This Week in Eco News - July 25, 2014

Photo by James Rose

This week, how we manage our food, water and energy resources - keeping them clean, conserving for the future - was a theme throughout many news stories. It reminded us, again, of the important connections between them. (Something to contemplate while appreciating the power of a waterfall!) As always, if you see a story we should share, please drop us a line at blog[at]gracelinks[dot]org.

Best of the Web Video - Food

Dark Matter: Inside the Compost Cycle: Science on the SPOT 
How does San Francisco's 600 tons of compostable waste become a nutrient-rich material that improves the quality of our local wines and more? Agronomist Bob Shaffer, Northern California's "compost guy," takes QUEST into the composting process.

Take Action: In the US, we throw away roughly 40 percent of our food supply every year. Find out more on Sustainable Table.


Beard Foundation Presents Leadership Awards
Congratulations! The five winners of this year’s James Beard Leadership Awards have been announced and include dedicated and influential farmers, organizers, writers and advocates of sustainable food working to bring the “how,” “what” and “from where” we eat to the American consciousness. This is the fourth year that the James Beard Foundation has awarded leaders of the food movement. [New York Times]

Some Food Companies Are Quietly Dumping GMO Ingredients
While big food companies are fighting GMO-labeling legislation around the country, a growing number of these same companies are quietly dropping GMO ingredients. Why? They are preparing for consumer demand for GMO-free products. Whether or not foods are labeled, consumers have the last say when it comes to what they're eating and companies like General Mills know that. [NPR]

California Falls Short When Helping Farmers Save Water
How is California spending money to help farmers save water? Poorly, apparently. Bond money meant to improve irrigation and help California farms survive drought season often ends up funding technology and infrastructure rather than practices farmers can use to cut their water usage. Farmers end up hiring private consultants to improve their farms' efficiencies, but isn't conservation a public concern? [Civil Eats]

Three Members of Congress Seek Ban on BPA in Food Packaging
A chemical used to harden plastics, Bisphenol A (BPA), has been linked to breast cancer, altered fetal development, infertility and behavioral changes, and one that should not contaminate our food. While BPA is banned from containers used for infant formula and feeding, a new act seeks to ban the chemical from food and beverage containers as a whole. [Food Safety News]

Meatless Monday

What is Meatless Monday?
From Take Part, check out these flashcards explaining what you need to know about Meatless Monday, the initiative to cut out week once per week. In 2012, Los Angeles became the first US city to endorse a citywide observance of the practice, now also used by more than 100 public and private K-12 schools nationwide. Is your community taking part? [Take Part]


Detroit Suspends Water Shutoffs for 15 Days
On the heels of last week's Detroit protests and intense pressure over city-sanctioned residential water shutoffs for overdue payments, the city postponed shutoff activity for 15 days. The city's water authority is starting a public awareness campaign about options and water payment plans. That campaign was to have happened earlier in the year, but was never implemented. [Detroit Free Press]

A World Without Water
Planet earth will always have water, but businesses - especially large multinationals - need enough to operate as water resources tighten and costs rise. In the end, companies recognize that government policy and action will ultimately determine how water is divvied up so that the residents, farms, energy producers and manufacturers needs are met. [Financial Times]

California Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, Warning it May Be Contaminating Aquifers
California regulators stopped seven oil drillers from injecting fracking wastewater into 11 aquifers that could be used for drinking water or farm irrigation because to do so "poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources." The state permits the oil industry to discharge waste into certain exempted aquifers, but those in question weren't exempted, furthering water problems in the Central Valley. [ProPublica]

Recent Loss of Freshwater Wetlands Worldwide Valued at $2.7 Trillion per Year
While the debate rages over the costs and benefits of waters covered under the EPA's proposed Clean Water Act update, one new study tabulates the annual economic loss of wetlands at $2.7 trillion. As Sandra Postel observes of those rapidly disappearing wetlands, they "do vital work" by filtering river and lake water, recharging groundwater and providing wildlife habitats. [National Geographic]

Farm Switch From Grass to Corn Could Contaminate Water
Because corn is so valuable, Minnesota grasslands have rapidly been converted to corn fields, which have used much more of the nitrogen fertilizers that contaminate rural drinking water wells in the form of hazardous nitrates. As nitrate pollution is likely to increase, the University of Minnesota estimates that it will cost at least $12 million for cleanup. [Minnesota Public Radio]


Clean Power, Off the Grid
The US government is developing modular wind and solar energy systems that will work in isolated communities in Alaska, on island nations, in the African bush and elsewhere, allowing energy-needy citizens to switch from diesel fuel generators to clean, renewable power. [New York Times]

US Ranks Near Bottom on Energy Efficiency; Germany Tops List
According to a ranking of the world's 16 largest economies, the US was a lowly 13th in harnessing the benefits of energy efficiency. As a consequence, America is wasting money and energy that other countries save and can reinvest. [Inside Climate News]

New York Environment Regulators Seek Summer Shutdown at Indian Point
State regulators proposed shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant during prime fish migrations in the summer because the plant's cooling system sucks in 2.5 billion gallons of water per day and, in the process, can kill a billion fish, eggs and larvae every year. [Reuters]

Only Two US Community Solar Developers Have Finished More Than One Project. Why?Community solar allows people who don't have rooftops suited for solar panels to invest in, and reap the rewards of, solar panels someplace else. However the concept is still in the early phases and is being hampered by several different business models navigating through mazes of different state regulations and utility interests. What's needed is a model that can be replicated in every state. [The Energy Collective]

Climate Change

Beef Pollutes More than Pork, Poultry, Study Says
Want to reduce your eco-footprint? Eat more bacon! By replacing the beef in your diet with other sources of animal protein, you could significantly curb your environmental impact. According to a new, comprehensive study comparing US environmental costs of different meats and animal proteins, beef outpaces pork, poultry, dairy and eggs many times over. [USA Today]

Consumers Worry About Energy's Impact on Environment Regardless of Income
A recent poll finds that no matter their financial situation, American consumers express an equal degree of concern about the impact of energy use on the environment. Even more interesting, American consumers are equally concerned about the environment even in relation to energy affordability. [Phys.Org]

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