How to push climate action forward in the Trump era

Read the full story at Grist.

I spent the past eight years communicating the policies and priorities of President Obama — on his campaigns, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Talking about climate impacts and public health was a huge part of my work, and it was all-consuming. White House staff suggested I cancel my bachelorette party, which was scheduled for the weekend before the launch of the Clean Power Plan. I got married two weeks after visiting Fukushima, and announced the VW emissions scandal a week later. I delayed my honeymoon until after the Paris climate talks. But it was worth it, because the work we were doing was so important.

Then came the shock of Nov. 8. Washington, D.C., didn’t see it coming, and the environmental community in particular was blindsided. We hoped the Clinton administration would take President Obama’s strong environmental legacy and build on it, leading the U.S. and the world toward a clean energy economy. People were betting on what actions President Clinton would take first. Budgets were prepared, announcement rollouts were planned. But the election sent everything into a tailspin.

Now, as environmental and public health advocates plan for the next few years, they’re operating in a completely different landscape. But I think lessons I learned in the Obama years can be helpful for those communicating about climate change in the Trump era. Here are a few of them:

These Fashion Houses Are Taking Sustainability Seriously

Read the full story in the Huffington Post.

At the tail end of 2016, according to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index, fashion was worth an estimated $2.4 trillion. So it comes as no surprise the apparel industry accounts for ten percent of all global carbon emissions, the primary human cause of global warming.

And it’s making fabric that comes at a cost to the climate. Year after year, around 70 million trees are used to make fabrics like rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell. Have you checked your clothing label lately? It’s there in black and white. And it doesn’t stop there. It’s been estimated over a billion animals a year are killed for their leather and 50 million for their fur.

But trade associations, luxury groups, educational institutions and non-profits are making way for change. Glasgow Caledonian University’s Fair Fashion Center is a pioneer in its own right. Working with around 30 CEOs and 211 brands – a mixture of luxury conglomerates and massive retail and distribution companies – that are collectively responsible for $200 billion in business.

Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data — If They Can Find It

Read the full story in the New York Times.

It is illegal to destroy government data, but agencies can make it more difficult to find by revising websites and creating other barriers to the underlying information.

Can Extra Taxes on Vacant Land Cure City Blight?

Read the full story from Stateline.

Downtown Hartford, Connecticut, has some lovely green space, Bushnell Park, at its center. But within a block or two are more than a dozen undeveloped lots, some of which are used for parking, while others sit empty. The City Council would like to levy higher property taxes on the lots as a way to encourage development.

It passed a resolution calling for a “land value tax” late last year. But Democratic Mayor Luke Bronin is still weighing whether to sign off on the tax, which is aimed at sprucing up Hartford’s city center and making it more inviting to visitors, businesses and shoppers.

The question in his mind is whether the tax would work as advertised in every instance. “In some cases you might spur development by making it [the land] more costly,” Bronin said. But in others, making improvements may not be cost-effective for landowners.

​Turning food waste into tires

Read the full story from The Ohio State University.

Tomorrow’s tires could come from the farm as much as the factory.

Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered that food waste can partially replace the petroleum-based filler that has been used in manufacturing tires for more than a century.

In tests, rubber made with the new fillers exceeds industrial standards for performance, which may ultimately open up new applications for rubber.

New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future

Read the full story from CalTech.

Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels.

They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Solar fuels, a dream of clean-energy research, are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, and producing any of these fuels involves splitting water…

The study is titled “Solar fuels photoanode materials discovery by integrating high-throughput theory and experiment.” Other authors from Caltech include JCAP research engineers Santosh Suram, Lan Zhou, Aniketa Shinde, and Paul Newhouse. This research was funded by the DOE. JCAP is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing a cost-effective method of turning sunlight, water, and CO2 into fuel. It is led by Caltech with Berkeley Lab as a major partner. The Materials Project is a DOE program based at Berkeley Lab that aims to remove the guesswork from materials design in a variety of applications. The Molecular Foundry and NERSC are both DOE Office of Science User Facilities located at Berkeley Lab.

Registration now open for 2017 Triple Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Minneapolis

email-savethedateRegistration is now open for the 2017 Triple Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. The conference will be held in Minneapolis on May 2-4, 2017.

Sessions include:

  • Pollution Prevention 101 pre-conference training (half day)
  • Tour of Ecolab’s Schuman Campus in Eagan, MN (half day)
  • A full day of facilitated large and small group discussion centering on U.S. EPA’s National Emphasis areas.
  • Interactive workshops on engagement, and materials substitution
  • Hands-on training with a variety of online P2 tools.

For more information and to register, visit the conference web site.

Report: Environmental Hazards Kill 1.7 Million Kids Under 5 Each Year

Read the full story from NPR.

According to two new World Health Organization reports, about 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year because of environmental hazards. It’s the first such estimate of the child death toll from environmental causes.

Download the reports

At Repair Cafes, ‘Beloved but Broken’ Possessions Find New Life

Read the full story in the New York Times. If you’re in the Champaign-Urbana area, visit the Illini Gadget Garage to learn how to repair your broken electronic devices.

If you’ve ever despaired of getting your vacuum cleaner fixed or thought that your broken lamp was a lost cause, there’s hope. A worldwide movement is trying to reform our throwaway approach to possessions.

The movement’s foundation is the Repair Cafe, a local meeting place that brings together people with broken items and repair coaches, or volunteers, with the expertise to fix them.


White House plans to ‘close out’ Energy Star, other programs

Read the full story in E&E News.

A preliminary budget proposal from the White House would eliminate federal leadership of Energy Star, a popular voluntary program for companies to seek labels for energy-efficient consumer products and appliances.

A spending blueprint would slash Energy Star and related programs, leaving $5 million “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs,” noting that achieving that might require changes to authorizing legislation from Congress.

“EPA should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity,” the draft reads, according to a source who has viewed the document. “EPA should also explore similar transfer opportunities for the remaining partnership programs as well.”