Tag Archives: sustainability

Anaerobic Digesters Unsustainable for Biomethane Production, UK

“Their supporters claim they are a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way of producing gas to heat homes while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Anaerobic Digester and Bioresources Association (ADBA), the industry’s lobby group, they will lead to ‘stable energy prices, fewer carbon dioxide emissions, and a financial saving for homes and businesses across the country’.

But the reality is this supposedly green energy source comes at a heavy cost to taxpayers and to the environment it is supposed to protect. An investigation by this newspaper has revealed that: …” click here for news article

A Water System That is Unsustainable Will Deteriorate, Fail

A combination of poor economic policy and too much pork-barrel funding of projects results in unsustainable infrastructure.

“Deep inside a 70-year-old water-treatment plant, drinking water for Iowa’s capital city is cleansed of harmful nitrates that come from the state’s famously rich farmland.” click here

Metrics and Approaches to Sustainable Water Services

I would certainly agree with the authors of this paper that the existing metrics that have been applied to sustainability assessments of water services are not very good. In some cases the metrics are unproven. But I would go further to say that considering several flawed metrics together does not necessarily result in a better decision compared to using only one metric. In fact, several metrics could lead one even further astray, wandering in the dark with a faulty flashlight. Applying common sense and traditional metrics will get us further faster.

Xue X, Schoen ME, Ma XC, Hawkins TR, Ashbolt NJ, Cashdollar J, Garland J. Critical insights for a sustainability framework to address integrated community water services: Technical metrics and approaches. Water Research. 2015 Mar 25;77:155-169. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.03.017.

Planning for sustainable community water systems requires a comprehensive understanding and assessment of the integrated source-drinking-wastewater systems over their life-cycles. Although traditional life cycle assessment and similar tools (e.g. footprints and emergy) have been applied to elements of these water services (i.e. water resources, drinking water, stormwater or wastewater treatment alone), we argue for the importance of developing and combining the system-based tools and metrics in order to holistically evaluate the complete water service system based on the concept of integrated resource management. We analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of key system-based tools and metrics, and discuss future directions to identify more sustainable municipal water services. Such efforts may include the need for novel metrics that address system adaptability to future changes and infrastructure robustness. Caution is also necessary when coupling fundamentally different tools so to avoid misunderstanding and consequently misleading decision-making.

Paper is here (fee).

Green Roofs, Water Quality, and Water Reuse

Beecham S, Razzaghmanesh M. Water quality and quantity investigation of green roofs in a dry climate. Water Research. 2014 Dec 17;70C:370-384. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.12.015. 

Low-energy pollutant removal strategies are now being sought for water sensitive urban design. This paper describes investigations into the water quality and quantity of sixteen, low-maintenance and unfertilized intensive and extensive green roof beds. The factors of Slope (1° and 25°), Depth (100 mm and 300 mm), Growing media (type A, type B and type C) and Species (P1, P2 and P3) were randomized according to a split-split plot design. This consisted of twelve vegetated green roof beds and four non-vegetated beds as controls. Stormwater runoff was collected from drainage points that were installed in each area. Samples of run-off were collected for five rainfall events and analysed for water retention capacity and the water quality parameters of NO2, NO3, NH4, PO4, pH, EC, TDS, Turbidity, Na, Ca, Mg and K. The results indicated significant differences in terms of stormwater water quality and quantity between the outflows of vegetated and non-vegetated systems. The water retention was between 51% and 96% and this range was attributed to the green roof configurations in the experiment. Comparing the quality of rainfall as inflow, and the quality of runoff from the systems showed that green roofs generally acted as a source of pollutants in this study. In the vegetated beds, the intensive green roofs performed better than the extensive beds with regard to outflow quality while in the non-vegetated beds, the extensive beds performed better than intensive systems. This highlights the importance of vegetation in improving water retention capacity as well as the role of vegetation in enhancing pollutant removal in green roof systems. In addition growing media with less organic matter had better water quality performance. Comparison of these results with national and international standards for water reuse confirmed that the green roof outflow was suitable for non-potable uses such as landscape irrigation and toilet flushing.

Click here for full paper (Open Access).

UN reports $513 billion of commitments for sustainability….

Pledges worth $513 billion from governments and companies for projects aimed at reducing the strain on the planet’s resources.  692 individual commitments from governments are for projects to cut fossil fuel use, boost renewable energy, conserve water and alleviate poverty….click here for more….

This is an example of the “band wagon” effect…..since the term “sustainability” is clearly not defined, and means differing things to different people……Who are they “pledging” to?…..and where does the money go? Follow the money…..

University bans on bottled water restrict student freedom of choice?

Looks like bottled water manufacturer’s are now complaining of choice restrictions on university campuses…….click here……the argument, of course, is that banning of plastic bottled water is necessary to save the earth in the name of sustainability…..hardly.  When tap water is contaminated anywhere in the world (including the US), guess what people drink?….plastic bottled water…..gee, maybe it is not so bad afterall….

“Carbon Footprint” an inadequate measure of “sustainability”

This paper confirms what many of us have argued for a long time…that the idea of a “carbon footprint” is meaningless when it comes to “sustainability.” There is no justification for promoting or forcing changes to a “carbon” free society….such an idea is irrational, and should be abandoned. In addition, the term “sustainability” is poorly defined. What is it about the environment that man, who is part of the environment, is to sustain?….These terms sound good, but are not useful in policy discourse without a clear definition…..as ambiguous as “climate change” and “evolution.” “Sustainability” and “carbon footprint” are regulatory constructs with no solid scientific foundation….being used to push an ideology. 

Alexis Laurent, Stig I. Olsen, and Michael Z. Hauschild. Limitations of Carbon Footprint as Indicator of Environmental Sustainability. Environmental Science and Technology. DOI: 10.1021/es204163f

Greenhouse gas accountings, commonly referred to with the popular term carbon footprints (CFP), are a widely used metric of climate change impacts and the main focus of many sustainability policies among companies and authorities. However, environmental sustainability concerns not just climate change but also other environmental problems, like chemical pollution or depletion of natural resources, and the focus on CFP brings the risk of problem shifting when reductions in CFP are obtained at the expense of increase in other environmental impacts. But how real is this risk? Here, we model and analyze the life cycle impacts from about 4000 different products, technologies, and services taken from several sectors, including energy generation, transportation, material production, infrastructure, and waste management. By investigating the correlations between the CFP and 13 other impact scores, we show that some environmental impacts, notably those related to emissions of toxic substances, often do not covary with climate change impacts. In such situations, carbon footprint is a poor representative of the environmental burden of products, and environmental management focused exclusively on CFP runs the risk of inadvertently shifting the problem to other environmental impacts when products are optimized to become more “green”. These findings call for the use of more broadly encompassing tools to assess and manage environmental sustainability.

Click here for the paper (fee).