MSU going green in more ways than one

Michigan State is known for its “Go Green, Go White” chant, but the university is actually going green and it’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed. 

The university offers many opportunities for students to get involved in a variety of things that contribute to sustainability, or the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. Michigan State sophomore Abigail Kuplicki started her journey at the Student Organic Farm a little over a year ago. The farm gives other students a chance to get involved, the same way that Kuplicki joined it. “The student organic farm offers an organic farmer training program that trains students to be farmers here,” she said. However, before the university can teach sustainability to meet the needs of this generation without compromising future generations, the director of sustainability’s team is on a mission to share the university’s success in a way that we can all understand. 

“We’ve done a lot but we don’t talk about it in a comprehensive way so that people can understand and can embrace it with us,” said Amy Butler.

Corn yield higher as temperatures warm

Capital News Service

LANSING – A changing climate has contributed to higher maize yields in Michigan and other Corn Belt states, a new study has found. It attributes more than one-quarter – 28 percent – of the region’s higher crop yield since 1981 to trends toward overall warmer conditions, cooling of the hottest growing-season temperatures and farmers’ climate-related earlier planting and choice of longer-maturing varieties. The climate trend accounts for 15 percent of the total yield gain, said lead author Ethan Butler of the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources. Maize is “an important food, feed and fuel crop in the Midwest that is both highly productive and strongly influenced by temperature,” according to the study. It includes corn used as grain for processed food, sweeteners and alcohol, animal feed and ethanol but not sweet corn.

State tries to boost recycling rate but critics argue it won’t be enough

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is offering up to $500,000 in grants to improve local recycling programs and boost Michigan’s recycling rate. Critics argue that this isn’t enough to pull the state up from one of the lowest recycling rates in the nation. The goal is to assist with recycling infrastructure including public space recycling, bin-to-cart transitions and public drop-off recycling locations, said Elizabeth Garver, a DEQ recycling specialist. Public space recycling is when bins are placed in public parks and city streets to encourage people to properly dispose of recyclables rather than throwing them in the trash.  

Eligible applicants include cities, villages, townships, charter townships, counties, tribal governments, municipal solid waste and resource recovery authorities, school districts, health departments, colleges or universities, and regional planning agencies.

MSU junior creates clothing to reduce waste

Does a garment have to be just a garment or a platform for multiple garments? For Timosha Krivtsov, a junior in the department of Apparel and Textile Design, the answer is the latter. After discovering that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, Krivtsov embarked on a journey to create a new recipe for clothing, one that would reduce fabric waste and harm the environment less. He found that a lot of the same silhouettes are used recurrently. “For instance, a hoodie and a crew-neck are essentially the same thing, but a crew-neck just doesn’t have a kangaroo pocket and a hood,” he said.

Remove Line 5 or put it in a tunnel? Michiganders divided 46 to 35 percent

Capital News Service

LANSING —  Michiganders said the health of the environment is more important than economic gain, a recent poll revealed

The Healthy People-Healthy Planet Poll surveyed 1,000 Michigan residents about issues Two-thirds — 67 percent — rated environmental protection as more important than economic gain. “There are a lot of environmental issues in the state,” said Daniel Bergan, the study’s lead author. “Michigan voters are in tune to environmental issues. They see the natural beauty of the state, which inclines people to protect the coastline and the Great Lakes.”

The poll was conducted by the Health and Risk Communication Center at Michigan State University. It sought to identify Michigan residents’ attitudes towards climate change to explore how the subject and its risks can be better communicated.

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan State University is initiating a sweet friendship between military veterans and honeybees. Heroes to Hives teaches veterans beekeeping skills as a path to personal and financial wellness. Adam Ingrao, an Army veteran who is an agricultural entomologist educator and veteran’s liaison for MSU, started the program in 2015 to merge his passions of working with veterans and beekeeping. Ingrao has been involved in agriculture since he was 14 and manages bees on his Lansing community garden plot, Bee Wise Farms.

He sees the MSU course as a transformative opportunity for veterans. “It is a healing practice,” Ingrao said.

Harris Nature Center puts focus on educating the community

The sound of leaves crunching under your feet, the Red Cedar River flowing right beside you and birds chirping: The sounds and sights of nature are an experience, the Harris Nature Center staff is hoping all visitors can have. “Basically the biggest thing is, that we like people to understand that a nature center is not just the building it’s like the entire park is the nature center that’s where you’re going to have your experience,” said Kit Rich, coordinator of the nature center.  “We want you to come into the building say hello and see what we have in here, but then get outside, kind of create your own experiences.”

The center is tucked away in the woods lining Van Atta Road and is just off the bank of the Red Cedar. First opening its doors in 1997, the center has proclaimed itself as a place for recreation and education. “The nature center means a lot to us,” said Liza Potts, an associate professor at Michigan State who frequents the park.

Infrared cameras will track PFAS contamination from Wurtsmith

Capital News Service

LANSING — A wireless all-weather infrared camera system will be placed around Van Etten Lake in Oscoda Township to detect PFAS discharge from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. It’s the latest addition in a high tech monitoring of the contaminant that has already included the use of drones. State officials expect to increasingly use such technology in pollution investigations. PFAS compounds — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging and many other consumer products. Research conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that PFAS leads to an increased risk of cancer and learning defects among children.

Phragmites: friend or foe?

Capital New Service

LANSING — When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. That’s the outlook First Nations people of Walpole Island in Canada are taking on phragmites australis, an invasive plant that crowds out native ones in wetlands in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes. The plant has been the subject of intensive eradication efforts. But rather than fighting it, elders within the community suggested a new approach, said Clint Jacobs, the natural heritage coordinator for Walpole Island in Ontario. They think the plant is here to teach us something, Jacobs said.

Photon farms don’t qualify for land preservation tax credit

Capital News Service

LANSING — Farming and land preservation tax breaks for solar energy don’t mix, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Michigan farmers who lease land for solar farming are no longer eligible for tax credits under the state’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program. The state started the program in 1975 to preserve farmland. Farmers must sign a minimum 10-year contract agreeing that the land will be used only for farming. In return, they receive income tax benefits and exemptions from certain assessments, said Richard Harlow, program manager.