Ever wonder about the value of the Chesapeake Bay and its streams and wetlands? An analysis recently released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) finds that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented.
The peer-reviewed report, produced by economist Spencer Phillips and CBF Senior Scientist Dr. Beth McGee, compares the value of those benefits in 2009, the year before the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint began being implemented, to the benefits that can be expected as a result of fully implementing the Blueprint. >Read the Full Report via Chesapeake Bay Foundation
A recent New York Times Opinion piece by Yvon Chouinard titled “Tear Down ‘Deadbeat’ Dams,” rightly questions the values and highlights the environmental risks associated with dams, underlining that the benefits “for water use, flood control and electricity – can now be met more effectively without continuing to choke entire watersheds.”
He goes on to say that: “Of the more than 80,000 dams listed by the federal government, more than 26,000 pose high or significant safety hazards. Many no longer serve any real purpose.” For Chouinard, an adventurer and founder of Patagonia, this has long been an important issue. “I’ve been working to take down dams for most of my life. The idea, once considered crazy, is gaining momentum.” >Read On
In a recent interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund points out that what gets measured, gets managed. By serving markets increasingly interested in green goods and services, the advent of big data presents opportunities for businesses to improve their bottom line and the environment, he says. >Read Full Story
Trout Headwaters, Inc. has pioneered big data systems for industry and private users enabling comprehensive analysis of various environmental data sets across a broad range of ecosystem services and markets. Leveraging the capability to relate many, many, layers of complex data will continue to provide unique insights for our firm and our customers. Get your interactive tools today! >Learn more about EcoBlu Analyst
It was my pleasure recently to spend the afternoon with Doug La Follette, Secretary of State in Wisconsin for a tour of some of his work and achievement. He holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Columbia, has worked as Public Affairs Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, and has been board member of Friends of the Earth and other nonprofits. He was a member of the 1970 National Earth Day organization and continues to speak about the importance of our environment.
As La Follette shared some of his photos and memories with me in his Madison, WI office recently, it became clear that his interests are centered on the outdoors. Nature is the strong current that flows through his seemingly divergent world-wide adventures. It follows that La Follette’s “The Survival Handbook – A Strategy for Saving Planet Earth” would remain a pertinent outline for those wishing to help their state (or the Earth) improve its natural, healthy condition. And despite the 25 years since first published, the environmental issues and approaches in the book remain some of the most significant of our day.
While Doug La Follette would be the first to tell you that some of the specifics of his book may be dated, much remains sadly the same for planet Earth. This carefully crafted discourse on the true meaning of ecology, its connection to the economy and humanity’s dependence on a healthy environment deserves a place on every community leader’s bookshelf. Buy via Amazon.com
They used to mean something. Words like “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” “low-impact,” and “natural” set apart products and services that were better for our environment. But once these terms became trendy, the practice of “greenwashing” (so rampant now it has its own Wikipedia page) has rendered these words virtually meaningless.
First reported by Forbes and Business Pundit, now the web-based Greenwashing Index, developed by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, is a clearinghouse for dishonest greenwashing in the media.
But greenwashing products like soda, coal and bottled water may be the most damaging to genuinely “green” companies, practices and products. As these terms are devalued, how does a company, like Trout Headwaters, for example, set itself apart?
One word we’ve used quite a bit to describe our services is “sustainable.” Once an important identifier, sustainable and sustainability have become junk words that can mean whatever people want it to mean, from environmental perfection to, well, nothing. As a recent article in a Charleston newspaper pointed out, when Smithfield, the U.S.’s largest factory hog processor announces, “Sustainability is integral to the way we conduct business at Smithfield Foods every day,” and Monsanto, the giant multinational maker of chemicals and genetically-engineered seed, declares it is “A Sustainable Agriculture Company,” all we can say is, “Really?!”
How are consumers to know if products and practices are truly sustainable, green, and eco-friendly, or if they are just being duped by a greenwashed marketing campaign? We all just have to be more vigilant, and do our homework.
In our industry of freshwater resource renewal and repair, we define sustainable as “works with nature,” “adds multiple values,” “self-sustaining,” “maintenance-free,” and “improves over time.” Maybe we’ll have to coin a new term.
You may also like: 10 Questions to Ask Before Restoring Your Stream or Wetland
In Conservation Magazine, award-winning journalist David Ropeik explores why we worry too much about some environmental risks and not enough about others
For Conservation Magazine David Ropeik points out an interesting phenomenon he called the “perception gap.” It’s the gap between our fears and the facts. He describes his how his 55-year-old friend has cut way back on eating certain species of seafood because the government says those species may carry high levels of mercury. But the levels of mercury in those fish pose almost no risk to 55-year-old males, although they can be risky for fetuses and infants. What’s more, the fish his friend is forgoing are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease—a very real threat for 55-year-old men.
At Trout Headwaters, we see that the plight of our freshwater resources also fits into the category of an ecoperception gap. Because in most places in the U.S. we can open a tap and get all the fresh water we want, there is a lack of acceptance and appreciation about the state of our nation’s freshwater resources, and the number of people around the world, who live without access to clean water.
A growing body of research into the neuroscience and psychology of fear and risk perception offers some provocative answers. Investigators are discovering that our health and safety rely on a system of risk perception that is instinctive—and mostly subconscious. It seems that no matter how hard we try to reason carefully and objectively, our brains are hardwired to rely on feelings as well as facts to figure out how to keep us alive. In other words, we may not get it until we’re thirsty or sick from water-borne illnesses.
Until recent modern times, the system has worked well. But in the face of modern and complex environmental threats, it can make dangerous mistakes. Ropeik argues that perhaps it’s time to tap into the power of rational analysis and attempt to better understand how risk perception works. It’s time to learn how to avoid the risks that the perception gap creates.
Trout Headwaters is proud of our team’s unwavering commitment to the conservation and protection of our precious natural resources at all levels of its operations. Each year we strive to lower our carbon footprint and boost biodiversity with a keen awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship in today’s world.
For nearly 20 years our firm has demonstrated a consuming passion for the details of its operations and processes. We continually perform comprehensive and routine audits of THI methods, materials, and operations in order to offer the most effective and environmentally-sound, EcoBlu solutions for stream, river and wetland renewal and repair.
In 2012 alone, THI completed restoration on miles of streams, restored nearly 40 acres of wetlands, and planted thousands of trees. In 2013 and beyond, our firm will continue to exceed environmental stewardship and regulatory requirements at all levels of its operations across the U.S.
Greening Our Footprint
In 2012, THI completed conversion of its building to all-renewable energy, installing a dedicated solar production system and purchasing green energy for off-hours. In less than a year’s time, our solar panels have created 4.11 megawatts of energy – enough to power 136 homes for a single day – and we’ve achieved a carbon offset of 2.84 tons, the equivalent of 73 trees.
Also, with recent upgrades to company trucks (including new on-board computers), THI has reduced its consumption of diesel fuel by more than 30% per mile.
Our company has invested aggressively in tools, technology and training to promote a culture of environmental stewardship. Many of these efforts have resulted in significant environmental advantage. Examples include:
- Reduced Emissions – resulting from higher efficiency tools and equipment.
- Increased Recycling – including paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, ink cartridges and more.
- Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels – using bio-diesel in company vehicles.
- Reduced Waste – disposing of all materials at appropriate centers including fluids, computers, batteries, phones, and others.
- Increased Biodiversity – developing and deploying improved green installation and construction techniques fundamental to every project.
- Increased Capacity of Non-Profit Organizations – supporting non-profits who are focused on sustainability education and green development.
- Improved Supply Purchases – including eco-friendly cleaning products, changes to lighting, use of soy-based inks, refilling of print cartridges and more. Volume-based materials orders have also resulted in reduced packaging and shipping.
THI knows that these environmental initiatives are critical to our continued success. These improvements are not only good for the environment, but also good for our clients, our clients’ properties we are privileged to serve, good for our employees, and good for our business. Please feel free to contact us anytime regarding our green business changes.
A recent set of four related articles published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface takes a new approach to understanding sediment transport, a vital component to the ecological health and long-term evolution of river channels.
When you look at a river’s water surface, it is rarely smooth. Instead, you can usually see the continual churning of turbulent river flow. Sediment transport occurs as this turbulent flow disturbs sand and gravel riverbeds, and the river is flowing fast enough to move the particles downstream. The complex nature of turbulent river flow makes quantifying sediment transport a difficult task.
The new approach to understanding sediment transport developed in this study involves describing individual sediment particle motions and positions as the basis for calculating total transport amounts. High-speed videos of sand grains moving at different flow rates were analyzed to provide experimental data to compare with the new theory. A video showing digitized sand grains transported during experiments is available here. The transport of sand particles is shown by experiment results to be extremely variable in both the location and amount of sediment movement at any given flow. This variability in particle motions results from the complex interaction of turbulent flow with the riverbed.
As our understanding of sediment transport and other river processes continues to improve, so does the ability of the restoration community to provide effective, science-based solutions to degraded aquatic resources, increasing the likelihood of long-term success of restoration projects.
Author John Roseberry, an Environmental Engineer at Trout Headwaters, Inc. and Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt University, was lead author of the second article in the series of four from this study.
Roseberry et al, 2012: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012JF002353.shtml
Furbish et al, 2012a: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012JF002352.shtml
From Bloomberg Businessweek
Tests of drinking water near a natural-gas drilling site in Wyoming back up findings that established the first link by the federal government between hydraulic fracturing and tainted water, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
The EPA recently issued its follow-up analyses of two test wells it drilled in Pavillion and of five residents’ water wells, saying the pollutants it found were “consistent” with the results last year used to establish that connection to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.