• McGreen, the Greening of McDonald's

    Can McDonald's and "Best of Green" be in the same sentence? At first it sounds like the mockumentary sequel to Best in Show. After all, those big golden arches are not only easy to see from the road, they are still to critics a figurative symbol of a dubious food supply, sprawl and our disposable society. The company is slow to change, too. Not only does it take a new item forever to appear on the menu, but ideas to make the company a more sustainable company are slow to catch on even if they are still just a dream. But McDonald's is changing. More of its locations are actually pleasant and even edgy, have wifi and are not the drab plastic prisons in which you spent your 1980s teenage years. On other fronts some catching up is still in order, as with its hazardous attempts at social media campaigns that have left its marketers’ faces as red as those strawberry sundaes. >> Read the Full Article
  • Make Earth Day count and start doing things to help all year long

    Earth Day is a great opportunity to appreciate the planet that provides for us all year long. Sierra Club Green Home has seven simple things you can do for the environment this weekend, and hopefully you will incorporate them into your daily life as well! 1) Attend a clean-up in your community. This weekend there are clean-ups going on all around the country. A simple Web search can help you find one in your city or town. If by chance you cannot find one, don’t hesitate to pick up that stray piece of trash that might be blowing down the road. 2) Conserve water. We use a good amount of water through simple everyday tasks such as brushing our teeth, taking showers, and washing the dishes. There is also the amount of water used to produce our food and other products. Try to track how much water you use in one day, and look for areas where you can reduce your water footprint. >> Read the Full Article
  • How Can we Separate Man Made Greenhouse Gases from Those Naturally Occurring?

    A research team has developed a new monitoring system to analyze and compare emissions from man-made fossil fuels and trace gases in the atmosphere, a technique that likely could be used to monitor the effectiveness of measures regulating greenhouse gases. The University of Colorado Boulder-led team looked at atmospheric gas measurements taken every two weeks from aircraft over a six-year period over the northeast United States to collect samples of CO2 and other environmentally important gases. >> Read the Full Article
  • Are "improved" Cookstoves in Pakistan better than the traditional ones?

    Programmes to provide rural Pakistani households with so-called improved cookstoves have had a muted response due to a lack of awareness among target communities — particularly among the women who do the cooking, a study has found. The finding comes as separate research suggests that some improved cookstove models actually cause more pollution than traditional mud stoves. Traditional stoves — which run on biomass such as crop waste, dung and twigs — are known to cause indoor air pollution. Indoor and outdoor air pollution have been identified by the WHO has causing an estimated two million deaths each year. >> Read the Full Article
  • Enzyme Batteries

    New research at Concordia University is bringing the world one step closer to cleaner energy. It is now possible to extend the length of time a battery like enzyme can store energy from seconds to hours, as shown in a study published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society. Concordia Associate Professor László Kálmán — along with his colleagues in the Department of Physics, graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kai Tang — has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that is crucial for capturing solar energy. Light induces a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, much like in a battery. The hope is that such batteries are more sustainable in the long run with less environmental effects. >> Read the Full Article
  • A Farm Grows in Brooklyn!

    Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood will soon be home to a 100,000 square foot, multi-acre rooftop farm that will produce a million pounds of produce per year – enough to feed 5,000 people – without using any dirt. The farm will be built by BrightFarms, a new company with a unique business model that finances, builds, and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms for supermarkets and other retailers who purchase the produce. The Brooklyn farm will be located on top of an eight-story, 1.1 million square foot building that was built in 1916 as a Navy warehouse and is now part of the city’s plans to redevelop the Brooklyn industrial waterfront. Construction is slated to start in the fall with the first harvest of tomatoes, lettuces and herbs expected next spring. Company officials say that once the farm is built, it will be the largest of its kind in the world. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change making conservation more costly

    Climate change will make conserving the world’s biodiversity – including the human benefits associated with conservation, such as clean air and water – much more challenging and expensive, research reveals. According to a group of international researchers convened by Conservation International, climate change may in some cases drive up costs by more than 100%. Focussing on species and ecosystems in South Africa, Madagascar and California, the researchers present the first ever estimates of how much it will cost the global community to adapt conservation efforts to climate change, calling the studies a 'wake-up call'. The results of the research have been published as a series of three papers in the journal Conservation Biology, under the title 'Conservation Focus: Costs of Adapting Conservation to Climate Change'. >> Read the Full Article
  • Greenland's ice cover appears to be sliding into the ocean

    Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. "This is the first evidence that Greenland's 'supraglacial' lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size," says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang. >> Read the Full Article
  • Tar Sands Update

    You might not know this, but Canada has oil reserves of 170 billion barrels, more than Iran and Nigeria combined. This fact is not widely known since much of that oil has been considered "not economically recoverable," lying deep underground in a mixture of bitumen, a thick, tarry substance, sand and water known as oil sands or tar sands. Development of these tar sands, located near the Athabasca River, by Suncor Energy, began in the 1960s but has been conducted at a relatively small scale because of the costs involved. Only recently, with declining supplies and increasing prices have attempts begun to try and ramp up production, especially after PetroChina acquired a 60 percent interest in two major wells in Alberta in 2009. This was followed in 2010 by Sinopec paying $4.65 billion for a 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. Chinese investors find this resource to be attractive, since Canada is considered to be a low political risk when compared with, say, the Middle East. As of 2010, the three biggest of many players were Syncrude Canada, Suncor, and Albian Sands, a joint venture of Chevron, Shell Canada and Marathon Oil. BP also has a substantial stake, with a 75 percent interest in Terre de Grace, which it also operates. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fungal disease threat seen increasing

    Fungal diseases are a major threat not just to wild plants and animals, but to us. A new Nature paper shows we're already heading for huge fungal damage to vital crops and ecosystems over the coming decades. If we don't do more to stop these diseases' spread, their impact could be devastating. Fungi already destroy at least 125 million tonnes a year of rice, wheat, maize and potatoes and soybeans, worth $60 billion. Researchers estimate that in 2009-10, this lost food could have fed some 8.5 per cent of the world's people. And this is just the result of persistent low-level infection; simultaneous epidemics in several major crops could mean billions starve. >> Read the Full Article