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Dec 092013

From Green Right Now Reports

classroom-300x237Teachers often lead the way when it comes to building sustainable practices in their community.

Now it’s their turn to receive some recognition, and prize money of $2,000. This coming year, the EPA will select up to 20 U.S. teachers f0r the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. Winners will be K-12 educators who’ve creatively and effectively built environmental education into their curriculum and made an impact on local efforts to cleanup natural resources, recycle or improve air and water quality.

Applications are due by Feb. 28, 2014.

Here’s the EPA release:

Applications Open for Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is currently accepting applications for the third annual Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. The award recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers and their local education agencies nationwide for excellence in integrating environmental education into their lessons and demonstrating the connection between health and the environment for their students.

Successful applicants demonstrate creativity, innovation, community engagement and leadership as students learn more about civic responsibility and environmental stewardship. Past winners have increased student participation in local watershed cleanup efforts, created school-wide recycling programs, and implemented green land stewardship practices. Winners went on to use their awards to bring high-tech science equipment into the classroom and expand the number of students on field trips and in labs.

Applicants have until February 28, 2014 to apply for the award under updated criteria released in November. Up to twenty teachers nationwide will receive award plaques and a financial award of $2,000 to support their professional development in environmental education. Each teacher’s school will also receive a $2,000 award to help fund environmental education activities and programs that support the teacher. Winners will also be considered for the National Environmental Education Foundation’s Richard C. Bartlett award, which recognizes outstanding teachers who engage students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges.

More information about the program and how to apply at the Presidential Innovation Award website.


Jun 212012

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

When will it be possible for the US — and our houses — to be powered mainly by clean, renewable energy?

Wind power uses no water and emits no air pollution (Photo: Blue-Green Alliance)

This simple question, whose answer is so vital to our national economic and health prospects, has been treated by many vested interests as nearly unanswerable. The fossil fuel industries, traditional power providers and our federal and state governments have stressed, at various times and places, that it is ever-so hard to predict when the US could achieve a fully realized clean energy future.

Their characterization of the clean energy landscape as amorphous and unknowable has a basis in reality. The clean  energy revolution faces many obstacles. There’s the fact that the US has three electricity grids (East, West and Texas grids) that will need updating to accept renewables. Accomplish that and you still have to deal with multiple government bodies that must move slinky-like in the same direction. That would be the federal government, the 50 state governments, the dizzying array of local, county and utility boards and entities. Permitting new energy already can be a nightmare even when all parties are trying to facilitate it.

Now factor in the power juggernauts — the coal and oil industries and the politicians who carry their torches. They’ve gotten a pass on pollution and together they’ve created a political climate that cleaves to the status quo and perpetrates circular arguments against renewables, like the one that points out clean energy is a tiny fraction of the power supply, therefore it will never amount to much. Like the automobile or airplane never amounted to much?

The deck is clearly, or smoggily, stacked in favor of fossil fuels because that’s the current infrastructure, complete with locked gates and sentinels at the door, like a massive but aging mansion.

But what if the US pushed for clean energy and overcame this nest of pitfalls? Could the nation be the next Germany, driving full-bore toward and achieving a future powered by non-polluting energy sources — and when would that happen?

Sooner than you might think. A report  just released by the National Renewable Energy Lab (part of DOE) says that by 2050 the US could get 80 percent of its energy from renewables –biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind — provided that:

  • The electric system is “flexible” enough to carry these new power sources and maximize power from fluctuating sources like wind and solar power
  • This new grid system provides for power storage, more responsive “loads” and additional transmission carrying capacity. In other words, the new “smart” grid enables the acceptance and balancing of these new power sources.

Reaching this benchmark would result in “deep reductions in electric sector greenhouse gas emissions and water use.”

Hell-o yes! Getting 80 percent of our energy from renewables would obviously clear the skies of the mercury and carbon pollution that’s creating an unhealthy environment for beings that breathe and driving climate change, which is on course to zap all life eventually.

NREL reports that this level of renewable energy is possible using technologies “that are commercially available today.”

Much of the NREL report is best consumed by engineers and scientists, but there’s also plain English, like this point:

“The central conclusion of the analysis is that renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States.”

More good news here:

“Assumptions reflecting the extent of this improvement are based on incremental or evolutionary improvements to currently commercial technologies and do not reflect U.S. Department of Energy activities to further lower renewable technology costs so that they achieve parity with conventional technologies.”

NREL is not positing a pie-in-the-sky scenario based on a pile-on of government subsidies for clean energy, nor is it counting on the technology getting better. The report sticks to what could be accomplished by applying current know-how.

But you can bet your Las Vegas geothermal plant that the technology will get better.

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Jun 222011

(This post first appeared at the NRDC Switchboard Blog.)

Frances Beinecke, president, NRDC

The U.S. House has just returned from recess, and the Tea Party Republicans want to make it their first order of business to resume their assault on the environment. House Republican leaders and their Tea Party colleagues are working to block any effort to update the protections that keep our air and water clean.

GOP forces are fighting this battle largely away from public view. Poll after poll shows that American voters favor public health safeguards, so these lawmakers are slipping their dirty measures into the 2012 spending bills in the form of policy riders.

Spending bills are the one kind of legislation that must be passed, even in this divided Congress. Yet policy riders have nothing to do with saving taxpayer money. They literally do not save a single penny. They are designed instead to dictate major changes in government policy with little public debate or transparency.

GOP leaders used the same tactic a few months ago in the spending bill for this year, known as a Continuing Resolution. While the media and the American people focused on how deep spending cuts would be, Republican lawmakers in the House stuffed 19 anti-environmental riders into the bill.

These provisions would have harmed public health and the environment. For example, they would have stopped the EPA from applying Clean Water Act protections to many waterways threatened with pollution, blocked the implementation of the Supreme Court decision that concluded carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and stopped efforts to restore iconic American ecosystems including the Chesapeake Bay and the San Francisco Bay-Delta.

In the end, opposition from Senate Democratic leaders and the president forced the House to drop the riders, but not until the very last minute as a government shutdown loomed.

We must now raise the alarm again as Congress prepares to pass the spending bills for next year.

The dirty amendments have already started, and the House hasn’t even gotten to the main environmental measures yet. Just a few weeks ago, House Republicans attached a rider to the 2012 spending bill that would force the Agriculture Department to abandon new nutritional guidelines for school meals that are designed to fight childhood obesity and would recommend more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The amendment would also prevent the Food and Drug Administration from restricting the use of antibiotics in healthy livestock—a practice the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians, the Center for Disease Control, and other medical organizations have concluded is contributing to the rise in drug-resistant superbugs endangering human health.

And the House Republicans have resumed their efforts to once again prevent Clean Water Act protections from applying to many wetlands and streams.

We must fight back against this attack on sensible safeguards that protect our health and the environment.

But to succeed, we need the White House and Senate. Several months ago, President Obama and Senate leaders spoke out against riders in the Continuing Resolution that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from updating critical limits on toxic air pollution. Their efforts prevailed; those dirty measures were removed from the final legislation.

But when they refused to stand up for wolf and other wilderness policies, the anti-environmental measures stayed in. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt spoke eloquently last week about the real and destructive consequences those riders will have on America’s public lands.

We must ensure the latest round of anti-environmental riders fails before they do more harm. We must preserve the safeguards that reduce the pollution that causes asthma attacks, keep toxins out of our drinking water, and protect beloved landscapes for our children.

The fate of these riders will largely determine the fate of public health and environmental quality in the coming years. These riders are bad policy, and they should not be loaded on to spending bills in a attempt to thwart the public will.

May 272010

By Nicole Kilmer

ROCKFORD, IL – The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) announced the selection of Rockford Park District’s Loves Park Playground Development project as one of the first landscapes to participate in a new program testing the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction, and maintenance.

The project will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states as well as from Canada, Iceland, and Spain as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes, with and without buildings. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution, and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.

>> Read the full story