snippets

Snippets – Waste Not Want Not

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Today, I want to share a few not-quite-so-recent stories related to waste that have been on my mind lately.
Via the New York Times, a food industry alliance is planning a three-year initiative to reduce the tremendous amount of food that Americans still throw in the garbage even as they grow somewhat more conscientious about recycling paper and yard trimmings. … A substantial portion of food is thrown away while still fully edible because of cosmetic blemishes or overstocking. … According to the most recent available statistics, more than 30 million tons of food was dumped in landfills in 2009, making food by far the most abundant material there by weight, the federal Environmental Protection Agency says.
From NPR comes a story about how all that wasted food contributes to climate change. A company called CleanMetrics gathered USDA’s estimates of food loss from retail and consumers for 2009. And when the company’s founder, Kumar Venkat, fed the data into his software he found that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, or about 1.5 percent of all emissions ,,,  “If you compare beef to tomatoes, beef has a much higher footprint,” says Venkat. “So if you’re going to reduce waste, you need to prioritize.”
Via Bloomberg, a story about Bank of America selecting some its most decrepit, derelict homes in Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago and paying up to $7,500 to local agencies toward demolition costs. “There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.”
From the New York Times –  Across western North Dakota, hundreds of fires burn as companies rushing to extract oil from the Bakken shale field treat the gas as waste and simply burn it. … Every day, more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared this way — enough energy to heat half a million homes for a day. The flared gas also spews at least two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, as much as 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit.
And again from NPR, some insight into why cleaned wastewater stays dirty in our minds. … “It’s a very broad feature of human thinking,” Nemeroff explains. “Everywhere we look, you can see contagion thinking.” … The conclusion? “It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water, even after the real sewage is gone,” Nemeroff says.

Battle of the Buildings

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Early this month the U.S. EPA launched its 2011 National Building Competition, “Battle of the Buildings“. 245 buildings from across the country will be battling it out “head to head” to see how much each can reduce energy consumption by a given deadline.

The buildings represent a mix of  buildings including 26 different commercial building types and a range of building ages up to 100+. The Competitors will be using EPA’s online tracking tool Energy Star Portfolio Manager to keep track of results.

With the building sector contributing near 20 percent of the country’s energy use and emissions according to the EPA, this competition will help raise awareness and provide practical case studies for a variety of real-world situations.

the competition site even features a tweet stream to follow along with participants’ progress.

The top scoring buildings move on to the finals in July, with an overall winner announced in November.

Assorted Links

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, introduced legislation on Monday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from taking any action to regulate greenhouse gases to address climate change.

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Cyber thieves are actively targeting the European carbon credit market.

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UC Berkeley tops an international ranking of “greenest universities.”

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There’s no such thing as free parking.

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Location Location Location

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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A recent article in the LA Times discusses efforts by green builders to quantify the energy used in reaching the building, not just used in and by the building itself.

From the article:

If you plop a green building in the middle of nowhere, is it still green? … … …

Experts say the ability to quantify the energy spent getting to and from a building could force businesses to reconsider what it means to be green. Transportation emissions account for 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the newly quantifiable data could spur development in urban areas served by public transportation.

Commutes to work matter, said Emma Stewart, senior manager for sustainability at Autodesk Inc., a San Rafael, Calif., maker of 3-D design software applications. Overall, one out of five trips and one out of four miles are traveled in commutes, according to Census Transportation Planning Products. For work, people fly to conferences, hail cabs on lunch breaks and drive to far-flung suburbs.

“This is a new frontier in carbon accounting,” said Stewart, who is part of a separate effort to digitally map buildings and infrastructure like train lines for urban planning purposes. “The practice thus far has really been focused around direct emissions.”

You can read the entire article on the LA Times website, here.

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$274 Million for Water & Sewer Upgrades

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The Fresno Bee reports that the EPA is awarding $127 million to California’s Department of Public Health and another $147 million to the State Water Resources Control Board.

The agency said at least 20 percent of the money must be used to fun so-called “green” infrastructure projects that improve water conservation, energy efficiency and environmental projects.

The two agencies will be responsible for awarding dozens of grants or low-interest loans to cities throughout the state for new sewers and drinking water facility upgrades.

Read the entire story here.

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Assorted Links

Window reflections can melt vinyl siding.

PACE program participants must pay off the loans before they can refinance their mortgages.

Transit-oriented development may be threatened by air quality rules in California.

EPA & DOT propose colorful fuel economy labels to make it easier to compare vehicle mileage.

And there’s an interesting article about Smart Grids and privacy.

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The Murkowski Resolution and the EPA

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Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced a resolution seeking to disrupt the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

The EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, wrote a response to the proposed resolution that was posted today at The Huffington Post.

The Senate vote was today – the resolution failed 53 – 47  according to the Associated Press.

The White House had threatened a veto if it reaches the President’s desk. The official Statement of Administration Policy is posted here.