April 17, 2008 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle April 2008, Vol. 49, No. 4, p. 6

At restaurants like the Savoy in Manhattan and less expensive chains, the search is on for safer cleaners and new ways to compost kitchen waste. “People are finally ready,” says Michael Oshman who founded the nonprofit Green Restaurant Association in 1990.
“A lot of owners are seeing this as cost-effective business with a strong consumer base.” The Association, based in Sharon, Massachusetts, helps restaurants to be more environmentally responsible, and ultimately with securing certification. The Association will soon have certified 300 restaurants as meeting its standards of energy conservation and environmental stewardship.
Two years ago, Woodbury County, Iowa became the first to mandate that food purchased by the county for its jail, juvenile detention centers and other cafeterias be grown and processed within a 100-mile radius. As in many parts of the nation, family farms are folding and rural communities are declining, writes Zach Patton of Governing magazine, with large corporations increasingly farming the land and shipping food out of Iowa. The Local Food Purchase Policy wasthe brainchild of Rob Marqusee, Woodbury County’s Department Of Rural Economic Development. County residents spend about $250 million a year on groceries, but only one percent goes to locally grown food. The Local Food Purchase Policy followed on the heels of the county adopting its “Organics Conversion Policy” that provides a 100 percent rebate of all real property taxes for five years for those farmers converting from conventional to organic farming practices.
Meanwhile, around the country, availability of locally-grown food is steadily rising. Farmers markets have grown from about 1,750 in 1994 to nearly 4,400 today. Another trend is growth in community-supported agriculture, with 1,200 groups existing now. Many cities are directly supporting area growers through farm-to-school programs; currently there are over 1,100 such programs involving 11,000 schools in 38 states.
Woodbury County’s progressive food policies have attracted new businesses, including a $40 million organic soybean processing plant. Marqusee is also working on a major financial program that would provide low interest loans for new farms smaller than 40 acres. Adds Marqusee: “Creating a local food system is very difficult. It’s a massive, 180-degree turnaround for anybody in this area. But we’re really just doing the only practical thing we can do to support our rural communities.” For more information visit
In Japan, the “Food Waste Recycling Law” was enacted in 2000 and implemented in 2001 to encourage the food industry – firms involved in commercial production of food – to recycle residuals. According to the February 2008 Warmer Bulletin, a five-year revision of the law led to three major amendments, announced in June 2007. “The first amendment is the requirement for periodic government reporting by producers of large quantities of food waste concerning the amount generated and their recycling efforts as a measure to advocate the control of food industry waste output,” says the bulletin.
The second amendment is for instances where the food industry requests that food waste generated at their establishments be reused by producers of animal feed and fertilizer, then use that animal feed and fertilizer for the production of livestock to construct a recycling system recognized by the government to enable food collection that straddles multiple municipalities. This system would cover requirements of the Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law.
The goal is to cover an even larger area for recycling. The third amendment is conversion of food waste to biomass fuel that will replace fossil fuels, contributing to handling measures for global warming and increasing “heat recovery.” These amendments and ordinances were enacted on December 1, 2007.
USDA is making $220.9 million in guaranteed loans and grants available under its Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Program. USDA Rural Development seeks to help farmers and rural small businesses produce renewable energy or make energy-saving improvements to their businesses and operations. In past years, recipients have used funding for the production of ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar geothermal, methane gas recovery and biomass. The funding can also be used for general energy efficiency improvements, such as for grain drying systems, refrigeration, lighting, etc. All told, USDA Rural Development has invested $674 million in more than 1,763 renewable energy projects. The last grant cycles this year is accepting applications through June 16, 2008. More information is available at
Professor John Anthony Allan of King’s College, London was named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. According to a March press release, Allan made a major breakthrough in 1993 in how to demonstrate the amount of water embedded in the production of foods and consumer products, calling it “virtual water.” For instance, “Behind that morning cup of coffee, there are 140 liters of water that was consumed to grow, produce, package and ship the beans,” the press release states. “That is roughly equal to the amount of water used by an average person in England for all their daily drinking and household needs.” The average American consumes over 6,000 liters of virtual water every day, which is more than triple the Chinese average – one hamburger alone holds about 2,400 liters of virtual water.
Allan’s research on virtual water has redefined discourse in water policy and management, including global trade policy, with implications for sustainable management of global water resources. “Water intensive commodities can be traded from places where high returns to water can be achieved to economies that cannot produce as efficiently.”
The U.S. EPA released an updated Planning for Natural Disaster Debris guide in March 2008, a document first published in 1995. It is designed for local communities that are interested in creating a disaster debris management plan, with recommendations, management options for various debris streams, case studies of how recent disasters were managed, and resources (federal, state and local) for consulting about plans. “The National Science and Technology Council estimates that these disasters cost the United States $52 billion per year in the form of lives lost and property destroyed (2005),” states the updated document. It provides communities with disaster debris information consistent with current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines, and stresses the importance of managing waste created by natural disasters in a way that is protective of the environment. For more information, and a copy of the document, visit:
The Center for Resource Solutions launched the Environmental Tracking Network of North America (ETNNA), the continent’s first network organization for renewable energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tracking. ETNNA is a voluntary association seeking to coordinate a renewable energy and GHG tracking systems in North America. This coordination is intended to encourage trade, create a common currency for certificates of generation, prevent double counting and support existing and emerging markets. As part of its goals, ETNNA plans on maintaining a library of resources to assist existing and emerging tracking systems, as well as to provide a forum for the resolution of discrepancies/disputes between tracking systems. For more info, visit
As described in the March 2008 issue of Governing, the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are working with the mayors of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Emeryville to create a “Green Corridor” to attract and keep green companies. The new East Bay Green Corridor Partnership will offer incentives to local firms such as job training in clean energy and leverage the scientific work done by UC Berkeley on sustainability and biofuels to attract top international scholars.
With popular awareness of global warming intensifying, the appeal of mixed-use, transit-accessible communities is on the rise, writes Philip Langdon in the January-February 2008 issue of New Urban News. Meanwhile, developers have increasingly incorporated environmentally advanced energy and storm water technology into their projects. “The deeper problem may be how – and where – we live our lives,” writes Bryan Walsh in Time magazine. “What we really need is to change our habitat for our health, lifestyle and happiness.” In another piece, in the Washington Post, the writer predicted that, “Accommodating a growing population in the era of high gas prices will mean increasing density and mixing land uses to enhance walkability and public transit.”
In a major step forward to show the promise of clean energy technology to confront climate change, the Energy Department’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program awarded the first four (of seven) large-scale carbon sequestration projects in the U.S. The four projects – Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction Partnership; Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership; Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration; and the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium – will conduct large volume tests for storing one million or more tons of carbon dioxide (C02) in deep saline reservoirs. The DOE plans to invest $197 million over ten years, subject to annual appropriations from Congress. Collectively, these formations have the potential to store more than 100 years of CO2 emissions from all major point sources in North America. They will demonstrate the entire CO2 injection process – preinjection characterization, injection process monitoring and postinjection monitoring – at large volumes to determine the ability of different geologic settings to permanently store CO2.
Using no potable water and producing organic mulch, composting toilets have been around since the 1970s, but maintain just a tiny market share in North America, reports Environmental Building News (Feb. 2008 issue). The need for extreme water conservation can also be satisfied by other ultra-low-flush toilets, including those relying on centralized vacuum systems and air pressure from compressors. Several smaller companies have gradually improved the technology – such as Microphor that use as little as a quart (one liter) per flush, as well vacuum toilet systems made by Evac.
The maximum flush volume for urinals in the U.S. is one gallon (4 L). This waste has led to the introduction of waterless urinals – first by the Waterless Co. and then followed by others. A waterless urinal can save as much as 40,000 gallons per year. Two companies – Caroma in Australia and Ecotech Water in the U.S. – have introduced waterless urinals that rely on a rubberized membrane that lets liquid through and then provides a mechanical seal between uses. Meanwhile, a new generation of ultra-low-flush urinals is entering the market. These products – available from companies including Zurn Industries, Sloan Valve and Caroma – use as little as one pint of water per flush, and the regular flushing is expected to prevent uric salts from accumulating in drain lines. For information on Environmental Building News, contact them at 11 Binge St., Suite 30, Brattleboro, VT 05301. Phone 802-257-7300.

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