This Week in Eco News - April 5, 2013

Happy Friday! We're kicking off this week's compilation of Eco News stories with a link to our Best of the Web Video feature. We'll alternate weekly to share the best in food, water and energy videos from around the web along with the news stories we follow, circulate internally and publish synopses of throughout the week. You can find them all week long — in real time — in the column to the right, just above our Best of the Web Video viewer. You can also sign up to receive Eco News via email each Thursday. If you see a story you think we should include, drop us a line at [email protected]

Best of the Web Video

GOOD Transparency: Water Conservation
This GOOD Magazine video production takes you through a day and shows how you can save water by reconsidering your consumption habits based, in part, on the "hidden water" (i.e. "virtual water) used to produce those goods and services.

Take Action
: GRACE Water Footprint Calculator


Cargill: Production of Finely Textured Beef Still Significantly Below Where It Was Before
Has pink slime been on your mind lately? It was around this time last year that the "pink slime" debacle happened. While the sales of pink slime are down, Cargill's director of communications thinks it's just a matter of time before sales are back to their pre-debacle level. [Food Navigator USA]

Kathleen Merrigan Leaving the USDA This Month
Kathleen Merrigan will be stepping down at the end of April as the USDA's deputy secretary. She has been a longtime supporter of local food, and many are concerned about her departure. She is known for her initiative "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" and her support for local and organic farmers. [Mother Nature Network]

Dead Swine-Gate: Anatomy of a Chinese Scandal
Let us not forget the close to 20,000 dead pigs, 1000 dead ducks, and 13 dead black swans (really?) that washed downstream towards Shanghai in March. The problem has seemed to stabilize, but why did it happen in the first place? [The Atlantic]

This Super-Local Brooklyn Whole Foods Will Have A 20,000-Square-Foot Rooftop Greenhouse
The impending Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn has teamed up with Gotham Greens to build a 20,000 square foot rooftop greenhouse to grow leafy greens, basil, and even tomatoes and cucumbers. It will be the first commercial-scale greenhouse farm in the US attached to a retail grocery store. [Fast Company]

NYC Salt Awareness Campaign On Subways Warns Passengers Of Sodium Intake
NYC and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are at it again - this time, subway riders are being advised to pass on the salt. A court just struck down his beverage-size rule last month, but during Bloomberg's tenure, New Yorkers have been cautioned about smoking, sugar and teen pregnancy. [Huffington Post]

Biotech Giants like Monsanto Cash In
Biotech companies Monsanto and DuPont are seeing strong earnings as large-scale, high-tech farms are popping up all over Latin America and changing the face of farming most notably in Brazil and Argentina. [Harvest Public Media]

Oh Rot, the White House Just Gutted the New Food Safety Rules
The White House Office of Management and Budget has turned the mandatory requirements of food safety and testing in the Food Safety and Modernization Act into voluntary protocols, rendering the FDA potentially powerless to stop outbreaks of food contamination. [Grist]


Resilient Agriculture, Water Reservoirs Crucial for Pakistan, Say Scientists
The politically unstable state of Pakistan has recently contended with water-related disasters when either too much water (deluge) or too little (drought) have decimated crop yields. With greater precipitation variability expected as climate change sets in, Pakistani officials are developing "adaptive responses" like the "introduction of heat- and drought-resistant crop varieties adapted to new climatic and atmospheric conditions" as well as the implementation of new reservoirs, smarter irrigation and rainwater harvesting systems. [Reuters]

After the Flush
Depending on where you live in the US, your home's wastewater could either go to a centralized wastewater treatment plant, be treated at a local plant or onsite scenario (decentralized). If done properly, decentralized wastewater treatment can be a smart choice due to reduced costs of operation workload and reduced environmental pollution, among other benefits [EPA: Greening the Apple blog]

Streams Take Me By Surprise
EPA's Director of Communications for Water, Travis Loop, blogged about the importance of and role of streams in providing drinking water, reducing nitrogen pollution, protecting against floods and supporting recreational water and economic uses. [EPA Blog]

EPA WaterSense Celebrates 5th Annual Fix a Leak Week
Earlier in March, the EPA celebrated "Fix a Leak" Week with EPA's WaterSense program, offering handy consumer tips. These included  checking winter water bills and fixtures for water waste, twisting and tightening pipe and hose connections, and considering replacing broken or inefficient fixtures with WaterSense-labeled models. One in every 10 homes has a leak that is wasting at least 90 gallons of water per day. By taking these simple steps, households can save more than 10,000 galls of water per year and as much as 10 percent on utility bills. [EPA]

Water Crisis Hitting Food, Energy - And Everything Else
UN-Water released a World Water Day brief that discussed the increasingly important concept of "water security" and defined it as: "The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability." [IPS News]

Sewage Plants Struggle To Treat Wastewater Produced By Fracking Operations
As Pennsylvania discovered, wastewater treatment plants often cannot adequately clean wastewater from natural gas well-produced wastewater, leaving unsafe levels of contaminants like toxic metals barium and strontium to be returned to local surface waters, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. [Chemical & Engineering News]

Exxon is cleaning up after another one of its messes, this time thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian bitumen - heavier and more difficult to clean up then crude oil - that spilled from a pipeline running through an Arkansas housing development. (Is everyone getting excited for Keystone XL to pipe tar sands bitumen across the nation's largest aquifer?!)

States Deciding Not to Look at Seismic Risks of Drilling
It's been nine months since a National Academy of Sciences panel recommended steps to avoid human-caused earthquakes triggered by oil and gas wastewater disposal and regulators in certain states have disregarded those as drilling rules are written. While such seismic risk reviews seem wise for all states, it seems incredibly necessary for states like California with particularly unstable geology. [E&E News]

IBM Uses Big Data to Save Water
On World Water Day 2013, IBM launched a mobile app in Johannesburg, South Africa and its surrounding province, empowering crowdsourcing users to report water leaks, waste and illegal withdrawals. Because South Africa does not have universal, clean freshwater available to every home and given that about 40 percent of water is wasted annually through faulty distribution, diligence is necessary. [ITBWeb]

Billboard In Lima, Peru Creates Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air
The high desert city of Lima, Peru now has a billboard that takes humidity from the air and produces drinking water - 9,450 liters over the last three months. The billboard was a joint project of an ad agency and the University of Engineering and Technology. [Huffington Post]

EPA Finds 55 Percent of Rivers and Streams in US in Poor Condition; Worse in East
According to a national EPA survey, over half of US rivers and streams are in such poor biological condition that they aren't able to sustain healthy aquatic insect and other species populations. These downbeat biological results were based on a survey of over 2,000 rivers and streams in 2008 and 2009, with 55 percent receiving a "poor"rating, 23 percent a "fair" rating and 21 percent a "good" rating. [Washington Post]


The Fastest Way to Grow a Clean Energy Economy: Allow More People to Participate
Billy Parish, the cofounder of Mosaic, a crowd-sourced financing platform for solar energy projects, says that like democratizing the Internet, there must be a new energy paradigm that enables people "to be the bank to fund clean energy themselves." [Earth Island Journal]

Oklahoma Earthquakes Linked to Injection Wells
A report in the geoscience journal Geology says that Oklahoma's largest-recorded earthquake was triggered by injection wells used by the oil and gas industry. [Los Angeles Times]

Train Hauling Canadian Oil Derails in Minnesota
A 14-car stretch of a train hauling oil from Canada derailed and leaked 30,000 gallons of crude in western Minnesota, the first major spill of the massive expansion of crude shipment by rail in North America. [Reuters]

Exxon Oil Spill Cleanup Ongoing in Arkansas, Pipeline Shut
Exxon is cleaning up after another one of its messes, this time thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian bitumen - heavier and more difficult to clean up then crude oil - that spilled from a pipeline running through an Arkansas housing development. (Is everyone getting excited for Keystone XL to pipe tar sands bitumen across the nation's largest aquifer?!) [Reuters]

EPA Plans Stricter Limit for Sulfur in Gasoline
EPA proposed a rule that will cut the amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline by two-thirds to improve the performance of the catalytic converters in engines that fight smog. States and car manufacturers support the rule, the oil and gas industry...well, you know. [New York Times]

Is the US Economy Getting More Energy Efficient or Not?
The US economy has grown even while energy demand has decreased, which means the nation is becoming more energy efficient even though researchers argue over how much. However the fact remains that the US wastes more than half of the energy it produces. [Greentech Media]

Miami Versus Minneapolis: Air Conditioning Beats Heat on Energy Demand
Keeping our homes comfy in cold climates is more energy demanding than in warm climates, a new report finds, because there is greater deviation from the ideal indoor temperature in cold climes, and air conditioners can be four times more energy efficient than furnaces. [Environmental Research Web]

The Tar Sands Disaster
A Canadian writer explains why he wants to see not just the Keystone XL pipeline rejected by the US, but the production of tar sands bitumen - "junk energy" - stopped. One key reason: lucrative resource extraction kills economic innovation and makes economies fat and happy, but vulnerable to price shifts. [New York Times]

The 'Unstoppable' Renewable Grid
A new Citigroup report forecasts that solar will be competitive with fossil-fueled grid power in much of the world by the end of the decade, and that "the perception of renewables as an expensive source of electricity is largely obsolete." [SmartPlanet]

Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers
You've heard about the water and chemicals, but sand is also a critical part of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas. This poses a big health risk to workers in the fracking industry because exposure to the silica of sand can sometimes lead to serious diseases like silicosis and cancer. [NPR]