Sustainability

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.

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.

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.

Solar power shines brightly in the UK
December 13, 2014 10:52 AM - , The Ecologist

Solar power has a sunny future - even without any major breakthroughs, writes Ralph Gottschalg. There are huge gains to be made simply by getting smarter and using existing technologies more effectively. A new report shows that - given political support - solar PV could be competitive in the UK by 2020.

PV can achieve the costs required to survive - without subsidies, and without any step change in technology. All it needs is the political will. 

EPA Releases New Energy Star Tool for Homeowners
December 8, 2014 01:49 PM - US EPA Newsroom

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching its Energy Star Home Advisor, an online tool designed to help Americans save money and energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes through recommended, customized and prioritized home-improvement projects.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
December 3, 2014 10:18 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or The People’s Tree, began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People’s Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C. 

 

This year, the 88-foot-tall white spruce tree was harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in northeastern Minnesota by Jim Scheff who won the Logger of the Year award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI). 

 

That begs the question how can a logger win an award from a sustainability group? 

Turkey might be a better choice than fish in the tropics!
November 27, 2014 07:12 AM - Katie Pitz in Oceanus: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

On a tropical island vacation, one of the last things you want to worry about is food poisoning. Yet for many, a trip to the tropics includes a painful education in a mysterious food-borne illness called Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, or CFP.

Every year, thousands of people suffer from CFP, a poisoning syndrome caused by eating toxic reef fish. CFP symptoms are both gastrointestinal and neurological, bringing on bouts of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, and in some cases, the reversal of hot and cold sensations. Some neurological symptoms can persist for days to months to years after exposure. There is no quick way to test for the toxins, and unless action is taken within hours of the poisoning, no cure once you’re sick.

Climate change, species extinctions and tipping points
November 25, 2014 07:35 AM - North Carolina State University via EurekAlert.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created a model that mimics how differently adapted populations may respond to rapid climate change. Their findings demonstrate that depending on a population's adaptive strategy, even tiny changes in climate variability can create a "tipping point" that sends the population into extinction.

Carlos Botero, postdoctoral fellow with the Initiative on Biological Complexity and the Southeast Climate Science Center at NC State and assistant professor of biology at Washington State University, wanted to find out how diverse populations of organisms might cope with quickly changing, less predictable climate variations. 

Small farms the key to increasing food production
November 22, 2014 08:59 PM - , The Ecologist

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN - and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. But it's the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.

 

ENERGY STAR's first multifamily properties announced today
November 13, 2014 08:31 AM - ENERGY STAR

Roughly one-third of the U.S. population lives in the country’s 500,000 multifamily buildings, and they spend $22 billion on energy every year. Until this year, apartment and condo managers lacked the tools to measure how much energy they were wasting and compare their performance nationwide. Meanwhile, energy costs for renters have risen by 20 percent over the past decade.

 

Today, a new era of savings will be ushered in when the U.S EPA announces the first set of multifamily properties to earn the ENERGY STAR certification. The ENERGY STAR first became available to the sector this September, after a three-year partnership with Fannie Mae to develop the scoring system for multifamily properties.

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