Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Circular Economy

Per Wikipedia:

The circular economy is a generic term for an industrial economy that is producing no waste and pollution, by design or intention, and in which material flows are of two types, biological nutrients, designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality in the production system without entering the biosphere as well as being restorative and regenerative by design.

Instead of the linear-type economic system now in use, which is basically "take, make, waste" model, a circular economy has much different principles:

  1. Rather than simply "taking" from our natural resources we can make sure to conserve and regenerate the earth's limited resources.    
  2. Instead of "making" it is possible to reuse or repurpose what we already have produced. 
  3. No more "wasting" what is right in front of us by simply throwing it away and immediately buying a new replacement. The item can be fixed, it's parts refurbished for other uses, or simply given to those without. This reduces waste, pollution, and environmental harm.

Energy to power tommorow

The burning of fossil fuels has been the primary staple for energy in America for the past century. These non-renewable sources of energy are damaging to the environment and are prone to depletion in the coming future. Efforts have been made to expand alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy.

1) Solar energy
A decade ago, solar panels were a luxury that most average people didn't ever consider. However, solar panels are now widely available for installation in the average household. Off-grid solar panels are available to generate electricity solely off the sun's rays. The efficiency of solar panels has steadily increased with advances in engineering. It is possible to power an entire household with solar panels on a sunny day! In addition, the cost of installing solar panels has dramatically dropped. This is a great option for living sustainably and saving on your electricity bill!

2) Wind energy
Wind energy utilizes the force of air currents to mechanically turn wind turbines for energy. The source of this energy is ultimately the moon's gravity (which creates wind), so it is completely renewable, as long as we still have the moon. While you may see giant wind turbines spanning large open fields, it is possible to purchase smaller scale versions to power your own home as well. A large selection of wind turbines are available on Amazon for purchase under 500$. Reviews have reported running several electronic appliances at once without a problem with these wind turbines. Unlocking the energy that (literally) passes right by us can lead to lower dependencies on fossil fuels for our energy.

3) Water energy
Similarly to wind energy, the force of flowing water is utilized to spin turbines which generate electricity. Thanks to the water cycle, powered by evaporation from the sun and gravity from the earth, the kinetic energy flow in rivers can be captured. Obviously, dams are not commercially available to the average consumer, but knowing about this source of clean energy is useful.

4) Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy captures the heat energy that arises from the core of the earth. Hydrothermal  vents(heat from water) are a completely clean and sustainable energy source.
To the left is a map of common Geothermal sites around the US. The earth is constantly excreting the immense heat that is found in its core. This process does not remove any resources from the earth, unlike coal mining or fossil fuel pumping. Only the heat and pressure of the water vents are captured and converted into usable forms of energy. The earth will constantly heat and renew more water and steam for us to utilize. Hot springs are an example of geothermal energy. Instead of burning natural gas to heat your bathwater, a naturally occurring bath of water is waiting for you to enjoy! Click below to find a hot spring near you! 

Thank you for reading! Keep an eye out for these energy sources in the future. Who knows, maybe you will find yourself using one of them too! Best of luck!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Oregon State and Portland State Among Top 20 Greenest Colleges

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has listed Oregon State and Portland State among the top 20 Greenest Colleges in the United States. AASHE takes pride in their scrutinizing methodology in determining the greenest colleges. The Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a voluntary system that allows universities and colleges to report and track their sustainability efforts. STARS is a quantifiable system that takes into account initiatives to reduce on-campus waste, energy consumption, promotion of alternative transportation, funding for green proposals, curriculum, green innovation, public engagement and much more.

Oregon State University ranks 10th among the top 39 Greenest Colleges in the United States with a STARS score of 70.94. OSU, located in Corvallis, Oregon is home to sustainability innovation and research. They take pride in their energy reduction efforts. For example, OSU has 22 exercise machines connected to the power grid, which in turn provides energy to the university's facilities.  Oregon State highest STARS rankings are among Research (17.5/18) and Campus Engagement (20/20) categories.

Oregon State's full STARS report can be found here

Portland State University ranks 20th among the top 39 Greenest Colleges in the United States with a STARS score of 68.67. PSU, located in Portland, Oregon is known for their energy conservation efforts. PSU consistently takes part in successful student and community outreach events like candlelight dinners, blackout board game nights, and smarter laundry workshops. Portland State's highest STAR ranking is in Research (18/18) in part due to the Institute for Sustainable Solutions. This program's focal areas are Urban Sustainability, Ecosystem Services, and Social Determinants of Health. More info about PSU's Institute for Sustainable Solutions can be found here:

Portland States's full STARS report can be found here

Find out if your university is ranked among the top 39 Greenest Colleges by clicking the link below.

Regenerative Farming and Agriculture

Agriculture is a huge sector of our economy. What can we do to make this big business more regenerative and sustainable? The Rodale Institute created the following Circle of Regenerative Agriculture which can help you (a reader interested in sustainable practices) or you (a farmer) to understand this concept:

You and Your Farm–By farming organically, you are regenerating the soil and returning it to its natural, healthy state. By farming without chemicals, you are also regenerating your health and your family's health.

The Local Environment–The wildlands, wetlands and the environment surrounding your farm are regenerated by your organic practices. Dangerous chemicals no longer wash out of your fields and beneficial birds and wildlife return to help you keep down insect pests.

The Community–the local community and the world beyond are also regenerated by your farm as you recycle natural waste products into your fields, reducing local pollution points. As people eat your organic food, they are being regenerated and made healthier. Your farm is helping to clean up the planet!

Here you can sign up for their newsletter if you want future information on their projects

France has created the “4 per 1000 initiative” An international project whose aim, is to demonstrate that agriculture, and agricultural soils in particular, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned”

The below image demonstrates their initiative:

This is something that can be emulated here in the U.S. and promoted throughout our farming communities. Click the link to join their initiative or forward to those you know who would be interested. There are several action plans that can be implemented in a wide variety of circumstances from training, public policy, supply chain, and local level agricultural management.