SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

April 17, 2019 by  
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Just a few months ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) released designs for the first full-time human habitat on the lunar surface. Created in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the conceptual settlement — dubbed the “Moon Village” — outlines ways humans could live in an otherwise uninhabitable setting through self-sufficient means. Envisioned with a series of inflatable living modules, the Moon Village would not only harness resources for sustaining life and industrial activities, but would also be able to conduct research for sustaining life on terrestrial planets other than Earth. Because the Moon Village would harness sunlight for energy , the rim of Shackleton Crater near the South Pole has been selected as the project site, as it receives near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year. In situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments would generate food and other life-sustaining elements, such as breathable air, which would be created from water extracted from the crater’s water-ice deposits near the South Pole. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM design partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth , like radiation protection, pressure differentials and how to provide breathable air.” Related: Martian tiny home prototype champions zero waste and self sufficiency The settlement would comprise clusters of inflatable pressurized modules that could easily expand to accommodate future growth and programmatic needs. Designed for self sufficiency, each three- to four-story modular unit would not only include living quarters and workspaces, but also environmental control and life support systems within a regolith-based protective shell resistant to extreme temperatures, projectiles, regolith dust and solar radiation. The settlement would allow mankind to conduct a more thorough exploration of the moon for research and development purposes and help pave the way to potential human settlements on Mars and beyond. + SOM Images via SOM

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SOM unveils designs for first-ever human settlement on the moon

Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

April 9, 2019 by  
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With clothing production leading the world as one of the highest-polluting industries, a new fiber contradicts the earth-damaging qualities of traditional materials. Ioncell technology , developed at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, uses a range of materials, including wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton to make fabric. This is good news for an environment scarred by cotton production and the development of synthetic fibers. The new and improved material can also be recycled at the end of its life cycle, significantly reducing clothing waste . In a country already acutely aware of sustainable practices in forest management, the trees sourced from Finland offer a much lower carbon footprint than traditional clothing. Ioncell materials also protect the water supply by using ionic liquid in place of harsh chemicals. Related: The convenience of “highway fitting” your clothes is hurting the planet While the designers focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing, the clothing also avoids contributing to a massive post-consumer waste problem. That’s because the fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, the fibers do not contain any harmful microfibers now associated with massive ocean pollution and damage to sea life. Sourced from birch trees , the wood is responsibly harvested as part of a forest management program that grows more trees than they harvest. Once cut into smaller logs, the wood is sent through a machine that turns it into large chips. At this phase, the chips are sent to the cooker and then turned into sheets of pulp. The pulp is then mixed with the ionic liquid that results in a cellulose material. Fibers are then spun into yarn and turned into fabric. Designers and researchers involved in the project report that the resulting material is soft and drapes naturally, making it a good choice for formalwear, coats, scarves, gloves and other products. It also accepts dye well. The process for making Ioncell fibers is still in the research and development phase and they currently only produce it on a small scale, but they are hoping to unveil a preliminary product line as early as 2020. + Aalto University Via World Economic Forum Images via Aalto University

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Ioncell technology creates eco-textile clothing fibers from birch trees

Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

April 9, 2019 by  
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Common bathroom products, like toilet paper, cotton swabs and baby wipes, are a convenience for people around the world, but they come at a cost to the environment. These products take centuries to biodegrade and contribute to our growing problem of carbon emissions. Luckily, there are great eco-friendly alternatives to these common  bathroom  products that will not break your budget. Here is a quick list of the most common bathroom products and suggestions on how to find sustainable alternatives. Toilet paper The issue with toilet paper is that the majority of it is manufactured from boreal forests in Canada. These forests are crucial in absorbing carbon and cleaning the air. According to Quartzy , people in the United States use far more toilet paper per year than anywhere else in the world. This is creating a dangerous situation for trees , as the demand is reaching an unsustainable pace. Related: The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead The solution to the toilet paper problem is to use single-ply paper sourced from recycled wood pulp. The key here is to find brands that are using recycled pulp instead of just looking for single-ply products. Many companies that make single-ply options do not use recycled wood . There are also tree-free options, such as those made from bamboo. Consider installing a bidet in your home. You can purchase a bidet lid that is easy to install and affordable to boot. This might not eliminate the need for toilet paper, but it will significantly reduce its use and save you money. Feminine care products Like other products on this list, tampons and sanitary pads clutter our landfills and can do a number on plumbing. The biggest problem is that these products are essential for daily living, but fortunately there are eco-friendly alternatives if you look carefully. If you want to improve your impact on the environment, buy tampons that do not feature an applicator. In 2017, the Clean Ocean Action group cleaned up over 4,000 applicators from shores in New Jersey. Also, choose feminine care products made from unscented organic cotton. You can look for underwear companies that make more absorbent products, such as Thinx, Luna and Knix. The downside to this alternative is that they can get pricey. If you are interested, try a menstrual cup, which can safely last for up to 10 years. Dental products Most dental floss is made from synthetic fibers, which makes it hard for these products to biodegrade within a reasonable time. This means that the floss either ends up in landfills or gets flushed down the toilet, where it can create problems for marine  wildlife . Related: 8 ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly Fortunately, there are companies out there who make plastic-free dental floss. According to Household Wonders , Dental Lace’s dental floss is mostly made of silk and is free of plastics. The company also offers refillable floss. Instead of plastic toothbrushes, find a bamboo option that will biodegrade. As far as toothpaste goes, try making your own or find a tooth powder or tooth tablets sold in glass jars for zero-waste alternatives. Cotton swabs Cotton swabs often end up in undesirable places after they are discarded. Some people flush them down the toilet, leaving them to end up in waterways and ultimately in the bellies of aquatic life. Because of these disposal problems, some countries have banned cotton swabs altogether, especially the ones that have plastic stems. The good news is that you do not really need to use cotton swabs. In fact, doctors do not recommend using them to clean ears, as they are easily the biggest source of ear-related trauma. Instead, simply wash out your ears with warm water and let the wax do the rest. If you cannot give up cotton swabs, consider purchasing ones that have paper or bamboo stems. These are better for the environment and break up more easily after they are thrown away. Baby wipes There are a lot of problems with baby wipes. Not only are they primarily made out of cotton — which is one of the worst crops for the environment — but they are also comprised of plastic polymers, which are added for extra strength. These wipes can lead to multiple plumbing issues and have been known to clog up water treatment facilities. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers If you have to use baby wipes, avoid flushing them down the toilet, even if the packaging says they are safe to do so. Instead, try using burp cloths or washcloths for daily cleaning . Speaking of wipes, you should also avoid all types of disposable cleaning and makeup-removing wipes, just as a general rule of thumb. For best practices, consider investing in reusable wipes. You can even use an old wipes container to house them. Make your own wipes out of old T-shirts or towels; all you need is something that is absorbent and soft. Deodorant Deodorant may be great at keeping smells at bay, but this product comes at a cost to the planet and your health. Most deodorant on the market is actually antiperspirant and contains chemicals, toxins, BPA and aluminum. This combination of chemicals usually leads to harmful reactions after extended use, not to mention that sourcing the material is hazardous to the environment. The best eco-friendly alternative to conventional deodorant is purchasing products that are completely organic and free of those harmful toxins. Images via Shutterstock

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Eco-friendly replacements for common bathroom products

Keep your tiny home safe with these 9 security tips

April 8, 2019 by  
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Tiny home security is becoming a major concern amid a recent slew of thefts. Given the mobile nature of tiny homes, people have been hooking them up to their trucks and driving away with them. The majority of these stolen tiny homes have been recovered, but it is still unnerving to think that people can steal your entire home in a matter of minutes. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your tiny home from being stolen. From locking hitches to installing motion detectors and cameras , here are a few tiny home security tips that will give you peace of mind. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? Lock The Hitch According to Tiny House Blog , the easiest way to prevent your tiny home from being carted away is to buy a hitch lock. These handy devices will stop people from unhitching your tiny home trailer. It also prevents someone from hooking up to the trailer and driving away, which would obviously be just as bad. Hitch Block Speaking of hitches, you can always block access to it entirely. After all, if the trailer hitch is completely blocked off, nobody will be able tow it away. You either buy a hitch block or make one yourself, depending on your budget . Lock The Wheels Wheel locks are another great way to keep your tiny home from unintentionally rolling away. Traffic police use these same devices for cars that are parked illegally, and removing them without the proper tools is a lot of work. Apart from the key, someone would need some heavy duty equipment to remove the lock, which will deter most criminals. The downside to wheel locks is that they can be expensive to purchase outright. But considering how much you could lose if your entire home is stolen, the investment is well worth it. GPS Technology In the event that criminals bypass your security measures, having a GPS device hidden in the home will lead you right to it. Several companies make tracking devices specifically for tiny homes, so there are plenty of options on the market to fit your needs. The majority of these devices feature a monitoring service that keeps tabs on everything for you. They usually run under $25 a month, which is not bad considering it might be one of the best ways to locate your home if it is stolen. If you do have a tracker on your home, you should always work with local law enforcement when recovering the home. Dog Power Many criminals are deterred by dogs , primarily because they are either intimidating looking or they create a lot of noise. Either way, having a dog or two on the premises could be what ultimately scares off a potential thief. While dogs, both large and small, can help discourage intruders, they should not be the primary line of defense for your tiny home. Motion Lights There are few things that would-be thieves love more than cover, especially when they are scoping out a potential target. Motion lights are great at scaring away thieves or, at the very least, making them think twice about stealing from you. Not only can these lights illuminate potential hiding places around your home, but they can also stop creepers in their tracks. There are plenty of options on the market when it comes to motion lights. For most tiny home owners, battery operated products are the best because they can be installed just about anywhere and do not require any electrical wiring. Related: This tiny home allows a family of 3 to go off the grid in Maui Securing Your Tiny Home When it comes to securing your home, Tiny Home Builders recommends installing locks on all exterior doors and windows. You can start by buying for your front door. Just about any window lock will do as tiny home windows are usually built better than ones found in RVs and most mobile homes. Smart Technology Smart home technology has made it easier than ever to keep track of your home security. You can even purchase DIY systems that include both motion detectors and sound sensors. These input devices will send you messages on your phone whenever they detect suspicious activity. The one negative to using smart technology is that they require constant power and an internet connection to function. If WiFi is not available near your tiny home, this might not be a viable option for you. Security Cameras Having visible security cameras around your home is the best way to prevent theft. You can choose a system that either stores video on a local hard drive or on a cloud-based server. You usually get better quality with a local storage system, though being able to upload to the cloud means you can access it whenever you want. If you opt for installing a security camera to bolster your tiny home security, make sure you put up a sign so that thieves are well aware that they are being monitored at all times. Images via Shutterstock

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Keep your tiny home safe with these 9 security tips

Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

April 8, 2019 by  
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It’s uncommon to see people flop down on the carpet in an upscale hotel lobby. But at the Fairmont Banff Springs on a Friday morning, a middle-aged woman from Indianapolis and two kids from Montreal are the latest of many to reject decorum when faced with Bear’s charms. The black lab gazes at them with liquid amber eyes while rolling over for a belly rub. It’s all in a day’s work for Bear, a canine ambassador who give travelers a dose of human-animal connection. The Fairmont’s canine ambassador program is spreading around the world, from Georgie, a yellow lab in Washington, DC to Tusker and Grammy, ridgeback/lab sisters at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. About 16 dogs now work for the hotel chain. Some people might find it gimmicky, but travelers missing their pets are drawn to the dogs like magnets. In Banff, the floor of the VIP concierge area, Bear’s lair, is littered with toys brought by admirers. Related: Vegan dog food company continues its international expansion Symbiotic species Why do people like dogs so much that they lavish gifts upon a hotel’s canine ambassador while on vacation? Humans have probably hung out with dogs for somewhere between fourteen and forty thousand years, depending on which researcher you ask. Some scientists credit dogs with helping humans survive. It’s true they’ve guarded our lives and property, herded sheep, pulled sleds, shared warmth, helped hunt and even, in a pinch, provided babysitting services. Most pets don’t earn their keep in such tangible ways. But humans do expect emotional connection and interaction. Many humans prefer dogs to cats because Fido is more likely than Fluffy to enthusiastically greet them at the door. A recent study by Japanese animal behaviorist Takefumi Kikusui found that when humans and their dogs gazed into each other’s eyes for several minutes, oxytocin levels rose in both species. While it increased by up to 130 % in the dogs, the humans experienced up to a 300% percent boost of this emotionally bonding hormone. No wonder people feel like something’s missing if they don’t bring their dog on vacation. The making of an ambassador Of course, it takes a special kind of dog to be willing and able to provide so much love and support for throngs of strangers. Many of the Fairmont dogs are dropouts from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind program. They don’t make the final cut because of their personality or a health issue. Dropouts are usually too friendly and sociable to be seeing eye dogs. Laurent Pelletier, assistant director of food and beverage at the Fairmont Banff Springs , was considering adopting a family dog at the same time the hotel wanted to acquire a canine ambassador. “In a meeting, somebody asked would anyone be interested in being the dad,” Pelletier said. He and a few others staff members put their names in. Pelletier won, partly because he had dog-friendly attributes like a backyard and two children. When the day came, Canadian Guide Dogs put Bear on a plane from Ottawa. The whole family went to meet Bear at the airport. The lab/retriever mix spent a couple of weeks adjusting to his new home before he started his job. “He was extremely well behaved. But now he’s not as good,” Pelletier says affectionately while Bear mouths his hand. Bear started his job part time in fall of 2017. After about a month of staff walks, Bear was comfortable enough to start walking the guests. A Day in the Life Now Bear works fulltime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., just like Pelletier. “It’s almost like he’s a human,” Pelletier says. “Some days he doesn’t want to get out of bed. I’m like ‘Bear, we’ve got to go.’” Bear spends most of his workday receiving visitors in the VIP concierge lounge. In winter , he might get a couple of guest walks per day. In the summer high season, they limit guest access to Bear. “There were days he barely got a break,” Pelletier says. Bear spends much of his day with Jason Lewis, VIP concierge and member of the acclaimed international concierge organization Les Clefs d’Or. Lewis grew up as more of a cat guy, in thrall to an enormous orange feline. But when asked what he gets out of his daily association with Bear, he answers immediately, “Happy. He’s company. He knows what’s going on.” Lewis manages Bear’s calendar, which includes walks with guests and occasional promotional appearances. Bear has a following of devoted fans and repeat visitors. “As soon as they book their room, they book a walk with Bear,” says Pelletier. Not only does Bear provide doggy affection, some people feel safer going on a trail with a dog. Sometimes Bear gets overwhelmed by guest attention. “You can see him tell you, ‘I’m over it,’” Lewis says. Bear slinks off behind the concierge counter when he needs a break, or holes up in Pelletier’s private office. Despite Bear’s extensive education and training, he’s still a normal dog. When he gets off work at five, he’ll play with his friend in the neighborhood, another black lab, or with Pelletier’s kids. “He’s a lot rougher with our kids than with the guest kids,” Pelletier says. “When he’s here, he’s at work. At home, he’s at home.” But even with the guests, Bear isn’t quite 100 percent domesticated. There’s still enough wildness in him to growl at a squirrel or dive into a snowbank. Images via Inhabitat

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Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

One third of the world’s power now comes from renewable energy

April 4, 2019 by  
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After years of hard work and dedication, a third of the power generated around the world is now linked to renewable energy. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just released new data that shows impressive growth in both wind and solar energy , which has contributed to the changes in energy sources around the globe. Locations differed in the rate of renewable energy capacity. Asia, for example, witnessed an increase in renewable energy by 11 percent, while Africa’s pace was a little above 8.4 percent. Also contributing the numbers is the fact that two-thirds of the power added last year came from renewable sources, and developing countries are leading the pack. Related: Amazon plans to reach net-zero carbon use by 2030 “Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” the director of IRENA, Adnan Z. Amin explained. Renewable energy has been on the rise for past five years, and the numbers released in IRENA’s study show they are not slowing down. While the numbers are a positive sign for the future, Amin believes they need to increase at an even faster pace if we want to reach our global climate goals. New technology, of course, is the driving force behind renewable energy. Not only does technology make these energy sources possible, but it also makes them easier than ever to access. This includes the use of wind and solar energy, which contributed the most to energy capacities in 2018. Wind energy experienced a growth by around 49 GW while solar energy led the pack with an increase of 94 GW. While hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy, its growth has steadily declined over the years. Other notable sources include bioenergy , which saw growth in both China and the UK, and geothermal energy which increased in Turkey, Indonesia and the United States. Considering the fast growth rate of renewable energy, environmentalists hope the trend will continue for decades to come. If more and more countries continue to invest in renewable energy, we should be able to make great strides in curbing global carbon emissions over the next century. + IRENA Image via IRENA

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Episode 165: Paint, predictive data and the path to reduced shipping emissions

March 29, 2019 by  
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Plus, Associate Editor Holly Secon chats with Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley about affordable, appealing alternatives to animal protein.

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Episode 165: Paint, predictive data and the path to reduced shipping emissions

Risky geoengineering research deemed safe, blocked by US

March 25, 2019 by  
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New study conducted by Harvard, MIT and Princeton claims that releasing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to cool the climate could be safe, only if gas injections are limited to only cooling temperatures by half of what is needed to stop global warming. About two weeks later, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blocked a United Nations proposal to commission further research on the emerging technology— called geoengineering — a move that both supporters and opponents of the technology see as blatant protection of the fossil fuel industry at the potential peril of the world. What is geoengineering? Geoengineering is a term used for a collection of technologies to artificially alter the earth’s climate. Other climate engineering technologies include ocean fertilization , carbon dioxide removal , marine cloud brightening , cirrus cloud thinning  and ground-based albedo modification. These strategies are incredibly controversial both because of the unprecedented and unknown risks at a global scale, but also for ethical reasons of how humans should intervene in the earth’s climate. The concept of injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere mimics the gases naturally released by volcanoes. The gases block the sun’s rays and cool the earth’s climate. Millions of tons of cooling aerosols would need to be released to limit temperatures to the recommended 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Related: Man-made climate change now at the level scientists call ‘five-sigma’ What are the risks? Most geoengineering technologies have not been deployed in large scale experiments and therefore the risks can only be predicted with computer modeling. Previous studies concluded that injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere might alter rain and storm patterns and decrease water availability. There are also concerns that geoengineering would disproportionately impact certain regions, such as increasing cyclones in Asia and drought in Africa. What does the new study reveal? The Harvard-led study used computer simulation to reach a radical new conclusion: that blocking only half of the temperature increase would not have the risks typically associated with sulfur dioxide injection. In fact, their university-funded study – revealed that only 0.4 percent of the earth might experience worsened climate impacts. Alan Robock, a geophysics professor at Rutgers University,  warned The Guardian that Harvard’s study only looked at a few of the potential consequences. Robock’s own study lists 27 reasons against geoengineering, including its annual price tag of billions of dollars, the disruption of stratospheric chemistry, ice formation and increased UV exposure, as well as ethical questions of whether people have the right to see blue sky. US and Saudi Arabia block proposal to continue research In a controversial move at the United Nations, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Brazil rejected a Swiss proposal to commission further research on geoengineering. The proposal called for the assemblage of an expert committee to oversee geoengineering research and governance. Given the technology’s potential benefits and global-scale risks, most countries agreed the U.N. should oversee research as well as establish rules for future deployment. “I think governance is an incredibly vital component of geoengineering,” Shuchi Talati of the Union of Concerned Scientists told E&E News . “Even if you’re opposed to geoengineering, you need a governance mechanism to be able to enforce that.” The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are two of the world’s largest oil producing countries. They rejected the proposal over language stating that geoengineering should not be explored as an alternative to mitigation – in other words, they opposed the idea that reducing carbon emissions should still be the priority. The U.S. also leads the way in geoengineering research and resisted any oversight on its ability to independently implement its discoveries instead of curbing its carbon emissions . Currently, no international law explicitly prohibits countries from deploying large-scale sulfur dioxide injections, despite profound global-scale impacts. Controversy, ethics and impasse Many environmentalists argue geoengineering does not address the causes of global warming – carbon emissions – and that once the injected gases dissipate, they will have to be re-injected every year. Many also argue that even investment in research sends a message that countries may not need to keep to their Paris Agreement commitments of curtailing emissions since a back-up fix may be approved. Current predictions show that even if countries keep their ambition commitments, the earth will reach a disastrous 3 degrees warmer. “It seems to me inconsistent to say, on the one hand, that global warming is the biggest problem that humanity faces, and then go on to say, on the other hand, but we shouldn’t even do research on [solar radiation management] because it may pose risks,” Daniel Bodansky, an expert in international climate agreements from Arizona State University  told E&E News . “Either climate change is the biggest problem we face or it’s not. And if it is, then it’s all hands on deck.” Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Risky geoengineering research deemed safe, blocked by US

Biodegradable tableware made from wheat bran debuts at Toronto’s Green Living Show

March 25, 2019 by  
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This week, Toronto citizens learned that wheat bran is good for more than enhancing digestive regularity. An innovative Polish company displayed its disposable, biodegradable tableware made from unprocessed wheat bran at Toronto’s Green Living Show. While an ordinary disposable plastic plate could take 500 years to break down, Biotrem’s tableware biodegrades through composting within a single month. They’re made from compressed wheat bran, a by-product of the cereal milling process. Biotrem can make up to 10,000 biodegradable plates and bowls from one ton of wheat bran. Related: Shellworks upcycles leftover lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastics The wheat bran tableware can handle hot or cold food, liquid or solids and is microwave-safe. From picnic spots to barrooms, the new biodegradable cups and plates could decrease landfill -bound garbage. Wheat farmer and miller Jerzy Wysocki devised the process of turning wheat bran into plates. Every time he milled wheat, Wysocki found himself with excess wheat bran. Through trial and error, he discovered that mixing the bran with water, then heating and pressurizing it resulted in a sturdy material. He started what would grow into Biotrem with a single machine that he built on his farm . Biotrem’s production plant in Zambrow can currently produce about 15 million biodegradable bowls and plates per year. They also make disposable cutlery, which combines wheat bran with fully biodegradable PLA bio-plastic. So far, Biotrem products are available in a dozen European countries, the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Lebanon. Transform Events & Consulting, based in Charlottestown, Prince Edward Island, distributes Biotrem products to the Canadian market. The event company introduced more consumers to wheat bran plates at this month’s Green Living Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “As event organizers, we see just how much plastic waste is generated at events of all kinds, especially festivals,” said Mark Carr-Rollitt, owner of Transform Events & Consulting. “We are thrilled to partner with Biotrem to offer a well-designed, viable alternative to single use plastics.” Via Biotrem Images Biotrem

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Biodegradable tableware made from wheat bran debuts at Toronto’s Green Living Show

Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

March 20, 2019 by  
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Have you ever heard of bioenergy? Or, have you ever wondered where your garbage goes once you throw it out? For many people — especially Americans — once their trash leaves the house, there is no more thought about where it goes or what happens to it. As soon as a sanitation worker picks up your garbage , there is no reason to think about the serious problems that massive amounts of waste can cause. Every year, Americans discard about 250 million tons of resources, making them the largest generator of waste on Earth. Approximately 136 million tons are buried, 89 million tons are composted or recycled  and 33 million tons are burned. Yet, have you ever thought about how those methods of trash disposal impact communities and the environment ? In an effort to dispose of trash in a more eco-friendly way, many countries have started increasing the disposal method of waste-to-energy, or bioenergy , because when the garbage is burned, it generates energy. Some countries have even switched to bioenergy completely, like Sweden, who has actually run out of its own trash and imports 700,000 tons annually to meet the capacity of their waste-to-energy plants. In Norway, they are experimenting with fueling their public transportation system with biogas. According to Energy Central, one kilogram of food waste produces a half liter of fuel . The city of Oslo powers 135 buses with their organic waste. It may seem like a good idea to turn trash into energy, but is the process really as environmentally-friendly as it sounds? Related: Scientists invent a solar panel that produces hydrogen The Controversy When waste is burned to produce energy and heat, the process produces an enormous amount of smoke. Nearly all of that smoke is carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and there is nothing clean about that. Could this really be better than recycling or even burying trash in a landfill ? Waste-to-energy is not a “renewable” process because unlike solar or wind, once the waste is burned, that’s it. There is no more energy production from that specific resource. Gayle Sloan, chief executive of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, says that the goal is to create energy from burning materials that recycling programs leave behind. This means the waste hierarchy is prevention and recycling before bioenergy and landfills. But, according to Jane Bremmer, coordinator of the campaign group Zero Waste Oz, waste-to-energy incinerators are actually a threat to recycling. “We appear to have this system where waste-to-energy incinerations are being allowed to remove material recovery facilities (recycling centers) from their planned projects,” says Bremmer. “They are doing that because it assures their waste stream.” Not only is waste-to-energy emitting greenhouse gasses and threatening recycling, but it can also be polluting the air. Wheelabrator, an incinerator located in Peekskill, New York, burns 2,250 tons of waste every day and provides “clean, renewable electricity.” But, is that an honest claim? The plant emits toxins into the air that can be deadly — 577 million pounds of carbon dioxide and 131,000 pounds of carbon monoxide every year, according to the Emissions Containment Totals Report . Then there is the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen, which means the citizens around that plant are breathing in a plethora of dirty pollutants . Related: Verizon pledges $1 billion for programs that help the environment In Australia, there is also a problem when it comes to funding. Not only are their waste-to-energy plants polluting the air and damaging their recycling programs, but they are also gobbling up cash from government grant and loan programs. “It’s consuming, in a large degree, a petroleum product into an energy stream which produces CO2 equivalent,” says Robin Chapple, Greens Western Australian MP. “We managed to control the emissions, like dioxins, but we are still turning the plastics into a greenhouse gas . If you have a good recycling program which deals well with waste, the feedstock for incineration disappears.” Smart Solutions Inventors from the Center for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) program at the University of New South Wales are attempting to take recycling to the next level . Instead of burning materials to create energy, they have developed a microfactory that can be placed at waste sites that can turn discarded items into molecules which can then be transformed into something new. “If you are using something and then, after a single life, saying, ‘I’m done with it, and I’m going to burn away the fundamental molecules and elements and everything else to release a bit of energy’, then that’s not good,” says UNSW engineering professor Veena Sahajwalla, the head of the SMaRT project. She says that if we simply burn our waste, then we aren’t trying hard enough to find ways to repurpose materials and resources. For Sahajwalla, bioenergy is not the solution to our environmental problems. Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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Are bioenergy facilities the solution to the growing garbage problem?

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