Outreach and Extension

Letter of Intent Not Required for this Program Area
Application Deadline – September 14, 2016 (5:00 p.m., Eastern Time)

For FY2016, the AFRI ANRCVC encourages proposals that will bring together a team of extension professionals, along with educators, researchers, non-profits, businesses, policymakers, and other stakeholders to design an innovative approach to conducting community-based educational outreach for better understanding of climate, extreme weather events, energy, conservation, preparedness by people and community leaders, and the impact of informed decision-making. The long-term goal of the program is to support communities and build their capacity to independently plan, initiate, and carry out programs that address these issues.

The design for an innovative program strategy should include, but not be limited to:

  • A feasibility study of implementing a climate-smart communities outreach model
  • An inventory of current community-based initiatives in the public and private sector and best management practices from previous work to enhance climate resiliency.
  • Documentation of research on what makes communities resilient and how this research was utilized to best design the program.
  • A synthesis of literature, reports, and programs that provide insight on what has and has not worked in past climate outreach efforts. The synthesis should include characteristics of a climate-smart community, efforts to improve household and community readiness; and attitudes or behaviors that lead to climate-resilient decisions.

The expected outcomes from the application is that the team will design an innovative program strategy and approach that will address regional needs for developing a climate outreach and extension program that involves volunteers as Climate Masters. At the termination of the project, the team should deliver a document, such as a white paper or report, which establishes criteria for a regional, community-based climate outreach program that has a broad model that could be replicated in communities across the national. The document should describe best practices and evidenced-based promising solutions for conducting outreach to encourage climate-smart living and agricultural practices that positively impacts the environment. The document should include an executive summary and references to relevant sources.

Stanford chemists craft catalyst for making biodegradable plastics

Read the full story from Stanford University.

A long-standing collaboration between Stanford and IBM chemists has led to the development of a catalyst that could make biodegradable plastics derived from renewable materials – promising alternatives to plastics made from oil. The study is published in the current issue of Nature Chemistry.

US car sharing service kept 28,000 private cars off the road in 3 years

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A new study shows one-way car sharing services can significantly reduce the number of cars on the road and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

From Kellogg’s to Unilever, a quiet revolution in sustainable farming

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Midwest row crops, including corn for cereal and soybeans in mayonnaise, are increasingly farmed sustainably.

Researchers Study Whether Renewable Is Always Better

Read the full story from Carnegie Mellon University.

Making plastics from plants is a growing trend. It’s renewable, but is it better?

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers examines the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of three plant-based plastics at each stage of production compared with that of their common fossil fuel-based counterparts.

The study by Daniel Posen, Paulina Jaramillo and Michael Griffin in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology.

The study is novel in the way it treats uncertainty and looks at emissions over the life cycle of plastics. The researchers used a technique called life cycle assessment that analyzes emissions at each stage in the life of a product: resource extraction to manufacturing, to use of the product and end of life.


Making The Cloud Green: Tech Firms Push For Renewable Energy Sources

Read the full story from NPR.

At Green House Data in Cheyenne, Wyo., energy efficiency is an obsession.

When someone enters one of the company’s secured data vaults, they’re asked to pause in the entryway and stomp their shoes on a clear rubber mat with a sticky, glue-like finish.

“Dust is a huge concern of ours,” says Art Salazar, the director of operations.

That’s because dust makes electronics run hotter, which then means using more electricity to cool them down. For data centers, the goal is to use as little electricity as possible, because it’s typically companies’ biggest expense.

In 2013, data centers consumed 2 percent of all U.S. power — triple what they consumed in 2000. Wendy Fox, Green House Data’s communications director, says the sector has a responsibility to source that electricity sustainably.

The power Green House Data draws from the grid mostly comes from coal. The company offsets that by purchasing green energy credits that support renewable energy development elsewhere.

But larger companies are no longer interested in simply buying credits. Instead, they want to get more of their power directly from renewables.