e360 digest
Sustainability


08 Jan 2013: Using Fireflies As a Model,
Scientists Boost Efficiency of LED Lights

Drawing inspiration from the structure of a firefly, scientists say they have improved the efficiency of a light-emitting diode (LED) by 55 percent. While studying the insects, the researchers noticed that
Firefly inspired LED
Nicolas André
LED inspired by fireflies
a pattern of sharp, jagged scales on the fireflies’ bodies enhanced the amount of light emitted by the fireflies’ lantern, an abdominal organ that creates the flashes of light to attract mates. After mimicking that structure in the production of a LED design, the researchers found that the amount of light extracted was significantly increased. Light-emitting diodes are made from semi-conductors and represent a major advance in lighting efficiency over traditional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs. “The most important aspect of this work is that it shows how much we can learn by carefully observing nature,” said Annick Bay, a Ph. D. student at the University of Namur in Belgium and one of the authors of a paper published in the journal Optics Express.
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04 Jan 2013: Starbucks Targets Reduction
In Paper Waste with $1 Reusable Cups

Starbucks, the world’s largest chain of coffee shops, this week started selling $1 reusable plastic cups at its stores
Starbucks reusable plastic cup
Starbucks
A reusable plastic cup
in the U.S. and Canada, an initiative the company hopes will drastically reduce the amount of paper waste that ends up in landfills. The company, which has more than 11,000 stores in the U.S., tested the reusable cups at 600 stores in the Pacific Northwest in October, and within a month found that the use of reusable cups increased 26 percent compared with a year earlier. While Starbucks says nearly 2 percent of drinks sold in 2011 were served in personal tumblers brought in by customers — a 55-percent increase in three years — the company is now targeting 5 percent use of reusable cups by 2015. Five years ago, the company had set a goal of serving 25 percent of its coffee drinks in reusable cups. Starbucks uses about 4 billion disposable cups annually.
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17 Dec 2012: ‘Peak Farmland’ Reached, as
Yields Rise and Growth Slows, Report Says

The amount of agricultural land needed to feed the world’s population has reached its peak as a result of improved crop yields and slower population growth, and as much as 10 percent of the land currently used for farming could be “restored to Nature” within 50 years, a team of experts says. In an analysis published in the journal Population and Development Review, three researchers from Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment (PHE) predict that the 1.53 billion hectares (3.78 billion) acres of arable land and farming areas that existed in 2009 could drop to 1.38 billion hectares (3.41 billion acres) by 2060. “Happily, the cause is not exhaustion of arable land, as many have feared, but rather moderation of population and tastes and ingenuity of farmers,” said Jesse Ausubel, director of the PHE and lead author of the report. The PHE study stands in stark contrast to a recent UN report, which predicted that by 2050 another 70 million hectares of land would have to be cultivated to feed a growing population.
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12 Dec 2012: Large Cellulosic Biorefinery
Will Convert Corn Stalks into Biofuel

Chemical giant DuPont has started construction of a large-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Iowa capable of converting corn stalks and leaves into
Corn stover in bales
USDA
Corn stover in bales
a biofuel that could be used in place of fossil fuels at some power plants. The $200 million facility, which will be among the first and largest of its kind in the world, will produce more than 30 million gallons of ethanol annually using so-called corn stover, the remains of corn plants after the harvest, DuPont says. The company plans to collect the stover from more than 500 local farmers within a 30-mile radius, and the plant could be operational as soon as mid-2014. DuPont plans to license the production system internationally and work on designs that will expand this aspect of the biofuel industry.
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Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges

Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz
Martha Schwartz Partners
Martha Schwartz
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities.
Read the interview
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29 Nov 2012: China is Largest Importer
Of Illegally Harvested Timber, Report Says

China has become the world’s leading importer of illegally harvested timber, even as the growing economic giant has made strides in protecting its own forests, according to a new report. Drawing on its own investigative research and the work of Interpol, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) estimates that China now imports about $4 billion in illegal timber annually to meet rising demand for construction materials and furniture. According to the report, more than half of China’s raw timber imports are now coming from nations with “a high risk of illegal logging and poor forest governance,” including Cambodia, Laos, and Madagascar. Meanwhile, the report said, the Chinese government has taken critical steps in preserving and re-growing its own forests. “China is now effectively exporting deforestation around the world,” said EIA's Faith Doherty.
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14 Nov 2012: Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations

A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels. The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
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12 Oct 2012: New Disney Paper Policy
Promises Responsible Use and Sourcing

The Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, has announced a dramatic shift in how the company will use and source paper, vowing to minimize the amount of paper it uses overall and eliminate its purchase of irresponsibly harvested timber products. In an announcement, the multinational media company, which had been under pressure from forest activists, said it would increase its use of recycled paper and paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and will avoid products coming from what it called “high conservation-value” and “high carbon-value” forests. In addition, executives say they will work with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups to identify "regions with poor forest management and high rates of deforestation,” including Indonesia, where rampant deforestation for pulp and paper products is decimating rainforests. The policy shift comes two years after RAN launched a campaign against Disney, citing evidence that its publishing arm, which produces 50 million books and 30 million magazines annually, was using hardwood pulp likely sourced in Indonesia rainforests.
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28 Sep 2012: Decline in Fisheries
Can Still be Reversed, Study Says

Although the majority of global fisheries remain in decline, they can still rebound if managed sustainably, according to a new study. In a comprehensive statistical analysis of the world’s 10,000 fish stocks, nearly 80 percent of which are not regulated, a team of U.S. scientists found that the world’s smaller, managed fisheries are in far worse shape than larger, regulated ones. But while those smaller fisheries, such as those for snapper, are in steep decline, “they’re not yet collapsed,” said Christopher Costello, an economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and lead author of the study, published in the journal Science. According to the analysis, effective management of unregulated fisheries could boost global fish abundance by 56 percent. “If we turn things around now, we can recover them in a matter of years, not decades, and that has big implications for conservation and food security,” Costello said. According to the study, major gains have been made in large fisheries, such as skipjack and albacore tuna, where strong science-based management policies have been enacted, including the closing of some areas to let stocks recover.
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21 Sep 2012: U.S. Fishing Catch Reached
17-Year High in 2011, NOAA Says

U.S. commercial fishermen landed more than 10.1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, a 17-year high attributed in part to policies aimed at rebuilding fisheries nationwide, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The annual catch was 22.6 percent greater than 2010 and, with a value of $5.3 billion, a 17-percent increase in value compared with a year earlier. Officials say catch increases are evidence that fish populations are increasing due to better fisheries management. While all nine of NOAA’s fishing regions saw an increase in catch volume and value, much of the overall increase was a result of increased catches of Gulf of Mexico menhaden, Alaskan pollock, and Pacific hake. NOAA said key fisheries remain at risk, with disasters declared for the cod fishery in New England, oyster and blue crab fisheries in Mississippi, and Chinook salmon in Alaska’s Yukon and Kukokwin rivers.
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14 Sep 2012: Japanese Set Goal
To Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2040

The Japanese government says it will seek to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2040, although officials suggested that the target remains flexible. The new energy strategy, which places a 40-year lifespan on nuclear reactors and limits construction of new plants, would continue a national shift away from nuclear power following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station. Earlier this year Japan suspended operations at the last of its 50 nuclear power stations over public safety concerns. Most of the plants remain off-line. In announcing the new plan, Motohisa Furukawa, Japan’s minister of state for national policy, left open the possibility that five reactors that will be younger than 40 at the end of the 2030s will be allowed to remain in operation. In addition, Furukawa indicated that the central government would ultimately bow to a newly formed nuclear panel over such policy questions, the New York Times reported. Nuclear power provided nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity before the 2011 disaster, and many have questioned whether the country can meet its power needs without a nuclear sector.
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12 Sep 2012: U.S. Big-Box Retail Stores
Lead Surge in Solar Power Installations

A growing number of major U.S. companies, led by the nation’s largest big-box retailers, are installing rooftop solar power systems to help cut energy costs and increase profits, a new report says. According to the report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative, more than 3,600 non-residential systems were activated in the U.S. during the first half of 2012, led by retail giants such as Walmart, Costco, and Kohl’s department stores, all of which have sharply increased their solar power installations in recent months. Among the top 20 U.S. companies by solar capacity, almost half are big-box retailers, according to the report. “Five or six years ago, you probably would have read about a pledge in an annual report about what they’re doing for the environment,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “Now what you’re seeing is it’s a smart investment that they’re making for their shareholders, and this is a standard business practice.”
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11 Sep 2012: Small Forage Fish Species
Worth 20 Percent of Global Fisheries

The world’s forage fish species — small, schooling fish such as herring and sardines that play a key role in the food web in marine ecosystems — represent about 20 percent of the global values of all marine fisheries, according to a new study. In a comprehensive analysis of dozens of food web models from around the planet, scientists from the State University of New York at Stony Brook calculated that these small fish contribute $16.9 billion to global fisheries each year, either as direct catch or as food for larger fish. According to their findings, the direct catch value for forage fish worldwide is $5.6 billion — with the largest market being the Peruvian anchoveta fishery — while the value of fisheries depending on these small fish is about $11.3 billion. “In addition to their value to commercial fishing and other industries that depend on them for their products, forage fish play valuable roles in global ecosystems while they are still in the water,” said Ellen K. Pikitch, co-lead author of the study, published in the journal Fish and Fisheries.
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30 Aug 2012: Better Use of Fertilizer, Water
Can Feed Growing Population, Study Says

A new study suggests that the the world can meet the surging demand for food in the coming decades without rampant deforestation if farmers make better use of fertilizer and water resources. In an analysis of management practices and yield data for 17 major crops worldwide, researchers from McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota estimated that yields for most crops can be increased 45 to 70 percent on lands already used for agriculture through more efficient fertilizer application and irrigation. Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists found that the deployment of best-practice farming could boost global yields of corn, wheat, and rice by 64 percent, 71 percent, and 47 percent, respectively. In some parts of the world, including the U.S., China, and Western Europe, the study found that far more fertilizer is used than necessary, with much of it ultimately washing into waterways. Through more efficient use of that fertilizer, nutrients could be made available for use in Eastern Europe and Western Africa without adversely affecting communities in the U.S. and China.
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29 Aug 2012: India Approves $4 Billion Plan
To Add 6 Million Green Vehicles by 2020

The government of India has approved a 230-billion rupee strategy ($4.13 billion) to spur increased production of electric and hybrid vehicles over the next eight years, setting a target of 6 million green vehicles by 2020. The new plan, designed to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions, would attempt to close the gap between the costs of producing green vehicles in India and what consumers can afford to pay. The country’s nascent electric and hybrid car sector slowed dramatically earlier this year when the government removed subsidies of up to 100,000 rupees per vehicle, Reuters reports. According to sources, the new plan would likely include cash subsidies for consumers, increased funding for research and development, and the creation of a charging network, sources said. While specific plans remain to be worked out, S. Sundareshan, the secretary of India’s Heavy Industries ministry, said the government would provide 130 to 140 billion rupees, while private corporations would cover the rest.
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27 Aug 2012: Desalination Sector Surges as
Technology Improves, Demand Grows

A new report predicts that global investment in water desalination projects will triple over a five-year period from 2011 to 2016, driven by improvements in technology and a surge in companies entering the sector. According to Global Water Intelligence, investments in desalination plant installations will grow from $5 billion last year to $8.9 billion this year; by 2016, the report says, the sector could reach $17 billion. A critical factor has been the emergence of technologies that require less energy to make potable water from seawater, including a process called forward osmosis that uses less heat and power than existing reverse osmosis plants and could cut the cost of desalination by as much as 30 percent. Also driving this surge is growing demand in developing nations already facing water shortages, including China and India. “Those huge economies will not be able to step forward without a solution to water scarcity, and one of the solutions is going to be desalination,” Avshalom Felber, CEO of Israel-based IDE Technologies, told Bloomberg News.
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22 Aug 2012: Solar Shingles Made from
Common Metals Offer Cheaper Energy Option

U.S. scientists say that emerging photovoltaic technologies will enable the production of solar shingles made from abundantly available elementsrather than rare-earth metals, an innovation that would make solar
Dow Solar Shingles
Dow Chemical
Solar shingles
energy cheaper and more sustainable. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a team of researchers described advances in solar cells made with abundant metals, such as copper and zinc. While the market already offers solar shingles that convert the sun’s energy into electricity, producers typically must use elements that are scarce and expensive, such as indium and gallium. According to Harry A. Atwater, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, recent tests suggest that materials like zinc phosphide and copper oxide could be capable of producing electricity at prices competitive with coal-fired power plants within two decades. With China accounting for more than 90 percent of the world’s rare-earth supplies, companies and nations are racing to find new sources of rare earth minerals, which are used in everything from solar panels to smart phones.
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20 Aug 2012: Process Turns Starbucks’ Waste
Into Ingredients for Consumer Products

A team of scientists is working with the Starbucks coffee chain to develop a bio-refinery process that would convert the company’s discarded coffee grounds and day-old bakery goods into a key ingredient for making plastics and other products. The process, which will be described at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, builds on existing technology that converts corn, sugar cane, and other plant-based products into the ingredients for biofuels and other consumer products. According to researchers, the process involves blending the bakery waste with a mixture of fungi that breaks down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars. They are ultimately converted into succinic acid, a material that can be used to make a range of products, including plastics, detergents, and medicines. While most experts say using crops for such purposes would not be sustainable, targeting food waste is an attractive alternative, said Carol S. K. Lin, of the City University of Hong Kong, who was leader of the research team.
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17 Aug 2012: Triage System for Plant Species
Devised Based on Geographic Range

With an increasing number of plant species worldwide facing growing threats, from climate change to invasive species, a team of U.S. scientists has developed a process to more rapidly evaluate those plants facing the greatest risks of extinction. Writing in the journal
persicaria-hispida NYBG
Bill Carr/NYBG
Biodiversity and Conservation, the scientists from the New York Botanical Garden describe a triage method to identify at-risk species based on data from plant research collections and geographic information systems (GIS) technology. According to the scientists, the standard conservation assessment process, developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — which uses a rigorous process to classify species as “extinct,” “least concern,” “endangered,” and “critically endangered” — is limited because it requires large amounts of data that simply do not exist for most species. While there are 300,000 known plant species, they say, only 15,000 species have been evaluated under the IUCN process. As an alternative, they propose a simpler process that classifies species as either “at risk” or “not at risk” based on the key criterion of the size of its geographical range.
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16 Aug 2012: Ocean Health Index Evaluates
State of Waters Around the Globe

An international team of researchers has released a new tool that evaluates the state of the world’s oceans, a so-called Ocean Health Index that its creators say provides the first comprehensive assessment of the relationship

Click to enlarge
Ocean Health Index

Ben Halpern, et al/Nature
The Ocean Health Index
 
between the planet’s marine regions and human communities. While previous assessments of ocean health were based on the level of “pristineness,” this index is framed in terms of the benefits humans derive from the oceans and the extent to which communities maintain a sustainable marine environment. Using a wide range of criteria — including water quality, marine biodiversity, and the condition of coastal areas — the researchers ranked ocean areas worldwide on a scale from 0 to 100. According to their analysis, published in the journal Nature, the global ocean received an overall score of 60, while scores for individual areas ranged from 36 to 86. The waters around Jarvis Island, near Hawaii, ranked highest; the waters off the West African nation of Sierra Leone ranked lowest.
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09 Aug 2012: Overuse of Groundwater
Threatens Global Supplies, Study Says

A new study finds that nearly one-quarter of the world’s population lives in regions where water is being used faster than it can be replenished. Using computer models of global groundwater resources and water use data, scientists from Canada and the Netherlands calculated that the planet’s “groundwater footprint” — the area above ground that relies on water from underground sources — is about 3.5 times larger than the aquifers themselves. The study found that in most of the world’s major agricultural regions — including the Central Valley in California, the Nile delta region of Egypt, and the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan— demand exceeds these reservoirs’ capacity for renewal. For example, the groundwater footprint for the Upper Ganges aquifer is more than 50 times the size of aquifer. “This overuse can lead to decreased groundwater availability for both drinking water and growing food,” said Tom Gleeson, a hydrologist at McGill University in Montreal and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature. According to the scientists, about 1.7 billion people, mostly in Asia, live in areas where water needs for humans and ecosystem services outstrip the ability of aquifers to replenish themselves.
PERMALINK

 

06 Aug 2012: California Meets 20 Percent
of Electricity Demand With Clean Energy

California power utilities are now achieving more than 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs with renewable energy sources, state regulators say. In its latest quarterly report, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said that the state met 20.6 percent of its
California Renewable Energy
Getty Images
electricity demand with renewable sources — including wind, solar, and geothermal — during 2011, up from 17 percent in 2010. In 2012, the report says, the state is on pace to far surpass that level. According to the CPUC report, 2,871 megawatts of energy capacity from clean sources has been added statewide since ambitious clean energy standards were enacted in 2003, and another 3,000 megawatts are expected to be added during 2012. A dozen utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants, with a combined capacity of 2,200 megawatts, are currently being built in California, while another 62 plants totaling 11,600 megawatts of capacity are being developed. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 20 percent of electricity sold to customers be generated from renewable sources from 2011 to 2013; the target increases to 33 percent by 2020.
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31 Jul 2012: U.S. Meat Producers Call for
Pause in Ethanol Quotas in Wake of Drought

U.S. meat, poultry, and dairy producers are urging the Obama administration to suspend a quota for corn-based ethanol production, warning that the renewable fuels standard could trigger a food crisis as a prolonged
Corn withered by Midwest drought
Getty Images
drought pushes corn and soybean prices to record levels. In a letter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a coalition that includes the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council asked for a one-year waiver on federal ethanol quotas, saying that the ongoing drought in the U.S. Midwest has slashed the amount of corn available to feed livestock and poultry. The current renewable fuels standard would require that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. In 2012, the meat producers say, those quotas would consume nearly 40 percent of all U.S.-produced corn. “The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored,” the letter said.
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30 Jul 2012: Scheme Opens Papua New Guinea Forests to Foreign Loggers, Report Says

More than 5 million hectares (12.3 million acres) of community-held land in Papua New Guinea have been signed over to foreign and domestic corporations through a government leasing scheme, accelerating
Papua New Guinea
©Paul Hilton/ Greenpeace
deforestation in the resource-rich nation, a new Greenpeace study says. Using data and mapping analysis and government information, the group found that about 75 percent of the leased forest land — or about 3.9 million hectares — is controlled by foreign corporations for up to 99 years through a so-called Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABL) scheme. The report claims that many companies paid government officials to approve long-term leases and that in one case logging companies paid police to intimidate and assault landowners who opposed the leases. “People are losing their land and their livelihoods for up to three generations and their forests forever,” said Paul Winn, leader of the Greenpeace Forests Team. Greenpeace says Papua New Guinea’s logging exports increased 20 percent last year, due largely to the SABL scheme. The total amount of land leased through SABLs makes up 11 percent of the country’s land area and 16 percent of accessible commercial forest.
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19 Jul 2012: `Great Green Fleet’ Trial
Launched by U.S. Navy in the Pacific

The U.S. Navy this week held military exercises in the Pacific Ocean that used an expensive blend of biofuels and conventional fuels to power 71 aircraft and three warships, part of an ongoing effort by the Navy to develop alternative fuels for its global operations. The so-called “Great Green Fleet” initiative is a top priority of Navy Secretary Ray Maybus, who contends that the U.S. military must eventually free itself from dependence on fossil fuels “because unpredictable and increasingly volatile oil prices could have a direct impact on readiness.” But numerous critics, including U.S. Senator John McCain, criticize Maybus’ initiative as unnecessary and costly, noting that the 50-50 biofuel/conventional fuel blend costs $26 a gallon — more than six times the cost of conventional fuels. A Defense Department study said that the military will spend $2 billion more annually if it continues to pursue its biofuels experiments. About 90 percent of the biofuels was rendered from cooking oil waste and the remaining 10 percent was refined from algae. Maybus, speaking aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, contended that the rising costs of oil and breakthroughs in biofuel production will eventually narrow the price gap between conventional and alternative fuels.
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09 Jul 2012: Aquaculture Output To Rise
33 Percent Over Next Decade, UN Says

The global aquaculture sector could produce 33 percent more fish for human consumption over the next decade, an increase in production that will help feed a growing world population even as fisheries are overexploited, a new UN report predicts. More than 79 million tons of farmed fish, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic plants are expected to be produced from 2012 to 2012, a 33 percent growth compared with just a 3 percent growth from capture fisheries, according to the report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2018, the amount of fish raised in aquaculture will exceed the amount caught in the wild for the first time and will account for 52 percent of the total by 2021, the report states. This increased reliance on farm-raised fish comes as an increasing number of fisheries worldwide are exploited, with about 30 percent of fish stock now overexploited and another 57 percent fully exploited or very close to maximum sustainable production.
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Living Building Challenge Aims to
Revolutionize Green Architecture

In the world of green architecture, no project has more stringent design criteria than the Living Building Challenge, a rigorous certification system that requires that structures follow 20 design “imperatives” across seven categories, from water and energy use to social
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab
HPA
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab
equity and beauty. While the better-known LEED standards pre-certify buildings based on conformance of design specifications with best practices, the Living Building Challenge also judges buildings on actual performance, requiring a documented 12-month occupancy phase. Projects must also prove that they exclude 14 banned materials, including halogenated flame retardants and PVC plastics, through supplier audits for every product used in construction. Since its inception in 2006,the challenge has fully certified only three buildings and partially certified two others, raising questions of whether it will have real-world impact. But program director Amanda Sturgeon says the project’s standards are already pushing architecture and design to be more progressive, sustainable, and accountable. “When teams start to ask their suppliers for every ingredient of every product, the message moves up the chain,” she says.
Read more
PERMALINK

 

28 Jun 2012: Cities in U.S. Northwest
Adopt Aggressive Recycling Programs

Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland, Ore., have all adopted stringent recycling programs that have generally been embraced by citizens in these progressive cities and have significantly reduced the amount of garbage going to landfills. The New York Times reports that Portland has cut the amount of garbage going to landfills by 44 percent by recycling a wide range of materials, including food scraps, and collecting garbage only twice a month. San Francisco, which has adopted even more aggressive recycling initiatives, now reuses 78 percent of what enters its waste stream, compared with the national average of 34 percent. This summer, Seattle is opening a mammoth new waste transfer station that will enable it to sort through and recycle a large portion of its garbage, the Times reports. With citizens in these relatively small cities — all with populations under 800,000 — pushing for a zero-waste policy, Seattle says that by 2018 it will even provide some neighborhoods with containers to recycle dog and cat waste, turning the excrement into power using anaerobic digests.
PERMALINK

 

27 Jun 2012: Foreign ‘Land Grabs’
Scooping up Key Agricultural Lands

From 2000 to 2010, foreign investors bought or leased roughly 270,000 square miles of prime agricultural land, most of it in the developing world, according to a report by the Worldwatch Institute. Half of the land was
CIAT Worldwatch Institute Land Grabs
CIAT
in Africa, acquired by investors from China, the Middle East, and other countries and regions, Worldwatch said. Although the pace of what Worldwatch called “land grabs” has slowed somewhat in the last several years, private investors and state-owned companies are still buying and leasing land in the developing world to ensure ample food supplies for citizens of land-poor countries. Worldwatch said the land deals generally took two forms: “South-South regionalism,” in which emerging economies invest in nearby countries, and North-South deals in which wealthy countries with little arable land buy up land in low-income nations. The report said the land deals usually resulted in the displacement of small-scale agriculture for industrial agriculture operations that have more serious environmental impacts.
PERMALINK

 

22 Jun 2012: Rio+20 Summit Ends, With
Little Faith Seen in Government Solutions

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro promised an era of aggressive action on biodiversity loss and global warming, the United Nations Rio+20 sustainability summit ended Friday with recriminations and a growing sense that international institutions will play an increasingly diminished role in solving environmental problems. World leaders — with the notable absence of the heads of the U.S., U.K, Germany, and Russia — approved an agreement that lacked specifics, commitments, and measurable targets on how to promote sustainable economic development. Numerous conservationists and officials said that cities, local governments, the private sector, and environmental groups will now have to play the key role in fostering sustainable economic growth, slowing climate change, and preserving biodiversity. “The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of world leaders,” said Lasse Gustavson, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund.
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Colorado River Video
In a Yale Environment 360 video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.

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