Better to watch the game on a broadband smartphone or tablet than to go to the stadium, says Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust, a UK-based consultancy, has published a report stating that the best way to watch a football (soccer) game, from a carbon emissions perspective, is from your own home on a smartphone or tablet computer with a broadband connection.

Before we bring you a summary, GallonDaily wants to point out that Carbon Trust does not appear to have published either their methodology for the calculations or a peer review. The use of electronic devices has been controversial in carbon footprint circles, with some commentators suggesting that such devices have an extremely high carbon footprint. Without an opportunity to review the methodology, or at least an opportunity to see a peer review, GallonDaily has to remain somewhat sceptical of these football carbon footprint results which Carbon Trust humorously calls the carbon bootprint of watching football. Certainly we would not recommend that someone purchase a smartphone solely for the purpose of watching a few ballgames each season.

With that caveat, and recognizing that similar calculations may not provide similar results when the game is Canadian, we can report that Carbon Trust has found that:

  • emissions for watching a game on a smartphone can be as much as eight times lower than watching on television, mostly due to the smaller size of the screen.
  • in the UK 27 per cent of smartphone owners, and 63 per cent of tablet owners, are now using their device to watch live TV.
  • mobile data increases the carbon bootprint of watching the game by at least ten times compared to a broadband connection Carbon Trust does not define mobile data or broadband in this article but we assume that by mobile data they mean data transmission on a cellular network and by broadband they mean wired service, possibly with wifi for the last link.
  • total food and drink at the stadium use significantly more energy than stadium lighting.
  • bottled water at the stadium creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than soft drinks, beer, or freshly squeezed orange juice.
  • going to see a game at the stadium is the most carbon intensive way of watching football – particularly for an away game – due to the impact of transport.

To review the full report, which is quite brief, visit http://www.carbontrust.com/carbonbootprint

Conflicts of interest in food additive safety determinations

A paper from researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts and three US universities and published by the peer reviewed JAMA Internal Medicine claims that there are serious financial conflicts of interest in the way the US Food and Drug Administration allows food manufacturers to determine whether additives to food are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).  Food additives that are determined to be GRAS can be used in food without further regulatory approvals. The consequence of the conflict of interest finding is that some food additives are being brought to market without the kind of third party independent testing that Congress intended when it gave authority to the Food and Drug Administration to determine which ingredients are generally regarded as safe.

Note that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not rely on US GRAS determinations though Canadian consumers may be exposed to substances which have been determined to be GRAS in the US without additional food safety review in Canada.

To qualify for a GRAS determination in the US, manufacturers of additives must conclude that the use of the additive is safe. Safe is defined to mean “a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use.” The safety of the GRAS additive must be generally recognized, which “requires common knowledge about the substance throughout the scientific community knowledgeable about the safety of substances directly or indirectly added to food.”

The Pew researchers found the following for the 451 GRAS notices voluntarily submitted to the FDA between 1997 and 2012:

  • 22.4% were made by an employee of an additive manufacturer
  • 13.3% were made by an employee of a consulting firm selected by a manufacturer, and
  • 64.3% were made by an expert panel selected by the manufacturer or a firm that was a consultant to the manufacturer.

In no case was the GRAS determination made by an expert panel selected by an independent third party.

The study concludes: ” The lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises concerns about the integrity of the process and whether it ensures the safety of the food supply, particularly in instances when the manufacturer does not notify the FDA of the determination. When manufacturers or their consultants convene an expert panel to make GRAS determinations, they often pick one of a small number of individuals to serve on the panel.”

The complete research report, with more details of the GRAS determination process and of its perceived flaws, is available at http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1725123#Results

Stormwater calculator should help reduce US water pollution and improve aquifer recharge

The US Environmental Protection Agency has published a Stormwater Calculator that runs on a desktop computer and provides useful advice on management of water that runs off from buildings and paved areas. The calculator is intended for owners of industrial, institutional and commercial properties and for developers of all types of property. It can even work for residential property though it is unlikely to be quite so useful to a homeowner with a small urban lot.

Unfortunately the National Stormwater Calculator only accesses US data, though a quick review by GallonDaily suggests that the calculator might still be useful to Canadian property owners if site specific data on

  • Soil Type
  • Soil Drainage
  • Topography
  • Precipitation
  • Evaporation
  • Land Cover
  • Low Impact Development (landscaping designed to capture and retain stormwater) Controls
  • Runoff

are available. In many areas of the US these some of these data can be imported automatically from government databases.

The Calculator allows the user to make changes to various practices, such as

  • Disconnection of roof drains from storm drains
  • Rainwater harvesting (retention for use in such applications as toilet flushing and landscaping irrigation)
  • Rain gardens
  • Green roofs
  • Street planters
  • Infiltration basins
  • Porous pavement

and to immediately see the impact that one or more changes would have on off-site stormwater flows.

With increasing concerns about the environmental and pollution effects of stormwater on streams, lakes and oceans, the stormwater calculator is an excellent approach to encouraging landscapers to find better ways to reduce off-site impacts of stormwater. Maybe Environment Canada could look at licensing the software for use here with appropriate data to be made available to Canadian users.

The National Stormwater Calculator, user guides, and more description of the system are available at no cost from http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/wswrd/wq/models/swc/

State of Maryland aims for, and is already achieving, climate leadership

If one is wondering what leadership on climate change looks like, the State of Maryland is one of the best models. The Governor of this state of slightly fewer than 6 million in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States has decided that successful integration of climate change goals and economic growth will be one of his legacies.  Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley recently made a speech to his state’s Climate Change Summit that set out the key objective: we have a planet to save and we have jobs to create.

The state has a newly published greenhouse gas reduction plan that is 265 pages long and contains more than 150 state and state-led initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This plan proves for a 25% reduction in emissions by 2020 and the target looks to be achievable.

Initiatives cover every aspect of Maryland’s economy and human activity, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, cap and trade, transportation, agriculture and forestry, construction, recycling, innovation, and land use. Whether you are in business, government, non-profits, or simply a member of the public, Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan provides you with an economic and environmental role to play with the larger framework. It also provides a useful model for those in other jurisdictions who are wondering how to achieve meaningful climate change goals.

The 265 page Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan is available at http://climatechange.maryland.gov/publications/greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-act-plan/

The Governor’s detailed 7 page speech to the 2013 Maryland Climate Change Summit is at http://www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/ClimateChangeSummit.pdf

US biodiesel production taking off

According to the US government Energy Information Administration both the production and use of biodiesel is increasing in that country. May 2013 saw record production of biodiesel fuel. Production came from 116 biodiesel plants with operable capacity of 2.2 billion gallons per year.  Despite the increase, biodiesel still accounts for less than 2% of US diesel use. Some biodiesel is sold as a blend with conventional diesel fuel but some is sold as pure biodiesel for use in transportation.

Biodiesel is proving to be less controversial than bioethanol. There is less concern about biodiesel competition with food production, in part because it can be produced from inedible plant and animal oils, and production of biodiesel uses much less energy than production of ethanol so the question of whether it represents a net energy gain or loss is much less significant.

Even so, production of biodiesel does utilize land resources and it is inconceivable that it will ever completely replace current rates of use of conventional diesel from crude oil.

Our experience with biodiesel indicates that the commercial fuel, not the homemade stuff, is a viable alternative to petroleum fuel in diesel vehicles.  WE recommend that truck operators who wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions make a switch at least to B10 (10% biodiesel) or B100. No name or home made biodiesel should be avoided as it likely does not meet government standards for biodiesel quality and lack of harm to engines.

The USE EIA monthly biodiesel report is at http://www.eia.gov/biofuels/biodiesel/production/

FSC: under criticism from Greenpeace

The Forest Stewardship Council has been around for 20 years. Maybe that is as long as it takes to attract criticism when an organization is seeking to strike a balance between the environmentally perfect and the environmentally good. It is challenging to achieve business success when resources, in this case forest resources, are potentially threatened by increasing demand.

Most involved groups see the FSC as a valuable organization for certifying sustainably managed forests. But there are other categories of FSC certification of pulp and paper products which are not quite so straightforward. Greenpeace Canada  claims that the FSC MIX certification category may be threatening species diversity in northern European forests. FSC MIX is what it appears to be: a mix of wood fibre from various sources but with less stringent overall environmental rules than the certified sustainably managed forest category.

According to Greenpeace, some FSC MIX wood products are coming from flying squirrel habitat and old-growth forests, which are being clear-cut by the Finnish state forestry company, Metsahallitus. Greenpeace states that this is not responsible forestry and should not be endorsed by the FSC.

Greenpeace Canada is not the only environmental organization with some criticism of certified sustainably produced forest products. It is not even the most strident. The forest industry needs to pay attention, and fast. Otherwise the concept of certified sustainably managed forest will go down the river and battles over the environmental impacts of forest products will resume.

A Greenpeace Canada commentary on FSC certification is at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/working-together-for-stronger-fsc/blog/45781/

Burlington Airpark case may set key environmental precedents

The owners of a small private airport are challenging the jurisdiction of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to regulate the quality of fill that is being placed on airport property over the last few years. They are also challenging the jurisdiction of the municipality to regulate development on the airport property.

Tests conducted for the City of Burlington indicate that some of the newly placed fill may exceed Ministry of the Environment criteria for clean fill. Local residents are up in arms about what they perceive to be dumping of hazardous materials on the airpark site.

The matter is likely to be considered by a court later this year. If the court rules that an airport of this size and type is under exclusive federal jurisdiction, as the airpark owners reportedly claim, consequences could include:

designation of more private lands as airports in order to avoid environment ministry and municipal oversight; and

introduction of federal environment regulations to control activities that impact the environment on airport lands.

GallonDaily will update this article as the courts rule on this important matter.

A City of Burlington staff report on this topic is available at http://cms.burlington.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=26674

A City of Burlington press release on the fill situation is at http://cms.burlington.ca/Page11450.aspx

Commentary from the Mayor of Burlington is at http://www.burlingtonmayor.com/tag/burlington-airpark/

A local community environmental group, BurlingtonGreen, addresses the issue at http://www.burlingtongreen.org/advocacy/715-learn-about-the-burlington-airpark-issue-4.html

Slug bait found in UK river and drinking water

The widely used slug and snail poison metaldehyde is turning up in rivers and in treated drinking water in the UK. In addition to its use as a molluscicide in agriculture and by home gardeners, metaldehyde is also used as a solid fuel to heat such items as banquet warming trays and small camp stoves.

Recent monitoring by the UK water industry is finding metaldehyde at levels exceeding European standards in rivers and in treated drinking water in the UK. The problem seems to be that a particularly wet late summer and fall in 2012 led to abnormally high slug populations and an enhanced use of metaldehyde by farmers.

Though the level of metaldehyde has been found exceeding the 0.1 parts per billion standard for a single pesticide in drinking water by 40 times, the UK Health Protection Agency claims that these levels pose no risk to public health or to the environment. This seems seriously at odds with the rationale for the European standard and with the seriousness with which the industry is taking the finding of these high levels of metaldehyde.

Our forecast: add metaldehyde to a growing list of substances around which the environmentally-concerned segment of the population will rally. Regulations on the use of metaldehyde will follow.

An industry-run Metaldehyde Stewardship Group, operating under the banner Get Pelletwise!, is urging extreme caution in the use of metaldehyde slug pellets. Its position statement is available at http://www.getpelletwise.co.uk/news/extreme_caution_urged_with_metaldehyde_/

An interesting perspective on the finding of metaldehyde in a British river is contained in The Guardian (UK newspaper) environment blog at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2013/jul/10/slug-pesticides-metaldehyde-drinking-water