Category Archives: Sustainability in the World
Ever wondered just how much our carbon dioxide emissions have changed and grown over the years? The World Resources Institute developed an informational video to clearly explain and demonstrate just how much our carbon dioxide emissions have grown since the 1860’s. It explains that the world has a “carbon budget”, which means the amount of carbon that can released before it increases the world’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees F). The carbon budget is based on global temperatures pre-industrialization. Currently, we have used 50% of our carbon budget in a short time frame. It is estimated that if we do not take serious actions to curb our carbon emissions, we will have exceeded our “carbon budget” by 2045. That is well within the average 30 year olds’ life span. And what happens if we exceed this budget? The drought, fires, glaciers melting we see today will seem like child’s play. These types of events will increase and become more severe.
The U.S. has fallen out of the #1 spot for carbon emissions but this is mainly due to a large increase as China expanded. As we can see from the final numbers in the video, it is a global commitment that needs to take place. A global commitment cannot start without a personal one! So every time we recycle or conserve water or choose to bike instead of drive, it will make a difference toward keeping the world within its budget. We know the maximum capacity of the world and we are fast approaching it. We have the tools developed to switch to a sustainable life and now the important step is one as a community toward conserving the world.
Waste to Energy Systems‘ sister company, Albany Woodworks, specializes in recycled and reclaimed building materials. Both companies have a green focus and aim to create a renewable, more sustainable world through their respective products and goals. Below is an article discussing how recycled wood can have a huge impact on creating a better environment.
“Home building has long been one of the most important industries in the US, with economists viewing statistics concerning new homes as a barometer for the country’s economic performance.
Americans’ affinity for newer and bigger homes, however, comes with a huge environmental cost. The recent foreclosure crisis is just a reminder of all the resources waste on millions of homes that have been abandoned and, yet again, remodelled. One precious resource used for these buildings that often goes unnoticed and is then lost forever is wood.
The remodelling and demolishing of homes in the US results in the equivalent of 250,000 single-family homes being interred in landfills or incinerated each year. Among the dry wall, plastic and concrete that are disposed of is lumber sourced from America’s forests. Within this lumber, there is also wood from older homes. This is especially valuable because it is of higher quality than material used in most new construction projects.
Wood in homes built 50 years ago or earlier was often sourced from first-growth forests. Whether a small, older home being destroyed for a larger, more modern home, or a historic beach-front house being targeted for removal and upgrade bya presidential candidate, these houses are a treasure trove of sturdy wood that builders should reclaim. Entrepreneurs can find lucrative business opportunities as salvaged orrediscovered wood is in high demand.
Current construction and demolition (C&D) techniques, however, are destructive and render most wood completely useless. Too much wood enters the C&D waste stream and then disappears forever. Of the approximate 70m tons of wood sent to landfill annually, the US government estimates 30m tons of it could have been reused.
Currently about 10% to 20% of wood discarded during construction projects is prevented from entering landfills. Pallets, however, account for most of that material, and hence that lower-quality wood is often shredded and used for mulch. But while aluminium, glass, paper and plastic are often culled for recycling from construction sites prior to final disposal, wood is overlooked and is about 17% of the waste that ends up in municipal dumps.
Meanwhile, valuable woods including Douglas fir and redwood, which could be repurposed for several more decades of use, are wasted. Evidence suggests that more tactical demolition practices can actually save and generate money for construction projects from reduced landfill fees and the sale of salvaged wood.
The national trade group for companies tasked with tearing down buildings, theNational Demolition Association, has long claimed its member companies have been “environmentally responsible”. Rhetoric aside, however, the association now cajoles companies to consider the smarter reuse of materials and increased diversion of waste from landfill, both of which can give builders more points if they are building a LEED-certified project.
Smarter demolition can also create good business opportunities for companies that undertake such projects at a lower cost in return for the rights to all recyclable materials. Careful deconstruction of old structures also creates business for local companies that cater to consumers who want their homes to become more eco-friendly.
One company that has found success in recycling wood is Crossroads Recycled Lumber in rural Madera County, California. For 30 years the company’s employees have harvested all kinds of used wood from old homes and buildings. The firm works with contractors to use smarter processes during demolition projects. It also educates homeowners and business owners on how to minimise the use of virgin materials in both new projects and remodels.
The company’s location, which is a stone’s throw from California’s geographic centre, is also a huge bonus. No more than 500 miles from any of California’s largest cities, Crossroads can provide recycled wood for almost any project following LEED certification standards. This allows builders to rack up a few more points, since they can win credits for using local materials. The company’s salvaged wood has emerged in a Whole Foods supermarket, a sporting goods store, and of course, houses.
With the world’s forests still in decline and the cost of energy rising, not only smart building, but smart remodelling and demolition, must become the norm.”
This article was written by Leon Kaye and published on www.theguardian.com
Teaching children about sustainability is just as important at home as it is as school. Giving your children the proper knowledge and tools to live in the changing world is the best thing possible, and providing a good role model at home and school is most important of all. As they say, “children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate”. At a loss of how to begin teaching your kids about being green and sustainable? The Waste to Energy Systems team has put together a few easy ideas of their own to aid as hands on teaching tools at home or in the classroom.
1. Grow a garden: Growing a garden will help teach children how to be self-sufficient and appreciate where food comes from. Plus, it means they get to play in the dirt which has a whole different set of benefits for the health and overall well being.
2. Volunteer on eco-friendly projects: Volunteering to help plant in a community garden, clean up litter, or maintain the local park will help teach children to appreciate nature and learn that it is important to take action. Not to mention teaching them how to act as part of a team with a common goal to accomplish.
3. Set up a carpool system with other parents: This will teach children not only to help others but to look for ways to be more efficient in their energy usage and prioritizing.
4. Recycle and compost: Explain why recycling and composting help keep unnecessary waste out of landfills not to mention the value of compost for your home or school garden. Set up a fun game where every time they remember to recycle or put food waste in the compost, they get a good mark toward a reward.
5. Go to Farmers Markets: If there is no room for a garden at home or at school, then visiting farmers markets is a great alternative (or addition). Farmers markets will teach children to look for local products first before choosing items that have a larger carbon footprint.
6. Repurpose old items: Instead of throwing away that old bike tire, wine bottles or that old lamp, teach your child through a fun group project creative ways to repurpose and reuse rather than shy away from a little elbow grease by throwing it in a landfill. This will help teach children to move away from the disposable mentality and learn to buy items that can have multiple uses.
7. Walk and/or bike places: A better choice for those that live in more urban areas. Group walks or bike rides to the park, to get ice cream or simply for exercise help teach kids to think of alternative ways of transportation and to stay fit!
More and more communities are moving toward an eco-friendly lifestyle. Sustainable living communities are popping up all over, where they are specially built to be as green and environmentally friendly as possible. So what do you do when your community is already established but has the drive to change to a more sustainable way of life?
Our team at Waste to Energy Systems has compiled a list of easy ways to help your community take the next steps toward sustainable living.
1. Community Gardens and Composting- this offers a two fold solution: it helps reduce garbage sent to landfills by composting food waste and produces fruits and vegetables for the community. If there is not enough space for one large community garden and composting station, the new trend of replacing lawns with gardens would be a great option!
2. Creating a Car Share- Your community can set up its own car sharing program or set up an arrangement with an already established car share company. Many offer this option to communities that are moving in a greener direction. Adding this program is also shown to increase the amount of walking, cycling and use of public transportation of car share communities. This creates a healthier environment and a healthier population!
3. Setting Community Energy and Water Use Goals– By setting a goal for the community as a whole, it will help increase awareness of how much each home uses. This will inspire your neighbors to watch their usage of both electricity and water, which in turn will help eliminate unnecessary waste of both resources.
4. Retrofitting Homes with Energy Efficient Solutions- Turning your roof into a green roof, changing your lighting to energy efficient bulbs, adding efficient insulation to your home or installing a low flow toilet or shower head to conserve water. All these options and more can be used to update your home to be energy efficient.
5. Invest in a Community Renewable Energy Option- Solar panels have always been the go to for residential renewable energy and for a single home, it still is. However on a larger, community scale, a new option, which allows communities to rid their neighborhood of waste and create heat and electricity, is a gasification system. A small scale gasification system like the bioHearth® from Waste to Energy Systems can provide larger communities with a way to have more energy independence.
GREEN building methods and materials are typically seen as “new-age” building solutions to age-old building problems. But one of the most visibly “green” building systems being used widely today – the “living roof” or “green roof” – has been in use for millennia.
Centuries ago northern Scandinavians harvested sod from their surrounding landscape and placed
it upon structures to create effective insulating and water resistant roof systems. By creatively using building materials that were readily available to them, these early peoples were able to make robust and superbly efficient shelters for themselves.
In the 1960s designers in Germany began to incorporate green roofs into their buildings purely as an aesthetic feature to enhance the beauty of their buildings. In 1970 German landscape architect Hans Luz recognized that these green roofs were far more than a simple decorative coverings and argued that the introduction of living roofs could profoundly improve the quality of the urban environment. The “modern” green roof was born.
Today, the green roof is gaining mainstream recognition as an ecologically minded system that adds to any sustainable urban management plan. The new Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre boasts the largest green roof in Canada and clearly proves that the “living roof” has evolved from being a curiosity to a contemporary, ecologically conscious, architectural expression.
Here are six reasons why a green roof is a realistic, environmentally conscious choice for the modern home.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about a green roof is that it negatively affects the integrity of the roof system that it’s placed over. Nothing could be further from the truth. A well designed, correctly installed green roof will protect the waterproof membrane that lies beneath it and, in turn, will extend the overall life of a roof.
Storm-water runoff will be greatly decreased with the utilization of a living roof. The growing medium and the vegetation of a green roof retain large amounts of storm water and will release it back into the environment at a far more manageable rate than a regular roof surface.
The slow transpiration of water back into the air (as highlighted above) creates a cooling effect that helps reduce the urban heat-island effect.
Imagine a roof the size of the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition centre having a standard tar and gravel surface and how, on a hot summer day, this roof will absorb solar radiation over the hectares of its surface and re-emit it back into the city as heat.
There’s a reason cities are significantly warmer than the areas that surround them. A green roof helps reduce this heat gain. As the Scandinavians of yore knew well, a green roof greatly increases the insulating capacity of a roof system.The added mass and thickness of a living roof will provide excellent sound insulation for a home.
A living roof will provide a habitat for birds and insects and act as a natural carbon sink, drawing carbon dioxide out of the air. For some, the living roof can even be used as a resource for growing their own food. The idea of stepping out on the roof to snip some cilantro is an enticing one.
Waste to Energy Systems believes there is not one answer for a greener future. It will take a green alliance between all the methods and technologies out there to ensure that we create a better environment.
From article written by Kevin Vallely (http://www.nsnews.com/)
In honor of World Ocean Day, the Waste to Energy team wanted to dedicate our daily blog to why the oceans are so important and why we should protect them. Whether you are landlocked or live coastal, the oceans play a role in everyone’s lives. Many scientists say the ocean is at a tipping point. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle says our actions over the next 10 years will determine the state of the ocean for the next 10,000 years.
Here are the top 5 reasons we should make protecting our oceans a focal point.
Reason # 1: The air we breathe. Oceans are a critical player in the basic elements we need to survive. Ocean plants produce half of the world’s oxygen, then these amazing waters absorb nearly one-third of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Oceans also regulate our weather and form the clouds that bring us fresh water.
Reason #2: The food on your plate. Besides seafood, oceans are connected to what you eat in many more ways. Ocean ingredients, like algae and kelp, are used in making peanut butter, beer, soymilk and frozen foods. Plus, 36 percent of the world’s total fisheries catch each year is ground up into fishmeal and oil to feed farmed fish, chickens and pigs. The ocean is the #1 source of protein for more than a billion people.
Reason #3: The items in your medicine cabinet. You’ll find ocean ingredients flowing out of your medicine cabinet in everything from shampoos and cosmetics to medicines that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.
Reason #4: Jobs and the economy. One in six jobs in the United States is marine-related and more than $128 billion in GDP annually results from ocean tourism, recreation and living resources. Healthy marine habitats like reefs, barrier islands, mangroves and wetlands help protect coastal communities from the results of hurricanes and storm surges.
Reason #5: A shared resource. While many of us enjoy the spectacular recreational activities that oceans offer, for some people oceans are a lifeline for survival. Keeping oceans healthy keeps people healthy, and we each have a personal responsibility to protect our oceans.
The Waste to Energy team believes in a sustainable, healthy world, by land or sea. By reducing our impact on land through concepts like recycling and renewable energy, we will aid in protecting the most important resource the Earth has.
Excerpts of this blog were sourced from http://www.nature.org/. #worldoceanday #sustainableearth #protectandserveouroceans
The most popular forms of Renewable Energy (R.E.) are solar and wind, so what do you do when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. These type of factors make up the variability of a renewable energy technology. A R.E. system’s variability depends on the consistency of the fuel source (sun and wind in the case of solar and wind energy) and the changes in demand of the grid through the day. There are two solutions for these issues: 1) choose one of the up and coming technologies that have continuous generation (geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric) or 2) install enough solar and/or wind technology to create more stability across the system. Once the level of energy created is stable, the fluctuations from the grid will be managed more easily.
A single wind farm can be very volatile but when you add additional farms across a state with additional transmission lines, it creates less of a need to “curtail”, the act of dumping excess power. Take Texas for example. Four years ago, facing severe transmission constraints, the state was dumping 17% of all the wind power it produced. In 2012, after adding more wind farms and almost 2,600 miles of transmission lines, curtailments were below 4%, and wind power provided 10% of the electricity in the nation’s biggest power market (sourced from www.wsj.com).
Alternate technologies such as biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric offer a constant power generation since they have a predictable fuel source. For example, biomass products are abundant and renewable. Since they come from living sources, and life is cyclical, these products potentially never run out, so long as there is something living on earth and there is someone there to turn that living things components and waste products into energy (http://www.conserve-energy-future.com). Having a steady fuel source means a biomass gasification unit or anaerobic digester, two examples of several biomass technologies, will provide a steady source of energy.
A lot of people want to use the out of date argument that Renewable Energy (RE) Technologies do not hold their weight in the energy industry. Well that argument is, in fact, outdated. The advances made in the past few years in this industry have made renewable energy gain steady footing in the world of heat and power. Renewable Energy provides the US with nearly 14% of its energy supply, The entire nuclear fleet in the US only produced 19%. Also in 2014, 22% of the United States’ electricity consumed was from a renewable energy source (instituteforenergyresearch.org) This shows how renewable energy is quickly catching up to the big boys. Expert projections also show very promising numbers with wind expected to increase 13% this year and an additional 11% in 2016. Solar is expected to increase by 84% in 2016.
Another factor that will aid in the significance and establishment of renewable technology as a major power source is the increased investment. In 2014 alone, the United States invested $51.8 billion in clean energy, a number expected to increase, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Studies show that investment in renewable energy has increase 250% since 2004 (www.americanprogress.org). This investment aided by incentives and continued research and development will continue to make the various technologies more affordable and available to the American consumer, allowing RE to grow its influence on the US energy market.