USU Extension Unveils Water Impacts Website

UntitledIn line with Utah State University’s (USU) 2015 theme, “year of water,” USU Extension recently unveiled a Water Impacts website. This website features resources including water quality, the center for water efficient landscaping, irrigation, water maps, climate, and more information about the year of water.

The Water Impacts team includes Danny Barandiaran (Biometeorology Ph.D. student0, Joanna Endter-Wada (Associate Professor in Environment and Society), Kelly Kopp (Water Conservation and Turfgrass Specialist), Larry Rupp (Professor in Ornamental Horticulture), Nancy Mesner (Water Quality Specialist).

A new educational video also features many of our top university specialists in water use.

Can Mushrooms Play an Essential Role in Healing our Planet?

Fungi Perfecti founder and president Paul Stamets has been a dedicated mycologist for over 40 years. Over this time, he has discovered and coauthored several new species of mushrooms, and pioneered countless techniques in the field of mushroom cultivation. – See more at: In this TedTalk video, Paul Stamets lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the planet: cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu viruses.

Discovering a New Way of Building with Bamboo

When building a home or office, is it possible to replace steel and concrete with bamboo?

Sharma Springs design project, with gardens surrounding the building using Permaculture Design Principles.

Elora Hardy is proving so by opening up a new way for us to think about building – from shapes to materials – using bamboo. Ibuku Bamboo Architecture, lead by Elora, consists of a team of designers and builders who aspire to make the most of bamboo and local talented craftspeople and young minds. They hold the belief that bamboo’s potential is underestimated and it should be used to house many more people, especially in the tropics. Elora’s team works to draw out beauty from this abundant wild grass. The traditional Balinese craftsmen work closely with Ibuku’s designers to develop a balance of ancient and new ideas. Elora Hardy leads Ibuku’s vision and sustainable design. In 2010 Elora returned to her childhood home in Bali.  Together she and her team of talented Indonesian designers and architects have built over forty new bamboo structures. They include Green Village, parts of Green School and other projects, mostly on the island.

To see more of her beautiful work, view Elora Hardy’s TedTalk: Magical Houses, Made of Bamboo.

Governor Herbert Signs Bill Extending Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Incentives and Adding Natural Gas Incentives for Heavy Duty Vehicles


Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday ceremonially signed two bills designed to help clean up Utah’s air.

BlakeHB406, sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy and championed in the Senate by Sen. Todd Weiler, provides incentives for trucking companies to purchase heavy-duty trucks that run on natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel.

SB15, also sponsored by Handy, makes it easier to receive incentives to convert light vehicles to natural gas.

At the bill signing ceremony at Questar’s West Valley City natural gas fueling station, Herbert noted that Utah is taking many steps to clean up its air, and providing incentives for truckers and auto owners to use natural gas as a transportation fuel is an important strategy.

He said the success of the legislation is an example of all stakeholders coming together to solve a problem. Read More

Wasatch Front Regional Council Adopts 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan

TranspPlanThe Wasatch Front Regional Council recently adopted the 2015-2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP identifies the major roadway, transit and bike projects and services needed over the next 25 years in Salt Lake, Weber, Davis and a portion of Box Elder Counties.

Utah’s population is projected to nearly double by 2050. As we grow, we’ll need new and better ways of getting around. Keeping people connected and commerce moving requires an integrated transportation system where Utahns have more transportation choices. Read More

Controlled Floods Rebuilding Colorado River Habitat

From Utah State Today: In a warming world of inevitably decreasing runoff and increasing human needs, rehabilitating parts of the much-dammed and much-diverted Colorado River is an immense challenge that requires identifying river segments were tractable strategies can be implemented. The Colorado River downstream from Glen Canyon Dam in the Grand Canyon region is one such place say U.S. Geological Survey scientists, many of whom have a long association with Utah State University. Read More

Rocky Mountain Power Incorporates Norm-Based Behavior Change into their Electricity Bills

From Utah Public Radio (

Freida and Ray Tibbitts have always taken care to turn off lights whenever they leave a room, so they were stunned last fall when their electric bill jumped and the energy report included with the bill showed their home was using twice as much power as the neighbors.

Freida knew the reason: a daughter and son-in-law had moved in, and they kept lights and electric heaters on for medical reasons. She wrote to Rocky Mountain Power to explain.

“I wanted the company to know,” says Freida, “that we weren’t foolishly burning up a lot of power we didn’t need.”

The couple also followed one of the tips the power company offered, and they replaced all of the ordinary light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.

“It made sense to change to the more efficient light bulbs,” says Ray Tibbitts, because they put out more light for less money.”  Read More

Walmart Adopts Five “Freedom Principles” for Farm Animals

Published by Rose Hayden-Smith on the University of California (UC) Food Observer (

ABOUT Rose Hayden-Smith, PhD, is a UC academic and author, writing as the UC Food Observer. Hayden-Smith has worked as a 4-H youth, family and community development and Master Gardener advisor. She also led UC ANR’s sustainable food systems initiative. A trained U.S. historian, her research focuses on food policy, and the role of gardens in community food security.

Walmart, the nation’s largest food retailer, is making some big asks of its suppliers. The mega-retailer is urging “thousands of U.S. suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals and improve treatment of them.” The guidelines identify sow gestation crates, battery cages and other housing that doesn’t provide adequate space for animals. Suppliers are being asked to consider pain management for certain procedures, such as de-horning. Walmart is also asking its suppliers to produce progress reports on antibiotic use and animal welfare (and to post those reports on their websites to increase transparency). The company is increasing pressuring on suppliers “to report animal abuse to authorities and take disciplinary action.”

While the practices are not mandatory and no deadlines have been set, given the sheer size of Walmart and what some term its “outsized influence on its suppliers’ practices,” changes are certain to follow. The guidelines also apply to suppliers for Sam’s Club.

The move, in response to consumer demand and pressure from outside groups (including animal welfare organizations), is being widely recognized as significant for the industry. The announcement was greeted with praise.

Anne D. Innocenzio (@ADinnocenzio) writes for the Associated Press:

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, called it “game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending.”

Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president of Wal-Mart’s sustainability division, also offered comments:

“We think what’s needed is a fresh look at how we can look at producing food. This is an industrywide change. It won’t happen overnight,” she said. “It’s about transparency.” For example, she noted that with antibiotics, “We don’t know a lot about who was using what for what reason.”

A must read. Information for this post was also provided by Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, on his blog, A Humane Nation. H/T to Terrie Ellerbee of the Shelby Report, a publication serving the grocery industry.

New Toolkit Launched to Evaluate the Economic Impacts of Local Food System Initiatives

USDAFoodIn 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service convened a team of regional economists and food system specialists to develop a best practice Toolkit for evaluating the economic impacts of local food system activities ( The team, coordinated by Dr. Dawn Thilmany McFadden at Colorado State University, hopes that this Toolkit can guide and enhance the capacity of local organizations to make more deliberate and credible measurements of local and small-scale economic activity and other ancillary benefits.

The Toolkit is made up of seven modules that can be grouped into two stages of food system planning, assessment and evaluation. The first set of modules (1-4) guides the first stages of an economic impact assessment and includes framing the system, relevant economic activities and assessment process as well as collecting and analyzing relevant primary and secondary data. The second set of modules (5-7) provides a more technical set of practices and discussion of how to use the information collected in stage one to conduct a more rigorous economic impact analysis.

Netherlands’ Solar Road Working Better than Expected

By Fiona MacDonald, of Science Alert (

The Netherlands made headlines last year when it built the world’s first solar road – an energy-harvesting bike path paved with glass-coated solar panels.

Now, six months into the trial, engineers say the system is working even better than expected, with the 70-metre test bike path generating 3,000 kWh, or enough electricity to power a small household for a year.

“If we translate this to an annual yield, we expect more than the 70kwh per square metre per year,” Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, the group behind the project, told Tarek Bazley at Al Jazeera. So just imagine the potential if we covered all our roads in the stuff.

It’s this kind of thinking that got the Internet so hyped-up over Solar Roadways last year – a crowd-funded project that aimed to power the entire US with solar-covered roads. However, the Netherlands became the first country to put the idea into practice with their installation in Krommenie, a town north of Amsterdam.

The solar panels used on the Dutch bike path are sandwiched between glass, silicon rubber and concrete, and are strong enough to support 12-tonne fire trucks without any damage. Each individual panel connects to smart metres, which optimise their output and feed their electricity straight into street lighting, or the grid.

The engineers spent five years creating the system to be durable. “If one panel is broken or in shadow or dirt, it will only switch off that PV panel,” said Jan-Hendrik Kremer, Renewable Energy Systems consultant at technology company Imtech.

More than 150,000 cyclists rode over the solar panels during the trial, and so far they’ve only noticed one fault – a small section of a coating, which provided grip to the surface, has become delaminated due to temperature fluctuations. The team at SolaRoad is now working to improve this coating.

“We made a set of coatings, which are robust enough to deal with the traffic loads but also give traction to the vehicles passing by,” Stan Klerks, a scientist at Dutch research group TNO – the parent company, which came up with SolaRoad – told Bazley from Al Jazeera.

The researchers design the panels to not only let in as much light as possible, but also to last at least 20 years – a similar lifespan to rooftop solar panels.


The potential is pretty huge. Not only could the roads generate enough electricity to power local households, but they can also provide some amazing lighting opportunities. Last year a solar road was installed in the Netherlands by design lab Studio Roosegaarde, which sucked up the Sun’s energy during the day and then guided cyclists at night using beautiful Vincent Van Gogh ‘Starry Starry Night- inspired LED lights.

SolaRoad is now working with local councils around the Netherlands to try to roll the technology out in other provinces. A similar agreement has also been signed with California in the US. Bring on the future.