The face of green energy — “Porcupine Hills” near Burbank, WA

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Birds landing at McNary wildlife refuge near Burbank, WA, originally uploaded by Scott Butner.

The area around my home poses an interesting dichotomy — the world’s most polluted, most expensive environmental clean-up (the Hanford site) and huge expanses of relatively clean wind power, sitting within eyesight of one another.

This is a shot looking south towards the Stateline Wind Farm project, near the alliteratively named town of Walla Walla, Washington. The view is from the McNary Wildlife Refuge, a very popular stopping point for waterfowl every winter. Every evening, tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl come to roost in the fields and ponds here, making a heckuva racket — actually a lot louder than the windmills, in many cases.

You’ll be seeing a lot of windmills in the P2 Picture Post of the week, partly because I’m fascinated by them, and partly because they are so common around here that it’s hard to avoid them.

By the way, these are not actually CALLED the Porcupine Hills — at least not to my knowledge.  I just happen to think they look like porcupines with all the wind towers sticking off the ridge lines.


All work and no play….

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Lunar Eclipse sequence – Feb 20 2008, originally uploaded by Scott Butner.

Couldn’t resist posting this sequence of photos of last night’s lunar eclipse, even though it has absolutely NOTHING to do with pollution prevention or information technology, much less their supposed intersection.

Though I will say that digital photography is a great example of dematerialization, the replacement of a material object with pure information. In “the old days” when I did film photography, I would have needed to go through dozens of pictures, a couple rolls of film, and the associated gallons of rinse water and processing chemicals, to come up with the same image. By working entirely in bits and bytes, I’m left using a small amount of electricity to charge the camera’s batteries.

Have we dematerialized all the products we can? What’s the next big breakthrough that will eliminate the need to make products, much less waste?


This week’s photo post

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Boise Cascade Wallula Mill at dusk, originally uploaded by Scott Butner.

As long as my friends at GLRPPR have let me loose around here, I might as well have some fun….

Long before I became an engineer, I worked as a photographer. Recently, with the advent of digital, I have rediscovered photography. I do most of my shooting within 50 miles of Richland, WA.

Just because I like to think and communicate in pictures, I will try to post a weekly photo here, wherever possible one with an environmental theme to it. We’ll see how long this lasts.

This week’s photo is of the Boise Cascade Wallula mill, situated at the confluence of the Columbia and Walla Walla rivers in southeastern WA state. The mill produces a variety of paper products including office paper and label release paper.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Ray Lam, who is environmental manager for the facility. Ray is a human dynamo, and has been bringing a great deal of energy to an industrial byproduct synergy effort here in the eastern half of the state.


An experiment in social tagging using EPA documents

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Social tagging (also known as social bookmarking) is a practice that has been gaining some steam over recent years — it relies on the actions of a large crowd of users to assign topical categories (“tags”) to documents or other information objects (photos, videos, etc may also be tagged) in order to help categorize their meaning.

Some popular web sites, like Flickr,, even Facebook — make use of tags, as do most blogging applications.  The basic idea is one that has sometimes been called “folksonomy” — creating controlled vocabularies by consensus and from the bottom up.

This is the sort of thing that gives librarians bad dreams at night, or so I’ve been led to believe.  So it’s somewhat ironic that a group of library science types has launched a pilot project to improve the accessibility of EPA documents by opening them up for tagging via the popular web site.

Now, it’s not clear to me what this group is expecting to accomplish.  I’m not even sure it’s clear to them.  But it seems to revolve around the issue of “findability” of EPA data — an important issue, as Wikipedia and other social media continue to gain ground on more authoritative sources of information about regulations.

I’ll continue to monitor this experiment, and report back if anything interesting happens.

The beginning of my GLRPPR blogging career…

[Post author: Scott Butner]


The other day, I was invited to make the occasional contribution to this blog. I was handed a password and a user ID, few constraints and even less guidance as to what would be an appropriate set of topics on which to record my thoughts. I guess they figured someone who has been doing P2 related work for 20+ years can be expected to say something relevant now and again, even if only by accident.

This is akin to giving your 16 year old son the keys to the Porsche (and no, I do NOT have a Porsche — yet) and telling him to “feel free to take it out for a spin, but don’t get in any trouble.”

Yeah, that’ll work out real well.

Well, we will see what we will see. I promise to try and be well-behaved. If I find myself diverted down some back-country dead end miles from the Information Superhighway, I will rely on our readers, and the good folks at GLRPPR to point me back in the direction of the main road.

What I intend to write about — mostly — is the intersection between pollution prevention (and other forms of technical assistance) and information technology. How do we put the right information — in accessible forms, at the right time, and most importantly in the right context — in the hands of people who are faced with decisions that make a difference to the environment? How can emerging technologies and trends — social computing (turning loose the wisdom of the crowd), semantic web technology, even this blog — play a role in producing a greener world?

These are the sorts of questions that have kept me up at night for the past 20 years. Well, those questions, and “where’s the remote control?” — that one’s usually good for a few hours. And while, as a researcher, I have always been more interested in the questions than the answers, I’ll try to at least point to people and programs that I think may be on the right track in some way.

So. We’ve got a full tank of gas, the keys to mom and dad’s car, and miles of road ahead and behind us. The iPod is filled up with songs.

It’s time for a road trip.

We may not get there very fast, but then again, it’s all about the journey, right? At least, that’s what I always told my parents when my trip to the grocery store ended up with me 80 miles down the highway, wondering if they’d hidden any gas money in the car.

We’ll see how far we get before they take away my keys.

road trip

Be My Green Valentine

Check out last year’s “Red Roses, Green Hearts” post for great information on how to show your love for the environment this Valentine’s Day. As of 2/13/08, all the links included in that post are still active. That post includes information on organic flowers; green gift guides; organic and fair trade chocolate, wine and coffee; safety ratings for perfume and cologne; and green restaurants.

The Chicago Edition of Ideal Bite also reports that the InterContinental Chicago is offering a green valentine hotel package for $219 a night and up, February 14-16. They also recently featured information on Ellie Thompson, a Chicago jewelry designer that uses reclaimed metals and fair-trade gems to create wearable works of art, if you’re considering jewelry for your special someone. The national Ideal Bite also offers additional information on organic flowers.

New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Marketplace can also help you find environmentally and socially responsible Valentine’s Day gifts, such as flowers, chocolate, and jewelry. TreeHugger has also compiled a Valentine’s Day Gift Guide.

Finally, consider an electronic card instead of a paper one. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has Valentine’s Day e-cards available.

New GLRPPR Resources on Climate Change and Nanotechnology

Be sure to check out the recently added GLRPPR Sector Resources on Climate Change and Nanotechnology. As with any Sector Resource, these online compilations include links to online and hard copy documents, expert contact information, and also integrate relevant events, funding opportunities, Help Desk questions and answers and recent news stories. Currently, the Climate Change Sector Resource includes a section for statistical information; the Nanotechnology Sector Resource includes special sections for environmental health and safety information, as well as information on environmental remediation.

The Climate Change Sector Resource RSS Feed and the Nanotechnology Sector Resource RSS Feed are available for those who want to stay up to date on the latest information related to these topics.

If you have any comments or suggestions for these Sector Resources, contact Laura Barnes or Joy Scrogum.