Microgrid – Technology Development, Market Applications, and Policy

Microgrids have been a hot topic in the energy sector lately in a variety of applications both for developed and developing countries. This paper is a brief overview of microgrids, the market and opportunities, and policy and regulations followed by a few selected case studies. Please read the full paper here. Greenleaf Communities would like to thank Environmental Defense Fund for their support of this...

HSHW 2018 at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference

The fifth Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Symposium was held March 6th and 7th at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada, Ohio. Almost 900 crop consultants, producers, and subject experts were in attendance. The series is dedicated to a whole systems approach to agricultural land management. The objective is to optimize management for healthy soils, nutritious foods, clean water, and farm profits. This year we had experts speaking on building soil health, regenerative agriculture, healthy foods, precision nutrient management, and healthy waters. We thank Randall Reeder, Alan Sundermeier (Healthy Soils Healthy Environment at OSU Extension), the CTC team, moderators, and speakers. Special thanks to our sponsors, Exactrix and TKI Crop Vitality. Speakers represented an impressive range of organizations including Ohio State University, USDA-NRCS, USDA-ARS, Iowa State University, University of Washington, Ohio Farm Bureau, The Nature Conservancy, MillerCoors, Cooper Farms, University of Waterloo, Purdue University, Legacy Farms, Agren, and farmers. Barry Fisher (Region Soil Health Team Leader, USDA-NRCS) kicked off the event by highlighting the benefits of no-till and cover crops on soil and illustrated how aggregate stability is improved in a no-till system. David Montgomery (University of Washington) spoke on the importance of “Ditching the plow, Covering Up, and Growing Diversity.” David’s books include Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization, The Hidden Half of Nature, and Growing a Revolution: Bringing the Soil Back to Life. In Growing a Revolution, David consulted many innovative producers across the world who are regenerating their soils and protecting the environment while maintain profitability. David Brandt (Ohio producer) joined him onstage in describing practices he is using on his own farm in Ohio and the benefits he...

Imagine a Day without Water

Water unites all of us. Can you begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long. Greenleaf Communities and its sister organization, Greenleaf Advisors, has deep experience with water resource management projects for both environmental and social well-being. Our work with the full spectrum of stakeholders, scientists, and policymakers helps to ensure that water resources will meet the needs of a growing world and the challenges of a changing climate. The Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Initiative is dedicated to developing and expanding multidisciplinary and whole systems management practices for agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters.  Our research in Ohio and Indiana demonstrates how gypsum helps sediment and nutrients stay on the land and out of the water. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen can contribute to algal blooms much like the ones in Toledo, Ohio causing economic and social impacts through loss of recreation and a lack of drinking water for residents. Greenleaf is assisting Argonne National Laboratory in their research on perennial biomass crops and their contribution to reduced nitrogen loads. We are working with Sustainable Waters...

Composting: Rethinking Food Waste

Introduction: With the growth of the human population comes a demand for resources, an increase in consumption and consequently, waste. Greenleaf Communities understands the growing implications of waste – namely food waste. Consumer habits and food supply chain inefficiencies lead Americans to throw out the equivalent of $165 billion each year (Gunders, 2012). Considering the various inputs to food production, producing food requires 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, 50 percent of US land, and 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the U.S. (Gunders, 2012).  Not only is food waste an economic loss, it is a detriment to the environment as well. Food that ends up in landfills releases large amounts of methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas. Composting is a method that can be utilized to reduce the impacts of food waste by transforming organic waste into a useful product that can enhance soil quality and, in turn, water quality. What is Composting? Composting is the utilization of aerobic (oxygen-requiring) decomposition processes to produce organic matter, compost, that can improve soil health. The aerobic process is carried out through the activity of microorganisms naturally present in organic material. Optimal levels of oxygen, moisture, and food (e.g. decomposing food waste) create an ideal environment for microbes to thrive (USCC 2008a). These microbes break down material and release water, heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the decomposition process. The CO2 produced during this process is considered part of the natural short-term carbon cycle, and is not considered in greenhouse gas emissions computations (USCC 2008b). On the other hand, as organic waste piles up in landfills, it undergoes anaerobic...

John Andersen celebrates dedication of Trout Bay Conservation Area

On June 16 and 17, John Andersen joined Nature Conservancy of Canada and its many conservation partners from the U.S. and Canada to celebrate the dedication of Trout Bay Conservation Area on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  You can read more here about why those assembled have been working 15 years to protect these coastal lands and waters that support so many wide-ranging species and natural communities, including the Canada Lynx, grey wolf, peregrine falcon, arctic disjunct plants, and migratory birds. Read Wendy Cridland’s thoughtful piece on the importance of this area and it’s meaning to...

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters 2017 in Denver a Success!

The 2017 Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters (HSHW) Symposium took place February 1st in Denver at the National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting with a national audience learning from expert producers and researchers. The symposia series is dedicated to integrated and whole systems approaches to agricultural land management practices that protect the availability and quality of land and water resources while generating profitable crop production. At this symposium, 6 of the 25 recognized “No-Till Legends” were panelists or in attendance. This year we brought together the speakers below whose work preserves resources in the Western, Midwest, and Southern United States and as far as Australia. Brian Richter is Chief Water Scientist at The Nature Conservancy and the Founder of Sustainable Waters. As a Colorado native who has counseled governments and institutions around the world on sustainable water resource solutions, it was only natural that Brian served as the keynote speaker. Brian presented a “recipe for a sustainable water future” focused on setting sustainable limits on water extraction, reducing water consumption, quantifying rights to use available water, and enabling water trading. Brian has authored many articles and books including Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability. Brian presented on how we can save water through improving irrigation practices, changing crops, using no-till farming and other practices, and how water markets and water rights trading are being utilized to advance sustainability goals. See Brian’s slides here. Jeff Mitchell is a Cropping Systems Specialist at the University of California-Davis Extension whose research focuses on soil and water management in vegetable production systems in the Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions...

Innovation Drives Sustainable Solutions

Turn on an electronic switch, and a myriad of services flows our way – increasingly from sustainable energy sources that are being delivered to us in intelligent fashion – just ask our colleagues at Intelligent Generation or GreenCity Power who deliver clean affordable power to customers as profiled below. Turn on the freshwater tap, and a seemingly endless flow of refreshment springs forth – however its sources are increasingly stressed by over-use and pollution – just ask our colleagues participating in the Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Initiative, or EP Purification whose affordable ozone products are cleaning water in 24 countries. Below are a few highlights from 2015 wherein Greenleaf clients and partners advanced innovative solutions to the sustainable use of land, water, material and energy resources. GreenCity Power demonstrated to New York City how best to design efficient co-generation energy systems when it re-commissioned the city’s largest natural gas sourced system at One Penn Plaza.  It also raised $100 Million to deliver highly efficient systems for electricity, heating, and cooling to customers seeking improved profits and energy security which is of special interest to communities at risk of ‘Sandy’ type storms along the coastline. Aaron Walters, Managing Partner of GreenCity Power, will be presenting on cogeneration at the CleanMed Conference in Dallas this May. Intelligent Generation was issued its third patent protecting the Intellectual Property created by IG founder, Jay Marhoefer, who operates IG’s network of energy storage assets like a virtual power plant to participate in wholesale power markets, making solar profitable across the thirteen state PJM marketplace (Midwest to Mid-Atlantic). EP Purification advanced the development and market application of...

Celebrating World Soil Day today – Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Conference in Memphis

December 4, 2015 – World Soil Day Celebrating World Soil Day today – Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Conference in Memphis This week 200+ of the nation’s agricultural leaders assembled in Memphis, TN at the Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters (HSHW) symposium to advance sustainable practices and supportive policies for feeding a growing world population while protecting the fertile soils and surrounding water resources we depend upon.  The timing of our gathering was perfect given that today is World Soil Day with global events echoing our call for preservation of the planet’s envelop of productive soils that drape our globe.  You can find here the full agenda of the Nutrient Management conference that focused on the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds, which drain two thirds of the continental United States.  The day one HSHW symposium included presentations from across the business, policy, research, and environmental sectors and you can find summaries of their talks here. Days two and three saw a continuation of the HSHW themes with presentations from various regions. But allow me to highlight just a few comments, especially from the producers (farmers) who know best what it takes to manage and protect their lands. Dan DeSutter, a producer from Indiana, reminded us that ‘nature is our template’ … it is complex and we must study and mimic it in our actions as we work to effectively pump carbon back into plant roots to grow organic matter, while facilitating soil biology and increasing diversity which is a hallmark of healthy natural systems.  He reminds us there ‘is more living matter in a teaspoon of soil than people...

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters and Dennis Dimick of National Geographic

National Geographic’s executive editor for the environment, Dennis Dimick, has come aboard as a keynote speaker for the Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Monitoring Conference held in conjunction with the Healthy Soil for Healthy Waters symposium from December 1-3, 2015 in Memphis, TN. His post, “Do We Treat Our Soil Like Dirt?” stresses the importance of soil management and health, an issue central to Greenleaf Communities and Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters. Drawing attention to the vital responsibilities of soil, ranging from the growth of the food that feeds us to the quality of the water that sustains us, Dennis puts the priority of healthy soils into perspective. Simply stated, “the future rests on the soil beneath our feet.” With the Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters symposium taking place the same week as World Soils Day, it seems only fitting that Dennis Dimick, along with a consortium of researchers, conservation professionals and farmers, are coming together to discuss and evaluate best management practices for protecting and preserving Earth’s humble hero –...

Research results in Indiana show gypsum reduces soluble reactive phosphorus on agricultural lands

Poor soil conditions in Midwest agricultural lands can reduce plant uptake of nutrients leading to over-application of fertilizers and pesticides. Excess nutrients run off fields into waterways where they contribute to toxic algal blooms that threaten public health, as well as eutrophication that harms aquatic life. One best practice that improves soil conditions is the use of calcium sulfate (gypsum) as a soil amendment; it improves nutrient uptake by the plants and reduces loss from the fields into the waterways. Dr. Pierre Jacinthe of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) just completed the first year of gypsum research in the Walnut Creek Watershed in Indiana. Indianapolis Power & Light and GYPSOIL sponsored this project that Greenleaf originated and oversaw. Ron Chamberlain of GYPSOIL provided agronomic consultancy. Dr. Jacinthe’s team selected two fields near North Salem, IN and managed them with identical crop rotation, fertilizer application, and other farm practices. The researchers collected and analyzed soil and water samples. The results: gypsum application reduced soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations by an average of 41% during the growing season. SRP is the limiting factor in many regional waterbodies; this means that it is the primary contributing factor to problematic algal blooms.   In the study, gypsum application also increased electrical conductivity, microbial biomass carbon, and soil respiration. Microbial biomass carbon and soil respiration are related to soil health. The Indiana study complements a research project underway in Ohio, where Greenleaf assists Dr. Warren Dick of The Ohio State University in the Maumee River Basin.  This three-year study has reduced soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations in tile water runoff at the gypsum-treated fields by an average...