How Enough Floating Plastic Could Change the Sea

Read the full story in Hakai Magazine.

Many plastics float, block sunlight, and do not degrade—a recipe for altering the physical properties of the water underneath.

Are there potential downsides of going to 100 percent renewable energy?

Read the full story at Pacific Standard.

A new study looks at the danger to biodiversity that could come from increased mining of minerals used to create batteries for renewable energy technologies.

The circular designer’s secret weapon: policy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Since its inception in 2010, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has placed design as crucial to achieving a circular economy. In fact, the very first initiative from the foundation was Project ReDesign, which invited thousands of students to rethink products and systems for a circular economy.

Discussions around the circular economy in intervening years often serve to remind us of the importance of design, namely that the circular economy is a model for an economy that is regenerative by design.

Energy products are key inputs to global chemicals industry

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

The industrial sector of the worldwide economy consumed more than half (55%) of all delivered energy in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency. Within the industrial sector, the chemicals industry is one of the largest energy users, accounting for 12% of global industrial energy use. Energy—whether purchased or produced onsite at plants—is very important to the chemicals industry, and it links the chemical industry to many parts of the energy supply chain including utilities, mines, and other energy product manufacturers.

Soft drink by-products could reduce global warming

Read the full story from Cornell College.

Professor of Chemistry Craig Teague and his students have discovered that the by-products of soft drinks could help reduce global warming.

Cornell College team of researchers worked with other experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on the idea starting in 2016, and their final conclusions were published in the journal article “Microporous and hollow carbon spheres derived from soft drinks: Promising CO2 separation materials” in April of 2019. Their new research shows that the by-products of some soft drinks actually remove carbon dioxide, a gas known to warm the planet, from gas streams.

Ann Arbor installs PFAS wash-off station for tubers, kayakers on Huron River

Read the full story at MLive.

With harmful PFAS chemicals in the Huron River, Ann Arbor is giving river users a new option to stay safe.

The city recently installed a PFAS wash-off station at the end of the Argo Cascades, a popular tubing and kayaking spot.

The hunt for PFAS turns to Michigan farms using human waste as fertilizer

Read the full story at MLive.

The hunt for PFAS in Michigan is turning to farm fields, where concerns are growing about possible contamination in treated human waste used as fertilizer.

Date Labels: The Case for Federal Legislation

Download the document.

Federal action is necessary to fix our broken system of date labels on foods. Congress can pass legislation to ensure that standard labels are used across the country on all foods, and can preempt unreasonable restrictions on past-date sale or donation, reducing the unnecessary waste of wholesome food. Standardizing date labels also will create an opportunity for the development of a national consumer education campaign, coordinated across industry and the public sector, to ensure standard labels have the desired outcomes when consumers bring foods home. This issue brief will make the case for federal action to standardize date labels by laying out the background on why the current date labeling system causes confusion and food waste; analyzing the weaknesses in private voluntary initiatives and patchwork state legislative solutions; and finally, making specific recommendations for addressing date labels through federal legislation to ensure the desired impact of consumers, businesses, and governmental agencies understanding the proper meaning of date labels.

How planting prairie strips on Iowa farms could save soil, water, wildlife and money — in-state and beyond

Read the full story in Little Village Magazine.

A solution to some of the biggest problems facing farmers, and some of the biggest environmental challenges in the state, has deep roots in Iowa’s past.

Roughly 85 percent of Iowa’s 36 million acres were covered with prairie plants when the U.S. frontier pushed into what would become the state of Iowa in the 19th century. Now, less than one-10th of one percent of that 30 million acres of prairie exists.

Instead, 30 million of the state’s acres are now devoted to agricultural production, with just two crops — corn and soybeans — covering more than 80 percent of those acres. Being so heavily invested in these crops has massive consequences for the land and water.

But researchers at Iowa State University have demonstrated that planting just 10 percent of a field of row crops, like corn or soybeans, with buffer strips of native prairie plants will reduce soil loss on that field by 95 percent. It also reduces runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, a major source of water pollution, by almost as much. And it cuts the need for pesticides.

“Mother Nature is a pretty wonderful business partner,” said Seth Watkins, the first farmer to plant prairie strips as part of ISU’s “Science-Based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips” program, or STRIPS, as it is known.

Energy Department Selects Five Winning Teams for Solar in Your Community Challenge Prizes

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced five winners of the Solar in Your Community Challenge. Led by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, this $5 million competition incentivized new approaches to increase the affordability of electricity resulting in expanded solar adoption across America.

Launched in November 2016, the competition encouraged teams to demonstrate innovative business and financial models to expand solar access for nonprofits, faith-based organizations, state and local governments, and low- and moderate-income communities, all of which face unique barriers to adopting solar. Winners were selected based on each team’s ability to develop replicable, innovative, and sustainable models for profitably expanding the use of solar power.

“Solar electricity costs are falling, but many of the individuals and organizations that can benefit the most from solar are still not being included,” said Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel R. Simmons. “The U.S. Department of Energy is committed to improving the affordability of all forms of electricity for everyone. Competitions like the Solar in Your Community Challenge incentivize creativity and a sustainable path going forward by proving that these models can be financially successful,” he said.

In total, the winning teams proposed 25.7 megawatts of solar energy projects across the country by 2020, benefitting more than 1,200 households and 18 nonprofit organizations. On average, winners were able to save customers between 15% and 25% of their electricity bills. Winners include:​

  • Best Low- and Moderate-Income Project
    • Grand Prize ($500,000 prize): The CARE Project from Denver, Colorado was led by the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver. Partners included GRID Alternatives, Ensight Energy, Xcel Energy, and SolarTAC.
    • Runner-Up ($200,000 prize): The Community Solar for Community Action team from Backus, Minnesota was led by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance. Partners included the American Indian Community Housing Organization, Leech Lake Energy Assistance Program, and Southeast Vermont Community Action.
  • Best Low- and Moderate-Income Program ($100,000 prize): The Kerrville Area Solar Partners team was led by the Kerrville Public Utility Board of Texas. Partners included Schneider Engineering, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, RES Americas, and NextEra Energy.
  • Best Nonprofit Project ($100,000 prize): The Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon team from Portland, Oregon was led by Sustainable Northwest. Partners included the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative and a coalition of rural communities in Hood River, Lake, and Douglas Counties.
  • Best Nonprofit Program ($100,000 prize): The Fellowship Energy team from Burlingame, California was led by Fellowship Energy. Partners included Performance Solar, Episcopal Church Building Fund, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and Trinity Episcopal School.

In addition, 12 teams were selected for recognition of their innovations in program design and ability to reach new markets. Learn more about the winners.

More than 170 teams from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico participated in the challenge. According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, Up to the Challenge: Communities Deploy Solar in Underserved Markets, if all teams successfully execute their business plans, the program would create 1,600 megawatts of new solar by 2020 and serve as many as 900 nonprofits and nearly 50,000 households.

The program was administered by International City/County Management Association, which advances professional local government worldwide through leadership, management, innovation, and ethics.

Learn more about DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy HERE.