The past few decades have brought great attention to making the aviation industry much greener. There has great emphasis placed on fuel efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions of aircraft. While the environmental regulations have been effective in the cleaning up the airways, the airports were essentially ignored. Many airports consume that same amount of energy as a small city with as much as one fifth of that being completely wasted. More recently thee attention has shifted and airports are being held more accountable and hope to catch up.
There have been some airports that have made a significant effort to become greener. The top three include Boston Logan International Airport, Denver International Airport, and Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Boston Logan had the first LEED certified terminal in the United States complete with sustainable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. The Boston airport also used an asphalt blend during reconstruction that emitted less CO2 than the standard.
Denver International is home to the largest airport solar farm in the world and also boasts one of the most extensive recycling programs in the country. The Denver, Colorado airport recycles twenty different products including paper, plastic bottles and cans, as well as the grease from on-site restaurants, and deicing fluid. Similarly, Seattle-Tacoma has a large recycling program for about ten products, including ten tons of coffee grounds per month.
Another huge airport improvement is providing a direct power link to the airplane from the terminal, which prevents the plane from having to use its generators while parked. The plane in turn burns far less fuel. Both Boston Logan and Denver International have this process in place.
Less drastic green improvements have been implemented at airports across the globe. Airport vehicles have gone electric, more trash is being recycled, and high watt lightbulbs are being replaced. It appears that the decades of constructing environmentally inefficient yet aesthetically pleasing airports is over.
The Lego Group has vowed to develop a more sustainable building block before 2030. The company has invested $150 million into its Sustainable Materials Center located in Denmark, adding about 100 jobs in the process. Making the tiny toys out of sustainable materials does not sound impressive, until one considers that they company produced 60 billion pieces last year alone.
Lego faces a lot of unique challenges in developing a greener toy. One obstacle is due to the industry’s extremely strict regulations regarding safety and materials. These regulations make the option of using recycled goods to replace the current material impossible. The risk of these recycled plastics containing contaminants is just too high to meet industry standards.
Lego must also ensure that it creates a new product as durable as the original. Aside from making the sustainable blocks quality the company needs to make sure that the blocks are still fun for children to play with. In a fast paced world filled with flashy toy trends it can be tough for the blocks to compete.
The Lego Group is no stranger to making themselves more environmentally responsible. They have already having taken steps toward cutting carbon emissions, reducing product packaging, and investing in sustainable energy like wind power. The company has also aligned itself with the Worldwide Wildlife Federation (WWF) and cut business ties with environmentally unfriendly corporations like Shell.
Compared to other toys Legos are already fairly environmentally friendly as the blocks are extremely durable and last for generations. The toy is a classic and is rarely broken or disposed of in landfills, which means it is not becoming land pollution. It is not unheard of to have blocks from twenty or thirty years ago still in circulation as parents pass them on to their children. Legos are also a toy that does not require electricity or batteries in order to be enjoyed.
The City of Chicago seems to be treading water when it comes creating environmental regulations regarding the storage of petroleum coke. Petroleum coke, better known as Petcoke is a powdery hazardous waste material created during the oil refinery process similar in appearance to coal. Petcoke is usually stored and then moved to power plants so it can be used as fuel. Although the byproduct is solid, it is also extremely powdery. It is the dust created by the storage piles that is of concern for Chicago residents. If the dust is inhaled it can lead to health issues.
Early this June, Chicago area environmental groups composed a letter to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) expressing the disapproval of the Agency’s decision to not pursue comprehensive laws regarding the storage of petcoke. This decision came as a complete surprise since previous agency actions had indicated that the IEPA would create progressive environmental regulations. In fact, one year ago the IEPA had campaigned for emergency petcoke rules are put into place. This sudden change of heart is not sitting well with the Chicago people.
Critics argue that a lack of regulation on petcoke storage could prove harmful to both residents of Chicago as well as people in surrounding communities. The city has recently prohibited the establishment of any new petcoke storage facilities from being built in the city limits, which is forcing companies to look elsewhere. While limitations of future storage sites are a good thing, there is no regulation of the current process in Chicago or any other Illinois community.
The entire state of Illinois is at risk of petcoke exposure due to the lack of regulation. The Calumet River which borders a current storage facility flows outside the city limits and could easily be at risk of water contamination. The likelihood only increases if more facilities are built along its shores. Similarly railways throughout the state would be ideal petcoke storage facilities, many of which are located near the Mississippi River. Large deliveries of petcoke by barge or railway can also affect the local air quality as they do not by law have to be covered or wetted to prevent clouds of dust.
New York City has moved beyond a standard recycling program by experimenting with a new public composting initiative. Currently about 100,000 New York households are participating in this program, composting their organic garbage.
The program is carefully designed to make composting as simple and un-intrusive to the modern household as possible. The program begins by providing each participating home with two bins. The larger of the bins is on wheels and meant to be kept outdoors. This large bin will be collected by the city based upon a predetermined schedule. The outdoor containers were designed to prevent scavenging animals like rats, skunks, and raccoons from getting in. Advocates for the composting program assure residents that the bins are completely pest proof and will not attract any unwanted neighbors. Part of this means that there will be little to no smell caused by the bin and its rotting contents.
The second bin is much smaller and meant to be used in the home. This bin is specially designed with tiny vents in its lid to minimize any odors in the house. After all, no one wants their home to smell like rotting garbage. Organic materials can be scraped from the plate into the indoor bucket, and then the lid is snapped back on tightly. Once the indoor bin is full, it can be transferred into the larger outdoor bin.
Sanitation officials state that anything that was once alive can be placed in the composting bins, including animal bones and eggshells. Normally, people who compost avoid animal byproducts as they tend to smell and attract scavengers. As previously discussed, the specially designed lids will calm those concerns. They also encourage paper towels and napkins be placed in the bins as they will decompose along with the organic matter. Currently the compost collected by the New York Program is being shipped to two separate farms to the North. Each farm continues to further compost the waste on their property.
The ultimate goal of the program is to harness the methane gas produced by the composted matter, mix it with the methane produced by solid sewage waste and create usable energy for the city. Almost a decade ago, the New York Environmental Protection Department and the National Grid began researching this possibility. They discovered that if they could mix the two forms of waste in “digester eggs” they could produce enough energy to fuel over 2,500 homes in the area right away.
For residents that are not yet one of the 100,000 homes participating in the curbside program, the city’s Sanitation Department offers a large number of drop off locations for do it yourself composters. The website even provides step by step instructions for the more adventurous spirit to create their own worm tank, a home composting system. (The tank is exactly what it sounds like.)
Aside from goals associated with turning trash into energy treasure, composting helps reduce the amount of land pollution at local landfills. New Your City produces about 25,000 tons of trash a year, so keeping even just a fraction out of the landfill helps.
At least 4,500 residents of New Oxford, Pennsylvania have been affected by drinking water restrictions after a large fire at the neighboring Miller Chemical and Fertilizer Corporation broke out early last week. Traces of herbicides, pesticides, and other forms of water contamination have been found in nearby Conewago Creek and its tributaries like, Slagel’s Run. Fortunately the community was able to use water supplies from neighboring York County, located upstream from the plant fire. They also had some water in storage that could be consumed safely.
The cause of the fertilizer plant is still unknown, but is under investigation by local authorities. The runoff created by the fire hoses used by first responders may have helped wash fertilizers into the local waterways. Eventually firefighters stopped using water to fight the fire and switched to other methods to suffocate the flames for this reason.
Aside from the restrictions placed on water consumption in the community, use of Conewago Creek for recreational activities has also been banned for the time being. The herbicides and pesticides found in the creek are especially dangerous to aquatic animals. Officials have reported thousands of dead fish over the past week, with the effect on future generations of fish unknown.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials state that they are unsure when residents of New Oxford will be able to consume their own water supply. Recent rain storms have helped the process immensely by diluting the waterways to much safer levels.
Initially heavy smoke in the area forced the town to issue a shelter-in-place order to residents. This meant that people were urged to stay indoors with their windows and doors shut tightly. The order has since been discontinued. Department of Environmental Protection agents have performed air quality testing following the fire and resulting explosions. The found trace amounts of particles, but determined the air was safe to breath.