Month: March 2021

Backyard data in six US states shows that native mason bees are declining

Read the full story in Massive Science.

For 13 years, volunteers across the mid-Atlantic region helped scientists track mason bees.

Large computer language models carry environmental, social risks

Read the full story from the University of Washington.

Computer engineers at the world’s largest companies and universities are using machines to scan through tomes of written material. The goal? Teach these machines the gift of language. Do that, some even claim, and computers will be able to mimic the human brain.

But this impressive compute capability comes with real costs, including perpetuating racism and causing significant environmental damage, according to a new paper, “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big? 🦜” The paper is being presented Wednesday, March 10 at the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency (ACM FAccT)

Review: Everything You Never Knew about Chicago and Nature, City of Lake and Prairie

Read the full book review at Third Coast Review.

A little more than a century ago, in one of the world’s largest cities, Chicagoans lived a lot closer to nature than we do today—as in closer to animals, their smells, and their manure and urine.

Consider that, in 1918, some 2,000 dairy cows were being milked each morning in the city. A bit earlier, in 1900, you could wander around the city’s neighborhoods and find 5,000.

And it wasn’t only cows. Chicagoans also kept pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, and rabbits, as Katherine Macica reports in “Animals at Work in Industrial Chicago,” one of 19 essays in City of Lake and Prairie: Chicago’s Environmental History, edited by Kathleen A. Brosnan, Ann Durkin Keating, and William C. Barnett.

Growing cannabis indoors produces a lot of greenhouse gases – just how much depends on where it’s grown

Growing cannabis indoors is an energy-intensive process. Plantlady223 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

by Jason Quinn and Hailey Summers (Colorado State University)

The big idea

Indoor cannabis production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the environmental effects vary significantly depending on where it is being grown, according to our new study.

The lights used to grow weed indoors use a lot of electricity, but facilities require a lot of energy to maintain a comfortable environment for the plants. That means air conditioners or heaters to maintain proper temperatures. Producers also pump carbon dioxide inside to increase plant growth. This accounts for 11% to 25% of facilities’ greenhouse gas emissions.

But the biggest energy use comes from the need to constantly bring fresh air into growing facilities. All of this outside air needs to be treated so that it is the correct temperature and humidity. This is a very energy-intensive process since the air exchange rate is typically so high.

All of these inputs contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, a lot more in some regions than others.

Using Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and industry data, we found that growing pot indoors leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions in the Mountain West, Midwest, Alaska and Hawaii than compared to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. This is because climates are milder on the coasts, so you need less heating or air conditioning and because the electric grids use more clean energy

Cannabis grown in Southern California has the lowest emissions, at 143 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per ounce of dried cannabis. Meanwhile, eastern O’ahu in Hawaii has the highest emissions, at 324 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per ounce. That’s roughly equivalent to burning 16 gallons of gasoline.

A map showing the midwest and rocky mountains in dark red while the coasts are pale red or white.
Places with more extreme temperatures and fewer renewable energy sources had the highest greenhouse gas emissions. Jason Quinn, CC BY-ND

Why it matters

Policymakers and consumers aren’t paying much attention to environmental impacts of the cannabis industry. In Colorado, the weed industry accounts for 1.3% of the state’s total annual emissions. This is similar to emissions from coal mining and trash collection for the entire state.

Currently, there is little to no regulation on emissions for growing cannabis indoors. Consumers aren’t thinking about the environmental effect either. As a whole, this industry is developing and expanding very quickly without consideration for the environment.

What still isn’t known

The cannabis industry is so new that researchers don’t even know how much is grown indoors. Additionally, every indoor operation is unique. Some are old warehouses using outdated equipment, while others are much more energy-efficient.

Growing cannabis outdoors or in greenhouses could be one way to remove the need for lights and environmental controls. However, researchers don’t know the greenhouse gas emissions associated with these growth methods either. All these unknowns make it hard to develop polices or best management practices.

What’s next

Our team’s goal is to better quantify and communicate the environmental impact of cannabis production so that those who want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be better informed.

We aim to show greenhouse gas emissions per serving of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces the “high.” Our preliminary results show that one serving of THC – roughly 10 mg of dried flower – is likely to have higher greenhouse gas emissions than a serving of beer, wine, spirits, coffee or cigarettes, regardless of the location the weed was grown.

Our team is also interested in understanding where weed could be grown if federal legalization happens. Legalization might allow policymakers and producers to grow weed in places and in ways that are much more environmentally friendly, but they need the knowledge to do so.

Jason Quinn, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Sustainability Research Laboratory, Colorado State University and Hailey Summers, Ph.D. Student in Mechanical Engineering and Sustainability, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Edgewell’s Disposable Razor Handles Now Made with 100% PCR

Read the full story at HAPPI.

Edgewell Personal Care’s global portfolio of men’s and women’s disposable razors—including Schick Xtreme 3 men’s and Skintimate three blade women’s razors—now have handles made with up to 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. The company also launched its new US program to encourage the recycling of its disposable razors and to provide an alternative to curbside recycling programs, which typically do not accept razors.

These Eye-Catching Bricks Are Made from Textile Waste

Read the full story at Treehugger.

FabBRICK upcycles clothes into bricks that are great thermal, acoustic insulators.

Mondelez and PepsiCo agree to cut virgin plastic for packaging

Read the full story at Packaging News.

Snack and confectionery company Mondelez International and food and beverage giant PepsiCo have agreed to cut their use of virgin plastic for packaging after dialogue with As You Sow.

Global Building Network online bibliography produced by University Libraries

Read the full story from Penn State.

Penn State University Libraries’ Open Publishing unit recently published a digital bibliography, Global Building Network, which houses resources to support the Global Building Network (GBN), a joint initiative between Penn State and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Established in 2018, GBN coordinates a worldwide effort to engage and convene a transdisciplinary group of stakeholders and partnerships to accelerate the development of research, education and case studies on the benefits of high-performance buildings. It aims to advance building science, construction processes and building management to create an international framework that will make buildings more sustainable, more efficient and healthier for people.

The bibliography is part of a GBN initiative to develop knowledge platforms for online information sharing in partnership with stakeholders from academia, public and private practice, and community sector organizations. Currently, the bibliography contains more than 170 resources related to buildings and built environments, ranging from the impacts of COVID-19 to energy efficiency and lead poisoning.

Big Banks Make a Dangerous Bet on the World’s Growing Demand for Food

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

While banks and asset managers are promising to divest from fossil fuels, they are expanding investments in high-carbon foods and commodities tied to deforestation.

Frozen food packaging gets more sustainable as consumers want more individually wrapped items

Read the full story at Food Dive.

Almost half of consumers started buying more frozen foods during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from The Freedonia Group. Seven in 10 are focused on maintaining a stockpile of food at home.

During the pandemic, 39% of consumers sought out single-serving or individually wrapped products, which use larger amounts of packaging materials. Prepackaged foods, including frozen varieties, also saw higher sales than fresh produce stored in loose boxes because of health concerns.

The increase in frozen food purchases has added momentum to consumers’ demand for more sustainable packaging materials. Many manufacturers and retailers have made recent efforts to swap out older packaging for recyclable, reusable and compostable options.

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