What’s the word in environmental news this week?
Listen to this week’s Green Divas myEARTH360 Report—Green Diva Meg and I got revved up about the downsides of k-cups, coffee’s convenience craze of the century, before digging into “real” environmental news.
Read on for more environmental news—from k-cups to startling air pollution stats, weird renewable technology and more.
Be on the look-out for an entire post about k-cups and how they’re harmful for the environment, our health and even marriage (coming soon!). In the meantime, relax with a cup of coffee or tea and check out this week’s environmental news headlines, which includes an excellent article about k-cups from Mother Jones below.
Journalist Murray Carpenter estimates in his new book, Caffeinated, that a row of all the K-Cups produced in 2011 would circle the globe more than six times. To update that analogy: In 2013, Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. If Green Mountain aims to have “a Keurig System on every counter,” as the company states in its latest annual report, that’s a hell of a lot of little cups.
Green Mountain only makes five percent of its current cups out of recyclable plastic. The rest of them are made up of a #7 composite plastic, which is nonrecyclable in most places. And for the small few that are recyclable, the aluminum lid must be separated from the cup, which also must be emptied of its wet grounds, for the materials to make it through the recycling process. Even then, chances are the pod won’t be recycled because it’s too small, says Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the National Resources Defense Council. Read the full story…
Air Pollution Kills 7 Million a Year, WHO Says
Air pollution kills 7 million people a year globally, 80 percent of them from heart disease and stroke, the World Health Organization said Monday.
This makes air pollution the world’s largest single environmental health risk, WHO says, accounting for one out of eight deaths.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” WHO’s Dr. Maria Neira said in a statement. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.” Read the full story…
In California, Demand for Groundwater Causing Huge Swaths of Land to Sink
With California in the throes of a major drought and demand for groundwater rising, officials and landowners are racing to respond to the process known as subsidence. Some areas of the San Joaquin Valley, the backbone of California’s vast agricultural industry, are subsiding at the fastest rates ever measured, said Michelle Sneed, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author of the recent report.
While the bulk of the sinking 1,200-square-mile (3,108-square-kilometer) area in central California is subsiding only about an inch (2.5 centimeters) a year, one 2-square-mile (5-square-kilometer) area Sneed studied is subsiding almost a foot (0.3 meters) annually. At that pace, “lots of infrastructure can’t handle such rapid subsidence,” Sneed said, including roads, water canals, and pipelines. The drought is likely to exacerbate the situation, as less rain drives more pumping. Read the full story…
25 Years After Exxon Valdez Spill, Environmental Advocates Say Oil Laws Outdated
Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Prince William Sound has not fully recovered. Oil from the 10.8-million-gallon spill still persists in the environment, and populations of killer whales and herring have not recovered.
Environmental advocates say the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster is a reminder of the need to update regulations on the oil industry, as well as the risks that linger.
“It’s sad that we’re here 25 years later still talking about the same issue –- the consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels.”
~ Athan Manuel, director of the lands protection program at the Sierra Club
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, which oversees the restoration of the Prince William Sound Ecosystem, says the oil that persists in the environment is “nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill,” and is weathering or degrading very slowly. “At this rate,” the council says, “the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely.” Read the full story…
Wind Industry’s New Technologies Are Helping It Compete on Price
The wind industry has gone to great lengths over the years to snap up the best properties for its farms, often looking to remote swaths of prairie or distant mountain ridges to maximize energy production and minimize community opposition. Now, it is reaching for the sky.
With new technology allowing developers to build taller machines spinning longer blades, the industry has been able to produce more power at lower cost by capturing the faster winds that blow at higher elevations. This has opened up new territories, in places like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where the price of power from turbines built 300 feet to 400 feet above the ground can now compete with conventional sources like coal.
And efforts to capture the wind could go even higher. In perhaps the most extreme example, a start-up called Altaeros Energies is preparing to introduce its first commercial pilot of an airborne wind turbine in Alaska. Known as the BAT — or Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the enormous, white helium-filled doughnut surrounding a rotor will float about 1,000 feet in the air and feed enough electricity to power more than a dozen homes through one of the cables tethering it to the ground. Read the full story…
Check out this weird-ish wind technology on video…
AAAS Kicks Off Initiative to Recognize Climate Change Risks
AAAS is announcing the launch of a new initiative to expand the dialogue on the risks of climate change. At the heart of the initiative is the AAAS’s ” What We Know” report, an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.
“We’re the largest general scientific society in the world, and therefore we believe we have an obligation to inform the public and policymakers about what science is showing about any issue in modern life, and climate is a particularly pressing one,” said Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS. “As the voice of the scientific community, we need to share what we know and bring policymakers to the table to discuss how to deal with the issue.”
Nobel laureate Dr. Mario Molina, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography and co-chairs, Dr. Diana Wall, distinguished professor of biology and director at Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and Dr. James McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard, chaired the climate science panel that generated the report. Read the full story…
USDA sees growth in US organic industry
The United States Department of Agriculture has announced new figures showing the organic industry continues to grow, both domestically and globally.
There are more than 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 different countries around the world. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says consumer demand for organic products has grown tremendously over the past decade. With retail sales valued at $35 billion last year, Vilsack says the organic industry represents a huge economic opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Read the full story…
Earth Hour is March 29th!
At 8:30-9:30 p.m., wherever you live., turn off your non-essential power—that includes your coffee machines!
This is a grassroots movement meant to unite people around the world. Have a party and light some candles. But make sure they’re GMO-free soy or beeswax candles!
Watch the official Earth Hour video:
For past myEARTH360 reports, click here.