Recent Blog Entries

  • MargaretThibo
    Liquor Company Gets the Green Spirit
    Entry posted July 23, 2015 by MargaretThiboSuper Contributor 
    Title:
    Liquor Company Gets the Green Spirit
    Entry:

    Members of the spirit industry have taken it upon themselves to become more environmentally conscious. Liquor Companies are focusing on decreasing the output of hazardous waste materials, reducing water consumption, and reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases. One of the best examples is Bacardi Limited  who  established the Bacardi Limited Good Spirited global sustainability program, which ultimately aims to reduce the company’s energy consumption and global environmental impact significantly by 2022.

    One of the first initiatives of the program was to ensure that Bacardi is obtaining ingredients from sustainable suppliers. The company hopes to be using 40% sustainable sugarcane by 2017 and 100% by 2022. Similarly, they are working to ensure that all packaging materials used come from a sustainable source. Over time they wish to reduce the size and weight of their packaging altogether, making it 10% lighter by 2017 and 15% lighter by 2022. Bacardi is also cutting the water that they use 55% by 2017.

    The Bacardi owned, John Dewar & Sons Company has recently reduced their carbon footprint by at least 90% as a part of Bacardi’s Good Spirited global sustainability program. The Scottish Whiskey distillery did so by installing a biomass boiler in its Aberfeldy Distillery. The biomass boiler was the final decision after months of researching alternative methods of sustainable energy. The boiler burns wood pellets will cut the distiller’s annual emissions by 6,000 tons.

    The Scottish company has also taken initiatives to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 34% since 2006, decrease its water used by 46% since 2009, and reduce land pollution by 30% since 2010. The Bacardi Limited Company has overall reduced its general energy consumption by 25% and greenhouse gas emissions by 48% since 2006. The spirits company is very close to its 2022 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission by 50%.

    Keywords:
    hazardous waste materials, sustainable energy, land pollution
  • MargaretThibo
    Mercury Mystery
    Entry posted July 23, 2015 by MargaretThiboSuper Contributor 
    Title:
    Mercury Mystery
    Entry:

    Members of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) have recently highlighted a troubling phenomenon occurring in many of the state’s 3,000 fresh waterways. The concern lies in the increased levels of mercury being found in local fish despite the fact the mercury water contamination has been decreased significantly.

    At least six studies in Massachusetts over the past decade have demonstrated increased mercury levels in fish. The issue is also widespread, not isolated to one lake or pond. The State tested 250 lakes, with 16 of those lakes having fish with mercury levels too high for human consumption. Other lakes and ponds simply advise that children and pregnant woman do not consume any fish caught.

    There are a few theories in explaining why fish are continuing to demonstrate high mercury levels despite their environment having less. One of those theories discusses the amount of mercury in the air blowing into the Northeast from power plants across the ocean. Dust from nearby gold mines could also be to blame. Other theories include the climate’s continued change and a reduction of acid rain. A reduction of acid rain means that local waterways have a more basic PH level, allowing the organic sediment in the lake to release more carbon. This increased concentration carbon reacts with trace amounts of mercury resulting in a much more potent methylmercury. The form is more easily absorbed by both fish and humans.

    Environmental and health officials feel that the continued issue of high mercury levels in freshwater fish cannot be properly researched due to federal and state government budget cuts. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has discontinued the majority of its full time positions regarding mercury levels in fish. Massachusetts, a state highly concerned about the findings, has cut the amount of standard sampled they conduct in half, while its neighbor to the south, Connecticut hasn’t tested fish for mercury over a decade.

    Keywords:
    water contamination
  • MargaretThibo
    A Sunny Future for Job Seekers
    Entry posted July 17, 2015 by MargaretThiboSuper Contributor 
    Title:
    A Sunny Future for Job Seekers
    Entry:

    The U.S. government has decided to make growth in the solar energy industry a top priority. This plan also intends on stimulating the economy by creating quality, well-paying jobs for Americans. The focus would also be on training U.S. veterans for those positions.  The hope is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26%-28% by 2025 while continuing to make solar power less expensive.

    This plan to accomplish all of these goals will begin with the Department of Energy (DOE) committing to train 75,000 solar energy workers by 2020. In order to accomplish this lofty goal the DOE will work with over four hundred community colleges across the nation in order to train instructors and recruit students. The past five years have resulted in over 1,000 solar instructors ready to educate a workforce.

    The Department of Energy has also partnered with the Department of Defense (DOD) to start the Solar Ready Vets Program. This program has been launched at ten military bases in the U.S. so far and will focus on training veterans transitioning from military service to civilian life. The Solar Ready Vets Program hopes to provide these deserving men and women with technical skills like installing solar panels, connecting to electrical grids, as well as how to work within municipal building codes.

    In order to ensure that U.S. veterans are able to receive an adequate solar education the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is working to have the Solar Ready program completely covered financially under the GI Bill. Once this occurs, even more military personnel may have to opportunity to move toward a quality career in the solar field. The Department of Labor (DOL) will also place an emphasis on educating unemployed veterans about opportunities in the solar industry.

    Growth in the solar industry has allowed the price of sustainable energy drop by almost 12%, making more commercial and residential customers interested in the option. The federal government has also decided to lead by example. For example, major solar pane projects have been implemented at military bases across the nation. These projects also serve as great learning experiences for individuals new to the industry. Another major stimulus was the decision to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to introduce solar power to affordable housing projects. The federal government also created the Climate Action Champion competition to encourage local communities to implement solar energy initiatives. At the end of 2014, 158 communities were recognized for their outstanding work toward environmental sustainability.

    The federal government has decided to highlight the importance of solar power as a green power source. The increased demand for sustainable energy has also increased the need for a skilled labor force. With that said there has been an added effort by the government to fill those positions with military veterans. These initiatives are helping reduce green house emissions, providing affordable energy, creating jobs, stimulating the U.S. economy, and giving deserving veterans job opportunities. It is the hard work and willingness for many federal Departments to work together that makes any of these goals attainable.

     

    Keywords:
    environmental sustainability, green power
  • MargaretThibo
    Biofuels Take Flight
    Entry posted July 17, 2015 by MargaretThiboSuper Contributor 
    Title:
    Biofuels Take Flight
    Entry:

    Airline companies are taking proactive measures to move toward implementing the usage of biofuels. Biofuels would be replacing traditional jet fuel and in turn decrease their carbon footprint. Currently the airline industry accounts for about 2% of the global carbon emissions, but it is also the fastest growing producer. The switch to biofuels is being spearheaded by United Airlines who have recently announced that they are investing $30 million into Fulcrum BioEnergy, one of the world’s leaders in aviation biofuels.

    Recent decisions to move towards biofuel as an alternative are not however entirely noble or even voluntary. Airlines are beginning to care about decreasing their carbon footprint as government mandated limitations and environmental regulations become inevitable. The Obama administration has put limitations on aviation emissions on its agenda for the near future. The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization has also promised carbon emission limitations by early 2016. Fulcrum BioEnergy states that biofuel could cut emissions by 80%. By airline remaining a step ahead of legislation, they will not be stuck making drastic, unprepared or potentially expensive decisions down the road to satisfy authorities.

    Airlines are also seeking to increase their bottom line. Jet fuel is by far the biggest expense for any airline so coming up with a cheaper alternative is highly attractive. United Airlines consumed 3.9 billion gallons of jet fuel last year costing them a whopping $11.6 billion. Fulcrum promises that the company can produce large quantities of biofuel for less than $1 a gallon, compared to the $2.11 a gallon currently being paid for jet fuel.

    Aviation’s biofuels are made out of several products including municipal waste, natural oils, as well as agricultural waste. New technologies are making this a much easier, more efficient, and cheaper process for biofuel companies. The problem now surrounds creating relationships and deals with the waste industry so that the waste can be collected and processed. Fulcrum is planning on opening Nevada refinery so that they can increase biofuel production by 2017 and has several contracts with municipal waste companies pending.

    Other airlines are also making the effort to convert to biofuels, with Alaska Airlines vowing to have one airport using biofuels and Southwest Airlines using an estimated 3 million gallons of biofuel by 2016.British Airways has also aligned itself with Solena Fuels to construct a biofuel refinery outside of London by 2017.The construction of future refineries implies that biofuels will only become more readily available and cheaper for airlines to use. 

    The future for biofuel companies looks bright as airline companies have few alternatives to cut their carbon emissions. Unlike cars, they do not have the option to go electric or use other forms of sustainable energy.  Currently biofuels are being mixed with traditional jet fuel on certain flights. Eventually researchers hope to be able to use 100% biofuels. Passengers on planes using biofuels should not notice any change in their flight using biofuel. United Airlines currently runs a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco using biofuels and have had no issues.

     

    Keywords:
    environmental regulations
  • MargaretThibo
    Asbestos Found in Kid'sToys
    Entry posted July 17, 2015 by MargaretThiboSuper Contributor 
    Title:
    Asbestos Found in Kid'sToys
    Entry:

    Nonprofit group, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund has discovered that several brands of children’s crayons as well as some toy fingerprint powders contain asbestos. The group is especially concerned since the issue of asbestos in children’s toys came up a few years prior with no regulation implemented to prevent it from happening again.

    All of the products were made in China and shipped to the U.S. Of twenty-eight boxes of crayons, four tested positive for asbestos. All of the crayons testing positive for asbestos had wrappers the Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Mickey Mouse, clearly geared for children to be the primary users. The major concern for asbestos exposure is that young children are not only handling the crayons, but could eat them. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission replied to concerns stating that the asbestos fragments are imbedded in the cray’s wax so exposure is unlikely.

    Two out of twenty-one play crime lab kits contained fingerprint powder that contained asbestos, which can easily be inhaled by individuals playing with it. The source of the asbestos has been linked to talc used as a binding agent in the toys. Ideally, critics would like the use of asbestos talc to be banned completely in the manufacturing of products use in the U.S.

    While the presents of asbestos in toys seem shocking, it is even more shocking to know that there is currently little to no environmental regulation in place regarding the use of asbestos many consumer products. The reason for this lack of regulation is simply due to that fact that the amount of asbestos that will make a person ill has never been determined. Therefore there is no standard “unsafe” amount as there is for other hazardous waste materials like lead and mercury. Unfortunately, until that threshold is determined an all-out ban of asbestos on imported products (including toys) is not likely.

     

    Keywords:
    environmental regulation, hazardous waste materials

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