Monday, September 30, 2013

Water Plants in the Morning

Save water, and make plants stronger and healthier, by watering in the morning.

By Brian Clark Howard

The best time to water plants is usually in the early morning, both to maximize the efficiency of water used and to promote healthy flora.
Mornings tend to be cool and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is much less than during the middle of the day. Yes, evenings are typically similar, but if plants stay damp overnight they are more likely to be damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases. Ideally, use a drip or soak system instead of a regular sprinkler, which wastes a lot of water and drenches the leaves, which are prone to damage as well as disease.
Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. To avoid shocking tender greenery, try to use water at or near air temperature (collected rainwater is best).
With population growth and climate change putting increasing pressure on freshwater supplies, it is becoming more important than ever to save water.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Maintain Your Septic System

If you don't have public sewers where you live, you have work to do.

By Dan Shapley

It's SepticSmart Week, and you know what that means! Chances are, actually, that you don't. It's the first ever SepticSmart Week, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the reason they've done it is because so many of us don't know what to do with our septics.
Some 26 million American homes--about a quarter overall--depend on septic systems to treat wastewater, where public sewers aren't available.
Failing to maintain septics can cause water pollution downstream, making streams, lakes and rivers unfit for swimming and unhealthy for wildlife; or backups upstream (that is, in your house). Both, we can all agree, are better avoided.
Septics often fail during the holiday season, when extra visitors increase the load on systems. That's why the EPA recommends having a professional inspection now, before the holiday season hits. Use these tips:
  • Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have their tank pumped when necessary, generally every three to five years.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease, and solids down the drain, which can clog a system’s pipes and drainfield.
  • Ask guests to put only things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts and cat litter can all clog and potentially damage septic systems.
  • Be water efficient and spread out water use. Consider fixing plumbing leaks and installing faucet aerators and water-efficient products that bear the EPA WaterSense label, and spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system if it hasn’t been pumped recently. Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drainfield, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wasted food is world's third-biggest carbon emitter after China and US: UN

With starving people in the world, this is truly a waste!

Posted Wed 11 Sep 2013

The food the world wastes accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than any country except for China and the United States, according to a United Nations report.

It says every year about a third of all food for human consumption, around 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted, along with all the energy, water and chemicals needed to produce it and dispose of it. Almost 30 per cent of the world's farmland, and a volume of water equivalent to the annual discharge of Europe's River Volga, are in effect being used in vain.

In its Food Wastage Footprint report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated the carbon footprint of wasted food was equivalent to 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If it were a country, it would be the world's third biggest emitter after China and the US, suggesting that more efficient food use could contribute substantially to global efforts to cut greenhouse gases to limit global warming.

In the industrialised world, much of the waste comes from consumers buying too much and throwing away what they do not eat. In developing countries, it is mainly the result of inefficient farming and a lack of proper storage facilities.

"Food wastage reduction would not only avoid pressure on scarce natural resources but also decrease the need to raise food production by 60 per cent in order to meet the 2050 population demand," the FAO said.

The FAO estimated the cost of the wasted food, excluding fish and seafood, around $US750 billion a year, based on producer prices.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Importance of Forests

“Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that supply an estimated 75 percent of usable water globally (nearly 2/3 of the water supply in the U.S.).  One study estimates the value of water regulation and supply at $2.3 trillion globally.”

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Office of Sustainability
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

‘Flushable’ personal wipes clog sewer systems, utilities say

Being 'green' and sustainable means using less and less disposable products.  It's amazing the problems City Utilities run into due to the wrong items being disposed of down the toilets.  It looks like from this article, the safest thing to flush is still just old-fashion toilet paper. 

Sewer agencies across the country say the rapidly growing use of moistened "personal" wipes is clogging pipes and jamming pumps.
By Katherine Shaver   (edited by Gene)
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Next time you go to toss that "flushable" wipe in the toilet, you might want to consider a request from your sewer utility: Don't.
Sewer agencies across the country say the rapidly growing use of moistened "personal" wipes — used most often by potty-training toddlers and people seeking what's advertised as a more "thorough" cleaning than toilet paper — are clogging pipes and jamming pumps.

Utilities struggling with aging infrastructure have wrestled for years with the problem of "ragging" — when baby wipes, dental floss, paper towels and other items not designed for flushing entangle sewer pumps.

The latest menace, officials say, is that wipes and other products, including pop-off scrubbers on toilet-cleaning wands, are increasingly being marketed as "flushable." Even ever-thickening, super-soft toilet paper is worrisome because it takes longer to disintegrate, some say.

"Just because you can flush it doesn't mean you should," said I.J. Hudson, a spokesman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which handles sewage for 1.8million Maryland residents in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

The result: Utility officials say crews needed for sewer maintenance and repairs are being deployed instead to wipes patrol.

The commission has spent more than $1million to install heavy-duty grinders to shred wipes and other debris before they reach pumps on the way to the treatment plant, Hudson said. Officials with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority say that more than 500 staff hours have been devoted in the past 12 months to removing stuck wipes and repairing broken equipment.

The wipes also contribute to blockages that cause sewage to overflow into streams and back up into basements.

This summer, a 15-ton glob of wipes and hardened cooking grease the size of a bus — and nicknamed "Fatberg" by the Brits — was discovered in a London sewer pipe after residents complained of toilets that would not flush.

Feds investigating
What constitutes "flushable" might soon get federal oversight. Officials of the wastewater industry and wipe manufacturers say the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently asked for data as part of an investigation into the "flushable" label.

Wipe manufacturers say they are trying to reduce wear and tear on sewer systems and septic tanks. A trade group, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, is forming a technical work group with utility officials to sort through differences over how wipes should be tested for flushability and how quickly they should be required to break apart.

They also suggest making "Do Not Flush" logos — an encircled person and toilet with a slash — more prominent on those that do not pass the tests but are commonly used in bathrooms.

Dave Rousse, president of the fabrics group, said the primary problem lies with people flushing paper towels, baby wipes and other products not advertised — or designed — for toilets.  Rousse said. "We agree we need to label products appropriately and educate the public to flush responsibly — to look for and obey disposal instructions."

Standard in dispute
Utility officials say one of the manufacturers' key tests for wipes marketed as "flushable" does not mimic real-life sewer systems. The "slosh box" test requires that at least one-quarter of a wipe agitated in water be broken into pieces small enough to pass through a small sieve within three hours. However, utility officials say wipes can reach a pump within a couple of minutes. Moreover, many sewer systems move sewage primarily via downhill gravity and are not nearly as hard on the wipes as the agitation test, utility officials say.

Manufacturers disagree, saying their newly streamlined tests ensure that wipes marketed as "flushable" are safe for sewer and septic systems.

Utility officials say they need to resolve the differences soon.

Sales of consumer wipes are predicted to grow by about 6 percent annually for the next five years, he said.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Office of Sustainability
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prototype project on Auburn campus saves water, feeds beautiful rain garden

I’m sure universities across the country are doing similar projects but this article gives me the chance to promote both sustainability and my alma mater.

By Jourdan Cooper and Mike Clardy, Office of Communications & Marketing

Stormwater runoff in urban areas has long had detrimental effects on the environment as buildings and pavement prevent rainwater from filtering into the ground the way it does in a forest or natural field. In an urban setting, the water runs off into storm drains, collecting pollutants on its way downstream. On the Auburn University campus, the water flows into Parkerson Mill Creek, on to Mobile Bay and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.

Pulling together funding from Auburn's Facilities Management and a Parkerson Mill Creek grant, a team of Auburn experts has developed a way to mimic that natural infiltration process. On a shop building adjacent to Dudley Hall, rainwater is collected through a draining system and flows to a 1,000-gallon cistern. The overflow water is diverted to a neighboring rain garden, where it collects and seeps slowly into the ground.

"The rain garden is an interesting pilot project that introduces students to best practices in water conservation and stormwater management," said Dan King, assistant vice president for Facilities Management. "Achieving a sustainable campus environment will likely require many small-scale projects like this."

Charlene LeBleu, associate professor of landscape architecture in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, led a team of students in designing the project and selecting the plants that thrive in a rain garden environment. Building science students built the conveyance system that carries the water from the cistern to the garden.

"We want to work toward disconnecting more downspouts on campus so we can have more water infiltration," said LeBleu. "When water infiltrates, it raises the level of our stream water and you don't get flash floods after a hard rain."
Over the next three years, the team will monitor the chemical analysis of the roof water, particularly the level of nitrates in the water, and measure the infiltration of the water through the rain garden. They also will see which plants grow the best and how effective rain gardens are in clay-type soil.

Water collected in the cisterns can be used for many things other than the garden.

"We don't have to use expensive city water to irrigate plants, so if we've got cisterns, that water can be used to water the landscape," said Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability and co-developer of the Dudley Hall project. "It's free water basically, and in some places it can be used to flush toilets, water plants, really anything except drinking water."

Similar projects have been built at Auburn's Southeastern Raptor Center and Donald E. Davis Arboretum.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Office of Sustainability
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shifting Gears: Hilton Head Embraces Bicycles

By Joanna Nadeau
Audubon International

Summer is the perfect time to get away from it all, and for many vacationers that means getting away from traffic jams and smog, in particular. So, it's no surprise that an oceanfront resort town would make traffic reduction a major priority.
At its summer peak, Hilton Head Island, S.C., draws 50,000 vehicles a day to its normally quiet, green streets. So, the town has been constructing and promoting bike paths as a way to minimize the air pollution and congestion caused by the sharp increase in summertime traffic. With 60 miles of public bike paths and a total of 108 miles of multiple-use trails on the island, most of Hilton Head’s major sights and activity centers are now accessible by bike – whether you prefer beach cruiser, road bike, or hybrid. Biking has caught on in this beach community, and with 20,000 bikes available to rent from local outfitters, both residents and visitors alike are finding it more convenient to get around the island on two wheels rather than four. (read more)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Keep calm: Your iPhone does not use more energy than your refrigerator

With all the talk about the new iPhones, here’s a mythbuster!

The internet was buzzing last week with the release of a report that made some pretty big claims, including the startling statement that an iPhone uses more energy each year than a refrigerator.

But a closer look at the data behind the report reveals that not only are there too many variables in smartphone data use to accurately make a blanket statement like that, but that the figures used in the calculations may be dubious as well.

When the headlines of articles about the report, "The Cloud Begins With Coal," began flying around the web, the claim that the ubiquitous smartphone and the infrastructure behind them were responsible for large amounts of electrical consumption seemed just far-out enough to be true, and a number of news sites just ran with it and shared it with their readers, without fact-checking it or questioning the claims, especially this one:
“Reduced to personal terms, although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year." (emphasis added)
But the story caught the eye of Jonathan Koomey, Ph.D., a Research Fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, who found it to be riddled with errors and false assumptions and rebutted the conclusions from the paper in a piece at Think Progress.

"Mark Mills created headlines in the past week by claiming that all the power needed to bring data to the iPhone, plus all the related energy to manufacture it and the related network equipment, makes it responsible for as much electricity as two refrigerators. A more careful analysis confirms that Mr. Mills has overestimated the electricity associated with an iPhone by at least a factor of 18." – Koomey

Koomey goes into quite a bit of detail on the background of the issue, from the complexity in determining the energy demand of smartphones and their effect on cell or data networks, to the errors he's found in Mill's previous claims of high energy consumption for handheld devices.
[Neither Mills nor Koomey include figures for the direct electrical demand for powering smartphones, or the electrical use for the data centers or networks, as they are considered to be relatively small when compared to the other factors.]

In his piece, Koomey dissects the claims made by Mills, adding a fair amount of necessary background on the issue of calculating the energy use attributed to a smartphone and the demand it puts on the networks they connect to. He then goes on with his own detailed analysis of the issue, following a parallel path to Mills, but with a different conclusion, one which calls into question the media's ability to report sensibly on technical issues.

"The big story here is why the media is paying any attention to this report at all. Mr. Mills proved more than a decade ago that he is not a reliable source on the issue of electricity used by information technology, and his recent work simply confirms this. Unfortunately, it also confirms what seems to be an inability of most media outlets to report sensibly about technical topics, in part because of the pressure to generate attention-getting headlines, regardless of their veracity." – Koomey

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Benefits of Paper Recycling

The environmental benefits of paper recycling are many. Paper recycling:
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that can contribute to climate change by avoiding methane emissions and reducing energy required for a number of paper products.
  • Extends the fiber supply and contributes to carbon sequestration.
  • Saves considerable landfill space.
  • Reduces energy and water consumption.
  • Decreases the need for disposal (i.e., landfill or incineration which decreases the amount of CO2 produced).
On the other hand, when trees are harvested for papermaking, carbon is released, generally in the form of carbon dioxide. When the rate of carbon absorption exceeds the rate of release, carbon is said to be “sequestered.” This carbon sequestration reduces greenhouse gas concentrations by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Recycling one ton of paper would:
  • Save enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
  • Save 7,000 gallons of water.
  • Save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Plant Street Trees to Clean the Air

By Dan Shapley

Planting trees is good for the environment, good for the soul, good for the local economy... and, it turns out, even better for our health than previously thought.
A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that trees and other green plants can reduce two key air pollutants eight times more than previously known.
Nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates are two key components of smog and soot, which can damage lungs, make outdoor exercise unsafe and send asthmatics running to the emergency room at high rates. Both pollutants, however, can be reduced by as much as 40% (nitrogen dioxide) to 60% (fine particulates) if trees, shrubs, ivy and even grass are planted in so-called "urban street canyons." Trees, in fact, may be less effective than smaller greenery, since pollutants may be trapped beneath the tree canopy in some cases.
While city dwellers, particularly renters, often don't have the right to plant trees or other greenery outside their buildings, we can all urge neighborhood associations, co-op boards and local governments to invest in plantings that beautify the streetscape and cleanse the air. Outside of cities, homeowners should take note of local codes before planting street trees, too.
Trees, of course, have many benefits, in urban, suburban or rural environments. Strategically planted, trees can also reduce home energy use by as much as 30%, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, and street trees may boost home values in the neighborhood by more than $10,000, according to a 2010 Forest Service study.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Keep A Pitcher of Water In Your Fridge

Enjoy a surprising number of energy savings with this simple tip.

By Brian Clark Howard

Such a simple action as filling a container of water from the tap and placing it in your refrigerator provides several benefits in terms of energy and water savings, as well as your health.
For one thing, a pitcher full of water will help your refrigerator keep your food cool more efficiently, much like how a cold ice pack works in a cooler. Also, whenever you want a glass of water, you won't have to let the tap run for a few moments to obtain a cool temperature, cutting down on waste. You won't need as much ice, which requires energy to make.
Having cold water at the ready will discourage you from reaching for disposable plastic water bottles, which have a sizable environmental footprint to produce, ship and store.
You'll also be likely to drink more water, keeping hydrated while avoiding sugar-loaded sodas and other alternatives. Plus, when tap water sits for a while (particularly when uncovered), much of the chlorine that is present from the filtration plant evaporates out. This means you're enjoying a tastier drink, and cutting down on the toxins, extremely dilute though they may be, that enter your body. Doesn't that sound refreshing?