10 ways to help the planet on World Environment Day

10 ways to help the planet on World Environment Day

World Environment Day (WED) falls today (5 June) and it is when the United Nations (UN) calls on the public to do something positive for the environment.

With the theme of this year’s WED being “7bn dreams. One planet. Consume with care”, the UN says that the rate of consumption of the Earth’s materials is far exceeding what we are putting back into it.

According to its research, much of the Earth’s ecosystems are at nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development.

They estimate that, by 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same, and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6bn, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.

With this in mind, the UN has created a list of 10 small things that will allow the first steps to be taken to change our collective mindset.

1. Go vegetarian, at least sometimes

WED tips

2. Ditch the paper board pass for flights

WED tips

3. Sick of the office? Skype instead

WED tips

4. Get your cooking skills on

WED tips

5. Bone up on your DIY handywork

WED tips

6. Recycle the old iPods

WED tips

7. Save every last drop of water

WED tips

8. Have a bright idea

WED tips

9. Recycle, recycle, recycle

WED tips

10. Get on your bike

WED tips

World Environment Day image via Shutterstock

https://www.siliconrepublic.com/earth-science/2015/06/05/10-ways-to-help-the-planet-on-world-environment-day

World has policy handle on ‘75% of emissions’

World has policy handle on ‘75% of emissions’

Three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets, according to a new study published today by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.   The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study, covering 98 countries plus the European Union which are together responsible for 93% of global emissions, will be presented to delegates tomorrow in Bonn, Germany, where the latest round of United Nations climate change negotiations is taking place. The study has been sponsored by GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organisation of parliaments which was established in 1889. Its results will be distributed to policy-makers around the world.   The study, led by Michal Nachmany and Sam Fankhauser, points out that 53 countries, including the 28 Member States of the European Union, have national targets that set either absolute or relative limits on annual emissions of greenhouse gases across their economies.   “With three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions now covered by national targets, we can be more confident about the credibility of the pledges that countries will make ahead of the crucial United Nations summit in Paris in December this year,” Lead author of the study, Michal Nachmany, said.

While collectively these pledges are unlikely to be consistent with the international goal of avoiding global warming of more than 2 centigrade degrees, the existence of national legislation and policies should provide the opportunity for countries to strengthen the ambition of their emissions cuts after the summit.”   The study also found that the 98 countries and the European Union together had 804 climate laws and policies at the end of 2014, compared with 426 in 2009, when a previous attempt was made in Copenhagen, Denmark, to reach an international agreement. In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, these countries had just 54 climate laws and policies between them.    The study indicates that 47 countries, including the 28 Member States of the European Union, have introduced carbon pricing through either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/business/breaking-news/world-has-policy-handle-on-75-of-emissions/story-fnn9c0gv-1227378059555

Solar energy harvesting mystery solved by Irish and Qatari scientists

Solar energy harvesting mystery solved by Irish and Qatari scientists

Scientists in Dublin and Qatar have made a breakthrough in understanding how materials like crystals used to capture solar energy actually work, enabling them to improve the technology.

The breakthrough was made by Professor Stefano Sanvito, acting director at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin, and his team, in collaboration with researchers at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute.

This discovery will now allow researchers to design even more efficient solar harvesting materials, using the knowledge gained from being able to map these materials. This research has this week been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Hybrid organic/inorganic perovskites, which have been used as highly-efficient solar harvesting materials, are compounds where an inorganic crystal (like a standard semiconductor or metal) is interposed with organic molecules, also arranged in a crystal-like structure.

While it has been known in recent years that solar energy harvesting is extremely efficient in these materials, scientists did not understand how they worked.

Now AMBER researchers have the answer: by using state-of-the-art material modelling simulation tools (a process that involves creating and analysing a digital prototype of a physical model or material to predict its performance in the real world) and focusing specifically on the electronic properties of these materials, the researchers have revealed that the light is “captured” by the inorganic crystal alone.

What makes this material different to other solar harvesting materials, however, is that the electronic structure of these inorganic crystals is changed because of the motion of the molecules.

Solar breakthrough has implications for our planet

“Every hour the Sun irradiates the Earth with as much energy as that used by the entire planet in one year. Harvesting such enormous energy in an efficient and cost-effective way would mean abundant green energy for the entire human race,” Professor Sanvito said.

“Developing and improving our knowledge of solar energy harvesting is crucial. This is an exciting discovery. Now that we understand how these new materials work we can design new compounds to use for solar energy harvesting. A further advantage is that the materials can be grown chemically and not with expensive high-temperature processes.”

Silicon is the most commonly-used material in solar harvesting. There are ample amounts of silicon on our planet, and it is also a non-toxic material. However, its manufacturing process is expensive. This means that a standard solar panel will have a payback time (the time needed to pay back the energy used in creating it) of several years.

The perovskite materials have only recently entered the solar energy harvesting arena and have made progress at unprecedented speed. In only two years solar cells made of such materials have improved the efficiency from 1pc to more than 20pc. A further advantage is that these materials can be grown chemically and do not use expensive high-temperature processes, unlike silicon.

A solar cell made of these perovskites has a payback time of three months.

Unfortunately, although very efficient, to date these new materials have been shown to be unstable in humidity and contain lead, a toxic element. However, due to this new research, new compounds can be designed to eliminate these drawbacks.

“This discovery opens up a new avenue for the design of solar harvesting materials, which could result in increased energy efficiency as well as reduced costs,” said Dr Mohammad Khaleel, QEERI’s executive director.

“We are looking forward to continuing collaboration with AMBER to develop this further.”

https://www.siliconrepublic.com/earth-science/2015/05/11/solar-energy-harvesting-mystery-solved-by-irish-and-qatari-scientists

Apple: Energy-efficient makeover

Apple: Energy-efficient makeover helps campus power ahead

Apple’s newest addition to its Hollyhill campus is a shimmering three-storey structure known as Building Five that sits in stark contrast to the smaller, older red-brick constructions that made up the original site.

The interior of the new building at the Apple European Headquarters in Hollyhill, Cork.

The interior of the new building at the Apple European Headquarters in Hollyhill, Cork.

Its appearance is more befitting a company of Apple’s size and stature in the 21st century, and the powers that be have decided to upgrade the four older buildings in the name of uniformity.

Work that has been ongoing for a number of months is due to be completed by Easter 2016, with the original manufacturing facility the last to get a lick of paint and a lot more besides.

Renovating is never quite the same as starting anew but if the construction work can bring the rest of the Hollyhill campus up to an environmental standard even close to that of Building Five, which opened its doors in January 2014 following a visit from Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Apple chief executive Tim Cook, it will be an impressive achievement.

The building has been designed from the ground up with energy efficiency a fundamental principle. More than 20 such measures mean the building is 40% more energy efficient than is required by current building regulations.

In truth, the building appears as if it’s a self-regulating, intelligent construct capable of adapting to its environment at any given time. It feels alive.

Twin glass-wall “active façades” separated by 600mm of void space help keep the building warm in winter and cooler in the summer using louvres, dampers, and blinds to reach the optimum calibration. The façades are supplemented by solar vacuums on the roof of the building which provide about 60% of the hot water required by the main cafe, counted by some employees as among the finest in Cork.

Cork TD Gene Fitzgerald opens the Apple plant at Hollyhill on November 24, 1980, with, from left, Apple’s then vice-chairman Steve Jobs, chairman Mike Markkula, and managing director Alec Wrafter.

Thankfully, given Apple’s fondness for this part of the world, rainwater is put to good use too, with over 1m litres saved each year as a result of a harvesting system that converts it into the bulk of Building Five’s non-drinking water supply.

Artificial lighting is reduced in much the same way thanks to a system that adjusts to the amount of natural light bathing the office on any given day and switches lights off in unused areas, with a net result 55% energy saving in office areas.

Overseeing all the environmental advances for the last 18 months is environmental, health, and safety manager John, who has spent nearly 30 years in his field but is yet to see anything to rival the Hollyhill campus.

Born in Turners Cross and educated in Sligo IT and UCC, he’s local but, despite informing me that 70% of Cork people never leave their beloved homeland, it’s not a blind love for the county that keeps him knocking around but the chance to work on “frontier-breaking environmental projects” in Apple.

Everything, he says, is seen as a resource — waste especially. Food waste is composted and used in horticultural exercises that aid team building and everything is geared towards recovering and reusing materials. Some 3% of waste is used for energy on campus and none of it goes to landfill.

All of which adds up to award-winning standards which have seen Apple’s Cork campus awarded a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘excellent’ in March, one of the highest scores in Ireland. The campus has also recently been certified as ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ by Underwriter Laboratories, making it the third company globally to receive the certification and the first outside of the US.

Peter O’Dwyer

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/apple-energy-efficient-makeover-helps-campus-power-ahead-333881.html

 

Apple: Energy-efficient makeover

Apple: Energy-efficient makeover helps campus power ahead

Apple’s newest addition to its Hollyhill campus is a shimmering three-storey structure known as Building Five that sits in stark contrast to the smaller, older red-brick constructions that made up the original site.

The interior of the new building at the Apple European Headquarters in Hollyhill, Cork.

The interior of the new building at the Apple European Headquarters in Hollyhill, Cork.

Its appearance is more befitting a company of Apple’s size and stature in the 21st century, and the powers that be have decided to upgrade the four older buildings in the name of uniformity.

Work that has been ongoing for a number of months is due to be completed by Easter 2016, with the original manufacturing facility the last to get a lick of paint and a lot more besides.

Renovating is never quite the same as starting anew but if the construction work can bring the rest of the Hollyhill campus up to an environmental standard even close to that of Building Five, which opened its doors in January 2014 following a visit from Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Apple chief executive Tim Cook, it will be an impressive achievement.

The building has been designed from the ground up with energy efficiency a fundamental principle. More than 20 such measures mean the building is 40% more energy efficient than is required by current building regulations.

In truth, the building appears as if it’s a self-regulating, intelligent construct capable of adapting to its environment at any given time. It feels alive.

Twin glass-wall “active façades” separated by 600mm of void space help keep the building warm in winter and cooler in the summer using louvres, dampers, and blinds to reach the optimum calibration. The façades are supplemented by solar vacuums on the roof of the building which provide about 60% of the hot water required by the main cafe, counted by some employees as among the finest in Cork.

Cork TD Gene Fitzgerald opens the Apple plant at Hollyhill on November 24, 1980, with, from left, Apple’s then vice-chairman Steve Jobs, chairman Mike Markkula, and managing director Alec Wrafter.

Thankfully, given Apple’s fondness for this part of the world, rainwater is put to good use too, with over 1m litres saved each year as a result of a harvesting system that converts it into the bulk of Building Five’s non-drinking water supply.

Artificial lighting is reduced in much the same way thanks to a system that adjusts to the amount of natural light bathing the office on any given day and switches lights off in unused areas, with a net result 55% energy saving in office areas.

Overseeing all the environmental advances for the last 18 months is environmental, health, and safety manager John, who has spent nearly 30 years in his field but is yet to see anything to rival the Hollyhill campus.

Born in Turners Cross and educated in Sligo IT and UCC, he’s local but, despite informing me that 70% of Cork people never leave their beloved homeland, it’s not a blind love for the county that keeps him knocking around but the chance to work on “frontier-breaking environmental projects” in Apple.

Everything, he says, is seen as a resource — waste especially. Food waste is composted and used in horticultural exercises that aid team building and everything is geared towards recovering and reusing materials. Some 3% of waste is used for energy on campus and none of it goes to landfill.

All of which adds up to award-winning standards which have seen Apple’s Cork campus awarded a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘excellent’ in March, one of the highest scores in Ireland. The campus has also recently been certified as ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ by Underwriter Laboratories, making it the third company globally to receive the certification and the first outside of the US.

Peter O’Dwyer

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/apple-energy-efficient-makeover-helps-campus-power-ahead-333881.html