The Environmental Defense Fund is collaborating with Smithfield Foods and its livestock production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, to help farmers optimize fertilizer application on livestock grain. More efficient application of fertilizer leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, while lowering farm input costs and maintaining crop yields.
Crops need fertilizer, but too much nitrogen fertilizer can run off the farmland and into water sources, including lakes and streams. Excess amounts of fertilizer also emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The agriculture sector is the fifth largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S.
Nitrous oxide accounted for about 6 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions from human activities in 2012, but it accounts for about 40 percent globally. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites agricultural soil management as the largest source of nitrous oxide emissions in the U.S. In 2012, agricultural soil management accounted for about 75 percent of all nitrous oxide emissions in the U.S. Nitrous oxide emissions have increased in the U.S. by about 3 percent between 1990 and 2012–and are projected to increase by about 5 percent between 2005 and 2020, mostly from agriculture.
Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is a huge problem. Plastic makes up the majority of all trash floating in the ocean, with 46,000 pieces per square mile, according to TakePart. Plastic does not biodegrade but photodegrades with sunlight and breaks down into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces are consumed by marine life or washed up on beaches.
There are great, big floating masses of plastic debris within the oceans; more than 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die every year from eating or becoming entangled in plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies in the North Pacific Gyre off the California coast. The plastic pieces that make up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–which is around twice the size of Texas–outnumber marine life by six to one.
Even the Arctic Ocean has plastic debris: USA Today recently reported that the Arctic Ocean may have “trillions of small pieces of plastic and other synthetic trash.” The plastic in the Arctic Ocean is being released “into the world’s oceans as global warming melts the polar cap.” It is even bigger than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as the concentration of plastic debris floating around in the Arctic is 1,000 times greater.
Created more than 20 years ago to educate divers about ocean issues, Project AWARE now maps ocean pollution. Three years ago on World Oceans Day, June 8, 2011, Project AWARE launched the Dive Against Debris program, in which volunteer scuba divers removed garbage they found underwater. The divers also reported on what they found, which has led to the creation of an interactive map of the world’s ocean garbage. The map visualizes more than 400,000 debris items reported. The biggest source of debris reported by Project AWARE divers is plastic, which made up almost 70 of the garbage found. The types of plastic discovered by the divers include single-use plastics thrown away daily, such as bottles and bags.
Water and energy intersect in more ways than many of us realize. Extracting water takes energy. Up to 13 percent of the energy used in the U.S. relates to the pumping, treating or distribution of water, according to a report by the National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM). In California alone, up to 19 percent of electricity is used for water extraction, purification and wastewater disposal. Energy is used to pump water from the ground, or from bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Energy is also used to purify water from pollutants and salt, and pump water through pipelines to deliver it to homes and businesses. Water is necessary for extracting fossil fuels, including mining for coal, drilling for oil and fracking for natural gas.
There are 7 billion people on the planet, and 2.8 billion of them live in water-stressed areas. Energy consumption will increase by 35 percent by 2035, and that will increase water consumption by the energy sector by 85 percent. Groundwater supplies are drying up around the world due to droughts and increased consumption. “Climate change has the potential to further reduce freshwater supply even more,” the NAEM report, the first in a series on emerging issues, states. This can happen several ways. As temperatures increase and ice and snow cover melt, that freshwater will turn saline as it melts into the ocean. Changing weather patterns is another way that freshwater supply can be reduced by climate change.
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown called California the “epicenter of climate change” while speaking at the University of California’s Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. Gov. Brown just might be right. This past week, wildfires have blazed across thousands of acres in Southern California. All of California is in a drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report. The U.S. Drought Monitor characterized 100 percent of the state as being in either a “severe drought or worse” and called attention to the heat wave “settling in, which will only serve to exacerbate and accelerate drought impact concerns across the state.” The Monitor also warned that there will be increases on water demand and increased fire risk as the temperatures rise.
Gov. Brown also appeared on ABC’s “This Week” discussing the impacts of climate change on California. “The state’s climate appears to be changing,” Brown said. “The scientists tell us that definitely. So we’ve got to gear up here.” Brown made it clear that California is not just adapting to climate change but “taking steps to reduce our greenhouse gases in a way that I think exceeds any other state in the country.”
Imagine a cell phone case made from carbon. Soon you won’t have to just imagine. Sprint will be selling AirCarbon cell phone cases for the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S which will be sold exclusively on Sprint.com by late May for $29.99. Sprint will be one of the first companies to use AirCarbon, and the first telecommunications company to sell a carbon-negative product using AirCarbon. The cell phone case weighs the same as the carbon that has been sequestered.
AirCarbon is made by California-based Newlight Technologies which uses a carbon capture process to convert air and greenhouse gases (GHGs) into plastic that is similar to petroleum-based plastics. Founded in 2003, Newlight was named the “Most Innovative Company of the Year” in 2013, and received an R&D 100 Award for AirCarbon in 2013 as “one of the 100 most technologically significant innovations of the year.”
Climate change may one day affect the foods we eat: A new study led by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that crops which provide dietary zinc and iron to a big part of the global population will have significantly reduced concentrations of both nutrients. The researchers estimated that 2 billion to 3 billion people around the world get 70 percent or more of their dietary zinc and iron from grains, and this is particularly true in developing countries where zinc and iron deficiencies are a major problem. An estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, which causes a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, according to the study.
Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Two billion people, more than 30 percent of the world’s population, are anemic, many due to iron deficiency. Zinc deficiency is a serious health concern and in children can cause growth retardation. In both adults and children, it can cause loss of appetite and impaired immune function, according to the National Institutes of Health. Children in developing countries with zinc deficiency are at risk of contracting infectious diseases and even dying from them.
Can a very popular shoe company make strides to be more sustainable while continuing to grow? The latest Sustainable Business Performance Summary by Nike, Inc. proves that a company can grow while doing good for the environment. The summary outlines all of Nike’s sustainability achievements, which include energy, waste and water reduction. Those achievements include a 26 percent energy use reduction per unit processed in major global distribution centers from 2011 to 2013. The company also achieved a 16 percent energy use per square foot in corporate offices from 2011 to 2013.
Carbon reduction is another achievement outlined in the summary. By the end of 2013, the footwear company achieved a 13 percent reduction in carbon emissions per unit, towards the goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2015. Nike reduced carbon emissions per unit in Nike Brand footwear manufacturing by 17 percent from 2011 to 2013, and reduced carbon emissions per unit in inbound transportation by 29 percent from 2011 to 2013. In addition, the company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8 percent from 2011 to 2013 while achieving a revenue growth of 26 percent.
Subway is a major fast food chain with more than 41,000 restaurants in 106 countries. CNBC calls it the “largest restaurant chain in the world.” Despite its large size, the company isn’t afraid of an increase in the federal minimum wage. Subway CEO Fred DeLuca recently said during an interview with CNBC that he is “not concerned” about the federal minimum wage increasing.
When he “started in the business, the minimum wage was $1.25,” and he has “seen an enormous number of wage increases,” DeLuca told CNBC. He added that increasing the federal minimum wage “won’t have a negative impact hopefully, and that’s what I tell my workers.” That is a bit of a change from 2013 when Deluca told CNBC that “doing a sharp raise all at once is a bad idea.” However, he added that “minimum-wage workers deserve to make more and a little bit of an increase makes sense to me.”
Recently, Subway has been embroiled in controversy concerning a food additive and a recent CNN report. The report found that individual Subway franchises have been found violating pay and hour rules in more than 1,100 investigations from 2000 to 2013. CNN looked at data from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and found the investigations combined have “about 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations and resulted in franchisees having to reimburse Subway workers more than $3.8 million over the years.” The report notes that Subway has over 26,000 locations throughout the U.S. and “each franchise owner is treated essentially as a small business.”
As we all know, coal is dirty. It is a fossil fuel and has a big environmental impact, as the Environmental Protection Agency outlines. When coal is burned greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, are released. Mining, cleaning and transporting coal also generate emissions. Large amounts of water are used to remove impurities from coal at the mine, and coal-fired power plants use large amounts of water for producing steam and for cooling. Then, there is mountaintop removal — which blows the tops off of mountains to get to the coal lying beneath.
Stanford University clearly understands just how dirty coal is because its board of trustees, acting on a recommendation from the university’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL), announced that it will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. Specifically, Stanford will not make direct investments of endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose principal business is coal mining for energy use.
The resolution means that Stanford will not directly invest in about 100 publicly-traded companies whose primary business is mining coal, and will divest of any current holdings in those companies — making it the first major university to divest from coal. In addition, Stanford will recommend to its external investment managers they they avoid investments in these companies.
Parts of the U.S. are experiencing drought, including California. Other parts are experiencing floods, while others are also experiencing extreme weather events. How resilient are the world’s 50 most important cities? That’s what Grosvenor, a U.K. development and management group, wanted to find out.
The findings have been published in a recently released report, which ranks cities based on their vulnerability and adaptability. There are five categories for both vulnerability (climate, environment, resources, infrastructure and community) and adaptability (governance, institutions, technical capacity, planning systems and funding structures).
The most resilient cities are in Canada, with Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary in the top three spots. “Canadian cities have a strong combination of low vulnerability and high adaptive capacity,” the report states. Canadian cities also have a “high level of resource availability,” plus they are “well governed and well planned.” Although American cities are more vulnerable than Canadian cities, they have a capacity to adapt, which puts five (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta) in the top 10 of most resilient cities. The report points out that the strong adaptive capacity “suggests that U.S. cities will continue to see a pattern of effective public intervention, but often only after a major shock has occurred.”
Analysis by the nonprofit research group Sun Day Campaign finds that renewable energy sources in the U.S. could reach or exceed 16 percent by 2018. That is years before the Energy Information Administration predicts the nation will reach that share of renewable sources. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 predicts that by 2040 renewable energy would only make 16 percent of the country’s net electrical generation. Sun Day analysis finds that renewable energy has increased from less than nine percent in 2004 to almost 13 percent in 2013.
Many rely on EIA data, including policy makers and the media. “Underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. By underestimating the share of renewable sources, “EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections,” Bossong added.
The current drought hitting California makes the nightly news in many of the state’s major markets — and for good reason. It’s the worst drought California has seen for 15 years. The entire state is officially in drought, according to the April 22 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Every area in California is suffering from “moderate” to “exceptional” drought, and most of the state is either in “extreme” or “exceptional” states of drought — the most severe levels. Reservoirs are key for providing water to both cities and farmers. All reservoir levels are low, a weekly state drought brief on April 21 reveals. The San Antonio Reservoir has been essentially dry through the entire winter. Some reservoirs are at basically half capacity, and others are at less than half capacity.
Some cities are having to enact water restrictions or water rationing. The City of Montague is at risk for running out of drinking water by the end of the summer and has requested that residents stop all outside watering until further notice. This is the first time in more than 80 years that this situation has occurred in Montague. The City of San Diego is in “level one” water supply status. According to the city’s website, a level-one status occurs when there is a reasonable probability that there will be a supply shortage and a consumer demand reduction of up to 10 percent is required to ensure that there will be enough supplies to meet anticipate demands. Level-one voluntary restrictions in the city are now mandatory. The restrictions include prohibiting excessive irrigation and not using a running hose to wash down sidewalks, driveways, parking areas or other paved areas unless the hose is connected to a water efficient device like a commercial water brook.
Colgate-Palmolive recently committed to making 100 percent of its packaging fully recyclable for three out of four product categories by 2020. The three categories set to go recyclable are home, pet and personal care. Colgate has also committed to developing a completely recyclable toothpaste tube or package. In addition, the company agreed to increase the average recycled content of its packaging from 40 percent to 50 percent, and reduce or eliminate the use of PVC — a hard-to-recycle resin — in packaging.
As You Sow (AYS) filed a shareholder resolution with Colgate in 2012, asking the company to explore the feasibility of adopting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategy for post-consumer packaging. For those who aren’t familiar, an EPR is a corporate and public policy that shifts responsibility for collecting and recycling from consumers and governments to producers. Canada and several European countries require companies to be responsible for post-consumer packaging by paying some or all of the cots for collection and recycling. Here in the U.S., 24 states have EPR laws on the books that mandate producer responsibility for collecting and recycling consumer electronics.
Unsafe drinking water causes all sorts of problems. Eighty-eight percent of diarrhea cases globally are linked to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene. Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million people a year, mostly young children.
More than 1 billion people globally lack safe drinking water and over 1,600 children die every day from waterborne illnesses, which is more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Procter and Gamble (P&G) would like to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water. The global giant’s nonprofit Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) recently provided its 7 billionth liter of clean drinking water to a family of four in Brazil — the nonprofit’s newest location and the largest country of operation in South America. Like many in the region, the only water source for the family is a contaminated river, and it represents one of almost 5,000 households the program will reach in the Brazilian state of Mias Gerais.
CSDW is part of P&G’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to save one life every hour by the year 2020. The program has worked with over 140 partners since it began in 2004, and the 7 billion liters of water it has provided since its inception is equivalent to a liter of clean water for every person on the planet. That amount of clean water has prevented almost 300 million days of diarrheal illness and helped to save over 39,000 lives.
The results of the first comprehensive survey of Illinois’ clean energy sector found that there are currently 96,875 people employed in the sector throughout the state. That is more than the combined total of people working in real estate or as accountants, and enough to fill Soldier Field in Chicago 1.5 times over. The survey was conducted by BW Research Partnership for Clean Energy Trust in partnership with Environmental Entrepreneurs, The Environmental Law & Policy Center and The Natural Resources Defense Council. An interactive website was created to showcase the survey results.
The Illinois clean energy sector will add its 100,000th worker in 2014, according to projected growth rates. Forty percent of Illinois clean energy businesses surveyed plan to hire more workers in 2014, a pace that equates to a job growth rate of 9 percent. Companies working in renewable energy made up 21 percent of the clean energy businesses in Illinois, while 62 percent of clean energy businesses in the state are mainly focused on energy efficiency, including low energy lighting, heating and cooling controls, and smart grid technology.
Illinois efficiency standards require that utilities reduce electricity demand by 2 percent each year but spend less than 2.015 percent of rates paid by customers on efficiency projects. Illinois is the No. 1 state in the U.S. for green buildings.