How to Achieve Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Not all energy standards in all countries around the world are the same as the U.S. so it is important to note the different perspectives there are with regard to access to renewable energy. Many developed countries have renewable energy goals in place such as Germany and China but their goals are vastly different than the goals of developing countries such as countries in Africa, whose goals include access to any sort of energy, let alone renewable.  For example, as explained in the UN Environmental Guide for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Laws, Ghana’s electricity supply capacity could not keep up with Ghana’s strong economic growth and increased electricity demand in the 1980s and 1990s. Ghana suffered blackouts which negatively affected the country’s economy so since then Ghana implemented the first standards and labelling to help solve the crisis in 2000 and their goal is to use energy more efficiently in a limited sense and renewable energy is not mentioned in the standards.  But in China’s case, the country has already surpassed its 2020 solar panel target and is accounting for over 40 percent of the total global clean energy mix by 2022, according to author Rob Smith’s 2018 World Economic Forum study. The global perspective of Goal 7 is different based on different countries’ economic status and geographic location but mostly all countries are conscious and aware of the need to become more energy efficient and to reduce energy consumption overall.

As studied in Project 2: Population Growth, Ecological Footprints and Biocapacity, there is a difference between attempting to decrease energy consumption in a country per capita and decreasing the total energy consumption.  The per capita energy consumption is the total energy consumption divided by the population. Globally, the population is increasing at a faster rate than the total energy consumption of the world so there is a decline in the per capita energy consumption.  This will result in an overshoot which is when humanity’s demand for energy exceeds the supply of energy sources. However through global initiatives the global community is trying to reverse this overshoot. Some of the global energy initiatives include: the International Energy Agency, which includes 29 countries whose motto is “Secure, Sustainable, Together”; the UN; the Global Energy Initiative whose motto is “Towards a Low-Carbon Century”; and many more.  In the New York State alone there is a goal to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 so there is an obvious movement to become more energy efficient and to encourage renewable energy usage to achieve Goal 7 and with the support of all governments, businesses, civil society and the general public the Goal 7 will be achieved.

My Sustainability Action (in 5 seconds!!!!)

The use of a $20 reusable water bottle can save the average American $6,180 after five years of use, which is the bare minimum life expectancy of a reusable water bottle. If one person switches to a reusable water bottle, 217 plastic water bottles will be saved from going to a landfill that year, not only do they save you a lot of money and help the environment, but they are also a healthier option as opposed to plastic water bottles. Reusable water bottles are lead and BPA free, which is beneficial to you and your families’ well-being. By switching to a reusable water bottle, Americans can save themselves thousands of dollars, help the environment by lowering the amount of plastic waste in the United States, and keep their families safer.

Presidential Green Grant Proposal

Lately the topic of excess garbage, including food waste, has been a hot topic in the news because the destructive effects of excess waste are starting to affect health and safety of people.  Excess waste has always been affecting our health and safety but until now the effects have not been so obvious.  Excess waste causes air pollution, respiratory diseases, contamination of surface and ground waters and increased bacteria, insects and vermin urban centers.  To help alleviate some of the stress on our environment caused by excess waste, I propose that each first year student receives a custom Union Tupperware container.  This way the students can use the containers in Reamer for various food options; Rathskeller takeout; and in the dining halls so as to reduce the amount of to-go cups used as makeshift takeout containers.  A typical square generic “Tupperware” container costs ~$1.00 so for an incoming class of ~700 students this would call for a grant of ~$750 for custom Tupperware containers.  The waste we would be avoiding if this grant were to be granted would far out-cost the cost of the containers.  Perhaps dining services could have some kind of program or contest once a term that incorporates the containers and when they hold their “pop-up” events, students should only be served if they have their reusable containers.  Perhaps this would also encourage students to purchase more reusable containers and use less one-use containers!

Food Scraps as Fuel

In 1879 Sir Charles Chamberland invented the autoclave which was later used to develop a waste autoclave which was later used to develop today’s organic waste converter.  Here’s how an organic waste generator works: 1) Organic waste (food scraps, mulch, firewood, biosolids, etc.) is superheated then 2) moisture is released from the heating of these materials which acts like steam and the 3) steam is used for power generation.

Organic waste converter technology is a sustainable alternative to traditional methods of waste disposal such as incineration and landfill dumping which have destructive effects on our environment.  Not only do organic waste converters reduce our carbon footprint and avoid polluting emissions, but they also result in a usable end product known as biofuel, soil compost, or building material (if mixture contains wood/garden scraps).  Organic waste converters vary in size; they are used in households to fuel a car or they are used in large corporations such as hospitals, which generate huge amounts of food scraps and biosolids, who then use the steam to generate electricity for the facility.  There is a large push in the U.S. to construct on-site organic waste converters in supermarkets.  Supermarkets throughout Europe have already implemented this technology and results have shown that there are massive decreases in electricity costs, waste disposal costs and carbon dioxide emissions.  Green technology is the ability of modern converters to transfer mechanical energy and friction force on the waste mass into heat energy that is used in the pasteurization and sterilization processes.  In the future we should look forward to seeing more green technology integrated into our daily life.

Green gentrification in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs located in New York City and it is recognized as a global city, a green city, and a gentrifying city.  It is a global city because there are 2.5 million residents and one-third of its residents were born outside of the U.S.  Brooklyn has becoming self-consciously “green” in the twenty first century with a number of recent high-profile LEED certified buildings, new bike routes, and ambitious greenways are highlighted, as well as the high ratings local elected officials receive from environmental advocacy groups.  Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis, authors of “Green Gentrification: Urban Sustainability and the Struggle for Environmental Justice”, argue that this increased “greening” occurring in Brooklyn is leading to a jump in the city’s gentrification rate.  Much of the city’s growth is due to internal migration meaning Americans are flocking to Brooklyn and foreign immigrants are being forced out of the city they’ve lived in for decades.  “Green gentrification” is defined as the appropriation of the economic values of an environmental resource by one class from another (Gould & Lewis, 25).  This means that as environmental resources in Brooklyn become more available as amenities, that area of Brooklyn becomes more attractive to the wealthy, white in-migrants of the U.S.

I took data provided in Gould & Lewis’s book that was focused on Brooklyn as a whole, as opposed to a single neighborhood, and graphed the increase of the white population compared to the decrease of the black population from 1990 to 2014.

As the graph shows, the green bar represents the black percentage in Brooklyn which has been gradually decreasing as the blue bar, which represents the white percentage in Brooklyn, has stayed steadily higher from 1990 to 2014.  Gould and Lewis argue that this is a result of green gentrification and environmental injustice in Brooklyn because wealthier, white residents are attracted to the quality of environmental amenities and push out low-income, black residents in the process.


Unilever’s Sustainability Report

The huge corporation, Unilever, whose company mission statement states, “We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal car with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life” started a sustainability campaign in 2010 due to increased distaste from the public with regard to Unilever products.  Every year the company conducts a “Sustainable Living Plan” progress report and in the first year of the campaign the company’s greenhouse gas intensity fell 16% from 118.31 to 99.97 kg per metric ton of production, as seen in the pie chart.  According to this chart which was included in the progress report the highest amount of greenhouse gas emission comes from customer use of soaps, shampoos and shower gels.  As of 2018 the company has set a target to double its business while halving the environmental footprint of its products across the value chain, and sourcing 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably, all by 2020.  This goal was set in 2010 so the 2020 goal seemed lightyears away but with 2020 right around the corner, data analysts have criticized Unilever for not providing the whole picture with regard to their sustainability progress.  Specifically in the 2011-2012 progress report there was no data to back up this chart, there was only the chart.  On the Unilever website, the company claims that that it is on-plan for every individual sustainable sourcing target thus far.  I suppose we’ll find out in two years.

How much water is in a glass of wine?

It takes 872 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of wine. Scaled down, it takes about 34 gallons of water for a 5 fluid ounces of wine, according to Huffington Post. But how is this even possible? How come it takes so much water to make wine? What is drought-stricken California doing to conserve water while remaining one of the largest winemaking regions in the world? The water consumption required to cultivate wine includes water used on the vines, water used in the winery and rainwater (crops consume the rainwater). The grapes for the wine require constant irrigation especially in drought-stricken areas such as California and parts of the Mediterranean region. It is important to note that wine grapes require about one-third of the amount of water used to grow almonds, so I guess we should all drink less almond milk and more wine? In the winery, the water use is mostly focused on sanitation. The barrels, tanks, presses and crushers are cleaned and disinfected after every. single. use. Even if the the equipment will be used to make the same type of wine. Wineries are, however, working to use less water. Many wineries, especially in France where crop irrigation is legally regimented, have converted to drip irrigation and today’s advanced technology allows for hoses that can sense when to turn off. Many wineries have adopted onsite water treatment systems so all that water used to clean the equipment can be recycled at the winery. I think it’s safe to say that wine will continue to be consumed all around the world but sustainable technologies and practices must be adopted in order to drink wine guilt free.

Drip Irrigation on a Spanish vineyard. Photo found on:

Connecting Cars and Carbon Dioxide

According to a 2016 study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounts for 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.  The transportation economic sector includes the movement of people and goods by cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other vehicles, however, the largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions include passenger cars and light-duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans.  These sources account for over half of the emissions from the transportation sector. The remaining greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector come from other modes of transportation, including freight trucks, commercial aircraft, ships, boats, and trains, as well as pipelines and lubricants.  The majority of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the combustion of petroleum-based products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines.

Based on 2014 data from an EPA study, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. This total represents a 7 percent increase since 1990 but a 7 percent decrease since 2005.  So how can we keep this number decreasing as it has been since 2005?  By implementing regulations and restrictions for fossil fuel consumption and combustion, but also by introducing alternative methods of transportation and best practice methods for transportation.  An example of a regulation is the EPA’s light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas rules, which are projected to save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump by 2025, and eliminate 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution. An example of a best practice method would be to reduce the travel demand by employing urban planning to reduce the number of miles that people drive each day and reducing the need for driving through travel efficiency measures such as commuter, biking, and pedestrian programs such as the EPA’s Smart Growth Program. As a country the U.S. can learn from practices other countries have implemented such as Germany, who is testing out a trial run of offering free public transportation in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The EPA on behalf of the U.S. is trying, but are we trying hard enough?

Blog #1

As an Environmental Policy major and environmentalist I am extremely passionate about how the preserve the benefits that our natural world provides for us.  So far what that has meant to me is educating myself and others in the best way I know: talking.  Communication across all different interest groups and demographics is an integral and unavoidable step in the fight against climate change but it also tends to be one of the largest barriers that exists in our world today.  Not only in cultural and economic instances but also in political and academic instances, communication about climate change needs to be more inclusive and cohesive.  My personal motivation for taking this class is to learn skills and techniques to make me a more well-rounded environmentalist so I have the ability to connect people through knowledge.

New Zealand Mini-Term Winter 2017