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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Healthy Lakes, Healthy Shorelands Project

Do you have time to volunteer for a one-time, short-term project to help your lake?

A special project for selected lakes in Portage, Marathon and Waushara County is being undertaken by the Center for Watershed untitledScience and Education and Extension Lakes at UW-Stevens Point. During recent lake management planning meetings across each county, participants identified improving shoreland health as a priority in many of the plans. Healthy shorelands improve water quality, wildlife/fish habitats, and property values. To help lake residents understand what a healthy shoreline looks like and how it affects lake health, project volunteers will reach out to their neighbors with information and tips that can be used to make a property more “lake-friendly”.

Consider joining the team in developing the informational materials and then sharing them with your neighbors. Days and times are flexible – just think how a few hours of conversation with your neighbors could benefit your lake! Project volunteers will receive training and ongoing support. Enthusiasm required, no experience necessary!

For more information, please contact Sarah Hull by email (pclakes@uwsp.edu) or by phone (715-346-2497).

And please share this opportunity with others, including your lake group!


Kompost Kids Creates Network of Community Composting Sites

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 21, 2015

Maybe you’ve seen Josh Liberatore pedaling his bike with a wagon behind it from, say, Lake Park Bistro, where he makes a weekly pickup of preconsumer kitchen waste, to a composting site at the Friends Community Garden, a couple of miles away.

Liberatore is a volunteer and board member for Kompost Kids, a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee — made up of adults happy to get dirty, not kids — that has put together a network of community composting sites.

Read full article.

Bicyclists Learn that Pedaling has its Perks at Work

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 22, 2015

The perks for riding your bicycle to work can vary from indoor parking to a cab ride home if there’s a thunderstorm as companies encourage bike commuting.

In Milwaukee, only about 1% of people commute by bike, but it’s greater than 10% in some neighborhoods where people live closer to their job or have easy access to off-street trails.

Eppstein Uhen Architects, in Milwaukee and Madison, has a designated room in its offices for bicycles so they don’t have to be locked. It also has lockers and showers for bike commuters, and it sponsors a charity bicycle ride. “We are a bike crazy, bike friendly firm,” said employee Jennifer Schmidt, who’s also a cyclist.

Eppstein Uhen has a company bicycle that anyone can use during the day. “So if you have a meeting across town, and you don’t mind arriving slightly out of breath, you could just jump on that bike,” Schmidt said.

This year, May 11-15 is National Bike to Work Week, which encourages bicycle commuting.

Read full article.

Announcing the 2015 Bike Fun Calendar: 16 Poky Pedals from May through September

From Poky Pedaling Stevens Point, April 20, 2015

PPSP is thrilled to inform all Poky Pedalers that the 2015 Bike Fun Calendar has been released. The fourth year for PPSP includes 16 Poky Pedals from mid-May through late-September that will allow you to share more Bike Fun than ever. As always, all Poky Pedals are free and all Poky Pedalers are welcome to share Bike Fun as often as you wish.

Read highlights.

View full Bike Fun Calendar.

Lunch, Not Landfill: Nonprofit Rescues Produce Rejected At U.S. Border

From National Public Radio, April 10, 2015

Just across the border from Nogales, Ariz., rows of northbound trucks line up for inspection. Over half of the produce that’s grown in Mexico and imported — $4 billion worth — comes through this border crossing. Most gets distributed to all parts of the U.S. and Canada, but some fruits and vegetables get rejected before they leave the city of Nogales.

Yolanda Soto is determined to give that produce a second life, by redirecting it to needy families across the country. She runs Borderlands Food Bank, which rescues between 35 and 40 million pounds of safe, edible fruits and vegetables headed for the landfill each year. That’s about one serving of produce for every child in the U.S.

Read full article.

Waupaca Foundry Earns ‘Green’ Designations

From Waupaca Now, April 16, 2015

Waupaca Foundry was recently accepted into Wisconsin’s Green Tier program.

Administered by the Department of Natural Resources, the Green Tier program recognizes businesses that meet environmental regulatory standards and work toward sustainability.

The foundry also earned the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Engineering Excellence Award at both the state and national levels.
The foundry’s program to re-use the sand it would normally send to its landfill are among the reasons cited for the ACEC awards.

Read full article.

A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost

From The New York Times, April 13, 2015

The body of the tiny 78-year-old woman, gray hair falling over stiffened shoulders, was brought to a hillside at Western Carolina University still clad in a blue hospital gown and chartreuse socks.

She was laid on a bed of wood chips, and then more were heaped atop her. If all goes as hoped, the body will turn into compost.

It is a startling next step in the natural burial movement. Even as more people opt for interment in simple shrouds or biodegradable caskets, urban cemeteries continue to fill up. For the environmentally conscious, cremation is a problematic option, as the process releases greenhouse gases.

Armed with a prestigious environmental fellowship, Katrina Spade, a 37-year-old Seattle resident with a degree in architecture, has proposed an alternative: a facility for human composting.

Read full article.

UW-Stevens Point to mark Earth Week 2015

From the Stevens Point Journal, April 9, 2015.

Many free educational and entertaining environmental events will be available to students and community members as the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point marks Earth Week, April 18-25.

Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970, by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as a peaceful teach-in to raise environmental awareness and protection. In 2014, the City of Stevens Point was the first in the Midwest to recognize Save the Frogs Day as a city holiday.

Find more details.

Watchdog Update: Nation’s Biggest Furniture Retailer Drops Flame Retardants

From the Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2015

The nation’s largest furniture retailer is purging flame retardants from its product lines, the strongest evidence yet that the toxic, ineffective chemicals are on the way out of household couches and chairs.

In an emailed statement, Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture said its factories and outside suppliers stopped adding flame retardants to foam cushions at the beginning of the year. The company also said it is labeling new furniture to indicate that it doesn’t contain the chemicals.

Ashley is the latest retailer to respond to policy changes prompted by a Tribune investigation that exposed a deceptive campaign by the tobacco and chemical industries to promote flame retardants, despite research showing the chemicals provide little safety from furniture fires.

Read full article.

Pesticides are Polluting Our Waters – and We Often Don’t Know it

From The Washington Post, April 13, 2015

Pesticides bring major benefits to modern agriculture, keeping dangerous bugs and fungi and pathogens at bay while boosting yields and making farming more efficient. But what about risks? Like any chemicals — manmade or not — pesticides can be bad for human health and ecosystems if they’re toxic enough and the amount that ends up in the environment is high enough. It’s often tough, however, to get a clear picture of the full array of problems a pesticide may cause.

A new “meta-analysis” — a review of existing scientific studies — provides some answers, but raises even more questions in the process.

Read full article.

Lowe’s to Eliminate Pesticides that Hurt Crop Pollinating Honeybees

From Reuters, April 9, 2015Neonics

Home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos Inc will stop selling a type of pesticide suspected of causing a decline in honeybee populations needed to pollinate key American crops, following a few U.S. retailers who have taken similar steps last year.

The class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops but are also used widely on annual and perennial plants used in lawns and gardens.

Read full article.

From Crop to Table: Pesticide Use in Produce

From Consumer Reports, March, 2015

A key part of understanding the produce we eat is to understand how it is produced. Since the industrial revolution, chemical-based pesticides have been used extensively in crop production. Farmers use nearly 700 million pounds of pesticides every year.

We have come to learn that the widespread use of pesticides in crop production comes with a range of consequences that should affect our thinking on how crops should be produced. It also highlights the connections between practices on the farm and what ends up on our table. In an ideal world, pesticides sprayed on a farm field would kill only the targeted pests, then disappear. That, unfortunately, is not the case. Pesticides can harm their intended targets as well as nontargeted living organisms. Pesticides used in agriculture can contaminate not only our food but also the environment, and they’re widely present in the air, rain, and rivers. Their use affects not only the consumers who eat the treated crops but also farm workers, rural residents, wildlife, and pollinators that are exposed.

The good news is that over the past two decades, there has been quite a bit of progress addressing the use of some of the most toxic pesticides we initially called out in our 1998 report, Worst First. That report identified 40 specific insecticide uses on nine fruit and vegetable crops that, together, accounted for a very large portion of children’s overall dietary insecticide exposure and risk. But more work needs to be done so that we can maximize the benefits of eating produce, making our produce choices even healthier.

Read full study.

Pesticides on Vegetables and Fruit Linked to Lower Sperm Counts

From Newsweek, March 30, 2015

Fruit and vegetables are good for you, but the pesticide residues that can linger upon them carry a number of health risks. For the first time, scientists have shown that men who eat produce with a lot of chemical residues may be less fertile.

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that those who consume fruits and vegetables that are known to have the highest quantity of pesticides have sperm counts that are 50 percent lower than those who eat the smallest amount of these items. Those who ate the most high-pesticides fruits also had 32 percent more abnormally shaped sperm, says Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the authors of the study.

The fruits and vegetables that carry the highest levels of pesticides includes apples, strawberries, celery and spinach, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer health organization. Those with the lowest levels of residues include avocados, sweet corn and pineapples.

Read full news article.

Read full scientific study.

Earth Week

April 18-25, 2015

Events of the week include:

  • Workshops
  • Films
  • Lakes Convention
  • Concert
  • Tree Planting
  • Tours
  • “Bee Aware” Eco Fair

To find more details about individual events or to view the schedule, visit the UW- Stevens Point Office of Sustainability Facebook page or view the EarthWeekPoster.

Environmental Group Seeks Greater Protection for USDA Scientists

From Reuters, March 27, 2015

An environmental activist group has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking new rules that would enhance job protection for government scientists whose research questions the safety of farm chemicals.

The action filed on Thursday by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an advocacy group for local, state and federal researchers, came less than a week after a World Health Organization group found the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s best selling weed killer, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Roundup is made by Monsanto Co.

The petition to the USDA presses the agency to adopt policies to prevent “political suppression or alteration of studies and to lay out clear procedures for investigating allegations of scientific misconduct.”

Read the full article here.