Environment

Mike Noder Enters Spokane Mayoral Race Challenging Mayor Condon And...

PR Web - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 04:51

Grassroots Campaign, “Mike For Spokane” Challenges Spokane Officials To Lead With Transparency And Accountability.

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/spokane/mayor/prweb12824339.htm

Categories: Environment

Here’s why you shouldn’t worry about the Supreme Court’s latest environmental ruling

Grist.org - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 02:45

Last Friday, a five-justice majority of the Supreme Court kicked off the weekend with a bang when it ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. The White House celebrated by going Technicolor. New York and San Francisco were so happy they threw parades.

But bright and early Monday morning, before Chipotle even had a chance to deflate its giant burrito float, a different five-justice majority made clear that the party was over. In an opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court sided with challengers to EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, one of the most significant environmental rules of the Obama presidency. SCOTUS, in other words, acid-rained all over our parade.

“So how depressed should I be?” people keep asking me. (And by “people,” I mean “two friends from law school.”)

Not that depressed, you guys. This ruling may not be a big rainbow-hued delight like the marriage one, but it’s not a total disaster either. To understand why, it’s helpful to have a bit of context.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, also known as “MATS,” are the culmination of a very long regulatory process. Back in 1990, when a bipartisan majority of Congress overhauled the Clean Air Act, legislators instructed EPA to undertake a study of any threats to public health posed by power plants’ emissions of “hazardous air pollutants” — essentially, toxic substances that can cause cancer or other serious health effects like infertility. The agency was then required to determine, based on the study results, whether regulating such emissions was “appropriate and necessary.”

Congress gave EPA three years to complete the study, so, naturally, it took eight.

Ultimately, the agency found that, while power plants emit a number of hazardous air pollutants, mercury was of greatest concern because it is “highly toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulates in food chains.” When airborne mercury settles in bodies of water, it can change into methylmercury, which then accumulates in fish that live in the polluted water. Humans who eat this contaminated fish risk neurological damage. And because developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to the effects of mercury exposure, EPA was particularly concerned with the consumption of contaminated fish by women of childbearing age.

Despite these findings, two more years passed before the agency chose to make the official determination, in the final days of the Clinton administration, that regulating plants’ mercury emissions was “appropriate and necessary.”

More than a decade later, after some complicated regulatory detours during the George W. Bush years, the Obama administration’s EPA reaffirmed the “appropriate and necessary” finding and, in 2012, issued MATS, which at last set strict limits on power plants’ emissions of not just mercury, but also other heavy metals like arsenic and nickel, as well as “acid gases” like hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid.

Environmentalists rejoiced. Industry groups and recalcitrant states sued.

Which brings us back to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision. Scalia and the other justices in the majority found that EPA’s “appropriate and necessary” determination was invalid, because the agency failed to consider the cost of regulation as a factor in the decision.

This sounds bad, I know. If the legal basis for the rule is invalid, doesn’t that make the rule itself invalid? ARE WE ALL GOING TO DROWN IN A SEA OF MERCURY NOW?

Nah. Here’s why:

First of all, as my boss, Richard Revesz, points out over at The Hill, EPA is almost certain to find that regulating power plants’ hazardous emissions is still “appropriate and necessary,” even when costs are taken into account.

Indeed, as Justice Elena Kagan noted in her very persuasive dissent, EPA has already undertaken an extensive — like, 510 pages extensive — analysis of the costs and benefits of MATS. The agency just waited to perform this analysis until the second stage of its regulatory process, when it determined how stringently power plants’ hazardous emissions should be regulated, as opposed to the first stage, when it determined whether those emissions should be regulated at all.

In that document, EPA estimated that, once fully implemented, MATS would impose annual compliance costs of $9.6 billion a year but generate benefits at least three times as high. These benefits include $4 million to $6 million a year in avoided IQ point losses among children exposed to mercury in the womb. The remainder, an estimated $36 billion to $89 billion a year, came not from reductions in mercury or other toxic pollution, but from the “co-benefit” of decreased concentrations of fine particulate matter, which has well-known, very harmful effects on the human heart and lungs. Even though MATS was not designed to combat this sort of pollution, the control technologies necessary to rein in toxic emissions necessarily reduce particulate formation as well, and EPA calculated that these reductions would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 nonfatal heart attacks each year.

Additionally, EPA cited a number of benefits from reducing mercury and other toxic pollution that it recognized as significant but could not quantify, such as avoided problems with memory, fine motor skills, and behavior in exposed children.

Federal agencies quite routinely include both co-benefits and unquantified benefits in their cost-benefit analyses. In fact, a guidance document issued by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget under the second Bush administration explicitly instructs them to do so.

Furthermore, Scalia and the other justices who ruled against EPA on Monday explicitly declined to criticize the content of the agency’s cost and benefit estimates. They merely took issue with the fact that the agency didn’t take those estimates into account when making its “appropriate and necessary” finding.

So, theoretically, EPA should be able to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision by simply pointing to the analysis it’s already performed and saying, “Yep, we’re aware of these costs, and we still think it’s appropriate and necessary to regulate power plants’ hazardous emissions.”

A second thing to note is that the Supreme Court did not strike MATS down (or “vacate” the rule, in legal parlance). Instead, it just kicked the case back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with the instruction that EPA “must consider cost … before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary.” Whether the current rule remains in effect while EPA does this is up to the circuit judges, and, as Revesz explains, the D.C. Circuit often leaves challenged regulations in place while EPA responds to judicial concerns, through a process known as “remand without vacatur.” Here, the circuit judges probably won’t see a point in vacating a cost-benefit-justified (not to mention life-saving) rule that they know EPA is likely to reinstate once it jumps through a few procedural hoops.

And even if the circuit judges do vacate MATS pending EPA’s reconsideration of compliance costs, we shouldn’t see much of a change in actual pollution levels. As other commentators have already noted, the vast majority of power plants subject to the rule have already come into compliance, either by installing new pollution controls or shutting down altogether. It’s extremely unlikely that any of these plants will rise from the dead or dismantle their new, expensive control technologies simply because the rule is temporarily suspended.

So rest easy, friends. Despite the dramatic headlines, the MATS ruling’s real-world impacts should fall somewhere between negligible and nonexistent, and this summer’s gay weddings won’t have to take place in a mercury-sodden wasteland.

—–

Jack Lienke is a legal fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law.

 


Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Bureau of Reclamation Selects New Mexico State University for Unmanned...

PR Web - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 01:51

Research project will be first Reclamation dam inspection using an unmanned aircraft system

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12824090.htm

Categories: Environment

The Garden Center Group Announces New Partnership with Garden Media...

PR Web - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 01:51

Both Groups Combine Forces to Keep Garden Center Owners Ahead of the Curve

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12823818.htm

Categories: Environment

Ocean acidification: Not just for oceans anymore!

Grist.org - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 00:14

Move over, ocean acidification — or don’t, actually. “Freshwater acidification” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though it is happening, thanks to the same carbon emissions currently souring the seas. And apparently fish are feeling the burn already, according to a study in Nature on juvenile pink salmon. From Scientific American:

The study was among the first to look at how different CO2 levels could affect fish larvae in fresh water, according to the lead author, Michelle Ou, a former master’s student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“We didn’t actually expect to see so many effects,” she said. “We were just poking around to see what we could find.”

Pink salmon seemed like a good species to start with. Not only are the fish abundant and economically important, but they also serve as a keystone species … Although pink salmon spend their adulthood in the open ocean, their first weeks of life are in freshwater streams.

It turns out that, while adult fish do pretty OK with changing water chemistry, larvae exposed to elevated CO2 levels showed some significant changes:

They found that not only were they smaller and lighter, but the fish’s senses were also impaired. The pink salmon larvae were more bold around new objects and did not seem to be afraid of alarm cues in the water that would normally prompt fish to flee.

The fish also had an impaired sense of smell that prevented them from recognizing specific amino acids associated with the streams where they were born. This was significant because recognition of those amino acids is believed to play an important role in the fish’s navigational ability, said Ou.

If you know much about what salmon have to do — namely, navigate from the open ocean back to the exact tributary of the exact stream in which they were spawned — you will recognize that this is potentially A Very Bad Thing. But just how acidic are rivers going to get in the future? Since bodies are freshwater are typically smaller than the ocean (no, duh) pH levels are likely to wobble around more depending on immediate conditions. Still, way, way more research is needed.

So get on it, science. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go ahead and guess we should try to stop this runaway carbon emissions thing, how’s that sound?


Filed under: Climate & Energy, Science
Categories: Environment

Mary Iverson makes climate change paintings that are actually cool

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 23:50

When I first saw Mary Iverson’s paintings on Instagram, they didn’t scream “THIS IS ART WITH AN ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE!” They are commentary on climate change, sure, but said commentary is delivered through more of a soft murmur than a belligerent yell. Iverson, a Seattle-based painter and public artist, started addressing environmental issues and climate change in her work in 2009, and has since created many pieces that are compelling without going over the top. I got to chat with her about her about her process, why we need more women in art, and what’s really so appealing about shipping containers.

The conversation below has been edited and condensed.

“Fleet,” 2014. Click to embiggen.Mary Iverson

Q. How did your series of paintings on climate change get started?

A. I’ve been following the shipping industry for several years and doing paintings of the growth of that industry. While I was painting the beauty of those shapes and colors of containers and cranes and ships, I’ve been researching the impact of the industry on the natural world, and also of course paying attention to climate change, climate science.

In the current series [which I started in 2013], I’m just exploring what rising sea levels would look like in some of our major cities — just sort of imagining the big flood in those cities, and all the buildings and putting my shipping containers and cargo ships in the water, surrounding them, kind of like a post-apocalyptic vision.

Q. What first pushed you to start addressing climate change in your art?

Mary Iverson.

A. I was noticing the discrepancy between my interest in environmental activism, and then my paintings, which were of container ships and containers and are a reflection of the growth of our economies and the growth of populations, so I had trouble reconciling my heart with my imagery in my work. In about 2009, I started developing work that addressed the impact of the shipping industry and population growth on our national parks and environment and world in general. That started when I started combining my container ship imagery with my landscape imagery.

Q. And how did you first get started painting shipping containers?

A. I was a landscape painter, really dedicated, for about three years, and I would take my easel out every day and find good spots [to paint.] I started getting interested in the warehouses and Harbor Island and some of the industrial areas in Seattle, just because they were really quiet. And then I started narrowing in on the port and the cranes, and did a series of paintings on the orange container crates. And then it got the attention of someone at Stevedoring Services of America, and they said: “Hey, would you like to do a project for us? I’ll give you a pass to get on the terminal so you can go paint right at the source.” So every day I was out under the cranes and with the ships, and just making paintings from right there. [I was also] meeting electricians and stevedores and longshoremen, and really getting a flavor of the whole system of the port.

“Settlement,” 2014. Click to embiggen. Mary Iverson

Q. When I first moving to Seattle I was looking at an apartment with some people in the Industrial District, by the port. This girl who had lived there for a while told me, “I think that this is one of the most peaceful parts of the city, I feel like I’m on a prairie when I’m walking around here at night.” Because it’s so eerie and deserted that it kind of reminded her of the countryside where she grew up.

A. Wow, that’s a really cool perspective! It’s very quiet, yeah. A mystery land!

Q. Yeah, it really is. So when you mentioned that you started to feel kind of conflicted about focusing on this industry, how did that conflict manifest itself?

A. Well, I realized it wasn’t totally authentic for me to just be painting the containers without also communicating what I was learning about the industry and the growth of ports and ships and stuff. And so I started flipping through magazines, like National Park Magazine, and Sierra Magazine, and Smithsonian and Audubon, and I’d find these pristine images of these protected places, and then just throw my containers into them! So that it showed this beauty of the sharp-edged and the organic together, but then when you started thinking about it, it’s like — oh my god, this isn’t beautiful, this is a disaster.

Then I started working it through with larger paintings, and visiting sites that I wanted to do paintings of. I went to Yosemite National Park, Olympic National Park, Rainier National Park, and got imagery for the natural settings, these pristine settings that we protect, and then I drew my shipping industry imagery into that setting.

“Tipsoo Lake, After,” 2014. Click to embiggen. Mary Iverson

Q. And when you say that you were learning things about the shipping industry — what were they, exactly?

A. Well, the most striking thing is the growth of the industry, and it’s a really silent thing — like most people aren’t even aware that the goods we purchase are shipped over on these container ships, you know? Especially if you don’t live in a port city, you’re just not aware of the enormity of the commerce. And so I started researching volumes, like how many a day come into each port. As population grows, the market grows, and the ships grow, and the demand for goods grows. Because of our consumerism and the growth of the population, everything’s had to grow and grow and grow, so you get a big impact.

Q. Did you feel like this kind of juxtaposition of industry growth and beautiful, pristine natural spaces is particularly applicable to Seattle?

A. As a city, our identity is kind of split in the same way. I found myself split, because [a major] economic engine of our city, it could be argued, is the port. The jobs created, and the vitality of our city has a lot to do with having a port. We’re embracing that and then at the same time, we’re a town full of liberals and greenies — like the kayaktivists — and there’s this deep-seated respect and love of nature and our national parks. The identity of Seattle lies in being this rainy place with nature right next door. So it was kind of this split personality, locally — and so in my work, I’m trying to reconcile that, in a way.

“Glacier,” 2014. Click to embiggen. Mary Iverson

Q. These are not your typical overwrought, super-earnest environmental pieces, either. What do you think are the main pitfalls of art with an environmental message?

A. I think that the pitfalls [occur] when the message is ultra-specific, and what I think is strong about the message in my work is it just proposes a thought. The paintings don’t hit you over the head with it — it leaves a lot for the viewer to supply, you know? Of course, there’s some amazing work that’s very direct and specific, but I just like to present what’s going on more dispassionately. I’m not a neutral observer, but I am an observer before I’m an activist, in a way. I’m observing that these things are in discord, and then I’m presenting that, and then just leaving it to the viewer to figure out what’s going on.

Q. Who or what would you say are some of your main artistic influences?

A. Albert Bierstadt and Frank Stella. I’m sad there’s not a woman in there — I cast about for that, but the reality is that those are my two biggest influences.

Q. That is something that’s always pissed me off, that women have to have guilt about not picking women as their main influences.

A. I know! I think that the next generation of women artists and writers will be able to absolutely say, oh this woman is my main influence. We’re getting there, I think, but history is just too laden with men. It’s not our fault, right?

“Venice,” 2013. Click to embiggen. Mary Iverson
Filed under: Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

This amazing map is a guide to San Francisco’s hidden waterways

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 23:34

The first time I went on one of Joel Pomerantz’s tours of San Francisco, we hiked up to one of the few remaining aboveground portions of Islais Creek, part of the city’s old freshwater system. The creek used to run through the Mission and out into the bay; now it runs far out of sight, under a feeder road that leading to an interstate on-ramp.

It was the dry season, so the creek didn’t look like much — kind of like a very small, agitated puddle. But the water coming from it was ice cold and clear. I felt like I was being let in on an amazing mystery.

Pomerantz is how I found out that a hideous fountain downtown is one of the last places where the city’s underground streams bursts to the surface. He’s how I found out that the Wiggle, a popular bike route leading from the center of the city to the ocean, was an old stream bed. A passionate amateur, Pomerantz spent more time in archives and carrying out field research than a lot of academics I knew.

Now, much of that quasi-secret knowledge is available in the form of a map, called Seep City. Today, Seep City is a hold-in-your-hand kind of paper map; a book, which is a collaboration with the illustrator Emily Underwood, is also in the works, for summer release.

The map is fascinating for a lot of reasons, but especially because it has the same open-ended quality that I’ve noticed in Pomerantz’s tours. As Pomerantz explained it, in an email:

NO LABELS

Yeah, yeah. The map is hard to find your location on. It has no specific labels (except one sewer treatment plant!)

Two reasons:

First, it’s amazing how people who see a map will instantly decide what function it’s good for, look up that one thing, and set the thing aside. With this map, you can’t. You simply have to explore a little. I’ve witnessed fun aha! moments when people slow and look closely. That rubber-necking, by itself, justifies the decision.

At any rate, if you love maps, San Francisco, or both, Seep City is well worth a closer look.


Filed under: Article, Cities, Science
Categories: Environment

Measurabl and Optoro Launch “We Are Measurabl” Credential Pilot

PR Web - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:51

Measurabl’s new 'We Are Measurabl' campaign facilitates corporate sustainability transparency.

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12822850.htm

Categories: Environment

Colorado Whitewater Rafting Company Announces Re-Opening of the...

PR Web - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:51

River Runners is now booking advanced whitewater rafting trips on the Numbers section of the Arkansas River.

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12822845.htm

Categories: Environment

Propane Council of Texas Talks Creating Greener School Districts &...

PR Web - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:51

at the Texas Association of Pupil Transportation Conference

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12822846.htm

Categories: Environment

Hot in the Vineyard - Now What?

PR Web - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:51

Dade Moeller, a health and safety firm based in Richland, offers the following tips to help employers ensure the safety of their outdoor workers during the heat wave.

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12823032.htm

Categories: Environment

Local Dignitaries Gather to Announce San Diego’s Clean Air Challenge

PR Web - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:51

Sullivan Solar Power will donate $75,000 to the American Lung Association to promote clean air

(PRWeb June 30, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12823608.htm

Categories: Environment

Scientists take a page from super cows and engineer double-bacon hogs

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:46

We’ve had super cows for a long time — hulking dreadnoughts of rippling muscle, created when breeders happened to cross animals lacking the gene to regulate muscle growth.

Now scientists have shown that they can reproduce this condition, called double muscling, using simple gene editing, rather than employing a difficult breeding regime. As Nature reports, a team in South Korea has used gene editing techniques to create pigs that produce way more pork than the average hog:

These ‘double-muscled’ pigs are made by disrupting, or editing, a single gene — a change that is much less dramatic than those made in conventional genetic modification, in which genes from one species are transplanted into another. As a result, their creators hope that regulators will take a lenient stance towards the pigs — and that the breed could be among the first genetically engineered animals to be approved for human consumption.

These big pigs could mean that we kill fewer swine and use less land to satisfy the global bacon fixation. Gene editing could also be used to create disease-resistant livestock and hornless cattle, so farmers don’t have to burn off the horn nubs, as is usually done. As with any application of gene tech, we can also expect a muscular controversy.

These technical fixes make a lot of practical sense, but do nothing to solve the fundamental problem of carnivorousness: How do we reconcile love of animals and love of meat? Maybe we can gene-edit double-brained people to figure that out.


Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Food, Science
Categories: Environment

Airlines are investing in biofuels. How’s that shaking out?

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 22:31

Flying on an airplane is one of the most carbon-intensive things you can do. Whenever I calculate my carbon footprint, I start out feeling pretty good for biking and living in a place where more than half the electricity comes from non-greenhouse-gas emitting sources. Then I plug in my air travel, and it transforms my profile from parsimonious earth lover to fuel-slathered oil baron. The meteorologist and writer Eric Holthaus is one of the few people to achieve intellectual consistency by taking the obvious step, and giving up flying.

Now there’s a (very limited) way to fly without drowning Pacific Islanders. Many airlines have experimented with biofuels, and some have even instituted regular renewable-fuel flights. Just a quick reminder about how this works: The idea is that all the carbon in these biofuels comes from plants that sucked it out of the air, which would go back into the atmosphere either via decomposition, or by being burned in a jet engine. That doesn’t always pencil out — there are both good and bad biofuels. But at least the producers are trying.

Recently United Airlines joined the biofuel race, investing $30 million in Fulcrum BioEnergy. United will be both an investor and a regular customer, helping the company scale up. From the New York Times:

Fulcrum, a California-based company, has developed and certified a technology that turns municipal waste — household trash — into sustainable aviation fuel, a kind that can be blended directly with traditional jet fuels. It is currently building a biofuel refinery in Nevada to open in 2017, and has plans for five more plants around the country.

Both economics and regulation are driving the airlines to biofuel. Fulcrum’s CEO says that the company can produce biofuel for “a lot less than” $1 a gallon, while United has been buying fermented-dinosaur fuel for over $2 a gallon. And the Obama administration has said that it will regulate emissions from planes. Plus, the airline industry has committed to end increases in emissions by 2020.

United is hardly the only airline investing in biofuels. Here’s the New York Times again:

Alaska Airlines aims to use biofuels at least at one of its airports by 2020. Southwest Airlines announced last year that it would purchase about three million gallons a year of jet fuel made from wood residues from Red Rock Biofuels. The first blend of this new fuel product, however, won’t be available until 2016.

Last year, British Airways joined with Solena Fuels to build a biofuel refinery near London’s Heathrow Airport, which will be completed by 2017.

United’s deal is the airline’s second major push toward alternative fuels. In 2013, the airline agreed to buy 15 million gallons of biofuels over three years from a California-based producer called AltAir Fuels, which makes biofuels out of nonedible natural oils and agricultural waste. United expects that the first five million gallons from AltAir will be delivered this summer at its Los Angeles International Airport hub to help power the flights to San Francisco.

To make this work, airlines must find responsible sources for biofuels — they aren’t environmentally friendly if you have to cut down swaths of rainforest to grow the fuel. From what I’ve seen, airlines seem to understand this. If Fulcrum really does have the key to undercutting the fossil fuel market with renewable energy, maybe I’ll be able to bump into Holthaus in the airport and — for the first time — not be a hypocrite.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

How buying in bulk actually wastes food

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 20:20

This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

If you’re like me, you writhe in guilt-ridden anguish each time you forget to bring your canvas tote to the grocery store. But in the rare times we do remember our reusable bags, Americans tend not to think much about what we actually put inside them, according to a new survey. The takeaway: We waste a lot of extra food (and money) simply because we don’t shop often enough.

As big of a problem as it is, food waste rarely makes the news. There was some buzz a while back about France’s ban on grocery stores throwing out edible food, but the numbers show that this is only a small part of the problem. Americans vastly underestimate their own food waste, which turns out to be driven mostly by a desire to avoid getting sick — even though saving money is also a top priority. That means we end up stocking our shelves with more than we need to ensure we’ll always have something fresh when we want it.

That sort of behavior is encouraged at bulk stores like Costco and Walmart, which operate on the myth that buying in bulk helps you save money. But new evidence shows that the push for huge quantities of cheap, high-quality food has caused us to be more wasteful than ever. Simply put: We’re throwing away more in food waste than we are saving by buying in bulk.

“People almost entirely neglect the cost of the food they’re throwing away from their kitchen,” says Victoria Ligon of the University of Arizona, who led the new study. “If you throw away a meal because you’ve eaten out when you weren’t planning to, the cost of that restaurant meal is higher than you think. People don’t account for that at all.”

Ligon’s study examined shopping patterns of several households through in-depth interviews and food diaries. The results found that people are generally too ambitious in their grocery shopping — buying ingredients for meals days or weeks in advance — when our brains and appetites are hard-wired for little more than the next meal. Our lives get busy, we may schedule a few impromptu evenings out with friends, and suddenly we have a pile of furry cucumbers at the bottom of the fridge. As most people who have ever cooked a meal know, planning meals days in advance is almost impossible.

“Every single person I talked to in my study felt very uncomfortable at the idea of throwing away food,” says Ligon. “We have very strong norms in our culture around not wasting.” But Ligon says people shouldn’t feel guilty: “This is not a problem that stems from individual apathy. It’s a structural problem.”

The bulk stores know this — their whole business model is to trick us into buying more than we need, and all the better if the food seems healthy and good for the planet. During a green push several years ago, Walmart became the biggest grocery store chain in the country. In May, Costco — that wonderland of nine-pound cases of bison jerky and terrier-sized tubs of licorice — became the leading purveyor of organic grocery items, dethroning Whole Foods. Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, which operate on a similar membership-based, it-takes-two-people-to-push-a-cart style of warehouse retail, is reportedly moving in a similar direction and greatly expanding its organic offerings. Organic food is becoming big business, at least partly because stores are able to charge higher markups.

Which brings us back to food waste. As much as 40 percent of America’s food supply gets thrown away every day, with perishable items like dairy, breads, meats, fruits, and vegetables leading the way. The total annual bill of food waste for consumers is a whopping $162 billion, which works out to about $1,300 to $2,300 per family per year. Clearly, that much food could feed a lot of people who otherwise go hungry.

But even that huge sum doesn’t factor in knock-on effects: Wasting food means we’re throwing away money, but we’re also throwing away 35 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and 300 million gallons of oil each year. That makes tackling food waste the low-hanging fruit amid growing concern over drought and climate change. Next to paper and yard trimmings, food takes up the biggest share of the nation’s landfills — and contributes about 20 percent of the country’s methane emissions.

Ligon thinks she’s found the start of a solution: Just shop more often.

“When you’re talking about food, feeling really plays a big role. Things like predicting how hungry you are, your appetite, and what you’re in the mood for — in the future — turn out to be very challenging,” Ligon says. “If you’re shopping more frequently, you can purchase food that is meant to be eaten in a shorter time frame.”

But there’s a catch. Ligon’s research also revealed that people regularly buy groceries from three to seven different stores. With so many choices, there’s an incentive to overbuy at each stop — especially if you don’t plan on being back for a few days. We’ve all done this: You go into Trader Joe’s planning to buy some nectarines, and you come out with an armful of specialty potato chips and four frozen pizzas.

Ligon says same-day food delivery services like AmazonFresh (which charges $299 per year for free deliveries over $50 and provides you with a magic wand by which you can place your orders) and soon-to-emerge smartfridges that suggest recipes for you based on your food that’s about to go bad (like this one Samsung showcased in 2013) might be among the most promising ways to cut down on waste, with big rewards in water, energy, and climate change — and money.

After all, you can’t waste what you don’t buy in the first place.


Filed under: Food, Living
Categories: Environment

London will try to beat traffic and air pollution with this new electric bus

Grist.org - Tue, 06/30/2015 - 20:00

Brits, rejoice! London’s iconic double-decker buses could get a new green makeover.

On Monday, city officials announced that London will begin test-driving an electric double-decker bus in October. Quartz has the details:

The bus will be built by Chinese firm BYD and will run on the number 16 bus route, which goes from northwest London down into Victoria Station. London has had single-decker electric buses on its streets since 2013, but electric double-deckers had previously been thought to be too difficult to build, due to the challenges in efficiently powering something so large, the Mayor’s office said in a release. But BYD’s new battery technology will apparently be light and cheap enough to run in a double-decker bus.

Brilliant! The plan is part of a commitment London city leaders made earlier this week. “At a global clean bus summit at City Hall in London, 24 cities pledged to roll out 40,000 low-emission buses by the end of the decade,” The Guardian reports. The new launch follows London officials’ efforts to reduce inner-city traffic congestion and lower vehicle emissions. Here’s how the mayor describes the current situation:

[Boris] Johnson, who uses the city’s bike-share system to commute to work most days, told the Guardian that he would welcome the quieter, greener buses on his city’s streets, saying current buses are like “throbbing, belching machines that emit their fumes like wounded war-elephants.”

Sounds like the city has held onto its nickname “The Old Smoke” for a reason. Yikes.


Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Cities
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