Day: March 7, 2019


Jenna Kurtzweil explores the history and environmental impact of polystyrene in the latest issue of Q Magazine.


Zero Waste Canada Calls on Tim Hortons to Pitch Coffee Not Waste

Read the full story at Waste360.

Zero Waste Canada is urging Tim Hortons to rethink future Roll Up the Rim promotions to emphasize promoting coffee rather than single-use disposable cups.

Researcher designs data visualization of carbon footprints

Read the full story at

A Columbia researcher affiliated with the Data Science Institute has created a data-visualization tool that shows the carbon footprints of hundreds of consumer products. The tool makes it easy for everyone to explore the products’ carbon-emission levels and the various strategies that companies are employing to reduce emissions.

The visualization tool, called Carbon Catalogue, breaks down the carbon footprint of a product during its entire life cycle, illustrating the carbon it emits during the raw material, manufacturing and later downstream phases. The data show that several companies have made vast improvements in reducing their products’ emissions. Some have instituted sustainable practices such as reducing packaging for food and beverage products, while others replaced fossil fuel with bio energy or lowered the energy consumption of computers.

New Collaboration Examines Community Impacts of Green Infrastructure

Read the full story from Northwestern.

Over the past 100 years, rainfall in the Chicago area has doubled due to unprecedented shifts in weather patterns. Such increased rainfall leads to higher rates of flooding as aging sewer and storm water infrastructure struggles—and often fails—to keep up.

“Whether it’s catastrophic flooding like what we saw in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey or the chronic, low-grade flooding we’re seeing in cities like Chicago, these events can often have extreme impacts on people’s mental, physical, and economic wellbeing,” says Vidya Venkataramanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s Department of Anthropology and Center for Water Research.

As part of a new collaborative initiative, Venkataramanan is helping to provide unique insights into the effects of flood mitigation interventions in collaboration with one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Specifically, she is working with TNC conservation specialists to examine the socio-economic and health impacts of natural or “green” infrastructure as an urban water management strategy.

Ohio city votes to give Lake Erie personhood status over algae blooms

Read the full story in The Guardian.

New law will allow people of Toledo to act as legal guardians for Lake Erie, and polluters could be sued to pay for cleanup costs.

soilSHOP Toolkit

Community and urban gardening offer numerous benefits. Some gardens and outdoor play areas may have harmful substances like lead in the soil. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) promotes health education and outreach events called soilSHOPs to help people learn if their soil is contaminated with lead, and how to reduce exposures to contaminated soil and produce. The name soilSHOP stands for Soil Screening, Health, Outreach and Partnership. ATSDR developed this toolkit to help communities and other groups plan their own soilSHOP events.

At soilSHOP events, people can receive:

  • Free soil screening for lead,
  • Information on safe gardening practices,
  • Ways to protect children from lead exposure, and
  • One-on-one health education about the hazards of lead.

The 3 Big Things That People Misunderstand About Climate Change

Read the full story in the Atlantic.

David Wallace-Wells, author of the new book The Uninhabitable Earth, describes why climate change might alter our sense of time.

Firefighting chemicals a health risk at many Florida sites. Just four have been tested.

Read the full story in the Miami Herald.

It has been six months since Florida health officials learned that there was a potential problem with groundwater contamination, linked to fire retardant chemicals, at firefighting training sites across the state.

Of Florida’s 45 certified firefighting training facilities, 27 are known or suspected to have used those toxic chemicals, part of a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. But so far only four sites have been tested by the state Department of Environmental Protection for environmental contamination.

Another two dozen sites have yet to be assessed. Some facilities, like Miami-Dade College, are still using the foam today, for one-day training classes and on the coating of some of its firefighting gear.

The big question is: How potentially harmful is exposure to these chemicals to firefighters who are training and to people who live and work near those sites? The state is only beginning to assess how widespread that exposure could be.

When temperatures drop, Siberian Miscanthus plants surpass main bioenergy variety

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Photosynthesis drives yields, but in cold conditions, this process that turns sunlight into biomass takes a hit. Miscanthus is a popular, sustainable, perennial feedstock for bioenergy production that thrives on marginal land in temperate regions. A new study in GCB Bioenergy from the University of Illinois and Aarhus University assessed Miscanthus collected on a Siberian expedition to identify three new accessions (a term for plants collected from a particular area) with exceptional photosynthetic performance in chilling temperatures that outstrip the industry favorite.

Banned in Europe, safe in the U.S.

Read the full story in Ensia.

Who determines whether chemicals are safe — and why do different governments come up with such different answers?

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