BioCycle World

BioCycle July 2014, Vol. 55, No. 6, p. 6

New Rating System For Sustainable Sites

In late June, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) announced the release of the SITES v2 Rating System and Reference Guide, a culmination of seven years of work that includes input from over 100 projects that field-tested the 2009 rating system. SITES is a voluntary national rating system that utilizes an extensive set of guidelines and performance benchmarks to acknowledge sustainable landscape design at any scale. The intention is to create ecologically productive environments that can be part of a solution to challenges like storm water management, wildlife habitat destruction, human health, and loss of outdoor recreation opportunities.

The American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden collaborated to develop the SITES program and the v2 rating system. The new rating system combines innovative industry standards with recommendations from technical experts in the fields of soil science, botany and horticulture, hydrology, materials, and human health and well-being to provide the most comprehensive model for designing sustainable landscapes. “When we design and manage our environment, we have the responsibility to do so in ways that conserve water, clean air and water, and reduce vulnerability to damage from flooding, storm surge and drought,” notes Danielle Pieranunzi, SITES program director at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin. “The performance-based benchmarks of SITES v2 will guide and reward exemplary projects that accomplish these important goals.” To download the v2 rating system or purchase the Reference Guide, www.sustainablesites.org/rating-system.

Austin, Texas Receives Grant For Eco-Industrial Park

On July 1, the City of Austin received $1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to put toward water and sewer infrastructure improvements for the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub (Hub). The Hub is going to be the city’s first eco-industrial park, and will house private sector businesses that transform recyclables into new products. The majority of Austin’s recyclables are currently sent abroad for processing. The Hub will provide a regional option while at the same time create jobs. “It’s a big win for Austin to be receiving this grant from the Economic Development Administration,” notes Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “Our [re]Manufacturing Hub is sure to attract green businesses that can turn our residents’ recyclables into new products. Also, it’s estimated this project will leverage more than $30 million in private sector development, while creating up to 1,250 jobs.” The City plans to match the grant funds for the wastewater utility extension with approximately $2 million. Grant funds are to be considered for City Council approval in August, with infrastructure development set to begin in early 2015.  http://austintexas.gov/department/austin-resource-recovery.

Food Waste Stakeholders Go To The Fair

On June 12, 2014, BioCycle attended the “Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Vendor Fair” in Framingham, presented by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), RecyclingWorks Massachusetts, the Center for Ecotechnology, and EPA Region 1. The event was held “to connect food waste generators with industry vendors, in order to develop waste diversion solutions to comply with the MA Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban,” which takes effect on October 1, 2014, according to the organizers. The organics ban applies to generators that dispose of one ton or more of organic material per week. MassDEP estimates that 1,700 entities may be subject to the ban.

Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste Vendor FairAt least 50 exhibitors from across the nation participated in the event, including food waste reduction technology providers, food waste hauling services, anaerobic digester operators and developers, and composting facility operators and developers. On the other side of the table, attendees from major grocery store chains, institutions, and other high volume organics generators learned from industry experts about different options for processing their organic residuals. To date, it was among the first times that such a diverse group of stakeholders were in the same room, and the buzz around the topic of organics recycling was tangible. In addition to the exhibit hall, John Fischer, Branch Chief for Commercial Waste Reduction and Waste Planning at MassDEP, presented, “An Overview of the Commercial Food Waste Ban” and Lorenzo Macaluso, Program Director at RecyclingWorks, presented, “Best Management Practices,” an overview of “back of the house” and hauler-related best management practices.

Saving With Smart Resource Management

The United Kingdom’s Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) released two reports that promote sustainable resource management in business. From Waste to Resources is a guide for environment and sustainability professionals on how to convert waste costs into revenue. Sustainable Resource Management is intended to explain the systematic benefits of sustainable resource management to non-specialists and uneducated decision-makers. According to Josh Fothergill with the IEMA, small and medium-sized businesses with trained environment and sustainability professionals on staff are currently saving $8,500 annually, with the largest companies saving over $1.7 million a year. The IEMA report also cites research by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that found more than 80 percent of the $39 billion in “quick win” resource efficiency savings possible for UK businesses are a result of smarter use of raw materials and waste minimization. The IEMA also released the Resource Action Maturity Planner so businesses can assess what measures they must take to be successful through resource management. To access From Waste to Resources,  www.iema.net/rmreport; to access Sustainable Resource Management, www.iema.net/rmbriefing.

Ecodistricts Announces Target Cities Program

In late June, EcoDistricts, a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon that helps facilitate sustainable urban development at the district- and neighborhood-scale, announced the Target Cities program. Target Cities is a two-year partnership with nine diverse development projects in seven cities across North America. EcoDistricts’ role will include assisting project partners to: Develop governance models that catalyze far-reaching political and technical change; Carry out comprehensive assessment and goal setting tasks; and Speed up the deployment of strategies to widen impact. All of the Target Cities projects will utilize the EcoDistricts Protocol, a tool created by EcoDistricts that supports and rewards district-scale in two key areas: establishing rigorous performance goals and institutionalizing effective “process management.” The performance areas include: energy, equitable development; health and wellbeing; community identity; transportation; water; habitat and ecosystem functionality; and optimized materials management.

The Protocol and EcoDistricts process are designed to provide some consistency to the various projects that range from development in business districts to residential communities. For example, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the focus is Kendall Square, a 260-acre, high-density commercial innovation and transportation hub committed to district-scale solutions for meeting expected growth in transit demand while improving energy efficiency through shared energy systems. “The timing couldn’t be more critical. Change in the form of an unstable climate, stressed infrastructure, shifting demographics and economic uncertainty has already arrived, so the question is not: ‘will cities change’? It’s: ‘what shape will the change take?” notes Rob Bennett, EcoDistricts CEO. To learn more about the Target Cities Program and EcoDistricts Protocol, attend the 2014 EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C., September 24-26, 2014, or visit www.ecodistricts.org.

Regenerative Agriculture As Climate Change Solution

In late April, the Rodale Institute (RI), a nonprofit agricultural research organization located in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, released a white paper entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-To-Earth Solution to Global Warming.” The report is the central tool for a new campaign launched by RI to increase public awareness about the ability of soil to revert climate change when soil health is maintained through organic regenerative agriculture. According to the report, “We could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture’.” Examples of agricultural practices that fall into this category include: cover crops, residue mulching, composting, crop rotation, and conservation tillage — a strategy that is accepted as a method of sequestering carbon in soil. Link to the white paper at BioCycle.net in online version of this item.

Cities Working To Combat Heat Island Effect

In June, the Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released Cool Policies for Cool Cities: Best Practices for Mitigating Urban Heat Islands in North American Cities, a collection and analysis of survey responses from 26 North American cities on steps they are taking to reduce excess urban heat. Respondents cite extreme weather events, adapting to climate change, and improving well-being and resiliency of urban populations, as reasons for developing programs to mitigate urban heat island effect. Researchers chose cities that represented all of the major climate zones, geographies and city sizes in the U.S. and Canada. Even with this diversity, trends still could be seen, which include: Local governments requiring use of “cool” technologies, such as reflective roofs on municipal buildings, lining city streets with shade trees, and raising public awareness; More than half of respondents have some type of requirement in place for reflective and vegetated roofing for private sector buildings; Almost all respondents had policies to increase tree canopy and manage storm water; Public-private partnerships are common to create incentives for communities to reduce urban heat and mainstream these practices. Case studies are also included in the report, aceee.org/research-report/u1405.

California Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Legislation

A statewide plastic bag reduction initiative was narrowly defeated last year in California, but the bill’s opponents now support a similar measure. The new bill, sponsored jointly by state Senators Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), and its former opponents Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach), would ban the bags at all supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies statewide, and require merchants to charge 10 cents for alternative bags. The proposed ban would take effect for larger grocers in July 2015, and smaller stores a year later.

If the new bill passes, it would eliminate close to 20 billion single-use plastic bags annually in California. De Leon and Lara became supporters of the bill after they negotiated a requirement concerning the alternative bags that will now be available at stores for a 10-cent fee. The new stipulation calls for an independent third party to certify the alternative bags to be: paper made from recycled material; plastic bags that contain at least 20 percent recycled material and are manufactured to withstand over 100 uses; or made from compostable material. In addition, Senator Padilla announced that $2 million from California’s bottle and can recycling fund will be made available in the form of grants to single-use bag manufacturers in the state wishing to revamp their operation to produce reusable bags that meet the legislation’s criterion. To be eligible for grant funding, these businesses must retrain their existing employees. The ban does not apply to single-use produce bags. Los Angeles, Long Beach and nearly 100 cities and counties in California already have plastic bag bans in place.

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