Indoor Air Pollution – How to Improve it?

Indoor air pollution is one of the five major environmental risks to public health. About 2 million people die each year from diseases associated with indoor air pollution, mainly from the use of solid fuels, chemical, and biological sources.

A number of studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including respiratory as well as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Indoor air pollution is a common problem for every home, regardless of location. Many homeowners do not know that the pollution in their homes can be worse than of outdoors two to five times.

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Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Building an energy-efficient home helps achieve several important goals, such as energy conservation and reduce our energy bills and save money. Another equally important goal of greening our home is to create a healthy indoor environment for the health and comfort of our family.

Indoor air pollution and allergens can affect our health, causing eye inflammation and runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. The worst cases of indoor pollution are chronic diseases such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and lung cancer.

Common indoor air pollutants include:

Dust is the most common indoor pollutant that can cause respiratory allergies.

Biological pollutants such as pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, and dust mites that can cause diseases like hay fever or induce asthma in adults and children.

Chemical pollutants include household cleaners, paints, and solvents. These products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause mild syndromes, such as headaches, skin and throat irritation, when people are regularly exposed to them.

Volatile organic gases are emitted by building and remodeling materials, such as paint, lacquer, glue, and plywood. Toxic volatile organic compounds can be released by building materials for several years after installation.

Carpets and upholstery that use formaldehyde as a permanent adhesive. The World Health Organization classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

Synthetic fragrances, perfumes, and deodorants. It has been found that some of the volatile and semi-volatile chemicals used are toxic and can cause skin irritation, an allergic reaction, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and reproductive disorders.

Radon gas coming from a kitchen countertop, attic or basement. According to the US National Cancer Institute, radon is America’s second leading cause of lung cancer.

Combustion pollutants. These are gases or particles that are emitted by non-ventilated or poorly ventilated fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace, heater, wood or gas stove, water heater, and dryer. Some of the hazardous gases that can be produced include nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, as well as other chemical fumes.

Tobacco smoke contributes to poor indoor air quality and causes asthma in primary school children.

Pet dander. Animal hairs and dried skins can also be a source of respiratory irritation.

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Air purifier for home
Air purifier for home

 How to improve indoor air quality?

You can manage the air quality in your home with a few simple steps. Let’s look at the possible steps for improving the indoor air quality:

  1. Indoor air quality can be improved by removing the source of air pollution. The main solution is switching from solid fuel (coal and biomass) to cleaner and more energy-efficient energy sources.
  2. Cleaning, vacuuming carpets and dusting surfaces regularly from a source of air pollution and allergens can significantly reduce the amount of dust and allergens in the air.
  3. Use high-efficiency filters for air ventilation and change them regularly. Regular filter replacement can significantly improve indoor air quality and your family’s health, especially if someone in your family has serious allergies.
  4. Control of exposure to indoor allergens and air humidity using air monitors. Excessive moisture in the air can cause the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus, in places such as basements and bathrooms.
  5. Cleaning indoor air in your home using an energy-efficient air purifier. Using an air purifier can help reduce indoor air pollution in enclosed spaces.
  6. Use an energy-efficient vacuum cleaner with high-efficiency filters. It has been shown that this significantly reduces interior particulate pollution and, therefore, the symptoms of asthma and allergies.
  7. Replace furniture made of toxin-releasing materials when refurbishing your home. Buy quality furniture from eco-friendly materials that will last you a long time and your family healthy.
  8. Invest in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems and household appliances, including vacuum cleaner, air purifier, and high-quality air filters. The proper HVAC system of your home with also help you save on energy bills.
  9. The cheapest and simplest way to improve indoor air pollution is houseplants. Studies have identified the 12 most beneficial plants, especially in removing VOCs.

Potted green indoor plants
Green indoor plants. Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

High-efficiency filters for air ventilation

Advanced technologies for air purification in your home are currently available, including high-performance filters for air purifiers.

HEPA air filters are the most efficient filters available and remove 99.97 percent of dust and particles as small as 0.3 microns. They can remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, some bacteria, and other common indoor allergens.

Activated carbon air filters can remove gases, fumes, and cigarette smoke missed out by HEPA filter.

Air ionizers create negative ions that change the polarity of airborne particles, causing them to magnetically attract together. Particles become heavier and settle on the ground or on walls instead of staying airborne. Air ionizer removes particles as small as 0.01 microns as well as neutralize chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, viruses, and bacteria.

Germicidal ultraviolet (UV) lamps can effectively destroy germs, viruses, mold, and bacteria. However, the UV lamps cannot remove most allergens and dust, chemical fumes, gases, or cigarette smoke.

Ozone generators are highly effective against odors, including cigarette smoke odors as well as certain chemicals and bacteria. However, some people are sensitive to ozone itself that causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat at high concentration.

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Final Thoughts

Remember that indoor pollution is more manageable than outdoor air pollution. It is recommended that you invest in upgrading your existing home step by step. You can invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, and energy-saving appliances that will lower your energy bills for years to come.

If you plan to build a new home, you may want to invest in environmentally friendly materials and additional insulation that can trap pollutants and chemicals released by building materials, paint and other toxic materials.

Let us know what you think on this subject. Are you considering investing in your home to improve your indoor environment? Please leave your comment below.

Updated 03/19/2020

The Best Tips for Energy-Efficient Appliances in 2020

The construction of energy-efficient homes implies the use of such energy-efficient homes features as the proper home framing, insulation, and quality windows. However, you can make your home truly energy-efficient only with energy-efficient appliances.

Most of your energy bill falls on household appliances such as air heating, and cooling systems, water heating, washing, and drying, refrigeration and light bulbs. Energy-efficient home improvements and appliances can lower your bills and even get you an Energy Tax Credit or other financial incentives. Depending on your country and region, you may have several incentive schemes.

Look for energy-efficient labels!

When buying household appliances, first of all, look for energy-efficient labels! What are Energy-Efficient Labels?

All major household appliances, with the exception of rangers and ovens, must meet the US Department of Energy (DOE) standards and have a black and yellow EnergyGuide Label. You can find these labels on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, microwave ovens, water heaters, pool heaters, room air conditioners, central air conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces and boilers, and ballasts for fluorescent lamps.

Other appliances, such as televisions, clothes dryers, ranges, and ovens, as well as heaters, were excluded from the EnergyGuide program, although they must also meet federal minimum efficiency standards.

Energy Star® is designed to help customers to choose more energy-efficient products and protect the environment through high energy efficiency. The Energy Star® Program supported by the US EPA and DOE for the efficient use of energy in homes and businesses. Energy Star® certified home appliances exceed federal standards by 10 to 40 percent.

Energy Star® symbol, which is awarded only to products that meet stringent energy efficiency requirements. This applies to equipment, computers and printers, household goods and even new homes! So, knowing this rating system you will save energy and money.

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Go Solar!

There are many ways to save energy by applying the latest technology in alternative energies. These are solar energy systems, which can be either the addition of several solar panels to your roof or a complete solar home system.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits are available for alternative energy resources such as solar and small wind turbines. Federal incentives offer a 30 percent credit off the total cost of any qualified photovoltaic or water heating system.

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Solar roof panels

Energy-Efficient Doors and Windows

Poor door and window seals allow hot and cold air to pass through. This makes the Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) systems consume more energy, which means higher energy bills.

Energy Star® doors and windows comply with strict energy efficiency guidelines. They will provide you comfort and save energy and money for many years to come. Consider not only the initial price but also the guarantee, the cost of maintenance and the quality of the company that sells them.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances can add up to 15 to 20 percent of overall energy usage and operational costs to your home. Therefore, it is recommended to choose the right size and maintaining them properly.

When purchasing be sure all your household appliances are  Energy-efficient appliances that will help you save even more energy.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Energy-efficient HVAC systems save most of your home energy that means fewer energy bills. No matter where your home is located, you want to have a comfortable home temperature without increasing your electricity bills.

Try to install ceiling fans wherever possible, especially in rooms with high ceilings. Be sure to select only fans approved by Energy Star®, as they are approximately 20 percent more efficient than the average ceiling fan. Consider installing insulated window shades or blinds on the sunny side of your home. These strategies will help you to stay cool while cutting your air conditioning (AC) costs.

Water Heating System

Water heating at home is the second in energy consumption after residential heating and cooling. Energy Star® water heating can cut your energy bill in half.

Tankless Water Heater

Energy-efficient tankless water heaters are one of the best innovations of the last decade. The advantage of these heaters is that you do not need to constantly heat the water in the tank during periods when you are not using hot water. They only heat water when you need it, so you can save money and energy.

Consult an experienced plumber to assess the need for hot water in your home. Most Energy Star® qualified tankless models will qualify for a Federal tax credit.

Solar Water Heater

The advantage of a Solar Water Heating System is that it uses the free energy of the sun. These solar systems can work anywhere regardless of climate. An energy-efficient solar heating system can reduce the hot water energy consumption and an electricity bill in half.

With any solar system, you want to have an efficient backup system. The best way to supplement the solar water system is to install tankless water heaters, so you call them up as needed. Like all renewable energy products, a solar heating system qualifies for many tax incentives and discounts.

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Refrigerators

The new energy-efficient refrigerator is the best choice for investment, to save energy and money in the long run. When purchasing an energy-efficient refrigerator, consider the starting price, maintenance costs, and operating costs.

Stainless steel refrigerator
Stainless steel refrigerator. Photo by Alex Qian from Pexels
Thermostats

Keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature, without overheating and overcooling, and turn off the heater and air conditioning when nobody is at home. In extreme climatic conditions, when it is impossible to completely turn them off, you can certainly adjust them so that they consume less energy.

If you are often away from home, consider a programmable thermostat. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature of your home in advance. This way you will save energy and money while you’re not at home.

Clothes Washers and Driers

If you have an older washing machine, it probably consumes more hot water and energy, which means a higher energy bill for you. If you need a new washing machine, look for an energy-efficient washing machine that will save energy and money. In general, Front Loading Washers use less energy and less water than Top Loading Washers.

To reduce energy consumption, you can always find a clothes dryer with a good energy rating. These energy-saving appliances will save energy and money in your pocket.

Energy-Saving Dishwashers

Energy-efficient dishwashers are one of the most common appliances in the kitchen and expensive to maintain because it uses not just electricity but also ample amounts of water. Dry dishes without heat and you will save energy and water.

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Energy-Efficient Solar Lighting

It’s important to ensure that you use energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs, CFLs, and halogen bulbs as well as outdoor solar lighting. Energy-efficient lighting will benefit you with a lower energy bill and will save the environment.

Summing up, always purchase appliances with the Energy Star® label, in particular, a washing machine and dishwasher, as they typically consume 50 percent less water and electricity.

With these simple steps, you will not only save money on your electricity bills but also create a healthier home environment and reduce environmental pollution.

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Updated 03/19/2020

Waste-to-Energy – Green or Brown?

New advanced technologies can produce energy from municipal solid waste. Homes and households produce 60 percent of the waste, and people will always create garbage. Thus, the conversion of municipal waste into an energy source can become one of the largest energy sources of the future.

For every ton of household waste produced, commercial, industrial and construction businesses produce another six tonnes. Manufacturers can minimize and improve their waste management in order no longer to be able to discard their waste.

Along with the “Zero Waste” approach, other alternative methods for managing the household and commercial waste that reduce the amount of harmful waste, including industrial toxic by-products, are the so-called “Waste-to-Energy” technologies that generate energy from waste.

The municipal waste separation and recycling methods greatly reduce the amount of solid waste left over, which means much less space in landfills. However, a vast portion of mixed waste or residual waste is difficult to separate and recycle. Waste feedstock left after sorting is standardized into solid recovered fuel (SRF) or refuse-derived fuel (RDF).

There are various applications of Waste to Energy (WTE), which are based on gasification, pyrolysis, and incineration. The energy produced by gasification is considered renewable in some U.S. states.

What is Gasification? 

Gasification is a process of breaking down the organic matter into a gas by applying extreme temperatures in an environment with a limited amount of oxygen.

The gasification system breaks down the organic waste into a gaseous form bypassing the 4 processes such as drying, pyrolysis, combustion, and reduction.

Pyrolysis is the application of heat to the organic matter in the absence of any oxygen. The solid waste breaks down into charcoal and various tar gasses and liquids. It is essentially the process of charring.

A heat source is required for the pyrolysis process, but no heat source is needed for gasification because this process is self-sustaining thermally.

When both pyrolysis and gasification processes occur at the same time, the gasification combustion reactions can provide the heat source needed for the pyrolysis process to perform the reactions.

Synthetic Gas

Gasification and pyrolysis produce synthetic gas or Syngas as a major end product of the process. Syngas is similar to natural gas that contains a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, and other hydrocarbons and inert ingredients.

The produced Syngas is cleaned from large tars and particulate goes through several steps of the filtration system. The cleanliness of the gas is important for the end-use. It can be used to power an internal combustion engine, feed a boiler or a burner and could be used to create steam.

This gas can be used to power an internal combustion engine in order to create electricity. This makes both pyrolysis and gasification methods profitable, because of the various end products from Syngas including heat and power generation.

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Gasification vs Incineration

Although the two processes have some common features it’s important to understand the difference between them.

Incineration is the process of combusting the organic matter within waste through ‘thermal treatment’. The main by-products of incineration are inert bottom ash and the flue gas. The toxic dioxins and furans are formed, especially when PVC-containing plastics and other materials are burned. Pollution Control Systems (PCS) destroy these gases by passing through a secondary burner at high temperatures.

On the contrary, gasification is claimed to be a carbon-neutral process. It fits into the carbon-cycle by using responsibly sourced biomass as fuel.

As a result, incineration produces just heat and electricity, while Syngas produced by gasification can be turned into valuable commercial products including transportation fuels, chemicals, and fertilizers.

Emissions from gasification are below EPA emission standards.  This explains the growing trend in the development of gasification based waste-to-energy, which is considered renewable energy.

Waste-to-Energy Plants in Europe

Waste-to-Energy (W2E) is widely used by the EU countries to burn waste that could not be recycled. This waste is used to generate energy in the form of steam, electricity or hot water.

Modern Waste-to-Energy facilities are equipped with filters. Between 1990 and 2000 dioxin emissions of Waste-to-Energy plants in Germany dropped from 400 g to less than 0.5 g per year while the amount of thermally treated waste had more than doubled in the same period.

Waste-to-Energy supports high-quality recycling. Countries with very high recycling rates also have high rates of Waste-to-Energy and thus have reduced landfills to almost zero. These are Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. New Waste-to-Energy initiatives have been also introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic countries.

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Has Sweden established the best recycling practice?

Sweden burns 2 million tons of waste every year, while only 1 percent of all country’s household garbage goes into landfills. Half of the waste is recycled while another half is burned. The country generates 40 percent of heat energy by burning garbage in low-carbon incinerators or Waste-to-Energy plants.

The Waste-to-Energy system also improved Sweden’s recycling rate by 50 percent, which is twice as much as the US rate of 24 percent.

Sweden banned landfills in the 2000s and considers waste incineration as a form of recycling. According to some reports, up to 86 percent of plastics in the country is burned. It is known that burning plastic is very harmful to human health and the environment. However, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) claims that there are no harmful effects.

The country runs out of garbage and imports it from other countries. Currently, Sweden imports about 700,000 tons of garbage from other European countries including the UK and Norway.

Debates Over Waste-to-Energy 

Waste-to-Energy plants provide energy and reduce a significant amount of non-reusable, non-recyclable waste by 90 percent. But is this energy renewable, as it is claimed?

There is disagreement with environmental justice communities and non-governmental organizations. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) report (May 2019) shows that municipal waste incinerators are economically inefficient as the most costly and unsustainable, and also raise growing concerns about health effects.

Energy Justice Network considers incineration as an extremely dirty way of getting rid of waste. Waste incineration produces highly toxic emissions of dioxins, furans, mercury, lead, and other toxic substances. A 2006 EPA study found that dioxins, highly toxic substances produced by incinerators can cause cancer.

EPA emission standards for incineration plants are currently being criticized in court by Earthjustice, the environmental legal organization representing Sierra Club to address pollution issues under the Clean Air Act.

Zero Waste Europe is convinced that “Waste-to-Energy is not sustainable because it harms the Circular Economy.” Burning garbage and releasing carbon dioxide minimizes all the benefits of landfill reduction.

Waste-to-energy plants dispose of waste including single-use plastics and other recyclable materials, through the processes of incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, and a plasma arc system which are considered as “waste-of-energy”.

Recently, waste-to-energy incineration was excluded from the new E.U. Sustainable Finance Taxonomy Report (June 2019). Transition to a Circular Economy, waste prevention and recycling are major environmental objectives that can contribute to climate change mitigation as well as to the E.U. climate goals in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

In Conclusion

With the implementation of green initiatives and more sustainable waste management, the expansion of landfills has rapidly slowed. Environmentally friendly technologies and waste separation methods must meet strict environmental pollution standards.

Building a Circular Economy that includes the prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and repair of waste will largely depend on changes in our behavior and the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle. The next generation can deal with these problems better than we do.

What is your opinion on this? Please leave your comment below.

Rethinking Waste – What Is Zero Waste Energy?

Zero Waste movement was introduced in the 80s, which means preventing waste by making the best choices, starting with the extraction of raw materials, product manufacturing, and disposal to a landfill. A zero-waste system approach focuses on redesigning the product life cycle so that the end-product can be reused or recycled, thereby enabling a circular economy.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. Other definitions for zero waste given by various organizations and communities are very close.

Zero waste is a systems approach to eliminate waste through recycling and reusing it by redesigning of resource lifecycle. The United States Conference of Mayors adopted a Hierarchy of Material Management, which includes:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Redesign
  • Reduce Waste, Toxicity, Consumption, and Packaging
  • Repair, Reuse and Donate
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Down Cycle and Beneficial Reuse
  • Waste-Based Energy as disposal
  • Landfill Waste as disposal

When something can’t be reused it will enter the landfill, the landfill sites produce huge amounts of methane gas as organic compounds such as food scraps decompose.  This gas is captured and then able to be reused as combustion material to produce electricity.

Why Is Zero Waste Important?

As mentioned above, zero waste means that at least 90 percent of the waste must be diverted from incineration and landfills. Landfills are the least expensive municipal waste management, and this is the most commonly used method in the United States and many other countries. However, landfills have a huge harmful environmental impact, in the form of leachate which can contain harmful metals and chemical pollutants, and this can get into the groundwater.

Landfills also accumulate greenhouse gases, from the decomposition process, which contribute to global warming. There are other alternative methods of municipal waste disposal that can be more environmentally friendly, and some can be used for conversion to energy sources. Recycling municipal waste can be done in several ways, including some alternative ways that have less of a harmful impact on the environment.

Waste Management

Rubbish recycling has developed over decades in many countries with the goal of eliminating waste that is harmful to the environment. Implementing the latest technologies, zero waste communities, businesses, and individuals strive to recover as much waste as possible so that up to 90 percent of the waste is diverted from landfills.

Municipal waste management services are using the latest technologies, such as Material Recovery Facilities, to recover as much waste as possible to divert waste from landfills and turn it into resources.

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What Is Zero Waste Energy?

Zero Waste Energy is referred to as renewable energy obtained through anaerobic digestion of solid organic waste and resource recovery processes.

Emerging technologies can be used to further generate energy from non-recyclable waste. The proper application of these technologies in combination with the extraction of expensive goods and organic substances for energy and compost production makes the best use of an integrated waste management system.

Recycling municipal waste helps the environment by removing greenhouse gases from landfills. Utilization of municipal waste using the latest technologies can generate alternative energy. Municipal solid waste is a sustainable and renewable source of energy.

Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)

MBT plants are designed for the treatment of mixed domestic, commercial and industrial waste. The process combines a front-end sorting facility with biological treatments such as composting or anaerobic digestion.

The MBT facility has one line that sorts single-stream, commingled and source-separated recyclables, and the other line sorts residential and dry commercial waste. It can handle a wide variety of materials, including municipal solid waste, C&D debris, single-stream recyclables, and source-separated OCC, paper, electronic scrap, and white goods.

Anaerobic digestion plant
Anaerobic digestion plant. Credit: Wikimedia

Anaerobic Digestion

Biodegradable organic waste can be treated with or without air access. The aerobic process is composting and the anaerobic process is called digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is a low-temperature thermal process of decomposing biodegradable materials into gas, also called biogas, mainly composed of methane and carbon dioxide.

Biodegradable materials are broken down by microorganisms in the process of anaerobic digestion without the use of oxygen using Anaerobic Digesters. The end result of anaerobic digestion is valuable by-products such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and electricity.

Waste-to-Energy Is Not Zero Waste

There is confusion with Zero Waste and Waste-to-Energy approaches. Although both strive to reduce CO2 emissions and landfills, their goals and technologies are quite different.

Waste incineration is not part of the Zero Waste strategy. In fact, the waste-to-energy approach has been criticized as wasting energy and producing the most expensive form of electricity compared to other resources (including coal, natural gas, and oil).

Zero Waste only accepts anaerobic digestion as the technological process for making sustainable energy resources from waste. Waste-to-energy practices such as incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, and a plasma arc system  are considered as “waste-of-energy.”

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“Zero Waste to Landfill” Is Not Zero Waste

“Zero Waste to Landfill” is not the same as the Zero Waste system approach. The former focuses on producing energy by burning waste and thus eliminating landfills. Burning waste is considered as the destruction of resources and ends up with a lower amount and more expensive energy. “Zero Waste to Landfill” approach does not reduce waste and protect natural resources.

Contrary, a zero-waste system approach focuses on reuse or recycles of the products by redesigning of resource lifecycle. According to ZWIA, any term including “zero” means at least 90 percent diversion from landfills, incinerators, and the environment. However, Zero waste does not mean achieving absolute zero.

Zero Waste Cities

Zero-Waste City is a program adopted by cities for phasing out waste without incineration or landfill but using a zero-waste strategy that prevents waste in the first place.

Cities around the world including Auckland, Catalonia, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Montreal, Navarra, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rotterdam, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington D.C. announced their commitment to achieve “zero-waste” signing C40’s Advancing to Zero Waste Declaration.

The International Zero Waste Cities Conference (IZWCC, 2018) at Bandung, Indonesia with the theme ‘Circular City is the Future City’ presented the zero-waste approach of municipal waste management to reduce their waste by redirecting it to other purposes, extend recycling and composting and increase the overall sustainability of the cities.

Thus, Zero Waste aims to help people change their habits and lifestyle, minimizing excess consumption and maximizing their recovery. Could you reduce your waste or live a zero-waste lifestyle? Please leave your comment below.

What Can Be Recycled? – The Case of Polystyrene

We cannot change the fact that people produce waste. An average person uses 45-85 tonnes of materials each year. However, we can change how much waste we produce, how we manage it and what we do with it.

Indeed, managing waste in a sustainable way, optimizing recycling and reuse, as well as limiting production, forms a core part of any government policy to protect the environment.

To reduce waste industries, businesses and governments are developing advanced technologies that by mimicking nature turn the waste into a resource.

Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecology, eco-design, and eco-labeling. In addition to the well-established “reduce, reuse and recycle” shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.

Reduce or Waste Minimization

Waste minimization is not going to reduce waste output to zero. Therefore we also have to think about what we do with the rubbish left.

Reuse

The reuse of products or materials that would otherwise become waste can provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. This is an area where the voluntary and community waste sector has led the way. The sector has pioneered many of the services that are widespread today, such as the re-use of furniture and white goods.

Recycle / Recover

Recycling is a way every individual can help the environment every day – and it is easier to do than it has ever been. Your recycling options will vary depending on where you live and what service provider you have. Some service providers allow you to put all your recycling into one bin, except glass and plastic bags.

Most common is drop off locations specifically for plastic bags, and other waste recycling items.

Polystyrene food containers
Takeaway food in a styrofoam container. Photo credit: Piqsels

What Can Be Recycled

Rigid Plastics/Bottles

– Any plastic bottles or containers found in your kitchen

Paper and Cardboard

– Cereal/snack cardboard boxes

– Phonebooks, magazines, and mail

– Office Paper, newspaper, and cardboard

Metals

– Tin, aluminum, and steel cans

Glass

– Food containers or jars

– Soft drink and beer bottles

– Wine and liquor bottles

What Cannot Be Recycled

Loose Plastic Bags

– Plastic shopping bags

– Plastic stretch wrap

Polystyrene Foam Cups or Containers

– Egg cartons

– Take out containers

– Drinking cups

Soiled Food Items

– Food soiled containers

– Soiled paper products

Other

– Broken or sharp glass

– Fast-food packaging

– Plastic utensils

In many places scheduled trash pickup services to offer customized trash pickup solutions to manage your daily garbage collection and waste needs.

What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene packaging, commonly known as the trademark Styrofoam is a type of plastic made from petroleum and synthetic chemicals. It usually comes in two forms: “Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), which is used for making disposable cups, plates, take-out food containers, and packing materials and “solid polystyrene, which is used in plastic forks, CD, DVD cases and other products.

Polystyrene can’t be recycled through your weekly recycling bin. Most places still don’t accept it in foam forms because it’s 98% air. So take it back to a local grocery store that participates in a store take-back program for the recycling of the foam packaging. Polystyrene recycling drop off recycling stations are now available at some locations.

Polystyrene is hard to recycle because it is an end product. Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and its lifespan in a landfill can last for hundreds of thousands of years.

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What Are the Effects of Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is the most widely used plastic packaging due to its melting point and durability. However, polystyrene is one of the least recycled post-consumer plastics, at a rate of below 1 percent for post-consumer polystyrene foam.

Styrene, a synthetic compound in styrofoam, and styrene oxide can leach into foods and affect human health. Obviously, this poses a serious threat to humans health and the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found tiny styrene residues in the human fat tissue samples. The EPA and International Agency for Research on Cancer consider styrene a “possible human carcinogen” and “that such materials can have serious impacts upon human health, wildlife, and aquatic environment, and the economy.” In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had added styrene to its list of known or possible carcinogens.

Therefore, recycling polystyrene is of great importance as a serious hazard to humans, wildlife, marine life, and the environment.

the case of polystyrene
Styrofoam food containers. Photo by Romana Klee/Wunderstock

Polystyrene Ban

On January 1, 2019, the New York City enforced its ban on Styrofoam. because the material can’t be “recycled in a manner that is economically feasible” or “environmentally effective” in its recycling program. Other cities have already banned EPS packaging including Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami Beach, Seattle and Washington, DC. Several states in the U.S. passed a ban on polystyrene in food containers at restaurants and grocery stores.

Alternatives for food packaging are made from bamboo, cornstarch, mushrooms, and peat plastic, and other plant-based materials.

Currently, many countries across the world banned single-use plastics including Styrofoams. Others consider ESP ban legislation and businesses phase out EPS foam packaging.

Some companies like Dell and Ikea are already offering alternative packaging. Other leading brands pledged to ensure that 70% of their packaging is reused or recycled globally. These are Coca-Cola, Danone, Dow Chemical, L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, Mars, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever.

McDonald’s is pledging to replace EPS with renewable or recyclable materials in all of its packagings by 2025. Other major U.S. companies like Amazon, Target and Walmart under growing pressure to make plans to phase out the foam.

Starbucks promised to make a 100 percent recyclable coffee cup.  The company plans to double recyclability, compostability, and reusability of their cups and packaging by 2022 and. Starbucks is committed to phasing out plastic straws from its stores globally by 2020.

Besides polystyrene, other packaging products with limited recycling markets include plastic cutlery, straws and paper napkins.

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Recycling tips

  • If you buy things that can be reused, you will save precious natural resources and energy used to make them, and you’ll reduce the amount of landfill space we need when they are thrown away.
  • Well-made items may cost a little more, to begin with, but they are usually worth the money because they last for a long time.
  • When your family goes shopping, think about taking bags with you. Only about 700 paper bags can be made from one 15-year-old tree.
  • Plastic bags start out as either oil or natural gas – non-renewable resources. Throw-away bags add a lot of pollution to the environment.
  • If everyone recycled his or her newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. You can save a tree for every four feet of paper you recycle.
  • Recycle your newspapers. Recycle your old notebook paper. It is considered “white paper,” and makes better-recycled paper.
  • Batteries that are thrown away produce most of the heavy metals – dangerous substances like lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper, and mercury – that are found in household trash. These metals are toxic. They can be harmful to humans and wildlife.
  • Turn off the toys and games that use batteries when you are not playing with them. That makes the batteries last longer, and you won’t need as many of them.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and a recharger.

All together, avoid packaging that cannot be disposed of in your community. Instead, choose alternatives made from plant-based material. Take the initiative to encourage local companies, colleagues, and friends to switch to biodegradable packaging. By doing this, you can help protect the environment from plastic pollution and prevent the poisoning of fish and aquatic animals in the ocean.

Going Green: Energy-Efficient House Design

Many people dream of having their own energy-efficient houses.  It’s great to buy a house build using an energy-efficient design. However, you can make your existing home more energy-efficient, using energy-efficient appliances and step by step home improvements starting with small, low-cost and medium to large-sized.

Recent technological advances in building materials and construction technology make the process of building energy-efficient houses less challenging. This can be quite an investment but it the long run, it will save homeowners money on monthly electricity bills for many years to come.

In addition, energy-efficient house design will also benefit to house owner because such a home may be eligible for an energy-efficient or “green” mortgage.

Energy-Efficient Homes Features

Designing and building a new house or renovating an existing house to ensure high energy efficiency requires careful planning and attention to detail.

Most of the energy-efficient homes or net-zero homes have several features in common, such as solar panels. First of all, the entire house needs to be viewed as a whole system rather than looking at each part separately. The whole-system approach allows the efficient use of electricity, water, and minimizes waste and materials.

The energy-efficient design of the house is crucial but can only be fully implemented if it is complemented by energy-efficient appliances.

Well-known factors that make a house energy efficient are its framing construction, type of insulation, quality of windows, and heating and cooling systems. While each of these components is important, when used together, it is the most important component for creating a truly energy-efficient house.

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energy efficient house with solar panel roof
Black solar panel home. Image credit: Vivint Solar/Pexels

Energy-Efficient House Framing

House design and frame is a major factor in energy efficiency. While some houses are built using standard 2×4 framing, others are built using staggered 2×6 construction. Staggered framing methods allow for less continuous space inside the walls. When looking at house plans, be sure to consider the type of framing used.

It’s important to pay attention to a proper framing for electrical wires as a very important detail of the overall energy efficiency. Another important area to consider is the framing between trusses and walls as well as between the walls and the foundation of the house.

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Energy-Efficient House Insulation

The first step you need to take to maintain the energy efficiency of your home is to install high-quality insulation.

Isolation is most effective when blocking conductivity or heat transfer through an object. The extent to which insulation blocks conduction is called its thermal resistance value, or R-value. There are various types of insulation materials such as spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose. Thus, the purpose of insulation is to stop thermal bridging and increase the effective R-value as well as eliminate air bridges and condensation.

In addition to the insulation R-value, there are many other types of insulation, including its resistance to air and moisture in the house. The higher the resistance of an insulating or building material to heat flow, the greater the resistance to heat flow. Usually thicker and denser insulation has a higher R-value and therefore better insulates your home.

A Cool Roof of an Energy Efficient House

A cool roof of an energy-efficient home protects against solar heat gain and keeps the house and attic space cool. Typically, cool roofs are made of low thermal mass materials such as tiles, slate, or clay which are reflective or have light-colored pigments that reflect the sunlight.

Several countries and cities around the world mandated green roofs or solar panels for new commercial buildings. Green roofs include anything from simple plant cover to a rooftop garden. Cool roofs improve indoor comfort, reduce energy losses, and extend the roof’s service life.

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solar panels
Solar panel roof home. Photo credit: Pujanak/Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are another important part of the overall energy efficiency of the house. Windows and doors come in all types of qualities and are another way by which you can save a lot of money on utility bills over time.

When considering the different types of windows for your home, you should also consider whether or not they need to be opened as continuous windows can be more energy-efficient than sliding windows.

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling System

The house’s heating and cooling system accounts for 48 percent of the energy consumption in a house and represent a major portion of a household energy bill.

Most homeowners recommend packages that not only reinsulate the attic but also clean the air ducts. Having clean air ducts improves the air quality and efficiency of the heating/cooling system.

The most efficient heating and cooling systems such as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) system, is 95 percent efficient. Other high efficient heating and cooling systems include VRF and variable speed HVAC systems.

Energy-Efficient Water Heating

Water heating accounts for 15 percent of energy costs and is one of the largest energy expenses in a home. You can use High Energy Efficient Water Heaters and save energy and money. There are several options for Energy-Efficient Water Heating such as a tankless water heater, a high-efficiency water heater, a high-efficiency heat pump water heater, and a high-efficiency solar water heater.

Tankless Hot Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters do not store warm water like a traditional tank water heater and can use gas, electricity or propane. These heaters with energy efficiency up to 99 percent can save from 10 to 40 percent of heating costs.

Solar Hot Water Heaters

Solar water heaters can be used to heat water and save energy. They can be used as the main source for hot water or as a back-up to other nonsolar heaters.

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solar water heater
Domestic solar water heater. Photo credit: Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Lighting

Lighting accounts for up to 15 percent of a home’s annual electricity costs, so it is important to ensure that lighting is energy efficient and well optimized. Energy-efficient lighting can only be achieved with simple and cost-effective strategies that will benefit you with lower energy costs and save the environment.

The most common types of energy-efficient lighting are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and halogen incandescent lamps.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

A CFL is a fluorescent light bulb that fits into a regular light socket. The CFL bulb burns cool and uses much less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. However, the cons of the CFL is it may take a minute or more to reach full brightness and CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which makes recycling difficult.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting bulbs: they last 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb, 20 – 25 times longer than a halogen, and 8 – 10 times longer than a CFL. They contain semiconductors diodes that convert electricity into light. LEDs are about 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, however, they are more expensive.

Halogen Incandescents

Energy-efficient Halogen bulbs are the least expensive energy-efficient lighting option; however, they do not have the longevity of LED and some CFL bulbs. Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are similar to traditional incandescent bulbs but use less electricity.

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solar panel roof house
A photovoltaic roof installation filling the entire roof. Photo credit: Roy Bury/Wikimedia

Energy Efficient Ventilation

The ventilation control of an energy-efficient home is crucial because of the air-tightness trap pollutants (such as radon, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds). It is important to install a ventilation system with energy recovery that controls ventilation and minimizes energy loss.

Proper ventilation can prevent bacteria and mold and keep your home dry and protected from damage, saving you money on expensive repair bills. Spot ventilation helps reduce water vapor and moisture, such as exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as natural ventilation.

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Alternative Energy Resources

The design of an energy-efficient home should strive to create as much energy as it uses by installing renewable energy options. These are solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a wind system, or a small “hybrid” electrical system.

Renewable energy sources can save money and energy and maybe even eligible for Federal Tax Credits and local and/or national tax incentives.

The ultimate goal of an energy-efficient house is to achieve net-zero energy use. The design should also strive to comply with the Energy Star sustainability requirements, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

Summing up, achieving these standards will significantly save owners’ money over the lifetime of the house, create a high degree of comfort, and ultimately increase the resale value of the house.

Updated 03/19/2020

What Is 5G Technology and Is it Safe?

5G or 5th generation of cellular networks represents a next-generation wireless network. It’s a new version of cellular technology that can increase the speed of cell phones and other wireless devices.

5G networks began to be deployed in 2019 and are being introduced as a replacement for 4G. Therefore, there are differences between the two networks. What are the main differences?

5G vs 4G Frequency

The main difference between 4G and 5G is that 4G networks operate at low-frequency waves below 6 GHz. Therefore the receiving towers can be installed a few miles away and still work fine.

The 5G technology is used to send and receive very large amounts of data at superfast speeds by utilizing both low-band and high-band frequencies from 30 to 300 GHz. Higher frequencies are mainly generated by electromagnetic radiation called millimeter waves (MMW) from 24 to 52 GHz. MMWs can transmit large amounts of data over short distances.

5G frequencies also have greater directional accuracy. 4G receiving towers are currently operating, by shooting radio waves in different directions. 5G towers provide accurate beam data at a higher concentration and can potentially provide ultra-fast bandwidth for more than 1000 devices per square meter than 4G. Ultimately, they are more effective than 4G.

Is 5G Really Faster?

Using higher frequency radio waves means greater bandwidth speeds. This translates to internet speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G.

Therefore, instead of cell towers, as in the case of 4G, 5G towers should be located much closer to each other, since they operate at higher frequencies using shorter radio waves. 5G networks will use cells that will require an array of mini-cell receptors installed on almost every house to get the best coverage.

The speed of the mobile Internet, 100 times the current network speed, sounds great! However, there are concerns that 5G will bring more serious health problems, both due to the use of more powerful radiation and because of the increased number of receiving towers and mini-cell receptors needed for the network.

Cell Phone Radiation Effects on Human Health

All electronic devices create electromagnetic fields (EMFs) of radiation, which can be harmful to our health. Numerous studies have shown a link between EMF radiation and various health issues.

A study conducted in 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the WHO, classified radiofrequency radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and labeled mobile devices as a Class 2B carcinogen. WHO recognized that more research was needed on the long-term intensive use of wireless devices.

The study of the US National Toxicology Program conducted for ten years and published in November 2018 found cancerous tumors in the heart, brain and adrenal gland of rodents exposed to high levels of radiofrequency radiation (2G and 3G frequencies). Similar results were obtained in a study at the Ramazzini Institute.

Numerous studies have reported an increased risk of developing brain tumors or statistically significant associations between cell phone use and cancer in humans.

The effects of EMF on the human body included the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disorders, impairments in the nervous system, eyesight,  infertility, miscarriage, mental problems associated with depression, anxiety and neurodegenerative disorders.

Studies of the EMF effect revealed critical changes in cell metabolism, changes in cell development, oxidative stress (free radicals), DNA damage, and an increase in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

However, international and national advisory institutions in different countries still consider these studies inconsistent and inconclusive.

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5G Health Risks

Most of the studies examined exposure to 2G and 3G network frequencies and their conclusions about links were very difficult to draw out.

Studies on 5G radiation have not been carried in detail, as with previous generations of radio frequencies. The lack of research on the long-term effects of low-frequency radiation is due to the fact that we haven’t been using them long enough.

The biological effect of MMWs has been studied for decades and showed their potentially dangerous effects. However, very few studies have examined the long-term effects of low-intensity MMWs.

Studies have shown that low-intensity MMWs may affect cell cycle and proliferation and alter structural and functional properties of membranes. Cellular water was the main acceptor of MMW radiation and when dissociated produced reactive oxygen species (ROS).  Moreover, MMW irradiation may affect DNA stability and density, and increase the permeability of lipid bilayer membranes (reviewed by Ramundo-Orlando, 2010). Obviously, more research is needed for a full understanding of the biological effects of low-intensity MMW radiation.

Opposition to 5G in Geneva
Opposition to 5G in Geneva. Credit: Wikimedia

The Effects of Radio Frequencies on Children 

Children may be even at a greater risk because their nervous systems are still developing and skulls are thinner than those of adults. Thus they are more vulnerable to the effects of the radiation emitted by the phones.

Importantly children and adolescents will likely have more years of cumulative exposure to radio frequencies from mobile phones than adults.

The EU-funded MOBI-Kids study is underway to examine risk factors for developing childhood brain tumors associated with exposure to radio frequencies and extremely low frequencies (ELF) from mobile phones in 14 countries around the world.

A Swedish study reported a 4-fold increased risk of a brain tumor in children who began to regularly use mobile phones and other wireless devices under the age of 20.

Other studies have shown negative effects of radio frequencies on children including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma.

Children should be taught how to use cell phones in moderation, using them with wired earphones, and avoid putting them directly on their ear. They should be aware of the adverse effects of cell phones from prolonged exposure.

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Scientists Warn About 5G Dangers 

In 2015, EMF scientists from around the world signed a petition to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, in which they expressed their concern about the negative effects of EMF on health. The harmful effects of EMF on living organisms have been confirmed in over 10,000 studies.

In April 2018 the International Society of Doctors for the Environment signed the 5G Space Appeal calling to stop the deployment of 5G, including 5G from space satellites. Currently, nearly 200,000 signatories from 208 countries and territories have signed a petition.

The 5th generation of wireless technology will increase the level of radiation by 10 to100 times around the world, affecting everyone and everywhere.

This irresponsible act, which ignores numerous scientific studies about the harmful effects of EMFs, is considered “an experiment on humanity and the environment that is defined as a crime under international law”.

Tesla Developments for Sustainable Transportation

Tesla’s goal is to build the best electric cars and other clean products. Tesla’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.”

Tesla Motors’ journey began back in 2003. Since then, Tesla has created four powerful products – electric vehicles, which include Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y. Each of these products works very well in the market. Tesla is now expanding its automotive production with 8 programs for vehicles at various stages of development.

Tesla’s 8 vehicle programs are: Model S, Model X, Model 3, Model Y, Roadster next-gen, Minibus, Pickup truck, Semi.

Tesla Electric Cars

The company uses the Referral Program to encourage owners to purchase Tesla cars as well as solar panels or Solar Roof. Here are Tesla electric vehicles coming by the end of the decade:

Tesla Model S

This year will also be important for Model S and Model X. Both cars have long been in need of updating. Indeed, Tesla is constantly making changes to cars, but not in the way other manufacturers do.

This will be a significant update to the interior and technical specifications, which will allow Model S and Model X to increase their demand in the second half of the year.

Tesla Model 3

Obviously, 2018 was the year for Model 3, but Tesla will sell them even more in 2019. By the end of the year, production is expected to increase to 10 thousand cars per week.

Tesla may increase demand for the base version of Model 3 with a standard battery. This is a mid-size sedan that starts at $ 35,000, with a maximum charge of more than 215 miles per battery. Moreover, Tesla is planning to expand Model 3 markets in 2019 and plans to sell it in Europe and Asia.

Tesla Model Y

Tesla Model Y is an all-electric hybrid vehicle based on a third-age stage similar to Model 3. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said the entrance to the ‘Bird of Prey Wing’ office would look like a Model X vehicle.

In 2019, the presentation of the new crossover from Tesla Model Y was shown on March 15, 2019, as well as previous models, it can also be reserved. This was the first presentation since the last one, which took place in November 2017, at which the Semi and Roadster were shown.

Its production is expected to begin in mid-2020 at Gigafactory 1, however, all new details about the production will be disclosed at the presentation.

Tesla Pickup

Elon Musk spoke very clearly that the Tesla Pickup truck will be the company’s priority after Model Y, but third-generation vehicles, Model 3 and Model Y are currently needed.

Musk confirmed that Tesla will launch a pickup truck and that it should be created in the next 3-4 years (2019-2020). Tesla expected to build on the back an all-electric cargo van, which will be designed for his pickup truck. Musk recently said that Tesla may introduce a prototype pickup in 2019.

The last Tesla Cybertruck arrived in November this year. The Cybertruck has a futuristic design that combines a sports car and a medium-duty truck.

Tesla Cybertruck
Tesla Cybertruck
Tesla Minivan

The electric Minibus was a separate project and an important achievement for Tesla. Elon Musk claimed that the vehicle was based on the Model X chassis, which facilitates its generation. In his ‘Master Plan’, Musk called the vehicle a “High Passenger-Density Urban Transport Vehicle”.

Tesla Minibus is another promising vehicle at the main stages of development.

Tesla Semi

Tesla Semi is an all-electric heavy truck program developed by the previous Tesla Model S Director Jerome Guillen, Tesla Vice President of Vehicle Programs.

Here is the relevant part of the Master Plan: “In addition to consumer vehicles, two other types of electric vehicles are required: heavy trucks and high-density public transport, both of which are in the initial stages of development in Tesla and should be ready for opening next year. This Tesla CMS cargo will significantly reduce the cost of transportation, and security will increase, and he will really enjoy the operation. ”

Tesla plans to produce it this year. Even if production begins in 2019, we can expect extremely small batches. Musk mentioned the same timeline for the unveiling and production in their ‘Master Plan’: “6 to 9 months”, the concept of the unveiling, which should be in mid-2017.  It will be delivered within the next 3 to 4 years (2019-2020).

Tesla Semi
Tesla Semi

Tesla Bus Concept

Electric buses around the world will significantly reduce demand for diesel. According to a Bloomberg New Energy report, switching to electric vehicles at the early stage is driven by buses.

Tesla is undoubtedly a leader in innovation in the field of green technologies, so it was always expected that they would offer an environmentally friendly alternative to public buses that consume gas.

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Back in May 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk questioned the electric bus development project signed by Tesla. According to The Verge, Musk said the vehicle was under development to be presented by the end of 2017.

“I don’t know if the bus thing really makes sense in a shared and completely autonomous environment,” Musk answered the question about the project. “If it costs less than a bus ticket to use a shared autonomy fleet to go where you want, point to point, why don’t you just use it? So I don’t know”.

Musk then added that according to him traffic and urban density “can be completely lightened with tunnels”, referring to a bizarre project aimed at creating an underground tunnel system.

Tesla motorhome
Tesla Bus – The Motorhome

Tesla and Public Transport

The experience of Tesla Motors has become the springboard for Proterra’s electric bus business, which today is one of North America’s major brands with zero emissions tires. Other competitors are Canadians New Flyer and Chinese BYD.

Tesla’s CEO’s antipathy towards public transport is well known: “I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time”, he said.

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Musk ruled out the production of a regular-sized real bus; the door remained open for a vehicle with 10 or 12 seats.

Musk’s preference for vans was confirmed in a tweet published by Musk in November 2018, in which he looks forward to a collaboration with Daimler (an early investor in Tesla shares) to produce an electric van.

In January 2019, Tesla CEO announced that the company has released all of its more than 200 patents for electric cars. “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” Musk wrote on Tesla’s website. “Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open-source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

Why Should Animal Fur Be Banned?

During the Stone Age, people wore animal fur to survive the cold winter seasons. Later fur clothes became luxury items and a representation of status and glamor.

Top designers’ brands signed the verdict banning real fur from future collections. These are Burberry, Coach, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Maison Martin Margiela, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan/DKNY, Versace and Chanel. The Chanel fashion house banned both fur and exotic skins from its collections in favor of sustainable materials. However, fur is still being used by some fashion designers like Oscar de la Renta and others.

Last month Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II announced that they will never wear animal fur and will replace it with an animal-free sustainable alternative. The Queen has banned fur on all of her new outfits, she will however not dispose of existing fur items in her wardrobe.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk has written to the Queen to grant ECOPEL fur replacement on her ceremonial robes with faux fur. “Our faux fur is already celebrated by fashion royalty, but we want to prove that it’s also fit for a queen,” said ECOPEL Director Christopher Sarfati.

New Eco-friendly Fashion Designers

A new wave of eco-friendly fashion designers is promoting cruelty-free outerwear from faux fur. The coats and jackets look incredibly glamorous and even luxurious. The top faux fur designer brands are House of Fluff, Faz Not Fur, N’ONAT, Shrimps, Spirit Hoods, Only Me, the Culthread, Dagmar and others.

The designers provide a guilt-free option and high-quality ethical design. Some of them donate part of their profits towards animal conservation charities and various animal rights organizations. Obviously, cruelty-free fashion is the most desirable option for all animal lovers.

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Eco-innovations in Fashion Design

Eco-friendly materials can replace Stone Age habit of animal fur wearing. For example, the Culthread brand makes insulation in their fake-fur lined puffer jackets with Thermore 100% produced from recycled plastic bottles. The Only Me brand insulates their coats with a heat-retaining, breathable material called Thinsulate, which provides warmth even better than real fur.

ECOPEL, the world’s leading luxury faux producer, developed plant-based and recycled synthetic materials as well as faux fur made from recycled plastics. As a result, the faux fur made from recycled polyester helped to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 71 percent.

Eco-conscious designer Stella McCartney has long used vegan leather and is dedicated to only using sustainable materials in her collections. She recently launched first plant-based faux fur called Koba Fur-Free-Fur made by Ecopel with DuPont Sorona corn fibers and recycled polyester.

She was at first confused about her using faux fur: “I’d done fake fur many, many years ago, and I’d really questioned whether it was appropriate to do it and if it was necessary. Because fake fur now looks so real, I was afraid that I was promoting real fur, but I created these fur-free labels that will be on the outside of products so you can actually tell people it’s not,” she said in her Vogue interview.

Stella McCartney plant-based faux fur
Stella McCartney plant-based faux fur

Environmental Impact

More than 100 million animals are raised and killed for their fur every year. Over 95 percent of the fur comes from farm animals. Numerous scientific reports indicate that fur production causes severe health problems for farm animals on all fur farms.

The fur is promoted as a natural and environmentally friendly product, however, it’s hidden from our eyes that the fur industry is quite polluting. Fur production requires chemicals before it’s used in clothing and other products.

The first environmental problems caused by fur production, is the requirement of land, water, feed, energy and other resources for the farm breeding of the animals. The fur is treated with poisonous chemicals and heavy metals for the processing of leather. These chemicals contribute significantly to land, water, and air pollution. Moreover, they are toxic to human health causing health problems to fur factories workers such as skin and eye disorders and increased cancer risk.

According to the World Bank analysis the fur industry belonged in the top 5 which cause the heaviest metal pollution. The poisonous chemicals can also be damaging to fur wearers. Research in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark showed that some fur products contain residues from poisonous chemicals that contain carcinogens. Some of the harmful substances were even found on children’s fur outwear.

The fur is also bad for the environment because the production of fur requires a lot of energy and resources, and causes greenhouse gasses emission and environmental pollution. According to Dutch research organization CE-Delft, the production of mink fur causes the emission of greenhouse gasses more than 10 times higher than those of plant-based textiles. On the contrary, the production of faux fur was 3 to 10 times more environmentally friendly than the real fur production.

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Animal Fur Ban By Countries

California is the first state in the U.S. to ban fur, announced by the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, banning the sale of animal fur products. PETA applauded Newsom for a statewide fur ban: “PETA pushed hard and thousands of our supporters wrote to their representatives in support of the ban.” “This lifesaving measure will prevent animals from being beaten, electrocuted, and skinned alive for environmentally toxic items that compassionate shoppers no longer want and top designers no longer use.”

Fur farming ban has become the global anti-fur movement. The first countries to ban fur farming were the United Kingdom (2000) and Austria (2004). Other countries introducing fur farming ban include Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic. The Netherlands passed a ban and will phase-out fur production entirely by 2024. In 2018, Norway passed a fur farming, after a phase-out period until 2025. Most recently, Slovakia joined the ban in October 2019, to end fur production by 2025. Ireland, Montenegro, and Bulgaria are currently considering the fur farming ban.

Fur farming was phased-out in Germany and Sweden due to stricter welfare regulations. Japan and Spain accepted the Invasive Alien Species Acts to close down the last mink farms in 2016. Other U.S. states and countries accepted the fur trade ban.

What can you do? Refuse to buy and wear clothes that containing any fur components. Share your awareness about the negative impact of the fur industry with your community. Promote an environmentally friendly and cruelty-free lifestyle.

Only animals should wear natural fur because they own it.

The Effect of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution has turned into a general health concern everywhere throughout the world. Huge scale economic activities and transportation discharges are significant reasons for environmental air pollution.

Recent studies show that air pollution has a huge impact on our general health and well-being. A Cornell University study claims that about 40 percent of all deaths worldwide are caused by environmental pollution. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), almost half of million people die prematurely due to air pollution. More than twenty million people die from environmental pollution every year, mostly in developing countries of South and East Asia.

Types of Environmental Pollution

Recent studies revealed the negative impact of air pollution on human health causing so-called environmental pollution diseases. Diseases caused by pollution can be originated from air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, food pollution, and noise pollution and some other factors.

Ambient air pollution is one of the most widely spread and affects everyone. Clearly, the most affected individuals are those working and living in polluted air conditions (for example, different industries and buildings with indoor air pollution). Moreover, enormous city smog is a common reality everywhere around the world which is affecting countless individuals.

There are different air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, sulfur oxide, and organic volatile compounds.

Air pollution
Air pollution by industrial chimneys

Impact of Air Pollution on Health

Air pollutants can enter our bodies in the form of gases and particulate matter (PM) through the airways and lungs. Once in the body, toxic compounds enter our circulatory blood system, affecting different parts and organs. Symptoms can range from simple ones like nausea, dizziness, headache, and coughing to more serious ones such as respiratory and lung diseases.

Serious health conditions caused by air pollution include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Respiratory diseases due to poor air quality in urban areas are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Air Pollution and Cancer

Air pollution is a leading cause of various types of cancer. Severe illnesses include pulmonary cancer, such as mesothelioma, a particular type of lung cancer that is usually associated with exposure to asbestos.

Leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is usually associated with exposure to benzene vapors via inhalation. Cancers of the liver and other organs are caused by inhalation of carcinogenic volatile chemicals.

Skin cancer is usually seen as a result of prolonged exposure to UV radiation. However, exposure to environmental pollution can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Air Pollution
Air pollution by industrial chimneys

Air Pollution and Mental Health

Particles smaller than PM2.5 and ultrafine particles (UFPM), can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the brain and the central nervous system. Several studies have been shown that these particles negatively affect the structure of the brain, causing degenerative changes such as a decrease of white matter or neuronal degeneration.

Chronic exposure to ambient air pollution can cause oxidative stress and neuroinflammation which leads to physiological alterations of the central nervous system.

Therefore, air pollution is one of the important factors that can affect mental health, causing the early onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.

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Air Pollution Is Linked to Depression and Suicide

Depressive disorders affect about 350 million people worldwide resulting in reduced quality of life, a higher risk of morbidity and premature mortality.

Numerous studies have shown that environmental pollution may be linked to bipolar disorder, depression, and suicide. The link between an elevated exposure to tiny particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and ozone and depressive episodes has been confirmed. There are many risk factors for such mental conditions, the most significant of which are the social circumstance or chronic infections.

Air Pollution Affects Kids’ Mental Health

Cincinnati’s study has shown a positive correlation between elevated exposure to air pollution and a kid’s mental health. Poor air quality caused inflammation and the rise of depressive episodes, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Accumulated evidence confirms that children exposed to poor air conditions revealed decreased attention, short-term memory, and below-average levels of an intelligent quotient. The negative environmental impact on a kid’s mental health may be elevated by poverty caused by stress and other social and health conditions.

Several studies link autism and autism-like disorders to the effect of fine PM from ambient air pollution.  Air pollution affects prenatal brain development and an increased risk of developing mental disorders as well as neurobehavioral disorders, birth and immune system defects, and premature death.

Altogether, the link between urban air pollution and human health condition is obvious. Air pollution is an environmental hazard, therefore, novel public health initiatives have to be implemented to prevent health deterioration reaching epidemic proportions.

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Governments and businesses need to focus on greening our cities and changing to cleaner transport. Sustainable cities and communities programs should focus on investing in environmentally friendly public transport, green buildings, and public spaces, as well as improving urban planning and management.

What green initiatives have been implemented in your city or community so far? Are you satisfied with the environmental situation in your city or does it still need to be improved? Please leave your comment below.