Monday, October 13, 2008

Open House on Kennecott Mine Proposal

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold an open house on October 22 to answer questions about the federal role in regulating the proposed mine and the underground injection control permit application submitted by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company. The open house will be held at the Holiday Inn, 1951 U.S. Highway 41, West Marquette, Mich. There will be three sessions from 9 to 11 a.m., 1 to 3 p.m., and 6 to 9 p.m.

Kennecott proposes to dispose of treated wastewater as part of a nickel and copper sulfide mining operation within the Yellow Dog Plains of northwestern Marquette County. EPA notified the company that any underground disposal system at the mining site must comply with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act's federal Underground Injection Control program before construction and operation. The Safe Drinking Water Act is intended to protect underground sources of drinking water.

The UIC permitting process for the underground disposal system is EPA's only direct regulatory role in the Eagle mine project. EPA is conducting a technical evaluation of the permit application and supporting documents and expects to issue a draft decision before the end of the year. EPA will accept public comments and hold a public hearing when the draft decision is announced.

A copy of the permit application and more information about the Eagle mine project and the underground injection control program is available at:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BIFMA Standards Unveiled in October

From Environmental Leader - September 19, 2008
Sustainability Guidelines for Office Furniture May Soon Be Finalized

A new national sustainability standard for office furniture makers, developed jointly by NSF and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, may be finalized by early October, Western Michigan Business Review reports.

The guidelines set baselines to determine the sustainability of products and internal business practices. The development of the standard was mainly driven by booming market demands for environmentally friendly products from office furniture makers.

Brian Walker, president and CEO of Herman Miller, told Western Michigan Business Review that the standard allows manufacturers already involved in green efforts to go even further, and encourages smaller companies to begin the journey.

According to a case study by Forrester Research, Herman Miller has reduced landfill waste by 80 percent and hazardous waste by 91 percent. The company has also seen 32 percent return on investment in energy efficiency investments.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Great Lakes Legacy Act ReAuthorized in Congress, still must pass Senate

Buffalo, NY—The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to reauthorize and triple the amount being spent for cleaning up contamination at sites around the Great Lakes. Once approved by the Senate, the reauthorized Great Lakes Legacy Act (H.R. 6460/S.R. 2994) will:

• Provide $150 million annually from 2009-2013
• Fund pilot projects using innovative approaches, techniques or technologies to clean up contaminated sediment; and
• Guarantee public involvement and participation.

The 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified 43 “Areas of Concern” with 26 sites in U.S. waters and five in shared U.S-Canadian waters.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), and Congressman John McHugh (NY-23) championed the Great Lakes Legacy Act in the House. New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton are both original co-sponsors in the Senate. To date, New York’s Great Lakes toxic hot spots have received almost $20 million to help clean up blighted and orphaned coastal contamination sites.

A few of the Great Lakes Legacy Act Areas of Concern in New York (many more in surrounding states)

New York State’s remaining Great Lakes toxic hot spots include:

Niagara River Area of Concern is located in Erie and Niagara counties. Pollution from inactive hazardous waste sites, sewer overflows, shoreline development, heavy metals and toxic chemicals from industrial waste impair the River’s health.

Buffalo River Area of Concern.
Poor water quality, sewer overflows, 45 inactive hazardous waste sites, deformed fish, and contaminated sediments laden with toxic chemicals and heavy metals impair the Buffalo River in the City of Buffalo.

Eighteenmile Creek Area of Concern
is located in the Town of Newfane, Niagara County. Fish and wildlife deformities and reproductive problems are linked to sediments contaminated with heavy metals and toxic chemicals, as well as poor water quality and habitat degradation, impair this Lake Ontario tributary.

Rochester Embayment Area of Concern of Lake Ontario in Monroe County is impaired by heavy metals, sewer overflows, toxic organic substances resulting in health advisories for fish consumption.

St. Lawrence River at Massena Area of Concern begins at the Massena Village drinking water intake and includes portions of the Grasse, Raquette and St. Regis Rivers. PCBs, mercury, DDE, Mirex, nutrients, metals, physical disturbance, natural erosion and invasive species impair the River.

Toxic Chemicals and Heavy Metals in Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin and Mirex are man-made chemicals once used as insecticides and flame retardants. They accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. Exposure impacts the nervous system, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, and reproduction in animals and people.

Dioxins and Furans are persistent chemicals that accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. Released as a by-product of manufacturing and emissions from motor vehicles, municipal waste incinerators, wood fires and trash burning. Exposure is linked to skin, reproductive, and liver problems in people.
PCBs are persistent man-made chemicals, banned in the mid-1970s that continue to accumulate in the fat of fish and other animals. PCB exposure is linked to low birth weight, learning disabilities, decreased memory, and reproductive problems.

Mercury is a bioaccumlative toxic heavy metal that poses particular problems for the developing nervous system of children and unborn babies.
Cadmium is a bioaccumaltive toxic metal used in many industrial operations and in consumer products such as paints, plastics and batteries. Long term cadmium exposure adversely impact human’s kidneys, bones, and blood.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eden Environments: Grand Rapids' Sustainable Design Center

Yup, the bear attended opening night of Eden Environments and I was glad to see and meet so many likeminded green folk. Good food, good conversation and great design came together that evening with expectations of great things to come from owner Denise Hopkins.

Denise's vision was to create a store that would offer green alternatives for every aspect of interior design and construction. She is off to a great start. She has a fantastic location on 28th Street in the Design One Plaza - just east of the I-96 offramp near the Cascade Meijer - and her new showroom is filled with creative and inspiring designs.

Hat's off to Denise! Finally a great place to shop for green goods in Grand Rapids!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Ashtabula River Runs Clean Into Lake Erie Once Again

The Ashtabula River Partnership recently hosted a party at the Ashtabula Yacht Club to celebrate the successful removal of nearly 630,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the river. The sediment contained a variety of chemicals including PCBs, heavy metals and uranium, radium and thorium. Dredging began in September 2006 and is finally over.

It cost over $60 million from the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the state of Ohio to remove 25,000 pounds of hazardous PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other contaminants from the river bottom. It is the first cleanup project in Ohio funded by the federal Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the largest of the four Legacy Act projects funded to date. Also, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the dredging north of the Fifth Street lift bridge to Lake Erie at a cost of $15 million.

The true cost of pollution is never pretty... these millions are nothing compared to the disease and the loss of life that this mess has likely created.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Troy Ohio added to SuperFund Priorties List

The East Troy Contaminated Aquifer site in Troy, Ohio, to the Superfund National Priorities List. Three other sites - the Behr Dayton Thermal System VOC Plume site in Dayton, the New Carlisle Landfill in New Carlisle, Ohio, and the U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery in East Chicago, Ind. - were proposed for addition to the priorities list. Sites on the list are eligible for additional study and resources under EPA's Superfund program.

Nationally, six new sites were added to the NPL, bringing the total to 1,258, and 11 sites were proposed for addition to the list. Under the NPL process, sites are first proposed and public comments considered before a determination is made to formally add a site to the list. The NPL is updated twice each year.

The East Troy site is an area where volatile organic compounds, including the common industrial chemicals PCE and TCE, have contaminated ground water, soil and the indoor air in basements. EPA addressed the indoor air health risk by installing vapor abatement systems in 16 homes and St. Patrick Elementary School in the summer of 2007. EPA and Ohio EPA data also shows that VOCs have contaminated ground water below the city of Troy, as well as a local drinking water well field. To address this, Ohio EPA and Troy have taken steps to contain one potential source of the
contamination, and are treating contaminated ground water prior to use. Adding the site to the NPL enables EPA to study site conditions further, identify possible sources of the contamination, and develop a comprehensive strategy to address all locations and sources of the VOC contamination.

The proposed Behr Dayton site also involves TCE contamination in ground water. In 2003 and 2006, volatile organic compounds were detected in ground water beneath the Behr Dayton Thermal System auto parts manufacturing facility at 1600 Webster St. To address potential health risks associated with the pollution, EPA has installed vapor mitigation systems in 180 homes in the neighborhood south of the plant since late 2006. EPA will soon announce an October open house session to discuss the project.

The New Carlisle Landfill, at 715 N. Dayton-Lakeview Road in New Carlisle, operated from the mid-1950s until the early 1970s. It is now covered with two to four feet of clay, but was not designed with a protective liner in the manner of modern landfills. Ohio EPA data indicates that water from two public wells and two residential wells in the nearby area contain vinyl chloride above the safe drinking water level. In 2005, EPA extended the water line from the New Carlisle public water system to two homes and a plant nursery business. EPA remains concerned about potential migration of the vinyl chloride toward residential wells within one-half mile of the site.

The U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery site, 5300 Kennedy Ave., East Chicago, Ind., was also proposed for addition to the NPL today. The company operated from 1920 to 1985. Lead, most likely dispersed from long-removed smokestacks, has been detected in residential soil north of the property. The company also discharged process water to wetlands on the property that flow toward the Grand Calumet River Corridor. In July 2008, EPA began removing lead-contaminated soil from 15 nearby homes. Adding the site to the NPL will enable EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to complete a comprehensive approach to address the contamination.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


1) An agreement has been reached with Republic Engineered Products Inc. on alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's steel mill at 1807 E. 28th St., Lorain, Ohio. Republic has agreed to pay a $210,000 penalty.

2) EPA proposed a $114,740 penalty and filed an administrative complaint against Wolf Paving Co. Inc., 612 N. Sawyer Road, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin., for alleged Clean Air Act violations at an asphalt plant the company owned and operated until January 2007 at Highway 18 and County Road C in Genesee, Wisconsin.

3) The EPA and U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a $2,055,373 settlement for cleanup costs at the former IWI site, 7738 W. 61st Place, in Summit, Ill. A group of 23 companies will reimburse the government for cleanup work completed in October 2003. The late Glenn Wellman operated four companies at the 1.7-acre site from the late 1960s until the late 1990s: IWI Inc., IWI Industries, Itasco and Wellco. The business manufactured, cleaned and repaired stainless steel totes designed to store up to 600 gallons of liquid - typically flammable or corrosive materials such as adhesives, inks, oil and paint. The property was abandoned following Wellman's death in 1999. Oddly enough, a fire destroyed the former administrative offices in May 2002. A nine-month cleanup effort by a Chicago-based EPA Superfund team resulted in the safe disposal of 683 tons of contaminated soil, 568 tons of hazardous sludges, 568 drums and 52,300 gallons of hazardous liquids from a railroad tank car, sumps and totes at the site. The remaining structures on the property were razed.

4) Hercules Inc. had alleged clean-air violations at the company's chemical plant at 5228 N. Hopkins St., Milwaukee. A $22,500 penalty resolves EPA allegations that Hercules failed to comply with regulations requiring the facility to control leaks of hazardous air pollutants from its equipment.

EPA said Hercules had an uncapped open-ended line, had delayed repair of another line and had not tagged relevant equipment. The company has since demonstrated compliance with these requirements and improved its leak-management system.

5) Another agreement with Perham Resource Recovery Facility, a small municipal waste combustor in Perham, Minn., on alleged clean-air violations. This agreement, which includes a $15,950 penalty and a $110,760 environmental project, resolves EPA allegations that the facility exceeded emission standards for hydrogen chloride and mercury. The alleged violations were discovered through performance test reports submitted by the facility. The facility's environmental project consists of two improvements to its air pollution control system that will reduce emissions of hydrogen chloride and mercury. Hydrogen chloride, or hydrochloric acid, is corrosive to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure can cause chronic bronchitis and skin problems.

6) Bristol-Myers Squibb, an international pharmaceutical manufacturer, has agreed to reduce the output of ozone-depleting refrigerants at multiple industrial facilities around the country at a combined cost of $3.65 million to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice announced in early July. Under an agreement filed in federal court in Evansville, Ind., New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb will be required to retire or retrofit 17 industrial refrigeration units by July 2009 at facilities in Mt. Vernon and Evansville, Ind.; Hopewell, N.J.; and Humacao and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The units are used in the facilities' industrial process or as air conditioners and currently use hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, as refrigerants.

I could keep going there are so many more to list...

Friday, August 15, 2008


There are an estimated 243 million cell phone users in the United States. That number is dwarfed only by the estimated number of unused cell phones lurking in junk drawers and closets – 500 million. And the number of obsolete and unused cell phones is growing by an estimated 100 million each year. It's also estimated that the average wireless customer changes phones every 16 months. We're being buried in unused cell phones.

Certainly, recycling unused, obsolete or broken cell phones keeps hazardous waste out of our landfills, but it CAN also help animals in the wild.

Columbite-tantalite, or Coltan for short, is a dull metallic ore found in major quantities in the eastern areas of the African Congo. It is used in cell phones, laptops, pagers and other electronic devices. When refined, coltan becomes metallic tantalum, a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. Some types of Coltan mining may occur illegally in protected lands all across the Congo which in turn put wildlife such as Elephants and Gorillas of the Congo region at risk.

The Houston Zoo and 46 other zoos and aquariums across the country are in partnership with Eco-Cell, a cell phone-recycling firm based in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Houston Zoo has a recycling bin in our gift shop for collection of unwanted cell phones, batteries, and chargers. Zoo guests may also mail them in (see address below).

One hundred percent of the funds raised from the recycling of unwanted cell phones and accessories support the Houston Zoo’s wildlife conservation programs in Texas as well as in Africa and Asia. Through the Zoo’s partnership with Eco-Cell, items collected are sold, refurbished, or recycled. Damaged or obsolete phones are safely recycled in accordance with all applicable environmental guidelines.

The Houston Zoo’s Recycling Program also accepts empty inkjet, laser printer cartridges, and PDAs (palm pilots) for recycling.

If you have any questions about the Houston Zoo’s cell phone recycling program, please contact Brian Hill at or call 713-533-6531. I’d be happy to connect you with our Conservation Department. The mailing address for the recycling program is below.

Houston Zoo Inc.
Cell Phone Recycle
1513 North MacGregor
Houston, TX 77030

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Protect the Earth Summit August 2 and 3

Help Stop Metallic Sulfide and Uranium Mining

Keepers of the Water, Yellowdog Summer, and Students Against Sulfide Mining are organizing a Protect the Earth Summit on the shores of Gichigami for August 2 and 3 to bring communities together throughout the Great Lakes Region and the Midwest that are concerned about metallic sulfide and uranium mining. We all share and depend on clean land, air and water for our survival and must work together to protect the health of our communities and ecosystems. Please join them for free workshops, speakers, music, food, dance, and a walk to Eagle Rock.

To see the schedule of events please click here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dow will Clean up dioxin in Saginaw

The Feds have reached an agreement with Dow Chemical Co. that requires the company to clean up dioxin contamination in the Riverside Boulevard neighborhood of Saginaw. Construction work in this neighborhood on the Lower Tittabawassee River is expected to begin in late July and continue through the fall.

There are dangerously high levels of dioxin contamination in yards, the unpaved Riverside Boulevard roadway and in the interior of some homes.
Last April, EPA took soil samples at residential properties following discussions and consultation with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Community Health.

The agreement, called an "administrative order on consent", includes:
* Excavation of residential yards, then backfilling with clean soil.
* Interior cleaning of homes.
* Remediation of unpaved surfaces on Riverside Boulevard.

Dow's Midland facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant. Dioxins and furans are byproducts from the manufacture of chlorine-based products. Past waste disposal practices, emissions and incineration at Dow have resulted in on- and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.

New EPA Regional Administrator for the Great Lakes

Lynn Buhl will become Regional Administrator for EPA Region 5, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Bharat Mathur, EPA's Acting Regional Administrator since May of 2008, will resume his position as Deputy Regional Administrator.

Since September 2006, Buhl has served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at EPA Headquarters, where she advised the Administrator on a wide range of environmental enforcement issues.

Previously, Buhl served as Acting Secretary of Maryland's Department of the Environment and Deputy Secretary of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources. During her years of service in Maryland, she provided policy advice to Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. and was instrumental in reforming Maryland's contaminated site cleanup program.

Prior to her service in Maryland, Buhl worked at Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, Daimler Chrysler Corporation and in EPA's Region 5 office as an assistant regional counsel.

Buhl, a native of Missouri, holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, and a J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law.

Coast Guard Enlists Alliance, Public in Michigan Beach Trash Investigation

The Alliance for the Great Lakes is assisting the U.S. Coast Guard in its investigation to identify the source of tons of strange trash washing up along the Lake Michigan shoreline in West Michigan. The Alliance is calling on its West Michigan beach adopters and any other members of the public willing to help clean up the debris and collect information to share with the Coast Guard as it works to identify the source.

The Coast Guard says most of the debris is street litter such as food wrappers, beverage containers and balloons that was first reported washing up in Sleeping Bear Dunes in mid-June.

Initial reports from Sleeping Bear Dunes have been followed by reports of a large wash-up of debris in Manistee, and of trash washing up in Muskegon and Allegan County. Manistee appears to have received the brunt of the trash, but other communities are also dealing with abnormally high amounts of litter washing up on their beaches.

Photographs of dangerous material and items with identifiable information will help to identify possible sources. Anyone finding this type of trash should report it immediately to the Coast Guard Investigative Service at: 586-307-6759 through Friday, July 25, and 586-239-6759 thereafter.

Local Alliance Adopt-a-Beach teams, already trained in collecting trash and water quality data as part of regular cleanups and general beach stewardship, responded immediately to the wash-up in Sleeping Bear Dunes and Muskegon -- many folks just headed out to the beach without being asked. Thanks guys.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wolf Killings Continue in Yellowstone Region

The Bush Administration stripped wolves of their endangered species protection in March. 106 wolves have been killed in the past 118 days.

Almost one per day. And if Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have their way, at least 900 wolves -- nearly 60 percent of the population -- could be exterminated this fall, when a massive public hunt begins.

Make no mistake: This will be the very last summer for many of Yellowstone's wolves -- unless immediate action is taken to stop the killing.

Tourists visiting Yellowstone have been horrified to learn that the wolves they've traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to see are being gunned down as they wander outside the protection of the park. Hundreds of tourists a day are signing petitions to protest the slaughter.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is circulating those petitions in the park AND taking court action -- along with 11 other conservation groups -- to compel the Bush Administration to restore protection for the wolves.


Then, if you'd like to do more, you can donate to help the NRDC Action Fund build a national outcry against the slaughter.

Your support will help us broadcast the wolf's plight and mobilize America against the Bush Administration.

Swift action is imperative. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are planning public hunts for the region's remaining 1,400 wolves this fall -- the first in more than three decades. Once the leaves fall from the trees, wolves will be easy targets for aerial sharpshooters who can gun down entire packs in a matter of minutes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lt. Governor Cherry Speaks out on Great Lakes Protection

Lt. Governor Cherry has been touring the state to raise public awareness of preserving the Lakes – especially to urge Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act. He's been posting on blogs during his trip and today I'm fortunate enough to announce that he is using Black Bear Speaks to get the word out. He started in Port Huron and is now on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Over the past several days, Cherry has been in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and Muskegon where he has been talking with local leaders, residents and the media about the Lakes.

Cherry, who chairs the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission, announced a restoration project at a press conference this morning at the Grand Trunk boat launch site. The project will focus on the south shoreline of Muskegon Lake, from the Lake Michigan channel to the mouth of the Muskegon River. The project aims to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands along the shoreline by planting native species, removing old seawalls, etc.

This is a tremendous opportunity, so please use the comment feature below to tell the LG Cherry exactly what you think needs to happen in regard to protecting and conserving the Great Lakes.

"Yesterday's activities began in Michigan's Twin City Region—St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. Historically, these two communities were sited at the confluence of two major Indian transportation routes. The Sauk Trail was the major land route across Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and connected to the major water route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The Miami and Potawatomi established camps in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area.

St. Joseph is also the home of one of my duck hunting companions—Judge Charlie LaSata.

The purpose of our stop here was to celebrate the work that The Conservation Fund, in conjunction with the Berrien County Drain Office and Health Department, has done to reduce the sediment load that the Galien River dumps into Lake Michigan. Non-point source pollution is a major pathway for the deposition of toxics and other contaminants into the Great Lakes. Through a local, state, and federal partnership, a watershed management plan was developed and is in the process of implementation. A number of conservation easements have been purchased. This year's $300,000 grant will be used to tackle E. Coli contamination by identifying failing septic systems and protecting wetland areas. Additionally, local residents are organizing two river cleanups this year.

The celebration took place at Warren Dunes State Park. My wife, Pam, and I were met by Peg Kohring of the Conservation Fund, Frank Rustwick, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Mike Terrell, the Park Manager at Warren Dunes. Mike had previously been assigned to Seven Lakes State Park near my home. Now he manages the gem of the Michigan State Park system. Mike tells me that 20 per cent of the revenue for the entire state park system is generated at Warren Dunes. That tells us something about the economic impact of breathtaking natural wonders and why it makes economic sense to protect them.

We held a ceremonial grant transmittal to the Conservation Fund at a park pavilion on the shore of Lake Michigan and at the foot of the world's largest body of fresh water dunes. A great crowd of local conservation activists gathered for the event, and we talked about the enormous opportunity that this presidential election presents to secure a strong federal commitment for Great Lakes restoration. Both candidates have signed a pledge to support Great Lakes restoration and protection. This is the year to put the Great Lakes on the federal agenda for 2009."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bogus Recycling Company Owners Jailed

Oh yes, sometimes your government gets it right. This time
three folks were arrested in Lapeer County for racketeering and money laundering.

Between 2000 and 2004, World Waste Services and Cove Landfill were
permitted by the state of Michigan to conduct a solid waste business. World Waste Services submitted falsified documents with forged names of governmental officials to the DEQ and Huron County that sparked a cooperative criminal investigation between the DEQ and Huron County Sheriff’s Department.

It turns out that the company entered into recycling contracts with municipalities throughout the thumb area. They gave the appearance of adhering to the contracts and
recycling the waste, but instead disposed of the recyclable material into Cove
Landfill, at no cost to them.

The owners were took most of the cash they received at the business and converted it to their own personal use by laundering the money through area casinos.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Recommendation: EcoDesign Sourcebook

For the growing number of people looking to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle without sacrificing high style, ecoDesign — now fully revised and updated — is the ultimate one-stop shopping resource. The latest edition of this definitive sourcebook includes up-to-the-minute listings for more than seven hundred consumer products — from clothing to kitchenware, electronics to furniture — that have a minimal impact on the earth while remaining useful and beautiful. This remarkable compendium also directs readers to little known gems and handcrafted objects from artisanal studios. Detailed, illustrated entries describe the products, while an extensive reference section defines new and hybrid materials and provides information on manufacturers, design studios, and green organizations. ecoDesign remains the total resource guide for the new generation of contemporary design.

Buy it now

Is Your Child’s Car Seat Toxic?

Most popular 2008 child car seats being tested for toxic chemicals

Vote for Your Choice at by Monday, June 23

Last year the Ecology Center released the first-ever consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars and child car seats. (You may have read about it here on Black Bear Speaks last year.) This included 62 brand new infant, convertible and booster car seats. In December they released a holiday shopping guide to toxic chemicals in toys at Now, these Ann-Arbor based environmental scientists are testing 2008 models, and they want to hear from YOU. wants to know which child car seats parents are most interested in having tested. Parents can go to the Test My Car Seat feature at and vote by Monday, June 23. Test results of the most popular car seats will be released on Tuesday, July 22nd at along with updated data on toxic chemicals in 2007- and 2008-model vehicles.

While there are numerous substances in car seats that can lead to health and environmental problems, the Ecology Center is looking for those with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. Chemicals tested for include: bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy metal allergens. Such chemicals have been linked to major health problems such as liver, thyroid and developmental problems in children. Babies are the most vulnerable population in terms of exposure to chemical-laden dust and inhaling toxic fumes, since their systems are still developing.

Anyone looking to buy a new car or car seat, or wondering if their current car or child’s car seat is safe, can visit after July 22 and search by model, or comparison shop between different models.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chicago Green Festival This Weekend on Navy Pier

Head's up! Knú will be exhibiting at the Chicago Green Festival on Navy Pier!

Show Hours:
Saturday 10AM- 8PM
Sunday 11AM- 6PM

Venue and Address:
Navy Pier
600 E Grand Avenue, Chicago

Celebrating what works, the Green Festival showcases more than 350 diverse local and national green businesses displaying and selling eco-friendly, fair trade and sustainable products. Annie's Mac&Cheese, Dr. Bronner's soap, Utne Reader and NOLS will be there, plus lots, lots more.

Knú is bringing in a truckload of Michigan made unique, modern, high quality sustainable furniture, including: new home office desk designs, an entertainment center, a lateral file, privacy screens, and more. Knú furniture is built using Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products, recycled content steel components, low-VOC finishes, and it ships in fully recyclable packaging. Knú does not produce junk mail catalogs! We are 100% carbon offset through our business partner, last year we offset 389 metric tons! Check out our website at or to learn more about our sustainability efforts.

In addition more than 150 visionary speakers will appear for standing-room-only panel discussions, presentations and main stage speaking events. Look for Amy Goodman at noon on Saturday and Winona LaDuke at noon Sunday, to name just a few.

With more than a dozen speakers covering topics such as permaculture and sustainable architecture, the Green Home Pavilion will be one of the top places to be during the festival. Look for the Knú booth directly in front of the Green Home Pavilion. We'll be the big guys in grey shirts with the funky green Knú logo on them, can't miss us.

Click here to find the Chicago Green Festival speakers list and schedule.

Also at the festival, you'll enjoy great how-to workshops, green films, a fair trade pavilion, yoga and movement classes, kids' zone, delicious organic beer, wine and cuisine, and live music. Look for the Knú guys in the grey shirts.

To learn more about the Chicago Green Festival, check out their site at

If you have any questions regarding Knú or the Chicago Green Festival, give Knú Customer Service a call toll free at 866.451.5541!!!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Congress moves will support major coal interests, not renewables

On April 15, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources & Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands conducted an oversight hearing on state and community impacts from the West-Wide Energy Corridor Process. The process, mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, would designate energy corridors across large swaths of land throughout the U.S. At worst, this is an example of bureaucratic bungling that threatens some of our most pristine, ecologically important habitats and could waste millions of taxpayer dollars. At best, this process represents a missed opportunity to design a forward-looking policy to address our energy needs.

Here is some background on the West-wide corridors:

Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires the Departments of Energy, Interior and multiple other federal agencies to designate West-wide energy transmission corridors for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines as well as electric transmission facilities. The federal government responded by issuing a draft environmental impact statement in November 2007 that proposed corridors on public lands within the 11 states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and California. Once designated, the corridors (averaging 3,500-feet wide but ranging up to 5 miles in width) will cover 6,000 miles and almost 3 million acres of public lands. As proposed, the designations will damage wildlife habitat, cultural resources, recreation opportunities, and many other resources on federal lands across the West. The impacted areas include such renowned places as the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona/California border, New Mexico's Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, and Utah's Grand Staircase National Monument and Arches National Park.

The corridors process also shortchanges the commitment of Western states to producing renewable energy. Not only would the proposed West-wide energy corridors slice through high-value public lands, they would hard-wire a coal economy onto the 21st century West. The proposed energy corridors show the administration's multi-billion dollar grid to be little more than a network connecting existing and proposed coal-fired power plants that bypass many areas rich in renewable energy potential. If the federal government is going to invest millions in solving the energy transmission bottleneck, it only makes sense that it does it in a manner that moves us toward efficient use of clean energy sources.

At the hearing, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said, "The current map looks like a giant extension cord to existing coal sources. Transmission is key to the development and sustainability of renewable energy. If that wasn't taken into account, that's a huge step backward.”

Designating corridors to meet our needs to transport energy across the nation can be part of a common sense approach to meeting the need for energy, but it is only one part – in conjunction with considering how we conserve energy and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. It is vital that these corridors are located only in appropriate places, and that their construction and use are also carefully determined with true consideration of their likely effects on the surrounding areas. Thoughtful planning is the best way to protect people and the rest of the natural environment.

The designation of energy corridors across the West simply cannot be permitted to proceed unless and until these serious concerns are addressed. The agencies need to generate a new proposal and conduct real consultation with all interested parties, fully disclosing what the corridors will do to all the affected lands, and including alternatives that avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive resources and prioritize improved efficiency, distributed generation, and renewables. Such an approach would ensure that this can be a meaningful and ultimately useful process.

To learn more about the West-wide Energy Corridor designation process, please visit

Saturday, May 03, 2008

37 Yellowstone National Park Wolves Shot Dead

The restoration of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies is one of America's greatest environmental success stories. Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and the central Idaho wilderness in 1995 after being exterminated by settlers, trappers and the federal government. Since then, these new populations have increased to 1,500 or so animals. Wolves play a crucial role in the ecosystems of the Northern Rockies, helping to preserve riparian forests and maintain healthy populations of raptors and coyotes. They are also a boon to the region's economy, generating tens of millions of dollars in tourist revenue each year.

But Rocky Mountain wolves are now in grave danger. In March 2008, idiots in the Bush Administration stripped gray wolves in Greater Yellowstone and across the Northern Rockies of endangered species protection. Earlier in the year, these same idiots in the administration issued a new rule allowing the slaughter of hundreds of these wolves. Entire packs of wolves could be gunned down from airplanes in minutes. In fact, the federal government has already spent our tax dollars to buy two planes for the purpose of aerial gunning. 37 wolves have been shot dead in the past month.

Both Idaho and Wyoming have made it clear that they intend to take their wolf populations down to minimum levels. In Idaho, the governor himself boasted, "I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself." The Bush Administration's new rule would allow Idaho to realize its dream of killing every last wolf -- 60 in all -- in the Clearwater River wilderness region. Ultimately, the state wants to kill up to 85 percent of its approximately 780 wolves. Even pups will be killed.

Wyoming's plans are equally brutal. The state classifies wolves as "predatory animals" in most of the state. As predators, wolves could be shot on sight anywhere by anyone at anytime. In the 80 percent of Wyoming outside the Yellowstone area, wolves will now be killed in unlimited numbers -- with no licenses or permits required.
By authorizing these wolf killing plans, the Bush Administration is catering to the hunting community, which wants the ease of hunting elk in the same places and in the same numbers that they've grown accustomed to. Yet, elk populations are at all-time highs across the Northern Rockies and above objectives in all three states. In fact, the game and fish agencies in the region are taking steps to reduce their elk herds.

Wolves are being targeted because of a few cases where elk herds have declined. But these declines have been caused by many factors, including drought, shrinking habitat and human hunters -- not just wolves. Under the Bush Administration's plan, wolves alone will be blamed for any and all declines in a few elk populations. And that will be grounds enough for shooting and trapping hundreds of more wolves across two states. Wolves will be killed for doing what they are supposed to do: maintain a healthy ecosystem by preying on elk.

Instead of killing wolves, Wyoming and Idaho should be redoubling their efforts to protect them in the face of mounting development and other habitat destruction. The Bush Administration should protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act until the states have plans in place to ensure that wolf populations will flourish in the future. They should make certain that connections are maintained between the three populations in the Northern Rockies so that these populations remain genetically healthy. These ecological bridges are increasingly important as rural sprawl and industrial development continue to fragment wolf habitat throughout the region.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Elkhart Indiana Gets SuperFund Research Money for Groundwater Contamination

Cedarcreek Wisconsin also gets $2.7Million

The Lusher Street ground water contamination site in Elkhart, Indiana has been added to the Superfund National Priorities List. The NPL is a list of the nation's most contaminated hazardous waste sites eligible for cleanup under EPA's Superfund program.

The Lusher site is an underground plume (mass of contaminated water) of industrial solvents, including TCA (1,1,1-trichloroethane) and TCE (trichloroethylene). The plume area is bordered to the north by the St. Joseph River, to the west by Nappanee Street, to the south by Hively Avenue, and to the east by Oakland Avenue. Research has shown the plume is moving northward toward the river. In 1987 and 2006, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management provided alternate water supplies to area residents. With the site's addition to the NPL, it will be eligible for additional study and cleanup resources, and hopefully the source will be identified.

Nationally, 12 new hazardous waste sites were added to the NPL recently, with six sites proposed for addition to the list. The Lusher site was the only new or proposed site in the Great Lakes states. To date, there have been 1,581 sites listed on the NPL nationwide. Of these, 324 sites have been deleted from the list. Cleanup construction has been completed at 1,031 sites. There are now 60 proposed sites awaiting final agency action.

A $2.7 million cleanup plan for the Cedar Creek Mercury Marine Plant Superfund site in Cedarburg, Wisconsin has been approved which involves excavation of soil at the Plant site plus ground-water monitoring. A separate plan to address ground-water contamination will be done at a later date.

PCBs from two local companies - now-closed Amcast and Mercury Marine - contaminated Cedar Creek (from below the Ruck Pond Dam to its intersection with the Milwaukee River), the Plant 2 property, the former Amcast property and some nearby private properties. EPA Superfund involvement at the site began in 2003. Mercury Marine and Wisconsin DNR began studying the site in 1983.

PCBs were once widely used by industry as coolants, insulators and lubricants. The manufacture of PCBs in the United States was stopped in 1977, but the compound stays a long time in the environment. They are linked to cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental problems in people and animals. PCB-contaminated river sediment affects fish, wildlife and people as it rises through the food chain. In the 1970s, Wisconsin advised residents not to eat fish from various rivers throughout the state because of the contamination. The advisories are still in effect.

Click here to find links to the Federal Register notice concerning the Elkhart groundwater contamination, information on submitting comments, background on the NPL process and summaries of the sites newly added or proposed.

Click here to find copies of the Cedar Creek study detailing the final cleanup plan, the Record of Decision and other site documents.

It should be noted by all that these are perfect examples of corporate eco-terrorism committed against the people of the United States who now have to foot the bill to clean up some these asshole's messes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

EPA Testing for Dioxin in Saginaw Neighborhood

A residential neighborhood in Saginaw is being screened for dioxin-contaminated soil. Approximately 10 residential properties along the Tittabawassee River will be sampled. Small plugs from up to 36 inches below the surface will be sent for laboratory analysis.

Lab testing may take two to three weeks. Once the data is returned, EPA and MDEQ, along with Michigan Department of Community Health, will consider a range of options, including more comprehensive sampling in the area and possible cleanup actions.

"Residential soil contamination is a serious matter," said Associate Superfund Director Ralph Dollhopf. "At this time of year, children are playing outside again and families are planning gardens. If action is needed, this project will ramp up very quickly."

The investigation aims to determine the extent of dioxin contamination present in the neighborhood. The project was prompted by Dow Chemical Co.'s February 2008 disclosure to the agencies of an elevated dioxin level found in a residential soil sample collected by Dow in November 2007. Under the company's Michigan operating license, MDEQ required Dow to conduct certain soil and embankment sampling along the Middle Branch of the Tittabawassee River.

Dow's Midland facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant. Dioxins and furans are byproducts from the manufacture of chlorine-based products. Past waste disposal practices, emissions and incineration at Dow have resulted in on and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.

For more information please visit

18 States Sue EPA over Greenhouses Gases

From the Associated Press: Eighteen states are suing the EPA in an attempt to force it to comply with a Supreme Court ruling in April that found the EPA has authority to regulate vehicle emissions, AP reports. The plaintiffs say that the ruling requires the EPA to decide whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA disagrees.

The petition asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require the EPA to act within 60 days.

In last year’s decision, the court stopped short of saying that the EPA must actually limit vehicle emissions, but it said “the EPA can avoid taking further action only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do.”

Last week, AP reported that the EPA said it would not rush any decision on the ruling by the Supreme Court. Such action “could affect many (emission) sources beyond just cars and trucks” and needs to be examined broadly as to other impacts, Stephen Johnson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency wrote lawmakers.

The Plaintiffs include attorneys general from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, plus representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the cities of New York and Baltimore, and several environmental organizations.

Coastal Populations Losing Livelihoods to Polluted Waters

News from the World Resources Institute think tank...

Coastal communities worldwide are witnessing their livelihoods choked by agricultural and industrial pollution, according to findings released today by the World Resources Institute.

"A significant portion of the world's population - nearly half of which lives within 40 miles of a coast - is vulnerable to harmfully over-enriched ecosystems," said Mindy Selman, senior associate at WRI and lead author of WRI's findings.

Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus has emerged as one of the leading causes of degraded water quality. WRI identified 415 over-enriched - or "eutrophic" - coastal areas throughout the world. Of these, 169 are depleted of oxygen, creating "dead zones" that are unable to support marine life. Another 233 of the systems identified are experiencing one or more symptoms of eutrophication, including toxic algal blooms, loss of biodiversity, and die-off of coral reefs. Only 13 of the coastal areas identified exhibit signs of recovery.

Click here to view map of eutrophic coastal areas on the WRI site.

Some of the coastal areas studied include the Chesapeake Bay, Baltic Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Tampa Bay. Seventy-eight percent of the assessed continental U.S. coastal area and 65 percent of Europe's Atlantic coast are eutrophic.

"There is a dramatic growth in areas receiving nitrogen and phosphorus created by agriculture, sewage, industry, and fossil fuel combustion," said Robert Diaz, a co-author of the findings and professor of marine science at the College of William and Mary.

Over the past 50 years, human activities have caused a doubling of nitrogen pollution and a tripling of phosphorus pollution in coastal areas. By comparison, human activities have increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide - the gas primarily responsible for global warming - by 32 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

The most severe form of oxygen depletion in coastal areas has escalated dramatically over the past 50 years, increasing from about 10 documented cases in 1960 to 44 in 1995 to at least 169 today.

The sources of pollution vary by region. In the United States and Europe, agricultural sources such as animal manure and commercial fertilizers are typically the main causes of eutrophication. Sewage and industrial discharges, which usually receive some treatment, are a secondary source. However, elsewhere in the world, wastewater from sewage and industry is often untreated and a primary contributor to eutrophication. Only 35 percent of wastewater in Asia is treated, 14 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and less than 1 percent in Africa.

The full findings appear in Eutrophication and Hypoxia in Coastal Areas: A Global Assessment of the State of Knowledge.

"The number of degraded coastal areas around the world is sure to be a much greater problem than even our study of 415 areas suggests," Selman said. "Many countries will need to take initial steps in monitoring their water and eventually reducing pollution through smart policies."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wind Power Resources, A Few Good Books to Read

I've been thinking a lot about building my own wind generator and getting the funding to do so as well. The way my brain functions, I need to gather every scrap of useful information first before making a decision about going forward. (I've learned the hard way.) I'm investigating all the options first to make the best choice of home power that will last me several decades.

Here are a few resources on wind power development that I've come across recently, hope you find this helpful. Give me a shout if you're building a wind generator, I'd like to come and check it out.

Wind Power: Energy for the Future of Global Warming
Nigel Saunders, $26.95
ISBN: 0836884051
This is a great book for kids, it’s really targeted toward 8th graders. It has very basic explanations of electricity delivery and aerodynamics, covers the topic in a very simple and easy to understand manner.

Wind Power in View: Energy Landscapes in a Crowded World
Martin Pasqualetti
ISBN: 0125463340
This is the first book ever that covers the topic of wind energy aesthetics, the visual impact on the landscape. Contains 11 different articles from all over the globe addressing the question of wind generator ugliness and offering creative solutions to deal with the problem.

Remote Sensing for Wind Power Potential, a Prospector's Handbook
by U. S. Department Of Energy, $79.95
ISBN: 0894991744
The title pretty much says it all. The DOE tells you how to determine where to build your tower.

Wind Power: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm and Business
by Paul Gipe, $50.00
ISBN: 1931498148
This is the most comprehensive guide available on small scale wind generators. If you're going to construct a wind generator on your land for personal use, this is the book you want.

Developing Wind Power Projects: Theory and Practice
by Tore Wizelius, $69.95
ISBN: 1844072622
Developed primary for land-use planners and other government officials involved in wind farm construction, this heavy duty text covers political issues surrounding siting, financing and local legislation. This is a great book for consultants who are advising local governments on wind farm projects.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It must be the water...

All I can say is "Wow, We've finally found a replacement for Muiderman."

Duke Greene is undeniably the best acoustic guitar player to emerge from the West Michigan music scene since Erik Muiderman left the Folk Lizards behind and headed out west to write music in Oregon.... or maybe even since the boys in Karmic split up and Juano Lippi landed in New York.

It's been a long time coming, but Grand Rapids finally generated another 6-string master. I'm not certain how we are going to hang on to Greene, he's destined to hit the big time soon. His soul-searching original acoustic tunes are what the instrument was invented for. I'll admit Duke, one listen to "Holiday" and I picked up my Fender immediately and tried to play along.

Click the links to listen to Greene's first 2005 release "True Enough". There is more to come, he's only just begun. The next release party is in June.

Catch Duke Greene live:
Genesis, 1601 Gallbraith SE, March 29th
Dillenbeck's, 1059 W. Fulton, April 11th, 7-9pm

Download on Itunes now or find him on CD-Baby.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wild West Michigan

Mr. Leonard examines the virtues of Grand Rapids and surrounding landscape from the perspective of a place-centered eco-ethic. I concur, take a stand for what you believe in the place that you love.

For the last century and more, Michigan has had a reputation as a world-class industrial leader on the one hand, and an outdoor paradise on the other. This contrast between city and wilderness, between the populated centers and the remote retreats, imbues and enhances the Michigan experience. And nowhere in the state is that contrast any more clear than here in metropolitan Grand Rapids and the central West Michigan region.

I like to say that Grand Rapids is now Michigan’s first city. That may not be so in population, geographical extent or capital investment. But it is so in one very important respect: reputation. Grand Rapids is the Michigan city that all Michiganians can take pride in. Grand Rapids is the Michigan city that, year in and year out, seems to work best.

Manufacturing, arts and entertainment, social diversity, bipartisanship, business innovation, industrial design, architecture, infrastructure, history, spiritual leadership. All these things are a part of our capital, points of our pride.

But we are not made important by sheer bigness or by the works of the human population here.

Take a ride out from the center of Grand Rapids, in any direction you like, and in half an hour you may find you have touched a piece of Michigan’s great wilderness heritage.

Go north and you will find black bear habitat almost as close as the Grand Rapids suburbs, with occasional documented visits from creatures of the ursine persuasion. Half an hour to the south, if you know where to look, you can find what may be the southernmost nesting pair of common loons in North America.

To the east the Grand River and its tributaries wind away, the traditional home of the beaver, mink, river otter, and other species seldom seen since the days of the Astor fur traders, but now returning to our waters.

And to the West, of course, the lake itself, and the animals and plants that reside within it. Along the Lake Michigan coast, in our estuaries and rivers, the bald eagle plunges and the lake sturgeon turns a solemn, Devonian profile. In the wetlands and cornfields, sandhill cranes have grown abundant in central and west Michigan. Few things are more plainly inhuman, in the prehistoric sense, than the sight of the cranes arriving in their wild roosting areas at dusk.

A lot of people don’t know that our area provides a foothold for many endangered and threatened species, especially birds. Thomas Funke, the resident manager of the Michigan Audubon’s Otis Sanctuary in Barry County, reports that the Barry State Game Area is home to seven of Michigan’s nine globally imperiled bird species. They include Henslow’s sparrow, the golden-winged warbler, redheaded woodpecker, northern bobwhite, and the olive-sided flycatcher.

In fact, Funke notes that whooping cranes, among the world’s rarest birds, have been reported in West Michigan three years running.

Part of what makes it possible to see rare bird species in West Michigan is the availability of some remaining large tracts of contiguous woodland habitat. Barry State Game Area is one of a number of such areas, otherwise rare in the southern part of the state. The Allegan and Middleville State Game Areas are also nearby. Some of the species mentioned above could not persist in an area with less than 4,000 or 5,000 acres.

Thoreau called these creatures his “brute neighbors.” Part of the formula for sustainability of any community involves the welfare of our brute neighbors. These fellow West Michiganians, whose existence may be barely noticeable to many of us, are part of the community we hope to sustain with our green buildings, 21st-century designs and renewable power sources, our agricultural resources and policies, our pollution scrubbers, transit vehicles, and infrastructure.

We may think we are being generous to them if we sustain them. But really we are being generous to ourselves.

Whether you are a birder or sportsman or just an alert hiker, much of the charm and wonder of your chosen region will have to do with its wildlife. For my own part, I would like to see our wildlife flourishing in a way it does not now. A flourishing wildlife requires room, especially the room to be seldom visited, to be left alone. Small inroads and appearances, even by careful, well-intentioned people, test their sometimes precarious existence. A diverse wildlife, by contrast, requires diverse habitats. Indeed, they may be dependent on systems of natural habitat stretching well beyond our borders.

A hopeful effort to systematically protect local natural areas and wildlife is the Green Infrastructure concept being developed by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, a regional planning group. The notion of green infrastructure suggests how nature, instead of being regarded as an impediment to economic growth and development, or as the absence of useful endeavor, needs instead to be considered as an amenity, and allowed to grow in proportion with the region as a whole.

Government policy, instead of refereeing the gradual destruction of wildlife habitat over time, needs to reflect and support such values.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Carbon Neutral Sugar, Baby

Beyond the Organic Label, Florida Crystals and Partner to Introduce Organic Sugar Line to Carbon-Conscious Consumers

Silver Spring, MD – March 19, 2008 – and Florida Crystals Corporation today announced the CarbonFree® certification of Florida Crystals Organic Sugar, marking a growing trend of businesses that are bringing carbon-conscious consumerism directly to their customers and a growing number of eco-conscious consumers who scrutinize food production methods and seek products that minimize climate impact.’s CarbonFree label, which will appear on Florida Crystals' entire line of organic sugar, indicates that the product’s entire carbon footprint will be offset through the support of greenhouse gas reduction projects, allowing consumers to make carbon-conscious buying decisions right in the store.

The average American consumes approximately 107 pounds of sugar a year, according to a 2003-2004 United States Department of Agriculture Food Intake Survey. With a new line of sugar that offers an organic and CarbonFree option, consumers can take a further step to combat global warming. Meanwhile, A new study shows that roughly half of all consumers now consider questions of sustainability in their purchasing decisions, with particular focus on the food and beverage industry. certified Florida Crystals organic sugar CarbonFree after a rigorous life cycle analysis (LCA) performed by carbon management consultants, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management. They determined the product’s carbon footprint by assessing the primary inputs of planting and growing the sugar cane, through the harvesting, milling and packaging processes, to the product’s final delivery to store shelves. Each product’s carbon footprint was rendered neutral through greenhouse gas cutting measures, specifically, through Florida Crystals’ production of renewable energy.

CarbonFree product certification entails four main steps:
● Determine the product’s carbon footprint through an LCA
● Certify and register the product as CarbonFree
● Offset the product’s footprint through the support of greenhouse gas reduction projects
● Conduct annual review and recertification

“CarbonFree certification and labeling is the next big trend in environmentally responsible living,” Executive Director Eric Carlson said. “Florida Crystals is increasing awareness among consumers of the impact their buying decisions have on the planet. We’re very proud to have them as a partner.”

“Florida Crystals certification is unique,” said Luis Fernandez, Florida Crystals’ Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “Unlike other manufacturers who rely on the purchase of carbon credits from third parties, we are able to provide our products’ carbon neutrality through our own production of renewable energy. We have a strong commitment to the environment and continue to invest in the expansion of our renewable energy program. We are proud to receive CarbonFree certification.”

Other CarbonFree products include:

● Tropical Traders’ Royal Hawaiian Honey
● Ecofuture’s THEbulb
● Yakima racks and other products
Knu: Sustainable Contemporary Furniture

Note: I'm posting this because is a business partner of my employer, Industrial Woodworking Corporation and it's subsidiary Knu LLC. IWC and Knu joined CarbonFund's CarbonFree program in January 2007 and have offset 100% of our carbon emissions since then. We are, as far as I know, the first furniture manufacturer in Michigan - perhaps in the country - to do so.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Steelcase Tackles Wind Power

Steelcase will purchase all the renewable energy credits produced by a new 10 megawatt wind farm in Panhandle, Texas developed by John Deere Renewables, the wind-energy development unit of Deere & Co., for at least the first five years of its operation.

Naming rights come with the agreement. The wind farm will be named the “Wege Wind Energy Farm, provided by Steelcase” named for Peter Wege, a Michigan environmentalist and Steelcase founding family member. Steelcase is paying a premium for the RECs in order to add their name to them.

Expect more of this kind of advertising in the future.

Bradley Johnson, John Deere’s director for business development, says that premium prices for naming rights will enable Deere to undertake projects that are too small to be economically practical. Several companies have expressed interest in naming rights.

“This is a new business model, and it could attract any brand that wants to be linked with sustainability,” Ted Rose, vice president for business development for Renewable Choice Energy, which led the transaction and serves as the marketer for the project, says in the Times article. “Imagine the G.M. wind farm, the Apple wind farm - it’s not unthinkable at all.”

The power expected to be generated by the wind farm represents approximately 20 percent of the power Steelcase facilities require in the U.S.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Spitzer leaves and Paterson signs the compact...

Ye olde press release from the state of New York:

Governor Designate David A. Paterson today announced that legislation has been signed authorizing New York State to join the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The Compact is a multi-state agreement designed to protect, conserve, and improve the water resources of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin. The legislation was signed by Governor Spitzer on March 4, 2008.

“The Great Lakes and their bays and tributaries contain approximately 18 percent of the world’s supply of freshwater, and 90 percent of the United States’ supply of fresh surface water,” said Governor Designate Paterson. “Unfortunately, water levels in the Great Lakes have seen drastic declines in the last decade, and it is vitally important that we protect and conserve this essential water resource. The Great Lakes Compact demonstrates the commitment of all of the Great Lakes states to work together to achieve that goal.”

In 2001, the Governors of the eight Great Lakes states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec signed an agreement to develop and implement a new common, resource-based conservation standard for the Great Lakes Basin. After several years of negotiation, the Great Lakes Compact was developed.
The water surface area of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and connecting channels covers approximately 95,000 square miles in eight states and two Canadian provinces, and the drainage area of the Basin covers an additional 200,000 square miles. Since only about one percent of the water in the Great Lakes is renewed or replaced by rain and tributary inflow each year, a multi-state agreement regulating various withdrawals and diversions is an important step to preserving this natural resource.

Senator George Maziarz said: “Having New York State sign on to the historic Great Lakes Compact is critical to protecting our precious freshwater resources, particularly Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the St. Lawrence River, and their tributaries. Joining this multi-state and multi-province effort is the right thing to do for our environment, for our communities, and for our future.”

Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney said: “This legislation will protect the largest body of fresh water in the world. This historic agreement is designed to ensure protection of the waters of the Great Lakes, now and in perpetuity. Over 40 percent of our State lies within the Great Lakes Basin and this provides us with an important environmental resource and economic driver. The compact is designed as proactive legislation to shelter and preserve the Great Lakes.”

Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Pete Grannis said: “The Great Lakes are among America's greatest natural resources and they must be protected from excessive demands. The compact is an integral tool that will establish proper management practices and standards so that the benefits these waters provide will continue to be available for future generations.”

Derek Stack, Executive Director of Great Lakes United, said: “By signing the Compact, the State of New York tells its neighbors that protecting the waters of the Great Lakes is about protecting our future. Today, New York demonstrates that the spirit of cooperation between the Great Lakes states and provinces is thriving, and reaffirms the value of protecting the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. Now we must work hard to ensure that the Compact moves swiftly to approval in those states where years of careful negotiation has been held hostage by narrow-minded political agendas.”

Dereth Glance, Executive Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said: “New York's unanimous support of the Great Lakes Compact builds the momentum necessary to secure the adoption of this historic document throughout the Basin. We applaud the State’s commitment to protect the future of this magnificent resource.”

Robert Moore, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said: “The magnificent waters of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River have provided New Yorkers with so much throughout our history, including unparalleled habitat for fish and wildlife and drinking water for millions of residents. Environmental Advocates of New York applauds the Administration, Senator Maziarz and Assemblyman Sweeney for their leadership on this historic measure. We urge Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan to ratify the agreed-upon language of the Compact and ensure that the Great Lakes will be managed for the benefit of the entire region.”

Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York, the state program of the National Audubon Society, said: “Protecting the water of the Great Lakes is critical for the long term restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem and for the revitalization of the upstate New York economy. The Great Lakes Compact will allow the region to maintain control of its waters as demand for fresh water continues to grow throughout the nation and worldwide. We commend the Administration, and the Senate and Assembly, especially Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, for passing this important measure, and we hope the remaining states in the Basin will follow New York’s strong lead.”

The Compact would provide for:

- The creation of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, consisting of the Governors of the eight Great Lakes states;
- The creation of a water resources inventory by each member state;
- Periodic assessments of cumulative impacts of water withdrawals from the Basin;
- A prohibition on most new and increased diversions of water from the Basin;
- Registration of water withdrawals in amounts of 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) or greater from the Basin in any 30-day period, and certain regulated diversions of Basin water;
- Implementation of water conservation and efficiency programs by each member state relating to Basin water uses;
- Commitments by member states to promote environmentally sound and economically feasible water conservation measures;
- Consultation between the Great Lakes Council and the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec through “regional review” procedures for any new or increased consumptive uses of at least 5 million gpd in any 90-day period; and
- Preservation of existing diversions, withdrawals, uses, rights and agreements.

In order for the Compact to take effect, each of the eight Great Lakes states must pass legislation ratifying the Compact, and then the United States Congress must consent to the signed Compact. New York is now the fourth state to approve the Compact, following approvals by Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana.

The legislation authorizes the Governor to take steps to facilitate the execution of the Compact by the other Governors, and to apply to Congress for consent to the Compact. The legislation also authorizes Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Grannis to convene an advisory council to make recommendations for legislation, rules and regulations necessary to implement the Compact.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Greening the Great Lakes

Michigan State University and WJR have launched a web site called "Greening of the Great Lakes" with the goal of providing information and insight into the organizations committed to making the Great Lakes region a leader in environmental practices.

The new site has video, podcasts and numerous links to other relative sites and news stories. Greening of the Great Lakes is designed to be an entertaining way of learning about the Great Lakes region, related environmental issues and ways that folk can protect the environment.

(Hey, whose idea was this? Dude, talk about stealing someone else's idea, geez....)

Anyhow the Great Lakes Information Network finally decided to do a story on Cradle to Cradle design and new classes at WMU. Not that GLIN is out of the loop with Michigan businesses - I wouldn't say that - but quite a few companies in West Michigan have been on this path for several years. Nice to know that the story is finally getting out to the public through the radio at least. And it's also nice to know that Western Michigan University finally got around to teaching Cradle to Cradle in the classroom.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Michigan Punishes Granola Manufacturer

Settlement Reached with G.K.I. Foods, Inc.

The Department of Environmental Quality has reached a settlement with G.K.I. Foods, Inc. of Livingston County over allegations of illegal discharges to Michigan’s waters. GKI is a manufacturer of chocolate candy and granola that discharged production wastewater to its sanitary wastewater system which ultimately failed due to the build-up of fats, oils, and grease. The system's failure led to untreated wastewater being discharged to the county drain located behind the facility. GKI will reimburse the State of Michigan for its enforcement costs of $32,807 and pay a civil fine of $11,000.

Yum. Makes you want to run out and buy granola, eh? So, another statement on our culture of obesity, the granola plant generates enough fat and grease to clog your pipes and your arteries.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

New Ohio Steel Plant Will Emit Tons of Mercury

Russian firm MMK America has plans to construct a steel plant on the Ohio River at Haverhill, OH that will emit over 1800 pounds ofmercury per year. That would be larger than all of the point and fugitive mercury air emission sources in the United States as per U.S. EPA's year 2005 toxic release inventory.

Public comment on draft air and water permits for the facility ends March 27.

Ohio EPA presently intends to allow MMK America to withhold as confidential significant information in the air permit application about maximum process design and other process information.

Read more here: Daily Kos

Thanks for the info Alex:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Environmentalists Should NOT vote for McCain

Info from the League of Conservation Voters

WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2008 (ENS) - In the 2007 National Environmental Scorecard released today by the League of Conservation Voters, Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain received a score of zero. The Scorecard is an annual measure of lawmakers' votes on environmental issues.

McCain scored 0 due to missing all 15 votes scored, including the key vote on repealing tax giveaways to big oil - a measure that failed by only one vote.

McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every crucial environmental vote scored by the LCV, posting a score lower than members of Congress who were out for much of the year due to serious illnesses, and even lower than some who died during the term.

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, "We were appalled two weeks ago when John McCain was the only senator who chose to skip a crucial vote on the future of clean energy in America - dooming the measure to fail by just a single vote."

"McCain missed votes to save his constituents $499 million dollars at the pump and at least $550 million on their energy bills, while creating more than 10,000 new clean energy jobs in his home state," said Pope.

McCain posts a lifetime LCV environmental score of only 24. By contrast, the average member of Congress scored a 53 in 2007.

McCain has received the endorsement of Republicans for Environmental Protection, the only environmental group recognized by the National Republican Party.

2006 Toxics Release Inventory data finally available online

The TRI is an on-line electronic database, housing information about chemical releases at facilities across the country. According to the EPA, nation-wide chemical releases into the environment are down by two percent from 2005 - of course, this is the Bush Administration, most likely they are lying.

TRI tracks and contains detailed information on releases of nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories from about 23,000 industrial and federal facilities. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 established the TRI program. In 1990, The Pollution Prevention Act expanded the program by including data on toxic chemicals released, as well as treated, recycled, and burned for energy recovery.

EPA has been providing information to the public about chemical releases into the air, water and land at facilities nation-wide. This information is accessible by geographic location, industry sector, and individual chemicals.

Here's the link, copy and paste it into your browser. Search by zip code to find the bastards who are dumping toxics in your vicinity.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Corporate Greenwashing at its finest

Just in time for Easter, Cadbury has unveiled a range of "eco-eggs" called "Cadbury Treasure Eggs", which rather than being sold in a box are simply foil wrapped. The company says that the Treasure Eggs represent a reduction of over 75 percent plastic and 65 percent less cardboard than previously used in standard eggs.

Huh... obviously now you can be green because you stop putting crap in a box. Is it to soon to start stomping on chocolate eggs while screaming "BULLSHIT!" really loud? Let me know when that's socially acceptable.

Okay, okay... Thank you Cadbury for at least making an effort.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Give Up On Biofuels

Today's guest writer is Tom Leonard, former executive director of West Michigan Environmental Action Council and all-around cool human being. Enjoy!

GRAND RAPIDS---Will America's Biofuel Boom survive the decade?

It may sound counterintuitive to some, drawing attention to the cloudy future of biofuels in the midst of what seems a massive global biofuels pep rally. Worldwide, biofuels are greatly on the upswing, with major programs proceeding in Indonesia, Brazil, and the European Union among others.

Even here in the suspicious and slow-moving USA, the President has signed a bill that will increase our biofuels production by a factor of six in the next 15 years.

But there are growing pockets of disquiet in many quarters. Some forecasters have already pronounced a requiem for biofuels, while others are sounding alarms of urgent opposition. What's going on?

What's going on is the standard trajectory for good new ideas, from interest to excitement to mania, to disillusionment, and finally, to practical applications.

It's been hard not to get excited about biofuels---especially the petroleum substitutes ethanol and biodiesel. The basic technology is old, and easy. The products are home-grown, redounding to the benefit of local farmers. Biofuels are relatively clean-burning: the carbon dioxide that they release to the atmosphere in running our vehicles, they also strip from the atmosphere as their source crops grow in the fields.

U.S. farmers love ethanol, meaning especially corn ethanol, and U.S. politicians who love farmers love ethanol too. Love, love, love. San Francisco loves biodiesel and is running most of its fleet of vehicles on it. Here in Michigan, we love ethanol and we have five licensed ethanol refineries gearing up to produce it.

Biofuels are such a good idea in so many ways---so why are biofuels in trouble? Here are three reasons:

First, they compete aggressively with food production, raising food prices dramatically. The United Nations estimates that food prices worldwide rose a startling 40% last year. The price of corn was up 50% in 2007 from the prior year, while soybean prices are approaching their all-time high.

Biofuels can't be blamed for all the increases in the cost of our food---there are many factors contributing to that. But their impact is real and can be traced readily, especially here in America. The USA's soybean crop declined 19% last year, in direct response to the shift of farm acreage from the growing of soybeans to the growing of corn for ethanol.

Second, biofuels are not the broad answer to our fuel requirements. There is not remotely enough farm acreage in America to meet our transportation fuel requirements using ethanol, even if we converted all of our farm land from food to fuel. And even though the price of a gallon of E85 is currently running less than a gallon of gasoline, when you adjust for gasoline's greater energy kick, ethanol still does not compete.

Third, their impact on the environment, in the context of human economic behavior, is unsustainable and alarming. The New York Times recently reported on research showing that, once the impact of growing the source crops was taken into account, biofuels constituted a net loss in terms of impact on global warming "greenhouse" gases. Brazil noted last year a 10% spike in Amazonian rainforest destruction due to---you guessed it----new acreage being cleared to grow sugar cane, Brazil’s ethanol crop. In Indonesia, pristine forest is being exchanged for palm plantations, to produce palm oil for fuel. The current rate of forest destruction there is so huge, it virtually guarantees the disappearance of natural Indonesian forest in the next fifteen years.

Goodbye, orangutans.

It will be a remarkable irony if the rush to biofuels, which fundamentally exists to reduce the human impact on global warming, should indirectly accelerate the warming problem, while simultaneously extinguishing vulnerable wildlife species and adding to the risk of mass starvation among the world's human population.

Despite all this, I still see a role for biofuels---but perhaps on a more limited scale, from carefully-selected sources, and for carefully selected and specific purposes. Not the biofuels bonanza visualized by the industry’s cheerleaders up to now. We simply cannot toss the whole biofuels production problem into the free markets, and expect to get a sustainable result. That is how biofuels are being dealt with now, and it is only worsening our problems.

One thing that is heartening about the biofuels boom is that its difficulties relate not at all to the basic chemistry of the fuels. The biofuels problems are really problems of bad land use, inefficient transportation practices, and unsustainably large human populations. If nations like Indonesia can get their act together on forest and peatland protection, damage from palm oil production might be better contained. If we had fewer people to feed, or they were less protein-hungry, we might be less tempted to scavenge in rain forests for new farmland.

In theory, at least, they can still be a success.

On December 19th of last year, President Bush signed an energy bill that calls for a sixfold increase in biofuels in the next fifteen years. It's a good first step, but it doesn’t make biofuels practical in the world we know. We have reached a point where even doing the right thing will have its own dangers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Project Hotseat Pushing Dingell on Climate Legislation

Guest Writer today: Kelli Bosak, Project Hot Seat, Greenpeace USA

In order for the country to unilaterally decrease its carbon emissions,
Congress must continue creating new climate legislation. Global
warming is happening now, but there is still much we can do to avoid
suffering from its worst effects. Our government failed to sign the
Kyoto Protocol, causing the international community to push forward
without us in preventing climate change. By pushing Congress, we can
fight against our doomed future and curb climate change. The state of
Michigan is home to one of the most influential leaders in climate
legislation in the nation, Representative John Dingell. Dingell is the
Chairman of the House's Energy and Commerce Committee and influences
all bills regarding the climate. So, Michigan plays a huge role in
affecting climate legislation. Michigan needs to take a stance on these
issues to make sure Congress protects our environment—for us and the Great
Lakes. Michigan is a top source for renewable energy, but nothing is
being done. To make a difference in this fight, you can either contact
your congressman, Dingell, or comment below. Do not give up on a
sustainable future! We want to fill Congress full of representatives
who will champion global warming solutions.

Thanks, Kelli Bosak
Project Hot Seat, Greenpeace USA

Read More:

Dingell Set to Tackle Warming

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Arghh! Proposed Mega-Dairy threatens Illinois public health and water quality

We have a BIG problem trying to come into NW Illinois' Jo Daviess County.

Wealthy California business man, AJ Bos is trying to set up a 12,000 head mega-dairy near Nora, Illinois. There will be about 70 acres of manure lagoons. The stench will travel for miles. Folks down there are organizing because they are concerned about their drinking water.

They have created a website at: STOPTHEMEGADAIRY.ORG.

Here's what you can do to help the good people living in Nora:

The Jo Daviess County Board voted 11 to 5 to reject the proposed mega dairy. Unfortunately, the IL Dept. of Agriculture can ignore that vote, and place the facility against the wishes of the board and the constituents that they represent.

Please give me one minute right now and take two vitally important actions.

First, contact the Governor, and let him know that you don't want this facility in Illinois. You can call, write, or use his web portal to send him a message.

Governor Rod Blagojevich
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121
TTY: 888-261-3336
Contact the Govenor

Your message should look and sound something like this:

Dear Governor Blagojevich,

The Jo Daviess County board voted 11 to 5 to deny an application for a 12,000 head CAFO proposed for their county. Siting numerous experts concern about major damage to the aquifer and surrounding rivers and streams, and the tremendous negative impact this facility would have on tourism, which is already bringing over $200,000,000 to the county, they rejected this application since it didn't fulfill the eight criteria imposed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Please use your authority as Governor to ensure that the Department of Agriculture follows their own guidelines and denies this application. The citizens of Jo Daviess County deserve the right to have their elected county board make decisions that will have such significant negative impact on their community. Thank you.

Okay now that you've got that done, please go to this Sierra Club web site and tell the federal EPA that huge factory farms should not be exempt from the clean air act. The Bushies would give them a legal loophole to avoid all of the pollution lawsuits being filed against them all over the country. This gift to corporate agriculture from the Bush administration would penalize small family farms, while allowing the largest and richest facilities to do as they pleased.

Alright, you've earned serious bonus point for the last two actions, but now you need to contact the head of the Department of Agriculture, and voice your objections to this facility. Every letter they get has to be reviewed by their board, and included in their files. They need to know that people are concerned about clean air, clean water, family farms, and public health, and won't stand for these factories in Illinois.

Charles A. Hartke, Director
State of Illinois Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 19281, State Fairgrounds
Springfield, IL 62794-9281
(217) 785-4789
FAX: 217.785.4505

You can read much more about this issue at Act now.