NSF funding opportunity: Environmental Sustainability

Proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017
For more information: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505338

The Environmental Sustainability program is part of the Environmental Engineering and Sustainability cluster, which includes also 1) Environmental Engineering; and 2) Biological and Environmental Interactions of Nanoscale Materials.

The goal of the Environmental Sustainability program is to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems. These systems provide ecological services vital for human survival. Research efforts supported by the program typically consider long time horizons and may incorporate contributions from the social sciences and ethics. The program supports engineering research that seeks to balance society’s need to provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions.

There are four principal general research areas that are supported:

  • Industrial Ecology: Topics of interest in Industrial Ecology include advancements in modeling such as life cycle assessment, materials flow analysis, input/output economic models, and novel metrics for measuring sustainable systems. Innovations in industrial ecology are encouraged.
  • Green Engineering: Research is encouraged to advance the sustainability of manufacturing processes, green buildings, and infrastructure. Many programs in the Engineering Directorate support research in environmentally benign manufacturing or chemical processes. The Environmental Sustainability program supports research that would affect more than one chemical or manufacturing process or that takes a systems or holistic approach to green engineering for infrastructure or green buildings. Improvements in distribution and collection systems that will advance smart growth strategies and ameliorate effects of growth are research areas that are supported by Environmental Sustainability. Innovations in management of storm water, recycling and reuse of drinking water, and other green engineering techniques to support sustainability may also be fruitful areas for research. NOTE: Water treatment proposals are to be submitted to the CBET Environmental Engineering program (1440), NOT the Environmental Sustainability program (7643).
  • Ecological Engineering: Topics should focus on the engineering aspects of restoring ecological function to natural systems. Engineering research in the enhancement of natural capital to foster sustainable development is encouraged.
  • Earth Systems Engineering: Earth systems engineering considers aspects of large scale engineering research that involve mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to climate change, and other global scale concerns.

All proposed research should be driven by engineering principles, and be presented explicitly in an environmental sustainability context. Proposals should include involvement in engineering research of at least one graduate student, as well as undergraduates. Incorporation of aspects of social, behavioral, and economic sciences is welcomed. Innovative proposals outside the scope of the four core areas mentioned above may be considered. However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review. For proposals that call for research to be done outside of the United States, an explanation must be presented of the potential benefit of the research for the United States.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years. The typical award size for the program is around $100,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.

Contact:
Bruce Hamilton
National Science Foundation
(703) 292-7066
bhamilto@nsf.gov

GM, Steelcase see a web of opportunity in the circular economy

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Slashing corporate waste and upping investment in reuse is a big market opening — and one that could unlock new supply chain value and job opportunities at companies that can get out ahead.

Minnesota: Discounts available to switch out solvent-based parts washers

Read the full story from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The MPCA has developed a pilot project in partnership with Safety-Kleen that will give a 25% discount to small businesses who switch from a solvent to an aqueous-based parts washer.

Reducing Waste with Closed Loop Supply Chains

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Closed loop supply chains can help companies reduce waste and maximize resources, which is why a growing number of businesses are combining traditional supply chains (forward logistics) with reverse logistics, Business2Community reports.

Zero Waste is Within Our Reach, But….

Read the full post from U.S. EPA.

I would have guessed that my fellow EPA employees would be leaders when it comes to recycling and reducing wastes. Turns out we are leaders, but not quite as far out front as I had hoped. In 2015, a presidential Executive Order on Sustainability directed federal agencies to do their best to divert at least half our non-hazardous wastes into recycling and composting, and to work our darnedest to reach zero waste. While we at EPA’s New England office have indeed succeeded in diverting more than half our waste to recycling and compost,  our regional office has yet to achieve net-zero waste (defined as sending at least 90 percent of our waste to recycling or composting) despite our best efforts.  We, like many other organizations, face many of the same challenges when it comes to modifying our own behavior.

 

Drinking Water: A Comparison of Bottled and Tap Water Using Life Cycle Analysis

In 2009, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality published a study that compared a wide range of environmental impacts (including greenhouse gas emissions) of drinking water from the tap, 5-gallon reusables, and single-use bottles. It also looked at the environmental impacts of tap water (“reduce”) against the impacts of bottled water (“recycle” and “dispose”). The study confirmed that while recycling bottles is environmentally preferable to disposing of them, buying bottled water and recycling the bottles is not the best environmental choice. Drinking water from the tap (waste prevention) typically has substantially lower impacts in most categories of environmental impact.

Other highlights of the study include the following:

  • For water that is bottled and consumed within Oregon, the large majority of environmental impacts are typically from producing the plastic resin used to make the bottle.
  • If the bottle comes from across the country or the world, most impacts increase by a factor of 3 or more.
  • End-of-life (disposal) related impacts are very small, with the possible exception of biodegradable plastic bottles. If they decompose in a landfill, the resulting methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Even when landfills capture some of the gas to produce energy, the remaining gas escapes and contributes to climate change.
  • If you choose to drink bottled water, recycling the bottle can have moderate environmental benefits. These benefits, however, are still overshadowed by the negative impacts of making and transporting the bottle in the first place.
  • For tap water, the frequency of washing your container in a dishwasher influences the results more than any other factor.

Reports

Frequently Asked Questions

Businesses Gain by Preventing Pollution

Read the full post from U.S. EPA.

Starting down the path of an environmental management system can lead a business to unexpected outcomes, like an abandoned quarry being turned into a 15-million-gallon rain barrel, sixth-graders being trained to sample aquatic macroinvertebrates, and implementation of a Leak Squad at a brewery.

What does EPA have to do with these voluntary actions?  The link is EPA’s Pollution Prevention (P2) Program, which provides grants to support P2 programs in states.