Federal government to prioritize US-made, lower-carbon construction materials

Read the full story from The Hill.

The U.S. government will for the first time prioritize the use of American-made, lower-carbon construction materials in federal procurement and federally funded projects, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced on Tuesday.

To realize this goal, the GSA has issued a request for information about the availability of domestically manufactured, locally sourced “low-embodied-carbon” materials — or those that generate fewer carbon emissions during the process of constructing a building.

The move is part of the Biden administration’s Federal Buy Clean Initiative, which aims to stimulate markets for low-carbon products made in the U.S., according to the GSA.

Request for Comment: AASHE STARS 3.0: Procurement & Waste

As part of the development process for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) 3.0, AASHE is seeking public comment on a Procurement and Waste section slated for inclusion in the new version (projected release is currently fourth quarter of 2023). AASHE encourages feedback from stakeholders who may have relevant expertise or interest in participating. Public comment is open through Oct. 31.

Free virtual event: Sustainable Refrigeration Summit (Oct 24-28, 2022)

This free virtual summit will bring together the stakeholders needed to solve the puzzle of sustainable refrigeration in supermarkets – including food retailers, manufacturers, service contractors, engineers, consultants, government agencies, policymakers, utilities, energy, and environmental stakeholders.

Hear the latest regulatory and industry trends and learn from leading food retailers, industry experts, and policymakers.

Visit the summit website for the full agenda and to register.

Building consensus for prioritizing groundwater protections in the Great Lakes

Read the full story from the International Joint Commission.

Water flows through a single cycle from air to surface water and groundwater, or from land to lakes and streams, evaporating and beginning its journey all over again. But environmental law and policy often overlook an entire arc of the cycle, regulating groundwater separately and increasing the potential for risks to public health and ecosystem degradation. 

The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is beginning to change that. One important step forward is the inclusion of an annex devoted to groundwater. Annex 8 commits the Canadian and United States governments to coordinating groundwater science and management actions. The goal is to build the base of knowledge about the impact of groundwater on the Great Lakes, leading to specific policy and science actions.

Industry pushing for decarbonization of aluminum, ammonia, steel production

Read the full story from Environment + Energy Leader.

More than 200 industry leaders have endorsed strategies from the Mission Possible Partnership (MPP) to decarbonize some of world’s hardest-to-abate, carbon-intensive industries in this decade.

New plans released at New York Climate Week for production of near-zero emissions materials — aluminum, ammonia, and steel — have won support from more than 60 companies, bringing to more than 200 the tally of endorsements for MPP’s published Sector Transition Strategies (STS) which also include aviation, shipping, and trucking.

Industry Insights from NIZO: Sustainable food processing offers path through the energy crisis

Read the full story from Food Navigator.

Sustainability goals have already made reducing energy consumption a priority for the food industry. Now, soaring energy costs are adding economic urgency to that drive. How can vital energy savings be achieved?

New research project converts fruit waste into natural ingredients

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

AINIA, the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, and Productos Lácteos Romar embark on a new project to turn citrus, watermelon and kaki waste into functional food items.

How new processing techniques have ‘great potential’ to make food more sustainable

Read the full story at Dairy Reporter.

Processed food can get a bad rap. But according to researchers in Norway, new processing techniques can help extend shelf-life to reduce food waste and its detrimental effects on the environment.

The Great Lakes are awash in plastic. Can robots and drones help?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

These remote-control devices raise the profile about the growing problem of plastics in the lakes that provide one-fifth of the world’s freshwater.

Mars is littered with 15,694 pounds of human trash from 50 years of robotic exploration

Rovers on Mars frequently come across debris – like this heat shield and spring – from their own or other missions. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cagri Kilic, West Virginia University

CC BY-ND

People have been exploring the surface of Mars for over 50 years. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, nations have sent 18 human-made objects to Mars over 14 separate missions. Many of these missions are still ongoing, but over the decades of Martian exploration, humankind has left behind many pieces of debris on the planet’s surface.

I am a postdoctoral research fellow who studies ways to track Mars and Moon rovers. In mid-August 2022, NASA confirmed that the Mars rover Perseverance had spotted a piece of trash jettisoned during its landing, this time a tangled mess of netting. And this is not the first time scientists have found trash on Mars. That’s because there is a lot there.

A smashed, round, white metal object on the surface of Mars.
All spacecraft that land on Mars eject equipment – like this protective shell – on their way to the Martian surface. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Where does the debris come from?

Debris on Mars comes from three main sources: discarded hardware, inactive spacecraft and crashed spacecraft.

Every mission to the Martian surface requires a module that protects the spacecraft. This module includes a heat shield for when the craft passes through the planet’s atmosphere and a parachute and landing hardware so that it can land softly.

The craft discards pieces of the module as it descends, and these pieces can land in different locations on the planet’s surface – there may be a lower heat shield in one place and a parachute in another. When this debris crashes to the ground, it can break into smaller pieces, as happened during the Perseverance rover landing in 2021. These small pieces can then get blown around because of Martian winds.

A small tangled piece of netting on the surface of Mars.
The Perseverance rover came across this piece of netting on July 12, 2022, more than a year after landing on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

A lot of small, windblown trash has been found over the years – like the netting material found recently. Earlier in the year, on June 13, 2022, Perseverance rover spotted a large, shiny thermal blanket wedged in some rocks 1.25 miles (2 km) from where the rover landed. Both Curiosity in 2012 and Opportunity in 2005 also came across debris from their landing vehicles.

Three photos showing black soot and debris from above.
The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander crashed onto the surface of Mars in 2016, as seen in these photos of the crash site captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Dead and crashed spacecraft

The nine inactive spacecraft on the surface of Mars make up the next type of debris. These craft are the Mars 3 lander, Mars 6 lander, Viking 1 lander, Viking 2 lander, the Sojourner rover, the formerly lost Beagle 2 lander, the Phoenix lander, the Spirit rover and the most recently deceased spacecraft, the Opportunity rover. Mostly intact, these might be better considered historical relics than trash.

Wear and tear take their toll on everything on the Martian surface. Some parts of Curiosity’s aluminum wheels have broken off and are presumably scattered along the rover’s track. Some of the litter is purposeful, with Perseverance having dropped a drill bit onto the surface in July 2021, allowing it to swap in a new, pristine bit so that it could keep collecting samples.

A photo of the wheels of Curiosity rover with holes visible.
The wheels of the Curiosity rover have taken damage over the years, leaving behind small bits of aluminum. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Crashed spacecraft and their pieces are another significant source of trash. At least two spacecraft have crashed, and an additional four have lost contact before or just after landing. Safely descending to the planet’s surface is the hardest part of any Mars landing mission – and it doesn’t always end well.

When you add up the mass of all spacecraft that have ever been sent to Mars, you get about 22,000 pounds (9979 kilograms). Subtract the weight of the currently operational craft on the surface – 6,306 pounds (2,860 kilograms) – and you are left with 15,694 pounds (7,119 kilograms) of human debris on Mars.

Why does trash matter?

Today, the main concern scientists have about trash on Mars is the risk it poses to current and future missions. The Perseverance teams are documenting all debris they find and checking to see if any of it could contaminate the samples the rover is collecting. NASA engineers have also considered whether Perseverance could get tangled in debris from the landing but have concluded the risk is low.

The real reason debris on Mars is important is because of its place in history. The spacecraft and their pieces are the early milestones for human planetary exploration.

Cagri Kilic, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Robotics, West Virginia University

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