Algae for Fuel

10.19.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

The use of biomass for fuel is nothing new. The most common application of this is the use of corn to make ethanol. An even better alternative that could save land, water, energy, and reduce waste is the use of algae for fuel. Algae is able to be grown in large amounts with limited space and water, as well as in a variety of environments, making it a perfect source for fuel production. It also does not mess with the food industry which is part of the controversy for using corn or soybeans for fuel production. It has also been found that algae based fuel most closely resembles the composition of the crude oil that we pump out from under the ocean. The petroleum that we pump from the ground is created through a natural heat facilitated process that requires millions of years to complete.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, have discovered a way to replicate and speed up the heating process so that a small mixture of algae and water can be turned into a kind of crude oil in less than an hour. This oil can be readily refined into usable gases, such as, jet fuel, gasoline or diesel, and because its composition is so similar to petrol it can be refined in existing facilities. The byproducts of this process are chemical elements and minerals that can be used to generate electricity, natural gas, or fertilizer to grow more algae. To add onto that an analysis has shown that the wide scale use of this process on a commercial scale could lead to biofuel being sold for as low as two dollars a gallon.

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The U.S. Department of Energy also estimated that to scale up algae production to meet the needs of the nation would require only 15,000 square miles of land (about the size of Maryland), as opposed to the use of soybeans for biofuel which would require setting aside half of the countries land. This fuel is clean because when burned it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that was taken out by the plants unlike the ancient carbon dioxide that fossil fuels release that haven’t been in the atmosphere for millions of years. It also does not need to be mixed with gasoline like ethanol.

The process of turning algae into oil starts with algae mixed with water, which is then continuously sent down a long tube that hold the algae at 660 degrees Fahrenheit and 3,000 psi for thirty minutes while stirring it.  This pressure cooker breaks down the algae and reforms it into oil. This process does require a lot of heat energy, but they have put in recovery systems to maximize heat by cycling it back in resulting in an overall net gain in energy.

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Something as strange as using algae for fuel seems very far fetched, but in actuality it is completely possible. As more research and technology is developed the wide scale use of the algal fuel will become more and more feasible. At some point we will run out of fossil fuels and algae is very realistic alternative.

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http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/scientists-turn-algae-into-crude-oil-in-less-than-an-hour-180948282/?no-ist

Connie Hodge

Pure Life or Pure Profit?

10.16.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

After watching The Story of Stuff online for Eco Reps, I now receive e-mails from the website every couple of weeks. These e-mails spread news about sustainabilty related issues and how we can take action in the fight. Most recently I received an e-mail detailing Nestlé’s push to privatize and gain larger control of public water resources. The company’s Chariman of the Board, Peter Brabeck, has come under fire for his statement calling a human beings right to water an “extreme solution.” Upon criticism Brabeck has scaled back but the Nestlé as a whole has not.

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Nestlé has instead continued to market bottled water as status symbol in addition to lobbying for water to not be declared as a universal right. Business Insider writes that these actions taken by Nestlé and other bottled water companies have made bottled water cost 2000 times more than regular tap water. As these big businesses gain millions in revenue, we lose our access to free and clean water, our natural right to this staple of life, and large sums of money. This process is also contributing greatly to the excess of plastic which, if not recycled, ends up in landfills or even worse, fragile ecosystems.

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I encourage everyone to sign the petition against Nestlé’s policies by clicking here.

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You can also view The Story of Stuff here. It was a great, quick, watch and receiving the e-mails holds us all accountable and informed for taking the necessary action for causes that matter!

-Madison McGlone

Our Laundry’s Dirty Little Secret

10.15.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

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I’ve followed the Facebook page for Al Gore’s film/book An Inconvenient Truth for quite some time now, and it never ceases to post content on Environmental issues that peak my interest. Recently, the page linked to an article about “dirty” ingredients in our laundry detergents. For anyone who’s interested, this is the Facebook page, and I’ll link the article here.

Essentially, the article discussed that the Tide laundry detergent we all know, love, and use (especially us college students who use Tide Pods) contains corn-based ethanol, which isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly option. The process to create corn-based ethanol generally creates a lot of agricultural waste, and getting rid of all that waste adds to more harmful carbon emissions into our atmosphere. Who would of thought our laundry detergent choices would effect the atmosphere?

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However, it seems Tide has realized just how harmful their soap is and has recently announced that they’re changing formulas on their Tide Coldwater Clean detergent to make it more environmentally friendly. Instead of using corn-based ethanol, the ethanol they’ll be utilizing will now be made from not the corn itself, but from the stalks, leaves, and cobs which will eliminate 7,000 tons of agricultural waste a year creating 0 net carbon emissions. Switching to a different type of ethanol also has no effects on how well the detergent can clean, so consumers can be sure that their laundry will not suffer. Furthermore, this Tide Coldwater Clean detergent allows users to wash their clothes in cold temperatures, which saves tons of energy nationwide as opposed to washing clothes in hot water. Each year the United States produces around 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from laundry alone. According to the article, “if people start washing loads in cold water, the energy savings could reduce those emissions by 32.3 metric tons—the equivalent of the electricity use of 3.7 million U.S. homes.”

This is one small change all of us can make to greatly help the environment. Switching to this new and improved soap may but a strain on the convenience that the Tide Pods provide, but it will eliminate thousands of tons of agricultural waste, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce energy usage with a simple switch to cold water.

-Emily Van Auken

“There is No PLANet B”

10.15.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

In high school I was given the chance to take a semester-long cosmology course. I am not talking about the study of beauty treatment (Cosmetology), as many girls in the class realized the hard way, but the study of the origins of the universe and the evolution it undergoes (Cosmology). The class was taught by one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He was a 28 year old physics teacher who previously taught undergrads and carried out research for NASA. Needless to say, he was very knowledgeable in the subject. We discussed many topics such as star formation, the big bang theory, black holes, relativity concepts, time, the inflation theory, extra-terrestrial life, and other mysteries of what we call “space”.

The class really put into perspective for me the importance of the earth to US. In an infinite universe, the earth hardly seems important or significant at all; it, along with many other planets, is just a drop in the ocean. But planets that can harbor complex life as perfectly as earth can are few and VERY far between. We do not have the technology to locate and migrate to planets that have conditions suitable for life. “There is no PLANet B” as many of the banners at the People’s Climate March on September 21st pointed out.

Actions against climate change need to be made now. Humans need to start developing and executing sustainable solutions, so that generations to come can share in the greatness of mother earth. We can all contribute in some small way, whether it be composting and recycling in the school cafeteria, reusing water bottles, or using less gasoline by taking public transportation.

I would recommend that people explore the topic of cosmology. It can really open your eyes to the things that often go unnoticed, but are the most important.

-Elaina McDowell

 

 

Save the Bay Struggles for Justice Against Polluting Company

10.14.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Save the Bay is an organization that operates out of Providence, Rhode Island with the goal of protecting the main watershed in the state, the Narragansett Bay.  In 2009, it was noticed that a local scrap metal company, Recycled Metals, was not following the regulations set up by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM).  In 2012, the RIDEM issued a cease-and-desist order and levied a $46,250 fine against the company.  This was then changed, “A settlement was eventually reached in which the DEM reduced the fine to $33,750 and the company committed to paving a substantial portion of the property and installing an underground drainage and treatment system. The consent agreement also required the removal of the ships to be salvaged and illegal fill material”.

A Save the Bay worker observes Recycled Metals’ plant.

To this day, there still are several ships, barges and other vessels, including an old Russian submarine, await salvaging.  Miscellaneous metals are outside the main facility and the secondary facility where rain water hits and enters the storm drains.  This is obviously a huge environmental and health concern.  Save the Bay are obviously concerned with the bay, but this metal run-off could affect the lives of many.

Rusted boats left on the pier belonging to the company, contributing to the pollution in northern Narragansett Bay.

This is another company that knows how to break rules and get away with it for the most part.  Save the Bay are doing their best to try to get the RIDEM to step up, but the RIDEM has been far too relaxed when it comes to allowing the Bay to be put at risk.  This also sends a message to other companies along the bay that they can also break RIDEM regulations and get away with it, all while harming the bay.  I suggest everyone who reads this to check out the article http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20141012-save-the-bay-revisits-alleged-violations-by-recycled-metals-on-providence-waterfront.ece (which is where I got the quote from and the first 2 pictures) and follow Save the Bay on twitter (@savethebayri).

Recycled Metals’ property by the bay.

A Walk in the Woods

10.13.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

About a year ago I had assignment for one of my English classes, dealing with transcendentalists like Thoreau and Whitman. This assignment was to spend one hour making observations in the Chet Raymo nature trail. That hour was a great experience, free from all distractions, focusing only on the world around you. It’s amazing how much you can see in the outdoors if you take a moment to see what’s crawling under the leaves and listen to whatever stray sounds find their way to you. While there I also noticed the remnants of the environmental projects of other students, most of which looked liked they’d been there for ages. Now having enrolled in Ecological Representatives, I’ve gotten to considering the prospect of going back in there for more regular strolls. I think a lot of people should, and maybe more classes should take the time to get involved with the nature trail when the opportunity presents itself. There’s a lot going on in the microcosms and macrocosms of nature that most people never notice. It might be good for us both as individuals and classes, to stop and smell the roses as it were.

-Brendan Creed

Overpopulation: A Major Issue

10.13.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

One of the main aspects of environmental science is its interdisciplinary approach, which includes the social aspect. A major social issue facing our world today is overpopulation, which is one of the principal reasons for many environmental problems. Overpopulation leads to an increase in resource use and waste production, pollution, health problems due to overcrowding, poverty and competition for resources (leading to wars and conflicts). Although the growth rate is decreasing overall, the population of the world is still increasing and the growth rate of some countries is still very high. According to howmany.org, we are now adding one billion people to the planet every twelve years. In May 1998, Bill McKibben of Atlantic Monthly calculated and published this statistic: “If fertility remained at current levels, the population would reach the absurd figure of 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it dropped to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion.”

Like many people, I was completely unaware of this issue until last year, when I took an environmental science class. Looking back at this, I realized I can personally relate to this issue as well. My parents are from India, and so my family and I go back to visit every two or three years. The population of India is 1.3 billion and still growing, making it the most populated nation in the world next to China. Much of the pollution and poverty that I see every time go back can be traced back to the problem of overpopulation and the lack of resources. People often have more than two or three children to ensure the survival of at least one of their offspring. Others have more children to produce more sons, rather than daughters, so they have someone to take care of them when they are old (daughters leave their parent’s house and go to their in-laws). This issue also crosses into women empowerment and gender equality. It is a social cycle that needs to be broken.

The solutions for this problem are many. We have to start off by increasing knowledge about overpopulation and how it is affecting all corners of life. EDUCATION is key for awareness. We also need to empower women and increase awareness about the use of contraceptives and family planning options. We can also increase adoption rates.

Many countries have taken different approaches, one of which is China’s One-Child Policy. Below is a documentary about this policy and its pros/cons, overpopulation, and alternative solutions:

 

Catholic Climate Covenant

10.10.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the Catholic Climate Covenant program. The CCC is an agreement that can be made by anyone wanting to take a step in the fight against climate change while acknowledging its dire effects on the poor. The covenant is unique because it views climate change as a moral and spiritual calling on society. The disastrous environmental effects we have witnessed so far question our individual actions for the future on many different levels. How can we help those suffering, especially the poor, in the present and future?

 

The outline of the pledge consists of the following from catholicclimatecovenant.org:

 

PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s creation and protect the poor and vulnerable;
LEARN about and educate others on both the reality of climate change and its moral dimensions;
ASSESS your participation-as individuals and organizations-in contributing to climate change (i.e. consumption and conservation);
ACT to change your choices and behaviors contributing to climate change and;
ADVOCATE Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact the poor and vulnerable

 

You can also visit the website to sign the pledge online.

 

By noting Saint Francis, who took on the life of the poor by stripping himself of selfishness, greed, and life of luxury, we can take on the challenges of climate change with a sense of hope, duty, and inspiration.

 

-Caroline Grady

Outdoor Classrooms

09.24.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

So, I lived in Boston and I went to Boston Public Schools my whole life. I started to notice that most science classes for the Elementary and Middle schools have classrooms outside. There’s whiteboards and these logs that are seats for the students to sit on. I always found this the most fascinating way for students to learn. They’re engaged with Nature and it seems way better for the environment. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if some colleges had these outdoor classrooms too? I would love it! #StonehillCollege #EcoReps

Cruelty Free Sustainability

09.22.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

You can help save the planet and animals at the same time!

Consider going cruelty free!

This means buying products that are not tested on animals. Not only are these products safe for the environment but they also promote justice for animals.

There is a great website called leapingbunny.org where you can find the names of all the brands that are cruelty free. They range from household items to makeup items.

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 Jacqueline Oberg