Category Archives: New solutions

Refrigerators that use no electricity will reduce food spoilage in dry lands

A team of researchers that began their work at MIT found a way to restructure an ancient method of food storage into a mobile, modern unit that looks like a big pizza bag and costs USD$25. It can be used by families in hot, arid regions where money and electricity is scarce to keep foods cool so they last weeks rather than days.

How it works is pretty stupendous:

In ancient times food was cooled was achieved by using terra cotta containers buried in sand. These modern Evaptainers use lightweight materials and sit on any above-ground surface, like a table. The containers’ secret sauce is an outside channel into which a liter of water is poured every two days. Slow evaporation produces major cooling in a process quite similar to our bodies’ efficient method of cooling us down through sweat.

Hat tip to Dr. Jonathan Hodges for sharing this excellent find.

Military mandate to reduce pesticide use sparked the creation of a device that kills weeds with heat & light #p2

NatureZap wand at work
Source: Good Neighbor
Imagine a weedkiller as effective as Monsanto’s Roundup (aka glyphosate) which doesn’t introduce any chemicals into the environment and can be completely localized: enter NatureZap version 2, which kills weeds by zapping them with a heat-light combo.

TakePart says the tool was created by the, “412th Civil Engineering Group at Edwards Air Force Base—who developed the device with Global Neighbor,” to satisfy a mandate for the military “to reduce its use of toxic chemicals under the Sikes Act.”

Isn’t that great?

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Newark passes country’s first Environmental Justice Ordinance to protect residents

Newark Drawbridge & Skyline by Bridge Street by erodzen
Source: Newark Drawbridge & Skyline by Bridge Street by erodzen via Mapio
Newark, NJ – The City of Newark made history when the Newark Municipal Council passed a first-in-the-nation Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance which will require the Board of Adjustment and Central Planning Board to receive additional information from development applicants in order to build in a healthy and sustainable way.

“I want to thank the Newark Municipal Council, Mayor Baraka and his Administration for passing the First Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts ordinance in the country,” said Kim Gaddy, Newark resident and Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action. “I started this fight 9 years ago with my colleagues and today I’m so proud of my City and the Leadership. Newark will be a vibrant and sustainable city. Kudos to the Newark Environmental Commission for keeping this Ordinance as a priority for the City.”

The City of Newark and urban communities face higher levels of pollution from multiple sources including toxic waste sites, industrial plants, and heavy city and port traffic. The “cumulative impacts” of these pollutants are making people, especially children, sick. In the City of Newark, asthma is the city’s biggest crime. Statistically speaking, more people die of asthma than homicides. School age children in Newark have double the state and national average rate (25%) for asthma resulting in most missed school days and unaffordable medical bills.

Newark residents face the nation’s 2nd greatest cancer risk due to diesel emissions. The city is home to the largest trash incinerator in the Northeast, which pollutes the air and costs the city over $9 million in disposal costs. The city is also the 3rd largest port in the nation with 7,000 trucks making an estimated 10,000 trips daily. Many of these toxin-spewing rigs are antiquated and pollute at least 10 times more than modern trucks.

The goal of the Environmental Justice & Cumulative Impacts Ordinance is to advance Environmental Justice, good stewardship, and sustainable economic development in furtherance of the priorities outlined in the Newark Sustainability Action Plan and the Newark Master Plan. Through this Ordinance, the City of Newark seeks to:

  1. Protect the health of all residents, regardless of race, culture or income, from exposure to pollution linked to adverse health effects, including the cumulative impacts that may be worsened as an unintended by-product of new development or redevelopment, and to ensure the enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies in a manner consistent with the principles of Environmental Justice.
  2. Take appropriate action to avoid, minimize and mitigate pollution from all sources within Newark’s jurisdiction through partnerships, innovation, and enforcement.
  3. Encourage proposals for development or redevelopment that contribute positively to Newark’s environmental, economic, and social health or, at minimum, that do not contribute net new pollution to the environment or adversely impact public health.

“As a Newark resident and parent, this legislation will protect the residents from the disproportionate health burdens experienced because of the zip code we live in,” concluded Kim Gaddy.

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Newark makes history – council passes 1st in Country Environmental Justice & Cumulative Impact Ordinance

By Envision Blue/Green
By Envision Blue/Green
Today on July 7 2016 the City Council of Newark unanimously and historically made into law the first ever Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance, with their vote showing that Councilpeople value the health and wellbeing of Newark residents over commercial interests.

The law’s passage in a testimony to years of hard work by environmental justice leaders in the city and allies across the state.

Stand by for more info.

08 July 2016 see complete details about the ordinance and its passage here.

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New US ivory law gives elephants stronger protection against poachers

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) ranger stands guard next to illegal stockpile of elephant tusks and ivory figurines before their destruction
Source: Lawyer Herald
New ivory trafficking regulations issued on Thursday by the Obama Administration will make the import and sale of African elephant’s ivory much more difficult in the United States. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports:

It is clear that the status quo wasn’t doing enough to protect elephants from American trade: The US market has consistently ranked among the world’s largest – an (up until now) largely unregulated, multi-million-dollar black box where ivory could be bought and sold with almost no oversight, whether it was old or freshly poached. We believe that the new rules are a crucial step towards bringing the poaching crisis under control, though much still depends on the unglamorous next steps: implementation, enforcement, and diplomatic follow-through to ensure that this momentum doesn’t stop at America’s borders.

While the changes are a big improvement, they’re not perfect. The regulations still permit sales of documented antiques and certain older items with a small amount of ivory. But the documentation requirement is only loosely defined, putting pressure on FWS (and groups like IFAW) to ensure that ivory buyers and sellers uphold the spirit and the letter of the law. We also have to make sure that law enforcement agents get the tools and funding they need to keep illegal imports from slipping into the black market.

Additionally, the rule limits trophy hunters to importing “only” two dead elephants (per hunter) annually. IFAW lobbied hard to close this loophole even further and we will continue to press the issue, especially as new studies call the conventional wisdom on trophy hunting further into question. However, even this represents an improvement, as there had been no numeric limit on trophy imports at all prior to the change.

The third element I mentioned above – diplomatic follow-through – is just as important as what we do here at home. Other major ivory-consuming countries like China and Vietnam have begun to steer their ivory laws in the right direction; US/China negotiations have already resulted in a pledge from President Xi Jinping to shut down the Chinese ivory market, although tangible progress has been slow in coming and it remains vital that the US continue to set an example.

The New York Times reported on the rule-making process:

In accordance with the rule-making process under the Endangered Species Act, the Fish and Wildlife Service opened the proposed changes for public comment, and it became the second-most-commented-on rule in the agency’s history. People wrote letters, children drew pictures and thousands of petition signatures rolled in — mostly in support of the more restrictive law.

The next phase of the fight against ivory poaching will happen next week, when a delegation from the United States goes to Beijing for a round of strategic and economic talks with Chinese officials, who have also agreed to further restrictions on the ivory trade.

if you buy ivory you kill people
Source: Elephant Advocacy League
Elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at the rate of 96 per day. Do you know that the ivory trade is a people killer too?

Lead graphic from the Lawyer Herald.

 

Pres. Obama is making a flower highway for butterflies (really)

tagged monarch
Source: Anna Barnett on flickr
I know this headline sounds more like the title of a fantasy novel than a project the federal United States government is implementing. But it’s real – a real 1500 mile project that will connect Minnesota with Texas with habitat areas for Monarch butterflies all the way down the middle of our country. That’s the path these butterflies take on their way to winter in fir forests outside of Mexico City, Mexico. It will run north-south along Route I-35, pretty much the entire vertical length of the United States.

butterfly highway
Source: mexiconewsdaily.com

The Christian Science Monitor explains the plan:

The Xerces Society has already been working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop best practices for roadside management, including incorporation of flowering plants and milkweed and adapting mowing schedules to migration patterns… but the president’s plan is much broader than that.

“The idea is to use it as this iconic pathway to work with schools, farmers, ranchers, and park districts to improve habitats for 50 to 100 miles on either side of the I-35 corridor,” Dr. Black says.

North Carolina has a Butterfly Highway of its own. And, there are other Monarch protection projects coming to life in different parts of the United States – check out Monarch Joint Venture for details.

In May 2015 the Washington Post reported on Obama’s National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

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Solar power and new tech make the Airo bottle fill up with water from the air

Diagram of Airo bottle
Source: Retezár Kristof

The Fontus bottles use solar power to pull in moisture from the air, cool it and fill them up with water. In high humidity conditions you can have half a quart of water in an hour (less in dryer conditions). Of course, you will want the air around the bottle to be pretty free of contaminants.

More on the science of Airo and Ryde (same type bottle for cyclists) by Fontus.

Visit the Fontus website to donate to their IndieGogo campaign and get a discount on the bottle when it comes out later this year.

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Can’t teach what you don’t know: some facts about climate change for students & teachers

global pollution
Source: James Yang via The New York Times
A Science survey reported in the New York Times shows that K-12 teachers aren’t telling their students much about climate change and when they do teach about it, they give unhealthy doses of false information.

But if you’re looking for the real facts about climate change, the NYT also developed a “cheat sheet” Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change

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Breaking! EPA finalizes plan to decontaminate Newark Bay & lower Passaic River

After years of investigating safety issues involved with removing Agent Orange and other contaminants from the Newark Bay and lower Passaic River, the EPA has created a comprehensive plan to remove what is logistically feasible and cap the rest at the bottom of the waterway.

The plan includes:

  • 3.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed, bank- to-bank, by dredging the river bottom from Newark Bay to the Belleville/ Newark border.
  • This will result in the permanent removal from the river of approximately 13 pounds of highly toxic and persistent dioxin (2,3,7,8- TCDD), 24,000 pounds of mercury, 6,600 pounds of PCBs, and 1,300 pounds of DDT (a pesticide).

Here are highlights of the plan:

EPA Lower Passaic Cleanup Plan
Source: EPA

View the entire record of decision for the lower eight miles of the Passaic River.

The New Meadowlands development project progresses – sign up to get involved or to just get news

New Meadowlands
Source: Rebuild by Design

#1 Get news about Meadowlands redevelopment

The New Meadowlands Coalition formed out of several groups that have been advocating since Superstorm Sandy to get Meadowlands region residents back in their homes; get clean-up and repairs done in the area; monitor the progress of the Rebuild by Design competition and track the recent award of an implementation contract to a vendor selected by the DEP, who will be overseeing the Meadowlands development project that is about to begin. The project’s funding source is the EPA.

If you are a community member or ECJ advocate wishing to receive updates from the New Meadowlands Coalition or to learn how to influence the selection of the redevelopment option for the region, please fill out this brief form.

#2 Apply for a seat on a DEP (CAG)

You can have a voice in shaping the design for this project. If accepted, you will take part in meetings to help identify the unmet needs of your community and share information between your neighbors and the project leaders.

Apply by contacting your mayor, cc’ing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection TODAY:

Moonachie: Dennis Vaccaro 201-641-1813 dvaccaro@moonachie.us

Little Ferry: Mauro D. Raguseo 201-641-9234 mayor@littleferrynj.org

S. Hackensack: Walter Eckel Jr. 201-440-1815 weckel@southhackensacknj.org

Teterboro: Nicholas Saros 201-288-1200 nsaros@teterboronj.org

Carlstadt: Will Roseman 201-531-7199 info@carlstadtnj.us

CC the NJDEP Representative Kerry Pflugh Kerry.Pflugh@dep.nj.gov or 609-633-7242

Contact the New Meadowlands Coalition
Reach us by emailing Sally Gellert or drop by a monthly meeting on first Tuesdays 10-11:30am at St. Margaret’s. Follow signs for the VOAD Office once you’re inside the building or phone 201-477-8711 for help locating us.

RIC St. Margaret of Cortona
31 Chamberlain Ave.
Little Ferry, NJ

About the CAG

“In June 2015, the ESC formed an Outreach Subcommittee consisting of State and local officials tasked with developing a Citizen Outreach Plan (COP) and identifying citizens to serve on a Citizen Advisory Group (CAG). The COP will outline how the general public, municipal officials, community organizations and the academic community will engage and collaborate with the NJDEP in the RBDM planning, design and implementation processes. The CAG will consist of interested members of the public from the five (5) municipalities and will also include vulnerable and underserved populations, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons with limited English proficiency. Participants in the CAG will take part in meetings to help identify the unmet needs of the community. The ESC anticipates that the COP will be finalized in January 2015.”

Some information provided by Rebuild by Design. Additional information here.