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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Demand-Side Energy Efficiency in the Final Clean Power Plan
Yesterday, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the final version of the Clean Power Plan--the nation's first ever federal regulatory standards to address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants. One significant change in the final rule is that EPA is no longer including demand-side energy efficiency as one of the "building blocks" used to determine the CO2 emissions performance rates for existing power plants. Fortunately, energy efficiency can still be used as a compliance measure, and EPA expects that energy efficiency will play a major role in meeting the state targets because it is a "cost-effective and widely-available carbon reduction tool." Source: Climate Law Blog, 8/4/15

3 strategies to shape more efficient water systems
The drought ravaging the American West provides a case study on what could be done to shore up the water supply. Source: GreenBiz, 8/3/15

5 steps to build the business case for sustainable procurement
It's not always easy to sell a supply-chain makeover, but these tips can help. Start with measuring your company's footprint. Source: GreenBiz, 8/3/15

5 core competencies of sustainability leadership
To achieve lasting change, the entire C-suite should demonstrate emotional intelligence, systems thinking and these other qualities. Source: GreenBiz, 8/4/15

Friday, July 31, 2015
EPA Reaches Agreement with Manufacturer to Stop Use of TCE in Spray Fixative Products Used on Arts and Crafts
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with a manufacturer to voluntarily phase-out the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in an aerosol arts and crafts spray fixative product as part of EPA's ongoing efforts to reduce the public's exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Source: US EPA, 7/30/15

Thursday, July 30, 2015
Doctor warns about lead poisoning risk from recycling older electronic equipment
The disposal and recycling of electronic devices has increased exposure to lead and other toxicants and created "an emerging health concern," according to a pediatrician who directs the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Nick Newman reports on two children, ages 1 and 2, whose father worked at an e-scrap recycling company crushing cathode ray tubes (CRTs). CRTs, made from leaded glass, were commonly used in televisions and computer monitors but largely have been replaced by newer technologies. The children had blood lead levels of 18 micrograms per deciliter and 14 micrograms per deciliter. Although no safe blood lead level in children has been identified, a reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter is now used to identify children for whom parents, doctors and public health officials should take action to reduce exposure to lead. The father left his job soon after the elevated blood lead levels were detected, the levels subsequently decreased to 8.7 and 7.9 parts per deciliter over the next three months. Source: Medical Press, 7/28/15

Yes, recycling is still good business -- if this happens
Municipalities and recycling companies should redefine recycling contracts to value each commodity type individually in order to share in the true costs and benefits of the recycling market. Source: GreenBiz, 7/30/15

ERI, iFixit work together to recover, sell parts
With commodity prices continuing to slump, Electronic Recyclers International has teamed up with iFixit to move further into reselling working parts and pieces of devices instead of shredding them. Source: Resource Recycling, 7/30/15

This smartphone game exposes the human cost of recycling e-waste
Burn the Boards, which has just come out on iOS to complement an earlier Android release, is a game about what happens after you ditch your phone. The technical term for this sort of thing is e-waste. Various components in abandoned electronic goods can be salvaged, reused, or recycled. Harvesting these parts, however, often results in exposure to a variety of foul substances, which is to say nothing of large-scale pollution that is caused by the clumsy and negligent recycling of e-waste. As such, e-waste is less of a technical problem than it is a human one: The handling of these items exposes informal workers to considerable risks. Burn the Boards focuses on these human costs. Source: Kill Screen, 7/28/15

Sources: EPA will ease deadlines on pollution rule to help states comply
The Obama administration has decided to give states more time to comply with proposed regulations that will require dramatic cuts in greenhouse-gas pollution from power plants, people familiar with the plans said Tuesday. Source: Washington Post, 7/28/15

Chicago: City Council approves compost ordinance
Chicago's City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance to track and legalize donations of uncooked food scraps to urban farms and community gardens that make fertilizer. Urban farms and community gardens accepting food scraps will now have to register with the city and maintain records of the scraps donated. The fertilizer, or compost, only is allowed in the site where it is created and cannot be sold unless the farm or garden gets a special permit from the city. Source: Chicago Tribune, 7/30/15

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
BASF, Solazyme launch algal-derived betaine surfactant
BASF and Solazyme have announced the launch of the first commercial surfactant derived from microalgae oil, a high performance algal betaine for use in home and personal care applications. Commercialized by BASF under the trade name Dehyton AO 45, algal betaine is a betaine surfactant made from renewable microalgae oil. Source: Algae Industry Magazine, 7/29/15

Turning coffee, mango and cashew waste into valuable resources
Byproducts from fruit drying, cashew milling and coffee production have traditionally been dificult to deal with but new technologies are turning them into heat, gas, and electricity. Source: The Guardian, 7/29/15

Laundry Practices and Water Conservation
Commercial laundry products are typically made from a combination of chemicals that may include surfactants, bleaching agents, and enzymes intended to remove dirt from textiles and fragrance to add a "clean" scent. Dryer sheets are infused with strong fragrances. While some chemicals common in laundry products are known skin irritants, the extent of the environmental and health impacts from laundry detergent and dryer sheets is not fully understood. Complicating matters further, manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients. A 2011 study found that scented laundry products emit VOCs including the carcinogens acetaldehyde and benzene. Unscented environmentally friendly laundry products are safer alternatives to traditional laundry products. Source: National Park Service Commercial Services, 7/28/15

Which energy efficiency policies saved the most last year?
ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadal evaluates which energy efficiency policies saved the most money in 2014. Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
EPEAT: Moving the Electronics Market Toward Green Standards
Environmental standards often aren't the first thing we think about when hunting for a new computer. We may check to see if it's well made, whether it uses a lot of energy to run and whether the manufacturer has a good rep. But oftentimes (probably too often), the bells and whistles win out over whether the apparatus was made with environmental concerns in mind. It turns out that many companies are considering environmental design qualities anyway -- the reduction in environmental harmful emissions, the decrease in exposure to toxic substances like mercury and the use of substances that don't end up in landfills -- thanks to a set of privately designed standards. They are called EPEAT, or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, and they serve as the Green Electronics Council's gold standard for environmentally preferable electronics. Source: Triple Pundit, 7/28/15

At the Core of Sustainable Electronics
There's rightfully much ado about the climate -- from extreme weather events, severe droughts and water crises to fossil fuels and the race to renewables. However, there's far too little talk about electronics and their role in environmental ecosystems. Source: Environmental Leader, 7/27/15

Montreal's impressive food recovery program will expand throughout Quebec
A partnership between Moisson Montreal and the largest grocery chains in the province will continue to salvage hundreds of tons of food that would otherwise be discarded. Source: Treehugger, 7/28/15

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