Sustainable ideas for homes

Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.

Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.

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Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.

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Tesla solar panel roofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.

Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.

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Growing your own food: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.

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Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.

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Why bees are integral to our ecosystems and how to restore their population

Whilst forests play an important part in maintaining habitats and provide carbon traps, bees help pollinate the food we eat as well as the trees and plants that make up forests. We rely on them to maintain a biodiverse landscape as well as pollinate 90% of food worldwide.

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We are experiencing a global decline in bee diversity and population which is a serious issue as they pollinate a large percentage of our food supply. The reasons for this loss can vary depending of geographical location. Generally, bee population decline is due to the use of pesticides, such as the ones recently allowed in the UK. Climate change also disrupts bee populations from unstable plant diversity and unpredictable weather patterns. Finally, monoculture such as palm oil plantations presents a lack of biodiversity and commercial development both impact bee populations and their chances of survival.

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There are many different ways the bee population can be restored. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has comprised a list of six different solutions:

  • Plant natives – These are accustom to your local ecosystem, provide bees with sustainable food and do not require fertilizer.
  • New garden areas – Add new garden beds and encourage others to plant more flowers.
  • Organic – Refrain from using insecticides and chemicals in your garden.
  • Water – Place shallow pools of water in your garden for bees and other pollinators to thrive.
  • Nesting places – Create nesting places in your garden to increase the likelihood of the bee population increasing.
  • Responsibility – Raise awareness of the issue and inspire others to follow the same list of resolutions.

Others suggest planting bee friendly plants to adhere more to their needs or even going further and advocating for bee protection at different levels of government.

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‘Slowing down and even reversing habitat destruction and land-conversion to intensive uses, implementation of environmentally friendly schemes in agricultural and urban settings, and programs to flower our world are urgently required. Bees cannot wait’ – Zattara, E. Aizen, M. (2021)

No matter what we decide to do in resolving this growing issue, it is undoubtedly vital that bees and other pollinators populations increase otherwise our food security and biodiversity of the planet will severely suffer.

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News: Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral since 1995

In a previous post I mentioned the continuing degradation of coral reefs and coral bleaching due to climate change which destroys marine habitats and the ecosystems which depend on them.

In recent news, Marine scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland, Australia have discovered that from 1995 to 2017 an array of different coral has declined in the largest reef worldwide.

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This demonstrates the impact global warming can have on marine life. With coral reefs disappearing, the natural cycles which are unseen for many of us are disrupted leading to more species decay and instability.

Coral bleaching does not only impact coral communities but human communities that depend on coral reefs as well. Therefore, the increased decline of biodiversity in our oceans as well as in our rainforests does not serve well against the mountain of issues climate change presents us with.

However, there are ways we can help coral reefs recover from extensive bleaching. Recognising the solutions to these problems help bring awareness to the fact that we can tackle these negative changes but only with enough care and attention to the important world around us which all life ultimately depends on.

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News: Jamaican beaches are degrading from climate change

It is now well known that global warming as a result of climate change is leading to the loss of many coastal regions on our planet. Often, the people least involved with causing climate change are also the ones impacted by it the most.

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This has become apparent in places such as Jamaica, where beaches are starting to minimise and degrade due to rising tides. As a result, many of their Caribbean beaches are starting to lose its tourist attractions which they rely on as a source of income.

A recent news report stated that:


The beachfront has been swallowed by the surging tides, a result of decades of climate change and mismanagement

Coasts play a critical role in the economies of many Caribbean nations, whose population centers are close to the shore and who rely heavily on their ports and on tourists attracted to their picturesque waters. But beaches throughout the Caribbean are eroding as a result of rising sea levels and dangerous storms resulting from climate change‘.

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This is especially worrying as places like Jamaica are starting to see the results of climate change whilst the US, which has a big impact on the climate and a lot of resources for potential solutions, are set to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on November 4th. Therefore, if international unity toward climate change is not guaranteed, which the Paris Agreement set out to do, then the problems will only continue to worsen and certain countries will be left to fend for themselves over issues which they did not entirely cause.

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News: Leather material made using fungi

Recent researchers have invented a way to make leather out of fungi. As we know, many consumer products are made using leather which has a big impact on the way we treat certain animals and the environment. However, this biofabricated material using fungi can help reduce our impact on certain animals and also supplement a huge variety of consumer products.

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A quote taken from the research article states:
While traditional leather and its alternatives are sourced from animals and synthetic polymers, these renewable sustainable leather substitutes are obtained through the upcycling of low-cost agricultural and forestry by-products into chitinous polymers and other polysaccharides using a natural and carbon-neutral biological fungal growth process‘.

Just as I have talked about certain items made from algae in a previous post, this fungi material may help solve some of the leading issues in fashion and consumerism. Helping to provide an alternative solution with less of an impact on the environment which in turn creates a healthier planet.

Of course, to get the most positive outcome everyone would need to stop buying products which harm the animals and environment as well as adopting more vegetarian diets. Unfortunately, due to climate denial and a lack of education provided on the subject, this is not a feasible solution even though it would yield the more efficient outcome.

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Although change can be arduous, research breakthroughs such as these are a step in the right direction in terms of how we need to think but also how we make lifestyle choices. As we continue to learn how to live with nature and not have it exist for our benefit alone, we will begin to witness some of the transformations toward a more sustainable future.

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Why climate change is more of a concern now than ever before

Currently, climate change is a major issue for humanity and one that cannot be solved easily. The words ‘climate change’ are somewhat natural when looking at the Earth’s history but presently represent a host of different issues which are all interlinked in some way. From deforestation, pollution, carbon emissions to overfishing, meat consumption and consumerism all affect the planet’s sustainability and biodiversity.

A recent video which helps summarise my point further can be found below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sl28fkrozE&t=0s&ab_channel=TED

What will be looked at today is the history of global warming and the consequences melting ice and rising temperatures.

The first appearances of climate change occurred during the 1820s when Joseph Fourier discovered that atmospheric gases could trap heat emitted by the sun. Today, we now know this early discovery has degrading consequences, especially for those contributing least to the problem.

Two examples of the progression of our planet’s degradation I will draw from are the melting of ice and warming of the planet.

The melting of ice worsens with each passing year as the time-lapse below demonstrates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7x9leQqrkc&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=AGU

Some of the problems which follow the ice melting are associated with flooded coastal areas, disturbed marine ecosystems and the collapse of polar ecosystems. Each bring their own set of problems to the table and some of the consequences of these changes are yet unknown as our planet as never experienced such radical climate change in recent history.

The warming of the planet, which is interlinked with the melting of ice, brings a host of separate problems as well. As shown in the video below, global warming has considerably increased over the past 100 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqdyEpklFU&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=NASAClimateChange

The consequences associated with global warming consist of longer breeding seasons for insects and this ultimately leads to population imbalances, such as locusts, taking place in parts of Africa and Asia leading to reduce crop yields. Global warming also causes permafrost to thaw, releasing ancient viruses and harmful gases, such as methane, back into the atmosphere.

The amalgamation of these two interlinked issues which fall under the umbrella of climate change demonstrate the complexity of the problem at hand. Demonstrating that as a collective we must take climate change seriously and invent efficient ways to deal with these complex issues.

In summary, these two main examples are clearly interlinked and disturb the planet’s natural systems. However, as mentioned earlier these are only two issues amongst a plethora of other concerns which are caused by human behaviour and affect the planet’s health. Therefore, in striving for solutions to these problems it is vital that we take a collective responsibility and not leave it in the hands of a minority of scientists and technological innovation.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sl28fkrozE&t=0s&ab_channel=TED
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225789568_Global_warming_and_state-corporate_crime_The_politicalization_of_global_warming_under_the_Bush_administration
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7x9leQqrkc&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=AGU
https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1700537
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.12337
https://utsc.utoronto.ca/news-events/breaking-research/most-polar-bear-populations-likely-collapse-end-century-if-global-warming
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqdyEpklFU&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=NASAClimateChange
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225789568_Global_warming_and_state-corporate_crime_The_politicalization_of_global_warming_under_the_Bush_administration
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/08/rolling-emergency-of-locust-swarms-decimating-africa-asia-and-middle-east
https://arcticwwf.org/newsroom/the-circle/arctic-tipping-point/thawing-permafrost/

News: UN warn natural disasters caused by climate change are increasing

A press release published on the 12th October 2020 by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has claimed that there has been a dramatic rise in climate disasters over the last 20 years.

woman standing near house

To summarise the report, it claimed that in the period between 1980 to 1999, 4,212 disasters occurred claiming approximately 1.19 million lives and affecting 3.25 billion people. In the US alone, this roughly cost $1.63 trillion in economic loss.

In the period between 2000 to 2019, 7,348 disasters were recorded claiming 1.23 million lives and affecting 4.2 billion people. Again in the US $2.97 trillion was lost due to these unfortunate events.

Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, stated: ‘More lives are being saved but more people are being affected by the expanding climate emergency. Disaster risk is becoming systemic with one event overlapping and influencing another in ways that are testing our resilience to the limit. The odds are being stacked against us when we fail to act on science and early warnings to invest in prevention, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction’.

It is clear that we must continue to transition toward solutions such as rewilding which increases biodiversity, cut carbon emissions to prevent further global warming and reduce polluting. Among many other solutions both big and small, collectively we can help prevent the loss of more life and money being invested to repair the damages.

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The forefront of climate change research

Disclaimer: I am in no way sponsored or endorsed by any of these organisations, I am just trying to spread the awareness of information on climate change.

Recent research on climate change taken from credible sources outline what current research is focused on. Some studies I have already written about in my previous posts so they will not be included within this thread. The aim of this is to give people an idea of what direction climate change research is currently heading:

Side note: an interesting podcast mini-series from the University of Oxford on climate change and its research models, economic consequences and the issues surrounding the solutions. A great listen if you do not have the time to read.

Hopefully this helps broaden the awareness on current climate change issues and at the very least provides informative sources for you to refer to when needed.

News: Can hydrogen provide a solution to reducing carbon emissions?

One of the biggest issues surrounding climate change is the abundance of harmful gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, and its contribution toward increasing global temperatures. As of this year, approximately 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide has been emitted into the atmosphere and with the normalised practices of modern day this number is forever climbing. However, some people are hard at work in creating solutions to these complex problems such as the idea of using hydrogen gas as a replacement to fossil fuels.

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The use of hydrogen could be a promising solution as there is an abundance of hydrogen gas with very little chance of depletion. As we are starting to see the consequences of using modern day machines and the impacts on human and environmental health, hydrogen presents itself as a cleaner solution. Hydrogen when used goes through what is known as clean-burning, its by-products consisting of only water and heat which can both be recycled. Therefore, offering a much cleaner source of energy.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8773239/Worlds-commercially-available-hydrogen-plane-launches.html

On paper this seems like an obvious and needed transition, however this transition will require a lot of economic investment in order to build the infrastructure required to supply hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. Presently, we are seeing some early transition and investment as of September this year, ZeroAvia successfully made their first zero emission flight using a hydrogen powered plane. Additionally, other companies such as Airbus are looking toward hydrogen powered commercial flights to be readily available in the near future. This appears to be the first steps toward zero emission engines and possibly in twenty years a normalised practice of modern times, such as internal combustion engines are today.

Transport is not the only industry this transition has impacted, as others are looking into hydrogen possibly being used within the home. Supplying houses with hydrogen as been estimated to cut carbon emissions by 6 millions tons a year. These estimations have come from the UK’s largest gas distribution network and they have also stated that this transition can help the UK become carbon neutral by 2050.

The transition toward hydrogen powered transport and households seems to be a promising solution to reducing carbon emissions. As the consequences of increased carbon emissions and warmer temperatures continue to damage the environment, looking toward alternatives such as this may be a vital consideration with the little time that is left before irreversible damage is done.

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News: Study shows by 2030, 53 metric tons of waste could be polluting the environment each year

Since the invention of plastic it has revolutionised the way society operates. The many uses of plastic has grown to an enormous rate. However, one of the major drawbacks to plastic, which we have realised too late, is the large amount of damage it causes to our environment. For example, plastic is not only being dumped into waterways but most of the Indonesian food chain has been found to be poisoned by Western plastics being exported to the East (Ray et al. 2019). This is concerning as plastic waste is now everywhere we look, one critical hotbed for plastic waste being the Pacific ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, spanning from Japan to North West America it demonstrates the harm thoughtless consumerism has had on the planet.

This highlights the tipping point that we are currently at with the environment and how our expendable view of the planet can lead to a possibly catastrophic future if we do not begin to repair our mistakes. A recent study as shown that current rate of plastic waste production exceeds the efforts taken to reduce it, meaning that even if reduction goals are met plastic waste will continue to be a burden. Researchers have estimated that by 2030 the plastic waste in the environment may increase six times the current rate. As of this year, the plastic waste produced is currently at 1.5 billion tons.

This is an extreme problem as what is somewhat overlooked is the way plastic waste can be damaging. For example, plastic takes a considerable amount of time to degrade and can break down into what is known as microplastics. These microplastics can find their way into aquatic life through consumption, as we eat many different species of fish ultimately this microplastic will find its way into humans and the consequences of this are yet to be fully discovered. Therefore, plastic waste is somewhat poisoning the environment and the health of aquatic and human life. However, there are ways to reduce the use of plastic as demonstrated in my previous posts.

The study mentioned above and the consequences of plastic waste highlight an urgency in halting the use of plastic and a serious need in finding alternative methods. Like many other damaging practices, such as the output of CO2 emissions, if we do not transition to healthier practices for both the planet and human life then in ten years time we will see the negative consequences of our destructive habits. This is made even more apparent by the climate clocks which are starting to appear in developed nations, with Berlin and very recently New York estimating that we have seven years until we see the damaging consequences of our actions. Thus, the time to change is needed now more than ever as recent news has shown that the climate goals of the Paris agreement in 2015 are not being met.

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