7 Crop Health Metrics That Matter to Farmers

Crop health is of paramount importance to farmers; thus, careful and consistent monitoring of crop health is an absolute must. A recent study on coffee yield losses from 2013 to 2015 revealed that pests and diseases led to high primary (26%) and secondary (38%) yield losses in the researcher’s sampled area. This highlights the significance of closely paying attention to such detrimental factors in your crop’s environment. Doing so will ensure maximum yield and profit for farmers come harvest time.

To look at crop health monitoring as governed by just one or two aspects, however, is a serious mistake. Rather, a holistic approach must be adopted; in other words, more factors need to be monitored than just pestilence and disease.

Here are seven of the most important crop health metrics for farmers to monitor, based on the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Program’s guidelines.

1. Crop appearance

Perhaps the most obvious indicator of crop health is their general appearance. While not an all-in-one, foolproof method of gauging the current condition of a particular set of crops, a farmer possessing the right tools and knowledge can tell quite a lot from simply looking at the state of his or her plants.

Lightness or discoloration in foliage more often than not points to chlorosis, a state in which plants produce insufficient chlorophyll. Modern methods of crop health monitoring, including new technologies that utilize both near-infrared and visible light, allow farmers to actively and accurately monitor chlorophyll content.

2. Crop growth

Among the indicators of poor crop growth are short branches, sparse stand, and the rarity or absence of new shoots. This, of course, will inevitably affect your total yield in a negative way. Under ideal circumstances, there should be robust growth and dense, uniform stand in your crops.

3. Tolerance or resistance to stress

Simply put, crop stress is a decrease in crop production brought about by external factors. An example would be exposure to excess light and high temperatures, which may disrupt photosynthesis (known as photoinhibition). As a result, crops will have insufficient energy to bear fruit or grow, and may even sustain lasting damage to their membranes, chloroplasts, and cells. Healthy crops are stress-tolerant, and can easily bounce back after being exposed to stressors in their environment.

4. Occurrences of pests and diseases

An indicator that your crops are extremely susceptible to pests and diseases would be if over 50% of the population ends up getting damaged by said factors. Under the right circumstances, less than 20% of your crops would be negatively affected by any invasion of pests or spread of disease, allowing them to easily recuperate and increase in number once more.

Building crop resistance against harmful insects and diseases can be done in a number of ways, including improving crop diversity, crop rotation, using organic pesticides such as Himalayan salt spray and eucalyptus oil, and even genetic research and enhancement.

5. Weed competition and pressure

Apart from insects and plant diseases, weeds can also spell doom for your crops, if left unchecked. In the event that your farm becomes overpopulated with weeds that will steal the nutrients from your crops, you will certainly notice that your crops are steadily dwindling. Healthy crops, on the other hand, would eventually overwhelm the weed population and reclaim dominance over your field.

6. Genetic diversity

To have only one dominant variety of crop in your farm is tantamount to putting your eggs in a single basket. For instance, you should consider the importance of having multiple disease-resistant crop varieties on your farm. Don’t fall prey to the temptation of replacing them entirely with a single, higher-yielding type.

It is essential to build crop resistance against harmful insects and diseases

7. Plant diversity and population

In an ideal setting, there should be more than two species of plants in your field. Counting the actual number of trees or plants across your farm, as well as the naturally occurring vegetation on all sides of the area, can also give you a better perspective on your farm’s overall crop health.

Importance of crop management system

Some farmers become overly reliant on insecticides and other chemicals to eliminate their pest problems — a grievous error, as this will likely lead to even more serious problems. Even the indiscriminate application of mineral fertilizers may inadvertently boost pest populations by making conditions ideal for them to thrive.

Ultimately, a combination of the right knowledge and the proper technology is a must in measuring and monitoring crop health metrics. Farmers must always be aware of the current health of their crops, and must be prepared to address any problems with solutions that don’t end up causing more.

Recycling Outlook for Latin America

Latin America has one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world (80% urban population). By 2050, 90% of Latin America’s population will live in urban areas. This high rate of urbanization coupled with the global economic crisis has resulted in a waste management crisis. Municipalities find themselves unable to keep up with providing services and infrastructure to the urban populations.

recycling-latin-america

Some cities in Latin America are facing this challenge by integrating the informal sector recyclers who are already active in their cities into the municipal solid waste management systems. In many cities, these “recicladores”, “cartoneros” or “catadores” (a few of the many names used for these workers in the region) are responsible for up to 90% of the recyclable waste recovered from the waste stream. Their work reduces municipal waste transportation costs, increases landfill lifetimes and supports the recycling chain throughout the region.

State of the Affairs

Every location presents its own challenges–there is no one-size-fits-all solution for integrated solid waste management systems–but relevant lessons can be drawn from both failed attempts and successful examples of informal sector integration in recycling systems in Latin America.

There are often two very different contexts within cities. In low-income neighborhoods waste collection services are often not provided and individuals and families accumulate and then sell their recyclables for additional income. In contrast, residents in high income neighborhoods do receive a waste collection service and their motivation for recycling is often related to greater levels of environmental awareness. It is important to consider these differences when designing waste management solutions.

Imported systems, and even locally derived systems based on examples from the Global North, generally focus on only one waste management scenario, making it difficult to manage the multiple competing scenarios in many cities in Latin America. There is often a bias towards the automation of waste management services, with the application of the high technology solutions used in the Global North.

Regardless of the practicality or scientific evidence against certain high tech solutions, these are often sought after, thought to raise the bar of the city, to make it appear more sophisticated and modern. This leads to a misconception that working with informal sector is a step backwards in terms of urban development and modernization.

Waste management projects based on public-private partnership (PPP) model has more chances of success in developing countries

Conflicts between private waste management companies, the municipality and informal recyclers are common. The waste management companies do not want pickers on the landfill and wastepickers then go to the municipality for help. However, municipalities usually have very little experience to support the integration of formal and informal waste sectors.

There are opportunities for new systems to emerge within this conflict. For example, during a similar conflict in Mexicali, Mundo Sustentable, with the help of Danone, intervened to help a private company work with the informal waste sector and improve recycling rates.

The Way Forward

In Latin America, there is a great opportunity to increase recycling rates by using labour-intensive solutions, which create jobs and support the development of a better urban environment in the cities. Municipal governments should be an integral part of these processes as they are usually responsible for solid waste management at local level. The key to catalyzing informal recycling sector integration will be the development and dissemination of successful examples.

Informal recyclers provide important a range of services to municipalities (such as waste collection and recovery in communities that would not otherwise have access to them), as well as cost savings (for example, the extension of landfill life and reduced transport costs), yet are rarely compensated for these benefits. Informal recyclers further form the foundation of an entire recycling supply chain, which ultimately benefits formal businesses, and often aliment entire local economies.

Challenges to Overcome

Municipal governments are often hesitant to work with informal actors, who are frequently seen as an unknown quantity. Yet often in the process of working and developing relations with informal recycler groups, their concerns diminish and they may actually exhibit enthusiasm. Likewise, the recyclers may gain in confidence and professionalism in their experience of formalization.

One major challenge facing efforts to integrate the informal sector in developing countries is the desire of some local governments to adopt technological solutions that appear more “modern.” In much of Latin America, however, low-cost, low-tech solutions tend to be more viable and sustainable.

The main difference between Latin America and the countries of the Global North is that solid waste management is a labor intensive system. It is made up of workers and hence has an important social component. The ILO estimated there is 24 million of people working in the global recycling supply chain, but those at the bottom of the pyramid, the wastepickers, make up 80%. They remain the lowest paid even though they make an enormous contribution to their cities.

It is important to understand that highly sophisticated, high technology systems are not required for effective resource recovery. In many cities in Latin America between 80-90% of everything that is recycled is recovered by the informal recycling sector.

Despite the fact that there is little or no public investment in waste management or recycling infrastructure, cities with an active informal sector reach twice the rate of fully formalized municipal solid waste management systems. As an example, the recycling rate is 60% in Cairo, while in Rotterdam (and other cities in the Global North) recycling levels only reach 30%, even with a high public investment in the system (UN Habitat, 2010).

When designing infrastructure and waste management systems we must consider not only the waste management and resource recovery needs but also the social side of the system. In order to be effective, efforts to upgrade waste management services should go hand in hand with efforts to formalise and integrate the informal sector.

Bogota – A Success Story

An example of a recent success story is that after 27 years of struggle, the waste pickers in Bogota, Colombia have managed to change the government’s outlook on their work and their existence. They are now included in the system and are paid per tonne of waste collected, just like any other private sector collection and waste management company would be. They have become recognized as public service providers, acknowledged for their contribution to the environment and public health of the city.

The key challenge is to be much more creative and understand that in order to improve the working conditions of waste pickers and in order to increase recycling rates, we don’t need high technology. We need a systemic approach and this can be very simple sometimes infrastructure as simple as a roof [on a sorting area] can be effective in improving working conditions.

Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link

How Using Energy-Efficient Technologies Can Contribute to Sustainability

Economies use energy to help them grow. It is needed in many sectors such as manufacturing and mining, public infrastructure, agriculture, and others. Although energy is important in these sectors, economies are realizing the importance of using sustainable energies. They have seen some undesirable results that come with using unsustainable energy and they seek to reduce them.

Energy-efficient technologies are important to consider at an organizational level for any organization seeking to be environmentally conscious. These technologies are using alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, which are cleaner and sustainable. Let us see how these energy-efficient technologies can contribute to sustainability:

How Energy-Efficient Technologies Can Contribute to Sustainability

1. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal, distillate fuel, and natural gas produce carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. The aim of using sustainable technologies is to reduce the emission of these gases.

With alternative sources of energy, the emission of these gases is reduced. Unlike coal and natural gas, these alternatives do not produce carbon dioxide that can increase the amount of greenhouse gases during combustion. Biomass, for example, has its carbon dioxide neutralized by plants during the natural carbon cycle. So, any carbon dioxide produced during the combustion of biomass is considered neutral.

Interestingly, biomass produces the same amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during decay, which is also a natural cycle.

Fossil fuels, on the other hand, have their carbon dioxide locked for as long as they exist. When not combusted, these fuels do not emit this gas to the atmosphere. Instead, it keeps building up, and when combusted, all the gas is released.

So, instead of using fuel whose carbon dioxide has been building up for years, using alternative sources such as biomass, solar and wind are more sustainable because they do not increase the level of greenhouse gases.

2. Prevents the Depletion of Natural Resources

Fossil fuels occur naturally and are non-renewable. When solely dependent on energy, these resources continue depleting because as the global population increase, the need for more production increases.

Alternative sources of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal are sustainable options. These sources are renewable and can never be depleted. They are also clean sources of energy. When used, they help in preventing the destruction of natural habitats, reducing global warming, and climate change.

When economies embrace the use of sustainable technologies, there will be reduced demand for energy from natural resources.

3. Help Companies Save on Energy Bills

Companies often spend a lot on their energy bills. But, they can reduce them and have a lower cost of production. It means they can sell their products with better profit margins by either reducing their prices and increasing their demands or selling at the same price. On average, they reduce their energy bills by 75% when they use energy-efficient technologies.

reduce electricity bill

To enjoy energy-saving, a company can invest in wind or solar energy. Wind turbines are used for converting wind into energy while solar panels are used for converting solar into energy. Depending on a company’s need for power, the installation capacity varies.

4. Create Better Living Standards

Emerging and developing economies have a high energy demand. These economies largely depend on non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, and oil. These fuels are carbon-emitting and can create health implications.

With energy-efficient technologies, these economies can have access to clean energy. It is environmentally friendly, which means they will have less pollution in the air.

Besides, these sources of energy are easy to obtain because they occur naturally and are renewable. They are also cheaper when compared to non-renewable sources, which makes them affordable. When people from these economies use such energy, they have better living standards in terms of health and affordable living.

5. Reduce Soil Degradation

Soil degradation is a major problem facing farmers around the world. It has been estimated that globally, approximately 40% of agricultural land is degraded. The main causes of soil degradation are poor farming practices, climate change, and human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and industrial development.

There are several ways to address soil degradation, including improving crop rotation, using cover crops, and applying organic amendments. However, these methods are often expensive and require significant investment.

A new technology called energy-efficient technologies (EETs) could provide an affordable solution to soil degradation. EETs, use solar power to generate electricity, which can then be used to run farm equipment.

6. Job Creation

Economies are using energy-efficient technologies such as wind and solar power to produce power. They have been transitioning from using non-renewable fossil fuels in a bid to reduce production costs and maximize their profits.

energy efficient technologies

The transition from fossil fuel to using clean energy has helped with job creation in many countries around the world. For example, a study by the international renewable energies agency found that every $1 billion invested in renewables creates about 2 million new jobs worldwide. This is because of the increased demand for workers who install, maintain, repair, operate, or sell these systems. So, people are able to earn a livelihood, which improves their standards of living.

Because there is an increasing rise in demand for energy-efficient technologies, there will be a continuous demand for labor. Skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled labor will be wanted during the transition. It means many people, regardless of their qualifications will have somewhere to earn a living.

7. Sustainable Economic Development

Sustainable economic development aims at reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and reducing emissions from waste generation.

The following is a list of some examples:

Energy efficiency in buildings can be achieved by using more insulation materials or better windows to keep heat inside during winter time and cool air outside during summertime. This will save on heating costs for people living there. It also reduces carbon dioxide emission which contributes to global warming.

In the transportation sector, electric vehicles have been developed as an alternative to conventional gasoline-powered cars. These use clean energy that does not interfere with the atmosphere.

Using energy-efficient technologies has many benefits towards creating sustainability and economies should embrace them.

The Concept of Passive House: An Interview with Toyin-Ann Yerifor

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 homes 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.

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.

Sustainability: What It Means and How It’s Changing

Growing demand for sustainable industrial, commercial and development practices is quickly changing the way the world does business.

New technologies, as well as shifting priorities and new agendas, are needed in order to meet and overcome some of the biggest modern challenges.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is a concept that allows organizations to exist, function and even expand the scope of their operations without depleting non-renewable resources or doing excessive harm to the natural world.

pillars of sustainability

Sustainable business practices are essential for dealing with threats caused by climate change, species depletion or pollution. Investing in sustainable infrastructure now could allow businesses to have far higher costs these problems may result in should they be ignored.

Why is Sustainability Important?

According to the GetSmarter Sustainability Report, it’s important to understand the crucial business benefits that sustainability offers. Business practices that are unsustainable have the potential to quickly exhaust precious natural resources, destroy ecosystems and natural habitats or to accelerate the process of climate change.

Sustainability is essential for ensuring clean air and water as well as protecting the natural environment and preventing potentially-catastrophic consequences like widespread extinction or ecological collapse.

The 3 Pillars of Sustainability

The core tenets of sustainability are of particular relevance to corporations, businesses and larger organizations whose actions and operations have the potential to make a greater impact.

1. Environmental Protection

The most often discussed aspect of sustainability – protecting the environment, is an important responsibility. Environmental protection involves finding ways to reduce carbon footprints, minimizing waste and pollution or finding sustainable alternatives for both materials and workflow processes.

2. Social Development

Business practices that are less than ethical can cause no end of problems. Social development efforts typically focus on treating employees and associates in sustainable ways or improving a business’s standing within the surrounding community. Providing staff and associates with fair pay and treatment is essential for ensuring that employees are able to create and maintain a safer workplace and social environment.

3. Economic Development

Reinvesting profits and directing revenue in order to fund sustainable development is another essential concern. While many businesses may find it challenging to strike the right balance between profitability and investing in their own future economic development, doing so can be an issue of paramount importance. Ensuring that future growth, expansion and development can be handled in a sustainable manner is never an issue that should be taken lightly.

sustainable-habits-for-ecofriendly-home

Adherence to the core concepts of sustainability can help to ensure that businesses are able to make more effective choices and direct their actions in a way that will have the most impact. Incorporating the three pillars of sustainability into either a planned or existing business model can lead to long-lasting benefits that no business can afford to ignore. In addition, it will also help you to avoid being a victim of greenwashing.

Investing in sustainable business practices means investing in our shared future. Businesses would do well to take further action in their efforts to curb carbon emissions, decrease their consumption or resources or to lessen the impact that their operations may be having on the natural world.

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.

recycling-in-offices

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 energy 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.

electric-cars

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 megacities all around the world to start pushing for more green initiatives where they are.

The 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. If you want to learn big data and data science then you can take data science courses that are offered by Intellipaat.

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 disease like Covid-19, 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 and machine learning can provide related to achieving them.

Why Now is a Great Time for Developing a Green Economy

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has taken a human and socio-economic toll over the course of the last six months, with more than 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths recorded so far. However, the pandemic has always provided moments of hope and economy across the globe, from the boom in ecommerce and the rise of remote working to the unexpected 8% emissions reduction reported in the UK. These trends have also been impactful across the globe, and there’s no doubt that they have the potential to sustain significant and positive change into the future.

This is definitely the case when it comes to the environment, but is now really the ideal time for a developing a green and sustainable economy?

green-economy-coronavirus-pandemic

What is a Green Economy and Why Should the World Care?

Of course, the Covid-19 outbreak came on the back of global environmental protests by organisations such as Extinction Rebellion, which sought to drive radical change and introduce a green economy that would make the UK carbon neutral by 2025.

This was deemed to be incredibly ambitious by some commentators, although the current Conservative government has pledged to create a greener, carbon neutral economy by 2050.

OK, we hear you ask, but what exactly is a green economy? In simple terms, this refers to an economy that aims to actively reduce the environmental risks posed by business and wealth generation and ecological scarcities, while also driving sustainable development without degrading the environmental landscape.

While regulations and multilateral agreements such as the Paris Climate Change Agreements take care of the first element of this, it’s socially responsible investment that drives the second.

The best example of the latter exists in the form of investment in renewable technology, which is arguably the single most important dynamic for future infrastructure spending throughout the global community.

Can Covid-19 Trigger Increased Green Technology Spending?

With this in mind, the importance of green economics and increased renewable energy technology spending is clear, while the sharp decline in emissions during the coronavirus outbreak has raised hopes that a green global economy may be on the horizon.

Green Finance

Remember, China was already emerging as the world’s leading investor in renewable technology prior to the outbreak, with a global report also highlighting the continuing decline of oil values as being indicative of a changing global landscape.

Of course, there’s some argument as to whether the record decline in oil prices is triggered primarily by an ongoing imbalance between supply and demand, while the recent fluctuations of the US dollar may also be influential.

Still, there’s no doubt that fossil fuel consumption is set to decline incrementally in the coming years, and this is definitely a factor when appraising the issues faced by oil of late.

Ultimately, these facts hint at a greener and more sustainable future, and it cannot be denied that most developed economies were investing in renewable energy sources at record levels prior to the pandemic.

The question that remains, of course, is to what degree the recent emissions reductions across the globe have been inspired by such changes? The answer is telling, particularly if it turns out the reduction in CO2 emissions over the course of the last two months was solely driven by the widespread lockdown measures that curbed road and air travel.

Regardless, now is clearly the ideal time to push a greener agenda and continue laying the foundations for a more sustainable future.

Sustainability in Healthcare: Introduction and Challenges

Sustainability in healthcare systems has been a hot topic for discussion for some time already, especially given the growing interest in reducing the environmental impact of our daily actions. How healthcare workers commute to work, provide their care, and which materials they use – all of these and other factors significantly affect the environment. Let’s not forget that day-to-day functioning of hospitals requires a fair bit of electricity – after all, tools used by doctors, EKG machines, but also, for example, G.E. medical systems and the entire infrastructure involved doesn’t run on water.

Using digital technologies in healthcare on a regular basis (such as) is one of the best solutions to bring environmental benefits. However, sustainability in healthcare brings more challenges than benefits at the moment.

Sustainability in Healthcare

In this article, we will look at the wide range of issues that healthcare professionals will face in terms of sustainability. Apart from creating quality environments and implementing solutions to maximize the likelihood of a sustainable system, they include assessing overall organizational impact and other things. Continue reading for an overview of sustainability in healthcare and the challenges it entails.

How Can Healthcare Become Sustainable?

There are many ways to make healthcare more sustainable. One of the most common ways is to adopt environmentally friendly methods of working – for example, using recycled paper or energy saving light bulbs or sustainable medical waste management. While this may sound like an insignificant change, eco-friendly changes can make a big difference in the long term.

For example, if you’re considering switching your light bulbs to ones made with LEDs, you could save hundreds on your electricity bill each year. Now, if we consider that there are quite a few lights in hospitals, it comes as no surprise that such a move would have a great effect on the environment.

Another way that healthcare organizations can become sustainable is by making small changes to their existing practices or policies that lead to better usage of resources. For example, making it mandatory for the doctors to use reusable materials whenever possible during surgery, which will reduce the amount of waste generated.

There are also some new technologies on the market that can help to reduce waste generation during surgery. One new model uses an ultraviolet sterilizer instead of chemical sterilizing agents which are expensive and need regular replacement.

Another technology of interest is the use of freezers instead of refrigerators to store organs after surgery, which would both reduce energy usage and lower healthcare costs.

When it comes to making sustainable changes within your healthcare organization, it’s important that you don’t focus solely on reducing your environmental impact; it’s equally important that you focus on your financial impact as well.

Organizational Impact Assessment

An organizational impact assessment refers to a thorough review of an organization’s activities and their impact on the environment and society at large – normally carried out alongside other sustainability assessments such as those mentioned above. An organizational impact assessment should include various sustainability assessments as well as taking into account the issues discussed below:

1. Environmental Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is used as a diagnostic tool for identifying business processes and products that pose environmental risks. It’s important that organizations conduct risk assessments periodically as they can change over time as new technology becomes available and as government policies change – these changes may make some products and services more desirable than others.

2. Environmental Management System

An environmental management system (EMS) refers to a set of processes put in place by an organization designed to achieve continuous improvement in its environmental performance. An EMS is a set of business processes including planning, monitoring, control, improvement, and review which ensure an organization’s objectives are met – in this case, the objective is to reduce its environmental impact.

3. Environmental Management Framework

An environmental management framework refers to a set of policies and procedures that provide a framework for an organization’s EMS. For example, a set of policies and procedures could include a zero-waste goal by a certain date.

expired-medicines-management

Pharmaceutical industry can change its practices to manage pharmaceuticals in a more ecofriendly manner.

4. Environmental Performance Indicators

Environmental performance indicators are used to measure an organization’s environmental performance. Examples of indicators include greenhouse gas emissions per unit produced or per employee, the number of incidents recorded per year, reduction in pharmaceutical waste generation and so on. In more detail, an environmental performance indicator measures an organization’s performance in relation to a specific objective such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit produced.

The Bottom Line

Overall, sustainability in healthcare is a hot topic that has been discussed for some time now. Many healthcare organizations have already made changes to their working practices in order to become more sustainable – but there’s still a long way to go. There are many ways that healthcare professionals can implement changes to their existing working practices in order to become more sustainable. However, it takes time and effort to achieve the desired results – sometimes, it can feel like an uphill battle.

At the same time, there is the need to consider the financial impact both of the current processes and of any changes that can be made to them in order to reach sustainability goals.

How Robotics Contributes to Sustainable Manufacturing

Environment-friendly manufacturing processes are vital to the success of  businesses. Consumers care about the way that products are made, and how they can be recycled or reused. To meet the needs and concerns of consumers, manufacturers of all types are turning to robotics to grow their sustainable practices.

robotics-sustainable-manufacturing

1. Reducing Carbon Footprints

Robots are being created and used to reduce manufacturers’ carbon footprints. Factories and ports are known for releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Thus, encouraging climate change.

Some ports are turning to use automated robots to reduce their carbon footprint. Instead of gas-powered trucks and tools, robotic vehicles are being used instead. The robots do not rely on fossil fuels for power, so their engines run clean.

2. Speeding Up Recycling

Robots can take tedious jobs and speed them up. One of the jobs that robots are good at is sorting recycled material. They can do it quickly and efficiently, and they do not require all of the safety gear and training that humans need. Humans can sort about 800 items in an hour, but robots can sort around 2,000 items in the same amount of time.

3. Cleaning Tanks More Efficiently

Another place that robots are helping the environment is in chemical plants. These plants have massive tanks that need cleaning on a regular basis. The tanks have small openings, and they are filled with toxic chemicals and volatile gases.

robotics-chemical-industry

In the past, humans have had to enter these confined spaces to clean the tanks. They had to be trained in several safety procedures, wear a plethora of safety gear, and undergo decontamination procedures each time they left the tanks. Now, robotic tank cleaning can do it in a fraction of the time, using less water and cleaning materials. They take away the danger from human employees, and robots can work 24 hours per day.

4. Improving Sustainable Manufacturing

Robots are being used in different types of manufacturing to create more efficiency with fewer resources. Robots reduce errors, so less waste is produced.

One computer company is relying on robots to pick reusable parts out of recycled products. This type of manufacturing sustainability in speeding up the transition to Industry 4.0. Less waste is produced and the robots are able to find and separate the small parts more efficiently than human hands can.

5. Cleaning Natural Resources

Robots are also being used outside of manufacturing to help with green living. Several organizations rely on robots to clean waterways. These robots float atop the water and collect the trash as it floats. Another water-cleaning robot is able to digest pollution. The robot turns the trash into fuel that powers the boat and that controls it. Inventors are working on upscaling the robot so it can power large tankers and cargo freighters, too.

Robots are also used to clean plants that become dirty from the garbage and grime in the water. By cleaning water and flora in it, robots are protecting the lives of animals that make their homes in wetlands and coastal areas. They also help clean food supplies for people.

This infographic was created by Keyence, a provider of optical profilometers