Recycling has been going on for centuries even though many people perceive that the action began in the latter half of the 20th century. Victorian, financially stable 19th century women recycled clothing from the standpoint that they sent valuable dresses back to the designer to update the clothing item when styles changed. The idea of recycling just changed at the end of the 20th century to manage the vast amount of garbage humans were producing. Istanbul, Turkey recently implemented vending machines in subway station to help with recycling. They are especially valuable because those who do not have the means to buy a subway ticket can recycle bottles in exchange for a trip. Plastic bottles and aluminum cans are accepted, though aluminum has a higher yield. The city plans to have more than 100 machines throughout subway stations to both maintain environmental health and to inform people about the urgency of recycling.
Author Archives: Liesl Hennig
Turn of the lights
Plastic is integrated thoroughly in Union College’s dining services. Plasticware, straws, and lids for paper coffee cups are offered in all dining halls and Wold Starbucks and it’s improbable to think that all of these different plastics are recycled. There is plasticware in my off-campus house which never gets recycled when used and the coffee cups from union dining services are countlessly tossed into the regular trash instead of recycling. Moreover, plastic is terribly unhealthy considering the chemicals necessary to produce such objects. I propose that all plasticware is banned on Union’s campus and I’m including the straws and the lids because while they are small in size, they are hugely detrimental to the environment given their frequent usage. Upper dining hall has a washing station for silverware, why not connect that station to a potential one in Dutch? I am rarely at skellar, so I’m not positive on the utensils that are offered, but plasticware should be outlawed there as well as West. Getting rid of plastic utensils and other miscellaneous plastic objects should be a Union priority if the school is serious about environmental sustainability.
As of right now, the United States is 4th in the running for the largest country to utilize photovaltaics, an alternative option from using fossil fuels for energy. Germany, Japan and Spain are ahead of us in terms of energy efficiency and its imperative that our nation strives to meet the same level of sustainability that these other countries have achieved.
Solar Photovaltaics are solar cells that directly convert sunlight into usable electricity. Photo means light and valt is associated with energy. There are crystalline silicon cells, thin film, PV, and concentrated PV which are all Photovaltaics but just have a These materials that the cells are made from are called semiconductors which then convert the energy into a circuit to produce power. When the sunlight hits these cells, the electrons break away from their atomic bond and release energy. The fabulous part about photovaltaics is that the energy produced can be used to power anything from a large house or commercial building to a small electronic device. Its versatility reassures its sustainability. The effect that the solar cells have was first observed by Alexandre Edmund Becquerel in 1839 and which was later confirmed by Bell Labs in the US during 1954. By 1958, solar cells started to be used by commercial businesses and have declined in price over the last 12 years. The most efficient cells unfortunately are the priciest. However, they are much more effective for converting sunlight into usable energy while thin filmed cells are less expensive but not as useful because they sometimes the light is too weak to be absorbed.
Elephant Poaching Decreases African Species
Elephant poaching started at the end of the 20th century and has permanently damaged the overall population of African elephants across the continent’s 18 countries. NPR’s article that was published in the late summer of 2016 recounts the shockingly high decline in elephant population between 2007 and 2014 which all account the illegal poaching for ivory. Many African’s get involved in the poaching industry because it is easy money and not terribly difficult to accomplish. Ivory is then sold to illegal traffickers which are then sold on the Chinese market. The entire industry is murderous and heartless because people ruthlessly kill elephants just for their ivory tusks.
The African elephant population declined 140,000 animals between 2007 and 2014 which took about $7 million dollars to conclude. The great Elephant Census, founded by Paul Allen, searched elephants for three years and which collaborated with Elephants without Borders and other government/non governmental organizations. They were able to record the elephant numbers by meticulously flying a small plane and writing down elephants they saw, making sure not to count those that had already been recorded. Only 352,271 elephants existed after the 7 year period, meaning that in 2007 (adding the 140,000) there were 496,271 elephants. When calculated, this is a 25% decrease in the elephant numbers and which continue to decrease today.
This graph from WWF shows a glimpse of the horrid poaching ramifications. If you’re more interested in this subject there is an awesome and captivating documentary on netflix directed by Leonardo Dicaprio called The Ivory Game on the entire ivory poaching market and the ways in which African organizations strive to capture those involved.
Poverty in America
After looking over the options that Professor Wang gave us for this blog, I was drawn to the topic of poverty. Many people will go to lengths to talk about poverty around the world, specifically Africa when it’s imperative that we look at our own country’s homeless and struggling Americans. Poverty USA is a website that informs its readers about the percentage of people in the United States who live in poverty. According to this website, in 2016 27.6% of Native Americans lived in poverty. Other ethnicity percentages of those who lived in poverty are as followed: 26.2% Black, 23.4% Hispanic, 12.4% White, 12.3% Asian. In order to make my chart, I rounded the number to the nearest digit so that it was easy to imagine how many people were homeless out of 100 people. We speak a lot in class about ways in which we can interpret numbers, and it is difficult to imagine a percentage of Americas population when there are millions of people who reside in the country. Below is my pie chart.
Recycling does not have an immediate and tangible outcome. Throwing a plastic bottle or plastic cutlery into the recycle does not reward one or a group instantly, so the lazy choice that many people make is to dispose trash wrongly. This though has a long and lasting detrimental effect on the world, when recycling waste properly will contribute to the slow, yet uprising state of our Earth yielding its longer existence.
In 2017, BBC news came out with an article titled “Seven charts that explain the plastic pollution problem” which publishes 7 different charts having to do with the increasingly horrendous amount of plastic trash in the world. Most of this trash exists now in our oceans. Two of these charts I have posted here.
According to this BBC article, 6.3 billions tonnes of plastic waste existed in 2015 while only 9% of it was recycled. About 80% ended up in landfills and 12% incinerated. In 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were sold.
The first “Ocean plastic” chart illustrates which countries in the world are most responsible for plastic waste being Asian nationals amounting for 13 of the 20 nations most responsible. The US is within that group of 20 as well. About 10 million tonnes of plastic is estimated to exist in the ocean which kills aquatic life. This chart also shows the suction from where plastic waste is dragged into the water known as gyres which exist in 5 different place shown above.
This chart publicizes the amount of time specific waste takes to degrade. A styrofoam cup takes 50 years which is well within young adults lifetime today. Yet, every other garbage item will take between 200-600 years to biodegrade which will then release toxins into the environment. Recycle recycle recycle!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Alarmingly High Pollution Rate From Plastic Water Bottles
Reusable water bottles are a brilliant idea that are at everyone’s disposal but are an amenity that most people have not yet utilized or don’t utilize enough. Plastic water bottles are still bought and consumed consistently by everyone, especially here at Union College. The book store is easily accessible for drinks, bottled water I imagine being one of the most frequent purchases considering the amount of times that I have seen the massive Saratoga water bottles busting out of student’s backpacks. While its easy and quick to buy bottled water, it’s truly an unnecessary purchase and frankly a waste of money.
According to a Huffington Post article about the detrimental affects of plastic water bottles, 1500 water bottles are consumed per second tallying up to 50 billion water bottles every year world wide. From those 50 billion, the United States consumes 30 meaning that we are largely at fault for most of the plastic pollutants that end up floating around in large bodies of water (every square mile of ocean has more than 46,000 pieces of plastic), littered bottles sitting on the side of the road and for the landfills dumped with plastic that should have been recycled. All plastic bottles are made of polyethylene and terephthalate which do not biodegrade but rather photodegrade meaning they disintegrate in small little fragments over the course of a very long time. It takes centuries for water bottles to get to those tiny fragments and when they do they release toxins. What’s more is that while recycling is an encouraged option, 80% of plastic bottles go into landfills meaning that rather than making use of the plastic by recycling it, the bottles sit for centuries in a hole polluting the environment. Our health is at risk too from drinking out of the plastic which in fact can cause reproductive issues and can lead to cancer considering that after only 10 weeks of shelf life, the chemicals from the bottles have leaked into the water. It is imperative to reuse water bottles, recycle and drink from the tap to preserve our future earth.
Check out the cleanliness of your tap water in your area on this website to assure yourself that it is clean!
Transportation’s Detrimental Impact On Our Earth
In today’s modern era, we are so fortunate to have the luxury of different forms of transportation, specifically automobiles. Cars make every day travel so efficient and easy that we rarely have to think about getting from place to place regardless of whether or not we own a car considering ubers, taxis, and buses. Even though vehicles enable an easier life, their immense carbon dioxide emissions strain the earth and continues to contribute to global warming.
According to the the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s article titled Greenhouse Gas Emissions, for every 1 mile that an average passenger vehicle drives, 404 grams of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere which is .1 short of a pound. 1 gallon of gasoline contains 8,887 grams of CO2 which is roughly 19 pounds and a gallon of diesel contains 10,180 grams or 22 pounds carbon dioxide. Just as we discussed in class, a number can have much more meaning depending on its relevance to another number. A typical passenger car holds 16 gallons of gas which multiplied by the amount of carbon dioxide in 1 gallon is for one car alone 142,192 grams. Similarly, the amount of CO2 that a car emits after driving one mile is not significant alone until the entire distance that one drives is considered. For example, it is 142 miles from my home to Union College one way driving which multiplied by the amount of carbon dioxide that a car emits per mile equals 57, 368 grams or 126 pounds. Four of my school friends are from the same area that I am from, though only one of them carpools leaving three cars plus my own to drive the same distance up to Union one way for a grand total of 229,472 grams of carbon dioxide or 207 pounds.
While transportation is incredibly useful, it should not be abused considering that more often than not the same people aspire to travel to the same place. Carpooling is a sustainable option to preserve our earth and prevent more CO2 emissions from destroying our future generations life and health. While it may seem inconvenient to walk to the store a mile down the street, the amount of countless times that one chooses to drive back and fourth from home to the market will only further negatively and needlessly impact our earth from CO2 emission.
Sustainability’s influence in my life
Until recently, I never really thought about the concept of sustainability. While some people have careers that revolve around ecological matters, others are busy students or stressed adults/parents working a 9-5 hour office job and probably rarely think about sustainability. It wasn’t until I recently tossed my plastic bottle into the regular trash can that my mother commented “well, it is your generation’s future.” That comment impacted me and resonated with me because while it is easy to quickly flash forward to what ones ideal future looks like, that picture perfect life probably doesn’t include the logistics and effort it takes to get there. How can either of us even fathom a future living in a world with our children and our children’s children if considerable collective effort isn’t met to upkeep a sustainable earth? Everything that my generation chooses to do now in terms of strengthening or weakening the economic and ecological aspects of life will impact how we all live life later on. After that comment that my mom made, I really make an effort now to complete those small but meaningful tasks that my parents have always nagged me about like turning off the lights when I’m not in the room, unplugging the outlets when I don’t need to use them, recycle the recyclables and filling up my reusable bottles. It is our world and we decide if its future is going to flourish or decline into inevitable destruction.