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Vibrant Environment

Sustainable Business Models for Codigesting Food Waste

Creating Energy from Food Waste (EPA/Flickr)
Carol Adaire Jones
Monday, March 19, 2018

The wastewater sector’s “Utility of the Future” (UOTF) initiative envisions the sector’s transformation from managing waste to recovering and recycling valuable resources, thereby creating financial benefits for utilities, as well as environmental and economic development benefits for communities. Adding food waste to anaerobic digesters (AD) processing sewage sludge, a process called codigestion, is a promising UOTF innovation that expands the sector’s potential to recover renewable biogas for heat, power, and fuel, and to extract nutrients for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Yet, U.S. adoption of codigestion remains low: about 1 in 10 wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) have adopted AD, and about 1 in 10 of those is codigesting. To address this untapped potential, ELI has launched a new project to identify alternative sustainable business models for successful codigestion.

SCOOP & STACK Causing Cracks: Oklahoma Tightens Regulations to Curb Fracking Earthquakes

A USGS map reveals the dramatic increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma (USGS).
Miriam Aczel
Monday, March 5, 2018

After a slew of earthquakes triggered from shale oil and gas operations, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, released new rules designed to reduce seismic activity. Hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is being used in combination with horizontal drilling to extract shale oil and gas in what has been called the “US’s hottest new area for horizontal development” in the state’s SCOOP [1] and STACK [2] shale plays, located in the Anadarko Basin.

War and Peace: Colombia’s Environmental Degradation Paradox

Policía Antinarcóticos  stand on guard after burning a coca laboratory near Tuma
Nora Moraga-Lewy
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels signed a historic peace accord in late 2016, ending a civil war that caused over 220,000 deaths and the internal displacement of over 7 million people. In addition to devastating lives and livelihoods, the civil war was destructive to the environment. Following historic negotiations and the congressional ratification of a revised agreement, Colombia still faces environmental risks in a time of relative peace. It is crucial that ongoing talks and reforms in the wake of over five decades of conflict take these factors into account in order to ensure sustained peace and development for the future.

Of Frogs and Men

Are frogs better than humans at responding to slow threats?
ELR Staff
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore famously used the example of a slowly boiled frog as a metaphor for climate change. That turns out not to be accurate, as biologists say the frog is smart enough to jump out of the pot long before it becomes frog soup. But the problem Gore described is real enough.

Public Participation in Federal Land Management: Is Innovation Still Possible?

Western states have been at the forefront of the debate about federal land manag
ELR Staff
Monday, January 8, 2018

Federal public lands account for 47% of the American West, and more than 90% of all federal land is found in the 11 westernmost states and Alaska. Between them, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management administer about 34% of the western landscape, including almost 85% of Nevada; more than 50% of Idaho, Oregon, and Utah; and more than 40% of the land in four other western states. The appropriate use, management, and ownership of these lands have been the subject of heated debate since they were first established, and the debate has anything but waned since President Trump took office. 

Ninth Circuit Reinforces Executive Power to Withdraw Public Lands From Mining Extraction

The Colorado River, Grand Canyon
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Following President Trump’s announcement that he was reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, there have been questions as to the extent of the executive branch’s power to manage federal lands. The announcement has put the Antiquities Act, which grants the president the authority to protect federal lands, under a microscope. Recently, two cases concerning the U.S.

Rethinking Reforestation: Degradation as a Carbon Source in Tropical Forests

The Brazilian Amazon (Wikimedia Commons)
Lovinia Reynolds
Monday, December 18, 2017

Tropical forest ecosystems are globally recognized for their carbon sequestration capacities. Past research has estimated that tropical forests on average sequester a net 1400 teragrams of carbon per year, the equivalent of taking approximately 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road. International governing bodies, national governments, and nonprofit organizations have attempted to capitalize on the carbon sequestration services provided by tropical forests in an increasingly carbon rich atmosphere.  Programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation + enhancing forest carbon stocks) have resulted in significant expenditures of efforts and resources into developing frameworks for preserving tropical forests.

Something Old, Something New—Presidential Authority and the Antiquities Act

The Golden Cathedral, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (John Fowler)
Caitlin F. McCarthy
Thursday, December 14, 2017

The 1906 Antiquities Act grants presidents the authority to protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest. Yet, last April, more than a century after the passage of the Antiquities Act and more than 50 years since the last alteration of national monument boundaries, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order instructing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to undertake a broad review of national monuments created since 1996 under the Antiquities Act and that span at least 100,000 acres. On December 4, 2017, acting on Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, President Trump issued two proclamations significantly reducing the acreage and perimeters of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

Analyzing the Food Rescue Landscape in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee (Wikimedia Commons)
Emmett McKinney
JoAnne Berkenkamp
Linda Breggin
Monday, November 20, 2017

Some say leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While that may be true, the rest of the year, there are ample missed opportunities to donate surplus prepared foods from institutions and restaurants. Realizing these opportunities is an important way to waste less food and feed more people, because up to 40% of food (along with the water, energy, and land used in production) goes to waste every year in the United States. At the same time, over 13% of Americans—one in eight—experience food insecurity.

Houston After Harvey: Building Resilience, or Business as Usual?

Buffalo Bayou Park (Nora M.L.)
Nora Moraga-Lewy
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Houston’s 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood. The park is lined with native vegetation and landscaped to channel runoff and maximize floodwater transport capacity. Dog-walkers, joggers, bikers, and picnickers frequent the park, which also serves as habitat for native plant and animal species and has features that help filter pollutants from stormwater runoff that would otherwise flow directly into the waterway.