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Vibrant Environment

Co-Digestion of Food Waste: A Triple Greenhouse Gas Solution

Aerial view of co-digesters
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Thursday, April 1, 2021

An estimated 35% of food that is produced is uneaten, with losses occurring along the supply chain from farms to consumers. The majority from non-industrial sources ends up decomposing in landfills, where it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). Recycling food waste through anaerobic digestion (AD), in which bacteria break down organic material in the absence of oxygen and create biogas, can create a triple-win for GHG mitigation. It reduces landfill methane emissions, creates renewable energy from the biogas, and sequesters carbon in soils through land application of biosolids-based soil nutrients and amendments. The wastewater sector, with substantial excess capacity in the anaerobic digesters it uses to process biosolids, can contribute substantially to this climate change solution.

How a “Space Station” Turned the Tide on Ocean Policy

Biosphere 2
By Akielly Hu, Associate Editor
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

When it comes to the climate crisis, some say we can innovate our way out. In his 1989 essay The End of Nature, the writer Bill McKibben mused: “We may well be able to create a world that can support our numbers and our habits, but it will be an artificial world — a space station.”

Toward a New Generation of Environmental Justice Policy

Black Lives Matter protest
By Akielly Hu, Associate Editor
Thursday, March 25, 2021

Environmental justice (EJ) in federal policy to date has mostly involved conducting more public participation—a “process without substance,” as EJ pioneer Charles Lee puts it. In this month’s issue of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter, Lee offers a road map for government agencies to effectively address EJ issues by developing an understanding of disproportionate impacts based on rigorous, holistic data, and operationalizing this analysis with a spectrum of policy actions.

The Future of Food: How Drones Seek to Revolutionize Agriculture

Drone flying over crop
By Zack Schiffer, Research and Publications Intern, ELI
Friday, March 19, 2021

The agricultural industry is developing fast. With new and emerging technologies on the rise, industrial agriculture continually strives to incorporate sustainability and efficiency into its operations. Although the industry produces significant pollutants, including animal waste, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other agricultural inputs and byproducts, incorporating new technologies, such as drones, helps to mitigate the hazardous pollutants associated with industrial agriculture. In addition to mitigating environmental harm, incorporating sustainable technology into agricultural practices can improve water conservation and bolster efficiency.

Recent Policies Target PFAS Substances in Food Packaging

Carryout containers
By Tobie Bernstein, Senior Attorney; Director, Indoor Environments and Green Buildings Program, and Jessica Sugarman, Research Associate
Monday, March 15, 2021

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of toxic synthetic chemicals collectively known as PFAS, are all around us—in the environment and in our bodies. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, most people in the United States have PFAS in their blood. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to these “forever chemicals” can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including increased cholesterol, pregnancy complications, and kidney and testicular cancers; recent studies also suggest that PFAS may reduce resistance to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and may reduce antibody responses to vaccines.

Deepwater Horizon Aftermath: Chronic Medical Conditions Still At Issue in Federal Courts

Oil cleanup Deepwater Horizon
By Jarryd Page, Staff Attorney
Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico more than 10 years ago. Yet hundreds of individuals across the Gulf coast are still battling BP in court for damages related to a host of ailments arising from exposure to oil, dispersants, or both. A recent order out of the Northern District of Florida (N.D. Fla.) granting BP’s summary judgment motion as to one set of plaintiffs may be a sign of things to come. Regardless of this ruling, the sheer volume of these cases may occupy dockets for months or years.

Dancing with Elephants: Startup Entrepreneurs and Corporations Collaborate on Massive Clean Energy Innovation

Baby elephant
Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Until recently, environmental protection discussions have mainly centered on law and policy. But the rapid emergence of advanced technologies has opened opportunities for established corporations and innovative startup companies to partner and thereby play a vital role in shaping 21st century environmentalism. A panel of experts described the massive, elephantine opportunities during the Environmental Law Institute’s January 14 GreenTech webinar on “Liberating Digital Solutions for the Environment: Catalyzing New Ideas,” the second in an eight-part series launched November 17, 2020.

Assessing the Arctic: Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Bears in Alaska
Friday, March 5, 2021

High reward or high risk—that’s the potential billion-barrel question. Often referred to as America’s last great wilderness, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) consists of 19.64 million acres in the Alaska North Slope region and is the largest National Wildlife Refuge, supporting an enormous variety of biodiversity and robust Indigenous communities. In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower declared the refuge a federally protected area, and oil and gas drilling was banned in 1980. In the decades following, numerous presidents and Congresses have resisted efforts to authorize extraction exploration in the area.

Citizen Submissions: A Vital Tool to Enhance Environmental Accountability in Trade Agreements?

Person with laptop
By Nina Pusic, Senior Manager, Educational Programs (former)
Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Despite the existing tension between trade pacts and global environmental rule of law, environmental side agreements (ESAs) of bilateral and multilateral trade pacts have created a unique mechanism for environmental enforcement: citizen submissions. These submissions provide a mechanism for ordinary citizens to formally and publicly bring attention to potential environmental harms in their communities, including the non-enforcement of environmental laws.

Opportunities for Climate Diplomacy: The Biden Administration and the Road to COP26

International flags outside UN
By Nina Pusic, Senior Manager, Educational Programs (former)
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

In these early days of the Biden Administration, it has become clear that climate diplomacy is returning to the U.S. foreign policy agenda. On Inauguration Day, the new Administration announced that the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement, signaling an abrupt shift from the previous administration’s approach toward multilateral environmental agreements. Signed in 2015, the Paris Agreement made history as the first legally binding agreement to oblige states to limit global warming to well-below 2°C by the end of the century. Limiting warming to this threshold would help prevent irreversible damage to our climate system and planetary boundaries, as demonstrated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To accomplish this ambitious feat, signatories of the agreement are asked to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years to communicate how countries will reduce their emissions and build resilience to adapt to a warming world.

All blog posts are the opinion of its author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of ELI the organization or its members.