Our programs focus on addressing the environmental sources of human health concerns. Therefore, the research we support investigates the most basic and important natural resources we have: the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soils which provide the food we eat. Going to the source and preventing the problem from occurring, rather than only treating its symptoms, will yield far greater dividends for society and the planet as a whole. Environmental impacts on water and food security, coupled with events related to climate change, are likely to influence population movements and exacerbate disease, adversely affecting human health.
Improving agricultural management practices to improve soil health, reduce nutrient runoff into area waterways, conserve water, and increase crop yields and quality. We collaborate with industry, research centers, agencies and environmental organizations to advance multidisciplinary and whole system management practices for the agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters.
Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters
Soil and water research and policy leaders, headed by The Ohio State University with support from Greenleaf Advisors, LLC, and the University of Arkansas launched a workshop and symposium series dedicated to the development of multidisciplinary and whole system management practices for the agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters. A collaborative multi-year effort, the series has been organized around the development of data-driven, case studies highlighting conservation practices to reduce nutrient exports to water resources, improve soil quality, and increase yields.
Gypsum as a Best Management Practice
Nutrient runoff from agricultural fields impacts the integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and the quality of water resources across the country.
Research results in the Maumee Basin of Ohio (led by The Ohio State University) and the Walnut Creek watershed in Indiana (led by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) demonstrate how gypsum helps sediment and nutrients stay on the land and out of the water.
Perennial Biomass to Reduce Nitrates
Agricultural production in the Midwest has been associated with nutrient resource losses through water, causing eutrophication in Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, local impairment of drinking water sources, and Gulf Hypoxia.
Greenleaf provided communications, development, and outreach for Argonne National Laboratory on its agricultural research in Illinois where they study the growth of native grasses in otherwise unproductive farmland to produce bioenergy crops, thereby reducing nutrient pollutant flows into streams and sequestering greenhouse gases in soils.
We focus on projects that protect water quality and quantity both in the urban and rural/agricultural landscapes by influencing water management and water conservation practices. In addition to addressing water quality and conservation through land management, we also work with innovative technology companies, industry and research centers, with a special interest in the water-energy nexus.
Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters and Healthy Foods
In its sixth year, this symposium series led by Greenleaf with partners convenes industry, research, and policy leadership working toward an integrated, whole-systems approach to sustainable agriculture. Healthy soils yield nutritious crops while avoiding excess nutrient discharges that pollute area waterways, contributing to toxic algal blooms. For 2019, Greenleaf is working with the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois on two related symposia: the first is their Emerging Contaminants Conference in the spring; the second a Healthy Soils, Waters, and Foods symposium in the fall.
Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Greenleaf co-hosted a roundtable of water experts to guide the establishment of a new economic research initiative by Resources for the Future, a Washington, DC based independent institution. The deliberations on urban infrastructure needs focused on the availability of safe, affordable water, and the mitigation of flood risks through improved stormwater management. Issues of governance, fragmentation, equity, and affordability were explored. Greenleaf brings water leadership and partners to this initiative and works with those partners to frame program priorities for RFF’s investigation.
Securing Water Supplies through Market-based Solutions
Water supplies are threatened in many places, especially in the agricultural west. Brian Richter, Founder of Sustainable Waters and Greenleaf board member, is accessing water trading markets to serve the water needs of western agriculture, cities and conservation, informing capital investments into more efficient water management practices on agricultural lands. Brian delivered keynote addresses at both the HSHW conference (at the National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting) in 2016 and the fall 2018 Wealth Management conference at DePaul University where impact investors discussed sustainable resource investment opportunities that included water resource solutions.
Other Water Projects
- Conservation of Ontario’s Lake Superior coast by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect unique land and water resources and the life they support.
- Agricultural demonstration projects in multiple Midwestern states illustrate how best practices including gypsum application can reduce nutrient runoff into area waterways by an average of 50%.
- Advancement of Argonne National Laboratory’s soil and water project in Illinois demonstrating how growing perennial native grasses in unproductive sections of farmland can turn profits by yielding crops for bioenergy while reducing pollutants to our waterways and atmosphere.
Addressing Climate Change and Urban Stresses with Sustainable Urban Infrastructure
Greenleaf supports the University of Illinois’ new Center on Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability, led by Dr. Don Wuebbles, a Greenleaf board member. The university-wide initiative will help cities address urban stresses with solutions informed by its leading research and its network of partners. Since its inception in late 2017, Greenleaf has met with and advised the Center on strategy, partnerships, and development efforts and continue doing so to establish program work.
Protecting People from Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Our work with investigators on the links between environmental toxins and human health is guided by Dr. Janet Hock, Greenleaf board member and past lead of the Maine Institute of Health. While the connection between soils and nutrient delivery to crops is of special interest, so are concerns over chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Greenleaf board member Dr. Sabina Shaikh is co-leading research into endocrine disrupting chemicals and their association with diabetes. And we are working with researchers who are investigating the association of neurodegenerative diseases with cyanobacteria from algal blooms, such as in Lake Erie. Their work is representative of what Greenleaf will bring to its Healthy Soils network of policy and practitioner leaders as we work to mitigate the unintended harmful causes of prevalent human illness associated with environmental exposures.