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New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling
January 28, 2015 03:35 PM - Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute
For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.
Electric range-extended trucks can double fuel economy
January 26, 2015 04:54 AM - Phil Covington , Triple Pundit
When it comes to electric vehicles, we hear plenty about electric cars being launched into the consumer market but not too much about commercial vehicles. Maybe that’s because not too many people have to concern themselves with what type of delivery or garbage truck they are going to buy next. Nevertheless, such considerations matter, since the electrification of commercial fleets promises considerably larger efficiency gains than cars.
Four-year-old California company Wrightspeed, started by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, has developed a technology that zeros in on a specific niche of the commercial fleet market, bringing both fuel savings and emissions mitigation for commercial fleet operators.
Rutgers study shows sea level rising faster than thought
January 20, 2015 08:23 AM - Rutgers University
Researchers at Rutgers and Harvard universities found that between 1901 and 1990 sea-level rose at a rate of about 1.2 millimeters per year, compared to about 1.5 millimeters as calculated in earlier estimates. The scientists say that sea levels are now rising at a rate of 3 millimeters every year.
The new research, “Probabilistic Reanalysis of 20th-century Sea-level Rise,” takes a new look at global tide gauge data. Using a combination of computer modeling and statistical analysis, the researchers sought to close data gaps in accounting for the sources of sea-level rise.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the international group charting the Earth’s climate trends – has come up short in fully explaining the source of new water flows to the oceans in past decades.
Why Certification is Critical for the Industrialization of Bamboo
January 19, 2015 12:35 PM - Contributing editor
We’ve been down this path before; a new species, a new crop, a new product. A silver bullet plant that can be grown on degraded land and provide exactly what industry needs. And yet typically such plants go one of two ways; the way of Jatropha, which after a few years of being touted as the miracle plant of the biofuel industry, simply faded into nothingness; or the way of oil palm, where industrialization boomed, and with it came a mile wide trench of environmental devastation.
No plant is inherently green. And bamboo is no different. It can be grown well, and sustainably. Or it can be the cause of deforestation, conversion of natural ecosystems, and subsequent environmental and social degradation.
So why is bamboo forging a path that is likely to be different? Simply, the foremost player currently responsible for the plant’s industrialization at a global and commercial scale is setting a benchmark of sustainability in front as they pioneer and grow the plant at scale, rather than in their wake as an after thought.
Global wheat yields threatened by warming with serious consequences
January 19, 2015 08:23 AM - Paul Brown, The Ecologist
Just one degree of global warming could cut wheat yields by 42 million tonnes worldwide, around 6% of the crop, writes Paul Brown - causing devastating shortages of this staple food.
Market shortages would cause price rises. Many developing countries, and the hungry poor within them, would not be able to afford wheat or bread.
Planting Milkweed for the Monarch's? Be sure to use the native species!
January 18, 2015 11:04 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2
Sometimes we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. That appears to be the case for countless Americans hoping to aid the monarch butterfly. Hearing that pesticides have destroyed the milkweed that monarchs rely on for survival, sympathetic animal lovers have attempted to do their part to support the butterflies by growing milkweed in their own gardens. Alas, emerging research suggests that this well-intentioned plan appears to actually be harming the species even further.
Unfortunately, most of the milkweed purchased for this purpose is the “wrong kind.” This kind, known as tropical milkweed, is popular with gardening companies since it continues to bloom longer than the type to which monarch butterflies are accustomed. While monarchs are still more than content to eat this milkweed, that doesn’t make it good for them.
European study shows biofuel production can increase with low impacts
January 16, 2015 07:07 AM - EurActiv
EU countries could increase their production of biofuels with a minimum impact on the environment, Utrecht University scientists concluded in a study published on Tuesday (13 January).
Biofuels are the main green alternative to fossil fuels used in transport, but they compete with feed crops that share the same agricultural land.
As a consequence, forests are being turned into farmland to increase the terrestrial surface for planting more food crops, a phenomenon known as indirect land use change (ILUC).
Salting Roads takes a Toll on the Environment
January 14, 2015 10:49 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2
The United States has a salt problem, and it extends well beyond the excessive sodium we consume in our diets. In the winter months, municipalities rely on dumping salt on the roads to minimize the effects of ice. Altogether, the U.S. uses ten times the amount of salt on roadways than it does in the processed foods we consume. While the salt may help to keep drivers safe, it does come at a cost:
1. It Increases Our Own Salt Consumption
You can throw salt down on roads, but you can’t force it to stay there. In due time, salt makes its ways into nearby waterways where it lingers. As a result, a lot of the water we wind up drinking has higher levels of salt than it would otherwise. Vox cites a study that finds 84% of city-adjacent streams have higher levels of chloride thanks specifically to these road-salting techniques. Apparently, during the months following salted roads, 29% of these streams have more salt than the federal “safety limits” for drinking water allow.
Britain brings back the battery-powered train
January 13, 2015 08:14 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen
The first battery-powered train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than half a century is to enter passenger service this week. The pioneering engine marks an important milestone in the project to demonstrate the viability of an eco-friendly battery-powered train for the twenty-first century.
The pleasures of a tiny house
January 10, 2015 08:35 AM - Samuel Alexander, The Ecologist
There is a simple solution to the problems of rampant consumerism, debt and a lifetime of servitude, writes Samuel Alexander - radical down-sizing to a truly tiny house. For a start, it's only big enough for the things you really need. And it's so cheap to build, that it's paid for from a month or two's salary. Just one question - what will you do with your freedom?
With one's housing requirements so easily met, and having escaped the iron grip of indebtedness, one would then be faced with the exhilarating but terrifying question of what to do with a life of freedom.