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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Southwest Airlines upcycles 80,000 leather seats into bags, shoes and balls
From leather seats to tote bags and fish skin into luxury shoes, businesses are creating new value from waste streams. Source: The Guardian, 7/15/14

Five smart supply chain trends for sustainable business
From centralising information to using predictive software, companies use different techniques for adaptable supply chains. Source: The Guardian, 7/15/14

The McDonough Conversations: Who owns sustainability's best ideas?
Should individuals and companies own the breakthrough ideas that will solve the world's biggest environmental and social problems? Or are they somehow a public good, which innovators can then commercialize? Source: GreenBiz, 7/14/14

#Fail: Why CEOs and consumers are out of step on sustainability
A new global study on consumers and companies reveals a troubling disconnect on sustainability. Its findings shed much-needed light on why consumers remain both hopeful and skeptical on whether companies are truly engaged -- and what it means for business to live up to society's expectations. Source: GreenBiz, 7/15/14

Eileen Fisher Leverages Employee Values to Chart Path Toward Long-Term Sustainability
In fashion designer Eileen Fisher's world, 1,000 people are capable of making a difference. And when she says people, she means her employees -- a team committed to social consciousness that has served as a sounding board for many of the leading brand's sustainability initiatives in recent years. Source: Triple Pundit, 7/15/14

Monday, July 14, 2014
Pumping Efficiency Into Electrical Motors
University of Adelaide researchers are using new magnetic materials to develop revolutionary electrical motors and generators which promise significant energy savings. They have used the new motors to develop patented highly efficient water pump systems with potential widespread application. Source: University of Adelaide, 7/14/14

Apple's Environmental Report Reveals Major Accomplishments, More Work To Be Done
Apple's carbon footprint shrank 3 percent from 2012 to 2013. It's a modest decline, but this is the first time the tech giant has seen a year-over-year decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since it started tracking them in 2009. Despite this and other accomplishments detailed in Apple's 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report released this week, the company acknowledged it has a long way to go to reduce its environmental impact, including tackling emissions from its manufacturing partners and addressing its recent increase in water consumption. Source: Triple Pundit, 7/14/14

Friday, July 11, 2014
Is a sustainable supply chain an obligation or necessity?
Source: Packaging Digest, 7/12/14

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Reducing Fertilizer Needs by Accounting for Soil Microbes
Farmers face a balancing act when deciding how much fertilizer to apply. Applying too much wastes money and adds to nutrient runoff problems. Applying too little reduces yields. Agricultural Research Service scientists in Temple, Texas, have found a way to help get it just right, maximizing profits, minimizing costs, and saving water bodies from unwanted nutrient runoff. They have developed a test that accurately portrays soil health by determining the levels of naturally occurring nitrogen and other nutrients. Source: Agricultural Research Service, 7/1/14

Science to solve tomorrow's problems: State research center helps people, profits and the planet
This profile of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center features several current projects. Source: Illinois Times, 7/9/14

Lumber waste, hazelnut shells and oyster shells hold big promise
A fresh investment in a Portland environmental startup will help confirm whether its mix of lumber waste, hazelnut shells and other materials effectively removes toxic metals from stormwater. Source: Portland Business Journal, 7/9/14

Microplastics lodge in crab gills and guts
Crabs sop up microplastic pollution via their food and gills, researchers have found in a laboratory study. The tiny particles can lodge in the crustaceans' bodies for weeks. Crabs become the first marine creature known to trap microplastics in their respiratory systems. Previous studies had looked at how plastics affect marine organisms through their diet but not through what they breathe. "For a marine crustacean to actually uptake microplastics through respiration and then retain them in the gills -- that's groundbreaking," says environmental marine biologist Phillip Cowie of the University of Glasgow. Source: Science News, 7/8/14

Apple to build a third massive solar farm on 100 acres in North Carolina
Although they still have a lot of work to do on that front, Apple has made a lot of progress when it comes to treading more lightly on the Earth under Tim Cook's leadership. So much so that Greenpeace, who used to hound Apple for not doing enough, is now praising them. In fact, in a pretty exhaustive ranking of big internet firms, Greenpeace rated Apple #1 because they use 100% renewable energy. According to a local paper, Apple will be spending about $55 million to build a 17.5 megawatt solar farm - a third one for them - in Claremont, North Carolina. This will create 75 jobs during construction and help keep Apple's data-centers 100% powered by clean energy. Source: TreeHugger, 7/9/14

Rugged robot from Saudi Arabia cleans dusty solar panels without using water
Deserts are sunny, so they're ideal for solar power. But they're also very dusty, which is a problem for obvious reasons. The owners of solar farms need a way to clean the panels so they maintain optimal conditions, otherwise they lose about 0.4-0.8% in efficiency per day, and up to 60% after dust storms. But hosing panels down with water in the middle of an arid area is problematic on so many levels... And anything that requires a lot of human labor in the middle of a remote desert where temperatures can go over 122 degrees fahrenheit during the day is going to be tough under any circumstances. These are the problems that the NO-water Mechanical Automated Dusting Device (NOMADD) robot from Saudi Arabia is trying to solve. Source: TreeHugger, 7/9/14

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Device cuts out 93 percent of lawn mower pollution
The EPA estimates that a lawn mower emits 11 times the air pollution of a new car for every hour of operation. Enter a group of engineering students from University of California Riverside who have developed a device that can eliminate 93 percent of pollutants from lawn mower emissions. It's a simple, "L" shaped device that can be attached to any regular gas-powered mower where it's muffler was. When tested, it reduced carbon monoxide (CO) by 87 percent, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 67 percent and particulate matter (PM) by 44 percent. With the improved version of the device, 93 percent of particulate matter emissions were eliminated. The team is calling the device NOx-Out and thinks it would sell for about $30. They hope to see it used by landscaping companies who could cheaply retrofit their mowers, current lawn mower users who want to clean up their machine and even landmower manufacturers who could offer models with the attachment already in place. UC Riverside has committed to using the device in campus lawn maintenance and it could spread through the entire University of California system. Source: TreeHugger, 7/9/14

Bostonians will be able to charge their gadgets with solar powered smart benches
A new initiative in Boston is bringing Soofas, solar powered benches that can not only charge your gadgets, but also monitor air quality and sound levels, to several city parks in a pilot program funded by Cisco. The Soofas, called "smart urban furniture, were developed by Changing Environments, a spinoff of MIT Media Lab, and are capable of charging mobile gadgets via two USB ports, thanks to a solar panels and the free energy of the sun. And while they're charging phones and powering Facebook updates, they're also gathering environmental data about air quality and noise levels nearby, and uploading them to a public map online. Source: TreeHugger, 7/8/14

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