Great Basin Institute Wants You, Washington Bans Single-Use Plastic Foam, Agave and Mesquite Could Save Planet’s Topsoils, 2021 Green Alley Awards

by | Aug 20, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

The Great Basin Institute wants you, plus State of Washington bans single-use plastic foam. Mexican farmer proves agave and mesquite could save planet’s topsoils, and we announce the winner of the 2021 Green Alley Award!



Not gonna lie to you. Prior to Grace Rodger’s job announcement earlier this month, I’d never heard of the Great Basin Institute. So what is it, and why does it matter to us?

 The Great Basin Institute is an interdisciplinary field studies organization that promotes environmental research, education, and conservation throughout the West. It was founded in 1998 at the University of Nevada, GBI advances applied research to support science-based adaptive management of public lands.

The Institute is dedicated to the promotion of science through field studies programs, conservation practices, and public outreach. The Great Basin Institute works with a wide range of existing programs to achieve its aims—places like the Nevada Conservation Corps, AmericCorps and the International Conservation Volunteer Exchange, among others.

Moreover, if you’re a fan of conservation and seek a career in it, GBI is a great start. The Great Basin Institute promotes environmental research, education and service through agency partnerships, such as those with the Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. 

What I like about the GBI is it’s managed to tag and monitor 66 endangered California Condors.




In case you missed it, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State recently signed Senate Bill 5022 into law. The new law — introduced by Sen. Mona Das —bans polystyrene foam food containers, foam coolers, and requires customers to request any single-use plastic products before a restaurant can supply them. Washington is now the seventh state in the country, and the first state on the West Coast (beating out crunchy granola California)  to ban polystyrene foam takeout containers. In addition, the bill bans polystyrene fill peanuts–the kind used in packaging,and ensures that plastic beverage bottles, household cleaning and personal care bottles, and trash bags, contain minimum levels of post-consumer recycled content.

The ban on expanded polystyrene comes into effect June 1, 2024, and all single-use service wares such as straws, utensils, condiment packets, and lids can only be supplied upon customer request beginning January 1, 2022. Scientists estimate that 33 billion pounds of plastic wash into the ocean every year. That equates to about two garbage trucks’ worth of plastic entering the ocean every minute. 

“Today, Washington demonstrated its leadership in the fight against the growing plastic pollution crisis threatening our environment, health and future,” said Christy Leavitt, Oceana’s plastics campaign director. 

DEEPER DIVE: Waste360, Waste Today Magazine, SurfRider



Land degradation is impacting farmlands worldwide, affecting almost 40% of the world’s population. Reversing that process and restoring these croplands and pastures to full productivity is a huge challenge facing humanity — especially as climate change-induced drought takes greater hold on arid and semiarid lands.

In Mexico, a university-educated, small-scale local farmer, José Flores Gonzalez  came up with an untried innovative solution that not only restores degraded land to productivity, but also greatly enhances soil carbon storage, provides a valuable new crop, and even offers a hopeful diet for diabetics.

The process utilizes two plants commonly found on semiarid lands that grow well under drought conditions: agave and mesquite. The two are intercropped and then the agave is fermented and mixed with the mesquite to produce an excellent, inexpensive, and very marketable fodder for grazing animals.

Flores Gonzalez’ method, which he calls the Agroforestry Zamarripa System, intercrops agave with mesquite. Cummins says the two plants grow well together: “The mesquite, or other nitrogen-fixing trees such as huizache or acacia, fix the nitrogen and nutrients into the soil and the agave draws upon them in order to grow and produce significant amounts of animal forage.”

The new technique is achieving success in Mexico and could be applied to global degraded lands. It is, says one expert “among the most soil regenerative schemes on Earth … deployed on degraded land, basically overgrazed and unsuitable for growing crops, with no irrigation or chemical inputs required whatsoever.”

With options for combating soil degradation in short supply, many farmers and nations will be following the Guanajuato experiment with great interest.

DEEPER DIVE: NewsNow, Twitter


Here’s a fun story. We all know that One of the biggest challenges humanity is facing today is the drain on natural resources by conventional consumer industries – and the immense amount of waste caused by disposable items. In 2014 Landbell Group CEO Jan Patrick Schulz came up with an award that facilitates Circular Economy innovations, and he called it the Green Alley Award, Europe’s first startup prize for the circular economy.

Starting out as a local waste disposal company in 1995, Landbell Group has become a global service provider for environmental and chemical compliance, so they know a little something something about waste and waste disposal.

Now Landbell Group touts itself as “your partner on the way towards a more sustainable future.” It helps its clients “unlock the potential of the Circular Economy” by reimagining alternative packaging, eco-design or sustainable manufacturing processes.

The Green Alley Award honors those who facilitate Circular Economy innovations while recognizing the little-known startups that are leading the charge to develop products and services that eliminate waste. Despite the pandemic, the awards went on. 189 applicants submitted their best ideas. This year, the public was invited to vote, too. And the winner is:

Traceless Materials! It’s a German startup which was able to convince the jury its bio-based home-compostable product was a viable alternative to single-use plastic.

Thanks to traceless’ special technology, agricultural industry residues are transformed into a sustainable alternative to film or hard plastic packaging or plastic coating. The result is an all-natural material that is not only completely bio-based but can also be composted in your organic waste bin within 2-9 nine weeks.

DEEPER DIVE: Positive.News, Green Alley Award, Traceless Materials