Upcycling Food Waste into Fertilizer: Q&A with California Safe Soil

Alexis Petru
| Tuesday March 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Dan MorashYou’ve heard of recycling leftover food scraps into a soil amendment for farms, but now a California startup is transforming food waste from grocery stores into a fertilizer that can compete with conventional nitrogen-based soil conditioners that leach chemicals into groundwater, rivers and oceans.

We interviewed Dan Morash, founder of West Sacramento-based California Safe Soil (CSS), to learn more about how its Harvest-to-Harvest (H2H) fertilizer saves resources, reduces pollution and improves soil.

TriplePundit: How is your product, H2H, environmentally responsible?

Dan Morash: It makes productive use of something that is otherwise being wasted. Each 1,000 pounds of food waste generates 700 pounds of carbon dioxide and methane greenhouse gas emissions, as well as hydrogen sulfide – swamp gas – which is poisonous and leaches into ground water. We cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing truck traffic, since our facilities are located near the supermarkets [where CSS picks up food waste], rather than in remote locations.

On the farm side, farms can cut their use of nitrate fertilizer and still increase crop yield, reducing the rate of nitrate runoff into groundwater.  H2H can be delivered directly through drip lines to the crop root zone. Drip line technology is over 90 percent efficient in [transporting water]. The alternative technology, flood irrigation, is less than 50 percent efficient. Now, farms have every incentive to convert to drip, since they can deliver water, fertilizer and organic material, all through their drip lines.

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California Targets List of Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday March 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

bassinette_chemicals_shinglebk California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control has announced the beginning of a new program that will be designed to monitor and regulate toxic substances found in consumer goods.

On Thursday the DTSC implemented the first phase of the agency’s new “Safer Consumer Products” program by releasing the names of three types products it says contain substances that are toxic to the human body and are under regulatory consideration by the state.

The three Priority Products are:

  • Children’s padded sleeping products like sleeping mats and bassinets that contain unreacted diisocyanates, a known carcinogen
  • Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) materials used for insulation that contain unreacted diisocyanates, a suspected carcinogen
  • Paint and varnish strippers, and surface cleaners that contain methylene chloride, a known carcinogen

Debbie Raphael, the director of department at the DTSC, stressed that at this stage, the department was not banning these substances. “We are starting a conversation with manufacturers.”

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Costa Rica May Keep Carbon Neutrality Goal

| Monday March 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

costa rica wind turbines “Costa Rica opposition group says to scrap 2021 carbon neutrality target,” reads the headline of a recent Reuters news article. Standing on its own, the headline is accurate. However, lacking context, it could be misleading, causing readers who don’t venture beyond the headline to conclude that Costa Rica will be dropping its goal of achieving carbon neutrality completely.

Reading further, Reuters reporter Marcelo Teixeira makes it clear that while Costa Rica’s “leftist” opposition PAC (Citizens’ Action Party) party, whose candidate Luis Guillermo Solis appears to be a shoo-in to win the presidency in an April 6 runoff election, believes the 2021 goal of achieving carbon neutrality is too optimistic, it doesn’t intend to drop the carbon neutrality goal or other climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.

To the contrary, PAC doesn’t intend to drop Costa Rica’s carbon neutrality goal; the party believes the Central American country just needs more time to achieve it. Already a world leader when it comes to low carbon emissions and the use of renewable energy, further gains are harder to come by, particularly when it comes to transportation and diversifying its renewable energy base.

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Method Breaks Ground on Its First U.S. Factory in Chicago

Alexis Petru
| Monday March 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Method Chicago manufacturing plantEco-friendly cleaning supply company Method is known for pushing the envelope even in the sustainable business community: encouraging a work culture of “weirdness” to keep employees happy and recycling plastic litter from the Great Pacific garbage patch into product packaging.

Now the San Francisco-headquartered company is working on another cutting-edge initiative — unveiling design plans for its first U.S. manufacturing plant that it hopes will be the first LEED Platinum certified factory in the consumer packaged goods industry.

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World Bank Highlights Biodiversity’s Central Role in Alleviating Poverty

| Monday March 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

srilankaelephants It may seem quaint to some, but at a fundamental level, there are ethical, moral, even spiritual motives for we humans to do our best to conserve wilderness, ecosystems and biodiversity. Then, of course, there are the most pragmatic and self-interested: all our economic activities and the health and well-being of all our societies is dependent on healthy ecosystems, and biological diversity is central to assuring health ecosystems.

Though perhaps best known, and criticized, for bankrolling development of large-scale infrastructure projects such as coal-fired and hydroelectric power plants, the World Bank has likewise been instrumental in helping conserve biodiversity and sustainably utilize the numerous and varied services diverse ecosystems provide.

The World Bank has also been a key agent in helping realize the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Though results to date are very much mixed, researchers, agents and policy makers have found that there are ways of achieving the MDG goals that are self-reinforcing and effective. Such synergy exists, for instance, when it comes to achieving two MDGs: reducing poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability.

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New IRS Video Guides Same-Sex Couples Through Tax Filing

Alexis Petru
| Monday March 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

TaxesNext month, legally married same-sex couples are going to be filing their taxes differently than in previous years, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has recently released a video introducing changes to the filing process, resulting from last summer’s Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The most radical feature of these new tax implications is that the federal government recognizes the marriage of same-sex couples as long as they wedded in a jurisdiction that allows same-sex unions, regardless of where the spouses live now. That means that the federal government would consider a gay or lesbian couple to be legally married – and receive all the corresponding federal tax benefits – if the duo got hitched in their home state of Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, but then had to move to Colorado, a state that does not authorize same-sex unions. The government would also acknowledge same-sex marriages performed in foreign countries that authorize such unions, meaning a married couple from New Zealand could move to the U.S. and still have their union recognized, or an American couple vacationing in Canada could get married, come home to Louisiana and be considered married by the federal government.

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How Cloud Computing Can Help Shrink Corporate Energy Consumption

3p Contributor | Monday March 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ComputerWith the world population now hovering around 7 billion and the increased strain put on the environment by developing nations such as India and China, the need for environmentally friendly business practices is more important than ever. Although the United States still has much to do to improve its reputation in this area – per capita, the United States trails only a few nations in energy consumption, all of which have much smaller population sizes – individual business owners can do their part, starting today.

If you own or operate a business and are interested in reducing your company’s environmental impact, consider cloud communications solutions from leading providers such as Mitel. Storing data and information in the cloud can help you minimize your carbon footprint by taking advantage of shared resources. Think of it this way: Why dedicate your own resources to solve a problem when you can call upon pre-existing resources? That is just one of the many promises of working in the cloud.

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3p Weekend: 7 Booming Job Sectors Fueling America’s Green Economy

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday March 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) Manager Diana Adame tests for arsenic using a test strip.

Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) Manager Diana Adame tests for arsenic using a test strip.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Before we get on to this week’s 3p Weekend, let’s pose a question: What is a green job? It’s a simple question but one that has no official answer. In March 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) took a crack at defining green jobs and calculating their saturation in the market in a detailed survey of the green economy. There are some limitations to their definition, but it’s consistent with most that came before it (and it makes sense to us for the most part). So, let’s decide to use it as our go-to for this list.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the fun part: It’s tough to deny that the green jobs sector is making waves across the country, even as overall unemployment rates are slow to decline. BLS determined that green employment is growing at a faster rate than the overall economy, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

The saturation of green jobs is growing across all industries, but a select few are leading the charge. Read on for seven booming green job sectors set to explode in the 21st century. 

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Can We Stop Overfishing Before It’s Too Late?

Eric Justian
| Friday March 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments

FishermanFish has been part of the human diet and culture since the beginning of time.  It seems almost inconceivable that it could suddenly stop being available. But we’re headed for a cliff if we don’t improve sustainable fishing worldwide.

Last year I found myself sputtering in disbelief when the waitress told me lake perch sliders were no longer available at my favorite local bar and grill.  That same week a local fast food place that had always offered a lake perch sandwich switched to a generic fried “fish” sandwich. Along the Michigan coast of Lake Michigan, yellow perch has long been traditional and ubiquitous fare. But numerous factors including severely limited commercial fishing and a precipitous drop in Lake Michigan perch populations has eroded availability of this cultural staple.

This is a microcosm of an even larger issue. The world’s oceans are in decline. Ocean catch reached its highest point, “peak fish,” back in the 1990s. It’s been declining fairly steadily since then. We’re taking more fish from the ocean in unsustainable ways than the ocean can provide. As of 2010 fishing operations harvested over 80 million metric tons of wild caught fish worldwide. That doesn’t even include the bycatch — the undesired marine life caught while harvesting a desired species. Bycatch, estimated to be between 7 million and 38 million metric tons globally, can sometimes dwarf the desired harvest for a given species.  In one extreme example, wild shrimp can come at a cost of 62 pounds of bycatch per pound of shrimp. So when we talk about the depletion of ocean wildlife, it goes beyond what we see on our plates.

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Ridesharing Firms Struggle to Meet Needs of Americans with Disabilities

Mike Hower
| Friday March 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

handicappedLike many living in San Francisco and other major cities across the United States, I have come to rely on transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar to get me around town. TNCs have revolutionized the way many of us get from Point A to Point B, but not for all of us — not yet, anyway. There is a significant group that has long been let down by public transportation — the disabled community — and TNCs are struggling to break this trend.

I was reminded of this during a recent Lyft ride, where I happened to be picked up by one of the few wheelchair accessible vehicles in its (or any other TNC’s) fleet. My driver said her husband uses a wheelchair for mobility and regularly faces difficulties getting around the city when attempting to take taxis and MUNI (San Francisco’s light rail and bus system). MUNI buses often pass him by rather than stop to pick him up, and even wheelchair-accessible taxis often refuse to pick him up because they don’t want to lose the time it takes to lower and raise the lift and to strap him in.

To be fair, as a regular MUNI passenger, I can say first-hand that they seem to do a good job with accessibility — most buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and can “kneel” (lower the front of the bus) if a person has trouble moving up stairs. I have witnessed drivers make space for wheelchair users, and personally assist them to fasten the safety straps and wheel lock.

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Toyota i-Road Electric Vehicle Expands to France

Sarah Lozanova | Friday March 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments

electric vehicleThe ingenious Toyota i-Road program combines the convenience of a bike rental service, the comfort of an enclosed car and the compact footprint of a motorcycle in this electric three-wheeler that is being tested by rail commuters in Aichi, Japan in self-service vehicle-sharing stations. The program has initially been successful, with a growing amount of repeat users and high adoption rates.

There are now plans to introduce a car-sharing fleet of nearly 70 vehicles in the town of Grenoble in the French Alps, for a three-year test, starting at the end of 2014. The program is being adopted as solution for reducing greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The two-seater i-Road is designed for the “last mile” mobility needs of commuters that might otherwise bike or walk, thus complementing existing public transportation systems. Unlike a motorcycle, the enclosed cabin keeps the elements out. The i-Road has a single rear wheel that pivots and the vehicle uses an Active Lean technology for tight, stable turns. The i-Road automatically leans around corners, and Toyota says no specialized skill is required to operate it.

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Hilton Bans Shark Fin Soup in its Asian Pacific Locations

Alexis Petru
| Friday March 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

HiltonGuests at the Hilton hoping to order shark fin soup will have to take their business elsewhere: The hospitality giant recently announced a ban on the controversial delicacy in its restaurants and facilities worldwide – including the 96 properties it owns and manages in the Asia Pacific – by this April.

The company took shark fin off its menus in all restaurants and food and beverage facilities in China and Southeast Asia in December 2012, but continued to serve it upon request. Starting in September 2013, Hilton banned shark fin in its Southeast Asian properties, declining orders for the contentious ingredient, and implemented the same policy in its Greater Chinese facilities in February.

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Record Number of Social and Environmental Shareholder Resolutions Filed in 2014

3p Contributor | Friday March 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Andrew Behar

2014 Proposals Filed | ProxyPreview.org

As the 2014 proxy season takes shape, more investors than ever are seeking transformation of corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. A record-breaking 417 social and environmental shareholder resolutions have been filed so far this proxy season, with political spending and climate change driving the majority of the activity.

This year we have broken every record on the number of resolutions filed, and over the past decade the average vote in support of social and environmental resolutions has nearly doubled. Shareholders today are looking not at these issues in isolation. Instead, they articulate a systemic critique, pointing out the connections between excessive political spending, inadequate energy policy, the dangers of our changing climate and its damaging impact on water and agriculture, toxic hazards, and how these are related to human rights.

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Wind Energy Protects Water Security, Says Report

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday March 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment

wind_farm_shock264Just in time for World Water Day: The European Wind Energy Association has released a report examining the role that water plays in energy production. And the numbers are staggering.

According to the report, 44 percent of water usage in the European Union goes to energy production. That includes coal, nuclear, biofuels and natural gas, Europe’s four thirstiest energy industries. That’s almost half what is used in the next largest sector, agriculture, which is 24 percent.

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Is Palm Oil-Driven Deforestation the Secret Ingredient in Your Favorite Products?

3p Contributor | Thursday March 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Forest clearing for palm oil, like this in Sabah, Malaysia, destroys habitat for endangered species and contributes to climate change.

Forest clearing for palm oil, like this in Sabah, Malaysia, destroys habitat for endangered species and contributes to climate change.

By Calen May-Tobin

Like most Americans, I’m really devoted to the products I buy. I’ve been using Old Spice since I was 15 and entered my “Frank Sinatra” phase, on a bad day nothing cheers me up quite like a bowl (or six) of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and seeing a Taco Bell sign or McDonald’s golden arches on a long car trip never fails to reinvigorate me. For better or worse, we Americans have developed an attachment to these brands and the companies that make them.

So, as I delved into the commitments these companies have made to address palm-related deforestation and peatland destruction, I was disheartened to see how little some of the brands I love are doing to address the problem. That research was part of a project to score 30 top consumer companies in the fast food, personal care and packaged food sectors on their commitments to source deforestation- and peat-free palm oil. The report, which was released this week, shows that while a few companies are leading the way, most have a long way to go to fully address palm-related habitat destruction and climate emissions.

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