A call for state-funded school gardens

Photo by matthewcrampton; Flickr.
Photo by matthewcrampton; Flickr.

A recent report by the Iowa Policy Project suggests Iowa school districts should have students plant and maintain gardens on school grounds to teach students about plant life and growing fresh food for their own cafeteria.

The author, a junior at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project intern, said most people don’t understand the environmental impacts of shipping food across the country. She added that it is empowering to grow your own food and know you’re not harming the earth.

To read the full story on RadioIowa, click here.

Water quality loans in Iowa

Photo by Erin Tiesman; Flickr.
Photo by Erin Tiesman; Flickr.

Nearly 30 Iowa cities received $34 million in low-cost water quality loans through the State Revolving Fund at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The state hopes to aid cities in improving water quality while making it more affordable.

Some of the cities include Des Moines, North Liberty, Keokuk, and Ames.

To view the full list of cities receiving funding, head to The Des Moines Register.

Climate change report hits home for Iowans

Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP; The Guardian
Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP; The Guardian

The recently released National Climate Assessment brings the impacts of climate change to each individual state in the United States.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report said. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience.”

The Guardian provided a full explanation of the report here.

Utility-scale solar development needs mandate

Photo by the Iowa Energy Center
Photo by the Iowa Energy Center

Iowa and other Midwestern states are unlikely to see large utilities invest in solar energy without setting the standards that require it, Jonathon Weisgall said.

Weisgall is the vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the parent company of MidAmerican Energy. MidAmerican is the largest energy company in Iowa.

Berkshire Hathaway recently started a $2.5 billion solar project in California, but the state’s regulatory environment supports that cost.

A few Iowa utilities are building solar capacity without solar mandates, but setting standards will help drive development, Nathaniel Baer, energy program director of the Iowa Environmental Council said.

Currently, wind energy provides 40 percent of MidAmerican’s energy.

Baer said wind energy is a great example of setting a goal and seeing what follows.

To read the full story, head to the Des Moines Register. 

More natural resource funds in Iowa

Photo courtesy of the Iowa Farm Bureau; Flickr.
Photo courtesy of the Iowa Farm Bureau; Flickr.

The Iowa Legislature recently agreed to a record $25 million in funding for the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program, or REAP, the Des Moines Register reported.

The program is used to enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. There are a number of individual programs within REAP, such as the Environment First Fund or the Restore Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

REAP provides money for projects using state agency budgets or grants. Private contributions may also be made to help REAP accomplish its goals.

How Iowans adjust to climate change

2012 derecho; Photo by Meridith112, Flickr.
2012 derecho;
Photo by Meridith112, Flickr.

KWWL’s Special Assignment Report this week was focused on Iowa’s changing climate.

Between 2012’s drought and severe storms like those that rolled through the area on Sunday, Iowa is in the midst of change.

Jerry Schnoor, co-director of CGRER, says Iowa can expect to be warmer and wetter in the coming years.

While cities and farmers alike are adapting to increased flood risks, people everywhere need to think about sustainability in every aspect.

Mainly, citizens need to start reducing their dependence on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere to truly adapt to our changing climate.

To watch the segment and read the story, head to KWWL. 

Apples and Diphenylamine (DPA)

Photo by Brian Y.; Flickr.
Photo by Brian Y.; Flickr.

The Environmental Working Group recently blogged about apples and DPA, the pesticide applied to apples once they’re harvested to protect them during storage.

DPA is an antioxidant that slows the development of black patches on the skins of picked apples in storage.

This chemical has caused a debate in both the US and EU on whether or not DPA should continue to be used on our produce.

The EU recently restricted DPA to 0.1 part per million, because people would not be at risk with concentrations that low, but some apples, although not sprayed with DPA, can have trace amounts of the pesticide if stored in a warehouse that once used it.

Although the EPA must review pesticides every 15 years to make sure there is no harm to humans, they haven’t reviewed DPA in 16 years.

Purchasing organic apples, organic apple juice, or organic apple sauce, is an easy change to make to reduce the risk of ingesting potentially harmful chemicals.

To read the full story on apples and DPA, click here.

Happy Earth Day!

Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.
Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2014?

Apple is flaunting a new video, “Better,” that emphasizes the company’s commitment to going green. The video introduces a new electronic recycling program, where customers can take any old Apple product to any Apple store (or send it in the mail) and the company will either give money back  to you or properly recycle the product to keep it out of landfills.

In the Des Moines Register’s Iowa View, Tom Brooks suggests making the switch to biofuels. Biofuels are renewable, sustainable, and are produced locally as well for a great way to promote Iowa jobs as well as our environment.

Or, take your plastic bags to the Iowa City Ped Mall between noon and 4 p.m. for the Reusable Bag Campaign, by the UI Environmental Coalition. Reusable bags will be handed out in exchange!

For more information on Earth Day and how you can participate, click here.

Taxes for the environment

Photo by Teresa Meadows; Flickr.
Photo by Teresa Meadows; Flickr.

The Iowa Public Radio released a segment yesterday about an upcoming bill that’s “a dream come true” for environmentalists and natural resource advocates.

The bill raises the state sales tax for a natural resource trust fund that was approved two years ago.

The amendment says that any time Iowa raises its sales tax, a portion of the penny of it should go toward natural resources.

If it passes, the sales taxes devoted to the trust fund would be raised to over a third of a cent over the next three years, and will be utilized for conservation, recreation, and water quality in the state.

Listen to the full story here.


Can we achieve a sustainable economy?

Assistant Professor Aaron Strong; Photo courtesy of the Iowa City Press-Citizen
Assistant Professor Aaron Strong; Photo courtesy of the Iowa City Press-Citizen

Aaron Strong, an assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa, hosted a discussion yesterday about the changing the structure of our economy to emphasize sustainability.

Professor Strong acknowledged that while the idea of sustainability is being discussed more frequently, it has no single definition.

He wrote in the Press-Citizen opinion page that definitions of sustainability can be any of the following:

  • Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
  • Long-term cultural, economic and environmental health and vitality
  • Maintenance of the value of the capital stock where capital includes physical, human, cultural and environmental

While common themes exist among all of the definitions of sustainability, differences also occur in how to implement them.

The discussion focused on economic approaches as well as pollution and environmental quality, and patterns seen over time. Ultimately, researched explored whether or not the present system can adequately achieve joint goals of sustainability.