Featured Articles and Best Practice Blog

You Skipped the Meat, Now Skip the Milk

By Andrea Little, Marketing Intern

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Meatless Monday campaign. This Monday, I'm challenging you to take Meatless Mondays once step further - skip the dairy, too.

As of 2000, there were 90,000 dairy farms in the US. The environmental impact of dairy farming is as real and considerable as other areas of agriculture:

  • Pollution and emissions from farm equipment, the energy consumed by machines used to pasteurize and milk cows, and the fuel consumed by vehicles used for transportation
      • 80% of agricultural greenhouse gasses comes from the processing and transportation of food
      • The Wall Street Journal found the carbon footprint of 1 gallon on milk to be between 6.19 and 7.59 pounds of CO2, depending on how it was transported
  • Antibiotics and hormones used on livestock
  • Soil and water contamination
      • Agriculture is the most common pollutant of rivers and streams, according to the EPA.
  • Production of ammonia, nitrous oxide, methane, pathogens, and fine particulates, all of which are harmful to humans and the environment
      • Methane comes from rumination by cows and the breakdown of manure, while nitrous oxide comes from manure and fertilizer
      • 21% of methane comes from ruminants. This is extremely significant, especially when you compare this to 24% from landfills, and 26% from gas and petroleum systems
      • Methane is 21 times more potent than C02 at trapping heat

There have been important advances in farming as organic and sustainable styles become more common (as opposed to intensive farming methods). Many farmers are making the transition to more environmentally friendly pieces of farming equipment. And many consumers, maybe yourself included, have hopped on the local foods movement, which cuts down food's carbon footprint by reducing how far it is has been transported from farm to store (check out www.sustainabledairyfarming.com for more information on these developments).

Although some farms are becoming greener and more humane, they still leave a considerable carbon footprint on our world. Today, consider eating a dairy alternative, like Tofutti cream cheese (made with tofu), soy milk, ice cream made from rice milk, or cheese made from soy and sesame. Visit Meatless Monday's dairy-free recipe section if you're looking for meal ideas!

Aqua Regia: Overview, Chemical Inventory & More

By Matt Bedford, Chemist

Every now and then I come across a chemical that gets my attention. Normally the chemical is in a researcher's satellite accumulation area and the researcher is enquiring into the best way to get rid of the chemical waste. Recently this scenario brought me into contact with (not literally, I was wearing nitrile gloves) Aqua Regia, a mixture of concentrated nitric and hydrochloric acids. Like all good field chemists who want to know more about a chemical I utilized my number one resource...Wikipedia, and found out an astonishing array of facts about this acidic mixture.

Aqua Regia, clear when freshly mixed but quick to turn yellow, is highly acidic and is also a strong oxidizer. In the laboratory setting it can be used to clean glassware, such as NMR tubes, of organic compounds.

From a safety point of view the storage of Aqua Regia is not recommended. After mixing, the solution rapidly decomposes, liberating nitrosyl chloride, nitric oxide and chlorine. This causes a loss of potency, but if the liquid is stored in a closed container the resulting buildup of gas can cause the bottle to explode. If it is unavoidable to store Aqua Regia it should be kept in a fume hood, away from flammables and in a container that allows it to off-gas.

One of the more interesting facts about Aqua Regia is that it is capable of dissolving gold. I found this interesting, as by themselves neither nitric nor hydrochloric acid are able to do this, but together they each perform a different task to form the gold solution chloroauric acid. This property was put to good use during World War II. As Germany invaded Denmark, scientist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prize medals of Max von Laue and James Franck to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. The jar containing the gold / acid solution was placed on a shelf and consequently ignored by the Nazis thinking it was just another chemical. After the war the gold was reclaimed and sent to the Nobel Foundation to be re-cast and presented again to Laue and Frank.

So the next time you come across a new chemical, and have a couple of minutes to spare, dig around a little, there might just be an interesting back story to it.

From Deep Fried to Bio Diesel Wise: An Environmental Blog

By Greg Rosinski, Environmental Specialist

An adage people use often is "If it is free it is for me". This phrase carries weight when looking for areas of recycling chemicals. Taking time to count the number of work places that have used vegetable oil would take more time than sitting through the World Champions Chess Tournament. One of the easiest ways to decrease spending on disposal, and the environmental impact a company has with vegetable oil is by finding a Biodiesel company to dispose of the used vegetable oil.

In relation to vegetable oil, bio-diesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from recycling it. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a Biodiesel blend. The National Biodiesel Board released the below figures showing the estimated increase of Biodiesel in the USA:

2004 -- 25 million gallons
2003 -- 20 million gallons
2002 -- 15 million gallons
2001 -- 5 million gallons
2000 -- 2 million gallons
1999 -- 500,000 gallons

Most Biodiesel companies offer free disposal of vegetable oil. There are more advantages than disadvantages with this process. The generator of the oil will reduce of eliminate the cost of disposing the vegetable, the Biodiesel company utilizes the used oil to make a sellable product, and the best advantage is both the generator and the Biodiesel company help to reduce the overall environmental emissions impact. Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The use of Biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel. In addition, the exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates (major components of acid rain) from Biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to diesel.

The US Department of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture researched the carbon emissions of Biodiesel versus regular petroleum diesel, and found the Biodiesel reduces the net Carbon Dioxide emissions by 78 percent in contrast to regular petroleum diesel. The simple reason is that Biodiesel emissions utilize a closed carbon cycle not found in conventional diesel. The end result is that Biodiesel emissions are recycled by plants which will eventually result in fuel. Whereby conventional diesel does not utilize a closed carbon cycle, and will result in less plants being able to grow.

Biodiesel may not be for everyone; however, it is certainly a positive solution to wasted oil and companies trying to save money on disposal costs.

Subscribe by Email