Having a “green” home is something we are hearing more about as time progresses. Green homes better support the environment and use energy efficiently. It is important for us to consider how our homes are consuming energy, because it has a direct effect on our environment. Having a green home also tends to mean saving money when it comes to energy costs.
When building a home from scratch, it is easier to plan to have the home built in such a way that it supports and works with the environment, considering factors such as climate, wind patterns, and positioning of the home in regard to the sun. In areas where most of the land is developed, we are not able to start from scratch, so we can work with what we have through making alterations and adaptations. Below you will find information on how an existing home or building can be altered to use energy more efficiently, and therefore better support the environment.
One common way to transform a building to make it more “green,” would be to lessen the use of traditional energy sources such as coal and gas, and introduce more renewable energy sources to fuel your home such as wind, sun, and water. To learn in more detail about how to incorporate these renewable energy sources into your home or business, click here!
Stay tuned for more tips on how to make buildings more “green.”
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© 2018 Community Planner Anna Caffrey
credit: The Fuel Effect & Popular Mechanics
Photograph credit: Chris Newbert, Minden Pictures/National Geographic Creative
DISCUSSION: Sea turtles are charismatic species that fascinate and inspire curiosity in people from around the world. These oceanic reptiles are beloved by children and adults alike with their beautiful coloring and unique behaviors. They are often found in many forms of media, with funny pictures of them napping on sponges on the ocean floor, as hilarious helpers in children’s movies, and heart breaking images of unfortunate turtles caught in plastic garbage. These images capture the attention of people around the globe. Tourists flock to sea turtle breeding areas just to watch the hatchlings make their epic journey from nest to ocean, flapping past predators and obstacles on their way to the water’s edge. Tourists, locals, and researchers are able to see the obvious predators to sea turtle populations. Their eggs and hatchlings are prey for beach-going predators, they are known to often mistake garbage bags for food, and their slow swimming pace make them easy targets for boat strikes. They are also often caught in fishing gear, where they can drown if they cannot reach the surface for air.
Recently however, scientists are starting to take notice of another threat to sea turtle survival: temperature. Sea turtles are particularly interesting animals, once they lay eggs in nests underneath the sand on beaches, the temperature inside the nest determines the gender of the baby turtles inside. In fact, NOAA states that at nest temperatures of below 81° Fahrenheit, the baby turtles will be male, for 87° F and above the babies will be female. This slim range ensures that any minor changes to the sand environment is destined to change the turtle’s fate, where one nest normally includes both male and female hatchlings. In recent years, researchers have discovered the effect of rising sand temperatures in Australian beaches where many turtles come to nest. The broods of baby turtles are turning up mostly female, 99% female in Green Sea Turtles to be exact. This result has astonished scientists, worried that the rising global temperatures might induce this change permanently. Temperature changes globally are resulting in Pacific beaches warming, causing the feminization of green sea turtle populations on an alarming scale. (Jensen et al. 2018, Current Biology)
Female and male turtles can have large portions of oceans as habitats, so finding a mate can already be difficult. With the number of male sea turtles on the decline, finding a mate can easily become impossible. Therefore, a population of almost entirely female turtles cannot survive, as without males the populations of turtles will drastically decline into extinction. These gender skewed populations may not be a concern for populations right now, as Green Sea Turtles take around 25 years to mature to reproductive ages. However, many sea turtle populations are already on decline from human impacts on their habitats, such as overfishing and garbage dumping. This decline is expected to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise at a high rate. The time it takes for turtle species to adapt to changes such as environmental temperatures is on a much longer time scale than the rate of global temperature rise, especially on the Pacific beaches the Green Sea Turtles use for nesting.
Green Sea Turtle species are being impacting by rising sand temperatures in the Pacific, and they are not alone. Some alligator and fish species also have temperature-dependent offspring genders, and they too are expected to show changes in gender ratios in their populations over the next years.
For more information on the Green Sea Turtles and other species impacted click here!
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© 2018 Biologist McKensie Daugherty
NOAA- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
credit: National Geographic, Craig Welch
DISCUSSION: As we get deeper into the 21st Century, there is no debate that we are continuing to get further into a cutting-edge era of technology which is being defined by the onset of various state-of-the-art technologies. Two such of these technologies are wind and solar power which are helping to power the world towards a more sustainable future. Solar and wind power are more effective than nearly all fossil fuels due to the fact that solar and wind power rely on naturally-generated resources on Earth. The major benefit of solar power is the fact that solar power is usable in both climatologically cloudy as well as sunny regions around the world. Moreover, solar photo-voltaic cells also have the ability to store and save surplus solar energy for times at which allows for them to be more adaptable in regions including (but certainly not limited to) the Northeastern United States. This is a result of the fact that regions of the world such as the Northeastern United States which are more prone to frequent cloudy conditions would prevent solar panel facilities and privately-owned set-ups from working at maximum efficiency during the cloudier periods of a given year.
In switching gears to wind power technology, wind power is also an incredibly viable form of sustainable technology as society on planet Earth continues to evolve with time. This is chiefly due to the fact that as the Sun heats different parts of planet Earth unevenly on a routine basis, this induces differential pressure gradients (i.e., variable changes in local surface pressure over some horizontal and/or vertical distance) across different regions around the world. As a result of inducing differential pressure gradients (as explained above), this then induces differential wind speeds at locations around the world. Hence, whether it be over land or over the ocean, wind farms are typically a very effective form of consistent energy production throughout the course a given year at many locations around the world.
To learn more about the corresponding story courtesy of the New York Times, be sure to click here!
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Humans have a special relationship with the environment. This is a relationship that we must nurture, and intricately consider, so we can continue to work together in a harmonious fashion.
The natural environment helps to sustain human life. The earth is full of natural resources that we rely on for survival, yet these natural resources are finite. This means that there is a limit to our Earth, and we cannot use resources faster than they can be replenished. We tend to use our resources without considering its effect on the environment. To sustain our environment and ultimately sustain ourselves, we must intentionally work with Earth’s natural systems. Innately, these systems support us and we must continue to do our part in taking care of the Earth.
Sustainability is a term that refers to the longevity and support of a system. When we talk about achieving “sustainability” in reference to the Earth, we are referring to maintaining a balance among the Earth so that it can continue to carry on.
We must make a concerted effort to steward our natural resources and environment in order to keep things in balance. Our resources are not infinite, but they are available to us based on how well we take care of our environment. The following are tactics we can use to assist us in better sustaining the Earth: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Refuse.
This pertains to reducing the amount of consumption of a given material or resource. For example, you could reduce the amount of water you use by choosing to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Businesses can minimize waste through getting utilities such as hand dryers rather than disposable paper towels. This also includes reducing the amount of electric you use. This calls us not to waste materials and resources, and only use the amount that is necessary.
This is a call to reuse items that can be reused, and to buy items that are reusable rather than disposable. For example, using metal utensils and reusable plates rather than disposable utensils and plates. This also goes for water bottles and coffee mugs. Plastic grocery bags are another example of an item that can be reused. Clothing is a great resource to reuse. You can find local charities where you can donate your clothing when you no longer want it, and you can choose to purchase items from thrift stores or second hand shops, rather than buying everything new.
Recycling is similar to reusing, but in the process of recycling, an item is sometimes broken down chemically to be used for a new purpose. According to Waste Management the following items are recyclable:
Certain items are detrimental for the environment, because they cannot be recycled, broken down, or reused. Styrofoam is an example of an item that cannot be broken down, so it is a good material to avoid using. Also, if you don’t need a bag for your items when checking out at the store, refuse the offer to receive one.
There you have it, the "Four R's" of sustainability. Stay tuned for more articles on applying sustainability to your everyday life. Let's take care of our Earth together!
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©2018 Community Planner Anna Caffrey
DISCUSSION: As more and more pollution is generated by commercial transportation (i.e., both air and ground-based travel modes), there is increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide being dispersed into the global atmosphere. However, despite much of this carbon dioxide remaining suspended in gaseous form within the lower to middle parts of the atmosphere, a substantial portion of this global atmospheric carbon dioxide is deposited in the world's oceans. It is at this point that the previous gas-form of this carbon dioxide interacts with seawater to form a compound known as carbonic acid which has a detrimental and dangerous impact on various ecosystems which reside and thrive in the world's oceans. Thus, the production of carbonic acid not only will act to increase the net acidity of the world's oceans but it also has the effect of impacting the ability to various sea-life to survive based on their respective tolerance to changing acidity levels and consequences thereof. For more details on how carbonic acid (i.e., fused carbon dioxide with seawater as noted above), attached below is an exact excerpt from WxShift.com as re-shared by the Climate Central team on Twitter:
"About a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is currently taken up by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater and forms carbonic acid. This “acidification” of global oceans is observed as lower pH levels. Since pre-industrial times, the average pH of ocean surface water fell from 8.21 to 8.10. While that does not sound like much, that is a 30 percent increase in acidity, and it could decrease another 0.3 pH units by the end of the century. At that rate, it would create an ocean more acidic than any seen in the past 100 million years."
"The current rate in acidity change is about 50 times faster than any known historical change, making it difficult for marine life to adapt. Carbonate ions in the ocean become less abundant in a more acidic ocean, making it difficult for shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels) to build shells and skeletons. Additionally plankton, which form the base of the oceanic food web, also have trouble adapting. In a cascading effect, this will alter ecosystems in a way that could threaten seafood staples around the world. More than 1 billion people rely on oceans for food, as well as their livelihood. By one estimate, ocean acidification will cost the global economy $1 trillion annually by 2100. Corals are similarly threatened. With less calcium carbonate available, it hinders the ability for corals to maintain their reefs, which are important habitats for other marine organisms and provide some coastal protection from storms."
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© 2018 Biologist McKensie Daugherty and Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Weighing the Benefits of Electric Powered Machines over General Transportation (credit: Climate Central)
DISCUSSION: Over the past few decades there is no debate that there has remained to be a hotly contested debate over whether the majority of transportation vehicles should remain powered by diesel fuel and/or conventional gasoline as opposed to more environmentally-friendly vehicles. As a consequence of this ongoing societal debate, many detailed studies have been conducted over the years to establish how much of a difference there would be from an environmental standpoint with respect to mankind's reliance on fossil fuels. Moreover, how a progressively quicker transition from fossil fuels to electric power can help to curb global and even domestic fossil fuel emissions.
Based on the graphic above (courtesy of the Climate Central team), there is no question whatsoever that during the last part of the 20th Century, industry and society continued to generate increasingly greater net energy demands. However, as we came to the turn of 21st Century, there was an apparent peak in the recent energy demand "curve" which crested before gradually decreasing during the course of the first decade (i.e., from 2000 to 2010). Beyond that point (i.e., from 2010 to 2016), you can clearly see that the net emissions from general transportation are now outweighing those emissions from electric power. Thus, statistical work is beginning to show that technology associated with modernized electric power systems are now gradually becoming more efficient than general forms of transportation. This just goes to show that mankind is finally beginning to turn a corner in terms of developing increasingly more efficient and sustainable forms of practical energy.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
The benefits of renewable energy seem to outweigh their own costs, at least more so than nonrenewable resources. Many fossil fuels have downsides, such as running low on resources and reserves, releasing carbon into the atmosphere (contributing to global warming), and an overall decrease of air quality. Wind energy not only combats these downsides, but includes a few added benefits, such as increasing the public awareness on sustainability, and combating the effects of climate change. Other countries around the world are looking towards wind energy as a viable alternative, and parts of the United States are as well.
The burning of fossil fuels releases many pollutants in the air. When fossil fuels are burned, CO2 (carbon dioxide), one of the main greenhouse gases (a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere), is released into the air. When you turn on your car and drive to work or school, pollutants such as SO2 (sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain and a respiratory pollutant) and NOx (nitrogen oxides, another contributor to acid rain and respiratory diseases) are released into the atmosphere. Many health issues can arise from breathing in these chemicals, such as asthma, bronchitis, and nasal congestion. These chemicals can also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, such as oxygen, to form secondary pollutants. One such secondary pollutant is O3 (ozone), which at the ground-level, can affect human health, by effects such as eye irritation and increased asthmatic attacks. The use of renewable energy will help to facilitate a reduction in these human health issues occurring all over the country (Energy Policy).
China is an example of one such country that is utilizing wind energy. During rapid industrialization and urbanization, policies are being put in place to substitute coal-fired power plants with wind power. These policies have already helped increase the wind power capacity, and now the Chinese government is focusing on policy reform. This reform includes stressing policy in different areas of the country, since wind power may be more viable in certain locations than others (Energy Policy). Wind energy can also complement other forms of renewable energy. For example, Brazil is looking towards renewable resources to help with energy consumption. In 2011, hydroelectric power (electricity generated from falling or fast-running water) accounted for about 90% of their electricity generation. However, this power is subject to seasonal regimes. Wind energy can be used in conjunction with the hydroelectric plants to increase energy reliability (Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water, and Environment Systems).
In the United States, national-level policy for wind power is difficult. The federal government could step in to create different programs and policies, but all states have different socio-political interests (Environmental Policy and Governance). To remedy this, a strategy like the reform in China that was discussed before might help – providing different incentives to different regions of the country (for example, areas with rich wind resources vs. non-rich wind resources) might encourage policies in different states. Another option for the United States is the investment in small-scale wind energy (such as small wind turbines for a single house or building), rather than large wind farms, which can be costly. These “small wind” energies can provide an economically competitive cost over traditional fossil fuels, allowing for the United States to grow and explore these renewable resource opportunities (Energy Policy).
The road to renewable resources, especially wind energy, is worth it. Countries around the globe, such as the United States, China, and Brazil, have already taken part in this movement. Not only will there be benefits of reduced environmental and human health effects, but as a society, we will be leaving our children a better world than the one that was given to us.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Joseph Fogarty
As society has progressed, we have made many substantial technological advances. The addition of cars alone has significantly changed our environment. With such advances, we have introduced a significant amount of greenhouse gases to the air, such as carbon dioxide and methane. The addition of these gases in our atmosphere has inevitably affected the balance of Earth’s natural systems. We do not fully understand the impact that this can have on our environment, but we have been experiencing noticeable shifts in weather patterns and devastating storms. Now is the time to stop, and to make changes that will lead to a healthier environment.
We tend to consider convenience when it comes to production and consumption of resources, but rarely do we consider the utilization of our resources and the effect it has on our environment. Our natural resources are not infinite, and we must manage them with integrity. In order to progress in a way that facilitates health and wellness for ourselves and our communities, we must pay attention to our consumption. The everyday decisions we make add up to have a large impact on our current and future environment. If we can begin to implement small changes in our routines and habits, we can change the narrative for our society in a way that will be beneficial for ourselves and future generations. We must work with the environment in order to sustain ourselves.
Each of us has our own “carbon footprint.” Your carbon footprint is basically your personal impact on the environment, based on your overall consumption of fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are burned, it releases Carbon Dioxide into our environment. The size of your carbon footprint is determined based on everyday habits and lifestyle. One way you can help better sustain the Earth, is to minimize your carbon footprint. If you would like to work on decreasing the size of your carbon footprint, here are some simple ways that you can do so:
By adding any of these practices to your lifestyle, you will reduce your carbon footprint, and therefore better support the environment. Be sure to share these suggestions with your friends!
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©2017 Community Planner Anna Caffrey
DISCUSSION: As science and society continue to evolve more and more with time, there continue to be newer, and more advanced break-through achievements made with respect to both energy creation and energy storage. Having said that, the essence of creating and distributing energy-based resources is the ability for a team and/or organization to maximize the natural fruits of a readily renewable and readily accessible natural resource which can be tapped into for the purposes of natural energy production. Google's parent company "Alphabet" is working on a project by which wind and solar power is stored before being converted electricity to thermal energy. From there, heat is stored in molten salt, and cold is stored in a vat of liquid antifreeze solution. When the power is needed, the hot and cold energy are converted back into electricity by a heat engine. Furthermore, electricity in the system is produced most efficiently in situations where there is a wider temperature difference between the hot and cold vats. Hence, scientists both in this company and other innovative companies based all over the world are working to vastly improve the ways in which energy is both created, distributed, and utilized on a global scale.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: For many decades there has been a strongly founded way of thinking defined by gas-powered vehicles being the path to the future of both ground and air travel. At least with respect to ground travel, this will quite probably soon be more of a thing of the past based on the fact that both production and popularity of electric cars is projected to grow more exponentially with time. Based on a recent global report issued by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, there is likely to soon be an "inflection point" which will effectively define the point at which electric car sales will increase more rapidly than ever before in modern history. This is a combination of people both seeing the value in a more ecologically and economical travel choice as well as the prices of these vehicles coming down more quickly as time moves along. There is no doubt that we are on the precipice of a state-of-the-art renewable energy revolution on a global scale that has many environmentalists looking towards a brighter future. To learn more about this story, click on the following link.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz