Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bill Gates on Zero Carbon Energy

Bill Gates presents an interesting TED talk about the need to develop alternative energy sources to develop Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.  The thing that comes over for me is the need to set a realistic and fixed price for carbon emissions to stimulate the type of research that we need right now.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Fundamentals of Sustainable Development by Niko Roorda

There is an ever increasingly large number  of books on the market dealing with sustainable development, so any new book has to offer something new.  Fundamentals of Sustainable Development By Niko Roorda published under the  Earthscan imprint by Routledge (2012) offers just that in a very innovative way.  It goes against the trend of specialization within the area of sustainable development, which often creates inaccessible and  to my mind overly confusingly complex views, but gives a fresh approach to understanding the problems and to some extent the solutions to the crisis facing us today. Roorda describes the crisis in the develop world as the triple crunch  (i.e. climate change, economic crisis and oil depletion), which illustrates his no nonsense approach.

The book is broken down into two parts. Part I is called SWOT analysis (i.e. strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) which explores the global situation. This is made up of four chapters: 1. Sustainable development: an introduction; 2.  Flaws in the fabric: people and nature; 3. Flaws in the fabric: people and society,; and 4. Sources of vigour, this later chapter dealing with global strengths.  Part II is Solution Strategies and  explores some of the ways in which sustainability can be achieved through a further four chapters : 5. Here and there; 6. Now and later; 7. Climate and energy; and 8. Sustainable business practices.  Based on case studies and littered with other examples and colour images  this is a fascinating book  and is as complete a text as I think could have been achieved.  It has numerous student questions which, with the support of an equally innovative and exciting website (www.routledge.com/cw/roorda), makes this text very interactive.

The book really is interdisciplinary, and while challenging in places is truly accessible to readers of all backgrounds.   The presentation of the book is excellent and the format makes this a very attractive paperback, and at 350 pages, it is not too big for students (and lecturers) to carry around. This is a colourful and intriguing textbook which I highly recommend.  It is the sort of book you wish you had written yourself, but Niko Roorda has done just that and in the process added a remarkable edition to the sustainability library.

Nick Gray

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucy Siegle - Ethical Fashion

Lucy Siegle is the author of a very interesting and challenging book ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World.’
I think that the relationship between fashion, global economy (especially in the poorer areas of the world) and greenhouse gas emissions is a fascinating one.  It isn’t just about sourcing better and more sustainable fibres, it is the way we actually use and perceive  fashion in our everyday lives.  
Here is Lucy Siegle being interviewed for Chic Chat (shown onTHE OUTNET)
Nick Gray

Friday, September 21, 2012

Organic food : Is it the sustainable option?

The term organic is often used as an alternative for the concept of sustainable, but is this really true.  There is no doubt that organic food is grown by people who care about the environment and work their land to strict conservation principles , but is it really best for the planet overall?  Organic farming has made an enormous contribution to altering farm practices and raising public awareness, especially in relation to biodiversity and conservation issues. Indeed many of the underlying principles of organic farming are now seen as best practice. So why is organic farming having such a bad time?
Sales of organic food has been falling in recent years and in 2011 it fell 3.7% in the UK alone with the number of producers also declining by a similar amount to just under 7,300.  This is in stark contrast to the ethical trading certification products such as Fairtrade whose have steadily risen over the same period with a 12% increase in 2011.   There are three reasons why people buy organic. The majority believe it is healthier (52% ), next come better animal welfare standards (34%) and a similar number buy organic because they believe it to be a more ethical way of farming (33%).
So what has changed? Quite simply consumers interested in sustainability are using different criteria in buying food such as is it in season, is it local, does it carry an ethical trading label such as fairtrade, and have welfare issues been addressed.  I must admit to being confused at some organic farmers markets where I have been confronted by out of seasonal vegetables, exotic fruit and vegetables that clearly all have large air mile tags attached.  Also authenticity is also another problem, especially with the price premium attached to many of these products sold in such markets.  A carrot looks very much like another, and with it now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that organically grown is not really better than conventionally grown fruit and veg in terms of health or  taste, then we have to reassess the role of organic farming in terms of sustainability and supply the growing demand for food. The oft quoted WHO  estimate that 3 million people are hospitalized annually due to pesticide poisoning has been shown not to be relevant , as the trace pesticide residues found in conventional food, according to the Food Standards Agency in the UK, poses no risk to health.
Welfare of animals is normally higher with certified organic farmers, however there is sometimes a conflict between using proven chemical intervention (e.g. antibiotics , anti-inflammatory drugs and anthelmintics) and maintaining organic status.  In the UK antibiotics are allowed to be used by organic farmers in certain circumstances but largely banned in the US.  Farmers may be in a cleft stick, where necessary chemical intervention on welfare grounds could lose them their organic status.
Is organic farming sustainable? Probably not in terms of being able to  feed an ever increasing global population. Professor John P. Reganold in a recent article in Nature demonstrated that in developed countries organic farmers are achieving up to 20% smaller yields compared to conventional farmers which offset financially by charging a premium for organic produce.  In developing countries most organic fruit and vegetables are exported which brings  severely needed overseas currency into the country, but creating food scarcity within often highly productive areas.
Organic certification standards are excellent in Ireland and the UK but do vary widely between countries and the certification body, some of which may cause significant confusion to the consumer. So very often the consumer is unaware of exactly what they are buying.
So in terms of sustaining and promoting  biodiversity as well as protecting landscapes then organic farming is clearly advantageous over conventional farming, but the majority of farmers are now aware of the importance of these issues are responding by using a broad range of conservation techniques.  In terms of greenhouse gas emissions going the organic route may not be all that it seems. Certainly soil fertility and quality improves under organic regimes, but research carried at Oxford University suggests that while pollution per unit area of land farmed is lower than for conventional farming, it is generally higher per unit of food produced

But the four tenants on which the Soil Association is based i.e.  health, ecology, fairness and care,  are now increasingly at the heart of conventional farming as well.   To this effect the Soil Association are now working with non-organic farmers which appears to be a sensible development for sides of the farming lobby.  So should we buy organic? If it locally sourced and seasonal then it is preferred by me, but cost will always be a factor as is the need to develop farming to meet the challenges of climate change and increased food demand.
Nick Gray

Friday, September 14, 2012

Incredible Edible - Personal action at its best

Can the individual or community make a difference…you bet you can.  One of the many examples is the Incredible Edible initiative which was started by a group of volunteers in Todmorden in England who turned plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens.  The video below is a presentation given by Pam Warhurst the co-founder. The idea has gone global with similar projects on every continent. Watch and see just how individuals can make a difference.

“I wondered if it was possible to take a town like Todmorden and focus on local food to re-engage people with the planet we live on, create the sort of shifts in behaviour we need to live within the resources we have, stop us thinking like disempowered victims and to start taking responsibility for our own futures." (Pam Warhurst)

“There's so many people that don't really recognize a vegetable unless it's in a bit of plastic with an instruction packet on the top.”  (Pam Warhurst)

Nick Gray

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Latest carbon dioxide emissions levels published

World CO2 emissions rose by 3% to 34 billion tonnes in 2011 compared to the previous year.  The main producers were China 29%, US 16%, EU 11%, India 6%, Russian Federation 5% and Japan 4%.  Full details of these latest figures published by the EU see link.

Nick Gray

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waste Storage Efficiency

I feel that improvement should be given on the recycling of household plastic and metal materials such as bottles, cans, etc. A problem with storing these materials for appropriate recycling is that they take up a lot of space in the home if not compressed properly, thus the containers they are kept in can overflow very easily, which not only discourages people from maintaining them for recycling, but also, for many, results in frequent visits to the recycling units.

Compression of recyclable material would allow more to be stored efficiently

However, if households were to contain a small yet strong compressor for these materials in order to flatten them completely, more of them can be stored between recycles. The amount of carbon emissions which would go into making these handy compressors would thus be returned by the increase in waste material recycled appropriately and the reduction of recycling trips required. This means that excess material would no longer have to be inappropriately discarded until enough space has been freed-up to dispose of them properly.

Sarah Malone

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

iCar or weBus?

Does the accentuated presence of the I in society cause unethical transport choices?
I have always believed Public Transport is a good choice for the environment. However, recently it dawned on me that this is only the case as long as ‘we’ are many who choose this option. In Dublin so few people are now opting for taking the bus, that it is more energy efficient to travel in a personal car with a driver and one passenger, than it is to take the bus...

I must here warn the reader that the following is to be thought of as a discussion queue on the subject of citizenship and public transport, not as a contribution on carbon calculations. Currently the most commonly registered car in Ireland has a B Band engine capacity which is estimated emitting around 140g CO2/km (Link). Divide this emission figure by two (driver plus one passenger), and it gives us around 70g CO2/passenger km. A Dublin bus with 90 passengers emits about 1,450g CO2/km (‘Surprise carbon offenders’, Link ). This would equate to around 16g CO2/passenger km if the bus had a constant of 90 passengers. However at current usage the emissions using Dublin bus is an unimpressive 77g CO2/passenger km (Link). Using this information, estimation calculation tells us that if we want our public bus service to be more energy efficient than a B Band car with a driver and one passenger, then we have to ensure that there is on average a minimum of 21 passengers per Dublin Bus at all times (1450/70).

Without shying away from the fact that the public transport system may need to change numerous aspects of its current service to make this more appealing, my question for the forum is not in terms of how Dublin bus can please us. It is rather philosophical in nature and asks if it is ethically sound to always embrace the ‘personal choice’ theorem? If the bus transport service in Dublin is losing some of its viability as a sustainable transportation method due to insufficient number of passengers, then is there an argument for public transport to be formulated more as a ‘citizen obligation’ for the better of the ‘we’, rather than as a ‘service’ available at the leisure of the ‘I’?

Elin Haettner

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is Responsible for Global Warming?

Most people have heard of global warming or the greenhouse effect.  However, the majority of people I have talked to about it don’t seem to know a lot about it or why it is occurring.  If this is the case slowing it’s effect seems like an almost impossible task.  In a clip I recently watched on YouTube, Global warming 101, it was stated “scientists believe that it is human activity driving the temperature up”.  For decades now scientists have studied global warming and have generally concluded that it is the greenhouse gases emitted by humans that are the cause.  As we continuously burn fossil fuels and destroy our forests we are constantly adding to the concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which then trap more and more heat. Although these gases have always been present it is only since the human race became industrialised and the concentrations of greenhouse gases rose above an acceptable level that the problems began.  If our generation stands any chance of curbing the effects of global warming it is necessary to somehow inform the public of the ramifications for our planet and future generations.  With the increasing temperature comes melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels, species extinction, flooding, and malnutrition, amongst numerous other negative effects for our planet and it’s inhabitants.  People need to realise that global warming is not a myth and that we are the culprits behind it.

Sarah Clavin

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why is the concept of sustainable living such a taboo

Sustainable living seems to be a phrase that when mentioned causes some people to become really defensive and start defending their lifestyle. Or it gets dismissed as something that is for other people, namely ‘Eco-freaks’, but not for them. Why is the concept of sustainable living such a taboo to some people? I have a friend who is genuinely of the opinion that we should not bother to care for our environment to pass it on to future generations in a viable condition because she won’t be around then. When I try to reason with her she just shuts down and won’t listen to any other argument on the topic. The way of life that she has is not in the minority; in fact these opinions are still very much in the majority especially among my generation. How can we explain to people of such a mind-set when they won’t even bother to listen to anything contrary to what they already believe? We’re not asking them to become vegetarian, never fly again or walk everywhere. They could just make small changes to their lifestyle that would make a big change to our planet. Changes that would in fact benefit them as well. Some of these could be using public transport instead of driving everywhere and in doing this saving money on petrol, or using energy efficient light bulbs again saving money. Even using a metal reusable water bottle instead of a plastic bottle helps save not only the environment but also the time and money of buying a new plastic bottle when the old one is worn out and minimises potential risk of contamination. In my opinion it is not asking too much to alter our lifestyles so that others, including future generations, are able to simply live.
Clare Singleton

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carbon Emissions and Food

The food that you eat and how it is produced is the single largest component in your dinner’s carbon footprint. Up to 30% of European GHG emissions come from the food and drink sector. Firstly I am looking into where I do my weekly shopping. I am writing a shopping list at the start of the week and deciding what I can buy locally, what fair trade items I will buy and what I can grow in my own allotment. All these alternative options will help lower my food miles and therefore GHG emissions.  Buying locally not only lowers emissions, it creates local employment and local economy. It is also important to buy fair trade products to help support the produce of farmers in third world countries. They supply us with out of season fruit, vegetables and flowers as well as coffee and tea. In order to lower my food footprint I also looked into food type, cooking, packaging, disposal and storage.

By eating less red meat and dairy products we can save up to 25%. By reducing red meat intake and replacing it with pork you can significantly reduce your GHG emissions. It is also healthier to reduce your intake of these foods. By planning out what you are going to eat, and either controlling how much you cook or keeping leftovers for the next day you can reduce the amount of waste. Put simply less waste means more food to go around and less demand means lower prices. Reducing the amount you buy, reducing meat and dairy and eating more seasonal foods and recycling waste packaging you will half you GHG emissions for food.

Katie Boyle

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's the small things that count the most!

Everyone knows that out planet is suffering, we hear and see it on a daily basis. Most people are very aware what actions are required to sustain our planet so that the next generation can reap its benefits. And they are more then happy to do their bit for the planets well being, whether it is recycling or cutting down on their CO2 emissions. But are they actually doing enough?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don't do enough for our planet even though I lead my to believe I do sometimes! Like most people, I recycle and I wash my clothes at lower temperatures. However, if I leave the house, I more than likely would have left a light on somewhere, thus increasing my carbon footprint. On other occasions where I could easily walk, I tend to get a bus or a lift.

It’s these simple things that most people tend to ignore which is crucial to the planets sustainability. I’m not trying to accuse everyone of not pulling their weight; I just think that if we noticed these small things and tried to improve on them, the effect would be quite substantial towards a sustainable future.

So the next time you feel like going to the shop, put down the car keys and put on the jacket and walk down there! Your future generation will thank you for it yourself!!
(Also don't forget to turn the lights off before you leave!!)
Shane Mc Garry

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Water Wasted Everywhere

                It’s scary to think of how some small and seemingly insignificant actions can have such a potentially huge impact on everything. Today I was finding out information on my personal water footprint and was shocked to find out my results. All the things that one would think would have the most significance; like showering, turning on the washing machine or dish washer, had a large impact alright but it fails to compare to the amount of water I waste through the food I eat. Only 10% (816Litres weekly) of my water footprint came from domestic use, e.g. washing up, showering, etc. Not what I was expecting at all. Amazingly the consumption of food accounted for 80% (6528Litres weekly).The large majority of that was through consuming meat. It is a mind boggling statistic, something that I can’t get my head around.
                It’s a weird feeling, the guilt you feel when you find out that something you thought was insignificant could actually have such a huge impact. The same happened when I carried out my own carbon footprint. You feel more aware of the issue, you feel you must react. I’ve set out a plan, as you may already know, about how I’m going to reduce my carbon footprint. In my next update I’ll show you my new plan to reduce my water footprint. I have loads of ideas. Although it doesn’t seem such an issue now, reducing my domestic water use is still my priority. The water wasted through domestic use can’t be ignored so I must start there.
                I would love to have some feedback on what you think I should do. And if anyone is feeling curious as to how much water they waste just use this website below: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=cal/WaterFootprintCalculator

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Energy saving ideas for homes

In relation to the home, energy efficiency can be defined as: Using less energy to provide the same level of energy service by getting the most out of our fuels and renewable energy sources.
A lot of the new energy efficient technologies that have been developed and designed to be incorporated into homes at the beginning of the building process. But there are also many ways in which you can make an older home more energy efficient. If a home has single glazed windows they can be replaced with doubled glazed windows very easily, cavity walls can also be insulated or reinsulated very easily now with the invention of liquid foam insulation that can be pumped into the walls. Using energy efficient light bulbs has become very common and is also very effective. A vast amount of energy in older homes is lost through the attic ceiling either because it’s poorly insulated or because it has a poor air seal, these two things can be fixed very easily. Copper pipes were very popular in heating systems but they are very poor insulators and vast amounts of heat are lost though them. There are new pipes that have plastic on the inside and outside and a thin piece of metal running all the way through it and these pipes retain heat much better. It is now also very easy to install solar heating systems, older houses tend to have energy inefficient boilers because of their age, but these can be replaced along with the installation of a solar heating system. The installation of wood pellet burning stove is also a very possible idea. It is much easier to make a house more sustainable if you are building a new house but as we can see there are many things that can be done to make an existing home more sustainable by just making improvements to the existing systems.
Wesley Shaw

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sustainable Housing

One of the best ways to think about how to live sustainably is by looking at where you live. Whether you are buying a new home or upgrading your current one, making your house sustainable should always be in your mind.
Obviously people cannot just move house whenever they feel like it but there are ways to make an older house more sustainable as well as thinking ahead to what kind of house you will buy next. Living sustainably in a home usually focuses on insulating the home to make it easier (and cheaper!) to heat. There are many ways a house can be built sustainably but all have one goal and that is to have a small environmental impact.
Most sustainable homes are built from wood which is naturally insulating and also comes from well managed forests. The use of triple glazed windows always very little heat to escape once the house has been heated. Solar panels for heating water are an excellent addition to any home being built to be sustainable and these can also be used in homes which would like to become more sustainable. Many older homes are not very sustainable but this problem can be easily rectified. Homes can be insulated in a number of ways whether it be internal or external and the government even provides grants for some forms of insulation as well as for solar heating.
Although sustainable housing may seem like an expense it will save money on bills and require less fuel which could become very important if current consumption trends continue!
Eóin O’Brien

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Let’s be realistic, this isn’t a Mensa exam or anything!

Guys, let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. We are currently living on the planet inhabited by our parents, grandparents and so on. This planet has supported the human race from the beginning, supported life from the beginning, and is the reason for our very existence. It seems a little off-putting as a result to think that such a vast majority of us neglect to care for out planet’s future. Too many people see Earth as a stable entity, always present, never changing. Well, the harsh reality is, it is changing, and rapidly. I for one want to know that my future progeny have the opportunity to enjoy the planet as I have and generations before, to make the most of their lives without being hampered by environmental degradation. And the funny thing is, this can be a reality, all it requires is some minimal elbow grease from us lot. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Walk that extra couple of steps to recycle that milk carton. Pay that extra few cents for that organic in season tomato. And there it is. ‘Pay More’, almost taboo. I know, I know, ‘We’re in a recession!’ you say. But let me ask you, would you pay 5 cent extra for a large meal over a medium at McDonalds? Would you pay 5 cent extra for a newer model phone? Or would you pay 5 cent extra to ensure a future for our children. It’s that easy, and making the first step is the most important. It’s time we made this decision. I know I’ve made mine; I look forward to hearing yours.
Graham Mills

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Going Green - New Website

Subhajit Shome is a management consultant working in the UEA. Originally from India , Subhajit  has started a new  website/blog  called  Going Green.  This gives a range of useful ideas and insights into living more sustainably. Chek it out at:  http://www.savetree.net/

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A healthier and greener lifestyle – make a change

It’s time to move out of your comfort zone and make a change and I don’t mean only to your daily commute, but to your health, lifestyle and fuel expenses. Cycling is one of the easiest and best ways to exercise as contrary to what I originally thought, it requires the active use of every single part of the body. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%!! Cycling into work or college every day is a great way to reduce stress and boost your self-esteem as well as releasing no more CO2 then your own pair of lungs can produce.  I found myself after making that first small step to have more energy throughout the entire day which seemed to pay off nicely when faced with looming summer exams.
Cyclists breathe in less polluted air than car drivers, so feel free to be smug as you glide by motorists stuck behind red lights where you once were. The freedom of not being controlled by unpredictable jams or parking restrictions removes further stress from your day and allows you to be fashionably early. So why not ditch the stressful traffic jams, save your money and improve your health? More of us are burning calories instead of carbon everyday so join in and live the benefits at the cutting edge of the cycling revolution.
More info at: Link
John Barry

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Reality of Water Resources

The lecture on living sustainably that I have taken this semester has really opened my eyes to how little recourses we have left and to how much we are using up the limited amount that we do have. Water is one very important resource that in the western world we are using in absolute excess. We (the human race) are using 50% of our fresh water supply. We are slowly but surely drying up rivers and lakes all over the world, such as the Aryl Sea, which was one of the four largest lakes in the world and now only holds a tenth of the water it once had.
With the majority of things we drink, eat and use, water is involved in its manufacture. This can vary from 300 liters used for 1 liter of beer to 10,850 liters used for 1 pair of jeans. We are using up the worlds water supply at an unbelievable rate. In the western world we take water for granted. We all know the figures of other human beings in different parts of the world dying of water related diseases and water deprivation so why are we not being more careful with the amount of water we use? Small change can make a difference, are only hope is that we all try harder to use less. You can be just as happy and turn the tap off when you brush your teeth, so do.
Jasmine Patel-Bolger

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Energy Use: Both Now and in the Future

The process by which energy is produced and the way in which it is consumed has become increasingly important in the recent past. The world has become increasingly more globalised and this has brought with it improvements in technology and an increase in scientific knowledge, among other things. These improvements have resulted in the production of new ways of both producing and consuming energy. It is evident that many goals must be met in the future in order to maintain a sustainable way of producing and consuming energy. Three of the most important goals are to ensure that future energy supplies are clean, to ensure that the supply of energy is secure and to ensure that energy use is carried out more efficiently.

The problems that currently exist in the energy sector must be addressed and solved so that energy can be consumed and produced as a sustainable commodity. The harmful effects that certain types of energy use can have on the environment and the diminishing sources of clean, cheap and reliable energy are two of the main problems that face the energy sector today. People around the world have only just begun to realise these problems. For years, the consumption of energy through fossil fuel use has taken place without any thought given to the impact that this has on the environment. This needs to change. Looking to the future, I am hopeful that continued improvements in technology and further increases in scientific knowledge will help us to tackle the serious problems that currently exist in the energy sector.

Simon Grennan

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sustainability in the lab

One day while doing experiment in the chemistry lab, suddenly I was shocked by the amount of water and energy used just for a single experiment. Even though I have been practicing habits that reduce carbon emission and water usage, an experiment I have done just ruined all the hard work I have made. The running tap water for washing apparatus and overnight heating supplies for experiment require big amount of energy, especially if this is repeated almost everyday in a year. It will be more if considering the compounds and solvents used, which require more energy for preparation and purification before usage.

In fact, in academic campuses and corporate research centers, laboratories are the major energy consumer. Despite most innovation nowadays take ‘environmental-friendly’ as one of their ground rules to achieve, it is unavoidable for the ongoing researches to use so much energy before any findings could be found. Instead of stopping the researches that sought to find greener alternatives for better life, the research lab can reduce their negative impact to the world by achieving higher laboratory energy efficiency.

To accomplish this, it has to be started with a well-designed laboratory that make good use of resources around, for example utilize sunlight for illumination. Besides, experiment conducted should be well planned so that it makes good use of all facilities. And the most important thing is, researchers need to have awareness of this and practice good habits so that sustainability can be reached ultimately.

For more details on improving laboratory energy efficiency, please visit Link

Yee Ann Ho

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Water, water, everywhere...?

In parts of Ireland it only rains 150 days a year, much less than we may initially think. Our annual water consumption (per capita) in Ireland is roughly 55,000 litres. Numerous daily activities that we all take part in consume water. This is ever so true at home; from the moment we wake to moment we go to bed. We all wash our hands, cook, shower, drink tea and coffee, brush our teeth, bathe, water the garden, wash our clothes, flush the toilet, wash the car and clean the dog. But are the options we take even necessary?
Research by Ideal Standard reveals that the average Irish person uses roughly 150 litres of water per day. But 52% of us use over 108 litres per day simply showering. And 40% of us flush the toilet 5-6times per day, using around 40 litres.  Our day-to-date habits create a huge water footprint.
We must change our living habits so as to adapt to a changing world. Climate change has, in recent years, led to shortages of water in Ireland; snow fall tied up water in the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, and summers over the last few years (except 2011) have recorded temperatures “above normal” according to Met Éireann. These trends highlight the significance of using our water wisely and conserving it whenever necessary.
As a people we must make changes, to our lifestyles and habits. Choosing an 8 minute shower over a bath can cut the water used by 50% to 40 litres. Installing modern, dual flush toilets to replace traditional styles can reduce consumption by 80%. On an extreme level; become a herbivore! According to the British Meat blog it can take up to 15 times more water to produce one 1g of animal protein over 1g of plant protein. But there are also small things that can be done too; stop the tap while brushing your teeth, only use full washes when using the washing machine or dishwasher (no half washes), ensure the tap is fully turned off when you’re finished with it, and if it really is necessary to water those petunias, then use a watering can so that you water only what you need to.
Our futures are in our hands, and it is up to us to make the right choices. See links below:
Daniel Moody

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Snatching Carbon from the Atmosphere

The effects of carbon on the atmosphere are well documented and it is clear that we are producing far too much carbon for the earth to handle. Living sustainably is obviously the long-term solution, but it requires worldwide cooperation. In my opinion this is only likely to happen when people put the earth before profit, which I cannot see happening in the foreseeable future. Until such a change in mindset occurs there are short-term ideas that can help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

I have decided to focus on one short-term idea with a lot of potential, artificial photosynthesis without the use of cells. This may sound like a far-fetched idea. But using a concept devised by Dr. Montemagno, David Wendell and his team studied the foam nests of the Tungara frog and isolated a protein. They used this protein and it unique properties to engineer a type of foam, which can use sunlight to grab carbon from the air around it and turn it into sugar. It does this without harming the environment because it is not an organism.

This artificial photosynthetic foam was found to be incredibly effective in a number of ways. It converts sunlight to sugar at a rate of 16% unlike plants, which do it at 1-5%, also unlike plants it can continue to photosynthesize in carbon intense environments i.e. Factories. The sugars produced can also be used to make high-octane bio fuel. It is for all these reasons that this foam can greatly benefit the environment, reducing carbon in the atmosphere and supplying a carbon neutral energy source. These benefits won it the grand prize at the 2010 Earth Awards.

Fionan Magee

Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘A week of Sustainable living’

After taking the Living Sustainability course at Trinity College Dublin I decided to undertake a week of sustainable living. Last week I began my sustainability campaign and here’s how it went.
Monday went well as I was full of enthusiasm for the coming week and my changing lifestyle. By 8 p.m. I had, taken a shower which lasted under five minutes (usually twenty minutes), went for a run outside instead of the gym, made dinner from locally sourced food and recycled my waste appropriately.
My new way of life continued into Tuesday. When taking a lunch break from the library I remembered to plug out my laptop charger and tell my friends to do the same. I was proud of my new environmentally friendly ways and decided to treat myself with take-out coffee from Starbucks, which, when finished, I tossed in the general waste bin in college. Oops, so much for my recycling today!
I filled my flask with coffee before heading out to lectures, not to make the same mistake as yesterday. Today went well. I noticed ways my friends could be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives, I may not have noticed if I wasn’t making such a conscious effort to change my own ways.
I decided to change the light bulbs in my room so I proceeded to Dunnes Stores and bought three long life bulbs. LESSON NUMBER ONE: It’s good to be sustainable but make sure you have enough money in your bank account to support your sustainable lifestyle!
I went out for dinner with a few of my friends from college. I saw all the food that was being thrown away and wondered do restaurants dispose of their organic waste through composting. Not only am I being sustainable but I ate all my greens not to contribute to the restaurants organic waste.
The sunny spell had gone and the rain descended upon the country. My run today would have to be done in the gym. I couldn’t get the flu running in the rain so close to exams!
I filled my water and went for a walk to the market at Stoneybatter. I wandered around and bought fish and vegetables for my dinner that night, all the food was locally sourced.
My thoughts from a sustainable week of living:
I discovered it took a lot of discipline to stay on track but after making such an effort for the week I will find it difficult to go back to the way I was before. The sustainable living principles I have incorporated to my life in the past week are easy to adapt to day to day life. It was an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Sustainable living takes a lot of planning and does not just happen without practice and discipline in everyday tasks. That’s a lesson not just for me, but for the world.
 Katherine Hickey

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eco-friendly Cars

For decades human civilisation has been taking advantage of our natural resources with little thought in returning to the land what we have taken. It can be nothing but clear that today we can no longer do this, we need to be more aware of the effect we have on the earth and the atmosphere that surrounds it. CO2 emissions are an increasing worry from industrial emissions to right down to light bulbs. With a growing population annually, there is more demand for agricultural and industrial produce but also materialism gets hit with an increase also. Whilst cars and trucks and vans are all needed for personal transport in our daily lives and transport of goods for sale, we seem to have taken a purely materialistic view on them in the past century.
There is now a huge range of eco- friendly cars available on the market by all the top sellers. For example, the cars available to us in 2012 are BMW 3 series saloon, various Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Toyota, Peugeot and Nissans  amongst many more. These eco cars allow us to drive and decrease air pollution at the same time. Cars that run on electricity is the aim but before we get there hybrid cars are our first step, they have a half electric and half internal combustion system, this decreases the pollution factor immensely and are cost effective for consumers by reducing the need for gasoline. I think these cars need to be indorsed and marketed much more than the full combustion system cars, I am a strong believer that they will significantly help our planet in the long run and hope our aim of purely electrically run cars will be the norm sooner rather than later.
Amy Curran

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Agriculture: Feeding 7 Billion While Reducing Emissions. How can we do both?

With the world’s population recently surpassing 7 billion and still climbing, an increase in food production is unquestionably a necessity. Some predictions forecast a population rise to 11 or even 12 billion. These estimates become worrying when you take into account the fact that at current population figures it is stated that 19% of boy-children and 14% of girl-children in Ireland “always or often go to bed hungry”. So the challenge facing us is by no means trivial, we need to feed more people while reducing emissions from agriculture. Solving this problem however becomes multifaceted when you consider that 24.4% of Irish greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Roughly 10 energy units are spent for every energy unit of food on our dinner table. Reducing the emissions from the agricultural sector has been the focus of numerous studies. However the solutions, much like the problems are multidimensional. Some suggested solutions to the emissions problem include using feed additives, genetic engineering and better farm management. Solutions must however consider the economic aspects. Currently, farmers are being paid between 30 to 33 cent per litre for milk, however as recent as 2009 they were only receiving as little as 23 cent per litre. While the cost of producing 1 litre of milk varies seasonally, it can be as high as 23 cent per litre, thus leaving little room for profits. Therefore employing a solution at the production level must consider many variables and be economically viable. Along with all these aspects the population must be fed. Surely this highlights the need for detailed and extensive research.
Christopher Fennell

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A sustainable student life-is it feasible?

TCD Environment Society Community Garden, Dartry
Many students use the excuse of too little money as to why they can’t live more sustainable lives. They probably envisage having to solar panel up their house and pop a wind turbine in the garden, but with a few small changes students can make huge savings and improve their lives. The idea that living sustainably is expensive is a common misconception. By far the cheapest way to eat is by growing your own food, even just a few potato plants will give you more potatoes over the winter than you’ll know what to do with. Buying foods that have been grown locally from a market can also be a lot cheaper than you think. If you normally take the Dart/Bus to college and you switched to cycling you could save at least €700 per college year! Your health would benefit too from gardening and cycling so you could drop the gym subscription and save on the Zumba class. Swopping the tv/laptop for these outdoor activities, layering up during the winter instead of turning the heating on, cooking in bulk (saves time too!) and switching lights off when not in use can have surprisingly big savings on your gas/electricity bills! So make a few small changes and start saving money and enjoying your healthier life today!
 Gwen Duffy

Monday, April 23, 2012

“Practically perfect in every way ….”

Mary Poppins definitely seemed to have had the right idea with her bottomless carpet bag that seemed to have had no bounds or restrictions when it came to inserting anything from books to lamp shades.

This seemingly ordinary carpet bag solved all problems that face each and every one of us when we go shopping. Plastic and paper bags are a nuisance. A little rain and the new must have blouse you just purchased is ruined. Not to mention the tendency for ripping. Retail anxiety quickly replaces retail therapy. The solution? Plastic and paper bags need to be replaced with the bags on our shoulders.

I’m not talking about this……

These bags that women all over the world so nonchalantly carry, containing possessions ranging from our to-die-for lip gloss, to our cannot-live-without i-Phone, have come to be known as the kitchen sink. So why not utilise this space that we carry around with us day in day out. Next time you buy something, check your space and decline the offer of a paper bag from the sales assistant. You don’t need it! You already paid for the bag you’re wearing so why not show it off and put it to its full use. Follow the trend and live that little bit more sustainably!

Elaine O’Flaherty

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today is Earth Day- April 22nd

Since the launch of the first Earth Day in the US on April 22nd 1970, tens of millions of people have taken part in global based activities…raising environmental awareness. Last year  in excess of 1 billion people participated in Earth Day activities making it the largest civic observance in the world. Link

Nick Gray

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bobble, Bobble, Bobble

The idea of Living Sustainably can be daunting, even when one has all the information necessary to change one’s lifestyle it may simply be too big a task. My own approach is to take small steps that are proven to decrease our ecological footprint and that we can spread to our friends and families.

One such step would be to decrease the amount of plastic consumed as in the production tonnes of water and oil are used, both of which are crucial to other areas of our modern lifestyles.

 As college students our water bottles are like our comfort blankets, they accompany us everywhere and we can hardly function without them and at €1 a pop in the Arts Block café pretty cheap right? But this mass consumption and disposal of ‘single-serve’ plastic bottles is completely unsustainable. The Bobble could be a solution.

Bobble is engineered to be durable, recyclable and healthy. The aim is to buy it and keep it and it will keep you and the planet healthier. The plastic is Bisphenol A free and the carbon filter removes organic contaminants from the water. They make the argument that there is no need for the massive plastic bottle industry when we public taps are available and all we need is an appropriate device to store our water.

So maybe next year when your class are thinking of getting class hoddies somebody might suggest a class Bobble. Pick a colour that emanates your subject and make a small change that could have big affects. http://www.waterbobble.com/

Tara Mallon Doyle


Friday, April 20, 2012

Struggling to be sustainable? Maybe you need a holiday

You have heard it is the right this to do, read about it in the newspapers, heard your Granny harp on about valuing what you have, but are you really convinced about living sustainably? We get water from the tap in the kitchen, vegetables from the supermarket shelf, petrol from the end of a pump, how can we really appreciate their value?

Don’t stress, take a holiday!

Am I suggesting that you fly half way round the world to stay in an eco-labelled lodge in Costa Rica? Not at all. I am suggesting taking a holiday close to home where you can learn the value of a commodity.

Try working on a farm in Ireland. Spend a week away from work weeding, planting, watering, growing and most importantly… eating what you’ve picked that day! There’s no better way to appreciate the value of the food on your plate. And next time you head to the supermarket you’ll look differently at the bag of carrots on the supermarket shelf.

Why not take a cycling holiday around Ireland and give value to every kilometer you travel? It might make you think differently about the hundreds of kilometers spent in an airplane or in a car on those carbon intensive weekend breaks.

What about taking a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands? You might be kilometres from the closest water source whilst hiking, so you’ll need to measure just how much water you need for the journey. It might make you think differently about flushing the toilet six times a day and lingering in the shower for 40 minutes.

Getting to see and experience the limits to the commodities you buy and use everyday really gives them value and encourages that sustainable lifestyle we are all striving for. So next time you plan a holiday, think about what sustainable tip you can come away with!

 Alice Bentley

 Working on Mew’s Farm, Devon, UK
Taken by the author on 10/08/2011

Reaping the benefits of our work
Taken by the author on Landscove Farm, Devon, UK, 17/08/2011

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Every Chop Counts!

Meat production is one of the less obvious contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. During the production process of 1kg of beef, 34.6kg of carbon dioxide is emitted. This is equivalent to the carbon emissions of an average European car for every 250km it travels. [1]

Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to propose that we cut meet from our diets – I enjoy my Sunday Roast far too much for that! But what I am proposing is that we become more sustainable in our meat consumption.

For example, at home, we now buy a larger ham or chicken for our Sunday Roast and instead of throwing out the leftovers or giving them to the dog, we save them for sandwich making during the week. By doing this, we cut down our spending on meat by not buying premade sandwich meats, which add a large amount of emissions to the environment during production. Furthermore, the level of packaging for disposal is significantly reduced by not buying these products. Not only this, but by eating these leftovers you are producing less food waste and are not left stuck with packets of half finished ham and chicken slices in your fridge that have gone off as people have forgotten to finish them, etc.

I am aware that the leftover meat will only be able to cover a few days worth of lunch making before you run out, but this is not a bad thing! What I propose you to do here is have a meat free day, and then start this process again the following day.

Cutting out these premade meats from your diet is not only good for the environment – it’s good for you! More often than not, these meat products are full of unhealthy additives making eating the real deal much better for you.

The key thing here is to think twice before you buy, making small reductions in your consumption can have a massive knock on effect in your life and the environment. It is taking these small steps that can put you on the road to living sustainably.

Niamh Duggan

[1] Davies, C., (2008) Meat by Numbers, The Guardian (Online) Avaiable at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/07/food.beef?intcmp=239 (accessed: 25th March 2012)