By Gretchen Cuda Kroen (NPR) Pouring water into clear plastic bottles and placing them in the sun can kill disease causing organisms in about six hours. It’s a simple and cheap method that’s been around forever, and it helps. (Who says sun tea isn’t safe?)
But there’s a hitch – the water has to be clear enough for the sun’s rays to penetrate – and much of the world’s water supply is murky from the clay soils in riverbeds and lake bottoms that mix with the water. Enter the scientists.
“Basically, you need to be able to read a newspaper through it. That means it’s clear enough for the UV radiation to penetrate and kill the pathogens. If you can’t see through it, it just won’t work,” explains Joshua Pierce, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Tech.
Pierce and his colleagues discovered that by adding a little table salt to this murky water, they could get the particles of clay to stick together and settle to the bottom, making the water clear enough to purify using the solar disinfection method. They also found that the addition of salt works best for certain kinds of clay soils, namely bentonite, and not so well with others. But when they added a little bentonite along with salt to water that contained other types of clay soils, it worked just as well.
via Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime : The Salt : NPR.
Data publishing site Ecodesk has profiled the sustainability strategy of 4,000 of the world’s largest companies and their cost savings making it the largest free, public database of business carbon, energy, waste and water scores in the world. These 4,000 case studies have already realised millions in savings from reporting and analysing their data through Ecodesk. These include DHL and Microsoft among many others.
‘We want to encourage transparency and accuracy in carbon, energy, water and waste reporting.’ —Robert Clarke, CEO of Ecodesk.
The site, which officially launches today and is funded by UK Sterling 1.5m private equity and government grants, has made carbon data scores available for free and comparable for the first time. There are over 17,000 profiles in total. → continue reading
(USGS) Personal interviews with Alaska Natives in the Yukon River Basin provide unique insights on climate change and its impacts, helping develop adaptation strategies for these local communities.
The Village of St. Mary’s, Alaska
The village of St. Mary’s, Alaska where USGS scientists conducted interviews with hunters and elders to document their observations of climate change. The village lies in the Yukon River Basin on the banks of the Andreafsky River, a tributary of the Yukon River.
Photo Credit: School District of St. Mary’s, Alaska. (High resolution image)
The USGS coordinated interviews with Yup’ik hunters and elders in the villages of St. Mary’s and Pitka’s Point, Alaska, to document their observations of climate change. They expressed concerns ranging from safety, such as unpredictable weather patterns and dangerous ice conditions, to changes in plants and animals as well as decreased availability of firewood.
“Many climate change studies are conducted on a large scale, and there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how climate change will impact specific regions,” said USGS social scientist Nicole Herman-Mercer. “This study helps address that uncertainty and really understand climate change as a socioeconomic issue by talking directly to those with traditional and personal environmental knowledge.”
→ continue reading
By John Vidal (Guardian UK) One of the world’s most prominent scientific figures to be sceptical about climate change has admitted to being paid more than $1m in the past decade by major US oil and coal companies.
Dr Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for his view that global warming and the melting of the arctic sea ice is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions, and that polar bears are not primarily threatened by climate change.
But according to a Greenpeace US investigation, he has been heavily funded by coal and oil industry interests since 2001, receiving money from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Insitute and Koch Industries along with Southern, one of the world’s largest coal-burning utility companies. Since 2002, it is alleged, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.
In addition, freedom of information documents suggest that Soon corresponded in 2003 with other prominent climate sceptics to try to weaken a major assessment of global warming being conducted by the UN’s leading climate science body, the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Soon, who had previously disclosed corporate funding he received in the 1990s, was today reportely unapologetic, telling Reuters that he agreed that he had received money from all of the groups and companies named in the report but denied that any group would have influenced his studies.
via Climate sceptic Willie Soon received $1m from oil companies, papers show | Environment | guardian.co.uk.
NASA's eco-friendly 'Sustainability Base' generates more electricity than it uses
By Tiffany Hsu (Los Angeles Times) Instead of sending its employees to space, NASA is building them an office of the future closer to home.
The curvy, space-age building at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley incorporates technology used by astronauts and will be one of a few structures in the state that can generate more electricity than it consumes. Construction won’t be complete until mid-July, but the federal government has already chosen the $20-million facility its green building of the year.
It has a name only government officials could love — the Sustainability Base — but it is generating a lot of buzz among businesses and government agencies trying to be more green. The structure, near San Jose, was designed to be a model of eco-friendly architecture.
“Buildings of the future could actually produce more energy than they use and reverse the trend of being a big, sucking drain without compromising anything,” said Steven Zornetzer, Ames’ associate center director.
Compared to other office buildings of similar size, the Sustainability Base will be about 6% more expensive to construct, he said. But NASA expects to recoup the expense within a decade because the building will cost less to operate.
via NASA Sustainability Base green building: NASA’s Sustainability Base generates buzz for its eco-friendly architecture – latimes.com.
(AP) Researchers have developed ways to substitute chicken feathers for petroleum in some plastic products, and at least two companies are working to bring items ranging from biodegradable flower pots to office furniture to market.
The substitution would allow the U.S. to cut back on its oil use, however slightly, and give poultry producers another market for the more than 3 billion pounds of chicken feathers they have leftover each year, the developers and others said. The challenge, they added, is coming up with products that manufacturers and consumers want at a price that’s right.
“What works in the lab and what works commercially are two different things,” said Sonny Meyerhoeffer, whose company began selling flower pots made partially from feathers last fall.
His company has patented a process for removing keratin resin from feathers for use in making plastics. Keratin, a tough protein fiber also found in fingernails, hair and horns, can replace petroleum in some cases. Right now, Meyerhoeffer’s company sells flower pots that contain 40 percent bioresins, although it has been able to make ones that are completely biodegradable and made from feathers.
via Researchers sub feathers for petroleum in biodegradable flower pots; other products in works – The Washington Post.
(CNet) Algae oil maker Solazyme picked a time of rising oil prices and oil over $100 a barrel to signal it plans to go public on the stock market. The San Francisco-based company on Friday filed its S-1 document to the Securities and Exchange Commission, outlining its plan to raise up to $100 million through an initial public offering. Solazyme grows algae with sugars in closed fermentation tanks to create oils, which can be used for liquid fuel and chemicals, foods, or personal care products.
via Algae oil maker Solazyme files to go public | Green Tech – CNET News.
By Viva Sarah Press (Israel21C) A Weizmann Institute scientist says clues to the history of pollution can be found in old books – - but not in the written word, rather in the paper itself.
Prof. Dan Yakir of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy Research in the Faculty of Chemistry found the paper in library collections of old books and newspapers contains a record of atmospheric conditions at the time the trees that went into making the paper were growing. Yakir says he has traced the effects of atmospheric pollution from burning fossil fuel going back to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.
via History of pollution found in old books | briefs.
New York City’s sewage presents a daunting and costly challenge: it creates foul odors and often contaminates waterways.
But the city is now casting its sewage treatment plants and the vast amounts of sludge, methane gas and other byproducts of the wastewater produced by New Yorkers, as an asset — specifically, as potential sources of renewable energy.For the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which is to issue its strategy on Wednesday, it is a shift. Until now, the agency has mainly played the role of water utility and environmental steward rather than energy producer.
But like other cities around the country looking to reduce both the costs of sewage treatment and disposal and the heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted in the process, New York is beginning to look at its waste as an untapped resource.
Heating fuel can be extracted from sludge and butanol, an alternative fuel to gasoline, from the algae generated by wastewater. Sewage treatment plants could sell methane gas to provide power to homes. Such projects represent a more sustainable long-term approach to managing a wastewater treatment process that costs the city about $400 million annually, not including capital investments.
via New York City Moves on Using Methane for Power – NYTimes.com.
(Washington Post) Jess Parker hugs trees. In the woods of Anne Arundel County, he throws his arms around tulip poplars, oaks and American beeches, and holds them so tightly that his cheek presses into their bark. This is not some hiker on a lark: anybody, hopped up on campfire coffee and exercise endorphins, might hug a tree once.
This is science. Parker has done it about 50,000 times. Parker, a forest ecologist at the Smithsonian Institution, has spent the past 22 years on a research project so repetitive, so time-consuming, that it impresses even researchers with the patience to count tree rings. Since 1987, he and a group of volunteers have embraced thousands of trees, slipped a tape measure behind them, and wrapped it around to measure the trees’ girth.
This year, after about 250,000 hugs between them, the work paid off. Parker’s data, which showed the trunks gradually fattening over time, indicated that many of the trees were growing two to four times faster than expected. That raised questions about climate change’s impact on the age-old rhythms of U.S. forests.
Read the rest: Climate change’s impact on forests being measured via expanding tree trunks – By David A. Fahrenthold washingtonpost.com.