University of Washington Offers Online Green Chemistry Certificate Program

November 12th, 2014 by

This post, written by Joy Scrogum, originally appeared on the ISTC Blog.

A new certificate program from the University of Washington will help chemists, environmental and sustainability professionals, health and safety professionals and product managers make informed product decisions that take into account sustainability, toxicity and human health concerns. The certificate in Green Chemistry & Chemical Stewardship will be offered through the Professional and Continuing Education program at the University of Washington.

There will be three online courses in the certificate, and individuals can sign up for a single course on a space available basis:

The online certificate program is intended to give professionals working in chemicals management experience using comparative chemical hazard assessment tools for product selection. The classes will be offered sequentially, beginning in January, 2015, and concluding in August, 2015. Students will complete a capstone project requiring them to evaluate a chemical or product within a sustainability framework.

Thanks to our P2Rx colleague, Donna Walden, of the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) for sharing information about this training opportunity.

Bike Sharing: The Future of Sustainable Transportation

November 11th, 2014 by

Throughout the city of Chicago, Divvy bicycle-sharing has become increasingly more prevalent since its launch in late June of 2013. This Chicago Department of Transportation program promotes sustainable public transportation by offering 3,000 bicycles at 300 stations located in many neighborhoods across the city. This fall, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced a state investment of $3 million to the program, which will provide an additional 70 stations and 700 bicycles through out Evanston, Oak Park, and Chicago. Combined with additional contributions from Evanston, Oak Park, and Chicago, totaling an additional $750,000 to the program, 175 docking stations and 1750 bikes will be added to the program by Spring 2015. Although Divvy has already been a huge success, expanding the program outside the city limits, to Oak Park and Evanston, takes more cars off the roads while simultaneously providing a larger group of people with sustainable means of transportation around the city and its surrounding areas.

Chicago is by far not the first city to introduce bike sharing. Many cities around the world, including Minneapolis, Washington DC, and London, have begun to introduce and expand similar programs. The increasing popularity and demand of such bike sharing programs could contribute greatly to decreases in traffic and carbon emissions, while increasing residents’ desires for a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

More information about the program, pricing, and riding tips for newcomers can all be found on the Divvy website. With these recent plans for additions to the program, Divvy has begun to relocate several current stations to minimize distance from one station to another, so current Divvy riders may need to check for updates in order to find their relocated station.

EPA Honors the Winners of the 19th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

October 20th, 2014 by

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recognizing landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn climate risk into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

“From academia to business, we congratulate those who bring green solutions and help solve critical environmental problems,” said Jim Jones, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “These innovations reduce energy, chemicals and water waste while cutting manufacturing costs, and sparking investments. Ultimately, these chemicals and products are safer for people’s health and the environment. We will continue to work with the 2014 winners as their technologies are adopted in the marketplace.”

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are presented in five categories: academic, small business, greener synthetic pathways, greener reaction conditions and designing greener chemicals. The awardees will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Small business

Amyris Inc. of Emeryville, California, is being recognized for engineering yeast to make a renewable fuel replacement for petroleum diesel. Making and burning this bus and truck fuel could reduce 82 percent of green-house gas emissions as compared to petroleum diesel. Since carbon pollution increases our costs in health care and other impacts, this technology could save tens of thousands of dollars each year.

Academic

Professor Shannon Stahl, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is being recognized for discovering a way to safely and efficiently use oxygen instead of hazardous chemicals in a step commonly used to make medicine. If brought to market, these methods could have a big impact on the industry, reducing chemicals and waste, and saving companies time and money.

Greener Reaction Conditions, Designing Greener Chemicals, and Greener Synthetic Pathways

Solazyme, Inc., of South San Francisco, California, is being recognized for developing novel oils from sugar and engineered algae in a way that significantly reduces the environmental effects that typically occur in producing and processing petroleum-based or plant-based oils. Soaps, laundry detergents, food products, fuels, and industrial products can now be produced with greatly reduced energy, water and waste, saving money. The company’s palm-oil equivalent can help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gases that can occur from cultivation of palm oil.

QD Vision, Inc. of Lexington, Massachusetts, for developing a process to make more efficient LED lighting and displays for TVs and mobile devices with less environmental impacts and waste. The new LED lighting material may make it possible to save 36 percent of your T.V. energy costs. Using their technology in just 10 percent of flat-screen TVs can save 600 million kilowatt-hours worldwide every year. That is enough to provide electricity for 50,000 homes for one year. Even better, producing these materials avoids using an estimated 40,000 gallons of solvents per year. This technology brings massive energy savings and is good for the planet with reduced carbon and heavy metals emissions, and less use of toxic chemicals.

The Solberg Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for developing a safer foam using surfactants and sugars that can fight fires better than traditional foams that rely on persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies will be using this foam to fight fuel fires and spills. The product works better and is safer – a win-win for industry and protecting our health and the environment.

About EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

During the 19 years of the program, EPA has received more than 1,500 nominations and presented awards to 98 technologies. Winning technologies over the lifetime of the program are responsible for reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.

EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Program award winners have significantly reduced the hazards associated with designing, manufacturing, and using chemicals. An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged submissions from among scores of nominated technologies and made recommendations to EPA for the 2014 winners.

The 2014 awards event will be held in conjunction with an industry partners’ roundtable.

More information: http://www2.epa.gov/green-chemistry.

October is Rise Above Plastics Month

October 15th, 2014 by

RAP logo

Rise Above Plastics Month

Rise Above Plastics Month is a month-long initiative encouraging the public to reduce their plastic footprint and raise awareness about the harmful effects caused by single-use plastics in our marine and coastal environments, including the Great Lakes region.

Throughout October, the Surfrider Foundation will ‘Rise Above Plastics’ by providing tips on how you can reduce your plastic footprint and simple ways to implement change in your daily routine. Take the Rise Above Plastics pledge to commit to using less plastics every day.

You can also join your local Surfrider Chapter’s annual plastic trash cleanup and enter Surfrider’s Plastic Art Contest. Show your creativity and help to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution. Enter to have a chance to win an epic prize pack including a Firewire Tibertek surfboard or Bureo skateboard, Spy + Surfrider Helm Sunglasses, ChicoBag and Surfrider gear.

The Rise Above Plastics program (RAP) is the Surfrider Foundation’s response to the problem of plastic litter in our ocean and marine environments. The goal of the program is to educate the public on the impacts single-use plastics have on marine environments, and how individuals can make changes in their daily lives and within their communities that will stem the flow of plastics into the environment. RAP also calls upon people to reduce their plastic footprint by reducing or eliminating the use of products such as single-use plastic water bottles and plastic bags.

Some facts about plastics compiled by RAP include:

  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000 – 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.[1]
  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.[2]
  • An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and up to 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastic marine litter.[3]
  • Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources.[4]
  • Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.[5]
  • In 2009 about 3.8 million tons of waste plastic “bags, sacks and wraps” were generated in the United States, but only 9.4% of this total was recycled.[6]
  • Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.[7]
  • Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water.
  • Cleanup of plastic bags is costly. California spends $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $300 million annually in litter cleanup.[8]
  • It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.[9]

Learn More

Plastics Pollution in the Great Lakes and the Marine Debris Problem
State University of New York researchers collaborated with the Los Angeles-based 5 Gyres Institute to study plastic pollutants in the Great Lakes Region. Read about their project and learn more about the problem of plastics pollution in the world’s water bodies. Newly updated to include recent research and news about microplastics pollution in the Great Lakes.

EPA Increases Access to Information Regarding Toxic Chemicals

October 13th, 2014 by

Last week, the US EPA reported that it has posted additional data and improved usability of ChemView, a database of chemicals regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). By giving the public greater access to chemical information, the EPA assists consumers in making smarter decisions about the ingredients in everyday products. The EPA added more Significant New Use Rules (SNURs), additional chemicals, and an updated Safer Chemicals Ingredients list. This online tool now provides information on almost 10,000 chemicals. Not only has the update provide more information to users, but also it has improved the display, to increase efficiency when using the tool.

The EPA launched ChemView in 2013 to increase the availability of information on chemicals as part of a commitment to strengthen the existing chemicals program and improve access to and usefulness of chemical data and information. The tool displays key health and safety information and uses data in a format that allows quick understanding, with links to more detailed information. Searches can be conducted by chemical name or Chemical Abstracts Service number, use, hazard effect, or regulatory action and has the flexibility to create tailored views of the information on individual chemicals.

Check out the updates and complete this ten minute customer satisfaction survey to provide the agency with your feedback on the usefulness of the tool, how its functionality can be improved, and suggestions for additional content.

Introducing the Greening Sports Directory (GSD)

October 8th, 2014 by

Courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, our P2Rx Center partner in Region 10.

What is the Greening Sports Directory?

Introducing the Greening Sports DirectoryThe Greening Sports Directory (or GSD) is a comprehensive directory of local, regional, and national contacts and resources to help sports facilities green their operations – whether professional, university-level, or recreational. Facilities looking to improve their energy efficiency or their green purchasing practices now have a rich list of contacts available to assist their efforts. The directory is organized into 20 specific Green Topics. It currently includes 18 major metro areas in 16 states. PPRC updates and adds to the directory on a monthly basis. This month, we added three new metro areas: Indianapolis, Dallas, and Atlanta.

 Who is it for?

Our primary audiences are sports organizations – from professional teams to pee-wee leagues. But the GSD includes useful resources for every kind of organization – businesses large to small, manufacturing industries to the service and hospitality sector. Whatever your sector, we encourage you to check out the directory to see how it can serve your needs. Green Sports Directory  Screen Shot

What does each metropolitan area listing include?

Listings for each metropolitan area include dozens of national, regional, and local resources organized by specific green topics, including construction & demolition debris; electronic wastes; energy efficiency; fan engagement; food donation; water; and waste & recycling.

Why a directory for sports?

Sports serve as a powerful cultural force. To green sports offers a huge opportunity to move the sustainability needle in both cities and in households. Additionally, we saw a need for a comprehensive and vetted directory that connects organizations with those regional and national resources best suited to help them. Having a slew of good resources at hand will help organizations make comprehensive and time-effective efforts to green their operations. For more Greening Sports resources, check out our Greening Sport page, as well as GLRPPR’s Green Sports sector resource.

The directory was created by the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) with support from the EPA and the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx).

 

 

Climate Action Champions: Request for Applications

October 1st, 2014 by

From the solicitation:

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to advancing the Administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

In recognition of the importance of the dual policy goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing climate resilience, the DOE­ – in close collaboration with other Federal agencies – is launching an initiative to identify and showcase U.S. local and tribal governments that have proven to be climate leaders through pursuing opportunities to advance both of these goals in their communities. In particular, the initiative will select 10-15 U.S. local governments and tribal governments – or regional collaborations or consortia thereof – that demonstrate a strong and ongoing commitment to implementing strategies that both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience, with a particular emphasis on strategies that further both goals. The DOE-led effort will provide a platform for other Federal agencies to participate in, and give leverage to, the activities of communities that are selected for this initiative.

The DOE initiative is being led as a combined effort through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the Office of Indian Energy, and the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis.

From a story about the Initiative in The Hill:

The federal government will not award any funds as part of the initiative…

The Energy Department will administer the competition, but agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Interior Department will provide specific assistance to the communities…

Specifically, participating communities will get climate data and tools from various federal agencies to help write projections and make planning decisions.

They’ll also be able to participate in a federally organized peer group of communities fighting climate change and have access to Energy Department programs on deploying solar power locally.

For more information:

EPA proposes new rule regulating mercury in dental amalgam effluent

September 25th, 2014 by

Today, the National Journal reported that EPA has released a proposed rule that would limit the amount of pollutants, including mercury, discharged from dental offices as a result of procedures involving dental amalgam. According to EPA’s fact sheet:

The proposed rule would require all affected dentists to control mercury discharges to POTWs by reducing their discharge of dental amalgam to a level achievable through the use of the best available technology (amalgamseparators) and the use of Best Management Practices. In order to simplify compliance with, and enforcement of the numeric reduction requirements, the proposed rule would allow dentists to demonstrate compliance by installing, operating and maintaining amalgam separators. The proposal also includes a provision by which dental offices that have already installed amalgam separators that do not meet the proposed amalgam removal efficiency would still be considered in compliance with the rule for the life of the amalgam separator.

For more information on the proposed rule, including supporting documentation (when it is made available), visit http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/guide/dental/.

 

 

A Brief Guide to LibGuides (and how this relates to P2 Week)

September 19th, 2014 by

Pollution Prevention 101 LibguideLibGuides is a web 2.0 platform that libraries use to create topical guides to help their users find information. It combines the best features of social networks, wikis, and blogs into one package. Librarians can incorporate RSS feeds, video, web links, bibliographic citations, search boxes, and other finding aids.

LibGuides also allows librarians to create polls and allows users to comment on specific resources and tools within each guide. Users can also sign up to receive e-mail alerts when new content is published, either for particular topics/keywords or for a specific librarian.

Nine of GLRPPR’s topic hubs have been repackaged as LibGuides. They are:

In addition to the repackaged topic hubs, I have developed a number of other guides on various sustainability topics, including the Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide (pictured to the right), which is a compilation of tools and resources useful for P2 technical assistance providers, particularly those who are new to the field.

Other sustainability LibGuides include:

GLRPPR continues to develop new guides on sustainability topics to support the work of the region’s pollution prevention practitioners. If there is a particular topic that you’d like to see us cover, please let us know in the comments.

Burning Need: The Search for Less-toxic Flame Retardants

September 18th, 2014 by

DfE labelFlame retardants have been in the news again recently, as four health systems announced they would follow Kaiser Permanante’s lead by halting future purchases of furniture treated with flame retardants. As participants in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), these health systems will specify with suppliers that upholstered furniture should not contain flame retardants where code permits. Commonly used flame retardants, particularly halogenated ones, have been found to be persistent and bioaccumulative in the environment, and have been linked to a variety of health problems, including endocrine disruption, cancer, neurotoxicity, and adverse developmental issues among others. These compounds serve as great illustration of the need for source reduction and safer alternatives considerations during P2 Week.

One such class of compounds, polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, were commonly used in electronics, among other things. Back in 2004, a study conducted by the Electronics Take Back Coalition (then called the Computer Take-Back Campaign) and Clean Production Action found PBDEs in dust swiped from computers in university labs, legislative offices, and a children’s museum; many similar studies would further illustrate the ubiquity of these compounds in our everyday environments. That same year, penta- and octaBDEs were phased out of manufacture and import in the US. By 2009, the US producers of decaPBDE had reached an agreement with EPA to phase it out from manufacture, import and sale by 2013. DecaPBDE has been used in television casings, cell phones, and other electronics. EPA’s Design for Environment (DfE) program has conducted a Flame Retardant Alternatives for DecaBDE Partnership, which released a final report in January of this year. Three other DfE partnership programs have focused on flame retardants, underscoring the recognition by the government and industry that many of these substances require replacement with safer compounds (see the DfE partnerships related to flame retardant alternatives for HBCD, those used in circuit boards, and those used in furniture).

Despite efforts to phase out and replace specific flame retardants linked to negative impacts, these compounds continue to be a problem in general. For example, some of the phased out PBDEs may still be in your home or office, if you have older electronic devices, or furniture containing treated foam. People don’t replace items like couches all that often, and those of us attuned to sustainability try to extend the useful life of the products we own as long as possible. This situation is an example of how you really can’t define any action as being entirely “green”–it’s good to keep items longer, but the tradeoff could be continued exposure to toxins. PBDEs and other flame retardants can also present occupational exposure risks in electronics recycling facilities where the compounds can become airborne during dismantling processes. Such facilities will continue to deal with older products that contain phased out compounds into the future; you’ve probably heard about the volumes of old CRT TVs and monitors electronics recyclers deal with, and the issues surrounding the lead within them. Consider that all those old monitors probably have cases with phased-out toxic flame retardants in them as well. And if established procedures are not always successful in preventing lead exposures in recycling operations, as has recently been illustrated, then it’s also possible existing controls may not be effectively protecting workers from flame retardants. I won’t even get into the whole issue of informal recycling of electronics, and the releases of flame retardants into the environment that surely results from such operations.

To make matters worse, some of the early-adopted alternatives have already been shown to be problematic themselves. Organophosphates, for example, have been used for decades as flame retardants in consumer goods, and their use increased as a replacement for the brominated flame retardants which were being phased out. But recent studies have detected higher than expected levels of organophosphates in outdoor air, including sites around the Great Lakes, suggesting that this class of compounds, which also is associated with its own list of human health concerns, could be as persistent, toxic, and as easily transported as the compounds it replaced. One particular organophosphate, known as “tris” or “chlorinated tris” was turned to as alternative to PBDEs, and has received a lot of recent attention as a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Duke University scientists was released showing blood levels of tris in toddlers that were on average five times higher than that in their mothers. Since toddlers are more sensitive than adults to chemicals that can effect hormones and metabolism, this finding is particularly disturbing. It’s likely that this result is due to the fact that these compounds so readily leach out of products, like furniture, and get into dust, just as PBDEs were shown to. Since toddlers tend to play on the floor and pop objects into their mouths, they’re at increased risk of exposure to toxin-laden dust than adults. It’s interesting to note that tris was eliminated from use in children’s pajamas in 1977 when it was found to be mutagenic, but it has continued to be used in other products, particularly in the types of foams found within furniture.

The multitude of issues related to these compounds have lead others, besides the health care systems mentioned earlier, to advocate for limiting exposure to flame retardants period, and re-examining their widespread use. The Green Science Policy Institute, for example, argues that flame retardants are used, particularly in electronics, in instances beyond those in which evidence supports the need for external resistance to candle flame ignition. (See The Case against Candle Resistant TVs published earlier this year, and The Case against Candle Resistant Electronics from 2008). Among other issues, they point out that widespread flame retardant chemical use may pose a clear occupational exposure threat to firefighters, since once a fire does start, the by-products released from the burning of materials containing them may cause greater risk to firefighter health than smoke not containing such by-products. They are not the only entity to suggest this (see this article in the Huffington Post, for example).

Incidentally, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were once used as flame retardants, among other things; their production was banned in the US in 1979 due to their toxicity and persistence in the environment. Despite this, we are still dealing with exposure to PCBs and how to properly dispose of materials containing PCBs. Just yesterday (9/17), a workshop addressing PCBs and Their Impact on Illinois was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago and simultaneously broadcast at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), host agency for both GLRPPR and the Sustainable Electronics Initiative. Part of the impetus for the workshop was a recent political controversy over whether to allow a landfill situated over a large aquifer to be permitted to accept materials containing PCBs. Options for safe disposal of PCB contaminated materials remain limited and expensive. Like PBDEs, PCBs fell into the category of halogenated flame retardants; in their case the halogen involved was chlorine rather than bromine.

And like PCBs, other types of flame retardants are likely to persist not only in the environment, but on our list of headaches to deal with in terms of policy and disposal/clean up, well beyond the time at which any specific one of them may be banned or phased out. They represent a current, easy-to-relate-to example of why pollution prevention techniques, such as the employment of green chemistry, green engineering, and design for environment during the product design and development phase are so essential to human and environmental well being.