Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hypercrosslinked Polymers: A Promising Solution for CO2 Capture and Conversion


The world is facing a significant challenge due to the increasing amount of CO2 emissions, primarily caused by human industrial activities. These emissions are a major contributor to global warming. To combat this, scientists and researchers are exploring effective methods to capture and store CO2. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has proven to be efficient among these methods. However, the traditional method for CO2 capture, which involves absorbing CO2 with an organic amine solution, has several drawbacks such as equipment corrosion and high energy consumption.

In this context, Hypercrosslinked Polymers (HCPs) have emerged as a promising platform for CO2 capture and conversion.

What are Hypercrosslinked Polymers (HCPs)?

Imagine a net, where each knot is a molecule, and the strings that connect these knots are chemical bonds. This is a simplified way to visualize HCPs. They are a type of polymer, which means they are made up of many repeating units, like beads on a string. But unlike regular polymers, they are “hyper crosslinked,” which means they have many connections between the chains, forming a rigid, three-dimensional network.

HCPs for CO2 Capture

HCPs have shown excellent CO2 sorption capacities. This means they can “grab” onto CO2 molecules from the air or industrial emissions. The more CO2 they can grab and hold onto, the better they are at helping to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

For instance, two types of HCPs were prepared using a simple chemical reaction. One type had a higher CO2 uptake than the other, meaning it could grab more CO2. This was mainly due to the specific groups of atoms introduced into the polymer and the better microporosity, which means it had more tiny holes or spaces where CO2 could be stored.

Moreover, HCPs have been modified to enhance their CO2 uptake capability and selectivity. In one study, the maximum CO2 adsorption capacity was obtained at 414.41 (mg/g) for a modified HCP.

Not only can HCPs capture CO2, but they can also convert it into other useful substances. This process combines excellent CO2 sorption capacities, good general stabilities, and low production costs. HCPs are active photocatalysts in the visible light range, significantly outperforming the benchmark material, TiO2 P25, using only sacrificial H2O.

Sustainability of HCPs

The production of HCPs is more sustainable than traditional methods. The synthesis of HCPs via continuous flow synthesis required less than 99% of the time required in conventional batch reactions. This process consumes only 5% of the electricity required for batch reactions, demonstrating lower environmental impacts in all categories.

Moreover, innovative green methods of synthesis enable the environmentally friendly production of HCPs. For example, low HCP productivity rates can be improved by reducing synthesis time from 24 hours to 5–35 minutes via solvent-free mechanochemical ball milling and liquid-assisted grinding.
Applications of HCPs

HCPs have been developed for the selective reduction of CO2 to CO. This process combines excellent CO2 sorption capacities, good general stabilities, and low production costs. HCPs are active photocatalysts in the visible light range, significantly outperforming the benchmark material, TiO2 P25, using only sacrificial H2O.

In addition to CO2 capture and conversion, HCPs have many interesting applications such as water treatment, gas storage, super-capacitors, sensing, catalysis, drug delivery, and chromatographic separations. These extraordinary features as compared to other polymers, make HCPs, promising candidates for solving environmental pollution and catalysis as well as energy crises.

Recent Breakthroughs

Recent research has shown that amine-functionalized benzene-based HCPs can enhance CO2 uptake capability and selectivity. The maximum CO2 adsorption capacity at 298 K and 9 bar was obtained at 414.41 (mg/g) for amine-modified HCP.

Moreover, HCPs have been presented as a new class of photocatalyst capable of selectively reducing CO2 to CO. Photocatalytic conversion was achieved using only visible light in the presence of sacrificial H2O, without additional sacrificial agents or cocatalysts, significantly outperforming TiO2 P25.

Significance of HCPs

The development of robust, high-performance photocatalysts is key to the success of solar fuel production via CO2 conversion. HCPs represent a highly versatile and exciting platform for solar energy conversion. They combine excellent CO2 sorption capacities, good general stabilities, and low production costs. This makes them a promising solution for tackling the global challenge of CO2 emissions.

Moreover, HCPs are polymeric microporous adsorbents that possess extensive rigid yet flexible crosslinked structures. They can be obtained through a simple one-step Friedel-Crafts reaction using cheap Lewis acid catalysts. This has attracted more and more interest in recent years.

Conclusion

In conclusion, HCPs have emerged as a promising platform for CO2 capture and conversion. Their excellent CO2 sorption capacities, good general stabilities, and low production costs make them a viable solution for tackling the global challenge of CO2 emissions. As research in this area continues, we can expect further advancements in using HCPs for CO2 capture and conversion.

References

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Full Sustainable Utopia Blueprint


Sustainability is not just a buzzword, but a vital goal for humanity and the planet. 

A sustainable world is one where people live in harmony with nature, where everyone has access to basic needs and rights, and where no one is left behind.

Achieving such a world may seem like a utopian dream, but it is not impossible.
 
In fact, there are already many initiatives and frameworks that aim to guide us towards this vision. 

In this blog post, I will explore some of the key aspects and challenges of transforming our society to a perfect sustainable world and suggest some possible solutions and actions.

What is a Sustainable World?

 

A sustainable world is based on the concept of sustainable development, which was defined by the Brundtland Commission in 1987 as

“development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

 

We need to balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development, and ensure that our actions do not harm the well-being of ourselves and others, now and in the future.

To operationalize this concept, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. 

The SDGs cover a wide range of issues, such as poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, clean energy, climate change, biodiversity, peace and justice. 

The SDGs are universal, integrated and indivisible, meaning that they apply to all countries and sectors, and that they are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

The SDGs are also ambitious and transformative, requiring collective action and partnership from all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, private sector, academia and individuals. 

The SDGs are not only a roadmap for achieving a sustainable world, but also a moral imperative and a human rights obligation.

Why Do We Need to Transform Our Society?


Despite the progress made in some areas, such as reducing extreme poverty and improving access to education, our current society is far from being sustainable. 

We have and are facing multiple and interconnected crises that threaten our survival and dignity, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, inequality, conflict and violence. 

Not to mention the whole pandemic thing that happened a few years ago. 

These crises are largely caused by our unsustainable consumption and production patterns, which have depleted and degraded our natural resources, disrupted our ecosystems, and increased our greenhouse gas emissions. 

These crises also expose and exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities and injustices in our society, which affect the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants.

If we continue on this path, we will not only fail to achieve the SDGs, but also risk irreversible damage to our planet and humanity. 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have until 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, otherwise we will face more severe and frequent impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, heat waves, storms, sea level rise, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 

We have already lost 75% of our terrestrial and 66% of our marine environments, and we are driving one million species to extinction, which will undermine our food security, health, livelihoods and culture (IPCC). 

According to the World Bank, we have 689 million people living in extreme poverty, and the pandemic could push another 150 million into poverty by 2021. 

According to the United Nations, we have 79.5 million people forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict and violence, and the pandemic could worsen the humanitarian situation and increase the risk of violence and human rights violations.

These alarming facts and figures show that we need to transform our society urgently and radically, not only to avoid the worst-case scenarios, but also to create a better and more equitable world for ourselves and future generations.


How Can We Transform Our Society?


Transforming our society to a perfect sustainable world is not a simple or easy task, but it is not impossible either. 

It requires a holistic and systemic approach, that addresses the root causes and drivers of the problems, and that leverages the opportunities and synergies of the solutions. 

It also requires a collaborative and participatory approach, that involves and empowers all stakeholders, and that respects and values the diversity and plurality of perspectives and experiences. 

Here are some of the key steps and actions that we can take to transform our society:


  • Rethink and redefine our values and goals. We need to shift from a paradigm of growth and profit to a paradigm of well-being and happiness, where we measure our success not by how much we produce and consume, but by how much we improve our quality of life and the health of our planet. We need to adopt a human rights-based and gender-responsive approach, where we ensure that everyone has equal access to the resources and opportunities they need to fulfill their potential and dignity. We need to embrace a culture of peace and solidarity, where we resolve our conflicts through dialogue and cooperation, and where we support and care for each other, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.

  • Innovate and invest in sustainable solutions. We need to harness the power of science, technology and innovation to create and scale up solutions that are sustainable, inclusive and resilient. We need to invest in renewable and clean energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint. We need to promote circular and green economy models, such as recycling, reuse and repair, to minimize our waste and pollution. We need to enhance our efficiency and productivity, such as through smart and digital technologies, to optimize our use of resources and time. We need to diversify and strengthen our food systems, such as through agroecology, urban farming and plant-based diets, to ensure our food security and nutrition.

  • Protect and restore our natural environment. We need to respect and value our natural environment, which provides us with essential services and benefits, such as clean air, water, soil, climate regulation, biodiversity and recreation. We need to conserve and restore our ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands and oceans, to maintain their functionality and diversity. We need to reduce and mitigate our environmental impacts, such as through reforestation, carbon capture and adaptation measures, to prevent and cope with the effects of climate change. We need to support and recognize the role of indigenous peoples and local communities, who are the custodians and guardians of our natural heritage, and who have the knowledge and practices to manage it sustainably.

  • Build and foster social cohesion and inclusion. We need to create and maintain a social fabric that is cohesive and inclusive, where everyone feels a sense of belonging and identity, and where everyone has a voice and a role in decision-making. We need to ensure and promote social justice and equity, where we eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence, and where we protect and uphold the rights and freedoms of all people. We need to provide and expand social protection and services, such as health, education, housing and social security, to reduce and prevent poverty and inequality. We need to facilitate and encourage social participation and engagement, such as through civic education, volunteering and activism, to foster a sense of agency and responsibility.

  • Strengthen and reform our institutions and governance. We need to have and support institutions and governance systems that are effective and accountable, where they deliver on their mandates and obligations, and where they are transparent and responsive to the needs and demands of the people. We need to reform and improve our policies and regulations, such as through evidence-based and participatory processes, to ensure that they are coherent and consistent with the principles and objectives of sustainable development. We need to enhance and enable our capacities and capabilities, such as through training, education and empowerment, to ensure that we have the skills and competencies to implement and monitor our actions and progress. We need to foster and facilitate our partnerships and cooperation, such as through multilateralism, dialogue and solidarity, to ensure that we work together and leverage our collective strengths and resources.

Conclusion


Transforming our society to a perfect sustainable world is not a fantasy, but a necessity and a possibility. 

It is a necessity, because we cannot afford to continue on our current path of unsustainability, which is jeopardizing our future and the future of our planet. 

It is a possibility, because we have the vision, the framework, the solutions and the potential to make it happen. 

It is also a choice, because we have the power and the responsibility to decide and act on our destiny. 

The time to transform our society is now, and the way to do it is together. 

Let us join our forces and efforts, and make our dream of a perfect sustainable world a reality.


References

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Why Thrifting Won't Actually Save the Environment ... Sorry thrifters


Thrifting is a popular trend among young people who want to shop sustainably and ethically. 

The idea is that by buying second-hand clothes, you are reducing your environmental impact and supporting local charities or businesses. 

But is thrifting really as green and guilt-free as it seems? 

In this blog post, we will explore some of the hidden drawbacks of thrifting and how you can make more informed choices when shopping for used clothes.

The Problem of Overproduction

One of the main arguments in favor of thrifting is that it prevents clothes from ending up in landfills.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the world produced more than 17 million tons of textiles in 2018, compared to only around 2 million 50 years ago. 

However, thrifting alone cannot solve the problem of overproduction and overconsumption that fuels the fast fashion industry. 

In fact, thrifting may even benefit from the excessive output of fashion brands, as it depends on a constant supply of cheap and trendy clothes.

As journalist and author Elizabeth Cline points out, "The thrift store system we have today was set up at a time in history when clothes were more rarefied and valued and that system will need a rethink and a reset in the era of fast fashion. The system is just breaking down at this point".

Thrifting may prolong the life cycle of clothes, but it does not stop the demand for new ones. Instead of buying one $100 sweater, we can snag a handful of $30 ones that might not last as long, or even a dozen of $5 ones from a thrift store. 

This creates a vicious cycle of buying and discarding clothes, which ultimately leads to more waste and emissions.

The Problem of Quality

Another issue with thrifting is that not all clothes are created equal. The quality of the clothing we buy affects how long it lasts, how often we wear it, and how easy it is to recycle or repurpose it. 

Unfortunately, most of the clothes that end up in thrift stores are made from low-quality materials, such as synthetic fabrics that are prone to pilling, fading, and tearing. 

These fabrics also have a higher environmental impact than natural ones, as they require more energy and water to produce and release microplastics into the waterways when washed.

Moreover, not all clothes that are donated to thrift stores are sold or reused. In fact, only about 20% of the clothes that are collected by charities or recycling facilities are resold as-is. 

The rest are either exported to developing countries, where they can disrupt local markets and cultures or turned into rags, insulation, or fibers for new products. 

These processes often involve chemical treatments, shredding machines, and additional transportation costs that increase the environmental footprint of the clothes. 

As Maresa Ponitch, who owns and operates Dusty Rose Vintage in Brooklyn, New York says, "A huge percentage of what thrift stores bring in they don’t put on the shop floor. (A lot of it) ends up being sent somewhere else for someone else to deal with".

The Problem of Ethics

Finally, thrifting is not always an ethical choice either. 

While some thrift stores support charitable causes or local communities, others are run by for-profit companies that exploit their workers and customers. 

For example, Goodwill Industries, one of the largest thrift store chains in the US, has been accused of paying its disabled employees below minimum wage, while its executives earn six-figure salaries. 

Moreover, some thrift stores have been found to hike up their prices or sell donated items online for profit, making them less accessible and affordable for low-income shoppers who rely on them.

Additionally, thrifting can also perpetuate size-ism and class-ism in the fashion industry. 

Many thrift stores have limited options for plus-sized or petite customers, as they depend on what people donate or discard. 

This can make thrifting a frustrating and exclusionary experience for those who do not fit into the standard sizes or styles. 

Thrifting can also reinforce the stigma and stereotypes associated with second-hand clothing.

How to Thrift Better

Despite these problems, thrifting can still be a positive and enjoyable way to shop for clothes if done mindfully and responsibly. 

Here are some tips on how to thrift better:

  • Buy less: The most sustainable way to shop is to buy less in general. Before you go thrifting, ask yourself if you really need or want something new, or if you can make do with what you already have. Try to avoid impulse buys or buying things just because they are cheap or trendy. Instead, look for quality pieces that fit your style, personality, and needs.
  • Buy better: When you do buy something, try to choose items that are made from natural, organic, or recycled materials, such as cotton, linen, wool, or hemp. These fabrics are more durable, comfortable, and biodegradable than synthetic ones. Also, look for clothes that are well-made, in good condition, and easy to care for. Avoid clothes that are stained, torn, or have missing buttons or zippers.

  • Buy local: Whenever possible, support local thrift stores that donate their profits to social or environmental causes, such as animal shelters, homeless shelters, or environmental groups. These stores not only help their communities, but also reduce the transportation and emissions associated with shipping clothes across the world. You can also look for online platforms that connect local sellers and buyers of second-hand clothes, such as Depop, Poshmark, or ThredUp.
  • Buy ethically: Be respectful and considerate of the people who work at or shop from thrift stores. Do not haggle over prices or take advantage of discounts that are meant for low-income customers. Please choose appropriate clothing.
  • Buy creatively: One of the best things about thrifting is that you can find unique and original pieces that express your individuality and creativity. You can also customize or alter your clothes to make them more personal and suitable for you. For example, you can dye, bleach, embroider, patch, or cut your clothes to create new looks. You can also swap or share your clothes with your friends or family to refresh your wardrobe without buying new things.

Conclusion

Thrifting is not a perfect solution to the environmental and ethical problems of the fashion industry. It has its own drawbacks and challenges that need to be addressed and improved.

However, thrifting can still be a fun and rewarding way to shop for clothes if done with awareness and intention. By following the tips above, you can thrift better and make a positive difference for yourself, others, and the planet.

Sources


This article is written by an independent author and does not represent the views of Firley Nonprofit. 


Sunday, January 7, 2024

What is Permaculture?


Permaculture is the multidisciplinary design philosophy that suggests human behavior should emulate or expand upon natural systems rather than see them as a tool to subjugate or an enemy to vanquish. It sees people as inhabitants, rather than conquerors. It is the understanding that unconstrained urbanization and modern industrial agriculture is disruptive to the natural processes within the soil biome and thus destructive to the ecosystem.

It puts forth that, by moving toward regenerative practices, we can become sustainable; with clean food, water, textiles, and construction materials all produced locally. Not only is the reliance on the global supply chain reduced and the distress of scarcity limited, stress associated with mental illnesses, crime, and violence are also reduced through created opportunities.

In short, the solutions have always been here, it is simply a matter of harnessing these natural forces.

I am certain setting off on this course will help develop enriching cultures centered around fertile, productive landscapes… and, in fact, within them. We face many obstacles… legacy politics, petrochemical profit incentives for corporate “science”… time itself… but, the solutions are here… all it takes is one viral meme

We will have to change practically every facet of our daily lives; from the moment we wake, we must be intimately aware of the impacts of our behavior. It’s not just about consuming less, we need to give back.

We need to connect with our communities, spread the gospel, help people break out of cycles of abuse and depressive spirals. Meet with our local churches and other non-profits, school, municipal representatives. Find our tribes and get to work building capital based in production through organic synthesis, both agriculturally and politically. Rhizomatic organization – orchestrated autonomy, synergistic panarchism – fluid and dynamic responses to material and social requirements. Hands on and direct approach to fulfilling basic needs. Fewer web orders and more enjoying the outdoors. Picking up picks… and shovels and hoes and trowels and seed. Get our butts moving and sweat!

We need to restore health to our soils. Healthy soils, healthy plants, healthy people. Healthy people? Happy people!

Ordination 101

Permaculture Design is, fundamentally, an Applied Philosophy – that is, as a body of sciences – and this blog series will explore terminology of associated fields to help build an image of the complex network in order to create a prototype form methodology what then is adapted to the space/time/culture which is the object of study.

As these associations are expanded upon, somewhat linearly, it’s important to remember that the design process is not truly a linear process, even though there are key determinative conditions that must be factored as the design and, ultimately, construction of the project begins and is then realized.

Design is a creative and artistic endeavor, but also a rational, mechanical process.

You may be familiar with the scientific method; you have the subject – which is the object of study – and some inherent problem you are attempting to solve. The problems, we as permaculturalists are facing, are geographical in nature and thus must take into consideration the full complexities of the physical and social sciences.

Geology, hydrology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, agriculture, psychology, sociology, politics, logistics, humanities, and the arts… all inspired by observation.

We will research each site, form a hypothesis, experiment, record results, and adapt our hypotheses.

Though we must be mindful of these intricacies, do not be overwhelmed by details outside the scope of your experience. As Permaculture is a wide field, so are the social networks of specialists who make up a permaculture community. You, as an individual, may find yourself occupied in any number of positions; from laborer to foreman, engineer, or architect, whatever might be required on any given permaculture project and according to your individual skillset. You will work alongside a veritable army of persons with technical acumen as well as lay practitioners and even nescient bystanders. Along with the contractual obligations of our employment, it is the duty of all permaculturalists to inform and educate, for as they say, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Firstly, we should take note of the differences between etymology of a word – or its literal definition -, the lawfully adjudicated or “legal definition”, and colloquial usage within the common vernacular.

As we move foreward we will be keeping somewhat of an overhead view from the Architects perspective and then examine various focii as needed for exemplification.

Using the Architect as an example, the etymology is from greek, “arch”:chief, and “tekton”:builder, so a literal translation would be akin to a Lead Designer. In the olden days, the duties of an architech might have overlapped with both engineering and overseeing but dependent on the scale of a project. In larger and more modern projects, likely those duties will be split among various individuals, teams of individuals, or even entire firms subcontracted to fulfill those certain rolls.

While smaller permaculture projects can flourish with a few hands, with each fulfilling a range of roles where the designers operate more in the traditional sense of the term, larger projects will require individuals to meet the requirements of the legal definitions – architects required to complete accredited education and become licensed. Likewise, a small permaculture project may require certain engineering calculations not necessarily performed by a licensed engineer, where a large project will likely require hiring an engineering firm.

The legal requirements for various sites are outside the scope of this documentation, as the law varies from locale to locale, not only the legal requirements for accreditation, but also zoning, and building codes. As a permaculturalist, you should be aware of these nuances, if not intimately familiar with the local ordinances on a per site basis; you should always work with the local ordinance offices to ensure compliance, if you are not familiar with the local laws, you should coordinate for example with a local General Contractor.

As local laws vary from site to site, so do environmental factors such as climate and habitat; permaculture design then, can be thought of as an exercise in critical thinking and problem solving… not a one-size-fits-all generic checklist.

Permaculture thiking can be applied from the smallest scale of tending your personal garden to the largest, City Planning and Civil Engineering with a central focus on regenerative ecology.

In this blog series, we hope to help you orient yourself on this network map, provide examples of career paths, and provide for you a basic toolset you can carry with you through whichever career within you might choose, from hobbyist to residency. Stay tuned for more parts!

Written by Night Shift

Sources:
http://gaiatongue.com/blog/
http://nrnpo.gaiatongue.com/wiki/


The contents of this blog post are not representative of Firley Nonprofit and are the sole work of the respective, independent authors. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

How to Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sustainably



Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the most popular shopping events of the year, where retailers offer huge discounts and deals to attract customers. Millions of people around the world participate in these sales, hoping to find bargains and save money. But what is the cost of this consumer frenzy for the environment?

The impact of production

The first environmental impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is related to the production of the goods that are sold. Every product that is manufactured requires raw materials, energy, water, and labor. These resources are often extracted and used in unsustainable ways, causing pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and human rights violations.

For example, producing an average laptop releases 100 to 200 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere, and an average tablet releases 50 kilograms (source 1). These emissions contribute to global warming and climate change, which have devastating effects on ecosystems and human health. Moreover, electronic devices contain rare and precious metals, such as gold, silver, and cobalt, that are mined in conflict zones and under hazardous conditions (source 2).

Another example is the fashion industry, which is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries in the world. According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, 20% of global wastewater, and 24% of insecticides. It also consumes huge amounts of water, land, and chemicals, and produces tons of textile waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators (source 3).

The impact of packaging and shipping

The second environmental impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is related to the packaging and shipping of the goods that are sold. Most of the products that are bought online are delivered in cardboard boxes, plastic bags, bubble wrap, and other materials that are often not recycled or reused. These materials create more waste and pollution and require more energy and resources to produce.

Moreover, the transportation of the goods from the warehouses to the customers also generates emissions and noise. According to a report by Money.co.uk, deliveries from Black Friday sales in the UK in 2021 were estimated to release over 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is the equivalent of 435 return flights from London to New York, or around 0.12% of the UK's total annual emissions for a comparable year (source 4).

The speed and convenience of online shopping also encourage more impulse buying and returns, which increase the environmental impact of shipping. According to a study by Vox and the University of California's Climate Lab, two-day shipping, like that offered by Amazon Prime, has a much higher carbon footprint than slower options that ship over a week. That is because faster shipping requires more diesel-using trucks on the ground and less efficient shipping systems (source 5).

The impact of consumption and disposal

The third environmental impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is related to the consumption and disposal of the goods that are sold. Many of the products that are bought during these sales are not needed or wanted, and end up being unused, stored, or thrown away. This creates more clutter, waste, and emissions, and reduces the lifespan and value of the products.

For example, according to a survey by Finder.com, Americans spent $12.9 billion on unwanted gifts in 2019 (source 6). These gifts either end up in the trash, in charity shops, or in online marketplaces, where they compete with new products and lower their prices. This creates a vicious cycle of overproduction, overconsumption, and oversupply, which undermines the circular economy and the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Another example is the phenomenon of "fast fashion", which is driven by the constant demand for new and cheap clothing. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the average number of times a garment is worn before it is discarded has decreased by 36% in the last 15 years. This means that more clothing is being produced and disposed of, creating more waste and emissions. The foundation estimates that the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050 if nothing changes.

How to shop more sustainably

The environmental impacts of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are alarming and unsustainable. However, there are ways to shop more responsibly and reduce the negative effects of these sales. Here are some tips to shop more sustainably:

  • Plan ahead and make a list of what you need and want, and stick to it. Avoid impulse buying and unnecessary purchases.
  • Research the products and the brands that you are interested in, and choose those that have a lower environmental impact, such as certified organic, fair trade, or recycled products.
  • Opt for slower and greener shipping options, such as ground shipping, local delivery, or click and collect. Avoid express or next-day delivery, and consolidate your orders to reduce the number of packages.
  • Reuse or recycle the packaging materials that you receive, or return them to the sender if possible. Avoid single-use plastic bags and bubble wrap, and opt for paper or cardboard boxes instead.
  • Use or gift the products that you buy, and take good care of them. Repair them if they break, or donate them if you don't need them anymore. Avoid throwing them away, and recycle them properly if they are beyond repair.

By following these tips, you can still enjoy the benefits of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while minimizing the harm to the environment. Remember that every purchase you make has an impact, and that you have the power to make a difference. Happy shopping!

Sources

(1) 2020 Report on the Environmental Impact of E-Commerce - GlobeNewswire. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/01/23/1974226/0/en/2020-Report-on-the-Environmental-Impact-of-E-Commerce.html.

(2) Black Friday, Cyber Monday—Here's how they impact the environment. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/how-black-friday-cyber-monday-impacts-environment.

(3) The environmental impact of Black Friday – DW – 11/24/2022. https://www.dw.com/en/the-environmental-impact-of-black-friday/a-63875495.

(4) The environmental impact of Black Friday revealed. https://www.businessleader.co.uk/the-environmental-impact-of-black-friday-revealed/.

(5) The Environmental Impact of E-Commerce 2020 - Business Wire. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200127005508/en/The-Environmental-Impact-of-E-Commerce-2020---Special-Sales-like-Black-Friday-Cyber-Monday-Burden-the-Environment-Due-to-the-Intense-Amount-of-Packaging-Shipping-Delivery---ResearchAndMarkets.com.

(6) Is Black Friday bad for the environment? | The Nappy Gurus. https://www.thenappygurus.com/blog/the-environmental-impact-of-black-friday-revealed.html.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Thanksgiving: A Feast for Us, A Famine for the Planet

You read the title. Yep, I'm going to ruin yet another cherished family holiday (don't forget to bring the politics amiright). In all seriousness, this is not meant to discourage or ruin Thanksgiving, but merely to suggest a better way that we as a nation could celebrate, especially as the environment is a growing concern (at least it should be) for everyone. 

Thanksgiving is a special time of the year when we get together with our family and friends and share our appreciation for each other and the blessings in our lives. However, it’s also a time when we need to be aware of how our actions affect the environment. The traditional Thanksgiving meal, especially the turkey, can have a big impact on carbon emissions. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, a 16-pound turkey produces about 34.2 pounds of CO2, which is more than the emissions of several other dishes combined. Moreover, the food waste that we generate during the holiday season can create more greenhouse gas emissions as it rots in landfills.

We can do our part to reduce the environmental impact of our Thanksgiving celebrations by following some simple steps:

  1. Opt for Plant-Based Alternatives: Instead of the usual turkey, why not try some plant-based alternatives like tofu, seitan, or mushrooms? These foods have a much lower carbon footprint than animal products, especially red meat. By choosing a plant-based meal, you can help the environment and also surprise your guests with some new and tasty dishes.

  2. Buy Local: When shopping for ingredients, look for those that are locally grown or produced. This way, you can cut down on the carbon emissions that come from transporting food over long distances. Also, avoid buying ingredients that are exotic or not in season, as they require more energy to transport.

  3. Cook from Scratch: As much as you can, make your dishes from scratch rather than buying pre-packaged or processed foods. This can help you reduce the amount of packaging waste and the use of preservatives that can harm the environment.

  4. Plan Portions and Coordinate with Guests: To prevent food waste, plan your portions carefully and coordinate with your guests. This can help you ensure that you have a variety of dishes without having too much food left over.

  5. Use Reusable Items: Choose reusable dishes and utensils over disposable ones. This can make a big difference in the amount of waste that you create from your celebration.

  6. Compost Food Scraps: Compost any food scraps that you cannot eat or donate. Composting not only reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfills, but also helps improve the quality of the soil in your garden.

Remember, Thanksgiving is not just about the food on the table; it’s about showing gratitude and building a sense of community. By making these small changes, we can enjoy our Thanksgiving feast while also being mindful of our planet.

Besides these steps, we can also apply our eco-friendly habits to other parts of our celebration:

  1. Minimize Energy Use: Be conscious of your energy use. Try to use natural light during the day and turn off lights in rooms that are not in use. When cooking, try to use the oven efficiently by baking multiple dishes at once.

  2. Choose Eco-Friendly Decorations: Pick decorations that are made from natural or recycled materials. Avoid using decorations that are disposable and consider using items that you already have. After the celebration, store reusable decorations for future use.

  3. Encourage Guests to Carpool or Use Public Transportation: If your guests live nearby, encourage them to carpool or use public transportation. This can help reduce the carbon emissions that come from travel.


  4. Educate Your Guests: Use this opportunity to educate your guests about the importance of sustainable practices. Share with them why you decided to go for a plant-based meal, buy local produce, or use reusable dishes.

By following these practices, we can make a positive impact on our environment. It allows us to celebrate the holiday in a way that reflects our values of sustainability and mindfulness. After all, what better way to show our gratitude for the Earth than by taking steps to protect and preserve it?


Sources

  • Emanuelli, A, (2019, November 20), The Environmental Impact Of Your Thanksgiving Dinner: HuffPost
  • Earth Institute, (2019, November 20), 16 Ideas For a More Sustainable Thanksgiving and Black Friday: Columbia University

Saturday, October 21, 2023

How Your Environmental Footprint Increases As You Get Richer

 The environmental impacts and issues related to being of a higher social class

Being of a higher social class often comes with a higher environmental footprint. People who are wealthy tend to consume more resources, produce more waste, and emit more greenhouse gases than people who are poor. This is because they have more access to goods and services that require energy, water, land, and materials to produce and transport. They also have more opportunities to travel, own multiple properties, and enjoy luxury lifestyles that are environmentally costly.

Some of the environmental impacts and issues related to being of a higher social class are:

  1. - Higher carbon emissions: According to a study by Oxfam, the richest 10% of the world's population are responsible for 49% of the global carbon emissions, while the poorest 50% only account for 10%. This means that the wealthy have a much larger contribution to climate change than the poor. The main sources of carbon emissions for the rich are air travel, car use, heating and cooling, and meat consumption.
  2. - Higher water consumption: Water is a scarce and precious resou
  3. rce that is essential for life. However, people who are rich tend to use more water than people who are poor. They use more water for personal hygiene, gardening, swimming pools, washing machines, dishwashers, and other appliances. They also consume more water-intensive products such as meat, dairy, coffee, and cotton. According to a report by WaterAid, the average water footprint of a person in the UK is 4,645 liters per day, while the average water footprint of a person in Ethiopia is 523 liters per day.
  4. - Higher waste generation: Waste is another environmental issue that is linked to social class. People who are wealthy tend to generate more waste than people who are poor. They buy more products that have packaging, disposable items, and short-lived goods. They also throw away more food, clothes, electronics, and other items that could be reused or recycled. According to a report by the World Bank, the world's urban population generates about 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year, and this is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tons by 2025.
  5. - Higher land use: Land is a finite and valuable resource that provides many ecosystem services such as food production, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, and water regulation. However, people who are rich tend to use more land than people who are poor. They own larger houses, gardens, farms, and estates. They also consume more land-intensive products such as meat, dairy, palm oil, and soy. According to a study by the University of Minnesota, the global average land footprint of a person is 1.8 hectares per year, but this varies from 0.4 hectares in India to 9.7 hectares in the USA.

These are some of the environmental impacts and issues related to being of a higher social class. They show that being rich comes with a high environmental cost that affects not only the planet but also the people who live on it. Therefore, it is important for people who are wealthy to be aware of their environmental impact and take actions to reduce it. Some of the actions that they can take are:

  • Reducing their consumption of energy, water, land, and materials
  • Choosing low-carbon and low-water products and services
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel and opting for public transportation or cycling
  • Donating or recycling their unwanted goods instead of throwing them away
  • Supporting environmental causes and organizations that work for social justice
  • Educating themselves and others about the environmental issues and solutions

By taking these actions, people who are of a higher social class can not only reduce their environmental impact but also improve their well-being and happiness. They can also contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world for everyone.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Why You Should Stop Mowing Your Lawn

 If you are one of the millions of homeowners who spend hours every week mowing, trimming, and fertilizing your lawn, you might want to reconsider your landscaping habits. Not only is lawn care time-consuming and expensive, but it also has a negative impact on the environment and your health. Here are some reasons why you should stop mowing your lawn and how you can create a more sustainable and beautiful yard.

- Mowing your lawn contributes to air pollution and climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a gas-powered lawn mower emits as much pollution as 11 cars in an hour. Lawn mowers also consume a lot of fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. By reducing or eliminating your lawn mowing, you can save money on gas and reduce your carbon footprint.

- Mowing your lawn harms biodiversity and wildlife. A manicured lawn is a monoculture that offers little habitat or food for native plants and animals. Mowing your lawn also disturbs or kills insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals that live in the grass or soil. By letting your lawn grow naturally, you can create a more diverse and resilient ecosystem that supports pollinators, predators, and prey.

- Mowing your lawn damages the soil and water quality. A short and compacted lawn prevents rainwater from infiltrating the soil and replenishes groundwater. Instead, the water runs off the surface, carrying fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants into storm drains, rivers, lakes, and oceans. This causes eutrophication, algal blooms, dead zones, and water contamination. By allowing your lawn to grow longer and deeper roots, you can improve the soil structure, water retention, and nutrient cycling.

- Mowing your lawn exposes you to noise and chemical hazards. Lawn mowers are loud machines that can cause hearing loss, stress, and annoyance. Lawn mowers also emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Moreover, many lawn care products contain synthetic chemicals that can harm your health and the environment. By avoiding or minimizing your lawn mowing, you can protect yourself and your family from these risks.

How to Develop a Culture of Not Mowing Lawns

If you are convinced that mowing your lawn is not worth it, you might wonder how to transition to a more natural and low-maintenance yard. Here are some steps you can take to develop a culture of not mowing lawns in your neighborhood and beyond.

- Educate yourself and others about the benefits of not mowing lawns. You can read books, articles, blogs, or watch videos that explain the ecological and economic advantages of letting your lawn grow wild. You can also share this information with your friends, family, neighbors, and community members through social media, newsletters, flyers, or conversations.

- Experiment with different alternatives to lawns. You can try planting native flowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, or groundcovers that suit your climate and soil conditions. You can also create a vegetable garden, a rain garden, a wildlife garden, or a meadow that provides food, shelter, and beauty for you and nature. You can also leave some areas of your yard untouched or lightly managed to allow spontaneous vegetation to emerge.

- Join or start a movement or organization that promotes not mowing lawns. You can look for local or national groups that advocate for natural landscaping, organic gardening, permaculture, or urban ecology. You can also participate in campaigns or events that raise awareness or celebrate not mowing lawns. For example, you can join the No Mow May initiative that encourages people to let their lawns bloom for bees.

- Challenge or change the norms and policies that favor lawns. You can question the social pressure or expectations that make people feel obliged to have a neat and tidy lawn. You can also lobby or petition for more flexible or supportive regulations that allow or encourage natural landscaping in residential areas. You can also support or collaborate with organizations that work on changing the cultural or legal landscape around lawns.

By following these steps, you can help create a culture of not mowing lawns that benefits both people and nature. You can also enjoy a more relaxing and rewarding relationship with your yard that reflects your values and personality.