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Oil Spoil

How to Properly Discard Cooking Oil

Holiday meal traditions that kick off with a Thanksgiving turkey and continue through festive meals for New Year's can produce lots of cooking oil and grease waste. Following proper disposal procedures protects both the environment and home plumbing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that vegetable oils and animal fats share common physical properties and create similar environmental effects as petroleum spills, including coating and suffocating animals and plants; polluting food supplies and habitats; fouling shorelines; and clogging water treatment plants.

Cooking oil and kitchen grease is the number one cause of stopped-up sewer pipes, according to Earth 911. Grease sticks to the lining of plumbing pipes in small particles, catching onto each other and accumulating until the growing mass can block and backup sewage lines, leading to a nasty mess and sometimes costly repairs. This potential problem can be avoided simply and easily.

*For small amounts of kitchen grease such as lard, shortening or tallow that inevitably go down the drain, flush with cold water so that it solidifies, making it less likely to stick to pipes.

*Freeze small amounts of used cooking fats, oils and grease in a container like a used coffee can with a tight-sealing lid, then place it in the trash.

*Larger and unfrozen quantities of used cooking oil may be taken to an area recycling center for proper disposal year-round. No special container is required and the liquid is emptied from the consumer's container onsite. Don't combine the contents with anything else, so it can be repurposed by vendors that collect it from the centers.

Global Briefs

Wine Worry

Glyphosate Toxin Turns Up in Wines

Monsanto's toxic Roundup herbicide glyphosate has been found in 10 of 10 California vintages tested, including organic wines. While glyphosate isn't sprayed directly onto grapes because it would kill the vines, it's often used to spray the ground in the vineyard to be absorbed via the roots.

Sometimes, glyphosate drifts from conventional vineyards into nearby organic and biodynamic vineyards. Other times, the toxin remains in the soil after a conventional farm has been converted to organic; the chemical may persist onsite for more than 20 years.

Glyphosate is patented as an antibiotic. Designed to kill bacteria, it harms both soils and human health, and has been cited as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

For glyphosate-related consumer information, search Actions at MomsAcrossAmerica.com.

Get Outside

Black Friday Alternative

This year, all REI outdoor outfitter stores will close on Black Friday and join hundreds of national and local organizations and like-minded brands to ask, "Will You Go Out with Us?" For the third year, the REI #OptOutside initiative will mobilize Americans to firmly establish a new tradition of choosing trails over sales on Black Friday, including camping under the starts instead of camping out at malls.

For more information, visit rei.com/opt-outside.

Faster Rescues

Artificial Intelligence Helps Locate People and Wildlife

Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping doctors and scientists worldwide do their jobs better. In wildlife preservation, many researchers want to know how many animals there are and where they live, but Tanya Berger-Wolf, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, states, "Scientists do not have the capacity to do this, and there are not enough GPS collars or satellite tracks in the world."

At AI-driven Wildbook.org, photos are uploaded by experts and the public and analyzed for species, age and even gender. One massive Kenyan study in 2015 prompted officials to alter their lion management program.

Also, the locations of stranded victims of floods, earthquakes or other disasters can be determined via computer programmers writing basic algorithms that examine extensive footage. The AI technology can also find debris in flooded areas that harbor trapped people. AI techniques can even monitor social media sites to find out more about missing people and disasters.

Getting Greener

Renewables Hit High Mark in UK

In a major marker of renewable growth, sources of energy that includes wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning briefly generated more electricity—50.7 percent—than coal and gas in Great Britain for the first time on June 7. When nuclear sources are added, the number increased to 72.1 percent. Records for wind power are also being set across Northern Europe.

Landfill Eulogy

Sweden Dumps its Dumps

Landfills generate environmental problems such as the greenhouse gas methane that warms the atmosphere and toxic chemicals from household cleaning products that pollute soil and groundwater. Installations are smelly, noisy and can breed disease-transmitting vermin, as well as harm wildlife. Recycling helps cut the volume of waste, but the bulk of all trash continues to fill these dumps.

Sweden produces about the same amount of waste as other European nations, but less than 1 percent of its household refuse ends up in landfills. Thirty-two waste-to-energy (WTE) plants that have been operating across the country for years incinerate more than 2 million tons of trash annually—almost 50 percent of all waste..

The country still recycles, but anything else normally ends up in the WTE incinerators, creating steam to generate electricity distributed on the grid. This system heats close to a million homes and powers more than a quarter-million, thus reducing Sweden's reliance on fossil fuels. Sweden also helps to clean up other countries in the European Union by importing their trash and burning it. Because specific products contain materials that cannot be recycled or incinerated, some landfills are still necessary.

Window Pain

Birds Die Flying Into Reflective Glass

One night earlier this year, nearly 400 birds migrating north from Central and South America slammed into the 23-story American National Insurance Company skyscraper in Galveston, Texas, and died after being trapped in a storm. Among the victims were Nashville warblers, yellow warblers and ovenbirds.

The American Bird Conservancy estimates as many as 1 billion birds die annually from colliding with glass in the U.S. as they see and therefore fly into the reflection of landscapes and the sky or inside vegetation.

The exterior of the Galveston building, previously lit by large floodlights, is now illuminated only by green lights on its top level for air travel safety considerations. Other widely available means to protect birds include products to make residential and commercial windows less attractive to them. Specially placed tape or mullions creating stripes or patterns can help birds identify glass and avoid deadly crashes. Awnings, shutters and outside screens can also reduce bird collisions with buildings.

Humpback Holler

Why Whales Leap High

Humpback whales are famous for their prodigious leaps from the water. A recent paper published in Marine Mammal Science proposes that breaching the surface and making a big splash serves as an acoustic telegram to communicate with far-off pods. The phenomenon may be compared to a distant drumbeat, which probably carries farther than the whales' signature songs.

Former University of Queensland marine biologist Ailbhe S. Kavanagh, Ph.D., and her colleagues observed 76 humpback groups off the coast of Australia for 200 hours between 2010 and 2011 and found that breaching is much more common when pods are at least 2.5 miles apart, with more local slapping of fins and flukes when fellow whales are nearby.

Pedestrian Power

Smart Street Lights Powered by Footsteps

Conventional street lights collectively emit more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. The city of Las Vegas, a leader in municipal sustainability, has contracted with EnGoPlanet, a New York City clean tech startup, to install the world's first Smart Street Lights powered by pedestrians' footsteps via kinetic energy pads and solar energy. When someone steps on a kinetic tile, energy is created and goes directly to a battery.

Petar Mirovic, CEO of EnGoPlanet, says, "Clean and free energy is all around us. Urban cities have to build the smart infrastructures of tomorrow that will be able to harvest all of that energy. This project is a small but important step in that direction."

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman says, "Through our LEED-certified buildings, solar projects, water reclamation, alternative-fueled vehicles and sustainable streetlights, Las Vegas continues to lead the way."

The company also cites Smart Street Light projects in Chicago, Detroit, Auburn Hills, Michigan, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and at stadiums such as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in New Orleans.

View an illustrative video at Tinyurl.com/SmartStreetLights.