On this blog, we post recent sustainability news to help people learn about initiatives and events related to sustainability in Central Wisconsin.

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Saratoga Approves Monitoring Well Network around CAFO

From Wisconsin Daily Tribune, October 2, 2014

The Saratoga Town Board unanimously approved Wednesday night the installation of a $60,000 well network to carry out groundwater monitoring activities around a proposed large-scale dairy.

The purpose of the well network will be to record the groundwater’s present state, enabling the town to detect whether the proposed Wysocki Golden Sands Dairy — a concentrated animal feeding operation — is hydraulically or chemically affecting the local groundwater flow system, according to a proposal and cost estimate presented to the town.

“We got to get a baseline for what’s in the water as it is right now, before the farm comes in,” said Terry Rickaby, chairman of the Saratoga Town Board. “That’s the baseline we need — that’s the one that’s going to protect us.”

Read the full article.

Meet New Climate CHange Warrior: Your Doctor

From TakePart, September 29, 2014

Doctors aren’t just worried about heart disease, diabetes, and obesity these days. Climate change is climbing to the top of their list of public health hazards, and that could have big implications in the political fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Among the more than 310,000 demonstrators marching through Manhattan in last week’s People’s Climate March were contingents of physicians. Now The Journal of the American Medical Association, the voice of the nation’s powerful medical establishment, has issued a call to arms to doctors, urging those in health-related fields to throw their weight behind climate change prevention efforts.

Read the full article.

Report on Sustainability in State Lists Wins and Losses

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 13, 2014

A new report chalks up Wisconsin’s wins and losses in the three key areas important for sustainability — economy, environment and social.

Those three categories — often referred to as the triple bottom line — are documented in the fifth annual state report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council in conjunction with the nonprofit group Cool Choices, which advises businesses and others on ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Among Wisconsin’s wins: Its leadership in manufacturing and organic farming, renewable energy digesters on dairy farms and high school graduation rates.

Among the losses: The state is generating more power from coal after the shutdown of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant; its greenhouse gas emissions were on the rise while its renewable energy production is falling behind other states; and the racial disparity in Wisconsin high school graduation rates is third-worst in the country.

Read the full article.

EPA Finds Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments of Little or No Benefit to U.S. Soybean Production

From EPA Pesticide Program Updates, October 16, 2014

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an analysis of the benefits of neonicotinoid seed treatments for insect control in soybeans.  A Federal Register notice inviting the public to comment on the analysis will publish in the near future.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority. During the review, we found that many scientific publications claim that treating soybean seeds has little value,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This propelled the agency to evaluate the economic benefits of this use. “We found that the benefits to U.S. soybean farmers on a national scale were just not there.”

The EPA assessment examined the effectiveness of these seed treatments for pest control and estimated the impacts on crop yields and quality, as well as financial losses and gains.

Read the full article.

Whole Foods to Rate Its Produce and Flowers for Environmental Impact

From The New York Times, October 16, 2014

WholeFoodsWhole Foods Market on Wednesday began a ratings program for fruits, vegetables and flowers aimed at giving consumers more information about pesticide and water use, the treatment of farm workers and waste management, and other issues surrounding the food they eat.

The upscale grocery chain will rate the produce of suppliers electing to participate in the program, Responsibly Grown, as “good,” “better,” or “best,” depending on, for example, how they handle plastic waste in their operations and whether they provide conservation areas to foster bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Read the full article.

Groundwater Sessions to Continue through February

From Stevens Point Journal, October 16, 2014

County Executive Patty Dreier has announced a second wave of listening sessions to gather information about the state of groundwater throughout Portage County.

A total of 10 sessions are now scheduled through Feb. 4, each taking place in a different part of the county. The sessions focus on both quality and quantity. As of Thursday, Dreier had hosted three sessions — in the village of Amherst, Junction City and the town of Almond. Each addressed water issues specific to the location of the session.

The sessions are broken into three 30-minutes segments: an education phase, an input phase and a discussion phase.

Read the full article.

Renewable Energy, Climate Change and Wisconsin Agriculture

From WPR, October 9, 2014

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Route 51 looks at efforts to get farms and small businesses in rural Wisconsin converted to renewable energy resources, as farmers struggle with the effects of climate change on Wisconsin agriculture. Host Glen Moberg will moderate a discussion with Stan Gruszynski, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director; fifth generation potato farmer and author Justin Isherwood of Plover; and Tony Schultz, owner of Stoney Acres Farm of Athens. USDA Rural Development is providing hundreds of thousands of dollars of assistance for renewable energy systems in Wisconsin through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

Listen to a recording of the show now at this link.


Fire Retardants Wash Out in Laundry

From C&EN, October 1, 2014

Flame retardants used in furniture and electronics work their way into aquatic food chains, accumulating in organisms from mussels to fish to seals. Scientists know that rivers and lakes receive significant amounts of fire suppressants from treated wastewater, but how the compounds get into sewage plants has remained a mystery. For the first time, a new study suggests that the biggest contributors are our washing machines. Flame retardants hitch a ride on our clothing and then come out in the wash, the researchers say (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/es502227h).

Scientists worry about the fate of flame retardants because studies have linked the chemicals to cancer, neurotoxicity, and hormone disruption. Researchers have tried to chase the compounds as they go from consumer goods such as couch cushions and TV casings to accumulate in air, water, human breast milk, and aquatic food chains. “We know that flame retardants escape to house dust and that clothing gets dirty and accumulates dust,” says Erika D. Schreder, science director at the Washington Toxics Coalition, an environmental research and advocacy group in Seattle. Studies have also shown that sewage effluent is one of the largest sources of flame retardants to rivers and lakes, so “we thought that laundry water might be an important source of flame retardants,” Schreder says.

Read the full article.

A Rising Tide of Contaminants

From The New York Times, September 25, 2014

ContaminantsDeborah Swackhamer, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, decided last year to investigate the chemistry of the nearby Zumbro River. She and her colleagues were not surprised to find traces of pesticides in the water.

Neither were they shocked to find prescription drugs ranging from antibiotics to the anti–convulsive carbamazepine. Researchers realized more than 15 years ago that pharmaceuticals – excreted by users, dumped down drains – were slipping through wastewater treatment systems.

But though she is a leading expert in so-called emerging contaminants, Dr. Swackhamer was both surprised and dismayed by the sheer range and variety of what she found. Caffeine drifted through the river water, testament to local consumption of everything from coffee to energy drinks. There were relatively high levels of acetaminophen, the over-the-counter painkiller. Acetaminophen causes liver damage in humans at high doses; no one knows what it does to fish.

“We don’t know what these background levels mean in terms of environmental or public health,” she said. “It’s definitely another thing that we’re going to be looking at.”

Read the full article.

1 in 3 US Children Attends School in Chemical Danger Zone

From Aljazeera, October 2, 2014

One in three children attend schools in areas vulnerable to chemical accidents from nearby facilities, according to a study released by the Center for Effective Government (CEG).

The “Kids in Danger Zones” report maps the locations of 122,968 public and private schools against areas susceptible to contamination from over 3,400 high-risk chemical facilities in the U.S. A vulnerability zone is the areas around each facility that would be affected if a chemical release or explosion occurred.

“If an explosion or chemical leak occurred at one of these facilities, the result could be catastrophic,” explains President and CEO Katherine McFate on the CEG website.

More than 19.6 million children in 48 states attend schools within the vulnerability zone of a hazardous chemical facility, according to the report, with California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New York having the largest number of students at risk.

Read the full article.

Antibiotics in Livestock: FDA Finds Use Is Rising

From New York Times, October 2, 2014

The amount of antibiotics sold for use in livestock rose substantially in recent years, according to the Food and Drug Administration, a pattern that experts said was troubling given the efforts to battle antibiotic resistance in humans.

In an annual report posted online on Thursday, the agency said the amount of medically important antibiotics sold to farmers and ranchers for use in animals raised for meat grew by 16 percent from 2009 to 2012.

Most troubling, health advocates say, was a rise in the sale of cephalosporins, a class of drug that is important in human health, despite new restrictions the F.D.A. put into place in early 2012. The report showed an 8 percent increase in the sale of those drugs in 2012, confirming advocates’ fears that the agency’s efforts may not be having the desired effect. Sales of those drugs rose by 37 percent from 2009 to 2012.

Read the full article.

In MN, Wildlife Experts Campaign for Copper Bullets

From Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 2, 2014

Last November, Dr. Brian Hiller was sitting in a deer stand on private land near Bemidji, hoping to kill his first deer in Minnesota with a rifle.

“The little buck settled in about 50 yards from me,” said Hiller, 40, who has been an assistant professor of biology at Bemidji State University since 2012. “My bullet hit about 2 inches in front of the left shoulder and it immediately collapsed. It never twitched or moved. It was a clean, humane kill.”

The “clean kill” pleased Hiller because he was using nontoxic copper bullets and wanted to ascertain their effectiveness in his rifle compared to traditional lead ammunition — a mainstay for rifle deer hunters in Minnesota and elsewhere for decades because of its affordability, availability and effectiveness. However, lead is also a poisonous neurotoxin, with “no safe exposure levels,” according to Hiller.

Read the full article.

Seminars to Help Farms, Food Businesses Grow Local Markets

From DATCP Press Release, September 2014

If your business plan includes producing, processing or handling Wisconsin-grown food, then the Local Food Business Seminar Series is designed for you. This series, scheduled between October and March, will feature seven different topics – including business planning, food safety and marketing. Each topic will be presented at four locations around the state. The Madison workshops will also be available free via webinar.

“These low-cost seminars are great ways to gain technical knowledge from industry experts,” said Sarah Elliott, Local and Regional Agriculture Program supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). “We are excited to continue to provide a wide array of resources that promote the economic viability of Wisconsin’s local food industry.”

Registration is open now. Full-day classes will cost $15 and will include lunch. Half-day classes will cost $10. Those who register for all seven classes at once can do so for the reduced cost of $55. Something Special from Wisconsin ™ members get a $5 discount per class, although the discount does not apply to the $55 reduced price.

For a full schedule or to register, click here. On the same page, you can find information about the  partners that worked with DATCP’s Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program to develop the seminar series.


From Organic Processing Institute, October 8, 2014

Driftless Meats and More is up and running with their slaughter and fabrication processes, and working towards opening their retail store. It’s a fast turnaround considering that Doug and Kris Wolf just purchased the former Premier Meats facility in July.

“This week we’ll find out if everything’s in place to open the retail store,” plant manager Tim Rehbein said, and added that their website is being developed.

Read the full article.

The Food Waste Fiasco

From Rob Greenfield, October 6, 2014

You may have already heard a few appalling facts about food waste but just in case you haven’t, here are a few tidbits of information to catch you up on the issue.

  • We throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food per year in America. That’s more than the budgets for America’s national parks, public libraries, federal prisons, veteran’s health care, the FBI, and the FDA combined.
  • About 50 million of our 317 million Americans are food insecure yet we produce enough food to feed over 500 million Americans.
  • To create just the amount of food that ends up in the landfills we waste enough water to meet the domestic water needs of every American citizen.

Even with these mind-blowing statistics you probably still need to see it to believe it. That is where I come in.

Read the full article.

County Hosts First Groundwater Listening Session

From Stevens Point Journal, September 30, 2014

Portage County hosted its first groundwater listening session in Amherst on Tuesday night, attracting about 40 community members to share diverse views and interests pertaining to the shared resource.

County Executive Patty Dreier organized a series of 10 listening sessions around the county, which are scheduled to last through February, as part of her effort to bring voices and viewpoints into conversation and develop a process for residents to responsibly care for the county’s groundwater supply.

“If we could agree on a process, we could really get somewhere,” Dreier said.

Read the full article.

US Foods Labels ‘Natural’ Often Contain GMOs, Group Reports

From Reuters, October 7, 2014

A majority of U.S. packaged foods labeled as “natural” and tested by Consumer Reports actually contained a substantial level of genetically modified ingredients, according to a report issued Tuesday by the non-profit product testing group.

Consumers are being misled by the “natural” label, said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability.

Consumer Reports said it had conducted a survey of more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy, the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the United States, to determine whether labeling claims for GMO presence were accurate.

While foods labeled as “non-GMO,” or “organic” were found to be free of genetically modified corn and soy, virtually all of the foods labeled as “natural” or not labeled with any claim related to GMO content contained substantial amounts of GMO ingredients, Consumer Reports said.

Read the full article.

Green Burials Are on the Rise as Baby Boomers Plan for Their Future, and Funerals

From Washington Post, October 6, 2014

Jay Castaño knows exactly what his funeral will be like. A few days after he dies, friends and family will gather in Southeast Washington, say a few kind words and put his unembalmed body straight into the Earth.

“I want to be wrapped in a shroud like a little burrito,” says Castaño, a credentialing officer at a D.C. public charter school. “They can call it a Chipotle funeral. They can wrap me up and throw me there and cover me up with some grass and soil.”

He doesn’t even have a particular preference for the shroud. “It could be a bedsheet,” he says, “as long as it’s clean and nice.”

For the record, Castaño has no plans to die anytime soon. But the 65-year-old has written in his last will and testament that whenever he does pass, he intends to become part of the “green burial” movement — a push to strip away the trappings of the modern funeral industry and get back to basics. Dust to dust and all that jazz.

Read the full article.

USDA Awards $1.4 Million to Wisconsin Specialty Crops

From DATCP News Release, October 7, 2014

Agricultural research and study are key to developing new food products and protecting the ones we already have. To that end, the United States Department of Agriculture last week awarded the state of Wisconsin $1.4 million to fund 24 projects through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

“Specialty crops add to the diversity that is so important to Wisconsin agriculture and provide opportunities for many farm families and agribusinesses to expand into new markets and increase their profitability,” said Dan Smith, administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP’s) Division of Agricultural Development. “This money will fund many worthy products including research to protect Wisconsin’s pollinators, manage crop pests and grow markets for Wisconsin foods.”

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture. In Wisconsin, those products include cranberries; ginseng; apples; and processing vegetables such as potatoes, carrots or onions, to name a few.

Read the full article.

Growing on a Shoestring: Diversity Is Key for Milladore Farmer

From The Country Today, September 2, 2014

JoelfarmJoel Kuehnhold said his goal is to build up his own brand of homegrown food products, but he is facing a long line of challenges, including growing a business on a shoestring. “It means taking everything I have and using it to the best of my ability,” Kuehnhold said. “The key to a small farm is diversity.”

Kuehnhold is testing that key in a lot of locks. He grows lamb for direct sale, keeps 150 laying hens for egg production and keeps several gardens from which he is canning salsa and sauces for the Wausau Winter Market. He has aspirations of renting out space to other entrepreneurs in a certified kitchen and is looking at options for adding hogs, beef and rhubarb to his on-farm business.

Kuehnhold, who is also an agriculture science teacher at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, said he is supposed to tell students that agriculture is more than just farming. “But farming is really the center of it,” he said.

Read the full article.

New OSU Study Shows Association between Gas Kitchen Stove Ventilation and Asthma

From Medical News, September 30, 2014

Parents with children at home should use ventilation when cooking with a gas stove, researchers from Oregon State University are recommending, after a new study showed an association between gas kitchen stove ventilation and asthma, asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis.

“In homes where a gas stove was used without venting, the prevalence of asthma and wheezing is higher than in homes where a gas stove was used with ventilation,” said Ellen Smit, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the study’s authors. “Parents of all children should use ventilation while using a gas stove.”

Researchers can’t say that gas stove use without ventilation causes respiratory issues, but the new study clearly shows an association between having asthma and use of ventilation, Smit said. More study is needed to understand that relationship, including whether emissions from gas stoves could cause or exacerbate asthma in children, the researchers said.

Read the full article.

WWF: Half the World’s Wildlife Gone Over Last 40 Years

From Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2014

The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell overall by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday.

The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind’s demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement. However, there was still hope if politicians and businesses took the right action to protect nature, the report said.

Read the full article.

New Gleaning Group Works to Reduce Hunger in Central Wisconsin

Glean Central Wisconsin Press Release, September 2014

Glean Central Wisconsin (GCW) offers a viable option for the Stevens Point Farmer’s Market to combat hunger and reduce food waste. The volunteer group formed in August 2014 as a committee of the Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership of Portage County (HPPP) to connect growers, volunteers and pantries.

The act of gleaning involves collecting produce that is no longer sellable but still edible, and donating it to local food pantries. “In the first seven weeks, the network has recovered over 2,100 pounds of produce, thanks to the generosity of our market vendors,” said Taylor Christiansen, an Americorps volunteer at Portage County UW-Extension who assists with the project.

GCW hopes that vendors sell as much as they can at the market, but then offers them an easy way to donate any leftover items to pantries. The produce is distributed to the Salvation Army’s Hope Center, Interfaith Food Pantry, St. Vincent De Paul’s Food Pantry, CAP Services Family Crisis Center, and other nonprofits in Stevens Point and Plover. “I have heard a lot of positive feedback from the volunteers and staff at area pantries,” said Jen Dolan, another Americorps volunteer with Portage County UW-Extension. “One pantry distributed produce collected by our gleaners one week to over 180 families.”

GCW relies on a network of community volunteers to conduct the gleaning activities, and invites community and university groups to participate. “Gleaning at the market is a lot of fun and a great way to meet vendors and other volunteers,” said GCW volunteer Carly Swatek. Every Saturday GCW volunteers head to the market to distribute gleaning bags and collect fruits and vegetables from the vendors. Volunteers can sign up for a shift once a month, or as their schedule allows. The morning volunteer shift takes one hour and the afternoon shift takes about two hours and requires one person with a vehicle.

Community members who are interested in participating in the project can contact the group by email and learn more at the GCW website. In the future and as capacity allows, the group would also like to explore gleaning opportunities at other farms or markets.

UW-Stevens Point Promotes Energy Action Month Pledges

From the UW-Stevens Point, September 2014

Members of our Chancellor Cabinet voice their support for Energy Action Month by making pledges to conserve energy! Watch the video now. Energy Action Month pledges are promoted by the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP), a division of the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education in our College of Natural Resources. Consider making your own pledge! For more information on Energy Action Month pledges please contact KEEP.




Documentary Discusses Proposed Mine in Northern Wisconsin

By Mary Maller, September 30, 2014

There will be a local screening of the film, Wisconsin Mining Standoff, at Central Rivers’ Farmshed’s headquarters, 1220 Briggs Street in Stevens Point (formerly Sorenson’s Greenhouse), at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 23. The 30-minute film offers people living in central Wisconsin the opportunity to learn more about the environmental, economic, social and legislative issues surrounding the open pit taconite mine  proposed by Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) for Iron County in northern Wisconsin.

The film Wisconsin Mining Standoff very effectively tells the story of polarization that’s building in the area around the Penokee mountain range where GTAC has proposed establishing a taconite  mine that will be four miles long, half a mile across and 1000 feet deep.  Protests began when the governor and legislature significantly reduced the standards for environmental assessment of sites being considered for mining development.  The issues that are evident as the struggle moves forward include the standoff between GTAC and its supporters seeking mining jobs, and the residents, Native American tribes and political leaders intent on protecting their communities and water sources from contamination.

Free popcorn will be provided (bring your own beverage) and there’ll be an opportunity for discussion of the issues after the film. For more information please call Mary Maller at 715-544-4859.

CLUE Note: The film will be shown at several locations throughout the state, including in Wausau on October 8. See the website for more info.

Implementing Smarter Milk Farming

From Philadelphia Inquirer, September 29, 2014

Walt Moore’s 850 cows lounge on beds of soft sand. They are cooled by spritzes of water and breezes generated by fans. They eat a custom-blended diet of gourmet grains that a computer tells Moore will suit them best. He orders sophisticated analyses of their rations and manure, getting the results on his iPhone, synced to his watch.

Each cow wears a collar with a computer chip that keeps track of her milk production, nearly four times that of the cows his father once tended, not to mention those his great-grandfather started the family farm with in 1909.

Moore’s Chester County farm is so markedly different from the operation he took over from his father, Bill, that the elder Moore jokes: “Oh, my goodness, I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to learn how to farm or not.” All this is not so much to coddle the cows as it is to make them better citizens of the planet.

Read the full article.

USDA to Start Program to Support Local and Organic Farming

From New York Times, September 28, 2014

The United States Department of Agriculture plans to announce Monday that it will spend $52 million to support local and regional food systems like farmers’ markets and food hubs and to spur research on organic farming.

The local food movement has been one of the fastest growing segments of the business, as consumers seek to know more about where, how and by whom their food is grown.

But local farmers still struggle to market their food. Distribution systems are intended to accommodate the needs of large-scale commercial farms and growers. Grocery stores and restaurants largely rely on big distribution centers and are only beginning to figure out how to incorporate small batches of produce into their overall merchandise mixes.

Read the full article.

Celebrate Farm to School in Central Wisconsin on October 24

From Farm to School Programs in Portage, Wood, and Marathon Counties, September 30, 2014

Looking for a family-friendly event? Want to enjoy delicious local pizza?

On Friday, October 24, you are invited to join the Farm to School Programs of Portage, Wood, and Marathon Counties at Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, WI to celebrate Food Day and National Farm to School Month.Do not miss out on this rustic and unique dining experience. Brick oven pizzas, featuring local ingredients, are served right on the farm.

Come join us for great food, good company, and a celebration of local food and healthy living! Click on the invite below for more details.



New Generation: Growing Up Reading Rachel Carson, Scientists Unravel Risks of New Pesticides

From Environmental Health News, September 25, 2014

Christy Morrissey is driving her white pickup truck along the endless prairie highway, windows open, listening for birds. She points to the scatter of ponds glinting in the landscape, nestled among fields of canola that stretch as far as the eye can see. Formed by retreating glaciers 12,000 years ago and fed each spring by melted snow, these tiny potholes are the lifeblood of the prairies, the kidneys that drain impurities and the cradle that replenishes life.

But when Morrissey looks at these ponds, she sees something few others do. An ecotoxicologist at the University of Saskatchewan, she knows that nearly every pond is laced with neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, deadly to insects at a minute dose of a few parts per trillion.

Like biologist Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring warned about the devastating effects of DDT, Morrissey is mounting a scientific quest to figure out if these new pesticides are harming living things they’re not intended to kill, including birds. She is part of a new generation of scientists in North America and Europe investigating a new generation of chemicals.

Read the full article.

Switch to Natural Gas Won’t Reduce Carbon Emissions Much, Study Finds

From National Geographic News, September 24, 2014

NaturalGasWyomingSwitching from coal to natural gas for power generation won’t do much to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and might even raise them slightly, in part because it will discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy, according to a study released Wednesday.

Increased use of natural gas has been widely credited with having reduced U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in recent years. But the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that between 2013 and 2055 the use of natural gas could reduce cumulative emissions from the electricity sector by no more than 9 percent, a reduction the authors say will have an insignificant impact on climate. The power sector accounts for around a third of U.S. emissions.

Read the full article.

Scientist’s Aim: Save the Bees

From the Star Tribune, September 2014

Marla Spivak sat on the curb outside an emergency room in Arizona nearly four decades ago holding a jar with a lone honeybee buzzing around inside. She was 22, and on her way to a summer job with a renowned bee researcher.

She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, only that she desperately wanted to understand those mysterious creatures who were somehow better than people at making a society. But a year earlier she had almost died after being repeatedly stung.

So with a friend at her side to call for help if she needed it, and the doors of the emergency room at her back, she pressed the bee to her arm to find out if she was, as she feared, fatally allergic to its sting.

Read the full article. Watch the Ted Talks video.

Pesticide Drift from Conventional Farms Is a Persistent Problem for Organic and Small Farms

From The Hamilton Spectator, September 8, 2014

DriftThe cloud of insecticide that drifted from a neighbour’s corn field onto the asparagus on Andrew and Melissa Dunham’s central Iowa farm cast a shadow over their organic vegetable business.

They say the costs from the incident and resulting loss of organic certification on their asparagus patch for three years will reach about $74,000, and they’re now working with the sprayer’s insurance company. [...]

Pesticide drift is a serious concern for organic farmers and they’ve come up with several defences, such as buffer strips.

Read full article.

Greener Neighborhoods Lead to Better Birth Outcomes, New Research Shows

From Oregon State University News Release, September 4, 2014

Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren’t as green, a new study shows.

The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.

“This was a surprise,” said Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

Read the full article.

Students’ Support Needed to Back Issue on Pesticide Use

From The Pointer, September 22, 2014

A commitment to sustainability is evident at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Sustainability is mentioned in our mission statement and is a trait for which we have been recognized as a top “environmental school” by organizations as varied as The Princeton Review and College Prowler.

These initiatives and achievements provide the foundation for UWSP to achieve greater sustainability.

To maintain a well-manicured campus, UWSP permits pesticide use on landscaped areas. Aesthetics are important, especially in an age of declining enrollments and greater competition for new students. It is also important to understand that use of pesticides diminishes the claim of a sustainable university.

The issue runs deeper than aesthetics, however. Pesticide use is also linked directly with cancer development and affects developing people under age 25 most intensely.

Read the full article.

Would You Buy Ugly Vegetables? That’s How a Grocery Chain Fights Waste

From CTV News, July 27, 2014

A French supermarket chain that launched an anti-waste campaign is getting some international attention for marketing and selling “ugly” fruits and vegetables that are typically destined for the trash, not the dinner plate. Grocery giant Intermarche recently launched the cheeky “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign to “celebrate the beauty” of malformed or misshapen produce, including the “Grotesque Apple,” the “Disfigured Eggplant” and the “Unfortunate Clementine.”

The result is a slick initiative with a serious message aimed at reducing food waste. An estimated 300 million tons of produce a year are thrown out, despite food guidelines that suggest individuals should be consuming at least five fruits and veggies daily.

Sometimes the visually unappealing produce is tossed by the growers themselves, despite being just as edible and healthy-to-eat as their smooth and shiny produce brethren. To combat food waste, Intermarche bought from their growers the products that are typically disposed of, cleared entire aisles in store to make room for them, and marketed the less-than-desirable product with special signage and labels.

As the ultimate incentive, Intermarche also sells the imperfect fruits and veggies at a 30 per cent discount. Packaged dishes made from the produce, including orange juice and carrot soup, are distributed in-store. Intermarche says that during the first two days of the campaign, each of their stores sold on average 1.2 tons of the malformed fruits and veggies. In addition, stores saw a 24-percent overall traffic increase at their stores.

French foodies appear to be receptive, and the awareness campaign is reaching far beyond France’s borders via social media. The YouTube video, created by marketing company Marcel, has gone viral, with millions of views since it was posted in mid-June.

Read the full article.

Wisconsin Resources on Climate Change Available

From UW-Extension Press Release, September 22, 2014

On the heels of recent interest and concern about climate change issues, University of Wisconsin-Extension specialist David S. Liebl reminds people that they can learn more through a variety of Wisconsin-based educational resources.

Wisconsin has been leading the nation in identifying likely impacts on people and the environment resulting from the changing climate, says Liebl.

“University of Wisconsin scientists from the Center on Climatic Research have provided projections of what climate will be like for the mid and late 21st century,” says Liebl. “These projections are being used by scientists and policymakers around the state to find ways of adapting to future climate conditions.”

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts has compiled this information into a report titled “Wisconsin’s Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation.” The report and additional information about climate change in Wisconsin can be found at this link.

Information on improving community sustainability through improved energy efficiency, planning, transportation and other initiatives is available from the UW-Extension Sustainable Communities Capacity Center at this link.

Tribal members and others interested in a better understanding of the potential impact of climate on tribal culture and food sources will benefit from the resources available from the Guiding for Tomorrow project, a collaboration between the Ojibwe Nation and UW-Extension.

For a national perspective on what we can expect from our changing climate–and what we can do to prepare for and minimize future impacts–Liebl recommends visiting the National Climate Assessment website. The site provides an update on the latest climate science, and how climate affects agriculture, cities and towns, ecosystems, energy, forests, human health, land use, rural communities, transportation, tribes, water and more.

Testing Future Conditions for the Food Chain

From The New York Times, September 23, 2014

FoodChainFrom afar, the three young men tramping through a corn field here looked like Midwestern farm boys checking their crop. And a fine crop it seemed to be, with plump ears hanging off vibrant green stalks.

But as they edged deeper into the field, the men — actually young scientists, not farmers — pointed to streaked, yellowing leaves on some of the corn plants. “You’re definitely seeing some damage,” said Tiago Tomaz, a biochemist from Australia.

The injured leaves signaled trouble down the road, and not just for a single plot of corn a few miles from the main campus of the University of Illinois. By design, the scientists were studying the type of damage that could put a serious dent in the food supply on a warming planet.

The fields here are among a handful of places in the world where researchers are trying to mimic the growing conditions expected to arise decades in the future as the air fills with heat-trapping gases and other pollutants from human activity.

Read the full article.

EPA Proposes Changing Standards on Pesticides and Farm Workers

From Topeka Capital-Journal, September 20, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stricter requirements to avoid exposure to pesticides on farms, leaving farmers and officials divided about whether they go too far or provide needed protection.

The EPA has proposed to change the Worker Protection Standards related to pesticide handlers and field workers who may be exposed to chemicals. [....]

To view the complete proposed standards, visit this site. To view a condensed version, visit this site.

Read the full article.

De Blasio Orders a Greener City, Setting Goals for Energy Efficiency of Buildings

From The New York Times, September 20, 2014

In a sweeping effort to reduce its environmental impact, New York City is planning to overhaul the energy-efficiency standards of all its public buildings and to pressure private landlords to make similar improvements.

The initiative is part of a pledge, to be announced before the start of the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. The United Nations has pointed to that rate of decrease as a desired target for developed countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.

New York would become the largest city in the world to make the commitment, according to the city’s leaders.

Though the proposal is likely to rankle some residential and commercial building owners, who will bear a portion of its cost, officials have framed the issue in part as an extension of the citywide focus on income inequality since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in January. High energy costs, the de Blasio administration argues, amount to a regressive tax, because lower-income residents by and large pay a higher share of their rent for energy than wealthier residents, and often live in less-efficient buildings. The long-term savings could prove to be a financial boost for lower-income residents, officials said — to say nothing of the environmental benefits.

Read the full article.

Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From New York Times, September 22, 2014

Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming.

The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions. It may take an additional year or two to know if China has turned a corner toward slower emissions growth, or if the runaway pace of recent years will resume.

In the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, after declining in recent years.

Read the full article.

Hull Family’s Water Tests at 6 Times Safe Level

From Stevens Point Journal, August 7, 2014

HullWaterTim and Karen Hannon of Hull said they thought it must be a mistake.

When they noticed signs of rust in their washing machine, the couple thought it might be a good idea to get their water tested again, after it hadn’t been checked in 19 years. They collected a sample for testing in June.

“It’s pretty sad, really, to have your water contaminated,” Tim Hannon said.

The nitrate levels in their water tested at higher than 60 milligrams per liter — more than six times higher than the recommended 10 milligrams per liter as the safe level for drinking water.

High nitrate levels can be cause for health concerns, particularly for infants younger than 6 months old or pregnant women. Consumption of that nitrate concentration can result in birth defects and blue baby syndrome, said Kevin Masarik, a groundwater education specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who is testing the water. The unidentified compounds in the water also might be cause for concern, he said, depending on what they are.

The couple lives off Highway 10 near Fleet Farm, and it’s possible that other households are also affected by the nitrate levels, although each homeowner would need to test his or her own water to be sure.

Read the full article.

Harvest of Change

From USA Today, September 21, 2014

IowaFarmTassel-topped stalks across the Midwest corn belt await a harvest of grain that will fuel your car with ethanol, feed livestock that becomes your dinner steak or be processed into foods lining shelves at your supermarket.

In the lush fields of a Page County farm in southwest Iowa, tooth-like white corn kernels almost ready for harvest are aimed at a specific audience: people who don’t want to eat food that’s been genetically modified.

It’s the first season the Dammann family farm, based here for six generations, has decided to target its crop to the demand of that niche market.

Read the full article.

County’s Groundwater Listening Sessions Begin Next Week

From Stevens Point Journal, September 22, 2014

Debates about how Portage County uses its groundwater have sometimes been contentious. County Executive Patty Dreier hopes to change that.

Dreier, who focused her 2014 State of the County address on the issue, begins a series of groundwater listening sessions for the community on Sept. 30. She noted in her address that Portage County pumped more groundwater than any other Wisconsin county during both 2012 and 2013.

“It’s time we lift our heads out of the sand and take some thoughtful actions that steward our groundwater resources instead of pitting water users against each other,” she said in the address. “We can’t wait. The free-for-all on water has got to stop.” [....]

Free nitrate water testing will be available at every listening session. Those interested in having water tested should bring a pint of cold water in a clean container. Follow-up tests might be recommended after testing.

Read the full article.

How the Built Environment is Contributing to Childhood Obesity

From Salon, September 11, 2014

trailIn the midst of a health-obsessed society, youth obesity continues to be a major issue in the United States — in the past 30 years, obesity had more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. It turns out that the neighborhoods in which children are raised has a lot to do with the public health crisis.

Researchers from the University of Missouri and the University of Minnesota have found that by increasing the availability of public lands like nature trails and forests, local governments can take meaningful steps towards reducing childhood obesity. The study found that counties with more trails and forests had higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity than counties with fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Read the full article.

Kids Exposed in the Womb to Plasticizers More Likely to Have Asthma

From Environmental Health News, September 17, 2014

New York City children exposed in the womb to moderate levels of two plasticizers had a 72 to 78 percent higher chance of developing asthma, according to a new study published today. The study is the first to link childhood asthma, which has been increasing in recent decades, to prenatal exposure to phthalates.

“These results suggest that phthalates may be one of the factors associated with that increase,” said Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University environmental health scientist who led the study. She added, however, that more studies are needed to understand how important a risk factor these chemicals may be.

Phthalates, used in the manufacture of vinyl and some cosmetics, have been connected to a number of health effects in lab animal and human studies, including airway inflammation, altered male genitalia, attention and learning problems and premature births.

Nationally, one in every 11 children has asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma rates more than doubled between 1980 and the mid-1990s, and have remained high.

Read the full article.

Students, Community Members talk “Disruption”, Latest Climate Change Documentary

From The Pointer, September 19, 2014

A crowd of students and community members gathered together in the College of Professional Studies to watch “Disruption,” a documentary chronicling the build-up to the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21 in New York.

Organizations from the entire spectrum are joining in, including women and civil rights groups, labor unions, renewable energy groups and even indigenous representatives. The idea is that every single person on this planet has a reason to care about climate change.

The march is shaping up to be the biggest in history, and the excitement has made its way to Wisconsin. Following the documentary, there was a discussion about climate change and what the local community can do to take action.

Read the full article.

Green Fund Provides Students with Opportunity, Sustainability Ideas

From The Pointer, September 18, 2014

The Green Fund is a monetary resource that supports environmental and sustainable projects on campus for students, organizations, faculty, staff and anyone affiliated with the university [of Wisconsin Stevens Point].

“There are a few other campuses in the UW system that have programs similar to this, but ours is one of the largest,” said Alex Thomas, Student Government Association’s environmental and sustainability affairs director.

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point put the fund into effect last year after SGA wrote legislation for it. During its first year alone, nearly $100,000 was spent to finance sustainability efforts and renovations on campus.

One of the major projects funded during the Green Fund’s inaugural year was The Central Wisconsin Environmental Station’s installation of a more efficient water heater. The Encore in the Dreyfus University Center also updated its lighting system, making it 70 percent more efficient, according to Thomas.

Read the full article.