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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

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

Friday, May 22, 2015
What Yahoo's energy efficiency strategy borrows from farms
Silicon Valley tech giant Yahoo has been relatively low-key about its sustainable operations strategy since CEO Marissa Mayer took over in July 2012. But a lack of noise shouldn't be conflated with a lack of progress. Early this month, Yahoo opened a massive data center that uses an innovative "Compute Coop" design -- a building layout that reduces the amount of power necessary to cool off the servers housed within. As you might imagine from the name, it looks like a traditional chicken coop, with side openings and a vented roof ridge. Just as significant: last fall, the Internet company disclosed its first big power purchase agreement (PPA) for wind-generated electricity (PDF), echoing a series of similar long-term sourcing arrangements announced by other big cloud services companies, most notably Google and Apple. The 15-year-long contract will offset much of Yahoo's energy consumption for its operations in the Great Plains region. Source:, 5/13/15

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Pennsylvania study finds contaminants in drilling wastewater
Two chemicals never before considered oil and gas industry contaminants, ammonium and iodide, were found in alarming levels in drilling wastewater discharged into Pennsylvania's waterways, according to a recent study. Source: Great Lakes Echo, 5/20/15

Groups jockeying to shape EPA water rule
More than 100 advocates representing dozens of industry groups, companies and environmental organizations are flocking to the White House in a last-ditch effort to influence controversial regulations that would redefine the reach of the federal government's water pollution enforcement. Source: The Hill, 5/20/15

Food Waste is the New Haute Cuisine
All across the world, food waste experiments are emerging. From pop-up restaurants like INSTOCK in Amsterdam to WastED in New York, food waste is being rescued from local grocery stores and given the celebrity treatment. Even newspapers are serving up food waste recipes to the masses. Food waste is the cause du jour, and a growing number of restaurants and food-preneurs are following the trend. Source: Triple Pundit, 5/19/15

Small businesses need support to build ethical supply chains
Building sustainable supply chains can be challenging for SMEs, but collaboration and incentives could help . Source: The Guardian, 5/20/15

The Dark Side of Recycling Lighter Electronics
It seems that every year electronic devices are getting smaller and thinner, yet they pack in more functions and versatility. While this is great for consumers wanting the latest products, it has different consequences for those of us concerned about recycling electronics at their end of life. Source: Waste360, 5/21/15

Why Sustainability Requires More Than Technological Advances
Michael Tlusty makes the case that behavior change is just as important as technology when it comes to sustainability. Source: Triple Pundit, 5/21/15

Beyond the Chief Sustainability Officer
Companies are full of roles--big and small--that should be charged with thinking about the environmental and human costs of doing business. Source: The Atlantic, 5/20/15

Chicago: Mayor Wants Less Trash, More Compost
On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would remove a certain amount of organic matter -- such as potato peels -- from the waste stream by expanding the kinds of materials the city's community gardens and urban farms are allowed to compost. Vegetable scraps and egg shells would be included among the permissible items, along with landscape waste such as grass clippings. Source: DNAinfo Chicago, 5/21/15

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
How to fight climate change: Invest in inner cities
BlocPower aims to be an online investing platform where individuals can earn a good return while financing energy-efficiency retrofits and solar power projects in distressed, inner city neighborhoods. Source: Mother Nature Network, 5/20/15

Flame retardants may be coming off of furniture, but they're still in your TV sets
Consumers are often unaware of all the flame-retardant chemicals in and on electronics. While flaming laptops and even iPods -- and recalls from manufacturers such as Dell, Apple, Lenovo, Toshiba and, more recently, Sony over fire safety fears -- might help make the case for coating circuit boards with flame retardants, fierce debate is raging over whether they are necessary on the external plastic casings of items like televisions, stereos, computers, video game consoles and cellphones. Source: The Guardian, 5/19/15

Milwaukee Water Council Startup Aims to Save A Billion Gallons of Water This Year
MeterHero rewards users for using less water and electricity. McGee Young came up with the idea with his students at Marquette University. Source: Milwaukee Public Radio, 5/18/15

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
California and the rise of 'sub-national' climate action
A new report looks at how sub-national climate policies can complement economic growth, as it has in California. Source: GreenBiz, 5/19/15

Sustainability Drives Supply Chain Professionals to Learn New Finance and Accounting Concepts
72% of the companies included in The S&P 500 Index publish sustainability reports, up from just under 20% in 2011. Over time, companies' sustainability efforts become more mature and corporate sustainability goals filter down and become key supply chain goals as well. Source: Forbes, 5/15/15

Is the Obama administration lowering the bar on green electronics?
Environmental advocates fear that a recent executive order from the Obama administration may spell the beginning of the end for a federal ratings system aimed at greening America's electronics industry. Source: The Guardian, 4/23/15

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