Pollution prevention requires conscious behavioral decisions. By making conscious behavioral decisions, individuals can prevent pollution prevention upstream purely by demand. When individuals no longer demand products associated with pollution, the demand to supply the product decreases and so does the associated pollution. Individuals who do not feel they are significant enough to make a difference should really ask themselves why they vote in elections, or pick up garbage. If we have the mindset that we can’t make a difference then surely we will not.
Pollution is rapidly degrading our beautiful planet. If we have not felt the effects of increased pollution yet, we are sure to within the next few years. Small lifestyle changes really can make a difference, after all it is the cumulative effects that catch up to us. When each factory continues to emit greenhouse gas emissions we continue to see climate change become a growing concern.
Even if we are unable to save the world by walking & biking rather than driving, we will surely feel more peaceful inside. For example, imagine yourself driving down the highway sipping your Tim Horton’s coffee when you realize it has gone cold so you toss it out the window and let it bounce into the ditch. How do you feel?
Making conscious decisions to reduce our negative planetary impact instills positivity and peace, at least for myself. A study done through Harvard University proves that happy and positive people have reduced illness and disease (study linked below). Now in contrast to the previous picture, imagine yourself volunteering time to plant willows for bank stabilization. How does this make you feel?
Overall this ENVS course on Pollution Prevention has taught me many new things including the following:
P2 stands for pollution prevention (p squared)
Recycling is not P2! Only reducing and reusing are P2
Reducing toxicity is P2, not just reducing waste
There are many ways of reducing, I have outlined some of the ways throughout this blog
There are many many challenges with P2, for example sometimes we think we are reducing when we are not. If we buy a new reusable mug every month we are causing more impact than if we just stuck to toss away coffee cups. This is because there is an “environmental pay-back period” where you must use the reusable cup an abundance of times before it is considered P2. More resources are required for a reusable mug than one coffee cup.
It’s been over a year now since my eyes have been open to the health, ethical, and most importantly (for the purpose of this ENVS course) the environmental problems associated with animal agriculture. Once educating myself on the topics I soon found myself to avoid animal products altogether. Not only have I avoided animal products for over a year, I also have avoided controversial products involving animal cruelty and negative environmental impacts, such as palm oil. I know I must already sound like a self-righteous vegan, but how can you dislike someone who is genuinely trying to make the world a better place for you and your grandchildren? In the same way that people pick up trash, turn the tap off whilst brushing their teeth, recycle cans, and carpool I have found comfort in doing more for the plant by changing my diet. Since I began to eat more plant based, I have noticed many benefits aside from pollution prevention. These benefits include but are not limited to: increased energy, weight loss, improved grades, clear skin, and increased athletic ability. My intent for this blog post is to outline specifically the pollution prevention opportunities that have arisen since changing to a conscious diet.
1. No longer contributing to the land use change, deforestation, overgrazing, erosion, and eutrophication directly caused by animal agriculture.
2. Reduced need for the use of sunscreen. (Believe it or not, this is a thing!!!)- thus protecting oceans, and reducing chemical use (toxicity)
“A moderately low phosphate intake may provide health benefits analogous to those conferred by UV light – a further advantage of vegan diets” by M.F. McCarty
Although exposure to ultraviolet light is often viewed as pathogenic owing to its role in the genesis of skin cancer and skin aging, there is growing epidemiological evidence that such exposure may decrease risk for a number of more serious cancers, may have a favorable impact on blood pressure and vascular health, and may help to prevent certain autoimmune disorders – in addition to its well-known influence on bone density. Most likely, these health benefits are reflective of improved vitamin D status. Increased synthesis or intake of vitamin D can be expected to down-regulate parathyroid hormone (PTH), and to increase autocrine synthesis of its active metabolite calcitriol in certain tissues; these effects, in turn, may impact cancer risk, vascular health, immune regulation, and bone density through a variety of mechanisms. Presumably, a truly adequate supplemental intake of vitamin D – manyfold higher than the grossly inadequate current RDA – could replicate the benefits of optimal UV exposure, without however damaging the skin. Diets moderately low in bioavailable phosphate – like many vegan diets – might be expected to have a complementary impact on disease risks, inasmuch as serum phosphate suppresses renal calcitriol synthesis while up-regulating that of PTH. A proviso is that the impact of dietary phosphorus on bone health is more equivocal than that of vitamin D. Increased intakes of calcium, on the other hand, down-regulate the production of both PTH andcalcitriol – the latter effect may explain why the impact of dietary calcium on cancer risk (excepting colon cancer), hypertension, and autoimmunity is not clearly positive. An overview suggests that a vegan diet supplemented with high-dose vitamin D should increase both systemic and autocrine calcitriol production while suppressing PTH secretion, and thus should represent a highly effective way to achieve the wide-ranging health protection conferred by optimal UV exposure.
3. Ability to eat a majority of meals from a personal garden in the summer months.
4. All of food waste is compostable.
5. Increased health will reduce the need for medications, treatments, and other medical inputs.
6. Reducing water use in no longer supporting water intensive industries such as the dairy industry.
7. Reducing transportation of cows, meat, feed, milk, eggs, etc.
8. Preventing feed crops from going to animals rather than straight to people.
9. FISH- by-catches, coral reef destruction, drudging for benthic species, excess nutrient and phosphate run-off from fertilizers (fertilizers overcompensate for bad agriculture practices caused by the huge demand to feed our animals)
10. Rainforest destruction- livestock and feed crops
11. Wildlife & biodiversity loss
12. By-products of meat & dairy, in Canada incineration=methane emissions
13. Reduction in kg eCO2 associated with consuming lamb, beef, and cheese:
However ,the time it takes to regenerate a forest to equal ecological value makes this a questionable statement.
Forests are important for water quality, soil quality, erosion control, biodiversity, oxygen producing/carbon sink, wildlife habitat, and fish habitat.
Gross deforestation will undoubtedly release substantial amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and even change water flows and weather patterns. Preserving mature forests by means of selective deforestation may be crucial for our environmental sustainability.
Sustainable forestry will require a reduction in the demands on the forest industry.
Forests are cleared for the following reasons:
Hydroelectricity Power Generation
Roads & Transportation
Agriculture and Cattle
Logging encompasses a variety of techniques including selective clearing. Selective clearing imposes less impact than clear cutting, but does not prevent forest thinning, canopy thinning, and enhanced forest fire vulnerability. Products that we consume daily that originate from industrial logging include:
Wood furniture, building supplies:
Reusing vintage beds, refurnishing a coffee table, restoring a tool, and reusing old fence boards/barn boards for other projects are all ways to reduce the demand for logging.
Paper may be better (environmental impact to wildlife, oceans, hydrocarbons) than plastic when it comes to shopping bags, however by using a reusable cloth grocery bag will reduce the demand for both plastic and paper bags. Paper can be preserved in schools and work environments by using online documents, emails, and by reusing the backside of used paper. Printing double sided and writing on both sides of a notebook page are small ways to use less paper. Reducing the amount of products ordered online will reduce paper used associated with packaging and mail is an effective reduction method.
Using dead trees, grass clippings, and other yard waste for a bonfire is one way to reduce the demand for logging. By hosting a bonfire at times when yard waste is available will prevent the need for firewood purchase.
Ecological Value of Trees
1 acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of CO2 and emits 4 tons of O2
Trees filter pollutants such as carbon monoxide, and toxins washed to the ground by rain
Trees help to control climate by absorbing sun radiation, providing shade, and blocking wind
Trees fight erosion while preventing runoff and sedimentation which has detrimental effects down stream
Soil replenishment and composting
Provide food and shelter to many animals
Does the economic value of trees outweigh the ecological values?
In my humble opinion, no. I believe trees are far more valuable to humans alive rather than dead. The function of carbon conversion is one of the most valuable assets for the current state of our plant. Why would we clear cut a carbon sink? By reducing the demand for forested products, each of us as individuals may help reduce the number of trees demanded each year. I know I can make a difference in reducing my consumption of paper plates, cups, furniture etc.
A baseline is needed before improvements can be measured. For example, if you want to improve your ecological footprint, you must first measure your current ecological footprint.
Another way to check against a baseline is simply by looking over water bills, energy bills, heating bills, fuel bills, and grocery bills. Not only does monitoring these things help show where improvements can be made environmentally, but economically as well.
I found a great website to evaluate your personal ecological footprint depending on your Canadian city.
My ecological footprint is 4.4 global hectares and my lifestyle requires 5.4 Canadian sized football fields. The average Canadian has an ecological footprint of 7.25 hectares. Why is my footprint so small? I travel by air quite frequently (~16 hours a year) and my “Mobility” section in my ecological footprint is still quite small. I do eat a plant based lifestyle to avoid the large ecological impact of the meat and dairy industry, which may play into my below average footprint. Personally, I do not feel as though my lifestyle requires me to suffer and cut back. Where are the places I could be putting in an effort to cut back?
This is my largest section. How can I reduce my services use? I can try to use less water, less power, and never ever turn on my natural gas fireplace (it is unnecessary). Keeping my house at a more easily regulated temperature will also help to cut back on the services section. For example, in the summer I will try not to crank the air conditioning and instead open windows, wear lighter clothing, and use thin sheets/comforters. Services also depend largely on the source of energy for your region. For my region (Alberta) the energy source is unrenewable energy from coal burning. Services based out of a region who uses renewable energy sources would have less of an ecological impact.
My shelter baseline is quite large due to the size of my home and the amount of people who live within my home. There are 3 people living in a 4 bedroom house. Our house has 3 3.5 bathrooms and a large space to heat/cool. My shelter can have less of an impact if we find a 4th roommate.
Like I said, my mobility is high due to the fact I am a frequent flyer. My fiancé lives in Utah so I travel to see him somewhat regularly. The flight is 2 hours, but sometimes more depending on layovers. This part of my footprint will drastically improve when I move to Utah and will no longer have to travel back and forth. One big change I can make is to drive my vehicle less. I drive a 1998 GMC Envoy which gets me only 16 miles/gallon. By investing in a new vehicle that is better on fuel I may reduce my ecological footprint. This is more of a long term goal.
As stated above, I follow a vegan diet to reduce my ecological footprint. I have eaten this way for well over a year. There are still improvements I can make with my food choices such as buying more of my food locally, buying less packaged food, and even just biking to the grocery store rather than driving.
By comparing average diets we can see that eating less meat and dairy products significantly improves ones ecological footprint. Our diets play a large role in our ecological footprint. Although diet is something that people rarely aim to improve, it is highly important. Humans would rather focus on “driving less” than “giving up beef” however, I see great improvement to made in the average Canadians diet.
The “Goods” section of my footprint is probably underestimated, as some months I purchase more goods than others. There are several months out of the year where I purchase more clothing than others. Places for improvement here are to shop at consignment stores and to buy things 2nd hand.
Average Canadian ecological footprint: https://www.peelregion.ca/planning/bulletins/ecological.pdfComparing diets:http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet
By running your car while it is in park, you are burning through unnecessary fuel. By burning excess fuel you are actually stealing from your own pockets! The incentive here is very clear, save money by turning your car off!
You are polluting the air
No one is shy to complain about poor air quality in the city, however no one wants to be the one who must turn their car off while sitting in it. There have been many incidents of families being poisoned by running their car while they are stuck in a snow bank because the car exhaust finds it’s way into the vehicle. The potential of vehicle exhaust is deadly to both humans and our planet.
Your air conditioning and heat do not even work when your car is not driving
When you are sitting in your car waiting on a very hot day, or a very cold day, and you crank the A/C or heat, you will actually notice it does not work. The air your car will blow into it’s interior will be very similar to the unwanted temperature of the air outside. Driving your car is what warms the engine and kicks-in the temperature regulation capabilities of your car. So starting your car at 6am to “warm it up” in the morning is hardly more useful than dressing appropriately and allowing the car to warm as you drive it. That gets us to the potential solutions for car idlers..
Dress appropriately for the weather
In the summer, step outside your vehicle and find shade while you wait for your child’s school bell to ring
Schedule your time wisely as to avoid high traffic times and excessive waiting outside buildings (a.k.a. don’t show up TOO early for your appointments)
Save your gas
Start caring about the air you breathe
Place these (see photo) stickers around popular idling locations such as building fronts
Reducing our personal GHG emissions but still having the ability to get around requires:
EFFICIENT PROPERTY DESIGN
UTILIZING MECHANICAL AIDS SUCH AS TROLLEYS, SLIDING LADDERS
Planning ahead is required to reduce the inefficiency of placing equipment, tools, and supplies in an inconvenient location. Planning ahead also allows an efficient property design that will prevent transportation back and forth to other ends of an industrial building, it would allow the two things to be in buildings right next to each other.
Efficient Property Design
Designing an industrial property is a big player in how much transportation is required in a warehouse, office, shop complex. For example, instead of building on long building, buildings can be centered around each other so they can all be easily accessed from a central location.
There are already many mechanical engineering designs that create a more efficient workplace and replace the need for bobcats, trucks, and other small equipment. Things like pulleys, sliding ladders, trolleys, and wheelbarrows eliminate the need for fossil fuel burning equipment.
In an industrial setting, there are many trips taken to “check on things”. Trucks will circle a building, a well, or drive along a pipeline just to get a visual. The need for this could be easily eliminated with the use of a drone. Drones can fly into these locations and take high quality videos and photos without burning any fossil fuels. This is something I can see becoming a growing technique in industry.
Some of the major gases that contribute to the warming of the Earth are CO2, Methane, and Nitrous oxide.
CO2 has been one of the main contributors to climate change since the Industrial revolution. The release of CO2 into the atmosphere occurs naturally through processes such as volcanic eruptions. Human contribution to CO2 is the driver of the increase in CO2, probably not so much volcanic activity. Activities in which humans release CO2 into the air include:
Deforestation:loss of vegetation that traps, stores, and utilizes CO2
Burning of fossil fuels: if we think of all the cars on the road during any given minute we can picture the impact to CO2 levels produced by cars. If we imagine all the electricity flowing through power lines from the burning of coal during any given minute we can imagine the impact caused here.
Changing Land Use:much like deforestation, we are changing natural vegetated areas into urban zoos. Agriculture is increasing and because of agriculture we can see effects such as monocultures, seasonal crop cover, use of large equipment, soil degradation, and the contribution to nitrous oxide and methane (see next sections).
Methane may make up a smaller portion of the atmosphere but the global warming ability of methane is about 21 times more detrimental than CO2. Methane currently makes up 0.00017% of the atmosphere, this has increased 150% since 1750. Luckily, methane is a short-lived climate pollutant and reducing methane emissions can potentially have an immediate effect on slowing our rising global temperatures. Major sources of methane include:
Animal Agriculture:The livestock sector is the source of the most anthropogenic methane released into the air. Livestock agriculture is also a major cause of land and water degradation. 52% of greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy industry is CH4 (methane gas). Experts have measured up to 500 of liters expelled from a ruminant (cow) in one day. Producing meat also takes up approximately 70% of the world’s farming land.
Landfills:18% methane emissions are generated because we humans bury our waste underground.
Coal Mining:10% of methane is generated from coal burning for the use of energy.
Nitrous oxide accounts for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions (US). This greenhouse gas has 300 times the global warming potential as CO2, and stays in the atmosphere for 114 years. This naturally occurring compound has increased since human activities are now emitting nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
Agriculture:adding synthetic nutrients to the soil is the largest source of N2O in the atmosphere. This soil amendment accounts for 74% of all human activity sourced N2O pollution. 5% of N2O comes from the breakdown of livestock manure and urine.
Transportation:burning fossil fuels releases N2O into the atmosphere. The amounts released depend on the type of fuel burned and vehicle technology. This accounts for 5% of the emissions.
Industry:producing nitrous oxide in factories to synthesize fertilizers, and make fibers accounts for 5% of the N2O emissions. Keep in mind that synthesizing fertilizers for use in crops relates back up to agriculture.
Of these sources, we can see that animal manure and excretions cause the greatest global warming impact by means of nitrous oxide and methane emissions. From what I can recall from education and newspaper headlines, the methane emitted by coal mining/burning, and landfills are the greatest concern to global warming. But, when we look at the agriculture sector it is evident who the real culprits of global warming are.
Why aren’t we taught about the agricultural industry? The way we are producing food today is extremely unsustainable. The impacts imposed by animal agriculture are unheard by the public. How is it that the number one cause of land degradation, and the greatest contributor of CH4 and N2O emissions is not attacked in the same way as the oil & gas sector? When comparing transportation to the agriculture sector, it seems almost pointless to tackle transportation.
One of my major frustrations lies within our extensive agricultural exploitation of land to grow crops- to feed our cows- to feed us. If we just ate the crops ourselves and decreased our beef production, our GHG emissions would decline in an immediately effective way. Less land is required to feed humans alone, without feeding livestock. Legumes are the least water intensive, highest protein output for the energy inputs associated, and reduce heart disease & obesity. I think climate change can be tackled by the diets of our 7 billion + population.