BioCycle August 2009, Vol. 50, No. 8, p. 6
When Harry Wrote Sally (About Soil And Water)
Upon reading Sally Brown’s Climate Change Connections column in July, “Raindrops Are Pounding On My Head,” Harry Rotz of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania wrote her an email. Rotz owns and operates a small lawn seeding company and a yard waste compost facility, but grew up on a dairy farm.
“In the last paragraph of your column, you state that we should make sure that the farmers know about compost and what it can do for soil water. I think that a lot of farmers that have crop and animal operations already know the benefits of soil organic matter. Our family was taught the benefits of getting that manure back into the soil and we have seen what it can do for the plants and the improved water holding.”
Many of the farms he grew up around have been developed. “These were well maintained farms while I was growing up,” he continues. “I watched as the farmers plowed the fields, turning over 8 to 12 inches (or more) of topsoil. During heavy storms you could see some soil erosion, but nothing like today. Now I am getting calls to go out to the lawns in those areas and am finding 1 to 2 inches of topsoil (or what the builder calls topsoil) with heavy compacted fill underneath. The rain comes and everything runs off. We need to stop the building industry from destroying the soil structure and taking all of the good topsoil off and hauling it away, and compacting what is left to the point of concrete.”
“As an old farm boy I have been preaching this for years and have gotten nowhere. The only way I have been able to prove that I know what I am talking about is to do it. So when I get the chance, I add compost to the yard in large amounts (or better yet I stop them from hauling the soil away). If I can somehow stop the compaction and then install a good drainage system for the roof water that puts the surface water down into the soil over a large area, it works.”
Concludes Rotz in his email: “We need regulations to stop this destruction of the soils! When we start taking better care of the soils, adding good organic matter, all of this surface water will go back into our soils and we will not have water shortages. Soil erosion will be cut in half. Less pesticides and chemical fertilizers will be used. We will then, and only then, start to see improvement in the environment. I have seen it here on my own farm that my brother operates and have seen this working in some of the lawns that I have done. When you do it and prove that it works how much better can it get!”
Good Year For Colored Mulch
In an interview with BioCycle, Kent Rotert of Colorbiotics, Inc., which manufactures mulch colorizing equipment and colorants, said that the depressed economy has not slowed down sales of colored mulch products. “In fact, we are seeing just the opposite,” says Rotert. “People are putting money back into their homes – doing things to maintain and beautify their houses because they are spending more time there.” He adds that overall, the market for colored mulch has definitely been growing. “Its market share has grown from almost nothing to upward of 50 percent of the overall mulch market,” says Rotert.
Law Eliminates California Integrated Waste Management Board
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed S.B. 63 into law at the end of July, a budget bill that abolishes the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) starting January 1, 2010. The law effectively transfers all of CIWMB’s duties overseeing solid waste and recycling programs to the newly created Department of Natural Resources. The five-member governing panel will be dissolved at the end of the year, but the other staff will be moved to the new Department of Natural Resources.
An article in the May 2009 issue of BioCycle, “Uncle Sam Buys Green,” incorrectly states that the test needed for biobased content determination, as required by USDA’s BioPreferred program, is ASTM D6852. The test required is actually ASTM D6866. This was brought to our attention by Beta Analytic, Inc., which also noted that their lab provides ASTM D6866, but not D6852 testing. More information on the BioPreferred program can be found at www.biopreferred.gov, and on Beta Analytic at www.betalabservices.com.
Big Oil Partners With Biofuel Companies
Although big oil companies have long fought farm lobbies and biofuel producers about ethanol, the New York Times reports on how they are now coming around to invest in research and commercial facilities. For instance, two years ago BP had very limited investments in biofuels, but since then it has committed $1.5 billion to various projects. “Any time you get Big Oil into the game, that changes the paradigm because nobody can go large scale chemical engineering like Big Oil,” says Brent Erickson, an Executive VP of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, in the NY Times article.
The article suggests that the sudden interest started in 2007, when Congress set ambitious mandates for production of biofuels – 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Royal Dutch Shell reports that it has quadrupled biofuel research spending since 2007. In 2002 it provided funding to Iogen Corporation, a Canadian company, to research ethanol production from plant wastes, and has since then formed partnerships with other companies involved with developing enzymes for breaking down waste materials for ethanol, and producing fuels from algae. Valero Energy Corporation, the largest petroleum refiner in the U.S., purchased seven corn ethanol plants from VeraSun Energy when the company filed for bankruptcy protection last fall.
At a BP project with Verenium Corporation in Louisiana, BP technicians provide expertise on what types of metals to use to line pipes, what kind of valves will last the longest, and how to position blades in fermenting tanks to best mix chemicals and feedstocks. Mark Eichenseer, Verenium’s VP for Operations, likens the scenario to being a chef, with BP as the restaurant manager. “We have the recipes, and they have the experience and know-how to select the pots and pans,” he says in the NY Times.
Green College Ratings In 2010 Princeton Review
For the second year in a row, the Princeton Review has included green ratings for colleges and universities in its annual guides. The 2010 editions give green ratings to 697 colleges, a 30 percent increase in the number of participants from last year. Schools are rated on a scale of 60 to 99 in eight categories, including the green rating. It developed this category in 2007 with ecoAmerica (www.ecoamerica.com), a nonprofit that helped launch the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. The criteria cover whether campus quality of life is healthy and sustainable; how well the school prepares students for employment and citizenship in a world with environmental challenges; and overall commitment to environmental issues.
The Princeton Review also announced the “2010 Green Rating Honor Roll,” of 15 schools that received the highest possible score of 99: Arizona State University (Tempe), Bates, Binghamton University, College of the Atlantic, Colorado College, Dickinson, Evergreen State College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard, Middlebury, Northeastern, University of California, University of New Hampshire, University of Washington, and Yale.
Organic Waste Digestion Protocol For Carbon Offsets
The Climate Action Reserve (CAR) – a national carbon offsets program -released its Organic Waste Digestion (OWD) Project Reporting Protocol in early August. The protocol targets organic wastes, wastewater and manures that are treated, stored or disposed under anaerobic conditions that produce methane that is not captured (e.g., lagoons, ponds, MSW landfills, etc.). It provides guidance to account for and report greenhouse gas emissions reductions associated with diverting organic waste and wastewater streams away from these systems and to a Biogas Control System (BCS). CAR explains that a BCS “consists of an anaerobic digester, a biogas collection and monitoring system, and one or more biogas destruction devices. Eligible organic waste and/or wastewater streams can be separately digested, codigested together, or codigested in combination with livestock manure.” Projects that codigest eligible organic waste and/or wastewater together with livestock manure are required to use this protocol together with the most current version of CAR’s Livestock Project Reporting Protocol.
CAR issues carbon offset credits (Climate Reserve Tonnes) generated from such projects. Public comments on the Organic Waste Digestion protocol are being accepted; deadline is 5:00 pm PDT on September 9, 2009. Submit comments in Word or PDF format at www.climateactionreserve.org.