Day: April 2, 2020

14 ways to turn your coronavirus cabin fever into climate action

Read the full story at Grist.

In these times of unprecedented uncertainty, my to-do list helps me stay sane.

It doesn’t matter that I have no places to go or people to see. With COVID-19 tossing normal life down the drain the world over, the shred of normalcy helps me stave off apathy, paralysis, and my sudden aversion to wearing proper pants.

I’m not the only one desperate for a little structure in my life in the age of social distancing and sheltering in place. Many of us who are fortunate enough to stay home during this crisis have been busy establishing work-life boundaries, maintaining an exercise routine, and staying in touch with loved ones. While these are all great ways to break up the monotony of sheltering in place, it’s also possible to pencil climate action into your newfound daily routine.

To get started, Grist put together a to-do list of daily climate-related activities that are compatible with social distancing for two weeks straight.

How can I help influence the takeout containers restaurants are purchasing?

This is the first in a periodic series of Ask Me Anything (AMA) posts where ISTC features a researcher on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts and solicits questions from our followers. We post the answers on the original platform and also aggregate them into a wrap-up blog post. Our first featured researcher is Joy Scrogum.

Question (from Facebook): I like to order takeout food from the many amazing restaurants in my neighborhood, but cringe at all the waste this generates. Some of this serveware I can compost and recycle, but some of it I cannot.  How can I help influence the takeout containers restaurants are purchasing?

Joy: I’m glad you’re thinking about this. consumers really have more power than they tend to think. First of all, let me note that during the current pandemic, we all have to make allowances for the takeout containers being used by our local restaurants. It’s fabulous that they’re open and delivering. It’s important to support them during this difficult time and recognize that exploring new packaging is, of course, not a priority for them now. One thing you can do when ordering takeout is remember to ask a restaurant to not include unnecessary disposable items with your order (e.g. plastic utensils, napkins, condiment packets, plastic straws, etc.). That will not only prevent waste, but also save them a little money and reduce the opportunity for contamination as we practice social distancing.

When we’ve gotten past this pandemic, the easiest thing you can do is voice your concerns about packaging to the manager of a restaurant, along with your reasoning (e.g. polystyrene foam, aka Styrofoam, its persistence, difficulty/inability to recycle in your area, etc.). Always start on a positive note by letting them know what you enjoy about their food and service, if you’re a long-time customer, etc., and then tell them what’s troubling you, so the conversation doesn’t seem like an attack.

It’s also important to bear in mind that businesses, especially small ones, are making decisions based on costs. So when you speak or write to someone with your concerns, acknowledge that price is an issue for them and be prepared to provide some tools that might help them choose “greener” options available at similar or better prices than what  they’re currently using. The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has developed the Foodware Cost Calculator, which allows restaurants or other foodservice operations to compare the costs of their currently used disposable products to reusable options (e.g. plastic utensils vs. real silverware) or alternative disposable items (e.g. recyclable, compostable, made with recycled content, etc.). PSI also has a guidance document that can help businesses reduce their plastic footprint, and understand the benefits, called 3 Steps to Reduce Plastic & Benefit Your Business. You might also point out examples of preferable packaging used by other businesses in your area or elsewhere to help make the case for what is possible. A few examples that come to mind include Just Salad, which uses reusable to-go packaging, and Farmer’s Fridge, which operates fresh-food vending machines using recyclable and reusable containers. 

You can always use existing consumers ratings mechanisms, such as Yelp, Google, or Facebook, to express support for businesses using greener packaging or dismay at a restaurant with great food but problematic to-go packaging. An interesting new app from developers in Colorado is called PlasticScore. It allows you to provide feedback to restaurants on single-use plastic, as well as see waste-related ratings of nearby restaurants so you can support businesses practices that align with your values. It’s pretty new (just launched in March 2020), so you might not find a lot of information applicable to your area right now, but you could certainly contribute your own feedback to help expand their database.

Another thing to keep in mind related to compostable packaging is that sort of packaging only degrades properly in commercial composting operations (e.g. services that pick up compostables from a business or via residential drop-off or curbside composting programs). Backyard compost piles don’t attain the proper temperatures or other conditions to effectively break down those items. So before asking a restaurant to switch to compostable items, check to see if commercial composting is available in your area. It’s unfortunately true that such service is not available in many areas of Illinois.

I’m a proud member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), which is working to expand food scrap composting in our state. Check the IFSC’s online list of haulers and compost processors to see if commercial food scrap composting exists in your area. If so, you can let your favorite restaurants know, and also point out that if they decide to start composting their food scraps and compostable packaging, they could receive recognition through IFSC’s We Compost program.

Finally, you can influence restaurants and other diners through your own example. When we’re all able to dine-in at our favorite restaurants again, consider taking your own reusable food storage container or foil from home for packing any leftovers, instead of asking the restaurant for a box. When people see you doing this, it can spark conversation about packaging and may inspire someone else to do the same. Many coffee shops offer discounts for folks who bring in their own reusable mug. Be sure to ask if your favorite shop does this, so they know there is interest, and remember to take advantage of such incentives where they exist.

Note: ISTC does not explicitly or implicitly endorse manufacturers, vendors, products, or services. Information is provided for reference only.

FY20 DOE funding opp: BOTTLE: Bio-optimized technologies to keep thermoplastics out of landfills and the environment

Due to the extraordinary circumstances in which we now find ourselves, EERE is issuing an extension of 14 calendar days to respond to FOA DE-FOA-0002245. The due date for Concept Papers for this FOA is now 04/29/2020. The due date for Full Applications for this FOA is now 07/02/2020.

All questions and answers related to this FOA will be posted on EERE Exchange.Please note that you must first select this specific FOA Number (DE-FOA-0002245) in order to view the questions and answers specific to this FOA.

In November 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies. This FOA will support high-impact R&D for plastics by developing new plastics that are capable of efficient recyclability and improving recycling strategies that can break existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher-value products.

DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) develops technologies that convert domestic biomass and waste resources into fuels, products, and power to enable affordable energy, economic growth, and innovation in renewable energy and chemicals production. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) develops technologies that drive energy productivity improvements in the U.S. manufacturing sector, efficiently utilize abundant and available domestic energy resources, and support the manufacture of clean energy products with benefits extending across the economy. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will support high-impact technology research and development (R&D) to enable the development of technologies that overcome the challenges associated with plastic waste.

Topic Areas include:

  1. Highly Recyclable or Biodegradable Plastics: develop new plastics that have improved performance attributes over a comparable existing plastic that can be cost-effectively recycled or biodegrade completely in the environment or in compost facilities.
  2. Novel Methods for Deconstructing and Upcycling Existing Plastics: generate energy efficient recycling technologies (mechanical, chemical, or biological) that are capable of breaking plastic streams into intermediates which can be upgraded into higher value products.
  3. BOTTLE Consortium Collaborations to Tackle Challenges in Plastic Waste: create collaborations with the Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Laboratory Consortium to further the long-term goals of the Consortium and the Plastics Innovation Challenge.

The full FOA is available here.

Food waste–and food insecurity–rising amid coronavirus panic

Read the full story from FERN.

In the best of times, the United States wastes 40 percent of its food annually, amounting to 63 million tons. The collective response to the coronavirus pandemic, from panic buying at grocery stores to restaurant closures, is bound to inflate that percentage, food loss experts say, at a time when food insecurity is on the rise.

New U.N. stamps feature social media climate action campaign

Read the full story at Linn’s Stamp News.

The United Nations Postal Administration issued a pane of 10 stamps and labels March 27 that publicizes the Act Now campaign for climate action. The stamp designs represent 10 actions people can take in their daily lives.

Proposition 65 Amendments Clarifying Warning Obligations Of Upstream Entities Take Effect April 1, 2020

Read the full post at JD Supra.

Amendments to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (commonly known as Proposition 65 or Prop 65) go into effect on April 1, 2020, providing clarifying guidance concerning the responsibility of manufacturers, distributors and other businesses in the chain of commerce to provide warnings for consumer products.

150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library

Read the full story at Colossal.

Billed as the world’s largest open access digital archive dedicated to life on Earth, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. In an effort to share information and promote collaboration to combat the ongoing climate crisis, the site boasts a collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.

Why Citizen Science Matters with Darlene Cavalier

Read the full post from the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Darlene Cavalier is a professor of practice at Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter, an online database of citizen science projects that enables discovery, organization, and greater participation in science. She also founded Science Cheerleaders, a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 300 current and former NFL, NBA, and college cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and co-founded the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST), a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking.

Cavalier is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a member of the EPA’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences “Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning” committee. She holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, and is a former high school, college, and NBA cheerleader.

Webinar: Clearing the Air: What the media gets right – and wrong – when covering environmental issues

Mon, April 13, 2020 3:45 PM – 5:00 PM CDT
Register here

From climate change to deforestation and plastic pollution, media coverage is critical to shining a light on our planet’s biggest environmental challenges — and even more so now as experts are pointing to connections between biodiversity loss and the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. A panel of professional journalists will discuss what the media gets right — and wrong — when covering contentious environmental topics, as well as new developments that may spell change on the horizon.


Webinar: The Business Case for One-Planet Prosperity

Apr 13, 2020 02:00 PM CDT
Register here

In 2019, Schneider Electric and Global Footprint Network teamed up to invite business leaders to assess how one-planet compatible strategies can deliver differentiation and value in the market. One-planet compatible companies are those companies whose goods and services contribute to humanity’s ability to live within the means of planet Earth, which includes combating climate change. These are the companies that contribute to one-planet prosperity.

One-planet prosperity provides a simple compass to assess companies’ strategies: “Do our products and services help humanity operate within the constraints of our planet’s natural resources?” Those companies whose business models increase human well-being while also increasing its resource security are much more likely to be economically successful in the long-run than those companies that are incompatible with one-planet prosperity. The latter will inevitably face shrinking demand and increasing risks.

Come to this webinar prepared to ask questions relevant to your business.

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