Sustainability Almanac for January 10-17



Leaf Bullet Global News

The world's first osmotic energy plant has been operating for more than three years in Tofte, Norway Salt Power: Norway Project Gives Osmotic Energy a Shake

Few people think of osmosis as a way to help feed the world’s hunger for energy. But an experiment under way on a coastal inlet in Norway may help draw attention to the power packed in the salty seas. Osmotic power, also known as “salinity gradient” power, relies on a rather basic physical process: diffusion. Salty water molecules tend to move into freshwater nearby. It happens wherever rivers meet the sea, creating energy in the form of heat. Place a semipermeable barrier between the saltwafter and the freshwater, and the diffusion of molecules through the membrane is osmosis.

For decades, reverse osmosis has been used to filter water. Sidney Loeb, the American chemical engineer who is credited with developing a practical reverse osmosis process in the 1950s, later developed a technique for capturing the energy in the rush of saltwater to the freshwater side of a membrane. Osmotic power generation is carbon-free, and Statkraft reports that its plant’s main byproduct is brackish water. Questions remain however, concerning future large-scale operations and their effect on salinity levels or how pretreatment processes might impact local marine life. Read more here.

Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil. Eucalyptus trees emit high levels of the chemical isoprene as they grow. Biofuel production threatens air quality and crop yields, study finds

Fighting climate change by producing more biofuels could actually worsen a little-known type of air pollution and cause almost 1,400 premature deaths a year in Europe by 2020, according to a new study. The report said trees grown to produce biofuel – seen as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal – release a chemical into the air that, when mixed with other pollutants, could also reduce farmers’ crop yields.

The report, in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked into the impact of a European Union scheme to slow climate change by producing more biofuels. There would be a similar impact wherever biofuels were produced in large quantities in areas suffering air pollution, including the United States and China. “Growing biofuels is thought to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Nick Hewitt, who worked on the study with colleagues from Lancaster University, UK. “What we’re saying is ‘yes, that’s great, but biofuels could also have a detrimental effect on air quality’.” Read more here.

Ice melting in Antarctica ‘Horrible’ sea level rise of more than 3 feet plausible by 2100, experts say

Melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland may push up global sea levels more than 3 feet by the end of this century, according to a scientific poll of experts that brings a degree of clarity to a murky and controversial slice of climate science. Such a rise in the seas would displace millions of people from low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, swamp atolls in the Pacific Ocean, cause dikes in Holland to fail, and cost coastal mega-cities from New York to Tokyo billions of dollars for construction of sea walls and other infrastructure to combat the tides.

“The consequences are horrible,” Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol and a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, told NBC News. Estimating how much sea levels will rise from ice sheet melting is one of the more challenging aspects of climate science. Some evidence suggests recent accelerated melting is related to changes in ocean and atmospheric temperature, though natural variability may play an important role. Read more here.

New research suggests that sustained warmer temperatures on Earth could lead to an increase in volcanic activity. As Planet Warms, More Lava Could Find Surface

The effect of volcanic eruptions on climate has been one of the more hotly contested topics in the global warming debate. Seized upon briefly by climate skeptics as an alternative to human-caused warming, eruptions are now understood by mainstream science to result most often in net cooling for a period of up to several years. Few researchers, however, have considered that an inverse relationship might also exist — that over time, climate might have an effect on the planet’s igneous activity.

Yet those are precisely the findings of new research from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany. Operating over a long enough time scale, sustained warmer temperatures lead to increased frequency of volcanic activity, the research finds. Read more here.

Tehran, Iran is covered in poisonous gases Iran pollution worsens as thousands die in capital

A thick brown haze which has covered nine big cities – including the capital, Tehran – in Iran for the past 10 days is being blamed for thousands of deaths. Iran’s deputy health minister said some 4,460 people died from air pollution in Tehran in the first nine months of last year. At the peak of the crisis, hospital admissions were said to have risen by at least a third and the corridors of local clinics were full of wheezing people, children and pregnant women waiting for oxygen and treatment.

Walking in the streets of Tehran is impossible without wearing a surgical mask over one’s mouth and nose, but people’s eyes still tear up and their throats sting from the mist of pollutants, which, according to reports, are made up of particles containing lead, sulphur dioxins and benzene. According to reports, Tehran enjoys less than 100 healthy days a year. Iran’s health ministry has reported a rise in respiratory and heart diseases, as well as an increase in a variety of cancers that it says are related to pollution. Each year, the 5.5 million vehicles in the city pump an estimated five million tonnes of CO2 and other poisonous gases into the air. Read more here.

Other Global Headlines of Interest

Leaf Bullet National News

Dried out flats 2012 hottest year on record in continental U.S., NOAA says

Last year was the hottest on record for the contiguous United States, shattering the previous mark set in 1998 by a wide margin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced. The average temperature was 55.3 degrees, 1 degree above the previous record and 3.2 degrees more than the 20th-century average. Temperatures were above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012, a 16-month stretch that hasn’t occurred since the government began keeping such records in 1895.

Federal scientists said that the data are compelling evidence that climate change is affecting weather in the United States and suggest that the nation’s weather is likely to be hotter, drier and potentially more extreme than it would have been without the warmer temperatures. Last year’s record temperature is “clearly symptomatic of a changing climate,” said Thomas R. Karl, who directs NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Americans can now see the sustained warmth over the course of their own lifetimes – “something we haven’t seen before.” Also read USA Today

Fracking at a Pennsylvania site EPA’s Fracking Study May Dodge Water Contamination Frequency Issue

An ongoing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study on natural gas drilling and its potential for groundwater contamination has gotten tentative praise so far from both industry and environmental groups. Glenn Paulson, the EPA’s science adviser, describes the project as “one of the most aggressive public outreach programs in EPA history.” The final report won’t come out until late 2014. But a 275-page progress report was released in December and, for all its details, shows that the EPA doesn’t plan to address one contentious issue – how often drinking water contamination might occur.

The EPA had planned to do both computer simulations of water contamination and actual field tests at drilling sites. But the agency hasn’t found a drilling company to partner with to test groundwater around a drilling site. That leaves the computer simulations. But the EPA said those won’t be able to address the likelihood of contamination “occurring during actual field operations.” “In its inability to find a single company willing to test water quality before and after drilling and fracking, the EPA is being thwarted in perhaps the most important part of its study of fracking’s impacts,” Earthworks said in a statement. Read more here.

Catfish in a fish farm Drought Puts The Squeeze On Already Struggling Fish Farms

This year’s drought delivered a pricey punch to US aquaculture, the business of raising fish like bass and catfish for food. Worldwide, aquaculture has grown into a $119 billion industry, but the lack of water and high temperatures in 2012 hurt many U.S. fish farmers who were already struggling to compete on a global scale. John Hargreaves, a former aquaculture professor at Mississippi State University who now consults for global aquaculture development projects, says acreage of catfish ponds have dropped considerably since the early 2000s. The rising production costs of fish farming, erratic weather and a less expensive type of catfish from Asia have all hurt the catfish industry in the US.

“Production is down, and one of the big drivers for that was the increase in imports of pangasius catfish from Vietnam, China and so forth,” he says. “Those imports have substituted for domestic catfish.” Between 2010 and 2011, 20 percent of domestic catfish farms shut down. And as we reported before, seafood imports are also hurting the domestic shrimp market. So what can fish farmers do to survive the stiff competition and spells of inhospitable weather? Some researchers have been looking into modifying the pond system to make it more energy efficient. Others are experimenting with new feed recipes requiring less expensive ingredients. Read more here.

Reef Ball ‘Reef Balls’: A Strange Name for Rebuilding the Ocean’s Reefs

Chris Goldblatt’s lifelong love affair with the sea, a place he calls “my church,” has compelled him through a variety of marine-related professions. Deck hand. Captain. Sustainable seafood promoter. Marine Protected Area (MPA) fighter and champion. And now reef builder extraordinaire along the Southern California coast. Goldblatt’s current passion are reef balls-think cement igloos-dropped onto the sea floor, which encourage marine life to come back to polluted or overfished areas. He and partners operate three reef projects off the shores of Santa Barbara, Malibu and San Diego.

Patented by the Reef Ball Foundation of Sarasota, Florida, the reef ball looks like an underwater igloo, full of holes-they come in six different sizes from 300 to 6,000 pounds. They are made out of a Ph neutral cement and hold about six times the amount of marine life as a boulder the same size. They are put down on a hard-packed bottom in less than 60 feet of water and the phytoplankton, which is drifting along, settle on it and grows. Read more here.

Gun How Dangerous Is the Lead in Bullets?

The most ubiquitous danger at firing ranges has a lot to do with bullets but nothing to do with getting shot. It’s all in the lead. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences found that OSHA lead exposure standards are too lax to protect military firing range employees. Repeated exposure to the toxic metal causes a raft of health problems including brain damage, high blood pressure, and anemia. How can firing range workers reduce their exposure? The most direct solution is switching to lead-free ammunition or at least jacketed bullets, which have a lead core covered with a coating made of copper or nylon. Lead has been traditionally favored because of its density, but the military has since developed lead-free ammunition that reportedly works just as well.

Lead is an element, so it doesn’t degrade or become less toxic over time. Old bullets (or paint or gas or any other cause) leach lead into the soil; from there the metal gets into groundwater and plants and the bodies of animals. Read more here.

Other National Headlines of Interest

Leaf BulletVoices

Photo from Obama Versus Physics: Why Climate Change Won’t Wait for the President

Change usually happens very slowly, even once all the serious people have decided there’s a problem. That’s because, in a country as big as the United States, public opinion moves in slow currents. Since change by definition requires going up against powerful established interests, it can take decades for those currents to erode the foundations of our special-interest fortresses. Our societies are built to move slowly. Human institutions tend to work better when they have years or even decades to make gradual course corrections, when time smooths out the conflicts between people. And that’s always been the difficulty with climate change — the greatest problem we’ve ever faced. It’s not a fight, like education reform or abortion or gay marriage, between conflicting groups with conflicting opinions. It couldn’t be more different at a fundamental level.

We’re talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn’t care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable. Physics doesn’t understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It’s implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets. Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands. We could postpone healthcare reform a decade, and the cost would be terrible — all the suffering not responded to over those 10 years. But when we returned to it, the problem would be about the same size. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all. Read more here

Sharing Farming Equipment Is the Sharing Economy an Opportunity or a Threat to Existing Businesses?

Manufacturers use the term “excess capacity” to refer to an underutilized asset that is not being fully exploited to create value, be it an idle assembly line or a factory running only one shift when it could potentially be running two or three. When viewed from this perspective, the non-commercial sector of our society can clearly be seen as overflowing with excess capacity. It could take the form of anything from an extra bedroom sitting empty, to an underutilized piece of garden equipment, to your car sitting idle while you work at home. Given the massive degree of interconnectedness we now enjoy, the opportunity has emerged to very efficiently match up that excess capacity with those who have a need for it. Thus we have the basis for the sharing economy; a newly emergent business trend that might just revolutionize the way business is done.

Of course, no sooner does such a trend emerge than the question arises; is this a threat to existing businesses, or an opportunity? The answer, of course, has to be both. Read more here.

Kid and a laptop App, crackle, pop: Junk food marketers target your kids online

Just before Christmas, and ever so quietly, the Federal Trade Commission released a review of corporate food marketing to kids. First off, in 2009 this country was in the teeth of the Great Recession, so all marketing spending was down. The good intentions of food companies may have had little to do with the drop. But what’s more interesting is the fact that food companies shifted spending away from television advertising and toward online and social media spending.

A focus purely on dollars spent on advertising doesn’t take into account the way these brands work themselves into kids’ lives. And given that “pester power” is a very real phenomenon – 75 percent of first-time purchasers of a product did so at the request of a child – the effectiveness of corporate efforts to reach kids can’t be underestimated. The FTC noted that the products most heavily marketed to kids were often the highest in sugar, salt, and fat. Should we care about all this? The answer, says the research, is a resounding yes. Food marketing plays a huge role in kids’ eating patterns. Read more here.

Eco-Doom Books What business can learn from the ‘eco-doom’ books

Most book reviews are published to alert the reader to a book they might be interested in reading, and offer the reader just enough information to judge for themselves. Publications on sustainability or green business regularly review new books, but they do not follow a standard practice in many disciplines of comparing and contrasting books on the same topic. We wanted to explore what those engaged in “sustainability” can learn from that. To do so, we have chosen important works for a general audience about what many consider to be the focal point of planetary sustainability: understanding, and reducing or coping with, climate change brought on by global warming.

While each book has a provocative title and their themes are challengingly dismal, writing a book is an inherently optimistic exercise, especially so when the author recommends remedies to problems identified. We extend their optimism by suggesting that their individual calls for action can be amplified by taking them as parts of a compelling whole. Read more here.

Leaf Bullet Local News

Tax credit extension boosts Mass. wind industry

The extension of wind energy tax credits – passed as part of the fiscal cliff deal – includes a key change that will make it easier for wind developers in Massachusetts and elsewhere to obtain what are viewed as crucial incentives for a burgeoning industry. In Massachusetts, the tax credits have helped spur new wind development. Last year, for example, at least half a dozen projects – including the largest in the state, the Hoosac wind farm in the towns of Florida and Monroe – doubled the state’s wind energy generated capacity over the last decade to 99 megawatts, or enough to power at least 26,000 homes.

Legislation passed by Congress extended two programs that support wind development, a growing segment of the energy mix in Massachusetts and the nation as policy makers seek clean energy sources to help combat climate change. Congress has allowed wind energy tax credits to expire in the past, and each time it has, wind projects have stalled and workers have lost jobs. The American Wind Energy Association, estimated that 37,000 jobs could have been lost this year if Congress had not included the credits in the fiscal cliff deal. Read more here.

Protesters remained chained together as they are loaded into a police paddy wagon outside the offices of TransCanada at Westborough Executive Office Park 8 arrested in Westborough for Keystone XL protest, say it was well worth it

WESTBOROUGH – The environmental protesters who Super Glued and chained themselves together at a local office building, keeping police and firefighters tied up for hours on Monday, said the effort was worth going to jail. “It was worth it and very empowering,” said Shea M. Riester, minutes after posting $40 bail Monday night at the Westborough police station. Riester was among eight protesters arrested after chaining themselves together and occupying the office of TransCanada Corp. which plans to build a pipeline to carry petroleum products from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists fear the pipe could rupture and cause catastrophic spills, harm wildlife and generate more greeenhouse gases than clean energy sources.

The protesters, all but one of whom are college students from the Boston area, used heavy chains and SuperGlue to link themselves. Jacklyn Gil, one of the protesters who did not enter the office building, said the group consists of climate activists who aim to stop future fossil fuel infrastructure. Gil said the protest was “an act of desperation.” “We’re tired of our political leaders ignoring our message,” she said. Read more here.

The familiar and elegant Quequechan Club dining room Fall River economy being revitalized by restaurant boom

Fall River – The new restaurants that have been opening up recently in Fall River, such as Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill and Red Cedar in Commonwealth Landing, are giving city residents reasons to stay in Fall River on the weekends. For suburban residents like Katie Cavanaugh Frias, of Somerset, the restaurants are also becoming incentives to drive over the Braga Bridge on a Friday or Saturday night. “I love that the city is coming to life and catering to the slightly older than clubbing scene age,” said Frias, who has eaten at Remy’s, and plans to soon visit Red Cedar.

In the past two months, at least three new restaurants have opened in Fall River: Jerry Remy’s, Red Cedar, and the Tipsy Toboggan, 75 Ferry St. The Quequechan Club, 306 North Main St., and the Belmont Club, 34 Franklin St., have recently reopened following renovations. Meanwhile, the popular Al Mac’s Diner, 135 President Ave., is set to reopen under new ownership. The entrepreneurs and investors behind those restaurants, as well as several small business analysts, believe the openings indicate that local residents are hungry for new dining experiences, and that Fall River’s economy can sustain, and be revitalized by, more restaurants in the city. Read more here.

The 220 acre property features bogs, a reservoir, and two miles of trails that are open to public use. Buzzards Bay Coalition looks to take bogs back to its roots

Mattapoisett – Chemicals are out and wetlands are in at the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s 220-acre property in Mattapoisett. Formerly owned by Decas Cranberry, the land includes 60 acres of cranberry bogs. The property, purchased in 2011 with help from the federal government and local support, is another step in the Coalition’s effort to preserve the Buzzards Bay Watershed.

“The overall goal was first to protect the property,” said Sara Quintal, Restoration Ecologist for the Coalition. Runoff from the fertilizers and pesticides used on the bogs was of particular concern to the organization, considering the land’s proximity to the Mattapoisett River and local water supply. Read more here.

Planning Board unanimously approves Little Quittacas solar project for New Bedford

The Planning Board unanimously approved the Little Quittacas solar farm, green-lighting a project that New Bedford officials expect will power the city’s Water Department. ConEdison Solutions plans to construct the nearly 30-acre project on 500 acres of conservation land near Little Quittacas reservoir owned by the city of New Bedford off North Avenue.

The Water Department has budgeted electricity costs of about $600,000 for fiscal 2013. It is the city’s second-largest energy consumer, after the wastewater treatment plant, said Scott Durkee, the director of the city’s energy office. New Bedford expects the 14,000-panel solar farm to produce 4.8 million kilowatt-hours per year. Read more here.

Leafblowers Local Activism Sparks Change in Massachusetts; Can it in Rhode Island?

Styrofoam, leaf blowers, and plastic bags and bottles may seem like odd bedfellows, but they share something in common across several Massachusetts communities: they are now illegal. Brookline is a trailblazer among Bay State municipalities pushing for such bans. Town Meeting members restricted the use of gas-powered leaf blowers more than a year ago, only allowing for seasonal use during specific times of day. They also voted overwhelmingly in favor this fall of banning Styrofoam containers for takeout food and beverages and nixed disposable plastic bags from most supermarkets and pharmacies. Both bans went into effect last month.

All this may be fine for Massachusetts, but what about Rhode Island? Are residents here open to such bans? That’s what Environment Rhode Island wanted to know, and so far the answer has been a tentative, “Yes.” Read more here.

Cape hospitals cut sunny energy deal

HYANNIS – Cape Cod Healthcare wanted some portion of the $3 million a year in electricity the company uses to come from a renewable energy source. Meanwhile, Willard Rhodes wanted to pay off more than $200,000 in back taxes and make some money off a capped demolition-debris landfill in Carver that had been unused in more than a decade. Enter Southern Sky Renewable Energy, which proposed building the Ravenbrook Farms Landfill Solar Facility, a 6-megawatt solar farm on 15 to 16.5 acres of the private landfill. It’s the result of a deal brokered by energy consultant Shaun Pandit, president of EarlyBird Power, that reaps more than $300,000 a year in estimated electricity savings for Cape Cod Healthcare while making possible the largest solar landfill project in the state.

“We’re always looking for ways to capitalize on renewable resources, and solar is at the top of the list for us,” said Edward Browne, the director of real estate and facilities for Cape Cod Healthcare. “If we can do the right thing from a green perspective, and save a little money, that’s the best thing for us and for the environment.” But how does building a solar farm 40 miles away generate savings for Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals? As a major consumer of electricity, Cape Cod Healthcare, with two hospitals that use 30 million kilowatt-hours per year, could take all of the net metering credits the Ravenbrook facility can generate. As part of the deal that allowed Southern Sky to build the facility, Cape Cod Healthcare signed a 20-year contract that would save $325,000 a year thanks to the net-metering credits it can apply against its bill. Read more here.

Mayor Caroline Kirk signs one of the blades on the turbine being erected Three wind turbines push Gloucester to renewable energy forefront

GLOUCESTER – For centuries, wind has played a central role in Gloucester’s economy, pushing fishing vessels across oceans, and helping to make the port the most storied fishing village in the country. These days, the city and private developers are looking to the wind to save money and to cut down on burning fossil fuel. Gloucester has become the first community in the North region with three turbines, taking advantage of an average daily wind speed of nearly 16 miles per hour.

Like burnished, inanimate giants, the three turbines and blades each stretch over 400 feet into the air. They’re the latest to be hoisted into the sky by developers and municipalities that are looking for alternative energy. Gloucester is now the only city in the state producing the equivalent of its municipal electric load/use with wind turbines. Read more here.

Also read Towns Roar and Debate Over Wind Turbines

Fairhaven selectmen clash over turbine bylaw, complaints

FAIRHAVEN – Board of Selectmen members Brian Bowcock and Bob Espindola are once again sparring over the board’s treatment of opponents to the town’s two wind turbines. After reviewing the Planning Board’s latest draft of a bylaw that would halve the size and quadruple the setbacks for future turbine projects, Espindola is advocating that the town first deal with complaints it has received regarding the existing turbines.

Since the turbines became operational in May, the town’s Board of Health has received 365 complaints from a total of 50 residences and businesses, according to Health Agent Patricia Fowle. This is not the first time Espindola and Bowcock have butted heads over wind turbines. At an earlier meeting in December, Bowcock rejected repeated requests from Espindola to allow members of the turbine opposition group Wind Wise to speak to the board. Also during that meeting, Espindola advocated that the Board of Health should not wait for results of the state sound study of the turbines before brainstorming ways to help complainants. Read more here.

Swansea's saltwater pump station on the Palmer River is seen. Swansea’s water desalination project enters final stages

SWANSEA – Testing in the Palmer River is set to begin, bringing the desalination project one step closer to its finale. Once finished, millions of gallons of water per day will make its way from the river, through pipelines, to the plant on Vinnicum Road. It will become drinkable and “palatable” to town residents, and ease water shortages, especially in the summer.

During testing, water from the Palmer River will be processed with chemical additives and trials will be done on removing the contaminants. This microfiltration process must be correct before salt is removed from the water in a process called “reverse osmosis.” Read more here.

Big-time renewable siting report for Rhode Island released

A comprehensive report about developing large-scale wind, solar and hydropower energy in Rhode Island was recently released. The 392-page report and 659-page technical addendum (pdf) provide in-depth analysis, data and tools for designing and constructing renewable energy projects. But the Renewable Energy Siting Partnership (RESP), coordinated by the University of Rhode Island, has yet to deliver the promised guidelines for building wind turbines. The project presents a comprehensive review of controversial impacts of utility-scale turbines, such as icing, fall zones, and danger to birds and bats. The report, however, calls for further review of existing turbines in the state in order to learn more about shadow flicker, noise and changes in property values.

“The task of harnessing wind energy potential in Rhode Island is complicated by the fact that the windiest parts of the state tend to also be densely populated or important wildlife habitat,” according to the report. Read more here.

Cod Northeast groundfish landings tumble

BOSTON – New England fishermen and federal data reports are telling the same story this year: The catch is way down. Two-thirds of the way through the 2012 fishing year, which ends April 30, fishermen have caught less than half their allotments on 14 of 16 species of bottom-dwelling groundfish. “There’s a disaster in New England groundfish, but it’s because we can’t catch the quotas we have,” Dempsey said. “And in most cases, that’s because those fish just aren’t there.”

Some fishermen, though, say it’s premature and dangerous to conclude with a third of the fishing year to go that fish have disappeared, or that pushing through huge quota cuts in 2013 won’t matter. South Boston fisherman Mike Walsh said he believes abnormally high water temperatures have forced fish out of the region. Who knows whether that’s an anomaly or a trend, he asked. And where do massive cuts in catch leave the industry if the temperatures drop and the fish come back? Ultimately, the slow catch on some species isn’t alarming to Williams and others who work in an environment they can’t control, chasing fish that vanish and reappear for reasons they can’t explain. And it’s no time to overreact, Williams said. Read more here.

Shaw's paper bag Bag Ban Begins in Barrington, Rhode Island

BARRINGTON – Barely a week into Rhode Island’s first plastic bag ban, there’s no shortage of opinions on the law from local businesses and shoppers. Some interpret the ban on plastic checkout bags as a win for the environment; others cry government overreach.

“Unwanted invasion of government,” said a Shaw’s customer, who declined to give his name, as he walked briskly through the parking lot of the town’s main shopping center. John Bergmark of Bristol said the switch to paper is a step toward reducing society’s excessive reliance on disposable plastic. “I think it’s a good beginning,” he said. Some shoppers mentioned hearing of residents switching to grocery stores with plastic bags in nearby East Providence and Seekonk, Mass., as a protest or “bag-lash” against the ban and, specifically, the Shaw’s grocery store. Read more here.

Low-altitude stratus clouds. Looking at the sky may change your entire POV

Through the nonprofit For Spacious Skies, former Boston TV reporter Jack Borden has made a life’s work of encouraging people to look up at the sky. He calls it “sky awareness,” and believes that paying attention to the space above our heads is important to understanding the environment and advancing science – as well as to clicking into some vital, often-overlooked inner spaces. Read more here.

Mattapoisett plans for big changes to water usage

Towns across Massachusetts will likely have to tighten their belts on water usage in coming years, and the Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Department plans to be ready. Superintendent William “Nick” Nicholson said the Department of Conservation and Recreation is scheduled to impose new permits with steeper regulations in 2015. The new permits, which have already been pushed back several years, will require greater conservation of water.

The DCR will require towns to regulate water usage through one of three options: automatically, to have it triggered by the flow of water, or based on the state’s drought measurements. Regardless of which option a town chooses, when the permits go into effect, residents will be asked to conserve water, including watering yards only once a week. Read more here.

Leaf BulletThis Week

Taste, Memory | Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter

Friday, January 11, 6pm Westport Grange, 931 Main Rd, Westport
The Trustees of Reservations proudly invite David Buchanan to the Westport Town Grange to talk about his new book, Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter. David is the author of Taste, Memory, which describes the importance and pleasures of biodiversity and its essential role in sustainable food systems.

Listen to David explore with us the fundamental questions to the future of food and farming. How can we strike a balance between preserving the past, maintaining valuable agricultural and culinary traditions, and looking ahead to breed new plants? What place does a cantankerous old pear or too-delicate strawberry deserve in our gardens, farms, and markets? To what extent should growers value efficiency and uniformity over matters of taste, ecology, or regional identity? Call 774.488.9604 for more information. Read more here.

DNRT Trail Running Series

Saturday, January 12, 7:00 am Destruction Brook Woods Reserve, Dartmouth, MA
Have you ever wanted to try trail running, but didn’t know how or where to go? Are you tired of your same old running route? Do you have a New Year’s resolution that you need to fulfill? We have just the solution! Come down to Destruction Brook Woods starting Saturday January 12 at 7:00 am and give it a try. A group of trail runners (from beginner to experienced) will be meeting at the main lot on Slades Corner Road. The great thing about Destruction Brook Woods is the route you take can depend on your skill level. So, come on and give it a try! As always there is no charge to join the group, but registration is required, space is limited. Call (508)991-2289, or email DNRT Dress to run, wear layers and bring your own water. Read more and Register here.

Star Gazing Walk

Saturdays, January 12 – February 2, 7am Manny Rose Perry Agricultural Reserve, Barney’s Joy Road, Dartmouth, MA
Join Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT) and guest leader Gerald P. Dyck for a free “Star Gazing Walk” at DNRT’s Manny Rose Perry Agricultural Reserve at 5:30 pm on Friday, January 18, 2013 (rain date: Saturday, January 19 at 5:30 pm). Mr. Dyck, former music teacher in the Dartmouth Public Schools and life-long active amateur astronomer, will lead participants in orientating themselves to the night sky and identifying major winter constellations and other points of interest. Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately for the evening’s weather and to bring binoculars if they have them. Call (508)991-2289, or email DNRT Read more here.

The Tree in Me Family Event at Dartmouth YMCA

Saturday, January 12, 11am Dartmouth YMCA, 276 Gulf Road
Grades K-4 This family oriented event is perfect for youth in grades K-4. Join us for a two hour event including wood sculpture design and painting experience with Wood Artisan, Michael Higgins, a pizza lunch, and storytelling.
Children $15 Call 508.993.3361 for more info. Read more here.

Brew Your Own Cider

Wednesday, January 16, 5:00pm – 6:00pm Hope Artiste Village, Winter Farmers Market: 1005 Main St., Pawtucket, RI.
Basement Brewhaus will provide tips for brewing your own Cider! Suggested $10 donation. Contact Sarah Lester at (401) 312-4250 or by e-mail for more information. Read more and Register here.

New Bedford Bicycle Committee Meeting

Wednesday, January 16, 6:00pm – 7:00pm New Bedford City Hall, Room 314
Steve Miller, Executive Director, New England Healthy Weight Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health, LivableStreets Alliance Board Member and avid cyclist, will discuss biking in New Bedford! The committee meets to advocate for safe bicycling and pedestrian paths and lanes for transit and recreational purposes, raise awareness of the need for improved connectivity throughout the city, and represents the City of New Bedford as part of the regional South Coast Bikeway initiative. All those who are passionate about making New Bedford a safer place to ride and getting more people involved in riding are welcomed to attend. Read more and Register here.

Brix Bounty Farm’s Annual Winter Study Series


Mondays, January 14 – February 11 858 Tucker Road, Dartmouth, MA
This is a discussion workshop series for serious commercial growers that focuses on the book The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Foods. This practical step-by-step guide and the accompanying customizable web-based spreadsheets go beyond organic and are essential tools for any serious gardener who cares about the quality of the produce they grow. Each Week we’ll gather on Monday evening for an informal discussion focusing on the selected reading and an optional no-stress potluck. We’ll start dinner at 6PM and discussion at 7PM. Families with young children are quite welcome!
To Register (registration is free) for either or both sessions please contact Derek Christianson via email or phone, 508-992-1868. Read more and Register here.

Leaf BulletSave The Date

Seal Watch in Woods Hole Harbor

Saturday, January 19, 9am – 11am Buzzards Bay Discovery Center (21 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole)
Join the Bay Coalition for a winter adventure to look for harbor seals, one of Buzzards Bay’s most popular winter visitors. The trip will begin at the Buzzards Bay Discovery Center in Woods Hole, where guests will examine a model of a harbor seal and learn about their life in Buzzards Bay and beyond. Then the group will board the M/V Richard Edwards to look for these playful mammals in Woods Hole Harbor. The boat is heated and we will provide binoculars.
Cost: $30 for Bay Coalition members, $40 for non-members, $25 for children
RSVP: Reservations are required for this Bay Adventure. To RSVP, contact Rob Hancock at 508.999.6363 x222. Learn more here.


Saturday, January 19, 10:00am – 1:00pm Lloyd Center for the Environment, 430 Potomska Road, Dartmouth, MA
The Lloyd Center is seeking volunteers to join the SEANET (Seabird Ecological Assessment Network) program which involves using patterns of beached bird deposition along coastal shorelines to help detect the impact to our shores, seabird life, and the offshore marine environment. If you are a casual environmentalist, avid birder, and/or simply enjoy walking the beach and want to use your time to help provide important information for use in various marine initiatives, then this project could be for you.
The workshop will feature an indoor session and weather permitting, a beach walk where attendees will put their knowledge to use. Volunteers will leave the workshop with a site location, materials and the background information needed to start surveying. Volunteers will conduct monthly surveys for both beached and live birds at their site of choice and collect basic environment conditions data during their walks. When volunteers find beached birds, they will take measurements and photographs, mark the specimens, and document other findings from the walk.
Pre-registration required by 4:00 p.m., Friday, January 18th This is FREE to the public Pre-register online, or call the Center’s Event line at 508-558-2918. If you have specific questions regarding the program, please call Jamie Bogart at 508-990-0505 x 23, or email Learn more here.

Beyond the Barway

Friday, January 25, 1pm – 3pm Westport Field Office, 1100 Main Rd., Westport
Barways are those inviting openings in stone walls and fences that lure us to the fields and paths ahead. Join the Trustees and Westport Land Conservation Trust for a guided walk. Learn about land protection for the experts and get a rare glimpse of open space preserved for Westport’;s future. Be prepared for uneven ground and grand surprises. Meet at 1100 Main Road.
Members: FREE. Nonmembers: $5. Call 508.636.4693 x13 for more information. Learn more here.

Animal Tracking

Saturday, January 26, 9am Freetown/Fall River State Forest HQ, Slab Bridge Rd, Assonet
Although the forests of the 13,600 acre Bioreserve might at first appear unhabitated in winter, they are, in fact full of life. While a few animals do head south to hibernate away the winter months, most remain in New England and are active all year. At the Bioreserve, mammals are out and about, foraging for food and leaving their tracks in the snow. Rabbit, deer, fox, coyote, turkey, and fisher are just some of the animals whose tracks may be found. Join Bill Sampson, senior keeper at Buttonwood Park, to learn the art of tracking animals in winter. Cost is FREE to attend. Call 508.636.4693 x13 for more information. Learn more here.

Dam Removal and River Restoration in Massachusetts

Saturday, January 26, 10am Wareham Library, Wareham, MA
Join Beth Lambert, River Restoration Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, for a public program on dam removals and river restoration in Massachusetts. The program is co-sponsored by the Wareham Land Trust and the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
Massachusetts has more than 3,000 dams, many of which have outlived their original purpose. Dam removal can remove out-of-date infrastructure, eliminate owner liability, reduce flood hazards, and restore the ecology of rivers and streams. The Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration emphasizes dam removal as a river restoration tool, and is currently working on over 30 dam removal projects with local, state, and federal partners. This talk will describe the science behind dam removal and the dam removal process including an overview of recently completed projects. Learn more here.

Flora in Winter: A Midwinter’s Dream

January 31, 2013 to February 3, 2013 Locations are Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston and Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury Street, Worcester.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden and Worcester Art Museum welcome the annual “Flora in Winter” extravaganza, featuring riveting floral designs on display in the clutch of winter. This year’s theme, “A Midwinter’s Dream,” is a nod to William Shakespeare. The show invites regional designers and professional floral arrangers to reflect on quiet times of rest and contemplation, evoking dreams of the growing season and inspiring flower fantasies that revel in the past, present, and future. Learn more here.

Southeastern Massachusetts Land Trust Convocation

Saturday, February 2, 8:30am – Noon Quality Inn Hotel, Bourne (Canal Club Facility, Trowbridge Rd. off Bourne Bridge Rotary)
Please join fellow conservation professionals, volunteers, and board members for a morning of free workshops. Come hear about:

  • What habitat restoration methods work and where to find financial support.
  • Why special events can be an important fundraising tool for your land trust.
  • When to use alternative, non-traditional techniques for land protection.
  • How to engage new audiences on your conservation land.

Co-sponsored by The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Buzzards Bay Coalition, and the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition Learn more here.

Rhode Island Local Food Forum

Wednesday, February 6, 8:30am – 3:00pm Brown University’s Andrews Dining Hall, Providence, RI
The yearly networking event for Rhode Island food producers and buyers. The 9th Annual RI Local Food Forum will gather farmers, chefs, schools and institutional food service to network. Share best practices for local sourcing and ways to develop our local food system. Learn how to build your menus around the added value of fresh foods. Discuss the social, environmental and economic benefits of supporting local family farmers through direct food purchasing.
Hear from the experts. Local & sustainable purchasing best practices and challenges from both farmer and culinary perspectives. New ideas and directions about the intersection between sustainable and local protein and the food we eat. Meet all the people you should know but don’t yet. The farmer who will be growing your tomatoes next year will be here. As will the food service director who will buy the thirty extra bushels of corn you harvested. Priceless connections in 45 minutes or less.
The Local Food Forum is free and open to the public. Registration is open until Monday, February 4 at 2pm. Your registration will also get you on the contact list distributed at the Forum. Learn more and register here.

Municipal Wind Energy Seminar

Thursday, February 7, 8:30am – 1:00pm Woodland Commons Building at UMass Dartmouth
Keynoted by Steven Clarke, Assistant Secretary for Energy. Massachusetts has seen a 20-fold increase in installed wind energy generation since 2007, with 61 megawatts installed as of the end of this summer – enough to power nearly 19,296 homes and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from 13,117 cars annually.
With abundant wind resources offshore, along the coast, and in the higher elevations of Central and Western Massachusetts, wind energy presents an opportunity to reclaim much of the approximately $18 billion Massachusetts sends out of the state, to purchase the energy needed to run homes, vehicles and businesses each year. This Wind Energy session will speak to zoning bylaw development as well as other issues that tend to be stumbling blocks. There will be time for discussion about regional initiatives as well as opportunities to interact with Green Communities officials and Energy Savings Companies.
This seminar is part of our 4-part Municipal Sustainability Symposia Series. Sponsored by NORESCO, The Southeastern Massachusetts Council on Sustainability, SRPEDD, The Southcoast Energy Challenge, and UMass Dartmouth’s Office of Campus and Community Sustainability. Contact the Sustainability Office for more information. Learn more here.

Annual Lloyd Center Owl Prowl

Sunday, February 10, 3:30am – 8:00am Lloyd Center for the Environment, 430 Potomska Road, Dartmouth, MA
Are you an owl enthusiast, curious about these mystical birds, or just enjoy a cold New England winter’s night? Then this outing may be just for you. In addition to being fascinating birds, owls are mysterious creatures that are rarely seen and heard only through keen observation. In winter, owls are building nests and establishing territories so they are quite active while most other wildlife sleeps.
Starting at the Lloyd Center’s headquarters, enjoy a series of stops along the country roads of Dartmouth, where we’ll venture into the dark winter woods to attract owls with callback tapes. Screech, great horned, and barred owls are potential species heard and seen. At sunrise, enjoy a refreshing walk along a pristine coastal beach, where other birdlife can be seen. Winter waterfowl are abundant, and other owl species more active during daylight hours can be seen on a lucky day. Coffee will be provided at the Lloyd Center during the outing’s conclusion, when you’re free to either depart or remain on the grounds to explore the trial network in all its winter glory.
Price: Lloyd Center members: $9, non-members: $12 (children under 12: members $4.50 non-members $6). Program is suitable for ages 10 and up Items to bring (if you have them): binoculars, camera, flashlight
Pre-register online, or call the Center’s Event line at 508-558-2918. If you have specific questions regarding the program, please call Jamie Bogart at 508-990-0505 x 23, or email Learn more here.

SEMAP’s 6th Annual Agriculture and Food Conference

Saturday, February 23, 8:30am – 5pm Bristol Agricultural High School, Dighton, MA
Sponsored by the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP). Whether you’re a professional farmer, a backyard gardener, or just curious about locally grown food, this is the event for you! This year we’re expanding the day’s offerings to include workshops for the public and for youth ages 7-12, as well as workshops on organic methods.
Registration includes a locally-sourced lunch (yes, in February!) and at the Resource Fair you’ll learn about local organizations and businesses that provide services and products to help you grow, whether you’ve got a hundred acres or a couple of window boxes. Registration is $35 for farmers, $50 for the public, and $20 for youth and students.
Please Note: Online registration will close on Friday, February 22nd – You may show up at the conference Saturday (cash or check ONLY), but we cannot guarantee a lunch for same-day registrants. Businesses or organizations interested in exhibiting can contact Kristen at (508) 295-2212 x50 or here. Register and get a list of scheduled workshops here.

Leaf Bullet Announcements

Massachusetts Creative Industries Report Released

The Massachusetts creative industries will strengthen and advance with greater networking, business development, access to capital and marketing resources according to a report to the Legislature prepared by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The creative industries are an important part of the Massachusetts economy, with a $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 Massachusetts workers.
The creative industries include the many companies pushing the limits of creativity in the marketplace, including innovative video game companies, cultural non-profits, design, marketing and architecture firms, and also the people who are write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music.
The report, Supporting the Creative Industries of Massachusetts, follows the Massachusetts Creative Economy Council’s CreativeNEXT listening tour, a series of 21 meetings and seminars with creative industry stakeholders in Massachusetts that included nearly 600 businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the summer. The report details next steps for continuing to advance the sector based on feedback from creative industry leaders. The report evaluates the needs and opportunities that exist within the creative industries and provide insights to guide the development of an agenda to support the growth of the creative industries, and identifies come common priorities despite the diverse group of businesses that make up the creative industries. Read Supporting the Creative Industries of Massachusetts Report here.

Spring Courses at Bristol Community College offer Organic Agriculture and Natural Beekeeping

Organic Farming Practices
Topics include sustainable farm management and economics, season extension techniques, spring propagation from seeds and transplanting, organic insect & disease controls, and cultivation of specific perennials for New England. This course is designed for home gardeners and small-scale organic farmers. Classes run from January 23 to May 13 and will meet on Mondays (9:30 am – 12:50 pm) and Wednesdays (9:30 am – 10:45 am).

Natural Beekeeping
Aspiring and new beekeepers will learn the essential skills to begin a hobby or small business as a beekeeper including purchasing and establishing a hive, caring for your bees, disease and pest management, and harvesting the honey. The 6-week course emphasizes organic methods of beekeeping. Participants will have the opportunity to purchase their own bees, hives and equipment. The course will be held on Mondays, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, starting February 25. It may be taken as a noncredit course or for one college credit.

Tuition waivers may be available for senior citizens (60+), veterans, members of the military, and state employees. Register online for spring courses here For questions, contact Dr. Jim Corven here or 508-678-2811, ext. 3047.

Spring Courses Announced for Sustainability Studies at UMass Dartmouth

Spring 2013 courses for our Graduate Certificate Program are being offered. Courses include:

  • SUS 500: Introduction to Sustainable Development, Theory, and Practice
  • SUS 520: Strategic Sustainability Leadership
  • SUS 562: Survey of Renewables
  • MGT 600: Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Law
  • POL 661: Environmental Law

You can read course and credit descriptions at Professional & Continuing Education’s listings page. Register through the Center for Professional and Continuing Education.

Leaf Bullet Green Tip

15 houseplants to improve indoor air quality

Plants help clean indoor air, which is typically far more polluted than outdoor air. Find out what common toxins these plants can filter out of the air in your home. Learn more here.

Leaf Bullet Preparedness Tip

How I Saved $17,000 in One Year By Sharing

A wave of sharing platforms have cropped up, making it possible to create an entire lifestyle based on sharing cars, housing, nannies – even money. If I want to lead a movement toward a new sharing economy, I need to show the world how I, myself, share in everyday life. So began my year of living the shareable life. I tried about 30 ways to share and saved a ton of money. Here are the highlights: Learn more here.


Quote of the Week

"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do."
~ Barbara Ward, Economist

Clip of the Week

Urban Air Billboard Garden
To artist Stephen Glassman, billboards are a canvas, and a potential tool for confronting pollution challenges as cities grow. To understand how it'll look, picture a simple billboard, but instead of an advertisement, imagine tall stalks of bamboo and other native plants that gobble up carbon dioxide and create a tiny, cool microclimate.

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