Clean Cookstoves: An Urgent Necessity

Globally, three billion people in the developing nations are solely dependent on burning firewood, crop residues, animal manure etc for preparing their daily meals on open fires, mud or clay stoves or simply on three rocks strategically placed to balance a cooking vessel.  The temperature of these fires are lower and produce inefficient burning that results in black carbon and other short-lived but high impact pollutants.

These short-lived pollutants not only affect the persons in the immediate area but also contribute much harmful gases more potent than carbon dioxide and methane. For the people in the immediate area, their health is severely hampered as this indoor or domestic air pollution results in significantly higher risks of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis.

To remedy the indoor air pollution (IAP) and health-related issues as well as the environmental pollution in the developing world, clean cookstoves are the way to advance. But to empower rural users to embrace the advanced cookstoves, and achieve sustainable success requires a level of socio-cultural and economic awareness that is related directly to this marginalized group. The solution needs to be appropriate for the style of cooking of the group which means one stove model will not suit or meet the needs and requirements of all developing nation people groups.

Clean cookstoves can significantly reduce health problems caused by indoor air pollution in rural areas

Consideration for such issues as stove top and front loading stove cooking, single pot and double pot cooking, size of the typical cooking vessel and the style of cooking are all pieces of information needed to complete the picture.  Historically, natural draft systems were devised to aid the combustion or burning of the fuels, however, forced draft stoves tend to burn cleaner with better health and environmental benefits. Regardless of cookstove design, the components need to be either made locally or at least available locally so that the long term life of the stove is maintainable and so sustainable.

Now, if the cookstove unit can by powered by  simple solar or biomass system, this will change the whole nature of the life style and domestic duties of the chief cook and the young siblings who are typically charged with collecting the natural firewood to meet the cooking requirement.

Therefore the cookstoves need to be designed and adapted for the people group and their traditional cooking habits, and not in the reverse order. To assess the overall performance of the green cooking stoves requires simple but effective measures of the air quality. The two elements that need to be measured are the black carbon emissions and the temperature of the cooking device.  This can be achieved by miniature aerosol samplers and temperature sensors. The data collected needs to be transmitted in real-time via mobile phones for verification of performance rates.  This is to provide verifiable data in a cost effective monitoring process.

Bioplastics: Making an Informed Decision

bioplasticsPlastics are regarded by some as one of the greatest human inventions and continue to benefit society in more ways than one. However these benefits come at a high environmental cost as research has shown that “over 300 million metric tons of plastics are produced in the world annually and about 50% of this volume is for disposable applications, products that are discarded within a year of their purchase”.

About 50 percent of all plastics produced worldwide are disposed of within one year of being manufactured; now that is a critically important statistic when plastics have been known to have life spans over 500 years.  Infact, this is the main reason behind massive waste accumulation of plastics in landfills, drainage systems, water bodies etc. Moreover, plastic’s destruction is evident when in 2009, it was reported that an estimated 150 million tons of fossil fuels were consumed for the production of plastics worldwide.  Given all of these facts, it is no surprise that the pervasive use of non-biodegradable plastics has provoked many environmental and health concerns, especially in developing countries where plastic is often disposed of in unauthorized dumping sites or burned uncontrollably.

One result of this broadening awareness of the global plastic waste problem and its impact on the environment is the development of bioplastics.  Bioplastics are based on biomass derived from renewable resources and are in many cases more environmentally friendly than traditional petroleum based plastics. Currently, numerous types of bioplastics are under development, the most popular being “Polylactides, Polyglycolic acids, Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), aliphatic polyesters, polysaccharides”.

Basic Concepts and Misconceptions

Overall, in the Plastics Industry Trade Association’s 2012 Bioplastics Industry Overview Guide, it is stated that bioplastics that are both bio-based and biodegradable play an important role in further advancing the plastic industry as a whole.  Incredibly essential to note, is that within the above statement, it states, the importance of bioplastics that are both bio-based and biodegradable.  This statement implys that not all bioplastics are biodegradable and/or bio-based.  In fact, according to a 2011 industry report, there are many characteristics such as degradable, biodegradable, bio-based and compostable that are used to describe bioplastics. However, not every bioplastic is comprised of all of these features.  According to the report, this remains a common misconception as the public at large still lacks a clear understanding of the various bioplastic related terms.  For instance, it is commonly thought of that the terms bio-based and biodegradable are interchangeable. However not all bio-based plastics will degrade naturally. In fact, “many bio-based products are designed to behave like traditional petroleum-based plastic, and remain structurally intact for hundreds of years”.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) defines biodegradable plastics as a plastic in which all the organic carbon can be converted into biomass, water, carbon dioxide, and/or methane via the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, in timeframes consistent with the ambient conditions of the disposal method (Compostable Plastics 101). This definition implies that there is a specific timeframe for the biodegradation to take place and merely fragmenting into smaller pieces, even if microscopic, does not make a material biodegradable.  This definition is commonly confused with the term degradable which is a broader term given to polymers or plastics that simply break down by a number or means, such as physical disintegration, chemical disintegration and biodegradation by natural mechanisms. After degradation, a degradable plastic can still remain in a smaller or fragmented form unlike that of a biodegradable plastic, which needs to completely biodegrade into water, carbon dioxide and/or methane. This distinction between terms results in polymers that are degradable but not biodegradable.

Another term that is commonly found to describe bioplastics is ‘compostable’. Compostable is defined by ASTM as “a plastic that undergoes biological degradation during composting to yield carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and leaves no visually distinguishable or toxic residues”. While the ASTM has specific standards for a plastic to be compostable such as biodegradation, eco-toxicity, and disintegration, the main difference between a plastic being compostable versus biodegradable is the rapid rate at which biodegradation, eco-toxicity, and disintegration occur. Therefore, in theory, all compostable plastics are biodegradable however, not all biodegradable plastics are compostable.

Finally, probably the most often confused term regarding bioplastics is the label, “bio-based”.  As defined by the US Department of Agriculture, the term “bio-based” refers to solely the raw materials of the plastic. According to the Department of Agriculture, bio-based materials that are those that are “composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials or forestry materials”. Since the majority, not all, of the materials have to be renewable, many bio-based plastics combine both petroleum-based materials with naturally based ones. For this reason, some researchers have suggested that a bio-based material may not technically be a sustainable product. Therefore, while the two terms are somewhat related, whether or not a product is bio-based is not an independent indicator of whether it is biodegradable.

Making an Informed Decision

This lack of understanding between the terms is a large issue that does not get much recognition.  Consumers are increasingly buying more and more bioplastics but are not fully being educated on the differences between the various different types of bioplastics on the markets. While as a whole, bioplastics may have many notable attributes making them excellent alternatives to traditional plastics, they are not considered flawless solutions. Some bioplastics encompass all of the above qualities while others may only hold one or two of these characteristics; meaning that there is a vast disparity between how environment-friendly different bioplastics might actually be.

Consumers often see the term bioplastic or a bio-based plastic and automatically assume that it will breakdown into the soil like leaves or grass once it is disposed of, when as discussed, this is often not the case. All in all, given the significant differences between the terms, it is very important for consumers to know that “bio-based,” “biodegradable” and “compostable” are individual attributes and be educated on what these characteristics actually mean. It is equally important for manufacturers to be educated on these differences and make proper labeling of their bioplastic products.

References

Biobased and degradable plastics in California. Retrieved from  this link

California Organics Recycling Council. (2011). Compostable plastics 101. Retrieved from this link

Confused by the terms biodegradable & biobased. (n.d.). Retrieved from this link

Divya, G., Archana, T., & Manzano, R. A. (2013). Polyhydroxy alkanoates – A sustainable alternative to petro-based plastics. Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology, 4(3), 1-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2157-7463.1000143

Liu, H-Y. (2009). Bioplastics poly(hydroxyalkanoate) production during industrial wastewater treatment. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3362495)

Niaounakis, M. (2013). Biopolymers: Reuse, recycling, and disposal. Waltham, MA: William Andrew Publishing.

North, E. J., & Halden, R. U. (2013). Plastics and environmental health: the road ahead. Reviews on Environmental Health, 28(1), 1-8. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2012-0030

The Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (2012, April). Bioplastics Industry Overview Guide.

United States Department of Agriculture. (2006). Federal biobased products preferred procurement program. Retrieved from this link

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 sustainable 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.

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 2019.

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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 responsibility (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). 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.

Ways Businesses Can Become More Sustainable

green-economyYou’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?

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 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). 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.

11 of the World’s Most Eco-Friendly Cities

Cities often compete with each other, whether they’re seeking to have the highest quality of life or fostering innovation. However, the increasing world population and a changing climate have made eco-friendly living a priority for residents and city leaders alike. This has now led to cities competing to be the most environmentally friendly. The global movement towards more sustainability is also pushing for more innovation and change. Here are 11 of the world’s most eco-friendly cities as well as a brief overview of what they’ve done to achieve that status.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and ranks among the most eco-friendly cities in the world. This is partially due to their harnessing of abundant geothermal energy for power and keeping the freezing northern city warm. Their small population is densely packed into the city, so people can get around by walking, biking or via public transit.

The city is offering incentives to encourage people to drive electric cars, such as free parking and lower taxes. They’re also going the old-fashioned route by encouraging the other 96 percent of the population to ride public transit, including their brand-new hydrogen powered buses.

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains, though the surrounding coast is covered in forests. The local administration found out that the city’s environmental footprint was just too big to be sustainable and decided to make some real changes. As a result of these initiatives, the city now has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions level for any major city in North American city.

They are doing yet even more to reduce the city’s footprint. For example, the city is doing a lot to attract clean technology companies and increase the number of green jobs. They’ve seen a 23 percent in green jobs since 2013. They’re also encouraging local food production so they can feed people without wasting energy transporting food from thousands of miles away.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world. Where San Francisco stands out is the sheer number of ways it is lowering its ecological footprint from the top down.

For example, consumers and city agencies systematically shop for organic and locally sourced food. Living waste-free seems like a dream, but the city itself has that as a goal by 2020. The city is roughly eighty percent of the way there. They’ve dramatically reduced waste and increased recycling, while they encourage businesses and individuals alike to switch to reusable containers. As a matter of fact, San Francisco became the first city in the US to completely ban plastic bottles. A large part of the organic waste produced in the city is turned into compost and used by local farmers.

San Francisco is also ahead of the curve in terms of renewable energy. The city has many zero emissions and hybrid electric buses. Solar installations in the Bay Area are surprisingly common. This is in part because they pay themselves off in less than seven years when you take rebates and tax credits into account. For example, San Francisco’s GoSolarSF program encourages people to install solar panels. The average homeowner receives 300 dollars per kilowatt and up to 2000 dollars per kilowatt if the residents are considered low income. This will remain in effect even if the federal tax rebates for solar installations start to phase out.

Another side effect of the eco-conscious population is that renewable energy becomes a selling point for properties that have it. The best solar companies in the Bay Area, including firms like Semper Solaris, install quality solar panel systems that add value to your home. They also make it easier for people in the region to afford systems by adjusting them to their particular needs. Not only that, but they also offer battery storage so users can still use solar energy when the sun isn’t shining. The increased home value is based in part on the future reduced utility bills the homeowners expect to receive.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki sits on the Gulf of Finland. It stands out for its delicate balance between eco-friendliness and tourism. Roughly three in four hotel rooms in the city are certified as eco-friendly. Most of the remainder have some environmental impact reduction plan in place to reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and lower the environmental impact of their food and water supply. The city makes use of wind and solar power. The “green district” Viiki is an experiment in sustainability. This is why the first solar powered apartment building in Finland is located here.

Capetown, South Africa

Capetown is another example of a city that has gone above and beyond to reduce its ecological footprint. One of the ways they are doing so is by reducing their reliance on unsustainable energy sources and turning to alternatives like solar energy instead. And it has paid off, especially when considering the amount of sunlight the city enjoys every year.

They’ve also heavily invested in wind power. As a matter of fact, the city has started focusing on building wind farms since 2008. And the city made it a goal to meet 10% of its energy needs using renewable energy sources by 2020, which could very well be possible given all the different initiatives they’ve started.

They’re also trying to pattern the behavior and habits of residents and push them to adopt a more outdoorsy lifestyle. Not only that, but they’re facilitating bike transport by allowing bicycles for free on their My Citi express bus service.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is one of the most famous and historical cities in the world, and the reason why it made that list is also tied to history. After WWI, residents in the city were forced to become very self-reliant, and had to find ways to grow and raise their own food, which is a tradition that continues to this day. Germans in general also value their green spaces and gardening.

Berlin is also doing a lot to accommodate electric vehicles owners by adding over 400 charging stations around the country. They’re also trying to raise awareness among gas vehicle owners and trying to sway them into going electric. Not only that, but Berliners also are more prone to using public transit or sharing vehicles then using their personal car.

Portland, Oregon

This is the second west coast city in this list, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that the west coast is and has always been a hotbed for the environmentalist movement. And while the city’s population keeps on growing, they are continually working to minimize the effect of the city’s activity on the environment. They also put a ban recently on plastic bags to curb their effect on the ecosystem, with other cities on the west coast following suit.

But one of the main reasons why Portland made this list is the people of the city. Environmental consciousness is part of the city’s DNA, and Portlanders take it to the next level. Did you know that roughly 25% of the city’s workers do their commute through carpooling, biking, or public transit? Out of all the people in the city, 8% also stated that they only use their bike for transportation. This is thanks in part to the city’s massive bike path and lane system.

The city also gets 33% of its energy from renewable sources and recuperates roughly 1,200,000 tons from the 2,434,840 tons of waste they produce every year, which is pretty impressive for a city its size. The city also managed to cut their carbon emissions by as much as 17%, even with the increasing population.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is bar none one of the most avant-garde cities when it comes to environmental initiatives, and has worked for a long time to limit its energy consumption from unsustainable sources. As a matter of fact, the city was one of the first to introduce widespread sustainability initiatives with a goal to reach a wide variety of benchmarks by the year 2020.

One of the main things people remember when they come to the city is the sheer number of cyclists, and Amsterdammers do love their bikes. But the city also did a lot to popularize electric vehicles, and owners can charge their vehicles in one of the 300 charging ports you’ll find all over the city. People in the city are also increasingly turning to solar energy and sustainable local farming. More people from the city are starting to grow their own food as well.

Stockholm, Sweden

With over 50 bridges and 14 islands, Stockholm has done a lot to improve the city and allow citizens to live a more sustainable life. The city also set a goal to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2040. In addition, they’re getting assistance from the European Union to become a smarter city.

 

waste-management-sweden

One of the ways the city has managed to be more energy efficient was by turning to biofuels, which are created from the city’s sewage waste. A large portion of cars in the city are powered using this biofuel. They also managed to recuperate some of the heat generated by their massive stadium. This heat can be used to heat over 1000 units in the city.

Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of Denmark has also started to build a reputation as an ecofriendly city, and is taking steps to continue in the right direction and support eco-friendly initiatives. And this is mainly due to the city’s sustained and massive investments in clean infrastructure and renewable energy sources.

They also set the lofty goal of becoming the first major city in the world to achieve CO? neutrality by the year 2020. And residents in the city are also doing their part for this goal to become a reality. Less than a third of households in the city own a car, and people in Copenhagen are also big on cycling. As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon for hotels in the city to provide guests with a bicycle upon arrival. The city also has one of the most extensive bike lane networks in Europe.

Another thing that sets the city apart is how many people choose to eat organic there.  About a quarter of all the food sold in the city’s markets is organic, and they’re also big proponents of local farming, which further reduces their carbon footprint.

Curitiba, Brazil

Considering the amount of natural beauty Brazil is nestled in, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a Brazilian city on this list. Curitiba might not be as well-known as Rio and Sao Paulo, but it is known as one of the world’s green capitals. Where they excel is when it comes to recycling. As a matter of fact, it is said that about 70% of the waste produced in the city is recycled in the form of derived products or energy.

The city also puts a lot of importance on urban planning and has one of the best public transit systems in South America. Most people in the city rely on public transport too. The city is also not overly developed and has tons of green spaces with over 16 parks and 14 forests near and around the city’s core.

Presence of trees make a city appear more vibrant and eco-friendly

To incentivize cleanliness around the city, they installed a program that allows people to return and exchange recyclables for things like tokens, sweets, snacks, and cash. Not only does it encourage people to recycle more, but the program is also feeding over 7000 people in need in the city.

Bottom Line

The most eco-friendly cities in the world are seeking to provide a better environment for residents while reducing their impact on the planet, and they’re providing an example to the world that the rest can follow. We can only expect the trend to grow from now and into the future, and for residents from cities all around the world to start pushing for more green initiatives where they are.

How To Stay Green With Your Office Cleaning

Businesses are incorporating sustainability into their daily practices in an effort to do their part in creating a more eco-friendly future.  If you’re among the businesses that are adopting sustainable business practices such as conserving resources and reducing waste, you’re probably always looking for additional ways to go green.

An area that some businesses overlook is their cleaning practices. Many conventional cleaning products contain chemicals that have a negative impact on people, animals, and the environment. Chemicals in cleaning products can cause health problems such as asthma, cancer, and birth defects. After the products are used, they typically get washed down the drain. Water treatment facilities can get rid of some of the contaminants but not all. These contaminants then get washed into our rivers and lakes, where it can have a negative impact on wildlife.

This is why more businesses are incorporating green cleaning into their business practices. If you’re looking for additional ways to stay green, it’s time to look at your cleaning practices.

What is green cleaning?

Green cleaning is when you use cleaning methods and procedures that are designed to preserve human health and the environment. Typically, this means using products that contain environmentally friendly ingredients. Most green products are also manufactured in an environmentally friendly way and are biodegradable.

Most green cleaning products contain a label on their packaging that indicates the company has met certain environmental and labor standards. However, it’s important to remember that some companies can get this label just by donating to environmental causes or using recycled packaging while their products still contain harmful chemicals. You should always check to see what ingredients are in the product to ensure that it is environmentally friendly. Avoid products that use phosphates, chlorine, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors.

The right green cleaning products smell more natural and will still clean your business just as well as conventional cleaning supplies.

How do I switch to green products?

If you would like to practice green cleaning, the first thing you’ll need to do is to find out what you’re currently cleaning with. If your business does its own cleaning, go around your business and make a list of all your products. If you’re using a cleaning company, ask them to provide you with a list.

After you have your list of products, go through and see if any of them are green products. You can do this by seeing if any of them have an ecolabel or checking to see if they are EWG verified.  If any of them are, great! You’re already using green products.

If they don’t, you’ll want to see if the vendor you buy your supplies from offers a green product line. If you’re using an outside cleaning company, see if they’re willing to use green products. Most companies will already have alternative products on hand. Some companies, such as Executive Cleaning Services, LLC, will also let you provide your own green cleaning products while still doing the cleaning for you!

Aren’t green products more expensive?

No, not necessarily. Depending on where you buy your products, you can get them for around the same price as conventional products.

There are a number of ways to make green cleaning affordable. If you’re a small business, you can consider making your own cleaners out of natural ingredients. If you purchase your products from a vendor, see if you can buy in bulk or buy concentrated products. You’ll spend more money upfront, but the products will last longer.

You should also eliminate unnecessary products to help reduce costs. There are many all-purpose cleaners out there that can be used on multiple surfaces.

What other ways can I stay green with my cleaning?

Switching to green cleaning products is the best way! If you’re not using green products, then you’re not practicing green cleaning.However, it’s also important that your entire team is on board. If your employees go out and buy conventional cleaning products to clean their own cubicle with, it defeats the purpose of your company using green products. Engage your employees in the process of switching to new supplies so that they have a say.

Some might even start practicing green cleaning at home!If you use a cleaning service, make sure you choose someone who also adopts green cleaning practices. An example of someone who does this is Ideal Cleaning – they only use environmentally cleaning products as they understand how much safer they are to use.

In conclusion

If you’re already practicing sustainable business practices, make sure to add green cleaning to your list of practices. Or, if you’re trying to find ways to start being sustainable, green cleaning is a great first step! It’ll take some time to review your current cleaning products, but once you identify new green cleaning products, you’ll be good to go.