Modern Sustainable/Environmental Architecture

When looking at new buildings, you may notice that they look kind of weird, all windows, weird concrete overhangs, plants on the roof, strategically planted trees around the buildings. This is an example of modern sustainable/environmental architecture. Architecture is a challenge when it comes to being environmentally friendly. Buildings require large amounts of raw materials and energy, so it makes sense that there is a big push to make them more environmentally friendly. A sustainable building should have minimum impact on the environment around it. It’s easy to question why this concept is important, or to dismiss it by saying “If you really want to protect the environment, then just don’t build at all.” But, obviously, we have to have buildings, and we have to protect our environment.

Interesting Articles about Modern Sustainable/Environmental Architecture:

Green Roofs: Like a rooftop garden, but 100% better

A green roof is basically a layer of vegetation grown on the roof of a building. Green roofs can be installed on lots of different kinds of buildings, whether they are private homes or large industrial skyscrapers. In addition to their aesthetic benefits, green roofs also help regulate temperature. Unlike the typical black/gray roof that can is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, the surface temperature of a green roof is usually much cooler than the air. Green roofs reduce the amount of energy a building uses, because they act as an insulator. Even though a green roof is typically more expensive and time consuming to install, the cost is offset by the energy use savings and reduced storm water management costs that a green roof provides.

Ted Talks: Rob Harmon: How the Market Can Keep Streams Flowing

This is an interesting video that discusses ways that the environment can be protected in a way that also benefits the economy.

In the video a creek called Prickly Pear Creek is discussed. Prickly Pear Creek is drying up. There are lots of reasons for this, but senior water rights and the rights of beer companies to use the water are the big reasons. Beer production requires a surprisingly large amounts of water, 5 pints of water are needed. There was no incentive to conserve the water, so nobody did. A market based system was created to combat this. People with water rights can sell their rights to others if they don’t intend to use the water. Thanks to these efforts, Prickly Pear Creek is in much better condition

Too Many People by Paul Erlich

Click to access Ehrlich%20-.pdf

Paul Erlich is a notable population biologist and the author of many scientific papers. In this paper he argues that starvation and ecological crises are inevitable consequences of a population explosion. He says that we are beginning to realize that food production won’t  be able to keep up with that rise.

According to the article, around two-thirds of the worlds population lives in under developed countries that have rapidly growing population, and most of those people are hungry. It is different in over developed countries. In over developed countries most people are adequately nourished. In fact, over developed countries consume majority of the worlds resources.

Paul Erlich considers the growth of population bad, and asserts that it will cause major problems in the future.

Other Colleges are Winning..

All the talk of making our cafeteria more local and sustainable made me wonder about the practices of other university cafeterias. After researching this for a while, it became clear that we are pretty behind.

Here are some examples:

-University of Illinois has a 6 acre plot where they grow food, a sustainable student farm, the students take care of it, farm supplies residence halls with locally grown low input sustainable food

-Yale: Yale Sustainable Food Program Yale has two farms on its campus. The farm provides internship opportunities to students both undergrad and grad. Mission of the farms is to create bonds between faculty and students, and promote local growth

-Warren Wilson College,  composts kitchen scraps and sources food and lumber from its own organic gardens and managed forests

-Clemson- 15 acre organic farm, and greenhouse

-University of Washington, Seattle food service emphasizes local, organic, fair trade and natural foods. Working toward zero-waste, scraps are composted. They have compostable dish-ware and to-go packaging, and are partnering with Coca-Cola on a pilot study for the first compostable paper cup designed specifically for soft drinks.

One of the coolest, yet most overlooked parts of the NC Aquariums

Have you ever seen the waste water treatment system of the aquarium? Probably not, but you should.

Most wastewater filtration systems merely use separation of liquids and solids. The aquarium uses a membrane system called ZeeWeed® Membrane Bioreactor that is able to filter out dissolved solids from water. The water that is recycled in this way is used in the toilets, and sprinklers. The aquarium recycles about 600 to 1,000 gpd in reclaimed water.

To learn more, and see pictures, click the link below.

Click to access 12-ZENON-SYSTEM-FACT-SHEET.pdf

“Toys ‘R’ Us Keeps Airing Perhaps ‘The Most Anti-Science, Anti-Environmental TV Ad Ever’”

So many companies cash in on pretending to be environmentally friendly, so it’s really amusing that Toys R Us keeps airing this extremely opposite commercial. It basically tells kids “don’t go outside, or learn about nature, its boring! Just come play with our toys!”

This commercial has been criticized by many people, including one of my favorite people who criticizes lots of things, Stephen Colbert.

“This commercial shows kids the ‘great outdoors’ is nothing compared to the majesty of a strip mall. And they still get some nature because, remember, that confetti used to be a tree!”

Invasive Species

Stinkbugs are kind of amusing, I’m sure as a kid everyone made them stink at least once. However,  they are also a pest, with the ability spoil harvests, and invade peoples homes. Stinkbugs first arrived in the 1990s, on ships from Asia, and since then they have spread to  41 states. And what is the plan to solve this crisis? Well, it’s what it almost always is, bring in another invasive species to kill the first invasive species. What a solution… (sarcasm) When will the chain end? Invasive species aren’t a topic quite as mainstream as global warming, but they are definitely an environmental issue, because they outcompete the species already living in the area.

Careers that are related to the environment (my mom has a cool job)

Photo on 10-20-14 at 7.45 PM #2Photo on 10-20-14 at 7.45 PM

Today I got this coffee mug in the mail from my mom. Despite the fact that I would rather have gotten food of some sort, it reminded me what a cool job she has. She works for the department of the interior, in the surface mining and reclamation department. When people mine, they usually take the simple and extremely environmentally damaging method of blowing the tops of mountains and stripping away valuable substances. This sounds horrible, and it is, but the mining industry creates jobs in a lot of towns where there isn’t really much to do. My mom’s job is to fix the mountains after this is done, and try to find better ways to mine. She also examines land to determine where it is safe to mine without poisoning water supplies (cue that fracking video of a man lighting his tap water on fire).