Vertical sustainability: Moveable 'green walls' coming to Gould Hall

June 5, 2012

A project under way at the College of Built Environments gives driven-up-the-wall new meaning.

Nancy Rottle, an associate professor of landscape architecture, and seven students from four different disciplines — aided by professionals on and off campus — are mounting the Biodiversity Green Wall, Edible Green Screen + Water Harvesting Demonstration Project on the southeast side of Gould Hall.

“This work will potentially show the capacity of building skins to ecologically contribute to the urban environment, “ said Rottle, who directs the Green Futures Research and Design Lab. “We want to use the project as a billboard for new sustainable practices, and to discover to what extent green walls and screens can help promote biodiversity, produce food and reduce energy use. By harvesting water to irrigate the green wall, the project will reduce potable consumption and may lessen storm water impacts.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to be commencement speaker

March 28, 2012

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will be the University of Washington’s commencement speaker in ceremonies June 9 at CenturyLink Field.

As EPA head, Jackson leads the Obama administration’s efforts to protect the nation’s environment. She leads a staff of more than 18,000 who address health threats from pollution and work to promote a greener economy.

Genetically Engineered Stomach Microbe Converts Seaweed into Ethanol

January 19, 2012

Seaweed may well be an ideal plant to turn into biofuel. It grows in much of the two thirds of the planet that is underwater, so it wouldn't crowd out food crops the way corn for ethanol does. Because it draws its own nutrients and water from the sea, it requires no fertilizer or irrigation. Most importantly for would-be biofuel-makers, it contains no lignin—a strong strand of complex sugars that stiffens plant stalks and poses a big obstacle to turning land-based plants such as switchgrass into biofuel.

Commentary in Nature: Can economy bear what oil prices have in store?

January 26, 2012

Stop wrangling over global warming and instead reduce fossil-fuel use for the sake of the global economy.

That’s the message from two scientists, one from the University of Washington and one from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who say in the current issue of the journal Nature (Jan. 26) that the economic pain of a flattening oil supply will trump the environment as a reason to curb the use of fossil fuels.

Injecting sulfate particles into stratosphere won’t fully offset climate change

January 25, 2012

As the reality and the impact of climate warming have become clearer in the last decade, researchers have looked for possible engineering solutions – such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or directing the sun’s heat away from Earth – to help offset rising temperatures.

New University of Washington research demonstrates that one suggested method, injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere, would likely achieve only part of the desired effect, and could carry serious, if unintended, consequences.