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Cleaner, Greener Air

The world’s most energy efficient cities

A Breakthrough In Indoor Air Quality

By: Guest Contributor, John Dixon

Many of today’s health concerns – from allergies to asthma, to everyday health issues such as headaches and colds are often traced back to poor indoor air quality (IAQ). In fact, the EPA estimates that half of all illnesses in the U.S. today are caused by poor IAQ. Results from in-home air testing found that 96% of homes tested had at least one significant IAQ problem.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 2 out of 3 indoor air quality issues involve the HVAC system. An overwhelming amount of these can be traced directly to duct leakage.

Leaks in the ductwork allow surrounding air to be sucked into the system where it is then blown throughout the rest of the home. If a leak is located in a portion of the duct that runs through a dusty attic, or dirty garage, the contaminants from these spaces can be easily picked up and spread into other areas of the home. Most ductwork is hidden behind walls or in crawl spaces – areas that are often rife with dirt and other pollutants.

Leaks in the ventilation ducts are also a major catalyst for poor IAQ. Leaky ventilation ducts severely limit the effectiveness of the exhaust fan. This in turn promotes the growth of mold and mildew, and limits the elimination of smoke, odors and other air contaminants.

While some duct leaks can be repaired by hand, using special sealing tape or mastic, this old method of duct sealing can only be effective in areas where the ductwork is exposed. That leaves the majority of leaky ducts untreatable.

Faced with this dilemma, the U.S. Department of Energy, along with the EPA and others, developed a method of effectively sealing the entire duct system. Their solution is an innovative sealing technology, called aerosealing, which works from the inside of the ducts to locate and seal leaks.

Aeroseal duct sealing is applied as a mist of sealant particles that is blown into the interior of the ductwork. The microscopic-sized particles remain suspended in air until they come in contact with a leak. Here they cling to the edges of the hole, and then to other sealant particles, until the leak is completely sealed.

This unique process offers several significant advantages:

  • Accessibility. Accessing all the leaks is now simple and doesn’t require wall demolition.
  • Finding. The process automatically finds all the leaks. With traditional manual sealing, leaks can be overlooked or never identified.
  • Effectiveness. Aerosealing ductwork is 95% effective at sealing leaks. Studies found it to be as much as 60% more effective than manual sealing.

For decades, issues related to poor indoor air quality have simply gone unaddressed. Today, with increased awareness of the problem, and new innovations, that effectively tackle their root causes, we have an effective means to make major improvement to the indoor air quality of our homes.

Aeroseal animation slr

John Dixon is a freelance writer headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

by Editor

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Sep/15
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The Problem With Water…

From: PJ Dore

 

The Problem With Water_Infographic

by Editor

Zero Waste Challenge: How to make changes in your daily life to reduce waste

By: Guest Contributor, Joe Baker

It may not be the sexiest report of the year, but there were some interesting takeaways in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Municipal Solid Waste Fact Sheet, released in June 2015. “Zero waste” is a term and ideal that is growing in popularity: the idea is that a household, city or even an entire country could produce no net waste.

The United States is inching in the right direction. According to the EPA, in 2013 our per capita municipal solid waste was down by a third of a pound to 4.4 pounds per person per day since the peak in 2000. Even more exciting, recycling continued to increase, topping off at more than 34 percent—more than double the recycling rate 30 years ago.

But there’s still a lot of work to do, which is why cities and counties are trying new ideas and policies to make it easier for their communities to reduce waste.

Composting

shutterstock_156179246More communities are embracing green bins and implementing composting programs. San Francisco has required composting since 2009, and in 2014, Vermont became the first state to include mandatory composting in its Universal Recycling Law.

Composting is one of the best ways to not only reduce your waste, but also produce something valuable for your community. When food waste ends up in landfills, it’s packed so tightly, there’s not enough oxygen for it to biodegrade and improve soil quality. By contrast, compost creates a rich soil coveted by gardeners. Some programs exploit this connection, like one school composting program in East Harlem, which teaches kids to compost and then uses the product to fertilize local community gardens.

Step Up Recycling

As exciting as it is that recycling rates have doubled in the last generation, a 34 percent recycle rate means that two-thirds of waste still goes to landfills. That’s not surprising: Just 35 percent of households and 10 percent of businesses recycle. Localities have taken steps to make recycling easier, notably the popular single-stream recycling systems, in which all recyclable materials are thrown into one bin, making recycling an easier choice. Recently these systems have come under scrutiny as overzealous homeowners throw more in blue bins, resulting in high sorting costs. The challenge will be reducing these costs while still supporting policies that engender a culture of recycling. Folks at home can help by being a bit more choosy.

Plastic Bag Bans

shutterstock_181487378Plastic bag bans take waste reduction a step further: rather than come up with better ways to deal with the waste we produce, why not just make less of it in the first place? According to the Surfrider Foundation’s self-admitted incomplete list, cities in 18 states have regulated single-use plastic bags. California and Hawaii even have statewide bans. These laws inevitably stir up controversy (and, of course, a backlash from the plastics industry), but importantly they raise awareness about our culture of disposability. Plastic bags are an environmental scourge, as the Texas-sized Pacific Garbage Patch illustrates. Policies that force us to pay for disposability remind us that lots of disposables could be replaced by something durable, like a canvas tote for groceries.

Reaching zero waste won’t be easy. But with a concerted effort by individuals combined with policies that encourage people to use fewer disposable items and make it easier to route trash away from landfills, we can make big strides.

Joe Baker is the Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2 and ThePetitionSite. He is responsible for recruitment campaigns for nonprofit partners, membership growth efforts, and all editorial content. Prior to Care2, Joe was the Executive Director of N-TEN. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, the Advisory Board of GiveForward.org and volunteers for the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.

Compost image and tote bag image via Shutterstock.

by Editor

Endangered Animals of the World

Waste water treatment strategy needed for Cyanobacteria Bloom in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

By: Guest Contributor, Sherm Davis

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Panajachel, Guatemala – On 3 August 2015, a cyanobacteria bloom invaded Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, the first such occurrence since 2009. An infestation of microalgae is considered a bloom when the concentration reaches 2 million parts per liter, and the tests run by the organizations mentioned below prove beyond a doubt that this is a bloom unprecedented in modern history. The question at hand is: What can we do about it?

A series of water samples taken by the Watershed Authority (AMSCLAE) in association with The University del Valle de Guatemala (Altiplano Campus) revealed that there are five major types of phytoplankton in the water, and that three of these (Dolichospermum,Limnoraphis, Microcystis) are classified as cyanobacteria.

The eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients) of the lake is the main cause of this bloom, and if left unchecked, cyanobacteria (in this case Microcystis specifically) will cause the toxification of the lake and make it unsuitable for human use. This has already happened at neighboring Lake Amatitlán, and to lose a national treasure due to ignorance or political incompetence is unconscionable. These nutrients, of course, come in the form of waste water entering the lake untreated, as well as the inappropriate use of industrial fertilizers which then enter the water supply. Therefore, waste management and water treatment are two of the most important issues  facing the 15 municipalities in the Lake Atitlán basin.

But in an underdeveloped country like Guatemala, where according to Ana Lena Katt, Director of Social Communications at AMSCLAE, there are only waste water treatment plants at 11 of the 15 pueblos in the Atitlán basin, there are both practical and political hurdles to full implementation of a comprehensive water treatment plan for Lake Atitlán.

According to Ivan Azurdia, scientist and Executive Director of AMSCLAE, the funds have existed for seven years to upgrade the entire waste water treatment system and water supply in the Atitlán basin. “Working through the United Nations and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), Spain has given Guatemala a donation of US $50 million, matched with another US $50 million in the form of an IDB loan.” Within the $50 million that was given as a donation, a portion was allocated for technical assistance. “The terms of reference exist to develop the master plan,” says Azurdia. “It is ready for implementation.”

There are three organizations that must work in harmony in order for this plan to work. “The IDB signs the checks, INFOM (Instituto de Fomento Municipal, a governmental body on the national level) will provide field supervision during construction of the project, and UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services) then manages the project, including procurement of subcontractors, bidding, and proposals. “UNOPS was brought on board to minimize corruption,” says Azurdia. “But time is running out.  For seven years and two administrations, the process had been held back by bureaucratic red tape.”

But finally, on 18 August 2015, bowing to public pressure, INFOM signed the document that will free the funds for implementation of the master plan. Now the race against time has begun. “After all these years of waiting, we have only four months to allocate the funding,” says Azurdia. “After 31 December 2015, the seven-year window for allocation of the funding will close. So although there’s still a lot of work to be done, the funds have finally been released, and we can finally do our job.”

So the first hurdle has been surmounted – the proper official finally released the funding to clean up the lake after the extended bureaucratic idling of two administrations. Now, only four months remain to allocate the funding and begin executing the master plan. Azurdia and his colleagues have been waiting for this day for seven long years. Now, the real work begins to implement a long-term strategy to save Lake Atitlán, one of the world´s natural treasures.

 

Sherm Davis is a writer, musician, and international educator currently living by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. His self-help novel, entitled Learning to Stutter, is now available online.

Image credit: Sherm Davis

by Editor

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Top 10 Tips for Saving Water

Initiating Sustainability In Your Community

By: Guest Contributor, Jona Jone

No one really opposes green living and its benefits. Everyone knows it is a good thing, necessary, and urgent. It’s just that not everyone is willing to give it a try. Living a “green” life is like eating vegetables. Everyone knows it’s good but only a few actually eat it.

Sustainability is a great thing. It takes commitment and sense of obligation to the world and future generations to instill such lifestyle on ourselves and our own families. Imagine the challenge of building a sustainable community and warding off all pessimism and indifference. Yes, there are more and more urban developments that seek to address all these environmental issues by carrying out more sustainable designs. And yes, you and your family are also trying to live greener. But efforts should not stop there. A UNESCO module stated that sustainability is to be attained at the local level and the community if it were to really make a difference. This is the kind of community that thrives from generation to generation because it adapts to change, performs life sustaining functions, respects diversity, and recognizes social and ecological limits.

If awareness is any indication, then we are on the right track. People now are more aware than ever on the state of the environment and our ecological systems. People recognize the importance of sustainability and some even understand the impacts of living in an unsustained one. Even 73% of companies have made sustainability a top agenda. Now, let’s look at your community. How far are they willing to go? And what does it take to take them there?

 

Tell Them Stories

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Photo by HND via Pixabay

Al Gore’s “The Inconvenient Truth” was a big move towards the right direction. Somehow, it brought environmental challenges to the mainstream. But it takes more than just one Hollywood documentary to convince people that green is good and furthermore, within reach.

Be your community’s own Al Gore by starting discussions and engaging community members on environmental issues. Inspiring lifestyle change isn’t easy and calling them to action is much harder. Begin with small talk and stories. Every time you have the chance to talk to someone in your community, motivate them to live a more sustainable life. Share how sustainable living has made wonders for you and your family. Don’t be technical about it. Hit them where it matters like health and savings. For example, share the benefits of making your kids eat fresh product from the market or the savings from going solar with your outdoor lights.

 

Build A Green Community… Online

Blogs, videos, and images are very easily consumed through social media. You may create a website or a social media page that seeks to educate people about environmental issues. Add and engage members of your community. This is a modern way to reach out about an age-old problem. Share interesting blogs and videos that members will find worth sharing. You can also host discussions there and encourage them to ask questions and make suggestions. Avoid sounding like a robot or a know-it all genius as that will only annoy your audience. You have to come off as friendly and positive. The content of your messages must be emotional, direct, and relevant to the lives of the people you wish to touch.

 

Start A “Green” Market

2Photo by perla123 via Pixabay

Whether you are living in a traditional neighborhood or a resident in vertical living conditions, you can start your own “green” market. In your yard or porch, offer local products to your neighbors. If you live in a condo, you can go door to door and offer your goods. It would be nice if you could sneak in a small sheet of paper in the box or bag letting your neighbors know of the benefits of their purchase. Not only do you encourage a healthy lifestyle, you also make friends with the members of your community.

 

Start A Bicycle Club

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Photo by Unsplash via Pixabay

You and your neighbors probably take the same route to work. People living in condominiums also usually work in the same business district as their next-door neighbor. Why not convince them to park their cars and ride their bicycles? Biking is a hot thing right now. Sell the idea of biking as a cool, cost-efficient, and healthy alternative. If you can put up a club, then biking becomes more of an activity you can do with friends more than a responsibility to mother earth.

 

Buy Local

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Photo by Stokpic via Pixabay

Invite friends in your community to visit a local market. Show them how convenient it is to go there and how local farmers and producers benefit from each purchase. In short, make them feel good about going there. Tell them how buying local helps the environment and the community — less fuel for shipping, products are fresh and organic, more jobs, and good business for local farmers, producers and small-time manufacturers.

 

Teach Them To recycle

Recycling comes off as an activity that requires too much time and too much effort. That could be true in some recycle projects but while it is too much work, it is also too much fun. Invite a few neighbors in your home for some snacks and show them recycled stuff in your home. If you are into recycling yourself, show them an unfinished project and impress them with your creativity. Show them what you can do with an empty bottle, your kid’s old work books, your husband’s old ties, etc. Show them that they can do it too.

 

Organize Nature-Tripping

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Photo by Stocksnap via Pixabay

It is easier to convince your community to go green if they can see what they are bound to lose if they don’t take action now. Organize a few of your neighbors and their families and take them nature-tripping. An environment friendly community is one that understands and appreciates nature in such a way that they are duty-bound to protect it.

The idea of caring for the environment and going for sustainable living doesn’t have to be forced. It just needs to matter to everyday life. You can’t talk about carbon footprints, glaciers, weather disturbances, depleting rainforests, and damaged ecosystems like you are a science professor and expect people to take action. Apply sustainability in the context of their lives. Give them something they can’t resist and before you know it, you are living in a sustainable community that feels responsible for the future generations.

Jona Jone was a mortgage originator in Philadelphia, PA and is now a Business and Property Specialist. She writes about real estate investment, business, parenting and living. Follow Jona on Twitter

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