What is the True Cost of Sustainable Living in the US?

Protecting the environment is something most Americans are passionate about. In fact, a recent study found that over 65 percent of Americans would be willing to make drastic changes to protect the Earth. For years, people have searched for a way to live a more sustainable life.

While this can be beneficial, sustainable living is not cheap. Getting all of the different eco-friendly systems in place can be quite expensive. Properly preparing for your path to a sustainable life can help you avoid biting off more than you can chew financially.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

The following are some of the things you need to know about the true cost of green living.

A Sustainable Lifestyle Starts With Rethinking Your Power Supply

Most homeowners spend about 55 percent of their utility bills on electricity. Lowering these costs can be easy when using a website like Texaselectricityplans.com, but in order to make your power supply sustainable, you will have to make some changes.

Using solar power can be cost-effective over time, but initially, it will be a bit expensive. Getting a 24-volt solar power system with a backup generator will cost you around $40,000. As this technology is perfected and mass-produced, these initial costs will continue to decline.

Using the Power of Wind Turbines

Another popular power option for people who are trying to live a sustainable existence is wind turbines. While you can’t use this technology solely to power your home, they can be used as a backup to the solar system you have in place.

These systems are great to have, but they can be pricey. The typical wind turbine system will be around $11,000. If you are going to go completely solar-powered, you definitely need to consider including this backup to ensure your lights and appliances stay powered.

Revamping Your Water and Septic Solutions

Once you have your power problems figured out, finding a better way to get water and dispose of waste should be at the top of your list. If you are looking for a way to reduce your dependence on water treatment facilities for drinking water, then utilizing the power of a well is a good idea. Studies show that nearly 15 percent of Americans are using wells for their home drinking water.

If you are using your city’s sewer system to dispose of waste, you need to think about getting a standalone septic tank installed. Getting a well and a septic tank installed will cost around $13,000. There are greywater systems on the market, as well as waterless composting toilets. These systems take some getting used to but are a great eco-friendly waste disposal option.

Establishing an Independent Heating Source

Staying warm in the winter is something everyone views as a priority. Traditional HVAC systems use a lot of energy, which is why you need to establish an independent heating source if you want to live sustainably. One of the best ways to do this is by using wood-burning stoves or propane heaters. A propane tank splitter connects two propane appliances into one fuel tank, which helps in running two cookers in a single tank

Since wood is a renewable source of energy, you can use it as much as you want in your sustainable life. Buying a wood stove and lumber to keep it going will cost you around $4,000. This is a good deal when you figure out how much you pay in electricity costs during the winter and how much of a strain this puts on the environment.

Creating a Sustainable Lifestyle Takes Time

The journey to a sustainable life will not be easy. The amount of hard work and effort you put into converting your home into an eco-friendly paradise will be well worth it in the long run.

Australia: A Climate Crisis

The world, as we know, is getting warmer and warmer. Weather across the globe is changing significantly, and it’s all down to climate change. From increasing sea levels, the melting of polar ice caps and not forgetting constant reports on hurricanes and heatwaves, the world is going through a climate crisis, and there isn’t long left to attempt to reverse the changes that have been made to our environment.

 

Evan following the huge European heatwave recently, and mass historical data showing that there’s ‘no doubt left’ regarding global warming, one place, in particular, is expected to be hit harder than any other.

That place is Australia.

Australia’s Climate

Due to Australia being located within the southern hemispheres, the seasons are opposite of North America and Europe and feature an abundance of diversity. This includes everything from golden sandy beaches and tropical rainforests to a rich coral reef, filled with diverse marine life, huge, sparse deserts and equally as vast grazing lands.

As you may know, the majority of the population in Australia is confined to the edges of the country, with most people living within the cities and larger towns.

While Australia is warm, and known to be an extremely hot country, 2018 was the third-warmest since records began, with the mean temperature sitting and 1.14°C above average.

While this may not seem much considering the already warm nature of Australia, it’s quite an alarming statistic. Alongside this, the warmth was persistent throughout the year with many of the months recording temperatures within each month’s top ten.

Rainfall was also down, standing at 11% below the average when compared to 1961 – 1990. You can find the rest of the stats here.

Continuing issue

These shocking figures have continued into 2020.

During May, Sydney, Darwin, Melbourne and Brisbane were all facing water restrictions. This was due to dams only being 50% full, or lower, as a result of higher temperatures and low rainfall.

The statistics for Sydney are considerably alarming. As the lowest dam percentage since 1940, the 11 dams were at a combined capacity of 55%, which itself was down by 18% in the year from May 2018.

Measured through high tech devices, similar to ones available from RS Components, Sydney went on to receive its first water restrictions in more than a decade as drought gripped New South Wales.

Meanwhile, high temperatures and low rainfall are expected to continue according to The Bureau of Meteorology.

The future

As you can guess from the warnings issued to the population of the world as a whole, climate change is only going to get worse unless something is done, and this applies greatly to Australia.

Back in 2015, it was reported that by 2090 it was predicted that the temperatures would rise by up to 5.1 degrees Celsius in Australia alone. As you can see, this is already happening, with significant rises just three to four years after the comprehensive report was put together.

Alongside this, sea level rises were also expected to increase significantly too. This was projected to be between 26 – 55 cm under low emission scenarios, whereas high emissions scenarios could see rises between 45 – 86 cm. This was estimated based on relative data between 1986 and 2005. If scenarios were worse, then sea level rises could be between one and three metres after 2100.

With the majority of the population living in built-up areas on the edge of the country, which is where much of its tourism comes from too, things could get worse for Australia in more ways than first imagined. With a climate crisis dangling above us, the time to act on it is now to prevent these scenarios from happening or worse, happening quicker than first thought.

Circular Economy: Viewpoint of Plastic

Pieces of plastic have been trying to get our attention. The first scientific reports of plastic pollution in oceans were in the early 1970s. This waste plastic soaks up other pollutants at up to a million times the concentration in water, harming and killing sea life worldwide. From the point of view of the plastic, we have convincingly failed with solutions. Over the past 40 years the problem has grown around 100 times, with now over 8 million tonnes of plastic waste added to oceans per year.

plastic-bottle

Everyone is aware about ways for plastic to not become waste. We can set up redesign, sharing, refill, recycling and even composting. When it comes to creating practical possibilities for not making waste, people are super smart. But when it comes to making policy to install this practice throughout the economy, which has been the aim of circular economy for the past four decades, we’re consistently collectively stupid. I call this mob thinking.

We have intelligent activists, business people, experts and officials unintentionally thinking like a mob? always bringing forward the same decades old policy weapons. When these weapons don’t work there is a discussion about strategy but not any actual new strategy, just talk about how forcefully to use the same old policy weapons. This is how it’s been possible for waste management, waste regulation and the unsolved waste problem to all grow in tandem for so long.

plastic-pollution-marine-life

The stomach and intestines of sperm whale was filled with 29 kg of garbage

If the piece of plastic had a voice in the circular economy debate what might it say? It would remind us to beware mob thinking. Today’s problems are solvable only by trying new thinking and new policy weapons. Precycling is an example. The piece of plastic doesn’t mind whether it’s part of a product that’s longlife or refilled or shared or refurbished or recycled or even composted (so long as it’s fully biodegradable). It doesn’t even mind being called ‘waste’ so long as it’s on its way to a new use. Action that ensures any of these is precycling.

Our piece of plastic does mind about ending up as ecosystem waste. It does not wish to join 5 trillion other pieces of plastic abandoned in the world’s oceans. It would be horrified to poison a fish or starve a sea bird. Equally it does not want to be perpetually entombed in a landfill dump or transformed into climate destabilising greenhouse gases by incineration.

plastic-pollution-manila

The two possible outcomes for a piece of plastic, remaining as a resource or being dumped as ecological waste, are the same fates awaiting every product. Our economies and our futures depend on our ambition in arranging the right outcome. The old policy weapons of prescriptive targets and taxes, trying to force more of one waste management outcome or less of another, are largely obsolete.

Circular economy can be fully and quickly implemented by policy to make markets financially responsible for the risk of products becoming ecological waste. Some ever hopeful pieces of plastic would be grateful if we would get on with doing this.

Reference: Governments Going Circular best practice case study of precycling premiums

How to Manage COVID-19 Trash?

We might be living amid a pandemic, but that hasn’t slowed down global waste production. If anything, we’re producing more waste now than we were at the beginning of the year with the addition of disposable gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment. What changes do we need to make to manage COVID-19-related waste?

covid19-waste-management

Handling More Waste

Before the pandemic, most cities maintained recycling programs. Commercial waste generally outweighed residential waste, and there was plenty of space in the local landfills for the garbage we throw away. Now, it might not be long before cities are looking for new places to store their trash as landfills overflow. Residential waste production increased by anywhere from 20%-30% in the months since the pandemic started.

Much of this is due to the simple fact that people are spending more time at home. They’re getting takeout — which comes with a plethora of single-use plastics — and they’re ordering their necessities online, which means more packaging to throw away. Add to this the risk that the coronavirus may live on surfaces for days or weeks at a time, and managing trash in the Age of Corona becomes more challenging by the day.

Managing the Risks

Despite fears of COVID-19 persisting on surfaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes waste workers are only at a moderate risk as a result of their occupation. Additionally, waste workers only merit a medium risk rating if they’re working directly with healthcare waste for patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This information hasn’t stopped cities and counties across the country from closing down or even entirely shuttering their local recycling programs, though.

medical-waste-management

 

Managing these risks also reduces any liability that the waste management company might encounter if someone in their employ gets sick from handling contaminated waste. Usually, liability complaints get restricted to chemicals and other hazardous wastes, but until we definitively understand how COVID-19 spreads, it extends to this situation as well.

Lighting a Fire

Some countries, where COVID trash is piling up with no signs of stopping, have begun considering alternative means to manage the waste. Spain, which only has three sanitary waste processing plants in the Catalonia region, has seen medical waste production increase by 300%-350% in the worst-impacted regions of the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of trying to push those processing plants to their limits, Spanish officials are exploring other alternatives.

Incineration is becoming an option in hard-hit regions like Catalonia. While stabilization plants can only manage 50 tons of waste a day, the incinerators eliminated upwards of 700 tons of garbage between the start of the pandemic and mid-April. While incinerators aren’t generally employed for waste-to-energy initiatives anymore, burning the trash rather than letting it fester in a landfill may be one of the only ways to make the best of a bad situation.

Starting Now

Very few people alive today have ever lived through a global pandemic. For the most part, we’re making things up as we go. The shift from commercial to residential waste was expected as more people started staying home to slow the spread of the virus. While we might have anticipated it, we definitely weren’t prepared for it, and we may find that overflowing landfills are tomorrow’s problem.

covid19-trash

Starting now, we need to start looking at COVID trash as a whole. That includes the problems it might create and the best ways to manage it without backpedaling and losing all the sustainability progress we’ve made over the last couple decades. COVID-19 will likely be a part of our lives for many months to come, so we’ll have to adapt if we want to survive and thrive.

Role of Environmental Engineering in Continuous Environmental Improvement

Learn more from here to see how the world has changed over the years. Obviously, the world is developing at a rapid pace. Infrastructures are built day by day to meet the demands of a fast-changing and evolving world. Every single day gives birth to a new technological advancement.

Unfortunately, as industries become technologically advanced and globally competitive, they forget about the environment. As companies join in the rat race, they focus more on the competition for being the best. However, they fail to pay close attention to the environmental damage they incur along the process.

As the environment greatly suffers from these companies’ negligence and irresponsibility, environmental engineering is in place to solve the damages. Different systems and processes are in place to counter the harmful effects of pollution brought about by factories, plants, manufacturing complexes and the likes.

environmental-engineers

Learn more from here to know what Environmental Engineering is all about

What is Environmental Engineering?

According to Live Science, Environmental Engineering is a branch of engineering which mainly deals with protection of people from dangerous environmental effects. These effects are contributed by pollution which decreases environmental quality altogether.

Environmental Engineering is especially omnipresent and essential especially in developing countries with poor sanitation and garbage disposal. As such, environmental engineering also contributes to the overall health and safety conditions of an entire population. With proper sanitation and waste disposal treatment, people somehow live a more conducive and safer lives.

modern-waste-disposal

AI-based waste management systems can help in route optimization and waste disposal

With the help of environmental engineers, proper waste disposal and recycling initiatives are reinforced. They are also in charge of public health and water and air pollution control. They ensure that pollution levels are in check. They do so by constantly formulating environmental strategies and processes which take thorough testing before implementation.

What are the benefits of Environmental Engineering?

Aside from the improvement of health and safety conditions of people, environmental engineering significantly helps in controlling climate change. According to Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering also deals with the potential effects of climate change and other environmental infrastructure factors.

As per AECOM, Environmental engineering makes use of analytical skills to provide strategic direction particularly for sustainability initiatives. Such initiatives deal with low-carbon generation of energy. Environmental engineering also paves the way for development of new technologies to minimise carbon footprint.

With the help of environmental engineers, they develop solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells. These tools aim to increase the efficiency of manufacturing. With better use of alternative energy sources, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions are reduced.

ecofriendly-manufacturing

 

What is the future of Environmental Engineering?

With the help of engineers, environmental engineering shall continue to aid in continuous environmental improvement. Different environmental engineering companies also painstakingly improve their offered services to improve the following:

  • Garbage disposal
  • Water treatment
  • Energy efficiency
  • Use of alternative energy sources
  • Reduction of emissions with solvents
  • Process survey and evaluations

As Environmental Engineering improves these services one step at a time, people are guaranteed a better quality of life. New scientific discoveries pave the way to further the improvement of different environmental processes in place. Engineers are quick to adapt to changes, especially those that are geared towards improving the environment.

Is Environmental Engineering the answer to environmental decline?

The environment has significantly been damaged as one gets to learn more from here. Environmental Engineering takes the cue from this obvious problem. Thanks to the tireless work of experts and practitioners, we are assured that something is always brewing to make things right.

However, it is important to note that no matter what advances are in place, the environment shall continue to deteriorate if discipline is not practiced. Think of Environmental Engineering as delaying the effects. It is not the solution to the worsening global environmental condition. It all depends on the discipline, commitment and environmental awareness of each and every citizen of this planet.

5 Eco-Friendly Home Decor Ideas

Global warming is one of the most discussed issues of the present times. Our planet is facing a crisis, and hence, we are all in the midst of danger. However, we have not reached the dead-end yet. So, there is so much that we can still do to save mother earth. The individual efforts count the most and can go a long way if everyone decides to play their part.

If you are a creative person who wants to decorate their home while trying to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, you would have noticed how most ways to decorate a house have a big carbon footprint. Don’t worry, you do not have to give up home decor to care for the environment. The following are some eco-friendly decor ideas that are sure to fetch you a ton of compliments on your aesthetic and mindful approach towards the environment.

green-decor-tips

Inculcate Houseplants

Who does not love greenery? It is the best way to stay close to nature while staying indoors. In the modern lifestyle, our living spaces are becoming more cramped than ever. Plus, not everyone is lucky enough to have a green bed of twenty-five cubic yards. However, that does not mean that you have to live without a touch of nature.

The easiest way to do so is by cultivating houseplants. It can be done pretty much anywhere and placing them in gorgeous bottles and containers can amplify the appeal. If you plan on adding a lot of houseplants, make sure to get high-quality glass containers from a trusted glass bottles manufacturer.

Go Vintage

The old school décor has been making rounds again. So, this is the perfect time to go thrifting and to rummage through your grandma’s stuff. It is one of the best and responsible ways to save money and to recycle old, discarded things lying in your home.

So, to start with, make use of those vintage suitcases that we all have in our attics. Dust them off and with the help of a little DIY, you can turn them into a table. Attach wooden dowels to the painted suitcase to turn it into a side-table. The fact that you did not have to buy anything new, and didn’t use any fuel to go to the supermarket, gives this DIY a small carbon footprint.

Make Use of Old Textbooks

When you are in the process of redecorating your space, it sounds quite tempting to get rid of everything that has not served you its purpose in years. But do not throw away your old textbooks. Use them to your advantage because there are plenty of DIYs that you can do.

decor-from-old-books

For instance, renew your old lamp by pasting some old pages on your lampshade and stack some books under it. Remember, recycling is the first step to ensuring that you do not produce a lot of waste that is harmful to the environment. So, let your creative side shine and up-cycle old items and turn them into decorations.

Make Your Own Scented Candles

Scent and fragrance have been serving us for ages. When your environment smells great, it gives a sudden uplift to your mood. There is nothing better than coming home after a long day, lighting a candle, and feeling the stresses of the day melt away.

But instead of buying your candles or investing in expensive air freshener dispensers, you can make your own scented candles at home. The following are the supplies that you will need for this:

  • A jar
  • Candle Wick
  • Soy Wax
  • Scissors
  • Spoon
  • Measuring Cup
  • Any essential oil

Instructions

  • Measure the wax according to your jar size.
  • Melt it and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
  • Hold the candle wick into the jar and carefully pour the melted wax.
  • Wait for the wax to become solid and cut the extra wick that is sticking out.
  • Voila! You have your own organic candle!

Invest in LED Lighting

The idea may sound a little intimidating if you look at the cost but there is nothing that pays off like LED Lighting. The traditional lighting system is a huge source of energy waste, not to mention the massive power that they consume. So, it is an excellent decision to invest in LED lighting and ensure that you are not hurting the environment. So, accessorize your home with some elegant LED Lights, that are not just reliable but also completely eco-friendly.

indoor-gardening-grow-lights

Conclusion

It is truly a domineering task to redecorate your home and to bring novelty to your creativity. To top it all, there is this added pressure of being environmentally responsible. However, if you are determined to contribute to your planet, now is the right time. For starters, just staying conscious about the waste and resources will eventually become your second nature. And soon, you would not have to think twice before taking on a task as daunting as eco-friendly home décor.

Plastic Packaging Waste in the Philippines: An Analysis

I recently took a 5-month break from my work as an environmental consultant to volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) on the issue of marine litter. During the first few months of my stint there, we undertook an intense programme of beach cleans across sections of a small sample of local beaches. The idea was to find out what kinds of material were most prevalent, to inform the types of local initiative we could set up to try and tackle the issues.

Consistently, the vast majority of the debris we found strewn across the beaches across the Philippines was plastic; a significant amount of that was soft plastics which can’t be recycled – plastic bags, sweet and crisp packets, and single use soap and detergent sachets. There were some variations, though: at one beach, we kept picking up a staggering amount of styrofoam.

During our beach clean work and engagement with local communities, it became increasingly apparent that part of the problem was the variability of waste management across the municipality of Zamboanguita, in the Negros Oriental province of the Philippines.

Despite national legislation, some areas received no formal waste collections at all. With the help of the local Coastal Resources Manager, Tony Yocor, we began to engage with the local municipality’s Solid Waste Manager with the view to supporting appropriate an affordable waste management practices.

We focused on solutions that have been successful elsewhere in the Philippines and in other emerging markets, such as the local collection and waste sorting approach developed by Mother Earth Foundation. Unfortunately, as with most places in the world, influencing the authorities to act takes time, and whilst we started to make some progress, Tony and the staff at MCP are still working on trying to get the full range of local solutions we identified implemented.

Materials and markets

We did, however, build our own ‘MRF’ (more of a community recycling centre in UK terms) at MCP’s base to improve the management of the waste we collected. The main aim of the site is to allow as many recyclable materials as possible to be segregated so that they can be sold to the local junk shops. We also hope that this can act as a demonstration site for the types of simple solutions that can be set up locally to improve waste management.

But ultimately, if we are serious about tackling this issue of marine debris, we have to reduce the amount of litter we produce, and many countries are making progress on tackling commonly littered items. Restrictions on single use carrier bags are amongst the most prominent and widespread anti-littering measures around the world.

England’s 5p carrier bag levy was introduced in 2015 and, despite its limitations, is reducing bag usage and (it would seem) marine litter. Last year Kenya hit the headlines when it joined the growing list of countries adopting a rather stricter line: it banned plastic carrier bags entirely, with offenders risking heavy fines or even imprisonment.

Although bans and restrictions are becoming increasingly widespread, they have not yet reached the Philippines at a national level and it seems no coincidence that a large proportion of the items we found littered on our sample beaches around Zamboanguita were plastic bags. One beach, close to where the largest ‘ghetto’ market is held weekly, had a particularly high incidence of plastic bag litter, and the quantity increased noticeably on, and just after, market day. Use wholesale tote bags to promote sustainable living in the Philippines.

Without national instruments in place, we explored what could be done with the policy powers available to the local government. Working with the local Markets Officer and Coastal Resources Manager we put the wheels in motion to propose and implement a local ordinance to introduce a charge on plastic bags, initially at the market as a trial, with the potential for a wider roll-out if successful. It’s a model that could be reapplied elsewhere in the Philippines if national legislation isn’t forthcoming.

Sachet and sea?

Plastic bags are a challenge, but because they’re distributed locally it’s relatively easy to change practices. Other forms of single use packaging contribute just as much to the litter problem afflicting many South East Asian counties, but are harder to tackle because their source is more remote.

The Philippines, like many developing and emerging economies, is a ‘sachet economy’, with a huge range of products sold in one-portion, single-use sachets. You see them everywhere, from small ‘sari sari’ stalls to large shopping centres. The producers’ perspective is that this form of packaging represents a form of social responsibility, allowing them to provide safe, long-lasting, affordable products that meet people’s needs. However, they have a wider cost.

Sachet society: one of the most common forms of litter in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Amy Slack.

I was involved in Break Free from Plastic Negros Oriental’s December beach clean and audit, and these sachets were the most common item we found. They accounted for a massive 25% of the items picked up from Dumaguete beach, beating plastic bags into second place (13%).

The waste management system in the Philippines simply isn’t geared up to dealing with this increasingly popular type of packaging – the composite materials of which they are made are impractical to recycle and so lack the economic value that engages the interest of the informal sector. So, what could be done to help?

The Best Foot Forward

There is no ‘silver bullet’ to instantly lay marine litter to rest. Even if there was a global ban on single use plastics today, it would take time for already littered material to blow or wash its way through the system.

However, introducing a compulsory extended producer responsibility (EPR) mechanism into policy could help end the blame game that currently impedes action: producers blame the general public for littering, the general public blame the government for inadequate waste systems, and government blames produces for manufacturing plastic packaging.

An EPR scheme would see government giving clear responsibilities to business, and ensuring that producers fund collection and reprocessing schemes to properly manage the waste from the products they sell in the Philippines. That would in turn incentivise producers to use more easily recyclable packaging, as the costs of managing this material would be lower.

The goal need not be to try to ape the waste management systems of the West, which may not be suitable in the circumstances. And in the Philippines, where labour is cheap and informal waste management thrives, it may take little more than giving a small value to packaging products to greatly reduce the amount of material that escapes into the environment.

Conclusion

Although countries like the Philippines currently struggle most to cope with the consequences of plastic packaging waste, with the right set of policies and determined volunteers to help organise local action, there is scope for them to catch up and overhaul the West in developing solutions that really do reduce litter.

Note: The article has been republished with the permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original version of the article can be found at this link

Plastic Wastes and Role of EPR

In just a few decades plastics have become omnipresent in our society. But, unfortunately, the consequences of their use last far beyond their useful lifetime. Everyone is aware of their overwhelming dispersion in our landscapes. The situation in the oceans is not better [1]. As a reaction, a few thoughts spring to my mind.

First of all, it is clear that the industry is assuming very little responsibility, and that Public Administrations are complicit with this. Extended Producer Pesponsibility (abbreviated as EPR) only affects –and only partially– those plastics used as light packaging, in vehicles, in tyres or as part of electric and electronic equipment, not any of the others. Also, recycling levels are not sufficiently high, as a result of poor separate collection systems and inefficient treatment facilities. As a consequence, society has to face not only the problems created by those materials which are not recycled, but also has to assume a high share of the costs of managing them as waste.

Secondly, it illustrates the importance of the quality of the materials that we aim to recycle, and thus the importance of separate waste collection; for all materials, but particularly for biowaste. Although most composting and anaerobic digestion facilities have the capacity to separate some of the impurities (of which around 40% can be plastics), this separation is far from perfect.

Two recent studies confirm that the quality of compost is influenced by the presence of impurities in biowaste [2] and that, in turn, the presence of impurities is influenced by several factors [3], among which particularly the type of separate collection scheme, door to door separate collection models being those presenting better results.

Thirdly, it makes clear the urgency to adopt measures that address the root of the problem. High quality separate collection and sound waste treatment are necessary, and allow enormous room for improvement, but they are end-of-pipe solutions. It is also important to promote greener consumption patterns through environmental awareness campaigns, but this is not enough either.

We have to address the problem where it is created. And this requires measures of higher impact, such as taxes on certain products (e.g. disposable ones) or on certain materials, compulsory consideration of eco-design criteria, generalisation of the extended producer responsibility or prohibition of certain plastics (e.g. oxo-degradable ones) or of certain uses (e.g. microplastic beads in cosmetics).

glitter-plastic-pollution

One can think that these measures are a bit too hard, but honestly, after wandering around beaches and mountains, and finding plastics absolutely everywhere, I am bit disappointed with the outcome of soft solutions.

On 16th January 2018 the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was adopted [4]. A number of measures will need to be applied by the European Union (listed in Annex I of the Strategy), by Member States and by the industry (Annex II), but also by Regional Governments and Local Authorities. No doubt that implementing the Strategy will bring about significant advances, but only time will say if it is sufficient to address the huge challenge we face.

The European Union has also recently adopted the much-awaited Directive 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment [5], which introduces several bans and restrictions on different uses and materials. This is indeed a huge step, which needs to be followed by others, both in Europe, but also elsewhere, as this is truly a global challenge.

Note: An earlier version of this article was published in February 2018: https://mailchi.mp/db1fd794d528/sent-11-april-2018

References

[1] See for example: https://tinyurl.com/yxra3cod

[2] Campos Rodrigues, L., Puig Ventosa, I., López, M., Martínez, X. (2016) Anàlisi de la incidència dels impropis de la FORM sobre la qualitat del compost de les plantes de compostatge de Catalunya https://tinyurl.com/y37ncton

[3] Puig-Ventosa, I., Freire-González, J., Jofra-Sora, M. (2013) Determining factors for the presence of impurities in selectively collected biowaste, Waste Management and Research, 31: 510-517.

[4] The strategy and several accompanying documents can be found in this portal: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/plastic_waste.htm

[5] Directive 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

How to Patent Green Technology for Your Business

Green technology is big business. From climate change activists like Greta Thunberg to plastic bag tax and programmes like Blue Planet highlighting the tidal wave of plastic in our oceans, we are all increasingly aware of the devastating impacts of pollution. Therefore, the demand for green or greener ways of doing things is high. If you’re an entrepreneur or start-up and you have an idea or prototype for a green technology, you can capitalise on this increased demand.

One of the things you’ll need to consider is whether you want to get a patent for your invention. A patent gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, sells or imports your invention without your permission and the patent application process for green technology is slightly different than for other inventions. Here we look at how to do it.

green tech

What is green technology?

Green technology, or green tech, is an umbrella term that refers to any technology that has an environmentally friendly production process; a technology that mitigates or reverses environmental damage; or even a clean energy production process, such as solar energy.

The goal of green technology is to be sustainable, protect the environment, and even repair past damage. Whether it’s new ways of recycling, renewable energy sources or LED lighting, there are lots of different types of green technology that we currently use, but as we continue to see the effects of global warming rise, humankind needs to do more.

The patenting process

Before you start the patenting process, you need to consider whether a patent is right for your invention. Not all inventions have a large financial value, and the cost and expense of securing a patent could outweigh the profit potential of your invention. In addition, from research to confidentiality agreements to filing your application, there are many stages to the patenting process, so it is best to consult the skills of an experienced patent lawyer, such as a member of the team at Withers.

What is accelerated processing?

The usual time frame for a patent to be processed can be anywhere from a year to four years. However, the Green Channel for patent applications, which was introduced in 2009, allows you to request accelerated processing of your application if your invention has an environmental benefit. You must be able to prove that this is the case.

If, for example, it’s the process that your invention is made by that is green, rather than the product itself, you will need to be able to explain this, and your request may be refused by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) if they do not consider your invention to meet the criteria for the Green Channel. The IPO keeps a database of all published Green Channel patent applications. The most recent ones include a method and apparatus for oil condition monitoring and a road pollution extraction system.

If you’ve got that killer green idea, not only could you be helping to save the planet, it could be a profitable endeavour, so it’s essential that you protect it if necessary. By following the advice above, you could see your product brought to market sooner than you think.

Ways Businesses Can Become More Sustainable

You’ve probably heard the word “sustainable” many times by now, but you may wonder what it has to do with your business. Sustainable business means that you’ll be you’ll be increasing the odds that you company can continue indefinitely by minimizing social and environmental impacts while ensuring financial stability. Studies have shown that sustainable business perform better financially, including one report by nonprofit CDC, reported by The Guardian that found they secure an 18% greater return on investment (ROI) than organizations that aren’t, and 67% more than companies who refuse to. How can you help your business become more sustainable?

green-economy

Think Greener in Procurement Sources

One of the best, and easiest, things you can do to make your business more sustainable is to practice environmentally-friendly procurement. Take a close look at your current suppliers and make changes as necessary by using suppliers that don’t use excessive packaging or sell products that contain substances that are harmful to the environment.

As often as possible, choose recycled items made from renewable material. Ask plenty of questions when researching various suppliers to find out where their goods are coming from, including whether the manufacturer is a sustainable business.

Whenever possible, use local suppliers, rather than purchasing online.

Seek Help from an Energy Broker

An increasing number of businesses are embracing renewable energy and energy management today. Your office can be powered with a variety of alternative sources like biomass, hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind power. There are hundreds of companies that supply energy in a myriad of different ways, affecting your bottom line and sustainability.

While there are usually a few suppliers dominating any given market, many other small suppliers are known for getting more creative in their offerings. Trying to figure out which one is best for your organization can be a very difficult task which is why using an energy broker who is knowledgeable about all the complexities that come with this sector, can best analyze the energy market to provide you with the greenest, most cost-effective options.

Reduce Water Usage

Water shortages are becoming an increasingly bigger problem in many places around the world, including North America. Whether your organization is located in a drought-stricken area or not, decreasing water use will help to conserve a valuable resource and help you save money at the same time.

Instead of using a sprinkler system to keep lush lawns around the building, switch to a drip irrigation system to significantly reduce water usage or consider changing the landscaping to something more drought tolerant. Fix plumbing leaks and dripping taps and install low-flow faucet aerators in your bathrooms.

Switch From Gas To Electricity

Electricity is much easier to source sustainably than gas and oil, especially if you use solar panels to collect energy from the sun. So by switching over some of your gas-powered company owned equipment to their electric counterparts you can ultimately help your business become more sustainable.

Some equipment to consider switching could include: switching from gas powered to electric vehicles (especially for companies that rely heavily on transportation), switching from gas-powered to electric-powered riding mowers (especially for landscaping businesses).

As there are so many different types of lawn mowers available, sites like home gear expert show us interesting comparisons which will help you find the one which best matches your needs.

A good electric riding mower with good user ratings will cost you a couple thousand dollars but could save you money in the long term plus make your business more sustainable.