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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Thursday, July 24, 2014
State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY Oneonta) researcher patents green chemistry discovery
Dr. Jacqueline Bennett has invented a new chemical process that's safer, greener and more efficient than traditional methods used to make imines, a class of chemical compounds that has household and industrial applications. Chemical processes used to create essential materials often consume large quantities of relatively toxic compounds that are later disposed of as hazardous waste. Bennett's research focuses on finding more environmentally friendly ways to make imines, which are found in a wide range of products, from automotive rust inhibitors to antibiotics. Because traditional imine synthesis uses solvents that pose inhalation hazards, Bennett experimented with a benign alternative solvent called ethyl lactate, a naturally occurring, FDA-approved food additive that breaks down quickly and harmlessly in the environment. Unlike the established method, Dr. Bennett's process does not require heat, agitation, recrystallization or purification. Yet it forms imines more quickly, producing higher yields. Source: ACS Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog, 7/22/14

Federal study shows safety lapses in e-scrap processing
A just-released federal report sheds light on the numerous occupational health and safety dangers that likely exist at e-scrap firms throughout the country. The report, released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), shares findings from a series of site visits conducted between 2012 and 2013 at the request of an undisclosed e-scrap firm in the U.S. NIOSH collected air, surface and blood samples and interviewed about a quarter of facility employees to identify necessary health and safety improvements. And, according to the report, a variety of shortcomings were found. Seven of 26 interviewed employees reported health concerns connected to CRT de-manufacturing, and NIOSH staffers found reason for worry on lead exposure. Source: E-scrap News, 7/24/14

Hacker Musician Turns E-Waste Into an Awesome Instrument
We tend to think of musical instruments in fixed terms: that's a guitar, this is a saxophone, that's a synthesizer. Colten Jackson, however, plays an instrument that's hard to classify. The Illinois musician hacked together what he calls the Hard Rock Guitar out of e-waste: six obsolete hard drives, and an old keyboard number pad, powered by an Arduino board. Jackson made the instrument at Makerspace Urbana. Source: Wired, 7/22/14

EPA Funds Environmental Health Research for Tribal Communities
To identify and reduce tribal health risks associated with climate change, indoor wood smoke exposure, environmental asthma, waterborne diseases, and other unique tribal concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding tribal environmental health research grants to six groups, including universities and tribes. Source: U.S. EPA, 7/23/14

LAUNCH System Challenge: Green Chemistry Seeks Innovations for Materials and Manufacturing
With this LAUNCH System Challenge: Green Chemistry, LAUNCH is seeking innovations that leverage or advance green chemistry to transform the system of materials and manufacturing to one that advances global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet's resources. When referring to green chemistry LAUNCH uses the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, the definition which the Environmental Protection Agency also uses, in order to provide a common framing. Source: The Nexus Blog, 7/22/14

Greener Roads: Arizona Chemical Makes Pine-based Performance Additive
Arizona Chemical Company, LLC, has a strong history of providing sustainable solutions from renewable resources. AZC drew on this background to specifically develop a pine-based performance additive to address the unique chemical and mechanical needs of pavement engineering utilizing recycled pavement. This SYLVAROAD™ RP 1000 performance additive bridges the technology gap and enables the use of high reclaimed content roads. Source: The Nexus Blog, 7/23/14

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
States, Cities Get Creative About Recycling Water
Reusing water is a possible solution as half the country experiences severe drought. Source: Stateline, 7/23/14

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Why targeting 4 human emotions is key to marketing sustainability
While brands have been remarkably successful at feeding universal human drives, such as the desire for adventure, power or status, sustainability has not been seeing the same success in its messaging. What sustainability needs to create the same impact is a similar level of insight into the best way to embrace the full range of human emotions. Because it's human emotion that's at the heart of what motivates us. Source: The Guardian, 7/21/14

Biodegradable Plastic Technology Moves Forward
Source: Environmental Leader, 7/22/14

The Extraordinary Future of Shoes
Knitted footwear technology is poised to enhance sustainability and walkability alike. Source: The Atlantic, 7/22/14

Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?
Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year. Can for-profit recycling companies turn those rags into riches? Source: The Atlantic, 7/22/14

Do students really choose colleges based on how green they are?
A Princeton Review survey finds that incoming freshmen would weigh information about environmental issues into their college decisions, but average students say it's not on their radar Source: The Guardian, 7/22/14

4 ways to take green cities to the next level
This opportunity to "connect, cool, absorb and protect" with green infrastructure is being made real by cities all across America and the world at an accelerating rate. Recent shining examples include collaborative efforts to deploy wetlands and oyster reefs in New York City after Superstorm Sandy, massive tree planting and "green alley" initiatives in cities such as Los Angeles, and the widespread recapture of abandoned rail corridors to provide safe routes for biking and walking across metro regions such as Chicago and Seattle. These urban greening efforts lessen climate vulnerability and carbon emissions in equal measure. Source: GreenBiz, 7/21/14

6 reasons technology alone can't solve water scarcity
Sustainably addressing water scarcity will require technology solutions both conventional and innovative -- both the "hard path for water" and the soft path for water. Source: GreenBiz, 7/21/14

Microsoft buys entire output of Illinois wind farm
Microsoft took another step toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral, announcing its second enormous purchase of wind energy. The company signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy 175 megawatts (MW) of wind energy -- the entire output -- of Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois. The wind farm is 60 miles from Chicago and will supply Microsoft's data center there through the grid. Source: GreenBiz, 7/21/14

9 key trends in corporate sustainability reporting
Nearly three-quarters of sustainability professionals ranked CSR above seven out of 10 in relation to their business objectives (with one being low and 10 being high.) Meanwhile, most organizations dedicate between $34,000 and $84,000 of their budget to CSR reporting activity. These are just some key findings from a recent 2degrees CSR reporting survey, which aims to help organizations identify key trends in CSR reporting, stakeholder engagement and materiality. Source: GreenBiz, 7/21/14

GreenBiz 101: The core of materiality? What matters most
If you're a sustainability professional who got his or her start in environmental affairs, chemistry or toxicology, the word "materiality" probably wasn't part of your core curriculum. But the concept may be invaluable when it comes to prioritizing sustainability initiatives and communicating progress toward them -- especially as awareness of these matters grows in the chief financial officer's office. With that in mind, we offer this brief accounting lesson. Source: GreenBiz, 7/22/14

Reinventing the Chief Marketing Officer: An Interview with Unilever CMO Keith Weed
A marketing revolution is under way and nowhere is that more visible than in the CMO's transforming role. Unilever CMO Keith Weed embodies this new order as an architect and leader of the firm's plan to double revenue while halving its environmental impact. In this edited interview, Weed describes a new breed of marketing organization and the CMO's increasingly strategic role. Source: HBR Blog Network, 7/21/14

Smartphones Are Everywhere--But Where Are the Standards?
When it comes to sustainability in the electronics industry, much attention is being paid to e-waste and energy efficiency. However, there is much more to making a sustainable smart product in the 21st century. That's why UL -- Underwriters Laboratories -- through UL Environment developed the UL 110 standard for mobile phones, tablets and other "smart" products. Source: Triple Pundit, 7/18/14

Monday, July 21, 2014
Good product, bad package: top sustainable packaging mistakes
Seven layers of plastic for a bag of chips may seem excessive, but packaging is more complicated than it looks. What are the challenges wrapped around common household products? Source: The Guardian, 7/18/14

Friday, July 18, 2014
Champaign County (IL) Volunteers Needed for Low-cost Radon Reduction Pilot Study
The Indoor Climate Research and Training program of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, in its capacity as a member of the Partnership for Advancing Residential Retrofit team of the U.S. DOE's Building America Program, is conducting a pilot study on radon reduction through low-cost measures. The aim of this research pilot project is to study the impact of air sealing between the foundation and the living space on radon transport reduction across the foundation-living space floor assembly. It is aimed at reducing radon levels in the lowest living level of the house. Basements used as a living level are not candidates for this study. As a part of this study, we are currently seeking homes in Champaign County with crawlspaces or unfinished basements. During this 3 month project, radon concentrations are measured before and after treatment, which involves air-sealing on the underside of the floor and duct sealing. There is no cost to the homeowner. Homes with known radon issues are preferred but not required. Please contact Stacy Gloss at or 217-300-7430 for more information. Source: Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, 7/18/14

New York State Pollution Prevention Institute awards $455,000 in research and development projects
The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) has awarded approximately $455,000 to fund six research and development projects focused on applied research designed to stimulate solutions that will help New York state companies remain competitive while reducing their environmental footprint. Source: New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, 7/14/14

6 ways collaboration can boost sustainability
Corporate collaboration can drive exponentially greater impacts. It can foster innovative solutions, level the playing field, move an industry, raise expectations for partners, influence policy and catalyze change in myriad ways. This post offers six ways to make collaboration easier. Source: GreenBiz, 7/16/14

Why sustainability requires leadership training
Making sustainability happen -- at scale -- and with the speed required to reap returns on investment under these conditions, requires business leadership to rethink and remix their skill sets to develop the versatility and agility they need. Source: GreenBiz, 7/17/14

Without Much Straining, Minnesota Reins In Its Utilities' Carbon Emissions
While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities' carbon pollution for decades -- not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either. Source: New York Times, 7/18/14

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