MnTAP publication highlights work of 2022 P2 interns

The 2022 MnTAP Solutions magazine highlights the projects led by our 16 talented interns and the companies that supported their recommendations to reduce waste, water, energy. These projects resulted in proposed solutions that could save the companies $3,068,000 annually as well as significant environmental impacts.

Why Heinz spent 185,000 hours redesigning this ketchup bottle cap

Read the full story at Fast Company.

In Heinz’s squeezable upside-down ketchup bottle, the plastic cap is designed to dispense a standard blob of sauce without spilling. It works. But it can’t easily be recycled, so the Kraft Heinz Company decided to design an alternative. Nine years later—after 185,000 hours of product development, $1.2 million in investment, and 45 different iterations—a new design will be rolling out in the U.K. within the next couple of months. 

Beavers will become a bigger boon to river water quality as U.S. West warms, Stanford study finds

Read the full story from Stanford University.

American beaver populations are booming in the western United States as conditions grow hotter and drier. New research shows their prolific dam building benefits river water quality so much, it outweighs the damaging influence of climate-driven droughts.

The flexible film recycling conundrum

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The major challenge with flexible packaging remains its recyclability. TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky discusses likely scenarios for what’s ahead.

Cities’ zero emissions (over) ambition faces reality check

Read the full story at Politico.

Cities raised eyebrows when they announced they’d embarked on a race to hit zero-emissions by 2030. As reality sets in, some now admit the target may be more aspiration than achievable.

As part of an EU-funded scheme announced earlier this year, a clutch of 100 EU cities and 12 from outside the bloc pledged to reach climate neutrality by the end of the decade and signed up to receive EU support to achieve that goal.

The cities are on the hook to submit plans for how they’ll get their emissions down to zero, which will then get a sign of approval from the European Commission with the aim of attracting private investment.

Although that all sounds good on paper, cities are likely to struggle to meet their ambitious emissions targets.

Saying ‘no’ in science isn’t enough

Read the full story in Nature.

In August 2022, a group of female scholars wrote ‘Why four scientists spent a year saying no’: an article about what they had gained by saying no to 100 work-related requests over the course of year. We knew we had found kindred spirits in the authors. We, too, have lost time by saying yes to work that didn’t move our careers forward. That led us, four female professors, to form the No Club.

Over the past decade, we have researched work that doesn’t help to advance careers — an attempt to understand why we, along with many others, were doing so much of it. We gave this work a name: non-promotable tasks (NPTs). Although this work matters to an organization, it brings no external reward or recognition to the individual who does it.

These tasks can be found throughout any institution — examples include helping other people with their work, serving on governance committees, organizing events, mentoring and even resolving office conflicts. A 2021 study1 of more than 400 non-academic organizations by global management consultancy McKinsey & Company and Lean In, a non-profit organization in Palo Alto, California, that focuses on women’s leadership, shows the disconnect between what is important to the organization and what is rewarded: for example, 70% of those surveyed said diversity, equity and inclusion efforts were “critical”, but the survey found that only 24% rewarded this work.

We have identified three characteristics of NPTs: they are not directly tied to the organization’s mission; they are largely invisible and are usually done behind the scenes; and they rarely require specialized skills, so many people can do them.

Rules for a net-zero energy strategy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

This week, a United Nations-sponsored panel took aim at greenwashing, creating a framework for what a credible net-zero emissions plan looks like. The report, “Integrity Matters: Net zero commitments by businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions,” outlines the best thinking of 17 climate experts from around the world. 

The outcome is 10 recommendations that could be used as a rubric for how seriously a company is taking its climate pledges and, hopefully, bring more integrity and trust to climate commitments across the board. 

Please stop licking psychedelic toads, National Park Service warns

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The U.S. government has an unusual request: Please don’t lick psychedelic toads.

The National Park Service issued a warning this week to visitors to refrain from licking the large Sonoran Desert toad as they try to reach a state ofhallucinogenic enlightenment from the “potent toxin” that the amphibians naturally secrete.

These toads, also known as Colorado River toads, “have prominent parotoid glands that secrete a potent toxin,” the Park Service advised. “It can make you sick if you handle the frog or get the poison in your mouth,” it warned.

In one state, every class teaches climate change — even P.E.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Two years ago, New Jersey became the first state in the country to adopt learning standards obligating teachers to instruct kids about climate change across grade levels and subjects. The standards, which went into effect this fall, introduce students as young as kindergartners to the subject, not just in science class but in the arts, world languages, social studies and physical education. Supporters say the instruction is necessary to prepare younger generations for a world — and labor market — increasingly reshaped by climate change.

Ingenious one-step method turns sewer gas into clean hydrogen fuel

Read the full story at Anthropocene Magazine.

Thousands of tons of harmful hydrogen sulfide (infamous for its rotten egg smell) are produced every year. Researchers have found a simple way to tap into this wasted source of hydrogen.