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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Thursday, June 4, 2015
Bringing behavioral psychology to composting
This blog post discusses how Harvard students took the principles they learned in a behavioral psychology class and applied them to the problem of campus composting. Source: Harvard University Green, 5/11/15

Meet the startup keeping Amazon and eBay returns out of landfills
Retailers are reducing waste, but less so when handling billions of returned goods. Optoro aims to rethink and reduce the impacts. Source: GreenBiz, 6/2/15

Water in the Bank: One Solution For Drought-Stricken California
A potential answer to California's severe water shortages is groundwater banking, which involves creating incentives for municipalities, farmers, and other water users to percolate water down into sub-surface aquifers for later use. Source: Yale Environment360, 5/7/15

Have surfers discovered the future of sustainable design?
Surfboard materials are experiencing a wave of innovation with big implications for other industries. But could familiar concerns about performance, appearance and costs hinder sales? Source: GreenBiz, 6/4/15

Friday, May 29, 2015
EPA Announces $54.3 Million to Assess and Clean Up Contaminated Sites, Revitalize Communities, Leverage Jobs and Promote Economic Redevelopment Nationwide
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the selection of 243 new grant investments totaling $54.3 million to 147 communities across the U.S. This investment will provide communities with funding necessary to assess, clean up and redevelop contaminated properties, boost local economies and leverage jobs while protecting public health and the environment. Recipients will each receive approximately $200,000 - $600,000 in funding toward EPA cooperative agreements. Source: U.S. EPA, 5/28/15

The Case for Taxing Bottled Water
The public should be able to recoup some of the social, ethical, and environmental costs of bottled water. Source: CityLab, 5/28/15

Thursday, May 28, 2015
How a circular economy could improve people's lives
We consume 2.5 times the resources that the planet can sustainably support, but we can change this by weaving the circular economy into everyone's job Source: The Guardian, 5/28/15

Best Buy's 5 pillars for building a successful take-back program
E-waste is a big issue, and it takes time to build a pilot project into a replicable component of business operations. Here's what the mega-retailer learned along the way. Source: GreenBiz, 5/28/15

France Bans Large Supermarkets From Wasting Food
An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, totaling $750 billion in economic losses, according to a 2013 report from the United Nations that analyzed loss of food around the world. France is looking to avoid such waste, becoming the first country to enact a law that bans grocery stores from wasting food. Source: Triple Pundit, 5/26/15

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
How We're Learning to Measure Progress on Sustainability
Los Angeles is leading the way with a dashboard that shows the public how the city is doing. Source: Governing, 5/27/15

Water: turning a value-chain risk into an ecosystem opportunity
The move from "water management" to "water stewardship" includes the consideration of water risk in the value chain -- the value chain consisting of upstream supply chain, operations and downstream product use. Source: GreenBiz, 5/26/15

Campaign launches to close the gap between corporate GHG reduction goals and a 2 degrees C scenario
The Science Based Targets initiative -- a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF -- has launched a global campaign to recruit 100 companies by the end of 2015 to set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in line with climate science. Source: World Resources Institute, 5/20/15

Manufacturers quietly seize the opportunity to lead on sustainability
Many manufacturers feel trapped in a vise, with limited resources and freedom of action. They can find only a reactive, tactical approach to sustainability. This exposes them to business risks, either on supply chain resilience, cost volatility or not keeping up with customers, as sustainability pressures change their needs. Even so, there is an emerging group of leaders. These are companies with unfamiliar names, though you probably wear or use something they make every week, responding strategically -- creating competitive advantage for themselves and a better world for others. Some initiatives are still confidential, so some of these examples must go unnamed. Source: GreenBiz, 5/27/15

A new kind of wood chip: collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips
In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood. Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 5/26/15

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Why sustainability is at the heart of health
Hospitals are increasingly recognizing the role of sustainability in nurturing the planet and in helping to provide an unrivaled standard of care Source: The Guardian, 5/26/15

Low-income homeowners get free solar panels thanks to cap & trade
A new California program aims to make solar power available to lower-income families -- using money from the state's fight against global warming. Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22/15

U.S. Supreme Court Decides Not to Hear Pharmaceutical Industry Case Against Drug Disposal Law
The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case brought by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and two other industry trade groups, which challenged the constitutionality of Alameda County, California's drug disposal law. The ordinance -- the first of its kind -- requires drug manufacturers to fund and manage the safe disposal of unwanted medications. The Supreme Court decision means that the Alameda ordinance, as well as similar laws passed in San Francisco, California,San Mateo, California, and King County, Washington, will stand. Source: Product Stewardship Institute, 5/26/15

Black silicon solar cell hits record efficiency, could bring solar to more parts of the world
For years, one of the most promising emerging solar technologies has been what is called "black silicon" solar cells. The technology is really a solar cell composed of nano-sized needles atop a silicon wafer that has been proven to capture more of the light spectrum and harness energy from even low light angles. Gains have been made in the efficiency of black silicon solar cells, but they have remained confined to the lab. That may all change soon. Researchers at Aalto University have produced black silicon solar cells capable of reaching a 22.1 percent conversion efficiency, which is a full 4 percent increase from the previous record. Source: TreeHugger, 5/26/15

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