Daily Archives: December 4, 2012

Higher education sustainability news roundup

Rensselaer Launches New Degree Program in Sustainability Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is launching a new undergraduate major in sustainability studies through the School of Humanities Arts, and Social Sciences. The new major, which results in a B.S. in Science and Technology Studies – Sustainability Studies, is an option that crosses disciplinary boundaries by design at the nation’s oldest technological university.

Student Eco-Reps Teach Peers about Sustainable Living
More than 20 ESF students took a trip to the Central New York Regional Market as part of a new Eco-Representative Program that uses peer-to-peer interaction to educate students about sustainability. Called Eco-Reps for short, the program focuses on raising awareness about sustainability issues among students who live in Centennial Hall, ESF’s first residence hall, and educating them about sustainable practices. Nine students who live in the building were selected after an application process to be the Eco-Reps who help educate their peers.

Northwestern students push plastic water bottle ban
Students covered The Rock in plastic water bottles Friday to launch a campaign to ban their sale on Northwestern’s campus. Headed by Pura Playa, a plastic reduction team within Engineers for a Sustainable World, the initiative involves petitioning the student body and spreading an educational message about the harmful effects of plastic on the environment.

New sustainability office grand opening scheduled for Nov. 8 at Western Michigan University
After months of renovations, the Western Michigan University’s Office for Sustainability is unveiling its new home on the corner of Howard Street and West Michigan Avenue.

Eastern students, faculty produce biomass, biodiesel
Eastern’s biological sciences department is collaborating with the efforts of the Renewable Energy Center to promote a greener future for the university.

Colleges turn garbage into ‘really good dirt’
Four local colleges and universities — Medical University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, Trident Technical College and The Citadel — have contracted with Koeckeritz’s Food Waste Disposal to recycle their food waste, said Christine Cooley, MUSC’s sustainability manager. Working together, she said, the colleges likely will save money and help support a program that is good for the environment and saves space in the landfill.

Empowerhouse — Opening Soon!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a year since Empowerhouse was in the Solar Decathlon (where it won the competition’s first Affordability contest). Now, after several years of hard work by the Empowerhouse team and our partners, this project will become a real home for two local families in the D.C. neighborhood of Deanwood, and the District’s first passive house (meeting today’s highest energy standards). At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 4, the project partners will gather one final time to celebrate with the community, and welcome two lucky homeowners to their new homes.


Forward Progress in Reducing Oily-Wastewater: A Forward Osmosis, Small-scale Pilot at a Metal Fabricator

Download the fact sheet.

Forward osmosis is the natural diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane from a solution of a lower solute concentration to a solution with a higher solute concentration. Taking advantage of this natural process, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) research staff successfully reduced volumes of three (3) common water-based industrial process waste streams at a small metal fabricator. Instead of conventional energy-intensive alternatives, researchers employed fledgling forward osmosis technology, using chemistry instead of energy to remove water from common process fluids.


Why a nexus of regulatory requirements may take IT by surprise

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a four-part series covering the state of sustainable supply-chain management in the IT sector. Read part 1 focused on product takeback and e-waste recycling here.

My previous post Product takeback and e-waste recycling: A growing business opportunity discussed best-in-class solutions to the challenge posed by state-level legislation mandating e-waste recycling. To recap, Malk Sustainability Partners (MSP), a specialty management consultancy that guides businesses in developing profitable corporate sustainability strategies, engaged 29 global IT companies and five industry experts to investigate the key drivers, important issues, and popular strategies behind the sector’s adoption of sustainable supply-chain management (SSCM). MSP then synthesized this information into a study describing the state of SSCM in IT, available for download here.

This post will discuss key drivers of SSCM strategies identified by interview respondents.


5 steps to an energy-efficient IT environment

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Energy inefficient data centers have generated a fair amount of heat recently, deservedly or not. If you maintain IT facilities or a data center, here’s 5 steps compiled by Green Grid — a global, non-profit industry consortium working to improve resource efficient information technology and data centers — to make sure that finger is never pointed at you.

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Data centers, Energy efficiency


Next in line for certification: The world’s cities

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

There are certifications for green buildings and green neighborhoods under LEED, and a new certification for built landscapes, but until now there’s been no way to certify a city’s efforts toward sustainability.

The “City Protocol,” planned for launch early next year, already has 30 cities and universities across the world signed on. It will be managed by a newly formed organization, the City Protocol Society.

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Certification, Government, Green building


4 steps for companies on the path to chemical safety

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

On the road to safer chemicals, it’s important to have a vision and goals, but while it may be easy to set your destination, the biggest challenge can be how to start your journey.

To give a boost to companies just starting to think about chemicals — as well as those already on their way — BizNGO has released “The Guide to Safer Chemicals,” a detailed look of all the steps companies can take, along with examples of what’s already in practice.

Additional resources


Can mechanical engineers build a case for sustainable design?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Perhaps I speak for many of us in sustainability when I say that I’ve grown slightly jaded about the barrage of headlines in my inbox boasting cheery statistics related to levels of corporate commitment to sustainability.

Many of the survey result reports I read poll CEO perceptions, which not surprisingly, are astronomically high. For example, the excellent UN Global Compact/Accenture study last year said “Ninety-three percent of CEOs believe that sustainability will be critical to the future success of their business.”

The new Business for Social Responsibility/Globescan survey results, which I tear open with joyful glee (as much as one can tear open a PDF) each year, point out that among sustainability leaders, “The most important leadership challenge facing business today is the integration of sustainability into core business functions.” A respectable 62 percent said this was the most significant challenge.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Green business, Sustainable design


Using Technology to Connect Students & the Environment

Watch this new video and leave a comment telling the National Environmental Education Foundation how YOU use technology to explore the environment with your students. Leave a comment on their Facebook page (link in the video description) to have the chance to win Toshiba educational technology prizes for their classroom! Drawing ends Dec. 14.  For complete rules visit

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Awards & contests, K-12, Video


Biochar Blanket Means Business

Read the project summary at

Most forest harvesting leaves behind significant amounts of woody debris, posing forest health risks and increased fuel for forest fires. Typically, this woody biomass is piled up and burned on-site or left to slowly decompose.

Rather than letting the woody side products of logging go up in smoke, Daniel Schwartz’s team at the University of Washington developed a heat-resistant laminate “blanket” that wraps around the slash pile to form a biochar-baking kiln.The controlled heating converts woody debris into biochar–a greener alternative to coal that can also be used as a nutrient-rich soil additive for organic gardeners.

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Biochar


ISU researchers explore the effects of biochar on downstream ecosystems

Read the full story from Iowa State University.

Biochar may be a next-generation soil amendment utilized by farmers to increase agricultural productivity.

While this biorenewable solution has potential for commercial use in the near future, there are aspects and variables that could be further explored to improve the capabilities of biochar.

Lori Biederman, adjunct assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and William Harpole, assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, received a grant from the ISU-based Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to experiment and research the effects of biochar on a restored native prairie plant species in Western Iowa. Harpole said the experiment will explore the downstream ecosystem impacts of biochar on native plants and biodiversity.

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Agriculture, Biochar


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