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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Flame Retardant Breakthrough is Naturally Derived and Nontoxic
Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans. Source: University of Texas, 10/5/15

Top 30 Sustainable College Run Farms
The college farm movement has seen steady growth in the last ten years along with the farm to table phenomenon, as our ranking of the Top 30 Sustainable College Run Farms will attest. College farms are no longer just research sites, but have evolved to become centers of student solidarity and community nutrition. To be considered for our top 30 ranking, our initial pool of 100 college farms had to demonstrate sustainability. This sustainability was measured in terms of significant student involvement, environmentally friendly methods, diversity of production, connection with college instruction, and farm sales targeting both the college and surrounding community. Source: College Values Online, September 2015

Second Nature Climate Leadership Network & Three Commitments
Second Nature's network of signatory institutions is now named the Climate Leadership Network. Following a strategic planning process with feedback from presidents and implementation staff at signatory institutions, Second Nature has announced three commitments that integrate and rebrand current efforts. The American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) has been renamed the Carbon Commitment. To advance the mission of the Alliance for Resilient Campuses (ARC), the Resilience Commitment has formed. Together, the concepts of carbon neutrality and the climate resilience constitute the new Climate Commitment. Source: Second Nature, 10/2/15

Friday, October 2, 2015
Target Expands Sustainable Product Index to Include 1,000+ Toxic Chemicals
Target has improved its sustainable product standard by beginning to test category-specific criteria and consider more toxic chemicals. The retailer's Sustainable Product Index evaluates products based on a points system and the highest-scoring options are promoted under its "Made to Matter" banner. Source: Sustainable Brands, 9/28/15

CPSC considers ban on toxic flame retardants in household products
For the government's top consumer safety watchdog, protecting Americans from household hazards typically means prodding companies to recall defective products that strangle children, cause life-threatening burns or trigger bone-breaking falls. The chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission thinks it is time to start forcing toxic chemicals off the market too. In an interview, Elliot Kaye said his experience as the father of two young boys led him to push for more aggressive government action to protect children from harmful substances commonly found in toys and other household products. Source: Chicago Tribune, 9/28/15

'Ethical' Fairphone 2 smartphone launched to combat electronic waste
Fairphone 2 -- the sequel to the world's first "ethical smartphone" -- has launched in the UK, at a cost of £395. The original Fairphone, which launched in 2013, promised to avoid using components made with minerals from conflict mines, improve working conditions for factory staff in China and reduce e-waste. The phone proved a relative success, with 60,000 buyers, allowing the Amsterdam-based social enterprise behind the device to develop a new model without relying on external investment. The Fairphone 2, which has been co-designed with London design agency Seymourpowell, features a 5-inch, full HD Gorilla Glass LCD display and runs Android 5.1 (Lollipop), with 32GB of internal storage. It has a modular architecture that Fairphone claims is easy to open and repair, and the phone's back cover, which comes in a range of colours, wraps around the front edge of the screen, functioning as a shatter-proof case. Source: The Telegraph, 9/28/15

Volkswagen Scandal Ripples Through Entire Auto Industry
The impact of the Volkswagen emissions scandal is enormous, affecting and the health of local communities as well as the livelihood and reputation of auto dealers and mechanics, on top of hundreds of thousands of car owners who bought into the company's "clean diesel" marketing. That's just for starters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also placed all auto manufacturers under heightened scrutiny, and the scandal casts a pall over Volkswagen's other sustainability projects. On September 25, EPA also sent a letter notifying auto manufacturers of the change in emissions testing procedures. It was short and to the point. Here is the relevant passage: "&EPA may test or require testing on any vehicle at a designated location, using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device." Source: Triple Pundit, 10/2/15

Thursday, October 1, 2015
EPA sets limit for toxic pollutants released into waterways
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday imposed new standards for mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants that are discharged into the nation's rivers and streams from steam electric power plants. Source: Associated Press, 10/1/15

Even Poor Countries End Up Wasting Tons Of Food
The fact that a huge amount of food is wasted each year will be no surprise to anybody in the West. What might come as a surprise is that a large percentage of global food waste occurs in developing countries -- primarily because of poor infrastructure and dysfunctional distribution networks. Source: NPR, 9/28/15

Food Giants Align For Climate Action
A Republican, a Democrat and a bunch of major food corporations put their support behind meaningful action on climate change Thursday. Source: Huffington Post, 10/1/15

Petition Seeks Overhaul of U.S. EPA Testing Following VW Scandal
An environmental group is seeking to have every model of car and light trucks sold in the U.S. undergo on-the-road emissions tests, adding to calls for more aggressive efforts following revelations that Volkswagen AG rigged its vehicles to fool laboratory-based screening. Source: Bloomberg News, 10/1/15

EU probes TV makers over energy efficiency test scores
The European Commission says it is "following up" two reports that raise concerns that software used in TVs may be skewing their energy rating scores. Source: BBC, 10/1/15

California approves hazardous waste disposal of CRT glass
Responding to what it calls a dearth of reliable downstream processors of CRT funnel glass, the state of California will allow the lead-laden material to head to hazardous waste disposal facilities. Formally announced in an emergency regulatory action issued on Aug. 21, the decision on the part of California regulators calls on companies participating in the state's electronics recycling program to first seek out recycling outlets for the glass "to the extent economically feasible." Source: Resource Recycling, 9/17/15

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
OH: Kasich says indefinite freeze of clean-energy standards is 'unacceptable'
Count Gov. John Kasich among the opponents of a legislative plan to be released today calling for an indefinite freeze in the state's clean-energy standards. Source: Columbus Dispatch, 9/30/15

Illinois Reduces Food Waste With Homemade Tomato Sauce
The perfect tomato is one of the joys of summer. It's perfectly round, with smooth bright red skin, and inside it is juicy and full of robust flavor. The Student Sustainable Farm at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign grows hundreds of these beauties every season. But the farm also grows thousands more tomatoes that -- while still delicious -- have imperfections like bug bites, uneven color, odd shape, or scarring. What is the fate of these "ugly" tomatoes? As of summer 2015, they're being turned into Illinois "house-made" tomato sauce. A partnership between the farm, the Department of Crop Science, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition's Pilot Plant, Dining Services, and the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) is making sure that every tomato grown on campus lives up to its potential as the signature taste of summer. Source: University of Illinois ISEE, 9/28/15

Lawmakers: You Don't Have to Choose Between Cleaning the Air and Stabilizing the Climate
A new study by scientists based in Europe and China, in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, argues that air quality and climate change measures should be viewed as complementary rather than counter-balancing. Many steps to address air pollutants can also limit global warming, if policies look at the root problem rather than taking weaker actions aimed at containing the damage. Source: Pacific Standard, 9/29/15

For U.S. Tribes, a Movement to Revive Native Foods and Lands
On ancestral lands, the Fond du Lac band in Minnesota is planting wild rice and restoring wetlands damaged by dams, industry, and logging. Their efforts are part of a growing trend by Native Americans to bring back traditional food sources and heal scarred landscapes. Source: Yale Environment360, 9/28/15

EPA sets stricter emission standards for oil refineries
The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Tuesday to reduce toxic air pollution from oil refineries by forcing operators to adopt new technology that better monitors and controls emissions. Source: Associated Press, 9/29/15

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Environmental engineer Kartik Chandran awarded MacArthur Genius Grant
Kartik Chandran is an environmental engineer integrating microbial ecology, molecular biology, and engineering to transform wastewater from a troublesome pollutant to a valuable resource. Traditional facilities for biologically treating wastewater remove pathogens, organic carbon, and nutrients (where necessary) through decades-old technology that requires vast amounts of energy and resources, releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, and leaves behind material that must be discarded. Chandran approaches wastewater treatment with the goal of producing useful resources such as fertilizers, chemicals, and energy sources, in addition to clean water, in a way that takes into account the climate, energy, and nutrient challenges we face today. Source: MacArthur Foundation, 9/28/15

Gary Cohen, Founder and President of Health Care Without Harm, awarded MacArthur Genius Grant
Gary Cohen is a social entrepreneur and activist spurring environmental responsibility in health care both in the United States and abroad. American hospitals have historically been major contributors to environmental pollution, largely ignoring the damage to local communities and environments caused by extensive use of harmful chemicals in medical devices, toxic cleaning agents, reliance on fossil fuels, and disposal of waste via incineration. Cohen has led a paradigm shift in the perceived responsibility of health care providers, from a narrow, patient-centered duty of service regarding individual health to a broader obligation to also "do no harm" to surrounding communities, their residents, and the global environment. Source: MacArthur Foundation, 9/28/15

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