Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greening the Bay

Financing Wetland Restoration in San Francisco Bay
Save the Bay, August 2007

Save The Bay's Greening the Bay report documents the total projected cost to nearly double tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay. This report identifies inadequate funding as the greatest barrier to re-establishing 100,000 acres of tidal wetlands, critical habitat that scientists say is needed for a healthy bay.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Update from the Sustainable Remediation Forum

SuRFing at the New Jersey Institute of Technology
Maile Smith, August 22, 2007

You may have been wondering why I wasn't hassling you for your input on the MEW feasibility study this week. It's because I'm attending the Sustainable Remediation Forum (SuRF) meeting in Newark, New Jersey. SuRF was founded and meetings are organized and chaired by DuPont. This is the group's fourth meeting, but my first. I can assure you, however, that it won't be my last. This is a thoughtful and tenacious group of practitioners--representing industry, regulatory agencies, consulting companies, and NGOs--that is working to accomplish an extremely challenging objective: to establish a framework that incorporates sustainable concepts throughout the remedial action process that provides long-term protection of human health and the environment and achieves public and regulatory acceptance. Of course, the "how" to accomplish this objective is complex and will likely evolve as our understanding of sustainability and remediation science evolves. But, we are off to a great start.

Today's session began with a presentation from Deb Goldblum of EPA Region 3, about a pilot project at the DuPont Martinsville, Virginia site. A primary goal of this project is to add sustainability as a balancing criterion in RCRA remedy selection. In order to do so, they have developed a quantitative credit and debit matrix to measure the sustainability criterion.

Gil Meyer, DuPont, gave a presentation on the history of human reactions to new technologies. Technologies typically go through cycles of acceptance and controversy, facing four general factors for acceptance: (1) relative economic advantage or existing technology; (2) social value and prestige; (3) compatibility with vested interests; and (4) visibility of the direct advantages. The road to public acceptance often bounces between initial enthusiasm, commercialization, and familiarity, and rumblings of concern, public protests, and, hopefully, eventually, acceptance. The perception of risk is based on hazards + outrage, with outrage stemming from whether or not the risk is voluntary as opposed to involuntary, who is in control of the risk (e.g., I’m comfortable holding both nail and hammer, but not holding the nail and someone else swinging the hammer), if the risk familiar or not (e.g., chemicals under the sink are familiar, “not voodoo”), if the process is fair (was I or my representative involved in the process), moral issues (e.g., risks particular to children or reproductive health), and if the risk is artificial/man-made or natural.

A presentation followed from Nicola Harries, CL:AIRE (contaminated land: applications in real environments), on their UK sustainable remediation meeting. The meeting brought together attendees from UK government, regulators, industry, environmental consultants, technology vendors, contractors, other European organizations, NGOs, and academia to come up with success criteria for judging sustainability in remediation. They identified four areas for further research: literature survey (output: policy development, metrics), cost-benefit analysis framework, existing tools outside industry (e.g., life-cycle analysis), and existing tools inside industry (e.g., those developed by DuPont, Shell, etc.).

Charles Iceland, World Resources Institute, gave a presentation on their corporate ecosystem services review (ESR). His group rightly asserts that businesses are heavily dependent on ecosystem services: they both contribute to ecosystem change and use ecosystem services. WRI is partnering with Meridian Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development to develop the corporate ESR methodology, which is being “road-tested” by DuPont, BC Hydro, Monsanto, Rio Tinto, and others.

Dan Watts, NJIT, presented on the challenges of quantifying the longevity of CO2 in the atmosphere. This seems like it should be a very simple question, but it has a very complex answer. The answer lies in the balance between additions (deforestation, burning of fossil fuels) and deletions (absorption by atmosphere and oceans), which equals the amount absorbed on land. This question needs to be answered in order to determine how and when we can stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, if for only the reason that CO2 concentration, temperature, and sea level continue to rise long after emissions are reduced.

Frank Evans, National Grid, gave a presentation on the use of metrics to make better sustainable remediation decisions. National Grid is a global utility company, operating in the UK and US. It has different drivers for remediation of surplus and operational land, but four common general objectives of sustainable remediation: social progress, environmental protection, prudent use of natural resources, and maintaining high and stable economic growth and employment.

Carlos Pachon from EPA, OSWER (his specific group runs Clu-In and Tech Direct), presented preliminary "flash" findings from their initial analytical approach to energy and carbon footprint for site cleanup treatment technologies in the Superfund remedial program. Their working definition of “green remediation” is the practice of considering the environmental effects of a remediation strategy early in the process and incorporating options to maximize the net environmental benefit of the cleanup action. Their preliminary goal is to foster the adoption of greener remediation practices across cleanup programs by benchmarking the state of the practice, identifying opportunities for improvement at cleanups, capacity-building and networking practitioners, and creating enabling mechanisms. So far they have found that pump-and-treat results in by far the highest energy use and carbon emissions (per project and per year and projected into the future), e.g., 402M vs. 32M kWh energy use per project and 275K vs. 16K tons of carbon emissions per year for P&T vs. multiphase extraction, respectively.

The final presentation of the day came from Dave Ellis, DuPont, which was a survey of several case studies on the use of sustainability metrics at their sites.

We finished the day with a question for the group: What are the metrics issues that most concern you?
Answers included:
- How to evaluate new factors (e.g., recycled concrete)
- The detail, implementability, and consistency of metrics
- The scale of our impact (from remediation) vs. other impacts
- Over-rating or over-valuing the sustainability criterion in remedy decisions
- How to assign value to time
- What equivalent to assign to different metrics when screening technologies or selecting remediation options

Seem like a lot to cover in one day? It was! But, to borrow a term from Ray Anderson, we've only just begun our ascent of Mt. Sustainability. We've got an exciting journey ahead of us.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

CARB Chair Conflicted?

California Air Resources Board chair owns stocks in 13 energy firms
Matthew Yi, SF Chronicle, August 18, 2007

The new chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board owns stocks in several oil, coal and utility firms, some of which are likely to be affected by rules the agency implements as part of the state's groundbreaking law to fight global warming, The Chronicle has learned. The air board is expected to consider wide-ranging regulations that will affect what kind of fuel motorists pump into their vehicles and help dictate what sources of energy utility companies can use to generate electricity.

Mary Nichols' stock holdings include shares in oil giants Chevron Corp., BP PLC, and Royal Dutch Shell, a stake in a Bermuda tanker company that transports crude oil, the world's largest coal company, Peabody Energy Corp., and utilities including Edison International, whose subsidiary, Southern California Edison, serves most of the Southern California electricity market.

In total, she and her husband, John Daum, an attorney who represents Exxon in the ongoing Exxon Valdez oil-spill case, have a financial stake in 13 energy-related firms in a diversified stock portfolio that contains 84 companies, according to statements she filed on Tuesday with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Nichols is highly regarded by some in the environmental community as a longtime environmental lawyer who served on the air board three decades ago under then-Gov. Jerry Brown.

Read the complete story at

UPDATE: (SFGate, September 27, 2007)

Home Depot Agrees to Settle Haz Waste Lawsuit for Nearly $10 Million

Home Depot Settles Waste Dumping Suit
Associated Press, August 18, 7:33 am ET

Home Depot agreed Friday to pay nearly $10 million in penalties and investigation costs to settle a lawsuit alleging it mishandled hazardous waste from its California stores, officials said.
The world's largest home improvement store chain came under investigation after a hazardous waste container exploded at Home Depot's store in Marina Del Rey in May 2004, the lawsuit said. The fire forced the evacuation of store employees and customers. Investigators later found that chemicals were mixed together in the 55-gallon drum.

Home Depot ranks 44 on the Fortune 500 list of the world's largest companies. In 2006, its revenues were nearly $91 billion and it earned over $5.7 billion in profits.

Read the complete story at

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Wombat

A brief message from the Wombat...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Eco-Friendly Treads

The Benefits of Stylish Sneakers
Choose recycled and organic over PVC and chromium-tanned leather.

Some options:
Simple Shoes - turns recycled tires and soda bottles into sassy sneaks.
Terra Plana - incorporates recycled clothes and car seats into creatively designed sneakers.
Nike Soaker - men's high-tops designed to let you run through water, made from eco-materials like recycled mesh and eco-rubber.
Toms Shoes - women's red canvas slip-ons with recycled rubber soles; one pair is donated to kids in need for every pair you buy.

Brought to you by Ideal Bite.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Green Building Rating System Expands to Community Scale, Integrating Smart Growth, New Urbanism and Eco-Efficient Design

LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Launches
238 New Developments Nationwide Join Pioneering LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot

LEED for Neighborhood Development – the pilot rating system launched jointly by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) – is off to a promising start. A total of 238 developments have signed up to participate in the pilot program, which will be the first national certification system for sustainable neighborhood design and development. LEED for Neighborhood Development will integrate the principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building into the design and development of communities, moving beyond the single green building approach. The LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot is on track to be one of the largest launches yet for a new LEED program.

About USGBC: The U.S. Green Building Council ( was founded in 1993 and is the nation's leading non-profit composed of corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations working together to transform the way buildings are designed, built and operated.

About NRDC: Founded in 1970, the Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment.

About CNU: The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl.

For more information about the LEED for Neighborhood Development program, visit

Tap vs. Bottled

Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful
Alex Williams, NY Times, August 12, 2007

In the last few months, bottled water — generally considered a benign, even beneficial, product — has been increasingly portrayed as an environmental villain by city leaders, activist groups and the media. The argument centers not on water, but oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels a year just to make the plastic water bottles Americans use, according to the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, plus countless barrels to transport it from as far as Fiji and refrigerate it. The issue took a major stride into mainstream dialogue earlier this summer, after the mayors of San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and New York began urging people to opt for tap water instead of bottled.

Read the complete story at

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Run for Safe Drinking Water

One-in-six people do not have easy access to safe drinking water, and water-related illnesses are the leading cause of human sickness and death.

The Blue Planet Run Foundation's mission is to create global awareness of the world’s safe drinking water crisis. Its primary goal is to provide safe drinking water to 20 million people worldwide by 2015 and 200 million people by 2027.

The Blue Planet Run Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that delivers 100% of the donations it receives from individual contributors to safe drinking water projects around the world. Since 2004, it has funded 11 NGOs that have in turn implemented 135 sustainable water projects in 13 countries. The Foundation’s signature awareness and fundraising event is the Blue Planet Run. Starting in New York City on June 1, 2007, a team of 20 athletes will run 15,200 miles, across 16 countries and 4 continents, 24 hours a day for 95 days to mobilize citizens of the world to solve the problem of inaccessible safe drinking water. The Run will end back in New York City on September 4, 2007.

To learn more, visit the Blue Planet Run website:

Blue Planet Run