Vote for your favorite data stories video

Science Magazine’s Data Stories competition is still accepting votes for their People’s Choice award. The competition asked people to submit short-form (90 second) videos that use data visualizations to tell stories. View all of the submissions here.

EPA Administrator McCarthy Announces 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing 24 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across 12 states, the District of Columbia and Canada for outstanding achievement in the design, manufacture, promotion and use of a range of cleaning and other household products that carry the Safer Choice label. Administrator McCarthy announced the winners at an event at a local hardware store in San Francisco today.

“Everyone wants products with ingredients that are safer for their kids, pets, communities and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Using technology and innovation to turn challenges into profitable opportunities makes our businesses stronger and more competitive, our families and workers healthier, and our environment cleaner.”

The Safer Choice standards were developed through a multi-stakeholder process, with a range of businesses and public interest groups, including environmental and health advocacy organizations. EPA assesses ingredients for the Safer Choice program based on a full chemical identification. Where necessary, EPA requires studies to prove safety of the chemicals used, and applies the expertise of chemists and toxicologists who have assessed thousands of chemicals.

These stringent human and environmental health safety standards mean that consumers can know with certainty that a product’s safety claims are backed by science. Safer Choice currently has around 500 formulator-manufacturer partners who make more than 2,000 products for retail and institutional customers.

The 2016 Partner of the Year award winners represent a wide variety of leadership organizations. Participants include Fortune 500 companies, small- and medium-sized businesses, and non-governmental organizations. The 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards will be presented at 2:00 p.m. on May 9, 2016 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The winners fall under the following categories:

Safer Formulator-Manufacturer: Boulder Clean (Boulder, Colo.), BISSELL (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Case Medical, Inc. (South Hackensack, N.J.), Clean Control Corporation (Warner Robins, Ga.), The Clorox Company (Pleasanton, Calif.), Futurescape Inc. (Port Orange, Fla.), Jelmar, LLC (Skokie, Ill.), Osprey Biotechnics Inc. (Sarasota, Fla.), RB (Parsippany, N.J.) and Seventh Generation Inc. (Burlington, Vt.)

Safer Chemical Innovator: BASF Corporation (Florham Park, N.J.), Ecolab (Eagan, Minn.), Osprey Biotechnics (Sarasota, Fla.) and Virox Technologies Inc. (Oakville, Ontario, Canada)

Purchaser/Distributor: Solutex, Inc. (Sterling, Va.)

Retailer: Albertsons Companies (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. (Rochester, N.Y.)

Program Supporter: American Sustainable Business Council (Alexandria, Va.), The Ashkin Group (Los Angeles), Consumer Specialty Products Association (Washington, D.C.), Environmental Defense Fund (New York, N.Y.), Federal Sustainable Acquisitions and Materials Management Practices (SAMM) Working Group (Washington, D.C.), Healthy Schools Campaign (Chicago), ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association (Northbrook, Ill.), Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (New York, N.Y.)

When companies demonstrate a commitment to the health of their customers and the planet, consumers respond. Not only does the Safer Choice program put the power of choice into the hands of consumers, it actually incentivizes manufacturers to change the ingredients in their products – so they can meet the strict safety criteria the Safer Choice label demands.

More on the 2016 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners, and registration for the Awards Ceremony, can be found at http://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-choice-partner-year-awards.

EPA Honors Winners of 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the winners of its fourth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a design competition created to engage college and university students in reinventing our nation’s water infrastructure and developing green infrastructure systems to reduce stormwater pollution and build resilience to climate change. Student teams proposed innovative green infrastructure designs help aid in the development of more sustainable communities.

Stormwater is one of the nation’s most widespread challenges to water quality. Large volumes of stormwater pollute our nation’s streams, rivers and lakes, posing a threat to human health and the environment and contribute to downstream flooding. The Campus RainWorks Challenge engages students and faculty members at colleges and universities to apply green infrastructure principles and design, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on campuses across the nation.

“Our Campus RainWorks Challenge winners inspire the next generation of green infrastructure designers and planners,” said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “All the submissions included innovative approaches to stormwater management. I want to congratulate the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Maryland for their winning submissions.” Mr. Beauvais announced the winners of the Challenge at an event at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday, April 21.

EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories — the Master Plan category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a broad area of a school’s campus, and the Demonstration Project category, which examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a particular site on the team’s campus. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students, working with a faculty advisor, developed innovative green infrastructure designs in one of the categories, showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.

The 2015 challenge winners are:

University of Texas at Arlington (1st Place, Master Plan category) – The team’s design concept, titled, “Eco-Flow: A Water-Sensitive Placemaking Response to Climate Change,” transforms the campus through green infrastructure placed in relation to the natural water flow of Trading House Creek. The creek flows from northwest to south connecting the campus. The plan proposes to increase biodiversity, restore soil quality and watershed hydrology, and implement photovoltaic cells to supply alternative energy. The plan has the potential to reduce stormwater runoff 25 inches annually, generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours each year, increase campus tree coverage 89 percent, and mitigate 5,000 tons of CO2.

University of Maryland, College Park (1st Place, Demonstration Project category) – The design is centered on reimagining a major, five-acre parking lot to retrofit it for improved stormwater management. The design features reduce 40 percent of impervious surface; add over 17,000 square feet of new vegetation space, 56 new trees for shaded parking spaces, and 8,640 square feet of pedestrian space; and, reduce 12.3 metric tons of CO2 annually. The team’s design has good potential for implementing on other campuses.

Stevens Institute of Technology (2nd Place, Master Plan category) – The team proposed the first stormwater management plan for the Stevens’ campus, “The Living Laboratory.” The design includes 29 green infrastructure techniques, which have been applied to problem areas to reduce runoff, contaminant discharge and potable water usage. The Living Laboratory provides a practical example for urban campus green infrastructure and introduces classroom and community educational opportunities. The team worked with Stevens Facilities and Events Management to ensure the proposed design is aligned with future growth of campus, can be maintained, is aesthetically pleasing and economically responsible.

University of California, Berkeley (2nd Place, Demonstration Project category) – The team chose a creek site on campus that was the university’s first botanical garden with many artificial landscape features that cause drainage problems. While it is home to a legacy of exotic plants, the site lacks habitat conducive to supporting native species and reducing runoff. The team proposes a design that will store 37,000 cubic feet of stormwater runoff, increase pervious surface are by 33 percent and increase native plant species. The design has potential to reduce flooding and restore the ecological diversity of the area.

EPA also recognized teams from the University of Texas at Arlington (Master Plan category) and Northeastern University (Demonstration Project category) as honorable mentions for their entries.

EPA will announce the fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the summer of 2016.

Green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems. Utilizing these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space.

More information: https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/2015-campus-rainworks-challenge

Mushrooms, whales and hurricanes: how bio-inspiration boosts energy efficiency

Read the full story in The Guardian.

This week, the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to bio-inspired engineering, announced the seven finalists in its first Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The competitors, who come from around the globe, sought to develop efficient, nature-inspired solutions to food shortages. Their solutions copy a wide array of organisms, including an agricultural drainage system based on earthworms, an edible insect harvester based on a carnivorous plant and a desalinizing water still that imitates mangrove trees.

These projects – and the rest of the Global Design Challenge competitors – have until October to develop working prototypes for their inventions. In the meantime, here are a few other bio-inspired innovations that are already changing our lives and the way we relate to nature.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management seeks applications for 2016 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), in conjunction with the Office of Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Office of Energy Development, the Indiana Department of Administration and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, is seeking nominations for the 2016 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

The Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence is the state’s most prestigious environmental recognition award. IDEM accepts nominations from all Indiana citizens and organizations, and the selection process is highly competitive. All projects must demonstrate significant, measurable results. The projects must be innovative, comprehensive and thoroughly documented, and only one winner will be selected. Award applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. ET on Friday, May 13, 2016.

“Indiana businesses have demonstrated that determination and ingenuity can benefit the environment while boosting the bottom line,” said IDEM Commissioner Carol S. Comer. “The 2016 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence will honor the achievements of Hoosier companies and individuals for their exemplary work.”

To learn more about the 2016 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence nomination process, visit www.idem.IN.gov/prevention/ 2358.htm or contact Nathan Christian, program coordinator with IDEM’s Office of Program Support, at (800) 988-7901 or nchristi@idem.IN.gov.

Goldman Environmental Prize Honors Six Heroes of the Environment

The Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced the six recipients of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists. Awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions, the Goldman Prize recognizes fearless grassroots activists for significant achievements in protecting the environment and their communities.

The winners will be awarded the Prize at an invitation-only ceremony today at 5:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House (this event will be live streamed online at www.goldmanprize.org/ceremony). A ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. will follow on Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.

This year’s winners are:

EDWARD LOURE, Tanzania
Edward Loure led a grassroots organization that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities—instead of individuals—in northern Tanzania, ensuring the environmental stewardship of more than 200,000 acres of land for future generations.

LENG OUCH, Cambodia
In one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists, Leng Ouch went undercover to document illegal logging in Cambodia and exposed the corruption robbing rural communities of their land, causing the government to cancel large land concessions.

ZUZANA CAPUTOVA, Slovakia
A public interest lawyer and mother of two, Zuzana Caputova spearheaded a successful campaign that shut down a toxic waste dump that was poisoning the land, air and water in her community, setting a precedent for public participation in post-communist Slovakia.

LUIS JORGE RIVERA HERRERA, Puerto Rico
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera helped lead a successful campaign to establish a nature reserve in Puerto Rico’s Northeast Ecological Corridor—an important nesting ground for the endangered leatherback sea turtle—and protect the island’s natural heritage from harmful development.

DESTINY WATFORD, United States
In a community whose environmental rights had long been sidelined to make room for heavy industry, Destiny Watford inspired residents of a Baltimore neighborhood to defeat plans to build the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from her high school.

MÁXIMA ACUÑA, Peru
A subsistence farmer in Peru’s northern highlands, Máxima Acuña stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land, a plot of land sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining to develop the Conga gold and copper mine.

About the Goldman Environmental Prize
The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.

DOE Announces Major Expansion of Crowdsourcing Initiative for Building Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a major expansion of its distinctive online crowdsourcing community for building technologies. Seeking to draw on the creativity and technical expertise of the American public, citizens can now submit their ideas to six open calls for innovation, with the chance to partner with a DOE national laboratory and a leading private sector partner.

The crowdsourcing community, called JUMP (#jump4innovation), was first launched by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2015. Today, it has expanded to be co-hosted by five DOE national laboratories and some of the top private companies in the buildings sector. JUMP stands for Join in the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation and Promote technology-to-market. The goal is to broaden the pool of people from whom DOE seeks ideas and to move these ideas to the marketplace faster.

The participating national labs are Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and ORNL. Together the labs offer a crowdsourcing platform for innovators, particularly small entrepreneurs, to present ideas for new technologies for energy-efficient buildings to private and public sector leaders in research and development.

“It is exciting to see unique, diverse and new to DOE individuals, start-ups, and entrepreneurs join in the JUMP community,” said Karma Sawyer, technology analysis and commercialization manager with DOE’s Building Technologies Office.

“Together we are tackling the technology and market challenges critical to advancing energy efficient buildings. We have more than 500 registered users on our JUMP crowdsourcing platform and we look forward to connecting an even larger community for innovation in the upcoming regional events with our national lab and industry partners.”

Each lab is seeking industry partners and innovators to join JUMP. Industry partners gain access to national laboratory expertise while helping shape technologies and services for the next generation of energy-efficient buildings.

“By leveraging their individual research team and industry connections, each lab is developing calls for innovation relevant to the most pressing industry challenges, to accelerate technology to market,” said Melissa Voss Lapsa, ORNL’s group leader for Whole-Building and Community Integration.

“Our industry partners are gathering and reviewing ideas and getting even closer to solving their challenges.”

Industry partners are A.O. Smith, Building Robotics, Clean Energy Trust, CLEAResult, Callida Energy, Emerson Climate Technologies, General Electric, Honeywell, IntelliChoice Energy, and United Technologies Research Center. Working with the labs, industry partners are offering challenges focused on building technologies, including appliances, building envelope, building analytics and information systems, lighting, heating and cooling systems, and sensors and controls.

JUMP includes opportunities for innovators to comment and vote on ideas. This community discussion helps DOE and its partners gauge the market’s interest in the topic and potential solutions. A judging panel evaluates top ideas based on their potential for significant energy savings, novelty, and technical, market, and economic feasibility. Innovators get connected to industry partners and may qualify for cash prizes, in-kind technical support, and recognition.

Innovators are encouraged to view the JUMP technology challenges and submit their ideas. Industry stakeholders interested in crowdsourcing a pressing technology challenge are invited to contact the JUMP Team to get involved.

This initiative is being funded by DOE’s Building Technologies Office.