Disappearing Plastic?

12.06.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Each day, new technology is being developed to help improve our carbon footprint. Pollution is a large concern because trash and other harmful materials are damaging the environment and the homes of other organisms. Plastic materials fill up landfills because it can take hundreds of years to break down, and may not break down at all. A new work in progress at the North Dakota State University is to create plastic that can be broken down to reduce the amount of trash in landfills.

To make this special type of plastic, organic materials such as oilseed, cellulose, fructose, and sucrose are being made into the polymers of the plastic. When exposing this polymer to an ultraviolet light, researchers were able to break down the plastic back to its original molecules. This idea is groundbreaking in the field of sustainability because plastics used in containers and packaging could be broken down and made into another material after it is used. More research is needed on this idea to decide on the best materials to use to create the polymer, the best way to break this polymer down, and so on.

Another positive point to this new plastic material is that it is made of biomass. Fossil fuels are currently being used up faster than they can be replenished. Biomass is a renewable source and can be harvested without harming the environment. In the future, new plastic materials may be created to help reduce the pollution of landfills on our planet.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141125101741.htm

Rachael McCabe

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

12.03.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Studies assessing the worth of battery powered vehicles are underway as a result of the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology in cars. Now it may scare you to think that Hydrogen, the most abundant element on earth, and also one of the most flammable, is being contained in a car. However, hydrogen cars are “headed to the showroom” after millions of dollars in research and hours were put in. According to the article published in the New York Times on November 18th, called A Road Test of Alternative Fuel Vision, Toyota is introducing a sedan called Mirai that is hydrogen powered. The Japanese are taking huge strides to build a market for these cars such as building fueling stations, and setting a price for potential buyers ($57,500). This price may turn people away, but the company realizes that it will lose money before making a profit. The same happened with the Prius, which now is a very marketable vehicle; it has had great success.

 

This is a model car. The yellow tank stores hydrogen fuel under high pressure. Above that is the battery that stores energy from deceleration. In front of the tank is the fuel cell stack and at the very front of the car is the motor that runs on the electricity from the fuel cell stack and the battery.

The argument against hydrogen powered cars has to do with the way hydrogen is isolated (mostly by stripping it from natural gas molecules). But in this process, carbon dioxide is yielded as a byproduct. Can you see how Hydrogen fuel cells would be counterproductive? The more friendly, but also more expensive way, is to split water using solar powered electrolyzers. As renewable energies are developed, this process becomes more economically feasible to the point where hydrogen powered vehicles may be more beneficial than battery electric cars. First of all, hydrogen fuel cells are able to power larger and more diverse species of car (The prius is relatively small). They also Fuel up at a rate equivalent to gasoline cars. That is just amazing. And ” a kilogram of hydrogen contains as much chemical energy as a gallon of gasoline.” Cars that have hydrogen fuel cells will definitely go the distance in terms of mileage, monetary value, and environmental benefits.

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This technology is truly revolutionary because having hydrogen fuel would significantly reduce carbon emissions and produce water as a byproduct. In another sense, it would enable us to turn our waste into energy as well. The article states that some developed hydrogen stations withdraw hydrogen from the hydrogen produced at waste water treatment plants! It would be nice to reduce or reuse some of the waste that our industrial nation has produced. Additionally, it is so important to look for alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel because one gallon of gasoline can produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. At that rate, the future of the earth looks very grim. But, what I learned from this article, is that good things are currently happening. There are drawbacks and benefits, but as technologies develop, anything can become possible.

I suggest looking more into this new technology, and forming an opinion of your own. The link to the article is below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/science/earth/hydrogen-cars-join-electric-models-in-showrooms.html?_r=0

Elaina McDowell

Climate Change and Christmas

12.03.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Hello everyone!

Well, Christmas is finally approaching rather quickly. Unfortunately, finals are almost here! Take a moment to just read this blog, it is worth the break.

Every day we are faced with climate change. The climate is increasing at a fast pace. The ice caps in the artic are melting and the animal species is suffering for it …. Especially the polar bears. The rising of the heat is causing inconsistent weather changes. We all enjoy having a white Christmas, don’t we? If the climate change continues we may not have another white Christmas. That’s really unfortunate. You know what’s worse? We may not have our wonderful coffee to keep us warm because of the constant weather changes. Want to know more? Check out the following links below to see how YOU could contribute to a better earth:

Here are five quick ways you could help save the planet this Christmas!

  1. Instead of paying for wrapping paper this season, try using old paper bags and decorating them. You will save money and also save the planet!
  2. Recycle the paper or bags that you unwrap gifts with, it would be even better if you reused it. The bags are really worth saving and reusing for the next Christmas!
  3. When eating dinner, try using glasses of water. Don’t hand out bottle of water if you could prevent it.
  4. Hey! It’s a tradition to decorate the tree. Try creating ornaments with the family out of recyclable items! It would be beneficial for family bonding and the planet.
  5. Try organic items at the dinner table. Your family will feel better provided the nutrition and will be up to some fun family games!

MERRY HOLIDAYS!

-Natisha Moore

A Greener Christmas

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Christmas is supposed to be a holiday about giving, so we should learn how to give to the environment too. There are lots of ways to celebrate a greener Christmas such as paying attention to the gifts you buy. You can be more green by buying less by making homemade gifts and Christmas cards or doing a secret Santa, so that you can focus on one gift. You could even re-gift something that has sat unopened in your room. When you do have to buy gifts, do it in a greener way like buying things that were made locally. Gifts that are recyclable and do not need batteries are also more energy efficient.

Also, there are ways to wrap your gifts greener. You can buy “environmentally friendly paper” and make sure not to buy glossy or metallic paper. Also reuse as much as possible and use as little tap as possible. An alternative to tape is ribbon. Even get creative, and do not use store bought paper. Make up your own way to hide a gift, such as with a favorite magazine or old shoe box.

Some other ways to be more green are focusing on how you decorate. If you buy a live tree it can be put in a pot with soil and reused for two-three years and it does not involve all the energy and plastic used to make a fake tree. Also you can go outside and decorate a tree for birds by using bird food such as seed bells or pine cones with peanut butter on them. Also notice the way you decorate with lighting. Make sure too use LED lights and you can buy “outdoor Mini-lights” which saves energy. Also simply reduce the amount of lights you use and make sure to turn them off at night time.

Overall save, reuse and recycle as much as you can. You can save almost everything, wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, lights, Christmas trees and more. Old electronics that still work should be recycled too. For more information, Recycling electronic goods.

http://eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm

The Floating Gardens of Bangladesh

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Every year Bangladesh experiences huge floods that leave farmers out of work for as long as six months out of the year. Family incomes vanish leaving poor villages even more destitute. This was the case for a woman named Hafiza Khatum who lives in the village Charbhangura, Bangladesh. Three years ago she was trained by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a Bangladeshi nonprofit organization, to generate income a brand new way.

This new source of income was a floating farm which included a duck coup, fish enclosures, and a vegetable garden all attached to the riverbed. Shidhulai supplied seeds, fish and duck feed and other materials for about $130. Five to ten women can work one of these farms and earn around $1,700 a year. This amount of money is nothing to us, but means survival for these women and their families.

This duck coop can house 100 ducks and has a small solar panel on top to power lights inside.

Climate change worsens flooding making innovations such as the floating farms necessary for the survival of people living in these flood zones. With the extra income from selling eggs, fish and vegetables, Ms. Khatun started saving money in a bank for the first time, bought a bed to keep her and her family off wet ground in their dirt-floored home, and helps her husband support the family. There are currently 40 floating farms worked by 300 women; Shidhulai hopes to create 400 farms to be able to help 3,000 women and their families.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/business/energy-environment/bangladesh-farming-on-water-to-prevent-effect-of-rising-waters.html?ref=earth&_r=0

Connie Hodge

GIFT WRAPPING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

WRAP CREATIVELY
You can reuse gift bags, bows and event paper, but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and use stamps or markers to create your own wrapping paper that’s environmentally friendly and extra special for the recipient.

This can be fun and will help you pay less money on paper that will get thrown out anyway. It will also help the environment! Come on, let’s all get on board!

A True Home for the Holidays

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

For the past six years the giant Christmas tree that has been a long time tradition at Rockefeller Center in New York City has been donated after the holiday season to be used as lumber for Habitats for Humanity. This year, the 81st Christmas tree to be lit, will again continue to be donated in what one could only hope to be a new, just as long, tradition.

This donation sets an example for the nation not to simply toss their trees away- but put them to a good use. And this is important as Americans, according to new data from Nielsen Research,  use approximately 21.6 million real trees and 12.9 million artificial trees to decorate their households. Often times these trees are not recylced or reused and are simply left curbside for the garbage to claim. However, there is so much more than can be done with these trees- real or fake! And the Rockefeller Center tree is surely making this statement.

Going one step further, the Rockefeller tree is truly being re-used for something remarkable. Habitats for Humanity is an organization with the mission to “put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.” They do this by builiding homes for those who may have lost them in natural diasters, or simply cannot afford or do not have access to liveable housing conditions. The 2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was first donated to Habitat for Humanity and used in the construction of a Hurricane Katrina survivor’s home in Pascagoula, Miss. Since then, the lumber has been used in the construction of homes in New York City; Stamford, Conn.; Newburgh, N.Y.; and Philadelphia.

This holiday season I hope the Rockefeller tree, wether Americans get the privelage to experience it in person, or see it lit from afar, serves to inspire others. Not just from a sustainable standpoint, but a charitable one as well.

-Madison McGlone

Blue Hills Volunteer Work

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

The blue hills reservation is one of Massachusetts’ most notable nature preserves, and one I have been able to visit multiple times over the years both for recreational and educational purposes. I don’t have a firm number of how many field trips were taken there for various purposes but I always enjoyed the wildlife sanctuary and nature trails that comprised it. I think this is one of the most important functions of the reservation and one of the most effective ways to promote sustainability on a larger scale. If we expect people to act more sustainability we must first get them to appreciate the natural world around them, flora and fauna both. Consequently maintaining the reservation is of particular import. the Blue Hills Reservation for their part sponsors numerous events and opportunities for volunteer work. In addition to general events intended to maintain the trails throughout the reservation, there are regular community events aimed at removing invasive species that threaten the forests. There’s also the option to adopt a trail where a volunteer can maintain a trail for a minimum period of two years on their own time. The Friends of Blue Hills offer training and advice for these purposes. Keeping the Blue Hills Reservation operating and pristine may seem initially like a small thing. However the impact of preserving such a natural sanctuary and its educational facilities could help promote sustainable practices on a grand scale. For more information on getting involved check out the volunteer page on the friends of blue hills website: http://friendsofthebluehills.org/volunteer/

-Brendan Creed

Sustainability of Christmas Trees

12.02.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

It is everyone’s favorite time of year, the holiday season. For most Americans, each December we start our celebration of Christmas after thanksgiving, and the main way we celebrate throughout the month is by decoration. One of the main points of decoration, and the entire Christmas tradition is the Christmas tree itself. Most think of a Christmas tree with a cut stem, sitting in a pool of water, and decorated to the max with lights and ornaments. But in reality, Christmas trees are real living parts of the world.

Even though we only think of Christmas trees during and approaching the holiday season, the evergreen or “Christmas tree industry” is a non stop industry that is actually in circulation year round. Evergreen tree farms are massive, as the demand for trees is enormous each holiday season. But what are the environmental effects of having massive Christmas tree farms?

Because Christmas trees are mainly sold for their beauty, they are managed and maintained by artificial preservatives and pesticides which are not only bad for the environment but can lead to indoor air pollution as well. Like with any major agricultural practice, you see the same major problems with pesticides and preservatives.  The pesticides are not only bad for the plants themselves but they are harmful chemicals which are put into our atmosphere.  Another major problem associated with using these pesticides is when the trees actually enter peoples’ homes.  These chemicals from the trees will now be in your home, and depending on how bad they are will lead to indoor air pollution. And these chemicals are not something you want on your hands, on your pets, or just in your home in general.

However it must a big help to the environment that we are planting massive amounts of trees on farms. They do intake carbon emissions but the problem is that people will buy a tree that they will die right after the Christmas season. An evergreen tree takes at least  7 years to grow to a size that someone will display in their home. But in my opinion it is a major problem that trees go to waste when they could essentially help the environment more afterwards. This has been changed in the past few years because companies have developed that actually rent Christmas trees to be used every year and keep the trees alive. The way it works is the companies own tree farms. For the Christmas season the company will deliver you a tree. The tree needs to be kept alive in a pout with roots and all. After Christmas the company will pick up the tree and keep it alive. The tree will then either be delivered to another house or donated to a urban deforestation project. Because these trees are organically grown, they may not look as good for a second year that it could be used for a family. But the tree will be donated to an urban reforestation project so that the tree stays alive. This is a great alternative to killing a Christmas tree and it is great for the environment because these tree farms are organic and the trees stay alive and continue to intake carbon emissions. For an example of a tree rental company visit http://www.livingchristmas.com/how-it-works/

Other references: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/garden/04garden.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

“Repowering” Power Plants: Energizes the people or the environment?

12.01.2014 · Posted in Uncategorized

Throughout the United States there are many coal-fired power plants that work to provide power to communities. However, when is it time to shut down a plant? How can a plant be modified? What implications come from changing or closing a plant? Do plants contribute to society more than hurting the environment? These questions have the ability to spark debates and court battles about power plants as whole. People have been working to figure out what should be done to keep an established facility running, while other look to find way to end them completely.

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New York has taken the initiative to create “repowering” projects. These projects work to restart coal-fired plants with natural gas. This switch has been popular in other parts of the country, and “In the past four years, at least 29 coal units in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass” (Nunez). The switch would create about 12,000 megawatts of power to be used by the plants. This amount is capable to power all houses in New England for a whole year. Additionally, natural gas is priced fairly low in the United States, due to the large supply, which would benefit the plant operators.

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However, in New York there are also many people who disagree with this potential change. It is believed that changing the plants will create a mindset that promotes pollution created by the plants. It has been said that one specific plant, of three to change, will be targeted by a lawsuit of $150 million. This hefty lawsuit is caused because “repowering will force the state’s energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility” (Nunez). Moreover, it is believed that this specific plant, Dunkirk plant in western New York, embodies the precedent that polluting  and outdated plants are being run for only political reasons.

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Dunkirk Power Plant

These different opinions create the struggle of how to manage and possibly change the plants. People have gone to court many times in history to see which side of the argument will come out victorious, however it is still hard to say what the best option is for the nation. Power is necessary in society, yet keeping the environment healthy is also important. Finding a way to have efficiently run plants would be more than helpful, as well as beneficial to the people as whole.

Works Cited: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/11/141120-coal-plants-repowered-with-natural-gas/

Caitlin Maloney