This Week in Eco News - June 20, 2014


Brooklyn, NY Whole Foods Market parking lot. Photo by Peter Hanlon

Whether at Brooklyn's Whole Foods or your nearby IKEA, you might have noticed that big stores are getting in on the solar boom too. As it heats up, check out our tips and resources to help you save energy - and money - at home and on the road, whether you're a solar customer or not! Plus, this week's food, water and energy Eco News. If you see a story we should share, drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org!

Best of the Web Video - Food

GMOs - The Lexicon of Sustainability - PBS Food 
GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. They are created when scientists take the DNA from one plant species and add it to the DNA of another; it's likely that GMOs are in what you eat and what you wear. Jessica Lundberg of Northern California's Lundberg Family Farms advocates initiatives that would impose mandatory labeling of food products using GMO ingredients because she believes consumers have the right to know what is in their food.

Take Action: We have a right to know what is in our food. Join "Just Label It" to tell the FDA to change the policy.


Obama Announces Marine Sanctuary in Pacific Ocean
With mislabeled seafood and, well, fishy international supply chains making recent news, President Obama’s intention to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary is a glimmer of hope. The administration plans to spend the next few month consulting with outside groups before finalizing the protected boarders. Federal agencies are simultaneously developing programs to deter illegal fishing. [New York Times]

Americans Have Never Had So Few Options in Deciding What Company Makes Their Meat
Wondering what’s for dinner? It’s likely you’ll end up with meat from one of the four top US beef suppliers, unless you specifically avoid it. Fewer companies handle more and more of our meat these days, with up to 80% of our beef supplied by only four industry giants. Competition forcing such massive production has shaped the American industry for decades. [The Washington Post]

Lawsuit Challenges Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law
The fight is set! In one corner, Vermont’s GMO labeling law backed by Vermont voters, lawmakers and advocacy groups, in the other corner, four national organizations calling the law unconstitutional. The organizations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, filed a lawsuit against the GMO labeling law this week claiming Vermont is overstepping its bounds by affecting interstate commerce. Vermont is ready. [USA Today]

Animal Welfare Could Prove a Barrier to Trade
The treatment of animals is now a global barrier to trade, producers were warned last week. With interest in animal welfare growing across international markets, including in China, an adviser with the International Meat Secretariat explained that animal treatment issues have reached the global political realm, with one case already decided in favor of animal welfare trade bans. [Global Meat News]

‘Pink Slime’ Is Making a Comeback. Do You Have a Beef with That?
Rising prices have made ‘pink slime’ a little more appealing to consumers and food processors, including the makers of lasagna and pasta sauce. Following the 2012 media scare over what the industry calls ‘finely textured meat,’ lean beef trimmings treated with citric acid to kill bacteria, some supermarkets are not planning to buy the cheaper meat products. [NPR]

Meatless Monday

The McCartneys' Meat Free Monday Campaign Celebrates Five Years
The McCartney family (yes, THAT one) celebrated the 5th year anniversary of the Meat Free Monday campaign in the UK this week. (That's Meatless Monday here in the US.) Sir Paul is among many celebrity endorsers of the campaign, lauded as a way to get healthier and help the environment by reducing meat intake each week. []


Cities Often Send Nitrates Downstream After Treatment
The largest nitrate treatment plant in the world is located in Des Moines, Iowa, where it removes 26,300 pounds of the contaminant from the water, yet returns 13,500 pounds to the Raccoon River for downstream plants to filter. Even though those nitrate levels meet federal drinking water standards, the cumulative effect on water quality in farm country could be harmful. [Des Moines Register]

Deep Underground, Oceans Of Water May Be Trapped In A Crystal 'Sponge'
Despite groundwater being the Rodney Dangerfield of the water cycle (it gets “no respect”), new findings estimate there is three times more water than the amount contained in all oceans located beneath the earth's surface. Locked 400 miles underground in a mineral layer called “ringwoodite,” this new study could begin to explain how the earth’s plentiful surface water moved up from the earth’s depths. [NPR]

Obama Proposes Vast Expansion of Pacific Ocean Marine Sanctuary
An Obama Administration proposal is set to greatly expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles to 782,000 square miles. The sanctuary covers seven uninhabited US island territories that are as distant as they are pristine, and the initiative is already getting flak from the tuna industry and the GOP. This is part of a new ocean initiative that also seeks to end seafood fraud and illegal fishing. [Washington Post]

From Roof Gardens to Porous Pavement, Rain Capturing Takes Milwaukee Region by Storm
In order to zero out wastewater overflows into nearby waterways by the year 2035, the Milwaukee sewer district is partially funding regional green stormwater projects on various properties. A diverse partner mix includes a brewery, the Major League Baseball stadium and the county park system, all deploying roof gardens, rain collectors and bioswales to soak up the water before it reaches the sewer. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]


Musk Opens Tesla Technology to the World
Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that his company will not bring patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use Tesla technology. Musk says that he's not in a race against other electric car manufacturers but against the makers of gas-powered vehicles and their carbon emissions. (Environment News Service)

If Keystone Gets Nixed, Canadian Pipeline Operators Have a Plan B
Should the Keystone XL pipeline be rejected by the US, there are no shortage of options in Canada for at least four heavy-oil pipeline projects which are under construction or shovel-ready. The destinations would be refineries and shipping ports on Canada's east and west coasts, providing almost four times the capacity of Keystone XL to ship some of the world's dirtiest oil. (Toronto Star)

World Cup 2014 : How Much Energy Does it Take?
We hate to be party poopers, but the 2014 World Cup is shaping up to be not just the most expensive tournament in soccer history, it's also going to be one of the biggest energy-consuming, greenhouse gas-spewing World Cups in history thanks to all of the travel, television production (and watching!), facility construction and, yes, even all of the food and drinks we enjoy while watching at home. [Christian Science Monitor]

Cable TV Boxes Become 2nd Biggest Energy Users in Many Homes
The 224 million cable boxes across the nation together consume as much electricity as that produced by four giant nuclear reactors running around the clock. The cost for consumers represents a big chunk of the more than $12 billion a year Americans are spending on electricity to run computers, smartphones, game consoles, modems and other home devices. [Los Angeles Times]


Tucson, Other Cities Could be Hit by Water Shortage Much Sooner Than Expected
Publicly acknowledged for the first time, water cutbacks for Arizona’s booming population could arrive earlier than anticipated according to the Central Arizona Project, the state administrator of vital Colorado River water. While longstanding drought is drawing shortages nearer, Lake Mead water levels are also trending down because of rising demand and climate change. [Arizona Daily Star]

Obama Carbon Rule Backed by Most Americans — WSJ/NBC Poll
The proposed EPA power plant emissions regulations may not have much congressional support, but more than two-thirds of Americans support the President's new climate rule and more than half say the US should address global warming, even if it means higher electricity bills. [Wall Street Journal]


How Oceans Can Solve Our Freshwater Crisis
As California struggles with extreme drought, the state is turning to desalination of ocean water as a solution to its woes. Seventeen desalination plants are being built or planned along the state's 840-mile coastline. But as this video points out, desalination is not without issues. Its success remains to be seen. [CNN]

Food is For Eating
This infographic from designer Angela Morelli, who is big into water footprinting, shows the “hidden” resources lost with food waste. Here’s one interesting statistic: The amount of water required to produce the food we waste every year on a global scale is about 250,000 billion Liters. At current rates, this could supply New York’s domestic water needs for the next 120 years. []

8 Ways You Are Harming The Ocean And Don't Even Know It
From carbon emissions to seafood consumption to the impact of sunblock on reefs, our actions have sometimes dire consequences on our oceans. Find out what you can do to minimize your impacts in this brief photo essay. [Huffington Post]

Episode 5 : Extreme Recycling: Weird Waste Renewal
As this video shows, some concrete engineers in Turkey have created bioconcrete using sunflower seed husks as part of the mixture, which is lighter and good at insulating buildings. The concrete can’t be used for anything load bearing but is useful for dividing-walls, flooring and in places that need sound proofing. This could be a great way to deal with food industry waste. [BBC]

The Energy to Create Your Food
How much energy does it take to grow an apple? More than you might think - you have to factor in pesticide production, fertilizer manufacturing, irrigation, harvesting, sorting, and transportation. Electricity and diesel fuel are needed to drive all these steps, and coal mining and oil extraction come with their own energy costs. And that’s just the apple. Find out about other common foods in this interactive graphic. [Spectrum]

Food Eco News contributed by Audrey Jenkins; Water Eco News by Kai Olson-Sawyer; Energy Eco News by Peter Hanlon and Multimedia content by Robin Madel.