Sustainability

Monarch Butterflies losing critical habitat
September 7, 2014 09:57 AM - KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

Sandy Oliviera has raised monarch butterflies in her East Providence backyard for 25 years. In 1998, she helped 125 monarch caterpillars transform into butterflies, and then released them to the wind. "I began to feel like a butterfly factory that year," Oliviera said. Each time her husband or daughter collected milkweed to feed their captive caterpillars, they returned with more eggs or caterpillars to raise. Some days, Oliviera released a dozen newly emerged butterflies, to the pleasure of her 8-year-old grandson who let them rest on his head before they flew away. This summer, for the first time, Oliviera hasn't found a single monarch egg or caterpillar, and hasn't seen any monarch butterflies.

How can we make lawns more environmentally friendly?
September 6, 2014 08:12 AM - Rutgers University

Many homeowners strive to have the picture-perfect green lawn. But how can that be achieved in an environment where water in parts of the country is becoming scarce and the use of pesticides and fertilizer is being discouraged? Researchers from two Big Ten universities hope that they will be able to find an answer. Scientists from Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota, both members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation — an academic consortium of Big Ten universities — will be working together over the next five years to develop an environmentally friendly grass that is more resistant to disease and drought and a better economical choice for homeowners.

Block Island wind farm gets final approvals
September 5, 2014 06:00 PM - ecoRI News staff

Deepwater Wind has received the final federal approval needed to build the Block Island Wind Farm — a project that remains on-track to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The project’s lead federal permitting agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, granted its approval Sept. 5. With the Corps’ permit, the Block Island Wind Farm has now been completely reviewed, and approved, by nine state and federal agencies: Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Coast Guard, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation Office.

New software helps us choose products, ingredients based on sustainability
September 4, 2014 07:09 AM - Alexis Petru, Triple Pundit

How can a manufacturer reformulate a cleaning product to contain fewer harmful chemicals, and how can a retailer stock its shelves with more eco-friendly merchandise? UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a product safety testing and certification company, thinks it may have a solution: a set of data tools that helps businesses search and choose ingredients and products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles.

New way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
September 4, 2014 07:01 AM - Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University, via EurekAlert

Researchers in Japan have engineered a membrane with advanced features capable of removing harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Their findings, published in the British journal Nature Communications, may one day contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner skies. Greenhouse gases, originating from industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels, blanket the earth and are the culprits behind current global warming woes. The most abundant among them is carbon dioxide, which made up 84% of the United State's greenhouse gases in 2012, and can linger in Earth's atmosphere for up to thousands of years.

The tragic fate of the Passenger Pigeon
September 3, 2014 01:46 PM - Joel Greenberg, Yale Environment360

This September 1 is the 100th anniversary of a landmark event in the history of biodiversity. On that day in 1914, at about one o'clock in the afternoon, Martha - the last surviving passenger pigeon - died at the Cincinnati Zoo. It is extraordinary to know with virtual certainty the day and hour when a species ceases to be a living entity. And it was a stunning development because less than half a century earlier, the passenger pigeon had been the most abundant bird in North America, if not the world. As late as the 1860s, passenger pigeons had likely numbered in the billions, and their population was neither evenly distributed across the landscape nor in any way subtle. These birds had a propensity for forming huge aggregations that are difficult to imagine today. John James Audubon, America's best-known student of birds, recorded a flight of passenger pigeons along the Ohio River in Kentucky that eclipsed the sun for three days. Other accounts, written over the course of three centuries and in several languages, testify to the birds darkening the sky for hours at a time over the major cities of the eastern third of the United States and Canada.

Innovative Recycling Program Turns Bottles Into Subway Rides
September 3, 2014 09:18 AM - Lauren Zanolli, Triple Pundit

Forget your reusable bottle at home this morning and find yourself towing an unwanted plastic bottle? If you are in Beijing, you are in luck — you could trade in that empty bottle for a subway ticket. "Reverse vending machines" in subway stations around the city allow riders to deposit polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles in exchange for a commuter pass or mobile phone credit.

California FINALLY gets serious about protecting its groundwater
September 3, 2014 07:43 AM - Union of Concerned Scientists

As California suffers through the third year of a record-breaking drought, state lawmakers agreed today to require more sweeping oversight of the state’s groundwater resources. California legislators approved Senate Bill 1168 and Assembly Bill 1739, which together call for stricter management of groundwater supplies by local agencies while giving the state the ability to step in when necessary. Up until now, California was the only state in the nation that did not comprehensively monitor or regulate groundwater.

Bike sharing benefits
September 2, 2014 07:27 AM - Raz Godelnik , Triple Pundit

While the sharing economy seems to have a growing number of fans, it also seems to generate more questions about its economic and social impacts. Interestingly, one part that is still missing from these discussions (well, not entirely) is the environmental impacts of the sharing economy. The general notion is that the sharing economy has a positive environmental impact as it promotes a greater use of underutilized assets. But is this true?

Puffins in New England
August 29, 2014 03:36 PM - PETER BAKER/ecoRI News contributor

I can't help but smile when I see a puffin, and I know I'm not alone. Thousands of people board tour boats each summer in Maine to get a glimpse of these charming seabirds with their tuxedo plumage and rainbow beaks. But what's in those beaks is serious business. The forage fish that puffin parents bring back to their island nests mean the difference between life and death for the chicks, and the past few years offer stark evidence of what happens when those fish become scarce.

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