University of Iowa to use methane from landfill for energy


Photo by Chris Davis, Flickr

One city’s decaying trash can be a university’s energy – or something like that.

The University of Iowa will use methane from Iowa City’s landfill to power its research campus – a project that will generate revenue for the city and limit emissions of a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Continue reading

On the Radio: Some, but not enough Iowa cities invest in green transportation


(Slideshow created by Brynne Schweigel)

Listen to this week’s radio segment on green transportation efforts in Iowa.

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Invest in solar energy to jumpstart Iowa’s economy


This letter, written by Sen. Joe Bolkcom – D, Iowa City, was also published in the February 24 edition of The Daily Iowan. Bolkcom, who is also the outreach and community education director for CGRER, is the sponsor of SF 99 – a bill that would incentivize solar energy use.

Imagine a readily available source of energy that could produce electricity for our homes and businesses, right where we live and work.

Solar energy could be the next new engine of job creation for Iowans, provided we seize the opportunities in front of us.

Iowa has become a world leader in biofuels and the big wind industry. This

Joe Bolkcom

is thanks to great natural resources (Sun, soils and wind) and smart state policies — and let’s not forget taxpayers, who have provided plenty of help in the form of public subsidies. Over the last decade, taxpayers have invested billions in these industries.

This investment has paid off by creating new jobs and new markets for Iowa products. Continue reading

Woodlot owners should beware of invasive Oriental Bittersweet


The oriental bittersweet's berries burst through the yellow wrapping to display a bold crimson fruit. Photo by Garrett Wilkin, Flickr

 

Written by Mark Vitosh, District Forester with the  Iowa Department of Natural Resources

By itself, the small vine seems of little threat; maybe an ornamental wreath, with yellow capsules giving way to red berries…or perhaps climbing a trellis, with soft, green leaves.

But Oriental bittersweet doesn’t travel by itself. And it doesn’t stay small for long. The invasive transplant from eastern Asia is jumping the fence from backyards to woodlots. It’s choking, shading and crowding out native trees, shrubs and other desirable plants in regions across the eastern U.S…and now in Iowa.

Marilyn Keller first noticed it three winters ago on her 29 acres near Cedar Rapids. “I would always see grape vines; Virginia creeper. This was a different vine, though,” recalls Keller. “It was wrapping around a tree. It didn’t come off easily. The little nodes had flowers; many times more than (American) bittersweet. By Spring, I could see it almost everywhere.” Continue reading

Report: To combat climate change, tackle black carbon


Black carbon: it’s dirty, unhealthy and addressing it, according to a new report, may be the most effective way to confront climate change.

Greg Carmichael, a University of Iowa professor and co-founder of CGRER, is a lead author of that report – a United Nations Environmental Programme study that outlines the dangers of black carbon soot and suggests how decision makers can address this form of particular air pollutant, which is second only to carbon dioxide as a catalyst of climate change.

Following through on the recommendations could cut future global warming in half, the report found, reducing the projected temperature rise by .5 degrees Celsius. Continue reading

Treynor notches water quality honor


Treynor, Iowa, a Pottawattamie County town of 950, was honored for its clean water. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsIf you’re ever in search of a clean glass of water in Southwest Iowa, you may want to head to the tiny city of Treynor.

The Iowa Rural Water Association recently named the Pottawattamie County town “Community Water System of the Year.”

The Omaha World-Herald reports:

The Iowa Rural Water Association assists small communities on a variety of issues, said CEO Greg Huff, including leak detection, operator certification issues and treatment processes.

Formed in 1975, the non-profit organization began handing out its “Community Water System of the Year” award in 2003. Treynor is the first city in southwest Iowa to win.

“You really get a sense that Treynor is trying to really look ahead,” Huff said.

He noted that it’s often difficult for small towns to plan for the future while also handling the day-to-day issues of an aging infrastructure.

“It’s a challenge,” Huff said. “Treynor’s doing a great job in meeting that challenge and looking to the future as well.”

Congress may make conservation tax credit permanent


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa and Max Baucus, D-Mont. have introduced a bill that would make permanent a temporary tax deduction that has protected more than 1 million acres of land from development each year.

The credit would have extra incentives for farmers and ranchers.

Continue reading

Iowa legislators consider bottle bill repeal


Credit: Zen Sutherland, Flickr.

Has Iowa’s 33-year old “bottle bill” run its course?

That’s what a group of House legislators say. They want to repeal the law that requires vendors to place a 5-cent deposit on all cans and bottles sold in the state that contain alcohol and soft drinks.

Grocers have long argued that the law is overly burdensome and that the transfer of messy containers presents a health risk.

But the bottle bill has been credited with reducing levels of litter in public places – especially in highway ditches. After the bill’s passage, a 1980 litter survey found that beverage container litter in Iowa decreased 77 percent, and overall litter fell by 37 percent.

Also, recycling rates in bottle bill states are drastically higher than they are elsewhere.

In 2006 only 33 percent of containers were recycled nationwide. That number was between 65 and 95 percent in states with deposit laws, according to a study by the Iowa Policy Project. Iowans recycled 91 percent of deposited containers, and Michiganders – the lone residents who pay a 10 cent deposit – recycled 95 percent of containers.

Many have lobbied to expand the scope of the requirement to include non-carbonate and non-alcoholic beverages, which made up 25 percent of the beverage market in 2005. Others have argued that the deposit should be increased to account for inflation. Continue reading

As Iowa thaws, flood season begins


Photo by Jim Malewitz

Melting snow over the weekend created ice jams along the Des Moines River near Fort Dodge, putting 21 counties under flood warnings and leading 15 families to evacuate their homes.  Continue reading

On the Radio: At Green Plains ethanol plant, Shenandoah seeks an algae-powered Iowa


Photo: City of Shenandoah.

This week’s radio segment highlights some innovative research going on in the tiny city of Shenandoah – attempts to use algae for fuel.

But the experiment is just one of many of the town’s cutting-edge green efforts. The city has also installed more energy-efficient lighting in its downtown, and it received the first ever permit to construct and operate an air curtain incinerator that cleanly burns yard waste.   Continue reading