All in the planning: State policies working to fix Gulf nutrient pollution

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Tackling nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is a big job, requiring coordination between dozens of states whose waters flow into the Mississippi. Although a 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo set a framework for each state to reduce its nutrient load, it was up to the states to set their own policies in motion.

More than a decade on, critics have questioned the effectiveness of state nutrient reduction strategies, noting the still-massive hypoxic dead zones in the Gulf. In a new University of Illinois-led study, social scientists looked at the process states took to develop and implement their strategies, identifying key strengths and challenges that can inform other large-scale cooperative efforts.

‘Circular economy’ programs aim to reduce waste and build jobs

Read the full story from Ideastream.

While meeting with a local farmer two years ago, Eric Diamond of Central Kitchen, a food business incubator in Cleveland, Ohio, learned that the farmer wasn’t able to sell all the carrots in his fields. Some of the carrots – while perfectly nutritious – weren’t the right size or shape for grocery stores’ and restaurants’ specifications. That sparked a question, and a business idea was born.

“I said to him, ‘What do you do with the carrots?’ and he said, ‘We leave them to rot in the fields because we don’t have an end market,’” said Diamond. “So, I said, ‘What if we buy the ones that don’t meet your specifications, and we process them and sell them to school districts?’”

Soon afterwards, the farmer, Wayward Seed Farm in Fremont, Ohio, began taking the carrots that would otherwise have been thrown away and dropping them off at Central Kitchen. They processed the carrots into 5-pound bags and sold them to school districts. Recently, with the help of a $30,000 grant from Circular Cleveland, Central Kitchen bought a new commercial grade food processor called a Robot Coupe which allows them to process carrots much faster.

“We had five people with knives cutting up carrots and dumping them into bags,” said Diamond. “We could only do 1,500 pounds in an eight-hour shift. Now, we can do 1,500 pounds in a couple of hours – and no calluses.”

Business and civic leaders in Cleveland like Diamond are turning to a new idea termed the “circular economy” – premised on reusing materials and turning them into new products rather than throwing them away – to help grow jobs and businesses, reduce waste, and improve the environment. Those would be welcome benefits in Cleveland, which is one of the poorest big cities in the country, with a poverty rate of 29.3% in 2021, according to the U.S. Census. According to the International Labor Organization, the circular economy could create a net increase of six million jobs globally by 2030.

Federal Energy and Water Management: Agencies Report Mixed Success in Meeting Efficiency Requirements, and Additional Data Are Needed

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What GAO Found

According to data from fiscal year 2021, federal agencies have a mixed record meeting the six energy and water efficiency requirements that GAO reviewed. There are 27 agencies that use the Department of Energy (DOE) Compliance Tracking System to report data on their performance in meeting these requirements. These data show that most agencies met, or almost met, two of the requirements and did not meet one requirement. GAO could not determine whether agencies fully met the other three requirements due to a lack of data, either because the implementation deadline had not passed and there were not yet available data, or because DOE does not track performance (see table).

Specifically, DOE does not track whether agencies entered water use data into a benchmarking system or followed up on implemented energy and water efficiency and conservation measures (ECM) within 4 years, as called for by DOE guidance. As a result, decision makers cannot be certain that agency officials are benchmarking water use data and measuring energy and water savings from implemented ECMs. Without tracking performance on these requirements, Congress cannot know the extent to which agencies have the data they need to make effective decisions to improve energy and water efficiency.

Agencies’ Performance in Meeting Six Energy and Water Efficiency Requirements, Fiscal Year 2021

RequirementNumber of agencies that met requirementPercent of agencies that met requirement
Identify covered facilities constituting at least 75 percent of facility energy or water use24 of 2788.9
Designate energy managers for covered facilities24 of 2788.9
Conduct evaluations at covered facilities every 4 years, subject to exception1 of 273.7
Enter data into a benchmarking system
Enter energy use data into a benchmarking system7 of 2725.9
Enter water use data into a benchmarking systemAgency performance not tracked
Implement energy and water conservation measuresAgency performance not yet available
Follow up on energy and water conservation measuresAgency performance not tracked
Note: Data are as of August 24, 2022. This table summarizes relevant requirements from 42 U.S.C. § 8253(f) and DOE guidance. For more details, see table 1 in this report. Source: GAO analysis of Department of Energy (DOE) Compliance Tracking System data. | GAO-23-105673

Officials GAO interviewed from selected agencies cited varied successes and challenges to meeting each of the six requirements, but the two most frequently cited were the success of using automated or centralized data and the challenge of insufficient resources. For example, agency officials told GAO that automated data allowed them to automatically upload data into a benchmarking system, rather than entering the data manually. Conversely, officials told GAO that insufficient funding or staffing made meeting the requirements challenging. Officials from one agency explained that they must conduct evaluations at agency facilities in remote locations. This makes evaluations more resource-intensive because of the time and expense of sending staff to those locations.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government is the single largest energy consumer in the United States. In fiscal year 2021, its roughly 350,000 buildings used more than 344 trillion Btu of energy and 119 billion gallons of water, according to DOE data. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to improve energy and water efficiency at federal facilities, including through laws and executive orders. In particular, six requirements from section 432 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, as amended, relate to the use of energy and water efficiency measures in federal facilities.

GAO was asked to review issues related to agency compliance with these energy and water efficiency requirements. This report examines (1) the extent to which agencies are complying with the six energy and water efficiency requirements and (2) the successes and challenges that selected agencies have encountered in their efforts toward meeting these requirements.

GAO reviewed DOE data on agency performance in meeting requirements; interviewed officials from six federal agencies, selected in part for facility size and energy use; and conducted a literature review.

New clean energy investments have topped $40B since the IRA passed, report says

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Clean energy investments soared in a recent three-month period, totaling $40 billion and equaling the entire amount invested in 2021, according to an industry group.

The report by American Clean Power, a trade group, covers a period of growth the clean energy sector saw between Aug. 16, the day the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law, and Nov. 30, including the announcement of 20 new clean energy manufacturing facilities or facility expansions.

McDonald’s supply chain will be powered by solar

Read the full story at Restaurant Dive.

McDonald’s and the five member companies comprising the chain’s North American Logistics Council will buy renewable electricity from Enel North America’s Blue Jay solar project, according to a press release published Wednesday.

McDonald’s logistics partners will purchase an estimated 470,000 megawatt hours of solar power per year once the Blue Jay Solar project, located in Grimes County, Texas, is completed in 2023.

The deal would mean McDonald’s logistical supply chain, including all warehouses and distribution centers, would be powered by renewable energy, Bloomberg reports.

Seize the moment for climate action, mayors group says

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

“The federal government is making unprecedented investments in climate action,” and implementation efforts in 2023 will prove critical, said ​​​​​​Madison, Wisconsin’s mayor, the network’s new chair.

Indoor Soilless Farming: Phase II: Moving from theory to action

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Indoor soilless farming aims to reduce many of the more harmful effects of conventional field farming, including decreasing pressures on land, biodiversity, natural habitat, and climate. However, these indoor farms often have large energy footprints, are still figuring out the best way to support local communities and need support to share experiences and move the industry forward.

In the Phase I Innovation Analysis, WWF looked at how we might address some of these challenges and help bring these systems to scale.

In Phase II, WWF has used that research as a springboard for action. This report describes Phase II activities, including:

  • forming the St. Louis Controlled Environment Agriculture (STLCEA) Coalition;
  • analyzing innovative energy systems utilizing various stranded assets;
  • exploring potential partnerships;
  • soliciting and evaluating proposals from indoor farms interested in building and running a pilot indoor farm;
  • choosing an indoor farm partner to bring an integrated system to the St. Louis region;
  • exploring the feasibility of a Center of Excellence (CoE) on indoor farming in the St. Louis region; and
  • kicking off the CoE’s initial projects and developing a long-term vision.

USask-developed bio-glitter ‘green’ alternative to persistent plastics

Read the full story from the University of Saskatchewan.

In everything from shiny gift wrapping to kids’ dance costumes to makeup for adults heading to parties, glitter is everywhere this time of year. But custodians and environmentalists hate the stuff, because it’s almost impossible to clean up, both indoors and especially outdoors.

Now, a University of Saskatchewan (USask) research team has developed an innovative glitter product that is biodegradable and uses light-reflecting shapes to create sparkles unlike any other – with the potential to mitigate plastic pollution around the world.

The U.S.’ addiction to road salt is out of control. These cities are trying to cut back

Read the full story in Time.

Ice-free roads may be good for drivers, but scientists warn that salt is seeping into lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi, killing wildlife and posing health risks to humans. Salt also corrodes asphalt and metal, causing some $5 billion in damage each year to roads and cars. And it lures deer and moose onto highways to lick it up, triggering accidents.

And yet, North Americans are addicted to road salt. Road crews have been pouring the stuff in ever greater quantities since the 1950’s, when cars and highways began to proliferate across the region. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of salt used on U.S. roads ballooned from 1 million tons in 1954, to 10 million tons in 1985, to around 24 million tons a year by 2019, as drivers demanded increasing levels of safety and convenience. “Fifteen years ago, it wasn’t common practice to expect dry pavement after snow,” Gleason says. “But somehow this idea has taken over that everyone should be driving like it’s summer in the winter.”

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of a Novel Cultivated Meat Burger Patty in the United States

Kim S, Beier A, Schreyer HB, Bakshi BR (2022). “Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of a Novel Cultivated Meat Burger Patty in the United States.” Sustainability. 14(23):16133.

Abstract: The meat industry has a substantial negative impact on the environment. As a result, this industry is in a period of change to alternative meat to mitigate the environmental issues caused by conventional meat production. Cultivated meat is highlighted as an alternative to conventional meat-based diets. SCiFi Foods has developed such a novel cultivated meat burger as a potential successor to the currently available burgers. Based on the process information provided by SCiFi Foods, this work performed a life cycle analysis on the novel cultivated meat burger and compared it with alternatives. The life cycle impacts of the novel burger were evaluated using four indicators: greenhouse gas emissions (CML-IA); energy use (cumulative energy demand); land use (ReCiPe midpoint); and water use (ReCiPe midpoint). The study found that the cultivated meat burger generated 87% less greenhouse gas emissions, required 39% less energy, had 90% less influence on land use, and 96% less water use than the comparable beef patty. The effects of uncertainty in the data, sensitivity to major assumptions, and the effect of the manufacturing plant location were analyzed. The studied burger was also found to have a life cycle environmental impact that is comparable with plant-based commercialized burgers that are currently available.