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Vibrant Environment

MethaneSAT: Monitoring Methane Emissions From Space

The Environmental Defense Fund's MethaneSAT Satellite (Photo: EDF)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, April 23, 2018

On April 11, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) President Fred Krupp announced the organization’s plans to create and launch a new satellite to monitor and measure global methane emissions—from space. The "groundbreaking" MethaneSAT plans were unveiled in a TED talk in Vancouver, BC. The satellite will measure only emissions of methane, the powerful greenhouse gas responsible for roughly one quarter of the manmade global warming we currently experience. 

Water Efficiency and Conservation: The State of the States

2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard
By Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Most states have significant room to improve their legal frameworks regarding water conservation and efficiency, and long-term resiliency, according to a report released last month by ELI and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). In the 2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard, a five-year update to the 2012 scorecard, each state received two separate grades: one for water use efficiency and conservation, and one for climate resiliency planning. The national average for both is a “C,” but with some great grades in each area and more than half of the states earning higher water use efficiency and conservation scores than they did in 2012.

Fossil Fuel Swap: New Study Shows ‘Overlooked’ Benefits of Switching From Coal to Gas

Deeside Power Station - a natural gas station in Wales, U.K. (Wikimedia Commons)
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, April 16, 2018

In 2016, the United Kingdom (U.K.) had an “unprecedented drop” in its carbon emissions, reducing emissions from production of electricity by 25%. The U.K. achieved this reduction by switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation—leading to a carbon reduction equivalent to removing over 30% of Britain’s cars from the road. A recent report published in Nature Energy by researchers at two U.K. institutions, the University of Sheffield and Imperial College London, considers the “enabling conditions in Great Britain and the potential for rapid fuel switching in other coal-reliant countries.”

Aeroponics: A Sustainable Solution for Urban Agriculture

Vertical Roots aeroponics system (Photo: Vertical Roots).
By Matthew Miller, Research and Publications Intern
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Our cities are booming in both population and area. This uncontrolled land expansion, known as urban sprawl, results from several factors including transportation technology, income, consumer preference, and housing pressures. Unfortunately, urban sprawl can negatively impact the most vulnerable communities. The same factors that bring about sprawl also combine to produce “food deserts,” the lack of fresh quality food in an urban setting. For example, a 2014 John Hopkins University study showed that access to both healthy food and the number of supermarkets decreased in poor and minority communities when compared to their counterparts. Moreover, a 2016 Landscape and Urban Planning journal article shows that as low-wage jobs are generated in the areas of new urban growth, low-income communities in urban centers face increased difficulty finding entry-level jobs.

Urban agriculture has had moderate success addressing these challenges. In particular, one emerging method known as “aeroponics” may provide a more sustainable solution to expand access to local produce in the urban core while simultaneously providing stable employment opportunities for community members.

A Well Ends Well: An Exurban Fable

A Well Ends Well: An Exurban Fable
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Monday, April 2, 2018

“April showers bring May flowers,” the saying goes – but we also rely heavily on groundwater. In honor of the changing seasons, Vibrant Environment recounts a tale from The Environmental Forum of neighborhood water woes.

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Limitless: The Race to Create the Sun on Earth

Scientists may be within years of harnessing nuclear fusion energy to create "a
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A research group at MIT says nuclear fusion is within years of being commercially viable. And a European project, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), is also aggressively moving toward development of nuclear fusion power. Is this the dawn of a new nuclear age—safe, sustainable energy from nuclear fusion?

Conservative Conservation: Bipartisan Environmentalism in the Trump Era

Blue heron are among the species benefiting from bipartisan conservation efforts
By Darragh Moriarty, Legal Extern
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

“Anti-environmentalism is a mark of identity,” says Fred Rich, author of Getting to Green: Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution. “It is a mark of what it is to be a conservative.” With fossil fuel companies continuing to fund GOP politicians and a president who has called global warming a “hoax,” there are legitimate concerns that environmental issues will continue to polarize. The Republican 2016 Party platform described the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “a political mechanism,” rejecting the “agendas” of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. In spite of this political climate, several politicians, from congressmen to state governors, and city mayors, are making bipartisan efforts to combat climate change. In doing so, they are not only showing that environmental sustainability and economic growth can go hand-in-hand, but that these measures receive support from voters across the political spectrum.

Sustainable Business Models for Codigesting Food Waste

Creating Energy from Food Waste (EPA/Flickr)
By Carol Adaire Jones, Visiting Scholar
Monday, March 19, 2018

The wastewater sector’s “Utility of the Future” (UOTF) initiative envisions the sector’s transformation from managing waste to recovering and recycling valuable resources, thereby creating financial benefits for utilities, as well as environmental and economic development benefits for communities. Adding food waste to anaerobic digesters (AD) processing sewage sludge, a process called codigestion, is a promising UOTF innovation that expands the sector’s potential to recover renewable biogas for heat, power, and fuel, and to extract nutrients for fertilizers and soil amendments.

Yet, U.S. adoption of codigestion remains low: about 1 in 10 wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) have adopted AD, and about 1 in 10 of those is codigesting. To address this untapped potential, ELI has launched a new project to identify alternative sustainable business models for successful codigestion.

Bonus Round: ELI Brainstorms New Ideas for Serious Games

Games can produce valuable information about strategies for taking on environmen
By Emmett McKinney, Research Associate, Azi Akpan, Research Associate, Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate, and John Hare-Grogg, Research Associate
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Games are not always, well, fun and games. Or maybe they are—which is their greatest strength. As noted by a 2011 article in The Economist, “The main reason why games are different is that they marry the power of modern technology to the insatiable human desire for play.” Lengthy reports often fail to reach their target audiences or deliver information in an engaging format. “Serious games” can be tremendously valuable for developing new approaches to address social challenges. By allowing their audience to interact with the content, play different roles, test out ideas, fail and learn, and change their strategy, games provide effective frameworks for engaging with (and maybe finding solutions to) emerging social, economic, and environmental challenges.

“New Arctic” Is a Dream Meltdown

Inukshuks near Baffin Bay (Wikimedia Commons)
By Stephen R. Dujack, Editor, The Environmental Forum®
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I went to the North Pole in April, the favored month for travel in the High Arctic. That was 16 years ago. According to the 2017 National Climate Assessment, the region’s warming began accelerating around the time of my visit. It is no longer the same frozen ecology and economy I had seen.