Recent Blog Entries

  • MargaretThibo
    San Diego Combats Drought
    Entry posted November 21, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    San Diego Combats Drought
    Entry:

    With the state of California’s drought continuing to be a current environmental issue with no immediate end in sight, communities are beginning to think of alternative solutions. The San Diego City Council recently passed a plan to create a sewage purification system, which will result in fresh drinking water. The vote was unanimous at 9-0, with officials anxious to get the process started. The plan is estimated to cost the city approximately $3.5 billion to complete.

    The plan faces some opposition from the general public since many are not comfortable with the “toilet to tap” concept, In reality, the water processed at the sewage purification centers normally exceeds public standards and is considered cleaner than traditional drinking water since it goes through double filtration. The public simply needs to be educated and assured that the water is both safe and refreshing.

    Many cities across the nation have been utilizing the sewage purification system successfully for years. For instance, Orange County recycles 70 million gallons of water per day and is increasing that number to 100 million gallons a day in the near future.  The city of San Francisco is considering adopting a similar water recycling system as well.

    Reusing sewage wastewater is not only a completely safe solution to the California drought; it could also save San Diego a lot of money in the long run. Recycling water is much cheaper than treating it at a traditional wastewater plant and dumping it back into the ocean.  Much of the $3.5 price tag for the new system will come from the money saved by city since they will not have to meet new environmental compliance measures at the Point Loma Wastewater Plant.

     Officials feel that instituting a sewage purification system is a winning opportunity for the city. It offers a sustainable local water source in worsening drought conditions, saves money, and benefits the environment.  All water is technically recycled over and over again in the planet’s natural water cycle; this system is just the synthetic version of that.

    Keywords:
    current environmental issue , environmental compliance
  • MargaretThibo
    A New Path to Solar Energy
    Entry posted November 21, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    A New Path to Solar Energy
    Entry:

    There has been a new development in the quest for sustainable energy. Dutch scientists have created the world’s first solar bike path. The path has become known as the SolaRoad and is currently measuring 230 feet long and is located in Krommenie, a suburban town to the northwest of Amsterdam.  Once the green construction project is complete it will stretch 328 feet.

    The bike path is made of concrete with solar cells layered on top. The solar cells are then covered with a layer of tempered glass that is 1 cm thick. In order for bikers to ride safely the glass is heavily textured to create friction. The solar panels are only in one direction of the path, since the researchers plan to use the opposite side for surface testing.  

    The bike path will ultimately produce energy to power street lights, stop lights, and other traffic operations. Eventually, scientists hope to use these solar pathways to power electric cars as well as homes. They hope that the concept of solar roadways can become the new norm, creating a form of green electricity to power the cars that drive on the surface.

    There are several drawbacks that prevent the bike path from immediate success. First, the solar path is extremely expensive, with a $3.7 million price tag.  Secondly, the path cannot be angled toward the sun as traditional solar panels can, creating missed energy opportunities. There is also worry that bike riders could be faced with sun glare reflecting off the road’s surface.

    Lastly, there is a durability issue. The Dutch chose to create a bike path and not a traditional roadway for a reason; there would be much less wear and tear. The bike path was built to last in the Netherland’s maritime climate which consists of frequent rain, but light snow in the winter. With that said, it is uncertain whether the bike path could survive in variety of climates that experiences heavy snow.  The solar bike path may not translate practically to other communities with less temperate weather.

    Keywords:
    sustainable energy, green construction, green electricity
  • MargaretThibo
    An Environmental Issue that Can't be Bottled Up
    Entry posted November 16, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    An Environmental Issue that Can't be Bottled Up
    Entry:

    Water bottles have become the standard on the modern American’s grocery list and are no longer seen as an outrageous luxury product. As a result, bottled water has become a huge industry. Approximately 50 billion bottles of water are being consumed across the world annually, 30 billion or 60% of which are consumed in the United State. This is the equivalent of 1,500 bottles of water per second in the U.S. With the sheer volume of bottles being produced & consumed it’s obvious that there are many environmental repercussions.

    First, only about 20% of water bottles consumed will be recycled. The remaining 80% of bottles end up in landfills or as land pollution. Water bottles consist of PET plastics, which are a completely non-biodegradable substance. PET plastics break down into smaller pieces which absorb surrounding contaminants. These toxic pieces of plastic end up in waterways, in the ground, and are consumed by both animals and humans. Much of the plastic bottle fragments will end up floating in the ocean joining the estimated 46,000 other fragments that populate every square mile of the ocean. The small percentage of water bottles that are recycled will find a second life as plastic building materials, containers, as well as new water bottles.

    The manufacturing process is also extremely taxing on the environment. For instance, it takes three times the amount of water to make a water bottle than it does to fill one. Once the water is used in manufacturing it becomes contaminated by hazardous waste materials and not suitable for immediate human consumption.  The manufacturing process also uses an astonishing 17 million barrels of oil annually. That is enough oil to fuel a million cars a year or fill each water bottle we consume a quarter of the way. In addition to the oil used to bottle water, the trucks that transport the product from the factory to the storefront use a large amount of fossil fuels.

    Despite all of the glaring environmental issues created, many people feel that it is a small price to pay for safe, clean, & convenient water. After many blind taste tests, it has been determined that bottled water and tap water taste identical when run through the same filter. This may because almost 48% of bottled water sold is simply tap water that has been filtered and repackaged. The water that is packaged in bottles isn’t always pure either. In fact, 22% of the bottled water tested by the National Resources Defense Council had high levels of contamination in it.

     Furthermore, the plastics used for bottling water can also leach chemicals into the water after as few as ten weeks. These chemicals have been linked to cancers and fertility issues. Aside for the environmental and health concerns, bottled water is also extremely expensive at about 1,000 times the price of the average glass of tap water.  By drinking tap water in reusable containers or keeping a pitcher of water in the refrigerator it not only reduces the effects on the environment, but it will save a great deal of money.

    Keywords:
    land pollution, hazardous waste materials
  • MargaretThibo
    Airports Going Green for Blue Skies
    Entry posted November 14, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Airports Going Green for Blue Skies
    Entry:

    Following a series of site assessments, the Dayton International Airport has come up with an inventive idea to offset its carbon footprint. The Ohio airport plans to plant 270 acres of tall prairie grasses on its grounds. Prairies are very different from traditional agricultural fields in that they absorb carbon instead of produce it. An acre of Prairie grass absorbs approximately one metric ton per year while an acre of agricultural fields can create 16 metric tons of carbon a year.

    The planting of tall grasses should have a positive effect on local ecosystems as well. Small birds that have lost habitat over the decades can return to a new home, while larger birds will move farther from the airport as they do not like tall grasses.  Fewer large birds will result in fewer collisions with airplanes. Over the past twelve years (2001-2013) the Dayton International Airport had two hundred reported collisions with birds.

    Lastly, Dayton’s plan will save the airport money since the amount of mowing and landscaping necessary will decrease.  Less mower use also means less gasoline used and less air pollution emitted.

    In 1992, the Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam, Holland developed a similar idea to offset carbon. The Dutch airport decided to plant 25,000 birch trees every season in all of its open space & in between buildings. Since then 200,000 birch trees have been planted.  Birch trees were intentionally chosen since they are aesthetically pleasing, are low maintenance, and their root systems are not destructive to surrounding structures. Birds are also not as likely to nest in Birch trees because of thin branches, resulting in fewer bird collisions with planes. In 2008 the Schiphol Airport took their green plan a step further and began to plant wild flowers in all of the areas that were once manicured lawn.

    Other airports around the world are also making an effort to become more environmentally friendly as well. Green architecture has been implemented, water conservation methods have been introduced, and runway asphalt is being upgraded to a much more environmentally friendly blend. In the past emphasis was rightfully placed on safety & security while effects on the environment were overlooked. .  It is becoming clear that aviation as a form of travel is quickly increasing and creating a need become much cleaner.

    Keywords:
    site assessments, Green architecture
  • MargaretThibo
    Garden State Passes Open Space Amendment
    Entry posted November 9, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Garden State Passes Open Space Amendment
    Entry:

    New Jersey voters have chosen to amend the state constitution and allocate a percentage of a business tax toward the open space initiative. The amendment has been a hot button issue in the state, opposed by Governor Chris Christy and but supported by many others. Over 185 environmental groups better known as “NJ Keep It Green” raised $500,000 to campaign for the amendment’s passage. The amendment also had bipartisan support in the Sate’s Legislature as well as from the public.

    Some environmental groups worry that this amendment could serve as a double edged sword. On one side, it is wonderful that more money is being put toward the purchase and protection of open spaces like fields and parks, but that means that a smaller percentage will go towards toxic waste cleanup, water protection, and Department of Environmental Protection employees. The majority of the environmental budget is funded by the corporate business tax, which according to this amendment must give 4% to open space. This percentage will increase to 6% by 2019. Many fear other environmental programs will be forced to make cuts.

    Others oppose the amendment because they feel that it does not make New Jersey a desirable place for a business to grow. They fear any additional tax would be offset by trickling down to the consumer.  This could force mom and pop shops to close their doors, consumers to feel the pinch in their wallet, and bigger businesses to look elsewhere.  With that said, the corporate business tax is already being paid and the amendment does not increase the amount paid, so many of these fears are in vain.

    Others oppose the amendment because they feel that open space legislation does not help their community. Critics do not feel as though urban areas and cities receive any benefit since very little protected open space can be found. They believe that funding is instead given to more affluent suburban or country areas. While it is true that cities do not have as much open space, they do rely on clean drinking water free from water contamination and agricultural products grown on these open lands.  City parks can also be protected for future generations to enjoy.

    Keywords:
    water contamination

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