Sustainable Design

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File:Krubsack chair.jpg

A chair grown out of a tree (1920)

Recently I was talkin with a friend of mine that studies Industrial Design in one of the most famous Universities in Europe in the field, the UDK in Berlin. And while we were talking he explaned to me a very interesting topic, the so clled sustainable or also environmental design. It is all about being environmentally conscious while building new physical obiects.


The theory of the environmental designers is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely trough skillful, sensitive design” that means that for example only renewable resources are used and that the environmental impact gets minimized.

In the whole life cylcle of a product, the so called life clyle assessment they try to think further then the usual S curve we face traditionally according to the diminishing marginal utility (if you did an undergraduate economics course you know exactly what I mean „wink“-Emoticon. Sustainable design starts with waste prevention in the industry, but also in everyday products.

But environmental design is not only about physical sustainability. It gets even deeper in the work of some very famous Designers that try to create also Empathy and Emotion in a sustainable sense with their products.

When we had this conversation I realized that we really should try to think about our environment in every action we do. And this is even truer when it comes to business, if we sell products, than we should be aware of all the impacts it has. Sometimes very small changes in the production site or in the processing step can have immense impacts.

Thank you Johannes for your inputs, this was a eye-opening experience!
If you want to know more about environmental and sustainable design check out the English Wikipedia article about it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_design Howdy!
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Current Environmental Problems

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Even it is very clear from the image on how we all are getting effected by various environmental problems but let’s have a look together on some of those issues ( I can write long pages on that) but I will keep short and sweet in order for you to understand or at least give an overview on it.

1) Overpopulation: In my opinion, overpopulation is one of the causes for environmental problems. Because of higher demand for food, which is caused by higher population, farmers use dirty pesticides and fertilizers to grow vegetables or some firms give corn or antibiotics to animals in order to make them fat and grow quickly. Using fertilizers harm the earth, eating antibiotics laden food harm directly us.

2) Deforestation: We have come a long way since Industrial revolution started. Population grew, employment grew due to new technology and overall economics growth so people need more house and they needed more land to make houses. Not to mention, to have farms to keep chickens and cows and what not to feed us. This all came up with a higher environmental price which none of us kept in mind. Deforestation of Amazon is a prime example.

3) Water Pollution: It’s being said that the third world war will be fought for water. I don’t know it might be a reality one day but I do kind of agree that clean drinking water will become a rare commodity. One of the options could be desalinization process.

4) Loss of Biodiversity: Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and and loss of bio-diversity. Eco systems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating. Balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the eco-system and human activity threatens the same. Another example is the destruction of coral reefs in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life.

Maybe going back to simple harming, living a simple life with controlled population might turn out to be a solution. We need to wait and see how it goes.

Biogas, the underrated renewable energy source!

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Renewable energy sources are becoming crucial for a sustainable energy supply in the next decades; the only way to reach more independency from fossil fuels is a good mix between all the different possibilities that we have as solar, wind, water, and geothermal power sources.
But one source is quite often forgotten: Biogas from Anaerobic Digestion! There is so much potential in it, and its exploitation on a big scale has only begun.
Lets take a closer look on anaerobic digestion. In a process where microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen gases like methane are produced. Exactly this gases can then be used in a second step to produce electric energy, to heat buildings and even to power cars! Amazing, dont you think so?
But you may ask, what happens to the solid remains called digestates. Well the answer is simple, they are used usually as fertilisers in agriculture.

When it comes down to pros and cons, here are the major aspects:

+ Sustainable and local energy production
+ Raw material supply locally
+ Co2 balance friendly
+ very good storage possibilities (!)
+ good for decentralised energy supply, also in rural areas

– Farmers tend to produce plants for energy production purposes
-high costs to construct a biogas production site
-gases are highly explosive and therefore dangerous

For some further insight I consider you to google the topic, you can find some super interesting articles on biogas. This post was just meant to make you aware of what anaerobic digestion is and how we can use it for energy production!

Keep tuned for more posts on this argument (it is definitely one of my favourite ones 😉

Myths vs. Facts on Global Warming

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This article might upset few people or maybe we might learn a thing or too. Before I go on about the Myths or facts bout global warming, I would like to make my stand clear. According to me Global Warming is indeed a real thing happening caused by us. More population, more consumption, more production and more pollution in turn. However, I can’t ignore some of the pointers I read on the internet. Even though some of them are explained by a simple logic ( not saying that logic holds any truth) or some of the facts are backed up by some scientific research ( I have not read those scientific papers either) but here I would like to mention few and rest you can find on the link given below.

Myth 1: Earth’s climate was changing even before industrialization, so humans can’t be responsible for today’s global warming.

Science: Climate changes in the past suggest that our climate reacts to energy input and output, such that if the planet accumulates more heat than it gives off global temperatures will rise. It’s the driver of this heat imbalance that differs.

Currently, CO2 is imposing an energy imbalance due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Past climate change actually provides evidence for our climate’s sensitivity to CO2.

Myth 2 : Global warming has stopped and the Earth has begun to cool.

Science: The last decade, 2000-2009, was the hottest on record, according to Skeptical Science. Big blizzards and abnormally chilly weather often raise the question: How can global warming be occurring when it’s snowing outside? Global warming is compatible with chilled weather. “For climate change, it is the long-term trends that are important; measured over decades or more, and those long term trends show that the globe is still, unfortunately, warming,” according to Skeptical Science.

Myth 3: Rick Santorum, GOP presidential nominee, summed up this argument in the news when he said: “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” he told the Associated Press.

Science: While it is true that plants photosynthesize, and therefore take up carbon dioxide as a way of forming energy with the help of the sun and water, this gas is both a direct pollutant (think acidification of oceans) and more importantly is linked to the greenhouse effect. When heat energy gets released from Earth’s surface, some of that radiation is trapped by greenhouse gases like CO2; the effect is what makes our planet comfy temperature-wise, but too much and you get global warming.

Myth 4: Ice covering much of Antarctica is expanding, contrary to the belief that the ice cap is melting due to global warming.

Science: The argument that ice is expanding on Antarctica omit the fact that there’s a difference between land ice and sea ice, climate scientists say. “If you are talking about the Antarctic ice sheet, we expect some gain in accumulation in the interior due to warmer, more moisture-laden air, but increased calving/ice loss at the periphery, primarily due to warming southern oceans,” climate scientist Michael Mann, of Pennsylvania State University, told LiveScience. The net change in ice mass is the difference between this accumulation and peripheral loss. “Models traditionally have projected that this difference doesn’t become negative (i.e. net loss of Antarctic ice sheet mass) for several decades,” Mann said, adding that detailed gravimetric measurements, which looks at changes in Earth’s gravity over spots to estimate, among other things, ice mass. These measurements, Mann said, suggest the Antarctic ice sheet is already losing mass and contributing to sea level rise.

Now for sea ice, this type of ice is influenced by year-to-year changes in wind directions and changes in ocean currents. For sea ice, it’s tricky to identify a clear trend, Mann said.

Source: Energy, OSS foundation, Live Science

Some interesting facts, pros and cons of Solar Energy

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In my previous article I wrote about Wind Energy. Today I would like to cite some facts about Solar Energy. Recently I read an article where a Swedish firm seeks to revolutionize solar energy production by creating a new solar electricity generation system that developers claim is the most efficient in the world. It is currently being tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert. The Stirling engine was developed by Reverend Robert Stirling in Edinburgh in 1816 as an alternative to the steam engine. It uses alternate heating and cooling of an enclosed gas to drive pistons, which turn a flywheel. Because of the material limitations at the time, the advanced stirling engine that Ripasso uses was not commercially developed until 1988, when Swedish defence contractor Kokums started making them for submarines.

Reading this article, I became more curious about Solar energy which lead me to find some facts, pros or cons about it. Let’s have a quick look about it.

1) Sustainable : 73,000 terawatts of solar energy shine down on the Earth’s surface every day, which is 10,000 times the daily global energy use. So imagine so much energy we can tap everyday.
2) Reduced Electricity cost : Well, no need to discuss a lot about it. When the batteries are fully charged, our electricity bill will be less.
3) No Noise: Solar panels don’t create any noise like Wind turbines do.

Cons:
1) Initial investment: Installing solar panels can be quite expensive initially. Even though they don’t need high maintenance, changing the batteries could also add to the cost. A good Solar panel can last upto 2- to 25 years
2) No Sun, no energy : Solar panels can be ‘only’ useful if sunlight is available for most days during the year. If you live in a area where it rains or snows a lot. It might not be a good idea to install it

3) Not completely clean energy : While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution ( even though very little)

In the end installing Solar Panels still still have higher advantage.

How to finance SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

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With all the Grexit and Iranian atom discussions you may missed some important news when it comes to sustainable development.

This days the third international conference on financing for development is happening in Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia. The people that meet there are ministers for foreign affairs and finances from all over the world, and they discuss on how to spend more than 172.000 billion dollars over the next 15 years. The main goal for them is to fulfill the so called new sustainable development goals SDGS that will replace the old millennium development goals MDGS that have been criticised by a lot of experts working in the field and will expire this year.

The goals that have to be reached in the SDGS are somewhat the same as the ones of the previous years: the reduction of poverty and hunger, the incentivation of a sustainable economic growth, to preserve the environment, and to protect the human rights and the empowerment of woman rights. 

This agenda post 2015 tries to reduce all kinds of inequality. This is also true for all kinds of economic inequality in terms of trade, no country should be left behind alone while facing all the challenges that await in the next 15 years. Therefore the 130 countries that are represented at the conference have to act now!

Here is the link to the live stream of the conference. Right now the main committee is convened. Check it out!

LIVE STREAM

(image: UN Headquarter Addis Abeba)

Wind Power Usage – What’s not to like!

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Recently I read an article where Denmark generated 140% of it’s electricity demand. If you must know, Denmark usually produced almost 40% of it’s electricity demand. But this time not only it managed to produce more but also managed to export it to the countries like Germany, Sweden & Norway. That got me wanting to know more how Wind Power works and which countries are really efficient in using it wisely.

Of course, we all have studied about solar or wind power during our school days but let’s take a quick review of it’s pros and cons of Wind power.

Pros:
1) Renewable energy: Well, as windy as it could be your city, the better it is. As you could see from the image too that the more the turbine turns and it generates more electricity for us to use.

2) Clean energy: Well, we are not burning any fossil fuels here so it’s a top pro for me to consider wind power any day.

Cons:

1) Wind reliability: It could only work if your city or surrounding area is windy enough to produce this clean energy.
2) Expensive: Even though you can reap benefits over a long long time but the initial investment is indeed on the higher side, not to mention you need bigger farms to install it.

However, that being said Wind Power is still the cheapest energy considering Onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account.

The report says that for every megawatt hour (MW/h) of electricity generated, onshore wind costs roughly €105 (£83) per MW/h, compared to gas and coal which can cost up to around €164 and €233 per MW/h, respectively.

Another interesting fact to see is the USA,China and India are among top wind energy producers but highest polluters too.