Toyin-Ann Yerifor on Passive Houses

Green building concepts have come a long way. As architects, designers, and builders gain access to better tools that help push the limits of construction energy efficiency; we see longer strides made towards more mainstream adoption of green building standards. One such standard that is coming of age is passive houses. The concept of passive houses was first mooted in the early eighties when the idea of green building was still in its infancy. Today, the concept is well entrenched with over 25,000 houses and buildings across the world qualifying as passive houses.

Image Source: https://www.habitechsystems.com.au/passive-house

We recently caught up with Toyin-Ann Yerifor, an architectural consultant focused on exploring new and innovative ways to design with reduced impact on the environment to explain what passive houses are and their benefits. She holds an MSc in Architecture (AEES) from the University of East London, an MBA from the University of Northampton and an MSc in Computer Science and Engineering from the Université Grenoble Alpes.

What is a Passive House?

First, what is a passive house? Toyin-Ann explains: A passive house is any building that adheres to rigorous energy efficiency standards. The term passive comes from the fact that the building’s energy efficiency comes from its passive structures, which include the roof, walls, windows, doors, and floor. By radically improving the building’s insulation and energy conservation features, it is possible to reduce its heating requirements by up to ninety percent. As such, passive housing as a standard is focused on helping reduce the energy requirements of buildings through insulation, and by extension, their overall energy footprint.

When you reduce a building’s energy footprint, says Toyin-Ann, several benefits accrue, including environmental, health, and cost efficiency benefits.

Environmental Benefits of Passive Houses

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “energy efficiency is the first fuel of a sustainable global energy system. It can mitigate climate change, improve energy security, and grow economies while delivering environmental and social benefits.” Passive houses deliver on this mandate superbly, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. One of the biggest challenges traditional buildings face is energy loss. When a building easily loses energy in the form of heat, it takes burning more fuel to heat the building. When this happens, overall energy consumption goes up, which is bad for the environment because a major portion of heat generation comes from burning fossil fuels. When buildings are radically energy efficient, on the other hand, less energy is required, and so fewer fossil fuels need to be burned.

While this is the macro view of the environmental benefits of passive houses, are there any micro benefits of investing in this technology? Here are two, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. First, think of the air quality that comes with less energy consumption. In homes that rely on furnaces, doing away with the furnace improves the air quality in and around the home significantly. Second, sound pollution is eliminated if you no longer need to use a furnace, HVAC units around the home, or any other heat generation and management devices. Essentially, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor, passive houses reduce the need to burden the environment. Through radical energy efficiency and self-sufficiency, passive house buildings become a part of the environment and not just an addition to it.

Health and Comfort Benefits

When most people hear about passive houses, they imagine living in a sealed paper bag. That thought can be quite disheartening because issues of quality of air, air adequacy, and comfort come to mind. Although the idea behind passive houses is energy efficiency through a tightly sealed envelope (building), this does not mean health and comfort are compromised. Take air quality, for instance. Most people consider opening a window the best way to guarantee air quality in a room. Now, passive houses rely on closed windows to ensure no heat escapes, which presents a dilemma. Passive houses address this dilemma well, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor.

Although you can open a window in a passive house, even if you do not, the heat recovery ventilation system ensures there is enough quality air circulating the house. Regarding comfort, passive houses maintain a comfortable temperature regulated by the passive heat sources in the house like appliances, body heat, and lighting. Also, they tend not to have cold spots or hot spots, which is often the case with traditionally heated homes. Through rigorous design standards afforded by tools such as the Passive House Planning Package, homes built on the passive house standard adhere to comfort standards as rigorous as the energy efficiency standards stipulated.

Cost Efficiency Benefits

Cost efficiency is at the heart of the passive house concept. When a building is exceptionally well insulated, it can use as little as 10 percent of its regular heating energy requirements. This, of course, also significantly reduces the costs associated with heating the building. So, how does the passive house concept achieve such a radical reduction in energy needs? The answer is insulation, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. Passive houses rely on extensive insulation to gain this level of energy efficiency. Why is insulation so effective?

Traditional buildings lose a lot of heat through the roof, walls, floor, doors, and, most of all, windows. With a passive house, each of these structures is carefully designed and built to ensure close to zero loss of heat. When you look at the thermal scan of a passive house next to a traditional house, you’ll notice the passive house is almost entirely blue, meaning there’s close to no energy loss. The other building is close to all red, meaning it is losing a lot of energy. This level of energy conservation and efficiency is what leads to the massive energy savings that make passive houses so cost-efficient.

Passive houses are a concept that is yet to hit mainstream construction. However, this does not mean it is impractical to build passive houses. What it does point to is the need for better awareness of the concept. Toyin-Ann Yerifor recommends anyone interested in the concept to visit a passive house showcase home to experience its benefits firsthand. She says this is the only way to understand and internalize this breakthrough energy efficiency concept.

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.

Use of Big Data in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Big data is everywhere, and all sorts of businesses, non-profits, governments and other groups use it to improve their understanding of certain topics and improve their practices. Big data is quite a buzzword, but its definition is relatively straightforward — it refers to any data that is high-volume, gets collected frequently or covers a wide variety of topics.

This kind of data when organized and analyzed adequately can be quite valuable. Marketing teams use it to learn more about their customer base, healthcare professionals can use it to calculate someone’s chance of contracting a given disease, and cities can use it to optimize traffic flow, and it can also help in saving wildlife.

Big data also has the potential to help significantly improve the quality of life for much of the world’s population. The United Nations, governments, not-for-profits and other groups are using big data to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals or SDGs — a set of 17 targets related to protecting the natural environment, reducing inequality, improving health outcomes and other things that will make life better around the world.

How Can We Use Big Data to Achieve SDGs?

There are many ways in which we could use data to improve our understanding of our progress towards the SDGs, determine how best to meet those targets and ensure accountability. The United Nations has set up a task team to explore how to use big data to help achieve the SDGs. A survey by the task team found that big data projects most frequently focused on the “no poverty” goal and that mobile phone data was the most common data source.

Pulse Lab Jakarta, a joint effort between the United Nations and the government of Indonesia, is working on various big data projects related to the SDGs. One of their projects is the Vulnerability Analysis Monitoring Platform for Impact of Regional Events (VAMPIRE) platform, which analyzes satellite imagery and creates maps that incorporate anomalies related to climate and rainfall to help track slow-onset climate changes.

Another project, the Manitoba Bioeconomy Atlas, comes from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and involves that creation of a web-based spatial inventory of biomass sources. Biomass producers can use the data to optimally locate biomass refineries, and biomass consumers can use it to source biomass and calculate costs.

There are many other potential uses for big data related to the SDGs. Mobile phone data, for instance, could be used to track the movement of populations, such as refugees, to improve preparations. Data analysis could help predict changes in food prices. The possibilities are virtually endless.

What Are the Challenges and Risks?

The opportunities related to big data are plentiful, but there are also numerous challenges and risks. Collecting, storing and analyzing large amounts of data is in itself challenging. It requires advanced technology and infrastructure, which can be expensive. This limits the access of less developed countries to this technology. In the survey by the UN’s bid data task team, the team received much higher response rates from high-income countries than lower-income ones.

Privacy is another significant concern. It’s essential that those processing respect the rights of those they collect data from. The fact that much data is collected passively can complicate this. Even removing sensitive information from data sets may not always be enough to guarantee privacy, since people could be identified by combining information from multiple data sets. Those handling personal data need to take steps to protect subjects’ privacy.

The UN, through several of its groups, has issued recommendations and guidelines for the use of big data related to SDGs. Among the goals of these guidelines is ensuring privacy and increasing access to data worldwide. The private and public sectors, as well as countries and organizations from around the world, will have to work together to accomplish the UN’s SDGs and to ensure that we can take full advantage of the benefits big data can provide related to achieving them.

Sustainable Environment in Singapore: An Attraction for Businesses and Investors

In addition to a robust economy, Singapore’s sustainable environment is another leading factor that has attracted numerous investors. Most cities in the world have failed to address environmental issues brought about by urbanization. Towns or urban areas cover over 2% of the Earth’s surface; they are responsible for about 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted while using up almost 75%  of nature’s resources.

However, a host of countries in Southeast Asia are leading the way to change this contrary notion about cities and urban regions. Research conducted by several world-leading environmental bodies and institutions determined that Singapore is indeed one of the most environmentally sustainable nations.

Singapore’s first prime minister kickstarted the dream of making Singapore a green city. His main agenda was to make Singapore stand out from the rest of the Asian countries and also attract investors from all over the world. The first step undertaken to achieve this dream was the eradication of the houseboats and overcrowded slums along the banks of Singapore River.

Incorporation services Singapore are offering entrepreneurs moving to Singapore a platform to incorporate their businesses in Singapore. This allows them to run their firms within the stipulated terms while also receive the government’s backing.

On the world’s Environmental Performance Ranking, Yale University and the U.N place Singapore at seventeenth globally and first position in Asia. Contrary to popular belief, Singapore’s efforts and strict green technology guidelines, which were set and backed up by the government, helped in making it an eco-friendly city.  

So how exactly does Singapore afford to provide suitable surroundings perfect for its citizens and also attract investors and entrepreneurs from overseas?

Government Support

As discussed before, adoption of green technology is one of the leading things that has made Singapore an eco-friendly city. Singapore has been able to morph into a modernized city-state without having a negative impact on nature.

The Singapore government’s Cleantech division, which is a subsidiary of the board tasked with economic growth, has offered continued support to companies in the clean technology business. This has led to the business sector growing tremendously in areas such as renewable energy, water conservation, green buildings, etc.

Growing ICT Center

Companies such as Hewlett Packard (HP) and International Business Machines Corporation have partnered with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. The main idea behind these partnerships is to ensure that Singapore’s ICT industry thrives. HP, for example, has been tasked with designing and manufacturing energy efficient systems that will cut power costs while still providing a working platform for businesses.

There is no shortage of green spaces in Singapore

Low Energy Costs and Environmental Remedies

Accommodating over 7000 companies from different nations across the globe is no mean feat. As such, Singapore’s government and other agencies know that a green environment is not the only requirement to attract more investors.

Through an alliance known as the Singapore Sustainability Alliance, an umbrella consisting of government groups, non-governmental organizations, and teaching institutions, Singapore has been able to come up with policies that create a sustainable environment. Other than this, the alliance has overseen the adoption of systems that include proper water use, renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, etc. which have significantly improved business growth.  

Towards Sustainable Biomass Energy

biomass-balesBiomass is one of the oldest and simplest ways of getting heat and energy, and it’s starting to make a comeback due to its status as renewable resource. Some, however, aren’t so sure that using more of it would be good for our environment. So, how sustainable is biomass energy really?

What is Biomass?

Biomass is organic material from plants and animals. It naturally contains energy because plants absorb it from the sun through photosynthesis. When you burn biomass, it releases that energy. It’s also sometimes converted into a liquid or gas form before it is burned.

Biomass includes a wide variety of materials but includes:

  • Wood and wood processing waste
  • Agricultural crops
  • Garbage made up of food, yard and wood waste
  • Animal manure and human sewage

About five percent of the United States’ energy comes from biomass. Biomass fuel products such as ethanol make up about 48 percent of that five percent while wood makes up about 41 percent and municipal waste accounts for around 11 percent.

The Benefits of Biomass

Biomass is a renewable resource because the plants that store the energy released when it is burned can be regrown continuously. In theory, if you planted the same amount of vegetation that you burned, it would be carbon neutral because the plants would absorb all of the carbon released. Doing this is, however, much easier said than done.

Another potential is that it serves as a use for waste materials that have are already been created. It adds value to what otherwise would be purely waste.

Additionally, many forms of biomass are also relatively low-tech energy sources, so they may be useful, or even required for older buildings that need an electrical renovation.

Drawbacks of Biomass

A major drawback of using biomass fuel is that it is not an efficient process. In fact, burning it can release even more carbon dioxide than burning the same amount of a fossil fuel.

While you can replenish the organic matter you burn, doing so requires complex crop or forest management and the use of a large amount of land.  Also, some biomass, such as wood, takes a long time to grow back. This amounts to a delay in carbon absorption. Additionally, the harvesting of biomass will likely involve some sort of emissions.

 Is it Sustainable?

So, is biomass energy sustainable? Measuring the environmental impacts of biomass fuel use has proven to be complex due to the high number of variables, which has led to a lot of disagreement about this question.

Some assert that biomass use cannot be carbon neutral, because even if you burned and planted the same amount of organic matter, harvesting it would still result in some emissions. This could perhaps be avoided if you used renewable energy to harvest it. A continuous supply of biomass would likely require it to be transported long distances, worsening the challenge of going carbon neutral.

With careful planning, responsible land management and environmentally friendly harvesting and distribution, biomass could be close to, if not entirely, carbon neutral and sustainable. Given our reliance on fossil fuels, high energy consumption levels and the limited availability of land and other resources, this would be an immense challenge to undertake and require a complete overhaul of our energy use.

How to Improve the Biomass Industry

Biomass could emerge as a major solution to our energy and sustainability issues, but it isn’t likely to be a comprehensive solution. There are some things we can do, though, to make biomass use more sustainable when we do use it.

  • Source locally: Using biomass that comes from the local area reduces the impact of distributing it.
  • Clean distribution: If you do transport biofuel long distances, using an electric or hybrid vehicles powered largely by clean energy would be the most eco-friendly way to do it. This also applies to transporting it short distances.

Measuring the environmental impacts of biomass fuel use is complex due to high number of variables

  • Clean harvesting: Using environmentally friendly, non-emitting means of harvesting can greatly reduce the impact of using biomass. This might also involve electric vehicles.
  • Manage land sustainably: For biomass to be healthy for the ecosystem, you must manage land used to grow it with responsible farming practices.
  • Focus on waste: Waste is likely the most environmentally friendly form of biomass because it uses materials that would otherwise simply decompose and doesn’t require you to grow any new resources for your fuel or energy needs.

Is biomass energy sustainable? It has the potential to be, but doing so would be quite complex and require quite a bit of resources. Any easier way to address the problem is to look at small areas of land and portions of energy use first. First, make that sustainable and then we may be able to expand that model on to a broader scale.

Ingredients of Environmental Sustainability

Global interest in environmental sustainability is on the rise. Businesses and individuals are making efforts to engage in more environmentally conscious practices, thanks in part to a growing worldwide population and dwindling natural resources. Ultimately, sustainability is the practice of finding long-lasting methods of maintaining our existing quality of life while still preserving the environment and natural resources.

Proponents must consider all aspects of environmental sustainability for it be successful. Additionally, eco-conscious thought must be applied to multiple professions to achieve deep-rooted results. Here are three ingredients to ensure the continued success of environmental sustainability.

Economic Incentives

Everyone knows change can be difficult. Making the shift toward more eco-friendly practices is no different. One way to initiate this change is through financial incentives. Money is an essential factor for families and companies. If sustainable options and practices are too expensive the majority of the population can’t afford to implement them, the environmentally-conscious movement will come grinding to a halt.

Environmentally-friendly technology often carries higher upfront costs but pays off through long-term benefits, both to the environment and to individuals. Additionally, companies that invest in environmentally conscious technology can potentially market to a broader range of consumers with similar interests and values.

When considering options to follow more sustainable practices, consumers need to set specific goals they would like to achieve and define their plan of action. This will also help maintain perspective and keep the focus on the long-term incentives, which will keep everyone motivated to continue down the road to sustainability.

Environmental Protection

Another key factor in environmental sustainability is protecting and preserving the environment. Part of this practice includes sustainable use and management procedures. While specific materials may be renewable over time, overuse can deplete these resources and lead to shortages. Industry professionals must give careful consideration to planning how, when and in what quantity resources will be used.

Surprisingly, several sustainable methods exist to renew depleted environmental resources in a fast and environmentally conscious manner. Agricultural practices often strip fields of necessary minerals and nutrients while leaving behind harmful inorganic residuals from fertilizers.

Naturally occurring microorganisms will eventually restore the soil’s nutrients and neutralize noxious compounds, though this process takes a long time. Bioremediation can expedite this process. Industry professionals can introduce higher numbers of the naturally occurring microbes and then create their optimal living conditions by varying the amount of water and food they have available.

Once the harmful pollutants are neutralized, farmers can resume planting operations. In addition to bioremediation, sustainable agricultural practices include rotating crops and using cover crops. Rotating crops and using cover crops can help reduce the occurrence of weeds and the impact of pests. In turn, farmers can use less fertilizer and maintain soil health for more extended periods.

Fostering interest in sustainability at a young age will encourage future leaders

Education

Without proper education, the general public won’t understand the importance of sustainability. This may lead to a decreased demand for sustainable products and procedures, which will foster growth in non-sustainable markets and practices. Future generations will then be left with the task of preserving and repairing the environment.

Fostering interest in sustainability at a young age will encourage future leaders to create innovative solutions to meet the current demands of society through unconventional and eco-conscious means. The future youth will also need the proper educational background to develop the tools they need to cultivate these solutions.

Environmental education also helps adults understand the impact their choices have on themselves and society. Uneducated adults may not recognize their choices to pollute or use toxic chemicals are degrading the local water supply for their neighbors or are harmful to their health. Once they understand the full weight of their decisions, they will be able to make the most informed choices.

With proper management and forethought, environmental sustainability can be fully achievable in our society today.

Home Renovation Can Improve Energy Efficiency

There is almost nothing more satisfying than a clean, fresh, and sustainable home. You may think that renovating your home is a hassle, not to mention expensive, but there are plenty of small changes that can make a home really feel like it’s yours. Something as simple as a new garage door, or a small solar panel can bring personality and life to your home while saving energy and giving you a boost of pride for your house.

Doors and Windows

When thinking about renovating your house, you probably think, new basement, new roofing, and much more expensive and time consuming projects. But do not write off home improvement just yet! There are plenty of small changes that can make a huge difference to the style of your home and even boost its overall value.

Keeping your home well insulated is a wonderful option.

Doors and windows play a huge part in energy efficiency as air enters and escapes your home. This makes these options a great place to start as they add a personal flair to your home’s look as well as being environmentally friendly. Below is a short list of these renovations you may not have thought about.

Garage Doors

When thinking about the outdoor curb appeal of your home, an often overlooked detail is the garage. This may seem silly but just think about how much visual space your garage door or doors take up.

A new or refurbished garage door can not only up the style and personality of your home, but can make your home more energy efficient and secure. And with companies like CSSGarageDoors there are so many styles to choose from.

Front Door

A unique front door also helps your house stand out and adds your own personal touch to your home. Keep in mind the style of your garage doors and make sure your other doors do not clash. Replacing old front doors can also save you money and energy, as air often escapes from unseen cracks in old doors and windows.

There are hundreds of style choices to choose from, and many energy efficient sustainable options too. Not only will this give your home an instant personality boost, it will raise the value of your home significantly.

Windows

While this one may be a little more on the pricey side of renovations, it is yet another example of boosting your homes personality, value, and efficiency. Not only can you choose from styles of windows, you can choose how you want the glass and frames to make them custom just for you and your home.

New windows will save you money on heating and air and some even keep out the noises of busy streets or noisy neighbors. Depending on the climate and place you live, these replacements could be a life saver. Lowes has an excellent selection of beautiful window and door replacements.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

While improving the overall look of your home can give you a sense of personal pride in your home, less visible but sustainable options can give you comfort and help the planet. If you want to live more sustainably but do not have the funds to build a whole new eco-friendly home, there are small changes that can boost your home’s energy efficiency and sustainability. Below is a short list of options to improve your home from the inside out.

Tankless Water Heaters

Water heaters are probably something you do not often think about. However, that tank that sits in your garage or basement is constantly using energy. Even when you are not using your hot water, the tank is busy working away using energy and costing you money. Switching to a tankless or on-demand water heater means that it will only be using energy when you need it.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are becoming better and better, and adding one to your homes exterior no longer seems like a dream. While there is a lot to consider before installing solar panels, they can be an amazing way to reduce energy and a great investment.

Although solar panels can last for up to 30 years, you do not need to be afraid of wasting money when you move as they can increase the value of your home significantly. You can also get a sizeable tax return for installing solar panels, so it is a great option to look at for sustainable living.

Biogas in Agriculture Sector in India: Key Challenges

Although the conversion of agriculture waste – cattle dung and crop residues –  to biogas and digested slurry is an established and well-proven technology, it has been under-used, probably because until recently, firewood was easily available and chemical fertilizer was relatively affordable to most of the farmers in India.

The National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) was put in place to lower the environmental degradation and prevent greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere. However, this objective of the program is less likely to motivate the farmers and their families to install biogas plants.

This program rolled out by Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (now Ministry of New and Renewable Energy), New Delhi, with heavy subsidies for family-type biogas plants to increase adoption, was successful with lakhs of biogas plants being installed across the country till now.

It was realised that due to poor dissemination of information and unsatisfactory communication about the plant operation & application of the digested biogas slurry, and unable to perceive the return in terms of value resulted in discontinuation of lakhs of biogas plants across the country.

The entire biogas technology marketing efforts failed to highlight major advantage – an increased revenue from agriculture with the use of high quality and a low-cost homegrown digested biogas slurry as fertiliser. Another advantage was to help farmers’ understand that their land quality and output per acre will increase over the years by the use of digested biogas slurry which has been degraded from the rampant use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides.

Challenges to be addressed

The farmer’s communities today are required to made to understand that their revenue from agriculture is decreasing year on year due to increasing deforestation, degradation of land quality, rampant use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides, lack of farm cattle, injudicious use of water for irrigation, and use heavy vehicles for ploughing.

These ill-advised decisions have made the farmers poorer, impacted the health of their families and the rural environment of villages. The years ahead are crucial if this trend is not reversed.

Unending benefits of biogas technology

Most of the rural and semi-urban areas have a poor perception of the Anaerobic Digestion (or biogas or biomethanation) technology. This technology offers benefits to all spheres of society but have a particular emphasis on the needs of the farmers in rural areas.

Farmers with dairy animals generally have free access to animal waste (dung), which provide input feed for the biogas digesters. Normally, these farmers stock-pile the dung obtained from their cattle as a plant fertilizer, but this has lower nitrogen content than the digested biogas slurry created by the biogas digestion process, which is odorless and makes a better fertilizer to substitute chemical fertilizers. They can use the gas for cooking or heating, for running power generators. The biogas technology helps farmers reduce their burden to buy LPG and harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

In short, biogas technology is an integrated solution for sustainable agriculture, improving health and lowering environment degradation.

The promise of biogas technology

Biogas technology can help in the following manner:

  • Enhance bio-security for dairy animals – being fully fermented, bio-slurry is odorless and does not attract flies, repels termites and pests that are attracted to raw dung.
  • Provides high quality and low-cost homegrown fertiliser for sustainable agriculture.
  • Reduce energy poverty and ensure energy security.
  • Digested biogas slurry is an excellent soil conditioner with humic acid.
  • Save time for women for education and livelihood activities.
  • Increase forest cover as less firewood would be needed on a daily basis.
  • Reduce weed growth

Importance of Government Efforts

The agriculture sector is playing a major role in India economy and it comprises a huge vote bank. Our government has launched various initiatives like GOBAR-DHAN (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan), Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT), and New National Biogas and Organic Manure Programme (NNBOMP) in attempt to revive interest in biogas technology for farmers and entrepreneurs.

rice-straw-biogas

Agricultural residues, such as rice straw, are an important carbon source for anaerobic digestion

These initiatives are aimed at developmental efforts that would benefit the farmers, vehicle-users, and entrepreneurs. These initiatives also hold a great promise for efficient solid waste management and tackling problems of indoor air pollution caused by use of firewood, deforestation and methane gas release in the atmosphere due to open piling of cattle dung.

These initiatives aren’t marketing the value which solves a major challenge – degradation of agriculture land for farming in rural India. The initiative and efforts are majorly focused on waste management, environment and towards behavioral change. These changes are of global importance and can be managed effortlessly by generating tangible results for farmers.

India has an aspiring young workforce which is moving to urban settlements in hope for better opportunities, therefore, productivity and revenue from agriculture needs to grow. The biogas technology can restore agriculture productivity and strengthen revenue to make it attractive.

Note: This article was first published by author on LinkedIn.com. The link to this article – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bio-gas-misunderstood-agri-technology-zahir-kapasi/

Green Financing as a Tool for Sustainable Development

Climate change and environmental damage due to human activity is now an accepted fact. Thankfully, investors and financial organizations are finally recognizing the importance of changing our ways and investing in sustainable technologies. This type of green financing is allowing them to recognize the environmental and financial benefits of these new technologies.

Green SMEs

Today we’ll cover how green financing can be used to encourage sustainable development on the company and individual scale.

What is Green Financing?

Green financing at its most basic is the use of public money, private loans, and micro-lending to support sustainability. The goal of green financing is to encourage change in favor of environmentally friendly actions.

It can be everything from large scale investment into tools to fight climate change all the way down to small personal online loans next day for consumers. This allows everyone to do their part to help promote sustainability.

Most green loans are tied to specific metrics. They can cover everything from large companies to the type of washing machine you purchase.

How Green Financing Works

Like any financial product there’s a huge range of green financing options. One of the most prominent examples is sustainability-focused venture capital firms.

These VC firms search for early-stage startups with a focus on the environment. They combine their financial goals together with their vision of what the planet should be.

By far the largest subset of their focus is on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and fighting emissions. On the individual scale there’s lots of focus on lowering your carbon footprint.

Lots of loans are specifically put in place for people to buy green friendly products.

What Qualifies as Sustainable Projects

There are tons of early to middle stage startups with a sustainability focus. These are all key examples of large scale green financing.

Many of the projects are receiving the most funding focus on clean power and the use of renewables. Think electric vehicles, charging stations, battery enhancements, solar and wind energy, etc.

Another major sector is advancements in water purification, desalination, and ocean cleanup. These also include interesting projects like advanced agriculture and reducing the overall reliance on irrigation.

For individuals most green financing is related to their home or vehicle. There are lots of online loans same day available for things like energy efficient appliances or vehicles. These often combine with tax credits as a way to encourage people to reduce their overall energy consumption habits.

One of the biggest uses of green financing by individuals is to buy an electric or hybrid car. This reduces the often high price of these advanced vehicles and makes it more attractive to drive one.

Another big one is to finance green renovations to your home. If you want to improve your home’s insulation or add on a solar power system there’s ample funding available. These often combine with tax breaks and utility buyback programs to make it an even more attractive option.

Turnaround Time for Financing Decisions

With venture capital the around time for high-quality opportunities is often very rapid. If you have a great model for your business and can show a clear return potential they’ll often respond within just a few days.

For green financing other factors come into play. Most green venture capital funds have very specific requirements on what they’re looking for. Do your research before contacting them and make sure you represent what they’re looking for.

How much you should reasonably expect to receive depends on how far along in the process you are. Seed stage companies generally receive less than $1 million. Series A and Series B can receive more but still much less than more mature companies with proven revenue and a customer base.

For personal green loans the turnaround is often much faster. Many companies offer instant or at least same day approval for well qualified borrowers. This gives you the freedom to begin making your plans immediately after receiving funds.

Make Changes Today

The clock is running down on our ability to head off the effects of climate change. Green financing is one of the best ways to make changes in the world and your life. It funds the technology that may save humanity and allows individuals to make changes to their home and car to reduce their own carbon footprint.

An Easy Guide to Make Your Business Sustainable

The adoption of sustainable practices is an opportunity for growth, but it also presents a challenge. Though you’ll eventually enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of your changes, implementing them takes commitment. You need to approach the transition with subtlety.

So what are the main points to keep in mind as you continue? What are practical strategies to reduce carbon emissions and excessive commercial waste? We’ll answer those questions and others like them, providing an easy guide for professionals who want to improve their standard of sustainability.

1. Assign a Sustainability Team Lead

One of the key factors in your success is communication. You need every employee to understand and accept your proposed changes, and that coordination is no small responsibility. If you’re going to increase sustainability in your workplace, you’ll need the assistance of a sustainability team lead.

Their role is to share your objectives with other employees and encourage them to adapt their behavior. They serve as an advocate for your new policies, putting them into action and helping others do the same. In short, your sustainability team lead will facilitate cooperation.

2. Invest in Practical Adjustments

When you’re operating a business, your bottom line is your top priority. You can’t afford to make changes if they compromise your profitability. Fortunately, you don’t need to make that kind of sacrifice, as certain practices are beneficial for both the environment and your expenses.

As an example, you can digitize documents to limit paper waste and lower the costs of printing and ink. You can also connect a group of devices to a single power strip, then turn it off when you leave the office. It’s a simple adjustment which will increase the lifespan of your devices and reduce e-waste.

3. Maintain Careful Record-Keeping

Over the past two years, many companies have engaged in the practice of sustainability reporting. Investors are starting to ask for this type of report, and if business owners are unable to provide it, they may encounter issues. Naturally, you need to give thought to record-keeping.

Are you documenting your changes? Do you have the necessary information from project and property managers? Investors need more than a promise to feel secure in your company’s improvements, and you can instill confidence when you offer reports with the relevant data.

4. Work With Similar Companies

Many companies have made it their goal to “go green,” and you should seek their support. Check for a list of green vendors in your area, and when you find one that meets your needs, reach out. You’ll come across sustainable alternatives for many products and services you currently depend on.

You may benefit from an eco-friendly cleaning service if your present service isn’t adequate. On a smaller scale, you can purchase business cards from a company that uses recycled materials. The point remains the same: You have options, and you should explore them.

5. Keep Convenience in Mind

As you modify your office, consider the convenience of your changes. An employee is far more likely to recycle paper and plastic products when they can easily access a recycling bin. If you’ve placed the bin in a location that doesn’t see much foot traffic, you’re not going to get the results you want.

Naturally, the ideal place for a recycling bin is the lunchroom or a similar area where your employees tend to congregate. The choice to recycle shouldn’t take more effort than the choice to use a conventional bin. Make both bins available to employees and trust them to make the correct decision.

6. Start Planning Today

Sustainability isn’t as simple as it first seems. A business owner may have good intentions, but unless they take time to prepare, their initiative won’t yield the desired results. With that in mind, review the steps in this guide and start planning your sustainability program today.