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Environment : Innovation & Job News

174 Environment Articles | Page: | Show All

Michigan-Florida Green Corridor gives access to alternative fuels

After five years in the making, the I-75 Green Corridor is in the final stages, offering a way for drivers of alternative fuel vehicles a way to fuel up between Michigan and Florida.

Funded by the Department of Energy and supported by the Clean Energy Coalition, and with assistance from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Green Corridor is one of the world's longest biofuel stations corridors. In Michigan alone there are 12 biofuel stations along I-75. There are 26 E85 (a fuel with 85 percent ethanol) stations, and 9 B20 (a biodiesel blend) stations.

According to John Overly of the Clean Fuels Coalition in Tennessee, the biofuels industry quickly "Went from the thousands, to the billions."The more we can create these stations, the more jobs we can create and the more citizens we can help." The biodiesel industry alone has created 62,000 jobs and many of these jobs have a local impact during projects like this.

The corridor should be completed this summer, with only 40 stations left to install. Most of the work ahead comes with working to promote the stations and making people aware they are available. Overly is hoping that this project paves the way for many more like it, "Michigan has used state funding to support adding stations, and Tennessee is hoping to follow suit."

Source: Jonathan Overly, Clean Fuels Coalition
Writer: Allison Monroe, Innovation News Editor 

MSU research finds enhanced poplar trees become a possible biofuel resource

Research finds that poplar trees can be enhanced to break down more easily and as such, become a more viable resource for biofuel.

“Poplar trees are difficult to breakdown for organisms or enzymes,” says Curtis Wilkerson, plant biologist and lead author of the study at Michigan State University. “We can change the pH of the plant in a chemical treatment facility which will allow the plant to function as it normally does.”

Wilkerson along with his colleague, Shawn Mansfield from the University of British Columbia, identified the gene that produces monomers – molecular bonds – and enhanced their degradability. The majority of the cost associated with processing any type of fuel is transportation cost.  The goal is to place processing plants in the center of the agricultural land where the crop is grown and provide a renewable resource that will help lower C02 emissions.

This research was part of a collaboration intent on making transformational breakthroughs in new cellulosic biofuels technology. Funding was provided by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Source: Curtis Wilkerson, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Attracting wild bees to farms proves a good investment

Attracting wild bees to farms by investing in planting their natural habitat will provide higher harvest yields and will pay for itself in 4 years according to research studies out of Michigan State University.

Historically, wild bees would have had access to a more diverse range of wildflowers to sustain them throughout the growing season. Currently, beekeepers transport honey bees into the area incurring a nationwide expense of $14 billion. This practice will not replace that practice but may supplement the cost.

“It will take some time and patience to realize the return, said Rufus Isaacs, professor and extension specialist in the entomology department. “The Initial cost of planting can be covered by government programs that will help farmers see a return more quickly.”

The study was conducted in farms in western and northern Michigan because they are #1 in the nation for blueberry and tart cherry production. However, the research published in the study is useful for farmers across the state that grow fruits, vegetables and nut varieties that require the pollination of bees.

Blaauw was the lead author on the paper and is now at Rutgers University. Isaacs’ research is funded by the USDA and MSU’s AgBioResearch. 
 
Source: Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor 

4-H Renewable Energy Camp introduces local students to innovative technologies

Local youth between the ages of 13 and 19 are invited to apply to attend the 4-H Renewable Energy Camp.

Starting June 23rd, students will reside in dorms to experience college life and participate in off campus tours around the state to learn about the unique role the state of Michigan plays in renewable energy.

Topics of study will include solar, wind and cellulose power sources. Instructors will show students the process of growing crops like soy beans, corn and sugar cane specifically for the purpose of converting them into energy that can be utilized by the community they live in.

“It will be a dynamic experience that exposes children to renewable energy and how they might be a part of it,” said Jacob Dedecker, Stem Program Leader for MSU Extension. “We provide youth with examples of what careers look like now and what they may be like in the future.”

There will also be a Teen Challenge component of the camp announced in the future.  Participants will work with leading researchers and industry leaders to find solutions to renewable energy problems and make their own experiments.

While creating awareness for the work that Michigan State University and local industries do within the different facets of renewable energy technology, the camp organizers seek to highlight successes and initial endeavors in the field for students interested in pursuing a career in the field.

The application for the camp is available online here. The cost of the camp is $190 for 4-H members and $200 for non-members. The fee includes meals, lodging and camp materials. 

Source: Jacob Dedecker, MSU Extension
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor

Anthony Hall is Better Buildings Challenge Showcase Project

Michigan State University’s Anthony Hall will be the first to receive energy efficient upgrades as the Showcase Project for the Better Building Challenge.

The Better Building Challenge is a national leadership initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy that partners with public and private entities to improve the energy consumption of their existing building portfolio.  MSU is 1 of only 18 educational partners participating in the challenge.

“MSU has always been committed to improving the quality of life of our community,” said Bill Latta, Assistant Vice President of Operations at MSU. “We take the power of research and the power of education and apply it to real world problems in an effort to improve the lives of everyday people.”

MSU was matched with energy efficiency technology professionals to help them build an energy model that would help them determine which location would be best served by an improvement. The energy transition plans they develop to reduce green house gas emission and increase renewable energy will be available for other campuses to utilize. The improvements to Anthony Hall will likely save 34% in energy costs annually.  

“These improvements will lead to more jobs for contractors in the Greater Lansing area as well as an opportunity for new technologies to be developed right here.” stated Latta.

Source: Bill Latta, Michigan State University
Writer: Tashmica Torok, Innovation News Editor
 

Adopt A Spot labor of love keeps Downtown clean

With more than 155 flower gardens and 55 rain gardens within the downtown district, keeping all the debris and trash at bay could be a daunting task for any person. However, thanks to the countless volunteers who make up the 65 groups who annually adopt these gardens, downtown Lansing is a more beautiful place to be.
 
The seasonal Adopt a Spot Program runs annually from May-November. As one of the largest urban rain garden projects in the country, the program relies on the time and talent of volunteers to keep these areas clean and in shape. During the course of just a couple months, the program’s 65 adopting groups have logged over 170 hours removing over 3,400 gallons of debris, weeds and trash from entering the Grand River and city infrastructure system.
 
"The Adopt A Spot program began in in 2009 with a 45% percent adoption rate, which has grown to 73% at the end of the season in 2012. We are really pleased that the program is on pace to exceed last year’s adoption rate due to the continued increase of community volunteers," says Mindy Biladeau, Downtown Lansing, Inc. Executive Director.
 
A seasonal Adopt-A-Spot Coordinator oversees all of the volunteer groups. The coordinator’s tasks include recruiting volunteer groups to pick up litter, pulling weeds, and basic maintenance, along with many other tasks to keep downtown Lansing looking clean and green throughout the year.
 
"Adopt-A-Spot volunteers take great pride and ownership in their gardens, and we appreciate their personal contributions to maintaining these public spaces," adds Biladeau.
 
Source: Cathleen Edgerly, Downtown Lansing, Inc.
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
 
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

MSU kicks off a first-of-a-kind science celebration

The MSU Science Festival is hosting more than 150 diverse scientific offerings in a ten-day festival on campus. With something for everyone, the festival celebrates the science that touches every day lives. Subjects span the science spectrum, from astronomy to human behavior to robotics to zoology.
 
"We see science as opening doors to the future," says Festival Coordinator, Renee Leone. Organizers hope that by making the festival free, that those doors are made accessible to everyone.
 
Events, held April 12 through 21, are presented by members of the MSU scientific community, as well as a number of science and technology community participants. Community participants include organizations like Fenner Nature Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing, Lansing Makers Network, and Impression 5.
 
"Research shows that attendees haven't had a substantive exchange with a science professional," explains Leone. "We'd love to help encourage an interest in science and provide a new experience for young people and lifelong learners alike."
 
A detailed schedule can be found at: http://sciencefestival.msu.edu/schedule
 
Source: Renee Leone, MSU Science Festival
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News
 
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association improves air quality through EPA grant

Through a pioneering Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strategy focusing on the nation’s often-unseen sources of pollution (such as heavy construction, locomotive and marine engines) Okemos-based Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) collaborated with the state’s largest construction contractors to accomplish this goal.
 
"Were interested in the economic engine of Michigan," says Vice President of Membership Services, Rob Coppersmith. "What’s good for Michigan is good for contractors, so we’re always looking for opportunities to keep them going."
 
The EPA Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative targets large, off-road diesel engines using old technology to power high-performing, heavy construction equipment. Targeting engines causing the most pollution offers the greatest impact in managing air quality in the state. The older, less efficient engines are replaced with new, clean burning components that meet more stringent emission standards.
 
Of this $1.26 million grant, Coppersmith says: "People who normally would have been laid off and businesses that would have been forced to close due to outdated equipment were spared by this grant. It’s a real win-win for Michigan’s economy and environment."

Source: Rob Coppersmith, MITA
Writer: Veronica Gracia-Wing, Innovation News.
 
Have an innovation news story? Send Veronica an email here.

PM Environmental grows nationally and locally with five new Lansing jobs

The last 20 years have been good to Lansing-based PM Environmental. The environmental consultant firm now operates in 14 locations throughout the country, boasts a nationwide staff of 90, and continues to grow at a rate of 10 to 15 percent each year. This year is no different.
 
“All of our offices are growing,” says owner/founder and CEO at PM Environmental, Mike Kulka. “We’ve just had a consistent strategy to have smart, organic growth. We get good quality people."
 
Those people, Kulka says, are the company’s greatest asset. In Lansing, the PM Environmental staff has grown to 35, five of whom have been added in the last year.
 
“It’s a good stable workforce,” Kulka says of his firm’s home of Lansing. “There is a lot of good talent. [Co-founder] Pete Bosanic and I met at Michigan State, so we love hiring MSU grads.” 
 
PM Environmental works with both private and municipal entities to assist with environmental due diligence. Kulka expects the company’s growth to continue with the possibility of adding offices in Cinncinnati and Texas in the next two to three years. 
 
“We’re happy being headquartered in Lansing and hope to keep growing our business there,” Kulka says.
 

East Lansing couple creates Green Kitchenware store

Amy Bibbings was just looking for a way to dispose of her old, non-stick cookware in an environmentally friendly way. Not only was she unble to find a good resource for disposal, she couldn’t find a good source for information on how to replace it with a more sustainable kind of cookware. So she and her husband made one. 
 
“Right now it’s a place where you can buy new stuff. We’re trying to find responsible vendors who have some commitment to the environment,” says Jason Bibbings of the couple’s new online store, Green Kitchenware. “One of our expansion plans is to create a program where, if they purchase from us, we’ll handle the disposal of their current cookware.”
 
Green Kitchenware launched last week and currently employs Amy and Jason Bibbings. Their future plans include expanding into new area in environmental sustainability and create their own line of green cookware. 
 
“We’re trying to keep Michigan beautiful by eliminating some of the waste and garbage,” says Bibbings. “We have to preserve our environment because nobody is going to do it for us.” 
 
 

Inspired Green adds more than 100 jobs, looks to grow even more

If anyone were to wonder how the green energy industry is going in Michigan, one would only have to look at Grand Ledge’s Inspired Green to see an example of the sector’s growth.
 
“In April [of 2011] we probably had about 45 to 50 employees,” says Inspired Green Vice President Jay Messner. “We ended the year at about 170. We are back in a push now, and we we need to add about 50 more positions in the next two months.”
 
That is some growth. Though Inspired Green has operations throughout the state, Messner says about 75 percent of their current jobs are in the Lansing area. The growth, he says, has to do with both demand and quality.
 
“We continue to be probably the leader in the county in delivering both utility energy efficiency program goals and in-home performance retrofits,” Messner says. “We are in high demand in the utility program front. Because of the relationships we build to help our customers, we’re very proficient at having those customers refer others to us.”
 
Inspired Green currently serves the markets of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Monroe, Coldwater, Allegan and Flint, and have opened offices in Chicago and Cincinnati.
 
“Our growth is based on our radical commitment to our mission and core principles,” says Messner, “which are driven by the golden rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Everything we offer legitimately benefits customers.” 

MSU Bikes merges with MSU Surplus/Recycling to improve repair and resale services

Michigan State University estimates that around 20,000 bicycles call their campus home, and thanks to a reorganization of MSU Bikes and MSU Surplus/Recycling, the way some of those used bikes are recycled and resold on campus is about to become a lot more streamlined. 

The bicycle shop MSU Bikes is now part of MSU Surplus/Recycling.

“Going back to the beginnings of the MSU Bikes Service Center,” says MSU Bikes Service Center manager Tim Potter, “Surplus was considered as a possible home, but it was decided that it would go under the Physical Plant/Transportation Services. Over the years it’s become apparent that it doesn’t make a whole lot so sense to sell bikes out of two different places.”

Prior to the move, impounded and donated bikes were sold at both locations, but MSU Bikes repaired and refurbished the bikes and surplus/recycling sold them as is. Eventually a second bike shop will be opened at the Surplus Store/Recycling Center on the south side of campus, which will make purchases and repairs easier, not only for university students and facility, but also for the general public. 

“Surplus has had pretty limited hours to the public,” says Potter. “But there is good parking down there, so the general public can get here easily. So we’re working on a few things there.”
 
Potter hopes students, faculty and the general public find that the reorganization gives them access to more bikes at better quality, and with fewer headaches.
 

Okemos environmental firm adds two jobs, expands office

Lots of changes have been happening at the Okemos Cardno Entrix office on Okemos Road. The environmental consulting company is affiliated with a growing number of offices nationwide, and growth to the entire network has created new positions and an expansion for the local office. 
 
“The office in East Lansing is working on a number of different things,” says John E. Phillips, 
of Cardno Entrix. “One is a support group for the BP oil spill. We also provide scientific support in Marshall, Michigan for the spill that occurred there. What they mainly do is evaluation of environmental impact and quality assurance.”
 
Two positions have been added at Cadno Entrix this year. The office now employs 11 workers, including Ph.D. and Masters level scientists. The team also works with other large clients, such as Cliffs Mining in the Upper Peninsula.
 
“The office is growing because of some of that work for larger firms,” says Phillips. “We are always looking for resources that will benefit our work.”
 
As the team has grown, so has the office. In January the Cardno Entix office underwent a renovation project that added an additional 970 square feet to the office, expanding it to a total of nearly 5,000 square feet. 
 

Old Town and Mid-MEAC to host Scrappy Bike Rack event with $10K grant

Two area non-profits dedicated to making life in Lansing even better have joined forces on a project to make the city more beautiful, bike-friendly, and for one very exciting weekend, even more fun. The Old Town Commercial Association’s popular Scrapfest will have a new twist this year with a display of nine new bike racks made by teams of area artists from scrap metal that will then be installed around the city.
 
“The teams did submit their drawings in advance, so we have some that I think will be a really fun,” says OTCA Executive Director Louise Gradwohl.
 
OTCA and the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council received a $10,000 “Sense of Place in the Arts” grant from the Lansing Economic Development Corporation and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing for the event that’s being called the “Scrappy Bike Rack Project.” The goal of the project is to promote public art, scrap metal recycling, bicycling and placemaking. Participants include metal artists, as well as art and welding students at Lansing Community College.
 
“Julie Powers [of Mid-MEAC] came across the grant over a year ago,” says Gradwohl. “We decided at the end of December to launch it during Scrapfest when we already had metal arts on display.” 
 
The artistic bike racks will be completed by Friday, June 22, when they will be judged to determine if the bike racks are in compliance with the Scrappy Bike Rack Project’s rules and regulations. Racks that meet all requirements will be installed at Potter Park Zoo, Impression 5 Science Center, Lansing City Market and Old Town.
 

Jackson reaches green delivery goal, donates $100,000 to plant trees

Earth Day was especially for Jackson National Life this year as the Lansing-based insurance company celebrates the fulfillment of a $100,000 donation to American Forests and its commitment to plant 100,000 trees across the country. Jackson partnered with American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program after reaching its goal of a 30 percent consent rate for policyholders and representatives to receive their company correspondence from Jackson electronically.
 
According to Jackson’s Courtney Sipperley, American Forests was not only a good partner for Jackson because of their environmental mission, but because the insurance company was assured every bit of their donation would be making a difference. 
 
“We were impressed with their metrics,” Sipperley says. “We knew that for every dollar we gave to them, one tree would be planted. They are a well-rounded and consistent organization.”
 
Jackson’s commitment to making a positive environmental impact goes back several years, beginning with several internal programs to help reduce waste. 
 
“We started a pretty robust recycling program in Lansing,” says Sipperley. “Also, we started giving employees a discount for using reusable utensils in the dining room. It kind of started as something we should do because, why not? Internally, it ended up saving us a lot of resources and a lot of money.”
 
Since 2009, Jackson’s Green Delivery efforts have saved the company millions of dollars and decreased its paper and postage consumption. American Forests will use Jackson’s donation to plan 100,000 trees across the United States with a focus on both areas of need and the cities where Jackson offices are located, like Lansing. 
 
174 Environment Articles | Page: | Show All
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