Saturday, September 27, 2008
Environmental Reasons Not to Drill in Alaska by Walter Schneider
The debate on whether or not to low drilling in Alaska has been a political hot potato for decades. Although it is home to one of the largest oil fields in the country, it is also home to a vast amount of protected wildlife. Since the energy crisis in the late 70s the debate between political groups and Alaskan citizens over drilling in Alaska has waged on at a fever pitch. The recent surge in fuel prices has brought the matter to more and more US citizen’s attention. We are constantly looking for other places to obtain our fuel and Alaska is our own back yard! However, the wildlife presents quite a dilemma for us. Many are opposed to drilling in Alaska for environmental reasons and have legitimate reason for their concerns.
The main concern amongst natives of Alaska is that drilling on shore will eventually lead to off shore exploration. The natives of Alaska are concerned that any off shore drilling will disturb the migration of whales to Alaska. Bowhead whales are an important part of the native culture, life and diet. The Canadian government is concerned that any oil development would disrupt the
migratory patterns of Porcupine Caribou herd. This presents a distinct problem because the United States and Canada signed an agreement in 1987 that outlined protection and conservation for the herd and their migratory routes. Additionally there are other animals whose homes and habits would be affected by drilling. Birds, fish, and polar bears--the list goes on. Scientists believe that it will disrupt the entire natural chain in that region which could lead to detestation for the native people and their culture.
Many scientists also believe that the development of industry in this untouched area of the world will have severely adverse effects on the cultural survival of the native populations that have survived and flourished in Alaska thus far. Theses communities rely heavily on the wildlife and the natural surroundings of Alaska for their survival and subsistence. The indigenous populations of Alaska fear oil spills will pollute their waterways again and cause irreversible harm to their beautiful untouched homeland. Additionally, to many of the indigenous people much of Alaska is considered sacred ground. Which means that we would be interrupting not only wildlife and culture, but a religious part of their lives as well.
Scientists also worry about the effects that oil technologies would have on the climate and tundra. It is noted that regardless of the fact that drilling is not currently taking place in certain areas, the effects of global warming alone are creating great changes. With no major industry, currently the effects of industry elsewhere are melting glaciers, raising temperatures and building up pollution in Alaska already. Many are concerned of the increased effect that local drilling would have on these already troubling issues.
It is also noted by many environmentalist and scientist that drilling in Alaska would only further delay our inevitable need to focus on alternative energy sources. Many people think that instead of disrupting the nature in Alaska, we should spend more time in the labs developing ways to heat our homes and power our cars other than oil. The amount of oil in the Alaskan reserves is highly debated, but still minimal at best and would not lead to a limitless or lengthy supply, however the effects of our exploration and drilling efforts would be long term and permanent unlike the fuel source. Scientists raise the point that we should invest in research and conversion to alternative fuel method rather than investing in a temporary solution that bares potential for other environmental problems.
Let's start taking care of our environment, just click
Residential Wastewater Or Grey Water Reuse by Humera K
Any sort water usage around the house, excluding water from bathroom is termed as grey water. Water from dishwashing, shower, sink, and laundry water consist of fifty to eighty percent of residential "Waste" water. This can be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation and garden around the house. It would be a waste to irrigate with great quantities of drinking water when plants thrive on used water containing small bits of manure. Unlike a lot of ecological substitute measures, wastewater reuse is a part of the elementary solution to many environmental tribulations and will perhaps remain essentially unchanged in the distant future.
Residential Wastewater Recycling:
The following are some of the benefits of wastewater recycling:
Minimal fresh water use
Grey water can replace fresh water in many instances, saving money and increasing the effective water supply in regions where irrigation is needed. Residential water use is almost evenly split between indoor and outdoor. All except toilet water could be recycled outdoors, achieving the same result with significantly less water diverted from nature.
Less strain on treatment plants or failing septic tanks
Wastewater use greatly extends the useful life and capacity of septic systems. For municipal treatment systems, decreased wastewater flow means higher treatment effectiveness and lower costs.
Extremely effectual distillation
Grey water is purified to a spectacularly high degree in the upper, most biologically active region of the soil. This protects the quality of natural surface and ground waters.
Site unsuitable for a septic tank
For locations with slow soil percolation or other problems, a wastewater system can be a fractional or complete alternate for a very costly, over-engineered system.
Grey water enables a landscape to flourish where water may not otherwise be available to support much plant growth.
A lesser amount of energy and chemical use
Less energy and chemicals are used due to the reduced amount of both freshwater and wastewater that needs pumping and treatment. For those providing their own water or electricity, the advantage of a reduced burden on the infrastructure is felt directly. Also, treating your wastewater in the soil under your own fruit trees definitely encourages you to dump fewer toxic chemicals down the drain.
Retrieval of washed out nutrients
Loss of nutrients through wastewater disposal in rivers or oceans is a delicate, but highly significant form of erosion. Reclaiming nutrients in grey water helps to maintain the fertility of the land.
Wastewater application in excess of plant needs recharges groundwater.
Augmented awareness of and sensitivity to natural cycles
Residential wastewater use yields the satisfaction of taking responsibility for the wise husbandry of an important resource.
Read more on industrial water treatments, Residential water treatments & all sort of water engineering systems.and techniques.
Tropical Rainforests - 4 Ways to Stop Deforestation by Tony Mandarich
It's hard to imagine that we would knowingly destroy something so valuable; could it be that we are destroying them before we realize their worth? Before we truly understand their biodiversity? And even before we fully understand the life and the ecosystems they support?
Massive deforestation brings with it many horrifying consequences - air and water pollution, soil erosion, the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the eviction and decimation of indigenous Indian tribes, and the extinction of many plants, animals and creatures. Fewer rainforests mean less rain, less oxygen for us to breathe, and an increased threat of global warming.
Confucius said, "A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it, is committing another mistake." Clearly deforestation is man's mistake. So how do we correct this mistake? Can we correct this mistake?
If deforestation ceased today, it would help immensely, but unfortunately would not be enough. We have lost complete species, both in plant and animal life; however, all is not lost. What we can hope for in bringing deforestation to an end is a new beginning; new species to evolving and the rebirth of this diminishing treasure.
With the rapid loss of Earth's rainforests, it's time to correct our mistake. There is no simple solution or quick fix, but there are definitely steps that can be taken to stop the deforestation and restore not only the damaged ecosystems, but the beauty of life that's been lost.
Four Invaluable Steps to Saving Our Rainforests:
Step #1: Education
In the last 20 years, deforestation has claimed millions of square miles of tropical rainforests, and to protect their future we need to develop sound educational initiatives. Education programs and curricula for each grade level is vital as children of today are our future. Encouraging good global citizenship in school aged children will help them develop a deeper understanding of conservation challenges, as well as a healthy respect for the environment. Education cannot, however, stop with school-aged kids; adults need the same education about deforestation and preventative measures.
Educational resources are now becoming widely available to educators. For example, Paradise Earth Scholastic is Paradise Earth's academic service and the Internet's premier source for rainforest education, replete with educational curricula for first and secondary education, multimedia educational features, and resources for research and teaching. Paradise Earth Scholastic will be available online at www.paradiseearth.com by January 2009.
Step #2: Conservation Policies
Saving tropical rainforests is a worldwide responsibility, not just the responsibility of the country the forests are home to. Stronger policies prohibiting deforestation need to be written and enforced; our responsibility lies quite a bit deeper. If the international community wants to provide a higher level of protection of these forests, financial resources have to be a major part of the conservation strategy.
Historically, world governments have been willing to grant loans to tropical nations, and in some cases even cancel debts owed by them in exchange for environmental protection. For example, the British government recently assigned $150 million to preservation and sustainable development of tropical forests around the globe. Germany cleared Kenya of its $400 million debt when Kenya agreed to pass environmental legislation.
In 2001, President Clinton proposed $150 million in funds to assist developing countries preserve their tropical forests while strengthening their economies. Under the budget, $100 million would go towards conservation programs (through the U.S. Agency for International Development-USAID), while $37 million would be slated for debt-for-nature swaps under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.
In addition to financial support, developed nations can also provide their conservation expertise to developing countries and assist in the planning of new protected areas.
Step #3: Restore & Re-grow
Though fully restoring our lost rainforests seems impossible, a myriad of studies and rebirth projects have been conducted worldwide.
In September 2008 the announcement came that the first Kihansi spray toadlet was born at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. This little creature was last seen in the wild May of 2005. The birth of the Kihansi toadlet has renewed hopes that the species can someday be successfully reintroduced to its natural habitat in a remote gorge in Tanzania.
In other news, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Sciences (BTI) on the Cornell campus are attempting what many thought was impossible -- restoring a tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ten years after the tree plantings, Cornell graduate student Jackeline Salazar counted the species of plants that took up residence in the shade of the new-planted areas. She found remarkably high numbers of species -- more than 100 in each plot. And many of the new arrivals were also to be found in nearby remnants of the original forests.
It may take hundreds of years to regain what has been lost, but every year we see evidence that the "impossible" is actually quite possible.
Step #4: Support Ecotourism
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (http://www.unwto.org/sdt/mission/en/mission.php), sustainable tourism is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.
Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment while enhancing the cultural integrity of local people and their economy. From 1993 to 2003 alone, tourism to 23 countries harboring biodiversity hotspots grew by 100 percent.
At first glance, it seems that ecotourism was designed for the traveler, but its intent is much greater. Ecotourism creates jobs in food and beverage service, hotel and resort industry, transportation, and many other industries. Because Ecotourism relies on healthy ecosystems, it provides a powerful incentive to protect our rainforests. People who earn their living from ecotourism are more likely to protect local natural resources and support conservation efforts.
Correcting the "mistake" of deforestation could still be probable; but not without an overdose of human effort to finally bring an end to the demise of tropical rainforests. No matter how unreachable this goal may seem, our mistake still has a chance of being corrected.
To learn the complete rainforest story visit Paradise Earth online.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Conserving Water is Good For the Environment (And Your Budget) by Ki Gray
Conserving resources electricity, water, money is an important step toward leading a sustainable lifestyle (both personally and environmentally). People strive daily to save money, and yet many do not make the connection between resources and finances forgetting that electric bills and water bills make up a significant portion of monthly expenses. But just because these resources and expenses are necessary, that doesn't mean they can't be cut back, or utilized more thoughtfully and effectively. Often times, we act in a wasteful manner, simply out of habit. But habits can be broken follow these tips to leave your water wasting habits behind.
1. Don't leave the water running when you brush your teeth, clean dishes, or wash your car. Thousands of gallons of water are wasted each year, simply because people are too lazy to turn off the faucet when doing any number of daily tasks. When you brush your teeth, get in the habit of turning the water off after you've moistened the toothbrush, and don't turn it back on until you're done brushing and ready to rinse. When cleaning up after a meal, stack dishes next to the sink, and fill the sink halfway to two-thirds of the way with water, then ad soap. Then bring the dishes into the warm soapy water one at a time, and stack them to dry when you're done. This not only conserves a significant amount of water, it also keeps you from wasting soap, and from sloshing water all over the counter, floor, and yourself. Next time you wash the car, mix a soapy warm-water solution in a bucket, then turn the hose off until it's time to rinse.
2. Avoid washing a load of laundry or dishes until you have enough dirty items to fill the machine. Washing machines and dishwashers use an incredible amount of water. Next time you have just a few things that need washing, do it the old fashioned way and wash them by hand (utilizing the guidelines in tip #1, of course). And encourage family members and roommates to do the same you'll be helping the environment, while also lightening the financial load.
3. Be conscious of when you choose to water your lawn. Many cities and communities discourage residents from watering their lawns, gardens, and plants during the heat of the day particularly in the summer months. This is because, during the heat of the day, a larger percentage of the water will evaporate before it can soak into the soil. Whenever possible, avoid watering your lawn in direct sunlight. Instead, do your watering in the early morning or evening hours it's more efficient, and more effective.
Regardless of whether or not you're experiencing a shortage of water, it should always be treated as a valuable resource, worthy of conservation and care. Next time you're tempted to cut corners and waste water for sheer convenience, remember that it's one of humanity's most vital, non-renewable resources. Simple acts like those listed above can go a long way in cutting back on wasted water not to mention cutting back on your water bill.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Environmental Noise - The Planning Process and the Impact on Residential Quality of Life by Mike Legon
Maintaining the balance between the buzz of noisy urban life with its pubs and clubs, industrial plant and transport, and the reasonable protection of the health and well-being of people within their homes in densely populated urban environments, is the combined responsibility of local authority planning considerations and good acoustic design by specialist consultants.
The planning process in urban areas focuses primarily on the control of environmental noise, and prior to any planning application being approved an environmental impact survey will be commissioned and an environmental impact assessment prepared by a qualified acoustic consultant. The protection of residential dwellings is the primary objective, with local authorities and acoustic consultants taking guidance on acceptable internal noise levels in new residential dwellings from BS.8233.1999 and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines.
These documents utilise a single reference point, in the case of the WHO document 55 dB LAeq for outdoor amenity noise and no more than 30 dB LAeq in bedrooms at night (23:00 - 07:00). These reference points will be the focus of the environmental impact assessment following the environmental noise testing, and although needed, are broadband noise levels which are constant and non tonal - very different in nature to noise generated from entertainment. This guidance does not take into consideration the low frequency content of such noise which is acoustically challenging to tackle. Subsequently local authorities' approach to low frequency content can and does vary, and the protection a resident may reasonably expect to be in place can become a postcode lottery dependent on the policy of the local planning authority.
Safeguarding quality of life from environmental noise is potentially further compromised by the drive for sustainable development and low cost social housing. Sustainable development promotes more efficient land use from high density mixed use development, and prioritises the use of previously developed land, particularly vacant and derelict sites and buildings. The result can be development in areas that do not meet and therefore conflict with the environmental noise guidelines recommended in the available guidance such as from the WHO.
Mike Legon is an acoustic consultant specialising in building and planning, and the founding Director of asoundsolution. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the website www.asoundsolution.biz
Sustainable Farming - A Definition and the Main Principles Thereof by Kathryn Bax
One is often asked the question, What is sustainable farming and how does it differ from commercial farming? Sustainable farming means that whatever is farmed, raised and grown on the farm is consumed by the farm dwellers themselves. They are living off the land and providing all the food they need for their own consumption. In other words, they are pretty much self-sufficient when it comes to what they eat. Therefore, you will often hear of sustainable farming and self-sufficiency farming being used inter-changeably as they are one and the same. The land size that they own, is usually, but not always fairly small, by comparison to the more commercially orientated farmers. Thus you will often hear these small farms referred to as mini farms.
Commercial farming, on the other hand, is where crops are grown and cattle is raised for others in order to make some money. Not that farming is a lucrative, get-rich business, it is not, but by being a commercial farmer one farms with the intension of having a ready-known market, the knowledge of what current prices are for their crops and animals and what niche market will bear them a profit, both now and in the future.
The main Principle of Sustainable Farming: Land Management
First and foremost, as already mentioned one does not need a huge piece of land to become self-sufficient. So how small is small? Well, one can actually become self-sufficient quite happily on one acre of land. One acre of land can be used to create a mini farm quite happily leading to self-sufficiency. However, because it is possible to practise self-sufficiency on small farms, land management then becomes crucial. This then becomes the most important principle for sustainable farming and creating your mini farm. The clue, of course, is in the very word itself sustainablemeaning to keep something going. If the land that you use to farm is mismanaged, you will never be able to sustain any crops or animals at an acceptable level of productivity. What you will end up with are both diseased and ill plants and animals and your hopes of self-sufficiency will be unfulfilled.
In owning a mini farm there has to be a balance between the animals and the plants because ideally you want to create a food chain where each feed each other. You need the manure from the animals to enrich the soil so that the soil can then produce good crops, and which in turn, will go back to feeding the animals.
There also needs to be crop rotation. One cannot grow crops on the same piece of land year after year. Crops gown like this soon weaken to disease. However, the problem does not remain here, what happens is that the disease organisms that attack that plant multiply to such an extent that eventually the disease becomes uncontrollable. So plan your small farm with care, and make sure that some portion of the land is always kept fallow so that you can implement your crop rotation plan.
If you have animals on your mini farm you can put them to good use by allowing them to manure your crops in a controlled way. Animals need feeding so why not allow them into your crops but have them within an enclosed area? That way they are being fed, and at the same time fertilizing the land at the same time. Having chickens works very well. Not only do they fertilize the soil, but they also eat the insects that may be destroying your crops.
Look at the land resources that you have on your small farm and see how you can improve or utilize them. Do you have enough water on the property? If not, should you build a dam and if so, where would be the best place to put it? Irrigation is important and you cannot rely on the weather these days. Look too at where your prevailing winds are coming from and plant trees here to create a protective barrier for your crops. Replanting hedgerows is a must for those of you who are interested in organic farming and preserving nature.
Many overzealous farmers ripped out kilometres of natural hedgerows in the 80s and 90s in England. After such a thoughtless decision of the consequences, what they subsequently discovered that these had had many benefits. Not only had they helped stabilize the soil and prevent soil-erosion, they were also a benefit to controlling insects and pests. These hedges are a natural habitat for many of England's birds, insects and mammals and which had created the very eco-system that had silently been highly beneficial to farmers who had had them. Many of the birds, for example, had fed on the very insects that, after the hedgerow destruction, were spreading in large numbers, as the birds were no longer there to keep them in control. As a result many farmers have now reverted to replanting the hedges. The inclusion of this example illustrates that as custodians of our planet, as farmers, we should take grave deliberation of any changes we make to the land and ask ourselves whether what we have planed to do will be harmful in any way.
Finally, there is the old adage, Waste not, want not. In sustainable farming and as mini farm owners the key is not to waste. Do not waste the natural resources that you have. Do not waste the opportunity to re-cycle everything. Take your vegetable scraps and either start a compost bin with worms for vermicompost or start an open compost heap. When you have pruned your trees and have grass clippings after mowing the lawn, add these to your compost. When you have animal manure, add that too, along with any animal residues after slaughter or crop residues after harvests. Waste nothing! The land can support, even if you own a small farm, as long you if you treat it well.
Country Living and Farm Lifestyles: A farm and agricultural directory for farm accommodation, farm jobs, farm food and farm services from farmers worldwide.
Be Cooler - Evaporative Cooler by Erin Lynn
It used to be that people who cared about the environment were looked down upon. People called them derogatory names like tree hugger, eagle freaks and greenies. Nowadays, it's considered a smart thing to care about the world we all share and the air we all breathe. We also care about keeping cool on a warm day. How do we merge these two? Evaporative coolers.
Evaporative Coolers like the NewAir AF-330 Evaporative HEPA Swamp Cooler are coolers that use the cooling effect of water evaporation to lower air temperature. Think about when you've just exerted your body by playing a sport or running to catch some sort of public transportation. You feel hot, sweaty and out of breath. Once your sweat evaporates, you feel cooler though. That is the idea behind evaporative cooling.
Evaporative coolers use 75% less energy than air conditioners. That's not the only way they are good for the environment though. They don't use refrigerants like freon. Freon destroys the ozone layer. They also curb noise pollution by using a blower instead of an axial fan like an air conditioner.
Some people would think that with less energy and without freon, evaporative coolers aren't that powerful, but they can cool up to 350 square feet. They also help maintain the durability and lifespan of furniture by keeping furniture and fabric moisturized. Evaporative coolers also channel fresh air into the area they are cooling. As well as the hot air in the area being pushed out by the cool air through evaporation, bad odor, dust and smoke are also eliminated. Air circulation occurs every two to three minutes giving you a continuous supply of fresh air. The risk of bacteria being trapped in the air is also reduced. The moisture pad also acts as a filter which helps trap dust.
Evaporative coolers are also easy to take care of. They have refillable water tanks. Each refill should last up to ten hours. Sometimes they can have a hose connection which will continuously supply fresh water to the cooler. The filters in evaporative coolers can often be removed and rinsed.
It's finally easy being green.
Erin Lynn is a marketing writer with vast knowledge of evaporative coolers, which are also known as swamp coolers. For more information, visit http://www.air-conditioner-home.com/swamp/
Our Plastic Planet by Rebecca Jablonski
Two Hundred MILLION (200,000,000) TONS of plastic are produced every year.
All plastic products are made from petrochemicals. As the name implies, a main ingredient in petrochemicals is OIL.
The average American uses 290 pounds of plastic every year.
Every hour Americans use and discard 2.5 million plastic bottles, totaling 22 billion a year.
According to Greenpeace, of the 25 billion pounds of plastic the US produces each year just 1 billion is recycled. Though many plastics can be recycled in principle, in practice sorting it into separate categories is too labor intensive to be viable. Many complex products like cell phones and computers have so many different plastic components that sorting out the various types would be too expensive.
What happens to the plastic that is not recycled?
Unlike naturally occurring compounds, plastic does not photo-degrade, it simply breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and lingers in the environment as an invisible toxic dust. Unlike naturally occurring compounds, plastic does not bio-degrade, it simply breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and lingers in the environment as an invisible toxic dust. In other words it stays around FOREVER. That's 200,000,000 tons annually that we can't get rid of, ever. Is that a problem? Depends on whether or not you're interested in the continuation of life on this planet. If you are, and I sincerely hope so, please read on.
Close to 20% of discarded plastic ends up in the sea. There is an area known formally as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Eastern Garbage Patch. It is 1,000 miles west of San Francisco, a swirling mass of plastic in an area twice the size of Texas. A study by the United Nations Environmental Program estimates that in this region there are 46,000 floating pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean and the trash now circulates to a depth of 30 meters.
When the central section of the Garbage Patch drifts over the Hawaiian Islands, Waimanalo Beach on Oahu is coated with blue-green plastic sand while Midway Atoll - a major rookery for albatross - is now a PERMANENT trash heap. Greenpeace estimates that a million sea birds a year die from plastic ingestion, many of them chicks that have starved to death with bellies full of plastic cigarette lighters, toy soldiers and bottle caps. About 100,000 marine mammals also die. Sea turtles migrating past the Garbage Patch do not know the difference between a floating jellyfish and a floating plastic bag and frequently consume plastic bags. Scientists who study the Rubbish Vortex say there is little we can do to clean it up. Most of what is now there will eventually sink to the ocean floor where it will seriously disrupt ocean ecosystems.
Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, traveled over 100 km at random lengths in the North Pacific Gyre collecting samples of seawater. When the samples were analyzed he discovered that .there is six times more plastic by weight in this area than there is naturally occurring plankton. Fish and birds that feed on plankton are now dieing of starvation because they are consuming mostly plastic instead of plankton.
Nurdles are small pellets of plastic that are the base material for producing all the disposable plastic stuff we buy. 250 billion lbs of nurdles are shipped yearly and vast numbers are spilled in transit. One tenth of beach trash worldwide is nurdles and they have been found as far away as Antarctica. In the Rubbish Vortex, every single trawl netted nurdles. To an albatross, nurdles look a lot like clumps of roe and they are often mistaken for food and fed to infant birds. Nurdles also act as sponges for persistent organic pollutants such as DDT and PCB's, oily toxins that don't dissolve in water These plastic pellets have been found to accumulate up to one million times the level of these poisons - and they are entering the food chain from the filter feeders up
There is now a vast amount of plastic in our soil and food supply also, causing:
Structural damage to the brain
Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
Altered immune function
Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Scientists who study the problem say there is no solution except to cut down on our use of plastic. It is imperative that we do so in order to ensure the continuation of life on our planet. This is not an exaggeration, we MUST stop poisoning our environment. Every time we discard plastic items, we are potentially sentencing sea creatures and other wildlife to death.
Tips For Building Green With Modular Buildings - A Guide For the Average Person by Brandon Alexander
As most people know, the latest trend in construction is 'GREEN' or environmentally friendly buildings. As energy prices continue to soar and global warming attracts more attention, the GREEN construction trend is likely to escalate. The goal of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the benefits of GREEN construction and illustrate how Off-Site Construction & modular buildings complement GREEN construction.
Over the last several years, various GREEN projects have been designed and constructed, therefore customers and contractors are familiar with the concept. Many users are initially interested in obtaining the US Green Building Council's LEED Certification (usgbc.org/LEED), however there are numerous other tangible benefits which can be obtained by using GREEN construction:
- Reduction in energy/utility consumption
- Superior interior environment through noise reduction and improved air quality
- Use of reclaimed/environmentally conscious materials for sustainable construction
- Reduced/easier maintenance
Reduced Energy and Utility Consumption
Energy/utility consumption can be reduced directly and indirectly through improved energy efficiency. Direct reduction techniques include:
- Rainwater harvesting for use on landscaping
- Day lighting (large windows, tubular skylights) to decrease the need for artificial lighting
- Photovoltaic panels for supplemental electricity generation
- High R value insulation at the building envelope to decrease HVAC loads
- Operable windows to allow natural ventilation on temperate days
- Cool roof systems to reduce heat transfer and reduce HVAC loads
- Door/window HVAC interlocks which shut off HVAC system when doors/windows open for extended periods of time
- Deciduous shade trees to prevent heat gain during summer months
- Dual pane windows with low E coating to reduce infrared radiation transfer and HVAC load
- Cool operating fluorescent bulbs to reduce HVAC loads
Indirect energy consumption focuses on using energy/utilities more effectively and reducing waste. Improvements in efficiency include:
- Energy management systems (motion sensors, timers, programmable thermostats, integrated home systems)
- High efficiency appliances (Energy Star rated) & HVAC systems
- Dishwashers and clothes washers which consume less water per load
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Lighter colors to reflect more light within building
- Hanging pendent light fixtures combined with high reflectance ceiling covering
Each aspect has numerous components and can be utilized in conjunction with one another. It is important to keep in mind the prerequisites must be met if LEED certification is the goal. The time required to recover the initial cost depends on size and location of the structure and individual consumption patterns, as well as materials incorporated.
Superior Interior Environment
In addition to reducing energy costs, GREEN construction should also provide a superior interior environment. Materials such as carpet, cabinetry adhesives, paint and other wall coverings with no or low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) will release less gas and improve the indoor air quality. HVAC systems with noise dampening ducting and isolation systems will reduce the interior noise. Daylighting can also improve the interior quality by boosting the occupant's mood with natural light.
Use of Sustainable Resources
The use of recycled/reused materials helps to ensure the sustainability of resources. If virgin raw materials are used for every new building project, these materials will eventually be exhausted. As raw materials become scarce, the prices will rise and/or the materials will no longer be available. This trend has already begun as some raw material such as clear heart Redwood is no longer available and must be obtained recycled from existing projects. Recycling/reusing helps ensure that materials will be available for future projects.
Reduced Building Maintenance
The final aspect of GREEN construction is reduced/easier maintenance. Reducing maintenance activities such as painting saves the materials needed but also the waste and environmental impact of the painting such as VOC gas release and water used in cleanup. New, longer lasting materials are now available which need less frequent maintenance. Such materials include cement based exterior siding which does not require painting and recycled composite decking which resembles wood. Other products facilitate repair and replacement such as carpet tiles which allow individual sections to be exchanged without having to replace the entire floor surface. Carpet tiles also reduce waste during the installation process.
Off-Site Construction is GREEN
In parallel to this greater acceptance of GREEN is the growth in the Off-Site Construction process and improved perception of modular buildings. Modular buildings and Off-Site construction are similar but Off-Site Construction commonly refers specifically to permanent buildings verses modular buildings which can be either permanent or relocatable. Green features are available in all modular buildings but are considerably more common in Off-Site Construction due to the permanent nature. In recent years, Off-Site Construction has advanced and numerous innovations are now available. Such innovations include more efficient production facilities, superior transport systems, creative architectural designs and new engineering technologies providing greater flexibility.
Off-Site Construction merges well with the concept of GREEN construction for a variety of reasons. The centralized construction location allows for much greater reuse and recycling of material as a set collection schedule and policies can be established. Material waste due to weather damage is decreased as the construction process occurs in weather protected facilities. Waste water is easier to control and collect as production facilities are paved and sloped to a collection area. Traffic and air pollution is reduced as workers drive shorter distances to the factory verses traveling to various job sites. As materials for multiple jobs can be purchased in bulk quantities and delivered to a central location, the cost of materials and number of deliveries can be minimized. Off-Site Construction uses the same materials and designs as site built construction allowing for easy incorporation of GREEN materials and designs.
Progressive builders and architects view Off-Site Construction to be an integral part of the GREEN construction movement and the interest in GREEN Off-Site Construction has grown tremendously as GREEN is integrated into more diverse buildings.
About the author: Brandon Alexander serves as Strategic Marketing Analyst for Modtech Manufacturing & Construction which provides comprehensive Design Build Services for modular buildings and portable buildings including project financing.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Before You Install a Residential Wind Turbine, You Need to Answer Some Important Questions
by D. R. Smith
If you've been considering the use of some type of home wind power, there are several important considerations that must be answered before you install a residential wind power generator. Failure to do so could result in disappointing results, legal troubles, unsafe conditions, and possibly even a large loss of money. By taking the time to do the legwork, you'll eliminate the possibility for failure - a common occurrence when people rush into this area.
How much Power does my Wind Turbine need to produce?
In order to effectively answer that question, you'll need to find out what your average monthly electricity usage is. Knowing this, you can then get a feel for how much money you can save based upon the different power output levels that can be achieved from different wind turbines. Much like most things scale plays an important role. A small wind generator costs less, but produces less. One of the most important things to Keep in mind is that the easiest way to lower your electricity costs is to change your behavior when it comes to usage.
Are there any Laws that Govern Residential Wind Generators?
Yes, there very well could be. Your local town or city may have rules that govern the placement and height of your wind turbine. You'll need to check with your local zoning office or code enforcement officer to find out exactly what the requirements are in your specific location. Failure to obtain this information first could be very costly. For example, if you installed a wind generator without permission, you could be forced to remove it, and possibly be required to pay a rather large fine.
Should I Buy a commercial wind turbine?
If you're the type of person that wants a turnkey solution, then yes. But be warned, the prices for most of these prefabricated kits combined with professional installation can be very high. SO much in fact that it may make it so that wind power would not be a cost effective solution for you.
The other solution is to build your own wind power generator. There are several excellent do it yourself guides on the market now that show you how to build one yourself for very little money, and from commonly available parts.
Whatever choice you chose, just make sure that you thoroughly research all of the issues that you encounter, and all of the options that are available. Being informed is the key to success.
Click here If you're looking for the best energy generator plans currently available, or for alternative energy reviews to help you make the best choice when building your wind and solar power system.
Air Pollution - Earth's Adversary by Janet F Henderson
You could go days without food and hours without water, but you would last only a few minutes without air (if that). As human beings, on average, we breathe over 3,000 gallons of air each day. In addition to consuming up so much air in 24 hours, over the course of 365 days humans manage to inhale precisely 1,095,000 gallons of air throughout the year. That's a large amount of air that humans not only need but demand as a means to survive in everyday life, if you ask me. Better yet, wouldn't it be to our benefit as humans if we lived in a non-polluted environment/economy? The only possible logical answer to that question would have to be a sound and potent "Yes!" But, the "oh so" popular question still remains the same, why should you be concerned about air pollution? When it's all said and done, it's only common sense to figure out that you must have air to live.
Air pollution comes from many different sources such as: factories, power plants, dry cleaners, cars, buses, trucks and even windblown dust and wildfires. Today, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly one-half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC's). Also, motorized vehicles are held responsible for more than half of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States. Motor vehicles, as well as non road vehicles, are now accountable for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions nationwide. Between the years of 1970 and 2005 the total vehicle miles people travel in the United States has increased 178 percent and continues to gradually increase at a rate of two to three percent each year. As a result of United States evolution from driving simple cars in the 70's too modern vans, sports utility vehicles (SUV's), and pickup trucks, these enlarged vehicles typically consume more gasoline per mile and many of them pollute three to five times more than cars.
Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. Due to inhaling polluted air, it can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult. In fact, pollutants like tiny airborne particles can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. In today's society, just about 30 million adults and children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma sufferers can be severely affected by air pollution. In contrast air pollution can also aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases. In a greater look at things, some toxic chemicals released in the air such as benzene or vinyl chloride can cause cancer, birth defects, long term injury to the lungs, as well as brain and nerve damage. And in some cases, breathing these highly toxic chemicals can even cause the fatal attraction of death. The health, environmental, and economic impacts of air pollution are significant. Each day, air pollution causes thousands of illnesses leading to lost days at work and school. Air pollution also reduces agricultural crop and commercial forest yields by billions of dollars each year.
Air pollution isn't just a threat to our health, it also damages our environment. Toxic air pollutants and the chemicals that form acid rain and ground-level o-zone can damage trees, crops, other plants, wildlife, lakes, and other bodies of water. Furthermore, those pollutants can also harm fish and other aquatic life. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution also damages buildings, monuments, and statues. It not only reduces how far you can see in national parks and cities, it even interferes with aviation.
Although national air quality has improved over the last 20 years, many challenges remain in protecting public health and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects human health and the environment through the regulatory process and voluntary programs such as Energy Star and Commuter choice. (The Clean Air Act is a federal law covering the entire country). Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets limits on how much of a pollutant is allowed in the air anywhere in the United States. This helps to ensure basic health and environmental protection from air pollution for all American's. Also, the Clean Air Act gives EPA the authority to limit emissions of air pollutants coming from sources like steel mills, utilities, and chemical plants. Individual states or tribes may have stronger air pollution laws, but they may not have weaker pollution limits than those set by the EPA. EPA's main goal is to have clean air to breath for this generation and those to follow. Over time, the Clean Air Act will continue to reduce air pollution, but it will take time for some of the Act's provisions to have their full time impact.
There are many ways we as the people of the United States can help to reduce earth's adversary of air pollution. At home we can conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when you leave the room. Buy Energy Star products, including energy efficient lighting and appliances. Keep woodstoves and fireplaces well maintained at all times. Recycling paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans are also productive ways we can reduce air pollution. By doing this we will conserve energy and reduce production emissions. When purchasing a car, truck, or van choose efficient, low polluting models of vehicles. Choose products that have less packaging and are reusable. Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently. When it comes to driving your vehicles keep tires properly aligned and inflated. In the summertime, fill gas tanks during cooler evening hours to cut down evaporation. Avoid spilling gas. When possible, use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike. Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checks (especially for the spark plugs). Use energy-conserving grade motor oil. Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency. Last but not least, join a carpool or vanpool to get to work. All of these suggestions can and will help to reduce air pollution. By doing so, we have to come together and set out to put an abrupt decrease to limiting the amount of air pollution caused by (for a significant part) we the people of United States of America.
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Recycling Metal What You Should Know by Christopher John Graham
It seems that everyone is making the effort to recycle these days, but few really understand what materials can be recycled. While we're all aware of the more common ones like paper and plastics; metal seems to be a tough one to remember. It is true though; you can recycle metal as long as you know what metal items and how to go about it. As a matter of fact, the amount of residential or household metal scrap is incredible! Our homes are filled with metals that can and should be recycled once we no longer have any use for them and these household metals can be divided into several groups: white goods, large household metal scrap and small residential metal scrap.
Recyclable Metal Scrap Categories
White Goods: This term refers to large household appliances and includes things such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washer and dryers, etc.
Large Household Metal Scrap: This category includes things like patio furniture, aluminum siding, bicycles, window and door frames, barbecues, larger auto parts, etc. Note that microwaves and air-conditioning units can be classified as white good as well.
Small Residential Metal Scrap: Utensils, pots and pans, coat hangers, tools, small auto or bike parts, watering cans, screws, nails, hooks, bolts, pipes and hinges are all a part of this category as well as many other small metal items used for renovations or general household use.
While most items will fit into one of the categories listed above; you may come across items that contain metal that you aren't quite sure of. These metal-bearing scrap items can also be recycled once they have passed their prime and are no longer needed - a great thing seeing as how our homes are full of these items!
Metal-bearing scrap items include things such as: Extension cords, electrical wires, holiday lights, umbrellas, eye glasses, belt buckles, lamps, handles, computer hardware... the list goes on. This pretty much includes any electrical items that you may have lying around the house as well as most sporting equipment like skates and racquets.
When it comes to recycling these items you should check the regulations with your local government office as some of these items are not able to be left curbside with your other recyclables like glass, papers and plastics. Some municipalities require that you call and make arrangements for pick up while others leave you to make your own arrangements. Luckily there are several options in your local phone directory when it comes to recycling metal scraps-this is a big industry you know! There are several scrap yards that will send a truck to pick up your white goods and such; all you need to do is get them out to the curb for them. There are even places that will pay you for your metal scraps and will happily send someone out to pick up your items if there is enough to make it worth their while. This certainly makes you see spring cleaning in a whole new light, doesn't it?
Abacus House Clearance is the leading property clearance service in the United Kingdom. We clear offices, government building, factories & houses. For more details, please visit: http://www.ukhouseclearance.com/
Recycling Plastic - What You Should Know by Christopher John Graham
If you're looking to do your part when it comes to the environment, then one of the best ways is to recycle plastic. You, like most others in your community are probably making a habit of tossing your plastic bottles and margarine containers into the appropriate bin, but what about all of the other plastic items that wind up in the trash bin? I bet there are dozens of things that you're not sure are recyclable and end up throwing away with the garbage instead. This article will cover all of that and more so that you can be the best and most responsible recycler around!
The first thing that you need to do is know how to recycle your usual household items properly and that begins with cleaning them out. Don't just scrape up that last but of peanut butter and toss the dirty container into your recycle bin-clean it! At the very least you should be rinsing your plastic containers before recycling them. Next, you should know that the items that the plastic items in your recycling bins should only include things such as: water and other beverage bottles, cooking oil containers, detergent containers and milk bottles. Plastic bags can go into the bin as well, but as not all bags are the same, you may be better off going the extra mile-literally-and dropping them off at the local grocery store. Most stores now have a container made specifically for plastic bag drop off and take care of the recycling for you. Just remember to clean out the bags before recycling them regardless of the method that you opt for.
Something else that you may not realize is that many caps or lids are made from a different type of plastic than the containers and are not recyclable, so unless you are certain of the material; throw caps and lids away with the garbage. While we're on the subject of garbage; you should also know that diapers, plastic food wrap, vegetable oil bottles and many yogurt containers are also not to be put in the recycling bin. This also goes for any labels on plastic bottles or containers, including many of the spray pumps on cleaning supplies.
Taking the time to recycle your plastics properly may seem like a bit of a drag when you're strapped for time as so many of us are, but you need to remember that an extra few minutes spent being diligent about recycling means a better world for you and your loved ones. Besides, much like the basic recycling that you're already required to do; this too will become second nature after awhile and you'll be doing it without thinking twice before you know it!
Finally, if you're looking for other ways to recycle your plastics; consider reusing the items that you can. Many cleaning products now offer refillables. You can also buy a large jug of spring water and fill up the little bottle that fits so perfectly in your lunch bag as opposed to constantly buying and tossing out the smaller bottles. Or use some plastic margarine containers in place of buying more storage containers. The ways that you can recycle are endless if you give it a little thought.
Abacus House Clearance is the leading property clearance service in the United Kingdom. We clear offices, government building, factories & houses. We average a 75% recycling rate. For more details, please visit: http://www.ukhouseclearance.com/
Recycling Paper - What You Should Know by Christopher John Graham
Everyone has different reasons for recycling and no matter what the motivation; whether because you care about the planet or just because it is the law - it's all good. But as recycle bins fill up with bottles and containers, we still don't seem to be recycling nearly as much paper as we should and my guess is because it's just so darn easy to crumple up into a ball, toss and forget about.
You often see magazines and newspapers put out for recycling, but landfills are still chalked full of other paper products. Think of how often you throw away paper in a day, even if just a sheet or two that you tear out of a book or perhaps the junk mail that you receive in your mailbox. It may not seem like very much, but if everyone were to think that way; look at how much paper that is going to waste! Maybe a little bit of insight into why we should recycle paper will make you think twice before throwing out that envelope or Christmas card.
Reasons Why You Should Recycle Paper
Making new paper from old paper uses anywhere from 35 to 50 percent less energy than making new paper.
Paper waste accounts for more than 40 percent of the waste that ends up in our landfills. Using less would increase the life of landfills and therefore mean needing less of them.
The cost of paper and paper products would go down if more of it was being recycled.
Office/printer paper is recycled into not only more office/printer paper but also things that we can't go without, such as toilet paper paper towel and tissue paper.
Recycled newspapers are used to make more newspapers, as well as gift boxes, board games, egg cartons, bedding for animals and more.
A ton of recycled paper saves us: 17 trees, 60,000 gallons of water, 9,000 pounds of steam and much, much more!
Doesn't that all make it seem more worth your while to watch where you toss your next piece of paper? It only takes a little bit of tweaking to make recycling paper a part of your everyday routine. Keeping a small recycling bin next to your favorite spot to open the mail is a good start, as is keeping one under your desk. Taking the time to collect your paper bins when garbage/recycling pick-up day rolls around will only take a few extra minutes out of your day which is a small price to pay for all of that listed above, isn't it?
Abacus House Clearance is the leading property clearance service in the United Kingdom. We clear offices, government building, factories & houses. We average a 75% recycling rate. For more details, please visit: http://www.ukhouseclearance.com/
Recycling Glass - What You Should Know by Christopher John Graham
When you finish guzzling down that bottle of Perrier, do you ever stop to think about what that bottle will be in its next life, so to speak? Probably not and you're not alone. Most of us recycle because that's just what you do now. We all know that it's the right thing to do because it's better for the environment and in most places, it is now law, but you probably don't give it much thought beyond that or really know why or how. After reading this article you'll think twice before cutting the occasional corner and tossing a jar or bottle into the trash and you'll likely never see glass quite the same way!
Did you know that glass is 100 percent recyclable? That ornate glass vase your grandma gave you or those fancy wine glasses or decorative bottles that you display - all made of simple materials that can be recycled! No matter how fancy or intricate glass can be made to look; it is made from soda ash, silica sand and limestone. That's it. So these means that glass can be recycled indefinitely. The next time you're drinking a bottle of juice, think about the fact that the glass from your bottle will go on to be something else, like a coffee jar and then maybe a baby food jar and eventually even a bottle of medicine, because glass can be recycled over and over which means making it last forever-or at least long after you're gone!
Glass is not only being broken down and used to make other glass containers, but in many countries; used glass containers and bottles are being re-used/refilled. This is the ultimate in glass recycling because it is simple and requires nothing more than the sanitization of the containers. Most countries offer consumers the opportunity to return bottles to the store in which they were purchased or in 'bottle banks' which are common in the UK. The glass which is not refilled and instead used to make other glass items is still an excellent benefit for our environment as it reduces energy consumption by not having to break down all new materials for new glass. It also means that less waste is being sent to landfills-another plus for the environment. Finally, it also helps in the manufacturing of brick, ceramic and fiberglass which are all an absolute necessity in this day and age.
We've come a long way in recent years when it comes to the recycling of glass. It was in the early seventies that the US began charging a five cent deposit on pop bottles which would be refunded when the bottle would be returned to the vendor. This certainly helped some since it meant a little bit of pocket money for anyone who stumbled on bottles outside and went through the trouble of returning them. These days though while we may not be paid directly for the bottles that we refrain from tossing in the trash; we certainly benefit by doing good for the world around us. Things have also gotten easier thanks to government issued recycling containers that are accessible to anyone regardless of where they live.
Abacus House Clearance is the leading property clearance service in the United Kingdom. We clear offices, government building, factories & houses. On average we manage a 75% recycling rate. For more details, please visit: http://www.ukhouseclearance.com/
Carbon Footprinting For Beginners by Gareth Kane
Before a business can attempt to reduce its carbon emissions, it is important to measure current emissions - the famous 'carbon footprint'. The main reasons for measuring a footprint are:
• to provide a baseline against which future emissions can be compared;
• to identify 'hotspots' for action;
• to identify obvious quick wins during the analysis;
• to make a statement of intent to internal and external stakeholders that the company is serious about the climate change agenda.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of persistent Greenhouse Gas (GHG) associated with a person, an organisation, a country or a product.
The recognised 6 greenhouse gases are:
• Carbon Dioxide (CO2);
• Methane (CH4);
• Nitrous Oxide (N2O);
• Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs);
• Perfluorocarbons (PFCs);
• Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6).
These all have different global warming effects, so they tend to be expressed as kilogrammes or tonnes CO2 equivalent using standard conversion factors. For example, 1kg methane is equivalent to 21kg CO2. From now on I'll refer to all of these generically as "carbon emissions".
Scope of Carbon Footprints There are three types of carbon emissions for organisations, and four a product:
1. direct emissions from internal operations (eg carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from vehicle use, carbon dioxide from gas fired heating systems);
2. indirect emissions from electricity use (ie the carbon emissions from the power station);
3. direct and indirect emissions from suppliers (and their suppliers) relating to the goods and services purchased; and for products:
4. emissions from the distribution, use and disposal of the product after it has been manufactured.
This is where footprinting gets complicated and controversial. Type 3 emissions are usually very significant (eg in the NHS they make up 60% of the footprint), yet many companies, including major supermarkets, simply ignore them, as does the UK Government and many personal carbon calculators on the Internet. For example, the UK's national emissions (types 1 & 2) are officially going down, but this is because we are offshoring our dirty industries (type 3) and our carbon footprint is actually going up. In my opinion, if you use the word 'footprint', you must include Type 3 emissions. This is easier said than done and will require a significant amount of data gathering - and much of that data will be held by other organisations, who may not be keen to reveal it.
Type 4 emissions are hard to calculate because predicting the lifecycle of a product is very difficult, but again it is important to include these emissions as they can often exceed the 'cradle to gate' emissions of types 1-3. For example, a compost company recently put a carbon label on their peat-based product with emission types 1-3, ignoring the fact that the type 4 emissions as the peat breaks down in use are 5 times as high as the rest put together.
The inclusion of indirect emissions from the entire supply chain raises one very difficult question - "Where do you stop?". If you start to list the number of potential sources of greenhouse gases amongst your suppliers, their suppliers etc, you will soon realise that this is a very data intensive exercise. I recommend the following shortcuts to prevent the exercise becoming unmanageable:
• 80/20 Thinking: if the company consumes a large amount of energy-intensive material (eg Aluminium) and a tiny amount of low energy services (eg contractors who carry out an annual site audit), then it is reasonable to count the production of aluminium in and exclude the contractors.
• Use of published data: If suppliers already publish their carbon footprint then it is reasonable to use a pro rata amount of this. Data from a study on a similar organisation as long as it is documented.
The golden rules of using such assumptions are:
• Relevance: obviously the assumption must reflect the business or product - you can't ignore significant impacts in one part of your scope just because they lie outside the scope of footprints in other sectors;
• Consistency: the same assumption should be applied to all relevant elements of the footprint, not just where it suits best;
• Transparency: the source or logic behind each assumption should be documented and published.
• Conservativeness: when in doubt you should assume the footprint is larger rather than smaller.
Expressing the Results of the Footprint
For products the carbon footprint is usually expressed in terms of a functional unit. A functional unit represents the amount of utility the product provides and allows different products to be compared. For example grams CO2 per passenger kilometre is the standard measurement for passenger vehicles. This allows, say, a car to be compared with a train. The choice has to be sensible - I've seen a TV manufacturer use refresh rate as a functional unit, but a 100MHz TV does not give the same utility as two 50MHz TVs - there is still only one picture, only sharper.
For organisations, footprints are usually expressed per annum, but this can be affected by major changes to the organisation such as an acquisition or a round of redundancies. Therefore it is usually worthwhile expressing the footprint both as a gross annual figure and as a function of the output of the business (eg CO2 equivalent per product).
While Carbon Footprinting is in vogue at the minute, calculating a proper carbon footprint is a considerable task. In summary, I recommend you:
• Choose the scope to fit the exercise (1-3 for organisations, 1-4 for products);
• Use the 80/20 rule and published data to make the exercise easier;
• Document all assumptions and make sure they are robust;
• Express the results carefully to avoid misleading figures.
Gareth Kane is the Director of Terra Infirma Ltd - a UK based environment and sustainability consultancy.
To learn more, subscribe to the free monthly newsletter The Low Carbon Agenda.
© 2008 Terra Infirma Ltd
Closing Oyster Creek - The Nations Oldest Nuclear Power Plant by Cathy Sims
Oyster Creek, the nation's oldest commercial nuclear power plant, began operating in 1969 and is literally rotting at its core. Experts say that Oyster Creek is past its time and the plant's design is unsafe. Its existing license will expire next April, however, a 20-year license renewal is currently undergoing appeals, which - if passed, would allow Oyster Creek to run until 2029.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has the authority to determine whether Oyster Creek can renew their license. The NRC is the federal agency in charge of regulating the nuclear industry to ensure that safety codes are met.
Rutgers Law Clinic attorney Richard Webster has filed a court challenge to suspend the re-licensing plan. Webster believes the government's re-licensing process limits public input and largely ignores pressing safety issues at aging plants. "We hope that the NRC will wake up and protect people and not the interests of the nuclear industry," he states.
In defense of NRC re-licensing procedures, NRC Chairman Dale Klein says the NRC insists that plants seeking a 20-year extension operate "just as safely as they have been."
At a recent hearing, Klein said, "Each re-licensing application is thoroughly reviewed, and NRC staff members spend more than 10,000 hours per reactor." He added that the NRC is following through on improvement recommendations issued last year by the agency's in-house watchdog, Inspector General Hubert Bell. In his written testimony, Bell said "the re-licensing process has shortcomings. NRC inspectors don't always independently verify information provided by nuclear plant operators and sometimes fail to ensure that the plants implement NRC-required steps before license renewals."
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg requested a hearing with the NRC, where he criticized their procedures, citing an Inspector General report that said the NRC "probably" does safety analysis as part of the re-licensing process. "The communities surrounding the Oyster Creek facility cannot rely on 'probably,'" Lautenberg said in a statement. "The NRC has an obligation to conduct real oversight of the nation's nuclear plants."
This year an audit of the license renewal process by the Inspector General found that information provided in NRC safety evaluation reports was identical, or nearly identical, to the corresponding applications, casting doubt on whether the NRC independently reviewed the applications.
Disturbed by the findings, the Inspector General reviewed how the NRC staff prepared the reports documenting their assessments at four nuclear plants, including Oyster Creek. According to a recent memo from the Inspector General's Office, the audit revealed that application documents and working papers used to support the review and approval of the application were destroyed by NRC staff. "Consequently," the memo concluded, "the failure to retain applicant documents and NRC working papers made it difficult to verify specific details of staff on-site review activities." In other words, it was impossible to determine whether the reviews were done properly.
The supporting documents prepared during on-site reviews would likely have been subpoenaed by watchdogs of the 40-year-old plant. The fact they have been destroyed, assuming they existed in the first place, heightens concerns that the application review process was flawed.
Exelon, the corporation that owns Oyster Creek, failed to meet an NRC requirement and disposed of water leakage without testing it for contamination. An NRC inspection report notes their failure to monitor water runoff, but does not take enforcement action against Exelon. "NRC's offering of endless last chances to Oyster Creek for repeated violations is a dangerous dodge of its regulatory responsibility," said Paul Gunter of Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
The NRC and Exelon's failure to act on possible corrosion on the drywell liner is symptomatic of larger problems, according to a coalition of six watchdog groups. If the drywell liner were to corrode enough, in the event of a nuclear accident, it could threaten over one million people.
Throughout Oyster Creek's relicensing process, attempts to gather information about its safety have repeatedly been refused or obstructed by red tape. "We cannot rely on Exelon to tell us the truth about Oyster Creek or follow commitments key to its safety," said Adam Garber, Consumer Advocate for New Jersey Public Interest Research Group. "Without that assurance, we are letting Exelon and the NRC roll the dice with Oyster Creek, and it will be New Jersey residents who pay the debt."
Economic Benefits to Plant Closing
There will be more money circulating in the economy after Oyster Creek shuts down. AmerGen will spend around $650 million over a 10-year period to clean up the site. They will employ around 300 workers, mostly unionized. The site will eventually be used by some business that will generate economic activity, employ people and pay taxes.
Security and Spent fuel
The NRC required plants to spend billions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the NRC neglected unprotected spent fuel pools. If the plant continues to operate, the amount of spent fuel stored there will continue to accumulate.
New Jersey Gov. Corzine requested a review of the Oyster Creek emergency plan, which was not done. Apparently, the plan has not considered the consequences of a spent fuel pool attack. Lacey Township will have the spent fuel for a very long time. Most of it will remain in a pool of water, never designed as a storage facility, 100 feet above the ground, with only sheet metal between it and you. The safest course of action is to close Oyster Creek, remove all the spent fuel from the spent fuel pool, put it in safety canisters, and force the Energy Department to take it all away - but where?
Dennis Zannoni, former chief nuclear engineer for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection has stated, "I have been involved with Oyster Creek for 20 years. My goal was to do what I could to make the plant safer. Oyster Creek's time is up. Close it, clean up the site and ready the property for the next business. Zannoni was reassigned from his position as chief nuclear engineer of the DEP last year in response to what he says is an unspecified complaint from an NRC staffer. He has said it may take a march to close the plant.
For more information, please call 732-240-5107 email: email@example.com
Cathy Sims, has been a journalist for over 30 years. She co-authored the first community publication on what you could do in your own home to help stop the pollution process, back in 1971. She is editor and publisher of the biz.ed Guide for 22 years and host of the Business Education Talk Show on Cablevision for over 10 years. http://www.bized.com
Adventures in Home Composting by Anita Koppens
Kitchen leavings such as banana peels, cantaloupe rinds and eggshells do not need to go into the trashcan. They can be recycled in compost bins to provide wonderful nutrients for succeeding generations of vegetation. With more people becoming devoted to the environment, composting is a simple procedure that can be implemented at home to reduce the negative impact on the eco-system. Composting is easy to start at home; simply keeping a small garbage pail dedicated to eco-friendly refuse in the kitchen can help you begin. At the end of each day, simply take the materials out to the area where you keep your compost bin. With very little effort and some assistance from the natural activities of bugs and warmth from the sun, you can cultivate nutrient rich soil for your garden, house plants or landscaping and feel good about being pro-active and reducing waste in landfills.
For those who do not wish to purchase a ready-made compost bin, it's uncomplicated to make one from lumber. Anyone with little knowledge can build a compost bin in a brief period of time. There are many instructions available online, so you have the chance of picking a plan that appeals to your aesthetic taste. You will need materials and, if raccoons or other wild animals are troublesome in your area, you may want a hinged cover to keep animals out.
Compost bins are generally affordable and simple to construct. One of the easiest ways involves taking sections of snow fence and making them into a square by attaching all corners to a strong post, and then staking it into the ground. Others have fashioned compost bins from used skids or simply by creating a circle from chicken wire. If you want a stronger compost bin, consider using two by fours to craft a square compost bin with gaps for airflow.
Put the compost bin at a sufficient distance from your home so that you can't smell any waste, yet close enough for convenience. You should also keep in mind that the compost bin will naturally be warm because of the biological process occurring inside of it. In order to keep this heat, if you live in a colder climate you will need to place it in a sunny area. If you dwell in a very hot, dry climate, you will need to add water to it occasionally and perhaps put it in a sheltered area. It needs to sustain some warmth and moisture, but any severity in temperature will likely slow down the progression.
When your compost pile is in full swing, it will be easy to maintain and reap the many benefits from your good intentions. Continuously add scraps from the kitchen like onion peels, lettuce, even whole fruits or vegetables that went bad before you had the opportunity to eat them. It is essential to turn the soil at least once per season to keep the soil oxygenated. The material at the bottom should be exposed to the top and vice versa for the bottom. Such simplicity with great rewards should provide encouragement to keep up with other environmentally friendly habits. Don't forget that children love the idea too.
Build a Reef by Roger Hamilton
Pulau Badul, located in the bay of Ujung Kulon National Park on the southwest tip of Java, was chosen as the site for this project. This tiny island, tipping just above sea level at high tide, had its surrounding reef almost completely destroyed by fish bombing five years ago. Iit has since become a protected area, but the comeback of the reef by itself has been slow, due to the total devastation caused by the fishermen.
Fish bombing is a common practice around Indonesia, as well as in other parts of the world. Fishermen use explosives to kill fish, and when the fish then come floating to the surface, the fishermen take their pick. The bombs, however, kill everything: all smaller fish and sea life, soft coral, hard coral - sadly, none of it of any commercial interest. When the fishermen collect their catch, everything other than the bigger edible fish gets left behind, together with a reef-now-turned-graveyard. In the end, the devastation hits all non-targeted marine life in much greater numbers than the few targeted fish. Even worse, it destroys an entire system, leaving nothing but lifeless ruins for years to come.
This destructive practice is being increasingly monitored by authorities, but is very difficult to put an end to. Therefore, even more than elsewhere, sustainability of this WWF project depends on the local community taking ownership. With a purely correctional method not a viable option, WWF has been working on involving the locals as much as possible, and having the villagers profit from their projects economically - as well as looking for a commercial partner who would be happy to invest in this by attracting people to contribute. Java Sea Charters was this partner.
This alternative income for the local villagers should come from a variety of sources. First is the coral farming, which produces the colonies used for reef building. In the case of this trip, 40 percent of the proceeds of the weekend will be used to pay the coastal villagers for their 'products' and associated costs. As yet, a farming villager cannot generate enough income from farming to sustain himself, so he needs to supplement his income by fishing. Hopefully, with villagers now actively involved in the farming, and with at least some of their income stemming from it, this should lessen the appetite for bombing.
A second source of income is tourism, but this is a longerterm goal. Tourism is always a two-sided sword because it can cause destruction on its own; but it can also improve the sustainability of marine life (and for that matter, other wildlife as well). The Maldives stand out as an example of a country with a successfully-managed marine life because of tourism. Already, the WWF projects in Ujung Kulon manage to draw the attention of avid divers, who sometimes sleep in the villages, rent the local boats, and explore other parts of the area. If the total area could be developed in a sustainable way, the benefits of tourism would most likely far outweigh any destruction it would bring.
Without these alternative income sources, the fishermen tend to encroach on not only marine areas, but also terrestrial parts of the park. The ecological benefits thus reach much further than the sea life alone.
The group's first dive at Pulau Badul was to show what can be done when humans interfere subtly to give nature a little help. Around one part of the island, WWF had constructed several artificial reefs built from concrete hollow cubes. By constructing reefs in pyramid shapes, the surface area is optimised for coral to grow on and, at the same time, fish are provided with a sheltered area. Only one year after construction, these artificial reefs showed a remarkably rich marine life, with colourful young hard and soft coral, plenty of lion fish, schools of catfish and shrimp, to name but a few.
The reef which the divers were about to build was slightly different in nature. Small hard and soft coral colonies were attached to bricks, which were placed on and attached to concrete bed-shaped structures. As opposed to the pyramid-shaped structures already in place, these coral colonies should give the development of the corals a jump start.
Diving with Turtles and Tuna
When Java Sea Charters launched the initiative to contribute to WWF's efforts in Ujung Kulon National Park, within one day of promoting it, the trip was overbooked. Scuba divers apparently not only want to 'consume' marine life as passive viewers, but many will jump at the chance to play an active role in maintaining marine biodiversity.
In evaluating the weekend afterwards, all divers agreed that they were greatly concerned about the devastation of marine life around the globe. Many also admitted that it might be for selfish reasons - and that can be perfectly okay - but they want to be able to keep on diving with turtles, tuna and trevally, and gliding weightlessly by beautiful coral. Also, for a change, working during a dive to do their part gives them as much satisfaction as the more adrenaline-empowered wellknown divers' kicks, such as large shark encounters or the joy of lounging with gentle giant manta rays.
Operating at a Loss
Other than the organisation itself, Java Sea Charters supported this trip by operating it at a loss. The generous support received from several companies was a help in making this event possible: Bluebird provided the return four-hour bus rides to and from Tanjung Lesung; Unilever's latest Calbee Minori snacks were the answer to divers' munchies; Kristal Klear Divers provided extra tanks; and local beer brewer Bintang opened the taps for the needed liquid supplies for the hard-working builders.
With the raving feedback from all participants after the weekend, and the overbookings before, Java Sea Charters has decided to organise such events on a more regular basis. Logically, these repeat trips will include monitoring the development of the recently-built reef as well.
WWF Indonesia has set up a website for this and more reef-building weekends to come: wwf.or.id/BuildReef, as a page of their general website. This very complete site will not only give you plenty of interesting information on other WWF projects, but also on what you can do yourself for the oceans - such as their useful Sea Food Guide of which species to eat and not to eat.
Many small steps by many people will take us a long way!
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Saturday, September 6, 2008
What Exactly is Organic Farming? by Kathryn Bax
It is a term that has been grossly misrepresented. It is not just a form of agricultural practice that uses compost, crop rotation and shuns manufactured chemicals and artificial hormones. Farming organically is more than that. It is a highly structured practice, conforming to very detailed production standards.
First and foremost, Organic Farming is monitored by an international body set up in 1972 - The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM). And I quote from their website: "The role of organic agriculture, whether in farming, processing, distribution, or consumption, is to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from the smallest in the soil to human beings."
Therefore, what we are talking about Eco-Agriculture and the key word here is health. Organic Farming does not entertain genetically modified foods, battery-raised animals, additives to animal feed, or anything that is artificial in any way in agricultural practices.
There are 4 main principles of Organic Farming as laid down by IFOAM:
Organic agriculture is based on:
The principle of health
The principle of ecology
The principle of fairness
The principle of care
The Principle of Health
It stands to reason that if we grow food and raise animals on healthy soil then we will grow healthy crops and have healthy animals. The consequence of this is that we then eat healthy food, and, as a result have a healthy body. It is the sequential chain of reactions that relies totally on where it all starts: the soil.
People are concerned about food safety, particularly in light of the fact that there is serious concern that modern Agri-Farming practices that are not organic, have caused food allergies, asthma, and heart disease through artificial additives and chemical fertilizers that we ingest. Worse still there are diseases directly linked to irresponsible farming practices that ignore common sense. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy appears to have been caused by feeding cows, that are naturally herbivores, the remains of other cattle and bone meal in order to increase weight and early slaughter.
The Principle of Ecology
We need to go back to what nature intended and that is what Organic Farming is all about. It is to grow crops and raise animals on land that is enriched with compost and mulches that are well rotted because this is the most paramount of stages in organic farming. The aim is to get as much humus into the land as possible, and this includes manure, compost, seaweed, leaf-mould, spoiled hay, and anything of vegetable or animal origin, including blood and bone, that can go into making a compost heap. The keyword here is recycling. There is the old adage; "Waste not, want not" and never so true in farming organically.
Any left over crops or wood should never be burnt on a property. This is an absolute waste of potential compost, and it is also a pollution contributor. Why burn it when you could use it and it isn't costing you anything? Why burn those vine cuttings and those orchard prunings? Invest in a chipper to reduce the bulk and add these to your compost heap.
What happens to your soil when it is healthy? It is filled with micro-organisms and those beautiful earthworms that delight the heart of those who care. Once you have earthworms in your soil you know that you are doing something right.
Remember too that you need to rest your soil and to use crop-rotation effectively. When you have a field at rest plant a cover crop, such as rye grass as a temporary planting in autumn. This protects the soil from wind and water erosion and adds organic matter. You can also grow crops such as legumes for soil improvement, called green manure crops, and are often left in place for six months to a year. Legumes are especially efficient because they "fix" nitrogen from the air into the soil.
In England more and more farmers are replanting hedgegrows on their farms as they now realize how important they are. Many animals and insects use these hedges as part of their ecosystem, therefore when the hedgegrows were removed, these little animals and insects then lost their natural shelters and an imbalance on the ecosystem resulted in an influx on insects that were unwelcome. They are also excellent wind-breakers and hold the soil in place to prevent soil erosion.
The Principle of Fairness
Organic farming believes in fairness in that the land, its people and its animals should be respected and treated with care and justice. We are custodians of this land, and as such, the custodianship should be taken seriously. We should ensure that we never harm or damage the environment in any way. That our aim should be to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to produce healthy food for everyone, and that nothing that we do when we work the land is harmful in any respect to the soil and water that we use, the animals that we rear and those that consume the end product.
Animal rearing has always been controversial with the implementation of factory farming. Factory farming is inhumane where animals are kept in confined and overcrowded spaces, and in poor conditions where they maim each other just to fight for space and life. Animals have to be reared justly, and given open spaces to live. It acknowledges that there has to be a link between the animal and the soil and that their welfare and veterinary care is vital.
The Principle of Care
Although this is last on this list of principles, I feel that it is probably the most important one. Because if one did not care about the environment, the situation of where we are at the moment and the importance of providing healthy food for a healthy lifestyle, then we would not embark on any of the above.
We need to care! This is the only planet that we have! It is also the only life we have, this is not a dress-rehearsal. This is the main event.
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