Sustainability

New York City Turns to Composting
August 8, 2013 12:43 PM - Debra Goldberg, ENN

In 2011, the United States produced 250 million tons of municipal solid waste, 56% of which was compostable materials. In New York City alone, more than 10,000 tons of trash is collected every day and shipped to landfills where organic materials decompose. Methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, is produced as a result of the decomposition. Behind industry and agriculture, landfills are the third-largest source of methane in the United States. New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recognized this major environmental concern in his State of the City address, and called for food waste recycling, the city’s “final recycling frontier". Of course New York City isn’t the first to come up with such an ambitious plan. Cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, San Antonio, and Portland, Oregon have been composting as early as 2009. Today, San Francisco mandates that all residents separate organic material, adding a third bin to trash and recycling. The compost bins can include all food scraps, along with vegetation and solid paper products such as coffee cups and milk cartons. Overall, 78% of San Francisco’s waste is now diverted from landfills.

Saudi Arabia to Launch Online Atlas of Renewable Resources
August 8, 2013 08:45 AM - Rehab Abd Almohsen, SciDevNet

Saudi Arabia is launching an online atlas of renewable resources as part of a wider project to identify the potential renewable energy sources and where best to deploy technology to tap into those resources. The atlas data will be available in late 2013, published online through the Renewable Resource Monitoring and Mapping programme.

Foodies eat lab-grown burger that could change the world
August 7, 2013 08:56 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

This week at a press event in London, two food writers took a bite into the world's most unusual hamburger. Grown meticulously from cow stem cells, the hamburger patty represents the dream (or pipedream) of many animal rights activists and environmentalists. The burger was developed by Physiologist Mark Post of Maastricht University and funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin in an effort to create real meat without the corresponding environmental toll.

Monarch Butterfly migration study tracks generations
August 7, 2013 06:24 AM - EurekAlert

Everyone knows all about the epic breeding journey taken each year by generations of monarch butterflies between Mexico and Canada, right? Not so fast, say researchers including University of Guelph biologists. Until now, linking adult butterflies and their birthplaces during a complicated annual migration spanning all of eastern North America and involving up to five generations of the iconic insects had eluded scientists. Now for the first time, researchers have mapped that migration pattern across the continent over an entire breeding season. That information might help conserve a creature increasingly threatened by loss of habitat and food sources, says Tyler Flockhart, a PhD student in U of G's Department of Integrative Biology.

Deforestation ban working in Costa Rica
August 6, 2013 08:58 AM - Rhett A. Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Costa Rica's ban on clearing of "mature" forests appears to be effective in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands, finds a study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The research, which was led by Matthew Fagan of Columbia University, is based on analysis of satellite data calibrated with visits to field sites in the lowlands of northern Costa Rica.

Marine ecosystems shifting in response to warming climate
August 6, 2013 06:19 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The climate is getting warmer, and terrestrial ecosystems are responding. Species move up mountain slopes to remain in the temperature regimes they prefer (if there is a mountain slope to move up!). What is happening in the oceans? The warming climate is affecting ocean temperatures too, thought the oceans have vast thermal mass, so changes might be expected to be occurring more slowly than on land. Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface, yet our knowledge of the impact of climate change on marine habitats is a mere drop in the proverbial ocean compared to terrestrial systems. An international team of scientists set out to change that by conducting a global meta-analysis of climate change impacts on marine systems. Counter to previous thinking, marine species are shifting their geographic distribution toward the poles and doing so much faster than their land-based counterparts. The findings were published in Nature Climate Change.

Increased grazing helps improve soil
August 5, 2013 06:18 AM - Luke Runion, NPR

The world's soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn't happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil. In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle. Conventional wisdom tells you that if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that's not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

The American Chestnut is being restored
August 4, 2013 07:48 AM - KEVIN PROFT/ecoMass News staff

Gary Jacob planted his Chestnut orchard in 2004 in association with the local chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). The foundation has worked at a national level since 1983 to develop an American chestnut resistant to chestnut blight, an Asian fungus introduced in the early 20th century that nearly eliminated the chestnut from American forests. Before the blight, the American chestnut made up one out of every four trees within its range. Its plentiful nuts provided food for humans and animals alike, while its giant stature, fast growth, and strong, rot resistant wood made it ideal for building barns or holding telephone wires. According to Jacob, some poles from before the blight still exist today.

Fuel from water advances
August 3, 2013 07:23 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Fuel from water? A form of Alchemy? Researchers have been trying for years to find a limitless, environmentally benign source of fuel. Now a University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel. The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader.

Two more species declared extinct in Florida
August 2, 2013 06:13 AM - Alexander Holmgren, MONGABAY.COM

Conservationist's faced a crushing blow last month as two butterfly species native to Florida were declared extinct. "Occasionally, these types of butterflies disappear for long periods of time but are rediscovered in another location," said Larry Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife state supervisor for ecological services. We think it's apparent now these two species are extinct." Neither species has been seen in any environment for at least nine years, the latter of the two not being seen since 2000.

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