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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Friday, March 14, 2014
A Wild Idea: Making Our Smartphones Last Longer
Despite their small size, smartphones are expensive, resource-hungry goods, and they deserve a better life cycle than two years of use followed by an eternity in a forgotten desk drawer. It is possible to buy smartphones with an eye to longevity -- a strategy that will save money and global resources and give you the snooty self-satisfaction of knowing you're shunning gadget consumerism. Source: New York Times, 3/12/14

Bad Apple? Groups protest chemicals used in iPhones
SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's labor practices are under attack by two activist groups who contend the company makes its iPhones with a hazardous mix of chemicals that threaten the health of factory workers assembling the devices in China. The campaign began Wednesday with an online petition put together by China Labor Watch, a longtime Apple critic, and Green America, an environmental protection group. If enough consumers sign the "Bad Apple" petition, the two groups hope to pressure the company into abandoning the use of two chemicals, benzene and n-hexane, in the production of the iPhone, Apple's top-selling product. Benzene is a carcinogen that can cause leukemia if not handled properly and n-hexane has been linked to nerve damage. Source: Associate Press via San Jose Mercury News, 3/13/14

Sims Recycling Solutions joins the Green Grid
Sims Recycling Solutions, with Americas headquarters in West Chicago, Ill., has announced its membership in The Green Grid, Beaverton, Ore. Sims says its membership will offer the opportunity to provide The Green Grid with global expertise regarding the responsible and efficient disposal of electronics. The Green Grid is a global consortium of companies, government agencies, educational institutions and individuals dedicated to advancing resource efficiency in information technology and data centers. Members seek to create a common set of metrics and to develop technical resources and educational tools to further the goals of The Green Grid. Source: Recycling Today, 3/13/14

Why Europe's 'opt in' rules on conflict minerals will fail to spark change
When MEP Judith Sargentini said she hoped the EU Commission would "bring forward the strongest possible legislation" on conflict minerals disclosure, she meant it. Her statement followed a vote by MEPs to back her proposals on tackling the conflict minerals trade. "Voluntary projects will not do the trick," she said. "We need binding rules covering a comprehensive list of natural resources and not just a narrow list of minerals." But the EU Commission clearly wasn't listening, or at the very least it was listening to other voices, because it has now removed any reference to mandatory reporting from its proposals. Source: The Guardian, 3/13/14

Hawaii lawmakers push electronics recycling rules
HONOLULU -- Hawaii lawmakers have proposed that manufacturers of electronics goods must recycle 50 percent of the pounds of products that each company sells in the state. Senate Bill 2857 was heard in the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee on Tuesday. Its goal is to give residents on neighbor islands more options to recycle their old televisions, cell phones and a myriad of electronic devices. Source: Associated Press via West Hawaii Today, 3/12/14

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Michigan State University advances algae's viability as a biofuel
Lab success doesn't always translate to real-world success. A team of Michigan State University scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. Source: Biodiesel Magazine, 3/6/14

Nominations now being accepted for Indiana Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence
The Indiana Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence recognize exemplary projects across Indiana. Projects must demonstrate significant and measurable results, be innovative, comprehensive and documented.

The awards are open to all Indiana facilities, state and local units of government, individuals, and technical assistance organizations that operate or support environmental protection efforts of outstanding quality. Eligible technical assistance organizations include, but are not limited to, public entities; trade associations; individuals; and, public interest, community, educational, and labor groups. Source: Indiana Department of Environmental Management, 3/12/14


Tuesday, March 11, 2014
From mines to megawatts: The promise of 'conflict-free Big Solar'
Contaminated former industrial sites and other degraded lands represent a relatively untapped opportunity for developers to steer clear of the litigious environmental conflicts and tradeoffs associated with large-scale solar power in ecologically sensitive and pristine areas. Source: GreenBiz, 3/11/14

3 paths for plugging in to better energy management
After 400 EDF Climate Corps engagements, the program has found three key constituencies to tap into for energy management. Source: GreenBiz, 3/11/14

Why upcycling is both a science and an art
Using recycled materials once made for a pretty good sustainability story. Today, though, recycling is blase, and the bar is set higher: Companies need to upcycle materials, shifting their story from "less bad" to "more good." But as companies jump on the bandwagon and strive to hit the market with new upcycled products, we need to figure out exactly what that phrase means. Source: GreenBiz, 3/11/14

iPhones Recycling Reaches Canada
Apple said its iPhone reuse and recycling program is now available in Canada Customers can now trade in old iPhones at an Apple store for a credit of up to $275. Source: Environmental Leader, 3/11/14

'Seed libraries' try to save the world's plants
A basic principle of any library is that you return what you take out. By that standard, the new scheme at Hampshire College's library is a roll of the dice. Since last November, librarians have been lending out packets of seeds, allowing people to plant them, and checking them back in if--and only if--the borrower manages to grow thriving plants in the meantime. Source: Boston Globe, 3/9/14

Sweet smell of sustainability: renewable sources for artificial scents
Fresh banana, a waft of flowers, blueberry: the scents in Shota Atsumi's laboratory in the Univ. of California, Davis (UC Davis) Dept. of Chemistry are a little sweeter than most. That's because Atsumi and his team are engineering bacteria to make esters--molecules widely used as scents and flavorings, and also as basic feedstock for chemical processes from paints to fuels. Their latest work is published in Nature Chemical Biology. Source: R&D Magazine, 3/11/14

IN: Senate votes to turn off the lights on energy-saving program
A 2-year-old program designed to cut energy consumption in Indiana homes, schools, stores and factories could end Dec. 31, under a bill that passed the Senate by a wide margin Monday. Source: Indianapolis Star, 3/10/14

Monday, March 10, 2014
ISTC now accepting applications for the 2014 Illinois Governor's Sustainability Awards
The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) is now accepting applications for the 2014 Illinois Governor's Sustainability Awards. The application deadline is close of business on May 22, 2014. Source: ISTC, 3/10/14

Thursday, March 6, 2014
Michigan use of state's landfills continues decline; Canadian imports up
Despite a slight increase in Michigan's population, 2013 witnessed a decline of 0.5 percent in solid waste generated in the state, continuing a 10-year trend, according to a report by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Source: Great Lakes Echo, 3/6/14

The Latest in Sustainable Textiles
Finding ways to curb the environmental pollution caused by textile production starts with finding new ways to produce fabrics that don't require toxins and large amounts of water, and which minimize harm to local the ecology. Source: Triple Pundit, 2/25/14

Americans have no idea how much water we use -- or how to conserve it
According to a recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the average American consumes twice as much water as she thinks she does. Furthermore, we Americans are not quite sure which practices are the most water-intensive. As it turns out, the Olympic-sized pool isn't the biggest concern -- 70 percent of personal water use occurs within the home, according to a 2005 EPA study. And the biggest culprit under the roof? Toilet-flushing, accounting for 27 percent of all indoor water use. Source: Grist, 3/5/14

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