This Week in Eco News - December 6, 2013

It's a conservation-minded week in Eco News as six of the biggest school systems in the US are switching to compostable cafeteria plates - and many more could join in as prices fall for sustainable foam-alternatives. Cranberry growers are conserving water as they monitor soil conditions via smartphones, and you, Eco News reader, can save on gas this winter with some nifty, simple tricks from Sustainable America. All this, plus climate news and multimedia for your viewing pleasure! See a story we should share? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Best of the Web Video - Energy

The Energy Bills: "Attic"
Big Bill and Little Bill discuss the finer points of energy efficiency in an unsuspecting home owner's attic. Little Bill wisely suggests adding some insulation while Big Bill gets distracted by holiday decorations.
Take Action
: Strategies from the US Energy Department to help you save energy during the cool fall and cold winter months.


Urban Schools Aim for Environmental Revolution
The Urban School Food Alliance, a team of 6 major US public school systems, aims to use its purchasing power to bring biodegradable plates, and eventually antibiotic-free chicken, to all cafeterias. The alliance hopes to stir a movement towards greater sustainability in schools across the US both by influencing the market and inspiring awareness in its students. Saving enough foam trays to create a miles-high stack of plastic? That's inspiring. [New York Times]

2016 Olympics to Support and Serve Sustainable Seafood
The organizing committee for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has agreed to serve only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified seafood to athletes, officials, press and any diners at onsite restaurants. This move may encourage local businesses and the region towards more sustainable sourcing. [SeafoodSource]

Opportunities, Risks Could Grow with Proposed Hog Farm Rules
In response to protests by environmental groups and the public, Georgia's Department of Natural Resources has postponed its vote on rules to expand the number of hogs allowed per farm. With rising international demand for pork, producers in the state have an opportunity for growth, but many worry that larger farms mean higher risk of harmful manure spillage. [The State]

USDA Publishes Salmonella Action Plan
The USDA has initiated an action plan to reduce incidences of meat and poultry related Salmonella outbreak, one of the biggest food safety challenges they face. The plan will focus on improving sanitary conditions in factories by gearing in-plant inspections towards food-safety, creating more rigorous microbial sampling protocol and developing greater standards for pork. [Food Business News]

AquaBounty Facing Environmental Complaint in Panama
The US producer of GM salmon eggs, AquaBounty, has been called out for allegedly defying environmental regulations at its research facility in Panama. The National Environmental Authority in Panama claims that AquaBounty has failed to obtain wastewater permits and failed to submit monitoring reports since 2012, among other violations. [The Guardian]

Meatless Monday

Meatless Norway!
We've mentioned this story before, but continued kudos to the Norwegian Army, whose adoption of the Meatless Monday campaign will save 150 tons of meat per year. Given the resources required to produce that meat, the move is a great one for the environment. And the Norwegian Parliament may join in soon, as Representative Heikki Holmås introduced the idea to the government. Stay tuned. [Norwegian-American Weekly]


Cranberry Growers Use Modern Technology To Conserve Water
As the world's largest cranberry producer, the state of Wisconsin has great interest in ensuring that the huge water volumes needed for cultivation are used conservatively. To this end, new water-saving technologies like soil moisture sensors have been successfully deployed to significantly reduce the amount of irrigation water used to grow this favorite holiday fruit. [Wisconsin Public Radio]

Water Use in the US Report Update (USGS)
Data on power plant water consumption (i.e., evaporation) will reappear in the US Geological Survey's comprehensive water use report, which is based on 2010 data. Set for release in 2014, the previously dropped statistics return because the USGS can now compare self-reported numbers from power plants to their newly developed heat budget model. [Circle of Blue]

Australian Food-Bowl Dream at Risk as Foreign Cash Shunned
New Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott dreams of turning the isolated northern part of the country into an agricultural "food bowl," which would depend on foreign investment flows from the US, China and Indonesia to improve infrastructure and irrigation water capabilities. Other Australian politicians are wary that major foreign investment in land and projects could degrade national interests. [Bloomberg]

Is Bottled Water Safer?
In short; no. Tap water is rigorously treated and tested to meet the Safe Drinking Water Act standards set by the EPA. Oh yeah, plus, on average it costs hundreds (or thousands) of times more for a gallon of bottled water as compared to a gallon of tap. [CNN]


7 Ways to Save Gas This Winter
There are many reasons why your car gets lower mileage in winter - friction from sloppy roads, fluids that don't flow as well in cold temps, low tire pressure, and idling to keep warm - so here are seven simple tricks to help you beat the winter gas-sipping blues. [Sustainable America]

Thirsty Energy: Making the Energy-Water Nexus Work for Us
The World Bank is all in on the water and energy nexus, specifically with developing countries where both population and economic growth are straining water and energy supplies. The organization will first work with South Africa which has water supply issues and is ramping up its energy supply. That's a potential collision because both resources are so dependent upon on each other. [Water, Energy and Food Security Resource Platform]

As Oil Floods Plains Towns, Crime Pours In
The shale oil boom has brought in a lot of revenue for struggling Montana and North Dakota towns, but it's also led to a spike in crime (arrests are up 855 percent in one county), drug use and a skyrocketing cost of living. The way of life in these small towns has been forever changed for what likely is a short term gain. [New York Times]

One Small Step for Solar? Firm Envisions Solar Panels on Moon
Solar panels in space have always been an intriguing idea, with 24-hour sunlight and no pesky clouds getting in the way. A Japanese engineering firm is taking a stab at turning that idea into reality with plans to install a solar belt around the moon's equator which would beam the energy collected back to earth in the form of microwaves and lasers. In the end, the cost is the likely obstacle. [Christian Science Monitor]

Duke's Coal Ash Kills, Deforms Fish, Study Says
A study finds that coal ash pollution from a shuttered coal power plant in North Carolina kills up to 900,000 fish per year and deforms many more in a popular fishing lake. The culprit is selenium, which can cause deformities in young fish and, if at high enough levels, can cause health problems in people. [Charlotte Observer]


If All the Ice Melted
This interactive map shows the world as it is now, with only one difference: All the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas. [National Geographic]

Key Links Between Consumption, Climate Change
While population growth is an important concern for human health in the midst of the global climate change onslaught, demographic trends and consumption patterns are likely more crucial to climate change, says an upcoming Lancet-published study. Thus, consumption reduction, particularly over-consumption in the developed world, is the most effective way to curb carbon emissions. [Science Daily]


Got Lady Gaga? A List of the Most Controversial Dairy Campaigns
From milk mustaches on David Beckham and Hugh Jackman to the nightmarish A Clockwork Orange and the speakeasies of the 1930s, here's a run down of the milk advertisements that shaped public perceptions of dairy - and the backlash to some very contentious choices. [Dairy Reporter]

The Sandwich Book
Is it a sandwich? Is it a book? It's both. Page after page you will enjoy all the layers of sandwich fillings, from mayo to different types of salads. Your appetite grows while you read! [Picame]

A Watchdog on New Crude Oil Shipments on the Hudson via Tanker, Barge and Train
In the last 12 months shipments of crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota have arrived by rail in Albany, for shipment along the Hudson River by rail and barge to refineries in New Jersey and the east coast, and by tanker as far away as New Brunswick, Canada. These shipments are something new to the river, so Riverkeeper is keeping a watchful eye on them, as these photos show. [Boat Blog]

How To Compost In Your Apartment: Our Illustrated Guide For Beginners
Think you couldn't possibly compost because you live in an apartment? These folks created an infographic to show you how it's completely possible and relatively easy to compost in a small amount of space! [Sustainable Blog]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins.