News

Walmart Adopts Five “Freedom Principles” for Farm Animals

Published by Rose Hayden-Smith on the University of California (UC) Food Observer (http://ucfoodobserver.com/2015/05/22/walmart-adopts-five-freedom-principles-for-farm-animals/):

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 (http://www.localfoodeconomics.com/). 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 (http://www.sciencealert.com/solar-roads-in-the-netherlands-are-working-even-better-than-expected):

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.

USDA Announces Water Quality and Energy Efficiency Projects Across Rural America

Events Nationwide Also Celebrate How Renewable Energy Systems Help Protect the Environment and Grow the Economy

utah-139939_640USDA, WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing support for projects to improve rural water and wastewater services, promote renewable energy, and promote the efficient use of energy resources.

“I am proud to announce that USDA is providing more than $112 million in loans and grants to help rural communities build and upgrade their water and energy infrastructure systems,” said Vilsack. “Not only do projects such as these help ensure communities have access to clean water and affordable energy, they also create jobs and boost the economy.”

USDA is providing the funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects through Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program (WEP). Read More

Hollywoods’ Messaging about Nature and the Environment

LoraxA new paper in Environmental Communication examines ideologies about nature and the environment in popular, animated Hollywood films—including The Lorax, Wall-E, and Ice Age 2—through a symptomatic reading. The primary goal of the analysis is to elucidate key omissions in these texts through an assessment of the problematic—defined in this research as an a-priori answer to perceived audience concerns regarding the role of consumerism and corporate culture in environmental problems. Silences in the films revolve around: how environmental problems are defined; what the consequences are; who the responsible parties are; and what potential solutions exist to mitigate them. The significance of the research is underscored by the formation of an increasingly intimate relationship between children, consumer culture, and commercial media in the USA, as well as the increasingly dire information emerging about global environmental issues. This analysis reveals the dual, often conflicting, messages that commercial film provides for its young audiences about pivotal environmental problems and their potential resolution.

See the full paper, here.

Utah Conservation Corps to Launch Nation’s First Fossil Free Bike Crew

UCCThe Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) has secured a $20,000 grant from Utah State Park’s  Recreational Trails Program to launch the nation’s first fossil-free bike crew. This four-person AmeriCorps crew will be based out of UCC’s Salt Lake City field office and will use cargo bicycles to transport themselves, tools, food, and camping gear to two Utah State Park sites for seven weeks during the summer. The crew will cycle from Salt Lake City to both East Canyon State Park (33 miles away) and Deer Creek Canyon (56 miles away) for six-day work hitches before returning back to Salt Lake City. During their 7 weeks, the crew will complete two miles of trail construction and five miles trail maintenance at the two state parks. Read More

USU, Logan City, and Logan High Partner to Improve Cache Valley Air Quality

PosterContestParticulate matter (PM) air pollution exerts a considerable impact on public health. PM pollution is ranked as the 13th leading cause of mortality worldwide (ca. 800,000 annual deaths). In January 2004, the Cache Valley in northern Utah was reported to have the nation’s “worst ever” PM2.5(particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 μm in diameter) air pollution. Surrounded by tall mountains (2513-3042m), and subject to frequent winter atmospheric inversions, Cache Valley is particularly susceptible to episodes of high PM2.5 air pollution. Consistent violation of the 24 hr average U.S. EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5, resulted in designation of non-attainment as identified by the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, the majority (>80%) of Cache Valley PM2.5 (CVPM) has a mean geometric diameter < 1 mm, which efficiently penetrate to the general circulation or to the brain, causing widespread cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary pathologies than larger PM. Read More

2015: International Year of Soils

Year_of_SoilsHealthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre and even medicine said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today as it kicked off 2015 the International Year of Soils on the first-ever World Soil Day.

Soils are also essential to our ecosystems, playing a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and droughts, and yet we are not paying enough attention to this important “silent ally,” the UN agency explained.

The International Year of Soils kicks off today at events in Rome, New York and Santiago de Chile, in an effort to raise awareness and promote more sustainable use of this critical resource. Read More

27 Non-Governmental Organizations Pledge to Support the Urban Waters Federal Partnership

From the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Release Date: 12/03/2014
Contact Information: Robert Daguillard,  (202) 564-6618,  daguillard.robert@epa.gov

uwp-logoWASHINGTON – A broad coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and The Conservation Fund has pledged to support the Urban Waters Federal Partnership as it works to restore waterways and revitalize communities across the country. The NGOs will align resources, funding, and expertise with federal efforts to restore urban waters and parks, increase outdoor recreation, and engage residents and youth. Read More

USU, Logan City, and Logan High Partner to Improve Cache Valley Air Quality

Cache Valley Air Quality

Particulate matter (PM) air pollution exerts a considerable impact on public health. PM pollution is ranked as the 13th leading cause of mortality worldwide (ca. 800,000 annual deaths). In January 2004, the Cache Valley in northern Utah was reported to have the nation’s “worst ever” PM2.5 (particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 μm in diameter) air pollution. Surrounded by tall mountains (2513-3042m), and subject to frequent winter atmospheric inversions, Cache Valley is particularly susceptible to episodes of high PM2.5 air pollution. Consistent violation of the 24 hr average U.S. EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5, resulted in designation of non-attainment as identified by the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, the majority (>80%) of Cache Valley PM2.5 (CVPM) has a mean geometric diameter < 1 mm, which efficiently penetrate to the general circulation or to the brain, causing widespread cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary pathologies than larger PM.

The main chemical component of CVPM is ammonium nitrate (NH4 NO3) formed through acid-base reactions between gas-phase ammonia from the excreta of dairy cattle and nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust and other combustion products. This reaction is catalyzed by cold temperatures, high humidity, and by the presence of volatile organic, and reactive compounds

Numerous epidemiology studies conducted around the world associate PM2.5 exposure with all-cause mortality, stroke, cancer, cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular disease, asthma, pneumonia, hypertensive disease, cardiac arrest, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease and autism. PM2.5 is also associated with increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Consistent and coherent health effects observed in these and other studies have led to the consensus of a causal link between particulate pollution and heightened morbidity and mortality.

To summarize why air quality is an issue to address in Cache Valley:

  • Cache Valley Utah frequently experiences wintertime episodes of some of the highest PM2.5 pollution measured in the USA, and new data demonstrates reductions in pulmonary function in human volunteers during these episodes;
  •  In other locales, similar PM2.5 concentrations are known to cause pulmonary and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Logan High Poster Contest will Target Idling in Cache Valley

Given the health risks and severity of PM2.5 concentrations during Cache Valley’s inversion period, Logan City listed improving Cache Valley’s air as one of their top primary needs. In a new partnership called “Community Bridge Initiative,” Roslynn Brain and Edwin Stafford, USU professors in the College of Natural Resources and the Huntsman School of Business, partnered with Logan City to tackle this issue. Dr. Brain’s upper-level undergraduate course, “Communicating Sustainability” and Dr. Stafford’s marketing students will team up with Logan High School students in a mentoring program to create catchy and effective messaging to reduce idling in Cache Valley. Top winners will receive prizes ranging from the RockHaus Climbing Gym to a main prize donated by the Mayor. The top posters (displaying locally-relevent, effective, and eye-catching messaging) will also be converted into anti-idling signs to be distributed around Cache Valley. To find out more about the poster contest, click here.

What is the Community Bridge Initiative?

USU’s Community Bridge Initiative (CBI), a place-based service-learning program loosely modeled after the University of Oregon's Sustainable City Year Program, launched in January 2015. CBI matches a multidisciplinary set of courses to a set of projects identified by Logan City. Students work with community leaders to define meaningful solutions, develop action plans and implement projects directly relevant to their course curriculum. As a result, students come away with the experience of tackling real-world problems identified by the community.