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Vibrant Environment

In Zinke We Trust?

Arches National Park
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, manages one-fifth of the land in the United States. Its National Park Service (NPS) oversees units covering more than 84 million acres. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages refuges totaling just over 81 million acres. And the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 247.3 million acres across 20 states. In total, these three agencies oversee 65% of the land owned by the federal government in the United States.

Paper or Bio-Plastic? Innovative Packaging to Prevent Food Loss

Innovations in food packaging create opportunities to reduce food loss (Pixabay)
By Lauren Petersil, Research and Publications Intern
Monday, April 9, 2018

It’s well known that up to 40% of food in the United States goes to waste. As a result, a large portion of the blue water utilized in agricultural irrigation ends up back in the ground—not in aquifers, but in landfills. While the majority of food waste in the United States is attributable to the disposal of safe, edible foods, a considerable amount of food that goes to landfill is “lost” due to spoilage or food being otherwise deemed unfit for human use. 

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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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.

SCOOP & STACK Causing Cracks: Oklahoma Tightens Regulations to Curb Fracking Earthquakes

A USGS map reveals the dramatic increase in seismic activity in Oklahoma (USGS).
By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Monday, March 5, 2018

After a slew of earthquakes triggered from shale oil and gas operations, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, released new rules designed to reduce seismic activity. Hydraulic fracturing—fracking—is being used in combination with horizontal drilling to extract shale oil and gas in what has been called the “US’s hottest new area for horizontal development” in the state’s SCOOP [1] and STACK [2] shale plays, located in the Anadarko Basin.

War and Peace: Colombia’s Environmental Degradation Paradox

Policía Antinarcóticos  stand on guard after burning a coca laboratory near Tuma
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Research Associate
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Colombia’s government and FARC rebels signed a historic peace accord in late 2016, ending a civil war that caused over 220,000 deaths and the internal displacement of over 7 million people. In addition to devastating lives and livelihoods, the civil war was destructive to the environment. Following historic negotiations and the congressional ratification of a revised agreement, Colombia still faces environmental risks in a time of relative peace. It is crucial that ongoing talks and reforms in the wake of over five decades of conflict take these factors into account in order to ensure sustained peace and development for the future.

Of Frogs and Men

Are frogs better than humans at responding to slow threats?
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore famously used the example of a slowly boiled frog as a metaphor for climate change. That turns out not to be accurate, as biologists say the frog is smart enough to jump out of the pot long before it becomes frog soup. But the problem Gore described is real enough.

Public Participation in Federal Land Management: Is Innovation Still Possible?

Western states have been at the forefront of the debate about federal land manag
Monday, January 8, 2018

Federal public lands account for 47% of the American West, and more than 90% of all federal land is found in the 11 westernmost states and Alaska. Between them, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management administer about 34% of the western landscape, including almost 85% of Nevada; more than 50% of Idaho, Oregon, and Utah; and more than 40% of the land in four other western states. The appropriate use, management, and ownership of these lands have been the subject of heated debate since they were first established, and the debate has anything but waned since President Trump took office. 

Ninth Circuit Reinforces Executive Power to Withdraw Public Lands From Mining Extraction

The Colorado River, Grand Canyon
By Robert Kelsey, Associate Editor, Environmental Law Reporter
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Following President Trump’s announcement that he was reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, there have been questions as to the extent of the executive branch’s power to manage federal lands. The announcement has put the Antiquities Act, which grants the president the authority to protect federal lands, under a microscope. Recently, two cases concerning the U.S.

Rethinking Reforestation: Degradation as a Carbon Source in Tropical Forests

The Brazilian Amazon (Wikimedia Commons)
By Lovinia Reynolds , Research Associate
Monday, December 18, 2017

Tropical forest ecosystems are globally recognized for their carbon sequestration capacities. Past research has estimated that tropical forests on average sequester a net 1400 teragrams of carbon per year, the equivalent of taking approximately 1 billion passenger vehicles off the road. International governing bodies, national governments, and nonprofit organizations have attempted to capitalize on the carbon sequestration services provided by tropical forests in an increasingly carbon rich atmosphere.  Programs such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation + enhancing forest carbon stocks) have resulted in significant expenditures of efforts and resources into developing frameworks for preserving tropical forests.