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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
House passes Welch bipartisan energy efficiency legislation
By a vote of 375-36, the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon approved energy efficiency legislation authored by Representative Peter Welch. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, H.R. 2126, is the first significant bipartisan energy initiative approved by the House in the 113th Congress. Source:, 3/5/14

Minnesota seeks comment on draft paint stewardship plan
In accordance with Minnesota legislation signed into law in May 2013, all architectural paint sold in the state must soon be managed through a statewide product stewardship program implemented and financed by producers of paint. Upon the slated launch date of July 1, 2014, no architectural paint may be offered for sale in the state unless the paint's producer participates in an approved stewardship plan. PaintCare Inc., serving as a stewardship organization on behalf of paint manufacturers, submitted a detailed stewardship plan on March 3, 2014. The MPCA has 90 days to review, and must approve this plan before the program can begin. A public comment period is open through April 15. MPCA will post comments and take them into consideration as part of the staff review of the stewardship plan. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 3.5.14

Monday, March 3, 2014
New USGS Study -- Coal Tar Sealcoats are Persistent Source of Toxics
Research by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) published in the journal Environmental Pollution shows high concentrations of toxic chemicals in runoff from coal tar sealcoated parking lots months after the sealcoat was applied. Source: SHWEC, 3/3/14

Turning tobacco plants into factories for cleaner pesticides
For more eco-friendly pest control, scientists have genetically modified tobacco plants, making them factories for producing insect pheromones. Source: Smart Planet, 3/2/14

Secretary Vilsack Announces Regional Hubs to Help Agriculture, Forestry Mitigate the Impacts of a Changing Climate
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the creation of the first ever Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country. "Climate Hubs" will address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis, aiming to translate science and research into information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners on ways to adapt and adjust their resource management. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged that his Administration will continue to do everything in its power to act on climate change. Today's announcement is part of the President's Climate Action Plan to responsibly cut carbon pollution, slow the effects of climate change and put America on track to a cleaner environment. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2/5/14

Lignocellulose shown to have potential in bioplastic production
Chemical building blocks from lignocellulosic feedstock form a huge potential for the production of bioplastics. More specifically, they have potential for biodegradable plastic polylactic acid (PLA). The building block for PLA - lactic acid - is currently produced mainly from starch originating from corn, or sugar from sugarcane. A sustainable and cost-effective production process for lactic acid on a scale that meets future demands requires the use of second generation biomass such as lignocellulose. Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research studies the process from lignocellulosic feedstock to lactic acid. Source: Biomass Magazine, 2/26/14

How Clever Companies Are Using Circular Thinking To Get Ahead
Creating businesses that make money from their waste as well as their product is the idea behind this new business model. Here's how it's working. Source: Fast Company, 2/27/14

Can small retailers make shopping for green energy more like buying milk?
Unlike other products, electricity options don't sit side-by-side on store shelves. American Efficient is partnering with local shops to show consumers their choices. Source: The Guardian, 2/28/14

E.P.A. Set to Reveal Tough New Sulfur Emissions Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil a major new regulation on Monday that forces oil refiners to strip out sulfur, a smog-forming pollutant linked to respiratory disease, from American gasoline blends, according to people familiar with the agency's plans. Source: New York Times, 3/3/14

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