Environment

BG Council urged to adopt plastic bag fee while it still can

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The City of Bowling Green may consider enacting a plastic shopping bag fee before the state takes away the city’s right to adopt such a fee. Joe DeMare, co-chair of the Wood County Green Party, approached City Council Monday evening, urging the body to act quickly to impose a fee on items such as styrofoam containers and plastic bags. The Ohio House recently passed a bill, that is now under consideration in the Senate, that would prohibit municipalities from imposing a fee on such items, DeMare said. “Around the country, small fees of a few cents per bag have been effective both at raising revenue and reducing the amount of plastic pollution,” DeMare said. “Studies have shown that being charged as little as a nickel per bag is enough to remind people to bring their own, reusable bags to the store.” But the state legislation could prevent that from happening, he said. So DeMare suggested that Bowling Green council members enact a fee before the state acts to prohibit them. According to DeMare, this bill is the latest in a series of anti-environmental bills being passed by the state legislature. Among them is an “unreasonable setback law” which outlawed many wind farms in Ohio, he said. The setback law would not have allowed Bowling Green’s wind turbines, which are currently producing electricity at half the market rate, DeMare said. “Bowling Green showed great foresight when it installed those turbines,” he said. “We are asking the council to show foresight again.” DeMare suggested the city establish a plastic bag fee quickly, before the state law goes into effect. “We might be able to argue in court that it could be grandfathered in, since it was in place before the law went into effect, just as we have not been forced to take down our turbines,” he said. “At the very least, it could give our community standing in a court challenge against a law which violates the principle of home rule, hurts the environment and blocks us from a potential source of revenue,” DeMare said. Council member Bruce Jeffers said some groceries are planning to stop using plastic bags in a few years. “I understand one of the local retailers is going to be phasing out plastic bags,” Jeffers said. But that wasn’t soon enough for council member John Zanfardino, who met with…

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BG Rides wants to kick efforts into a higher gear

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Biking has many benefits. The rider gets exercise, and maybe sheds some pounds. Bike riding can help reduce the use of cars, and the resulting emissions. And for some folks it’s how they get where they need to go. For those people even the cost of an inexpensive bike can be a barrier. For a couple years, an informal group of bike enthusiasts has been gathering unwanted bicycles, rehabilitating them, and then giving or selling them for a minimal price. Now Kelly Wicks, one of the organizers of BG Rides, wants to step up the effort. They are meeting Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m., in Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St. Anyone interested can contact Wicks at: kelly@groundsforthought.com BG Rides, Wicks said, started as an offshoot of the Community Rides in summer, 2016. He participated in the rides and from that sprouted the idea to connect unwanted bikes with bike riders. “We’re looking for help to see if there are other people  in the community interested in helping to take the group from its more informal nature to something more structured,” Wicks said. “In talking to  people in the community from various non-profits and international students, there’s a great need for bikes. For some people it’s an important form of transportation.” In its three summers of existence, BG Rides has distributed about 200 bikes, he said. The group would like more and wants to enlist more help to pursue that mission. “We fix those bikes up and either give them away or sell them for the cost of that it took to get them road ready.” Though it has been a low-key effort, Wicks said that Grounds for Thought gets multiple calls a month from people inquiring about finding a bike. “We need bikes,” he said. “We’re asking for bike donations.” Maybe landlords have abandoned bikes that can be refurbished rather than put out on the scrap heap. Even bicycles that can’t be repaired can be used for spare parts. Bicycling, Wicks said, is the second most common form of transportation after walking. “How many students have we seen come over from China or Europe and get here and not have any avenue to get around?” He added: “When you ride your bike a little bit, you become of aware of benefits.” Maybe it’s just “getting out and seeing your neighborhood,” he…


Explorer-scientist to discuss the future of the world’s oceans at BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Dr. Sylvia Earle is known as a trailblazer for the world’s oceans. She also is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who will come to Bowling Green State University for two days to explore the value of our waters with the public, students and faculty. As this year’s McMaster Visiting Scientist, she will present “The World Is Blue” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 in 202A Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Her presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will immediately follow her talk. Earle’s reputation as an ecologist and conservator of marine ecosystems aligns with BGSU’s expansive involvement in the research and work being done on water quality locally, nationally and internationally. The lecture this year is focused on the importance of taking care of our water systems. Based on her book “The World Is Blue,” Earle will discuss how our fate and the oceans’ are one. She will share stories that put the current and future peril of the ocean and the life it supports in perspective for a public audience. Earle is founder of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (S.E.A.) / Mission Blue and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc. (DOER). She is chair of the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute and former chief scientist of NOAA. The author of more than 200 publications and leader of more than 100 expeditions with over 7,000 hours underwater, Earle is a graduate of Florida State University with M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University and 27 honorary doctorates. Her research concerns the ecology and conservation of marine ecosystems and development of technology for access to the deep sea. She is the subject of the Emmy® Award-winning Netflix documentary “Mission Blue,” and the recipient of more than 100 national and international honors and awards, including being named Time magazine’s first Hero for the Planet, a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, 2014 UNEP Champion of the Earth, Glamour magazine’s 2014 Woman of the Year, a member of the Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, and winner of the 2009 TED Prize, the Walter Cronkite Award, the 1996 Explorers Club Medal, the Royal Geographic Society 2011 Patron’s Medal, and the National Geographic 2013 Hubbard Medal. The McMaster Visiting Scientist program is underwritten by an endowment funded by Helen and the late Harold McMaster. The longtime BGSU benefactors, from Perrysburg established the interdisciplinary program to bring eminent scholars or practitioners from the fields of chemistry, biology, geology, physics or astronomy…


West Nile virus outbreaks hard to predict, BGSU biologist cautions

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS West Nile virus already claimed its first Ohio victim of the season in July. More fatalities could follow — or not, according to Dr. Dan Pavuk, an insect biologist and lecturer in biological sciences at Bowling Green State University. “It will be interesting to see what happens with human cases this year because even though we have all of those mosquitoes out there carrying West Nile virus, we may not see a huge outbreak in humans,” Pavuk said. “It’s hard to predict that. It’s a very complicated situation with the mosquitoes, where humans are and how mosquitoes, bird reservoir hosts, and humans interact with each other. There’s a correlation, but there are a lot of epidemiological factors that come into play. People over the age of 50 are the most susceptible.” There have been five humans infected with West Nile virus this year, including Clyde Warth, 81, who died July 29 in Ross County, southern Ohio, of health complications caused by the virus. So far, 52 of Ohio’s 88 counties have West Nile-positive mosquitoes, “so that’s a large proportion of the state that’s had positive mosquitoes and that’s a concern,” Pavuk said. Pavuk and three BGSU undergraduate researchers have submitted more than 10,000 mosquitoes to the Ohio Department of Health so far this summer, and 22 batches of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus. That total exceeded Wood County’s number of positive cases last year, and is occurring earlier in the season than last year, Pavuk said. “Many counties around northwest Ohio probably also have many more mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus, but they just don’t have the funds to trap as much as we do in Wood County,” he said. BGSU’s work is funded by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency through the Ohio Department of Health and the Wood County Health District. “In terms of the timing of? mosquito infection by West Nile virus, we are way ahead of last year, which is always a concern,” Pavuk said. Typically, August through early October is when most human cases of West Nile virus occur. Last year in Wood County, West Nile virus didn’t show up in mosquitoes “probably until mid to late August,” Pavuk said. “This summer, we had positive tests in the third week of June at one location, and positive tests have been increasing steadily in Wood County and also through…


Solar engineer shines light on climate change solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Growing up as a Boy Scout, Bob Clark-Phelps believed in the camping mantra, “Leave no trace.” As an engineer with First Solar, Clark-Phelps knows it is no longer possible for humans to leave the earth unscarred for future generations. But he’s not yet given up on leaving behind the best planet possible. Clark-Phelps, who had been with First Solar for six years, spoke about climate change on Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. A large majority of Americans believe that climate change is occurring and should be met with policies, he said. However, the people able to make those policies don’t seem to have the stomach to do so. And debates on the topic are increasingly polarized. “All we’re missing is the political will to get it done,” he said. “It’s not going to go away on its own.” Clark-Phelps referred to a Yale Climate Study, which gauged the public’s views on global warming. More than two-thirds of those studied said climate change is happening, with 54 percent saying it is caused by humans. Meanwhile, 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring. “There’s almost unanimity,” he said. But less than half of the people surveyed know that the vast majority of scientists back the climate change theory. That may be because journalists are trained to present all sides of controversial issues. So in an attempt to present balanced reporting, it may appear that both sides of the climate change issue are well supported by scientists. But that simply isn’t true, Clark-Phelps said. Even with climate deniers getting news time, nearly three-quarters of Americans studied agreed that the U.S. should regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. “Why is there continuing division and policy paralysis,” Clark-Phelps asked. The evidence can be seen and felt all around the world, he said. The increasing number of forest fires out west are worsened by higher temperatures, less snow, drought conditions – all of which lengthen the fire season. “Climate change is a massive risk multiplier,” Clark-Phelps said. Some researchers predict forest fires in the western U.S. will increase by six times by the year 2050. In Florida, pumping water back into the ocean is becoming commonplace as the state loses its coastline. “Florida is a place where it floods on sunny days now,” he said. In Alaska, the glaciers are disappearing…


Kroger announces it will phase out plastic bags by 2025

From THE KROGER COMPANY The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) announced today it will phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its Family of Stores by 2025. Seattle-based QFC will be the company’s first retail division to phase out single-use plastic bags. The company expects QFC’s transition to be completed in 2019. “As part of our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment, we are phasing out use-once, throw-it-away plastic bags and transitioning to reusable bags in our stores by 2025,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations.” Some estimates suggest that 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year. Currently, less than five percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America, and single-use plastic bags are the fifth-most common single-use plastic found in the environment by magnitude. Kroger will solicit customer feedback and work with NGOs and community partners to ensure a responsible transition. “We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” said Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s executive vice president and COO. “That’s why, starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact.” Kroger’s announcement follows several other Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiatives at scale, including:   Kroger’s goal to divert 90% of waste from the landfill by 2020. Of the waste diverted today, 66.15 million pounds of plastic and 2.43 billion pounds of cardboard were recycled in 2017. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Food Rescue Program sent more than 91 million pounds of safe nutritious food to local food banks and pantries in 2017. Kroger provided more than 325 million meals to families in need last year, in food and funds combined. Earlier this week, Kroger was named to Fortune magazine’s Change the World 2018 list, debuting in the sixth spot. The recognition highlights the work of 57 big companies across the world using their resources to solve societal problems. The company was recognized for its social impact plan Zero Hunger | Zero Waste. To learn more about Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative and the phaseout of single-use plastic bags, visit krogerstories.com. At The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), we are dedicated to our Purpose: to Feed the…


Bowling Green takes ‘green’ part of name seriously

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Amanda Gamby’s new job may fall short of being glamorous. It’s had her tagging garbage bins, going through recycling, and riding bike for the first time in eight years. But as Bowling Green’s first ever sustainability coordinator, Gamby doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She is a true believer in the city’s environmental sustainability – whether that involves energy production, recycling, bicycling or clean water. Gamby, who spoke Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, said the city has already made some serious strides toward sustainability. “We’re really already doing some pretty cool things,” Gamby said. “We’re just not telling about it very well.” So that is part of her job. Gamby, who previously served as the Wood County environmental educator, has expertise in public outreach and education for very young children to senior citizens, and everyone in between. And she wants them all to know that 42 percent of Bowling Green’s electricity comes from renewable sources. “That’s a pretty big chunk of the pie,” Gamby said. The city was the first in Ohio to use a wind farm to generate municipal electricity, starting in 2003. “The joke is that it’s a wind garden because it’s only four,” she said. But even though it’s just four turbines, some doubted the city’s wisdom and investment in the $8.8 million project. “Many people thought Daryl Stockburger was crazy,” Gamby said, of the city’s utilities director at the time who pushed for the wind turbines. But the turbines have been generating power ever since. The turbines are as tall as a 30-story building and generate up to 7.2 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity for approximately 2,500 residential customers. Debt on the wind turbine project was paid in full in 2015, which was several years earlier than planned, Gamby said. And now, the city is home to the largest solar field in Ohio. The 165-acre solar field consists of more than 85,000 panels and is capable of producing 20-megawatts of alternating current electricity.  In an average year, it is expected to produce an equivalent amount of energy needed to power approximately 3,000 homes.  It will also avoid approximately 25,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year since the energy is generated from a non-fossil fuel resource. The city is also talking about building a community solar field on East Gypsy Lane Road,…