From climate change to depleting natural resources, the world faces unprecedented environmental challenges. In response to the crises that have surfaced from these events, careers in green energy, conservation, technology, and sustainability have emerged as essential forces in the fight for a better future. While this sector is undoubtedly transformative, it has an outstanding flaw that impedes its ability to thrive at its full capacity.
In a decades-long struggle to mend a lack of diversity, women, in particular, continue to be underrepresented in pivotal roles when addressing these global challenges. The energy and technology sector has long been notorious for its gender imbalance, but change is on the horizon. With more women entering the field and thriving in various roles, they are making a significant impact on the industry's direction and the development of innovative solutions. Here are just a few pioneering women who are at the forefront of this movement.
An environmental activist and physicist, Dr. Vandana Shiva is renowned for her unwavering advocacy of sustainable agriculture and preserving traditional farming practices. Through her work, she has succeeded in many impressive accomplishments, including multiple campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity and empowering local communities in the face of agricultural challenges.
Christina Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is an essential character in the world of environmental stewardship due to her tireless efforts to drive nations toward a more sustainable future. At the forefront of her achievements stands the pivotal role she played in the Paris Agreement negotiations, which helped shape global climate policy for years to come.
A marine biologist, policy expert, and writer, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson has dedicated her life to ocean conservation and climate solutions. These topics are some of the most important regarding sustainability, yet they are also often neglected in the modern political environment. Her work is significant because it highlights the role of the oceans in mitigating climate change, underscoring the importance of an interdisciplinary approach.
An accomplished economist and author, Mariana Mazzucato's work on mission-oriented innovation and public sector investments has been integral in advancing sustainability goals. Her visionary thinking emphasizes the potential of the public sector to lead the way in building a sustainable community.
Laura Nelson, serving as the Executive Director of Green Hydrogen Strategy at Southern California Gas Company, stands at the forefront of the clean energy revolution. Her dedication and expertise have not only fostered advancements in clean hydrogen production but have also played a pivotal role in establishing Southern California Gas Company as a leading force in sustainable energy. Her pioneering work in developing green hydrogen infrastructure has significantly accelerated the transition to cleaner energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a greener planet.
The energy and sustainability sector is not just about careers; it's about making a difference in the world. Women are pivotal in pioneering the transition toward a more sustainable and greener future. By pursuing careers in this field, women can be part of a vital movement that addresses pressing environmental and social challenges. The accomplishments of these inspiring women pioneers highlight the significant role women can play in making our world better.
It's time for more women to join the ranks and lead the way in energy and technology careers. At Smart Energy Education, we aim to encourage women to pursue careers in energy and sustainability and shed light on some remarkable women pioneers who are breaking barriers in this field. If you want to learn more about careers in the energy sector, scholarships, and more, visit Smart Energy Education today!
What is a Green School?
A green school isn't just a place of learning; it's an opportunity to build the foundations of sustainability and environmental stewardship in a generation of learners willing to make a real difference. These educational institutions go above and beyond traditional academic goals, placing a significant emphasis on reducing the environmental impact of their activities by promoting environmentally conscious habits, health, and wellness. In aiming to inspire the next wave of eco-conscious citizens, a green school nurtures a harmonious relationship between the natural world and the education of its students. From energy-efficient classrooms to an eco-friendly curriculum, green schools strive to foster a deeper connection to nature and sustainable practices.
The Green Ribbon School Initiative
The roots of the Green Ribbon School initiative can be traced back to 2011 when the U.S. The Department of Education (DOE) launched the program with a mission to recognize and celebrate those schools that successfully demonstrated a commitment to sustainability, health, and environmental education. Drawing inspiration from the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for buildings, the Green Ribbon Schools program aimed to create a standard of excellence for schools' environmental and educational efforts. Over the years, this program has evolved, encouraging schools to adopt comprehensive approaches to sustainability, including reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness, and providing effective environmental education.
Becoming a Green Ribbon School
To become a Green Ribbon School, institutions must follow a comprehensive set of criteria provided by the U.S. Department of Education. These criteria encompass three "Pillars," intending to reduce environmental impact and costs as much as possible, improve the comfortability and health of the students and staff within the school, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. Schools must work toward achieving these goals and report their progress to be considered for the prestigious recognition.
Becoming a Green Ribbon School is a substantial commitment, but rest assured that any efforts your school invests will pay off. By making a few changes to your institution's daily operations, you can grant your school an incredible opportunity to make a significant difference in its community through its students and personnel, exemplifying the principles of sustainability, health, and environmental stewardship in education. Ultimately, the Green Ribbon School initiative aims to encourage schools to become leaders in the transformation toward a more sustainable and eco-conscious future. It's never too late to start. If you want to take the first steps to become a more sustainable, eco-friendly school, visit Watt Watchers of Texas to get started!
As the crisp breeze of autumn settles in and the days grow shorter, nothing sounds better than a hot beverage, a warm blanket, and some freshly baked cookies. Yet even with cozy moments by the fire and crisp snow-covered landscapes, it can be challenging to enjoy the season with skyrocketing energy bills around the corner. Fortunately, there are numerous strategies and energy-saving tips you can employ to stay warm and comfortable without breaking the bank. From weatherproofing your home to adjusting your daily habits, these strategies will not only keep you snug but also contribute to a more sustainable and energy-efficient lifestyle.
Weatherproofing your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy during winter. By sealing gaps and cracks around doors, windows, and other openings, you can prevent heat loss and cold drafts, allowing your heating system to work more efficiently. Doing this not only reduces energy consumption and lowers utility bills but also enhances comfort and minimizes wear and tear on your heating equipment.
Programmable thermostats are a smart choice for winter energy savings because they allow you to set customized temperature schedules, optimizing heating to match your daily routine. By automatically lowering the temperature when you're away or asleep and raising it when you're at home, these devices prevent unnecessary heating and reduce energy consumption, in turn lowering your heating costs.
When pipes are adequately insulated, they retain heat and prevent water from losing heat as it travels from your water heater to faucets and fixtures. This means you get hot water faster and with less energy expenditure, reducing the need for your water heater to spend more energy as it works to maintain a consistent temperature.
Keeping your radiators clear is a straightforward yet effective way to save energy and money in the winter. When radiators are obstructed by furniture, drapes, or other items, they are unable to distribute heat efficiently throughout your living spaces. Consequently, your heating system has to work harder and longer to warm your home. By ensuring that warm air can circulate freely, you'll enjoy a more comfortable and cost-effective winter heating experience. So keep the pathways around your radiators clear, and make the most of the heat they produce.
Using energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, is a small change that can have a significant impact on winter energy savings. These bulbs produce less heat compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, which means less strain on your cooling system in the summer. However, during the winter, this reduced heat production means less wasted energy, as your heating system doesn't have to compensate for excess heat from lighting.
Keeping your home comfortable through the winter shouldn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Follow the tips and tricks above and enjoy a warm and cozy home without having to sacrifice your holiday gift budget! Want to learn more ways to save energy at home and at school? Visit Watt Watchers to discover fun energy activities and resources! For those looking to pursue a career in energy, don't forget to check out Smart Energy Education for energy courses, scholarships, and more!
With summer coming to an end, it can be nice to think that cooler weather is just around the corner, but if you happen to live in Texas, you know the heat will likely be on full blast for a while longer. In a state where daily temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and hesitate to drop below 80 at night, things can get exceptionally sweaty and discomforting very quickly. Once you combine these circumstances with increasing energy costs, keeping your home comfortable without sacrificing your hard-earned savings can seem like an impossible feat. This is especially true when the endless summer heat seems increasingly more hesitant to take a break. Thankfully, we have just the right tips and tricks for you to beat the heat without breaking the bank. Keep reading to learn more!
Our homes are built to keep us sheltered from the weather, and with the help of an AC system, most can do their job exceptionally well. But did you know that making some slight adjustments can enhance your house's ability to keep you comfortable?
After going through all the previous steps, it can be very frustrating for all your hard work to go out the window (literally). All the little cracks and holes on the edges of your doors and windows don't just let unwanted critters inside; they make it easy for cool air to escape. By properly insulating your home, you create a barrier that prevents this from happening while helping block the entry of hot outdoor air, keeping your home cooler naturally. Ultimately, the upfront cost of insulation pays off by delivering long-term energy savings, making your home more energy-efficient, and providing you with a more comfortable and cost-effective living environment during the summer season. So seal any leaks in your ducts; you can even install energy-efficient windows to ensure your air conditioner won't have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
One of the most fun strategies to implement when taking on the summer heat is in the kitchen. Avoid using the stove and oven during peak heat hours of the day. Instead, use these appliances when the windows are open, and the hot air can more easily escape. You can use these seasons to expand your repertoire of recipes, avoiding recipes that require lots of heat. For those who love a good barbeque, you can also make the most of the summer evening by taking out the grill. Meal Prep outside once a week to keep the heat out of your home altogether.
Upgrading your appliances can yield substantial summer savings. Modern, energy-efficient appliances use less electricity, such as air conditioners that efficiently cool your home while reducing power consumption. They often come with smart features, allowing remote control and optimizing usage during lower-cost periods. While these appliances may have a higher initial cost, they offer long-term savings by consuming less energy, making them a financially wise choice. Beyond the financial benefits, energy-efficient appliances also reduce your carbon footprint, contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Want more tips to save money by saving energy? Watt Watchers is the number one resource for all things energy education and savings. Visit our website here to discover amazing activities and more tips and tricks to save energy.
In today's rapidly changing world, the need for sustainability and environmental responsibility has never been more critical. What better place to build a better tomorrow than the institutions responsible for educating our future leaders? Schools have the power to inspire their students to be green ambassadors through many avenues. Thankfully, new research and technology have allowed schools to modify everything from their institution's physical infrastructure and design to their methodology to accomplish groundbreaking sustainability efforts. These new and improved educational institutions are more than just places of modern learning; they are pioneering examples of eco-friendly, energy-efficient, and sustainable infrastructure.
Sustainable schools, also known as green schools or eco-schools, are unique because they take environmental consciousness to the next level by prioritizing ecological responsibility, resource efficiency, and a commitment to teaching students about the planet. So, what does a modern-day green school look like? Keep reading to find out!
Nestled amidst the lush landscapes of Bali, Indonesia, the Green School Bali stands out as one of the trailblazers for sustainable education. It's a revolutionary institution described as a "wall-less, nature-immersed campus" designed to foster sustainability and innovation through hands-on experiences and real-world solutions. Constructed almost entirely out of bamboo, this academic center considers itself a living laboratory where students are given the freedom to learn about the world through a nature-immersed experience, permaculture gardens, renewable energy sources, and an emphasis on environmental education. With additional locations already in South Africa, New Zealand, and soon Tulum, there's no stopping these green schools from leaving their footprint on the world.
In Manassas Park, Virginia, the Manassas Park Elementary School has proved that even a traditional school building can be transformed into an energy-efficient marvel. The school underwent renovations to expand its campus and increase its energy efficiency in 2009. It even received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, demonstrating its dedication to sustainable construction and operation. Equipped with temperature and humidity sensors that alert the students and staff when it's the optimal time to open the windows, energy-efficient lighting, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting systems, this school is designed to give all the students and staff the power to be as sustainable as possible in a building designed to make them feel connected to the natural environment.
This nature-immersed school in Copenhagen, Denmark, prioritizes environmentally conscious education and has placed sustainable living at the forefront of its syllabus. Founded in 2014 by Danish filmmaker Phie Ambo and American translator Karen MacLean, this green institution runs on the principle that to inspire ecological stewardship, students must start by learning hands-on about the planet and how to exist with others in harmony. The school building itself may not be anything eye-catching, yet with a curriculum that teaches students everything from woodwork and craftsmanship to gardening and composting, these project-based learning methods are sure to bring forth a new generation of environmentally conscious, free thinkers eager to make a difference in the world.
Sustainable schools are more than just educational institutions; they are organizations committed to fostering greener, more sustainable outlooks. These schools are teaching the leaders of tomorrow not only about environmental responsibility but also how to solve real-world problems, design, build, and live in a way that helps instead of harms the planet. As we look to the future, it's clear that sustainable schools can be extremely transformative for young learners and should inspire us all to make changes to improve our education systems to better serve our communities.
Even if a school's infrastructure wasn't originally designed with sustainability in mind, there are still numerous pathways to transform it into a green school. Sustainability is not solely dependent on the physical structure of a building but can be achieved through innovative technology and behavioral changes. Schools can significantly reduce their energy consumption and environmental impact by incorporating energy-efficient appliances such as LED lighting, smart thermostats, and solar panels. Furthermore, shifts in the students, staff, and faculty's habits, such as practicing energy conservation, implementing recycling programs, and promoting sustainable transportation options, can make a substantial difference.
Regardless of a school's initial design, these efforts empower institutions to embrace sustainability, reduce their carbon footprint, and instill important values of environmental responsibility in their school. It's never too late to start! If you are interested in taking the first step towards making your school a green school, visit Watt Watchers for amazing energy-related lessons, activities, and more!
Sustainability and environmental consciousness are becoming increasingly paramount in our modern environment, augmenting the need to maximize our renewable energy resources. Since the Industrial Revolution, energy has demonstrated a pattern of highlighting the birth of new eras, catapulting new technology into existence, and often improving our quality of life. However, it has also become evident that today's solutions often prove to be tomorrow's problems.
Modern energy has allowed us to achieve milestones faster than was ever thought possible. Now, as we stand at the crossroads of technological innovation and ecological stewardship, the significance of renewable resources cannot be overstated. Clean energy jobs saw a job growth of 3.9% from 2021 to 2022, exceeding the overall U.S. employment rate, which saw only a 3.1% increase in the same period. This demand isn't merely driven by environmental concerns—it's an acknowledgment of the economic and social potential that renewable energy holds.
Solar energy has been a trailblazer in the clean energy industry since the 17th century. Consequently, it has emerged not only as a green solution to our energy obstacles but also as a beacon for transformative opportunities. So much so that in recent years, solar energy jobs have risen to the forefront of discussions, offering pathways into an environmentally responsible and economically promising future. Solar energy has the potential to encompass an entire ecosystem of professions, careers, and industries dedicated to harnessing the sun's boundless energy. The pathways in this realm are as diverse as they are promising, ranging from research and development to installation and maintenance.
For those looking to get moving and enjoy an active, hands-on type of job, there is the option to pursue a trade career as a Solar Equipment Technician, Solar Electrician, Solar Panel Installer, and more. For those looking to get into clean energy from the comfort of office space, they may consider a career as a Solar Energy Analyst, Solar Marketing Specialist, Solar Energy Consultant, and more. In the end, the solar industry is not just about reducing emissions; it's about fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and contributing to the overall well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. The opportunities are endless, and those who choose to pursue them can rest assured that their job is making a positive difference.
In this landscape of solar energy jobs, pathways are not merely limited to employment; they represent a journey of discovery, innovation, and impact. As we navigate toward a world powered by clean, renewable sources, the opportunities that solar energy presents are as vast as the sun's rays that grace our planet every day. This is an era of transformation, where solar energy jobs aren't just careers—they're conduits for change, shaping the narrative of progress and sustainability in a world that's ever-conscious of its ecological footprint.
At Smart Energy Education, one of the most effective ways to make a difference is through actively taking action. To access amazing, fun energy activities and lessons, visit Watt Watchers! Also, if you want to learn more about how our actions impact the planet and the amazing energy careers that can help create a brighter future, visit Smart Energy Education, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook!
In a world, ever more attuned to the pressing need for environmentally conscious solutions, the realm of energy policy and advocacy emerges as a game changing arena of action. This exciting domain has the potential to not only shape the trajectory of energy systems—it has the power to manipulate the very fabric of our global commitment to a greener future. Curious minds and aspiring advocates of sustainable change have the power to influence progress unprecedentedly. From the halls of legislation to the heart of community engagement, this exploration will shed light on the pathways, challenges, and triumphs that define this intricate realm. So, whether you are a budding activist or a policy enthusiast, come along for the ride as we navigate the intricate routes of driving impactful change in the energy sector.
The power of policy
The environment's health is much more than a desire nature enthusiasts have at heart; it is a human right and a pillar for a flourishing community. For this reason, green advocacy should be treated as a public requirement, secured by regulation of public and private agents who pose potential ecological threats. In light of this, protective policies like pollution and contamination taxes have been around since the Industrial Revolution, which spurred the first accounts of large-scale air pollution resulting from industrial activity. These taxes and fines are meant to protect the environment and have been around since as early as the 1400s. However, the potential economic gains that can come from avoiding and reducing protective regulations have, unfortunately, also flourished as the energy industry has evolved.
Despite legal attempts to reduce natural resource degradation and limit climate change, current policies have proven to come up short time and time again. From cruises dumping waste in the ocean and having to only pay a simple fine to unchecked factories with inadequate harmful chemical disposal procedures, organizations continue to find ways to pay themselves at the expense of the environment. Consistency and the will to see past individual gains are critical for change to become a reality. Utilizing policy as a tool in the fight against climate change holds immense promise in shaping a more resilient and eco-conscious world.
Policy frameworks provide a structured approach to address complex challenges, offering guidelines and regulations that can drive significant positive changes. By enacting laws that encourage renewable energy adoption, reduce carbon emissions, and promote sustainable practices, governments can incentivize industries and individuals to align their actions with greener goals. Moreover, international cooperation through policy agreements fosters a global commitment to reducing co2 emissions and combating climate change. Effective policy implementation can steer economies towards low-carbon pathways, encourage technological innovations, and lead to more harmonious coexistence between human activities and the planet's ecological systems. In essence, policy-driven environmental sustainability efforts are uniquely impactful because they offer a strategic blueprint to mitigate climate change's impact while fostering a future of environmental harmony and shared responsibility.
For those of us not involved in the creation and implementation of policy and regulation, there are also steps that can be taken to lend the planet a helping hand. Community engagement serves as a catalyst for sustainable transformation and the establishment of enduring energy resource regulations. When communities actively participate in shaping energy policies and decisions, they become invested stakeholders, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility. Through dialogue, collaboration, and education, community members gain insights into the importance of sustainable energy practices and the broader implications of resource use. This heightened awareness can drive demand for cleaner energy sources, encouraging policymakers to implement regulations that prioritize environmental well-being. Furthermore, sustained community involvement nurtures a culture of accountability, encouraging individuals to adopt energy-efficient behaviors and advocate for long-term resource management. Ultimately, community engagement not only empowers people to drive positive change but also establishes a foundation for regulatory frameworks that reflect the collective values, needs, and aspirations of a sustainable future.
At Smart Energy Education, one of the most effective ways to make a difference is through actively taking action. To access amazing, fun energy activities and lessons, visit Watt Watchers! Also, if you want to learn more about how our actions impact the planet and the amazing energy careers that can help create a brighter future, visit Smart Energy Education, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!
Scientists estimate that 35% of the world's food production and 75% of its flowering plants rely on bees and other pollinators. These insects and animals were once a flourishing part of the ecosystem. Many even considered them pests. However, as the planet began to experience the effects of climate change, and pollution, the delicate ecosystems we rely on for food and water began taking a huge hit. Changes in their environment, coupled with the use of pesticides and a loss of habitat, have led to a dramatic decline in their population around the globe.
Pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats, to name a few, are responsible for the harvest of many of the products we love and use every day. An average honey bee alone is able to pollinate more than 2,000 flowers in a single day. Imagine having to do the work of an entire hive by hand. Now imagine having to make up for the work accomplished by an entire species. Without the free help of pollinators, everything from apples and avocados to chocolate and almonds will become far too challenging to produce on a large scale. So what can we do to solve this problem?
In light of the global warming crisis, community leaders are increasingly looking toward clean energy alternatives. Thanks to new initiatives, solar projects in 2023 are predicted to account for more than half of the new electricity-generating capacity in the US, making it one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources available today. Moreover, one of the main challenges associated with solar energy production is land acquisition and maintenance. Despite existing regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), that aim to prevent solar farms from being directly damaging to the land they are on, solar farms can still cause more harm than you might think. The acres used for solar energy production require consistent upkeep to ensure all equipment functions properly. This means mowing, pest control, fertilizers and more. With a projected 2 million acres of land being used for solar installations by 2030, there must be a way to maximize the use of this land.
This is where bees and solar come together. Minnesota, a leader in wildlife conservation and the first state to create a statute that incentivizes pollinator-friendly ground cover on solar farms, has reported great success utilizing pollinator welcoming strategies. Instead of increasing carbon emissions by using fossil fuel powered mowers, or using any type of mower for that matter, energy providers can make full use of their land while providing safe habitats for the world's most essential critters. By strategically planting native plants, grasses, and flowers, solar companies can reduce their operating costs by eliminating the need for mowing and watering. Farm animals like cattle and sheep have even been introduced for agricultural development and some free landscaping.
Solar projects that accommodate wildlife in this manner are known as pollinator-friendly solar and have proven to bring about a number of benefits. If you've read our 5 Tips for a More Sustainable Yard blog, you know that traditional grasses require abundant amounts of water and energy to maintain. Pollinator friendly solar involves strategically plating native grasses and plants to attract native critters that would normally be considered unwelcome. Native grasses are more likely to be accustomed to the weather, making them able to survive with little to no additional water. Additionally, native grasses do not need to be mowed or cut as often, allowing energy providers to reduce their solar maintenance costs significantly.
To make things even better, solar farms with thriving natural ecosystems have also been effective in avoiding excess soil erosion and encouraging groundwater recharge. Meaning, not only can these solar farms reduce water waste, they can help replenish the hydraulic cycle. Even increased crop yield for pollinator-dependent crop production sites near pollinator-friendly solar sites has been reported. Some solar farms have gone as far as installing bee and bird homes to further attract pollinators and encourage a flourishing ecosystem.
The Earth is composed of a series of delicate ecosystems that work together to bring all living things the resources needed to survive. No matter how small they may seem, each little creature in your garden is important and should be protected. Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers are all about highlighting the innovative ideas and careers that make sustainable energy practices a reality. Learning to balance technology and nature will be key in the next couple years if we want to conserve our precious resources. Visit Watt Watchers for fun energy related activities and Smart Energy Education to learn more about amazing energy careers, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook!.
Concrete is one of the most commonly consumed products on the planet, second only to water. 4.4 billion tons are produced annually and is projected to increase to 5.5 billion by 2050. Its durability, strength, and cost-effectiveness have made it a go-to for builders for centuries. Structures made from concrete can last for generations. But at what cost? If you've read our blog on The Truth About Concrete and The Environment, you know there are plenty of reasons to make the switch to more eco-friendly alternatives. From the excessive carbon emissions produced throughout the manufacturing process to its water intensity, the obstacles created by concrete production are beginning to outweigh the benefits of the end product. So what else can builders use? Keep reading to find out!
A mycelium is a web of fungal threads and strands, also known as hyphae. In nature, their function is similar to that of the roots of a tree in that they dig into the soil surrounding the fungi, breaking down the organic matter to extract nutrients that then go to both the fungi and surrounding plants.
Mycelium is interesting because it is an abundant renewable resource that can create sustainable, organic, and sturdy building materials like blocks or panels. To accomplish this, builders combine the mycelium with clean, organic waste, such as corn stalks or sawdust, and encourage them to grow in a specific shape. The final product is then dried, resulting in materials that are biodegradable, lightweight, fire resistant, and provide excellent insulation.
Unlike concrete, mycelium materials don't require high temperatures or energy-intensive manufacturing processes. They can grow in ambient conditions with just a little moisture and the proper nutrients, allowing for a significantly lower carbon footprint and energy consumption during production. Additionally, mycelium is biodegradable and compostable. When it reaches the end of its useful life, it can simply be returned to the earth, where it can break down naturally.
Rammed earth is a construction technique that utilizes natural materials like soil, clay, sand, and gravel. This mix of ingredients is packed tightly into formwork or giant molds layer by layer, compressing it as much as possible with a mechanical rammer. Once it's all compacted, it is left to dry and harden naturally.
This technique is better for the environment for several reasons. It uses abundant and locally sourced materials, reducing transportation emissions. Additionally, suppose a builder wants to change things up. In that case, they can simply deconstruct the rammed earth walls and use the materials again. Rammed earth is also super durable and can withstand the elements very well, reducing the need to keep rebuilding and using more resources. To make things better, this unique material has excellent thermal properties. It acts like a natural insulator, keeping you cool in the summer and toasty warm in the winter.
Hempcrete is a bio-composite construction material made from the hurd, the hemp plant's inner woody core, and a lime-based binder. The hemp hurd is mixed with water and the lime binder to create a pasty mixture that can be packed or poured into wall forms, similar to concrete. Over time, the hempcrete cures and hardens, resulting in a solid and long-lasting structure. Hemp is a rapidly renewable resource that grows quickly without synthetic pesticides or herbicides. These plants offer a distinct environmental advantage because, unlike concrete, which emits co2 throughout its production, hemp absorbs significant carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its growth, acting as a carbon sink and contributing to carbon sequestration.
As a building material, hempcrete offers excellent insulation properties. Its porous structure allows for breathability, regulating humidity and reducing the reliance on energy-intensive heating and cooling systems. Additionally, hempcrete is lightweight, reducing the heavy machinery and equipment needed. To make things better, hempcrete is non-toxic. It doesn't release harmful chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, making it the perfect material to infill existing structures, providing a greener alternative for renovation projects.
When it comes to ingredients, traditional concrete is particularly harmful because it relies on specific types of sand, leading to the overexploitation of riverbeds and coastal areas. Traditional concrete also requires an extensive heating process, which is highly energy intensive and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions. Contrastingly, finite utilizes desert sand to make building blocks, which is plentiful and often underutilized. Unlike cement, its manufacturing process involves minimal energy input, reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
As a building material, Finite blocks are beneficial because they contain natural insulating characteristics, helping regulate temperature and reduce the need for energy consumption in heating or cooling buildings. To make things even better, finite blocks can be easily dismantled and repurposed at the end of a building's life cycle, promoting a circular economy approach by reducing waste and allowing for the reuse of materials. Finally, Finite's utilization of desert sand aids in land restoration efforts. By repurposing sand from arid regions, Finite contributes to rehabilitating desert areas, offering the potential for ecological restoration and revitalizing degraded landscapes.
Smart Energy Education strives to create a more sustainable world through energy and water education. If you are looking to learn more about how to make a positive difference in the environment, are interested in energy careers, or would like to participate in some fun energy activities, visit us at Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers!
Humanity has used concrete to build, protect and fortify communities for centuries. Made from a mixture of cement, water, sand, and gravel, its durability and cost-effectiveness have made it one of the most popular mediums for everything from the world's largest construction projects to homemade decorative vases. As time has passed and new building techniques and technologies have been invented, the recipe for concrete has been tweaked and modified to fit the needs of different projects. This has allowed concrete to become one of the most versatile and commonly used building materials available.
Why is concrete important today?
Nowadays, people use concrete to build nearly everything. Our roads are paved with concrete to help provide safe, bumpless travel, and coastal cities are fortified with it to protect from tsunamis and hurricanes. Even permanent benches and tables for public spaces are built using concrete. The significance of this ever-present medium can be seen in the most fundamental elements of our communities. The ability to pour a uniquely modified stone mixture to create giant, all-withstanding structures was revolutionary for the construction industry. Life-changing architecture and engineering, such as hydroelectric dams built with watertight concrete, have helped ensure the energy powering our cities is safe from collapse and available for years to come. In fact, concrete has proven to be so reliable that it is now the second most consumed substance on the planet, second only to water. So, what seems to be the problem?
The downsides of traditional concrete
Unfortunately, the characteristics that make concrete so popular, its strength, durability, and easy application, are also what make it a primary culprit when it comes to environmental damage. Without the ability to absorb water or allow plants and fungi to grow and thrive as usual, concrete eliminates essential organisms needed to absorb CO2, regulate temperatures and absorb excess rainwater. Consequently, communities with high amounts of concrete have been associated with higher temperatures, loss of biodiversity, reduced air quality, and higher flooding possibilities.
To make matters worse, concrete is highly water intensive. The concrete industry uses an estimated one billion cubic meters of water each year worldwide, without including curing and wash water. Only .5% of the water on Earth is fresh, available water. We need water for nearly everything and cannot afford to let a single drop go to waste. Opting for concrete without looking toward less water-intensive alternatives like Mycelium or Hempcrete could have dire consequences in the future.
Finally, cement, the main ingredient in concrete, is produced by combining limestone, clay, shale, and other minerals. The combination is then heated to extreme temperatures to form a rock-like substance called clinker that is then ground into a powder called cement. The problem with this process is that by bringing the combination of limestone and minerals to such high temperatures, significant amounts of co2 are released into the atmosphere. This process is consequently extremely damaging to the environment and has made concrete responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions each year.
The Pantheon and the Colosseum, each made from an ancient form of volcanic material called Pozzolanic cement, are testaments to the longevity and durability of concrete. However, as incredible as these structures are, discovering new ways of building is essential if we want to reach net zero by 2050. We need innovative ideas to achieve lasting change. Companies like Solida Concrete, for example, are working to make a difference from within the industry by pioneering revolutionary processing techniques that reduce the energy intensity and co2 emissions of cement and concrete by modifying their production processes.
Smart Energy Education strives to create a more sustainable world through energy and water education. If you are looking to learn more about how to make a positive difference in the environment, are interested in energy careers, or would like to participate in some fun energy activities, visit us at Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers!
Did you know that the type of lawn you have can contribute to global warming and significantly impact energy and water consumption? It's true! From overwatering to using gas-powered lawn mowers and spraying chemical fertilizers, there are several ways in which your lawn care routine could wreak havoc on the environment. So what is there to do? When guests visit, your lawn is the first chance to make a first impression. Thankfully there is no need to stress; you can make many simple and easy changes to reduce your lawn's effect on the environment while keeping it healthy and beautiful. Let's dive in and explore some tips and tricks to help you create a beautiful, eco-friendly yard!
Switch to native grasses and plants
The average American lawn looks like a plot of short dark green Kentucky Bluegrass. There may be a couple of bushes and flowers near the front door, but other than that, not much is likely to vary. This has been the norm for many years. So much so that it's also most often even required by local homeowners' associations. Yet the practice of maintaining lush green grass lawns can be more damaging than you might imagine.
Despite the neat, clean aesthetic of a well-groomed Kentucky Bluegrass lawn, the amount of water and fertilizers needed to keep it healthy in a non-native environment can be substantial. Native grasses, on the other hand, are much more accustomed to their environment and are more likely to survive on the natural rainfall experienced in the area. Because of this, switching to native grasses and plants can help combat water waste and erosion by significantly reducing how much you need to water your lawn and avoiding unnecessary runoff.
Provide habitat for wildlife
When creating the perfect lawn for your home, you may realize that your local wildlife is often pushed to the side. Your main concern may be to build the most beautiful, easy-to-maintain outdoor space possible. However, it's essential to understand the importance of the little creatures in your area. Bees alone are one of the world's most important pollinators, yet they are continually and increasingly under threat by human activities. Creating a habitat for local wildlife by providing food, water, and shelter can help maintain some balance in your local ecosystem. For example, planting local flowers for bees to pollinate or installing bird feeders and baths can make a big difference.
Opt for natural fertilizers
Synthetic fertilizers are one of the number one culprits when it comes to environmental damage. It may seem convenient to ensure your grass is always greener by buying a bottle of chemicals certified to get the job done. Yet, while these products work well, they are eventually washed away with the rain and, more often than not, end up in our waterways. Avoid this by opting for natural fertilizers like compost, manure, or bone meal. Your lawn will be happy, and you can avoid adding chemicals to your local ecosystem.
Installing a rainwater harvesting system is one of the easiest ways to maximize your resources while reducing your energy consumption. By installing a simple barrel, in-ground tanks, or even a cistern in your yard or garden, you can gather the water needed to keep your plants alive without having to rely on the treated, energy-intensive water pumped to your home. You could even use the water you have left over to wash your car, flush your toilets, or for other non-potable uses.
These harvesting systems can even help prevent erosion by collecting the water that would otherwise run off the roof and other impervious surfaces, taking essential soil with it, and keeping the native ecosystem from thriving as it should. Watering plants with untreated rainwater permit you to provide water where it's needed most. They help give your plants the nutrients and minerals they need to thrive and create a system where your yard can support the ecosystem instead of depleting its resources.
Use eco-friendly lawn care practices
Keeping your yard looking tidy and trimmed requires some manpower. To avoid contributing to global warming and air pollution, swap out your gas-powered mower and leaf blower for a manual push mower and a rake. You could even let your grass grow longer than usual to promote healthier roots and save water.
The name of the game is supporting ecological diversity. Climate change impacts us all. For those looking to help fight for the planet, making changes at home is the perfect way to start. To learn more about how your actions impact the environment, the connection between energy, global warming, the importance of water, and more, visit Resourcefulness.org! Also, remember to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.
As people everywhere begin to experience the impacts of climate change, the need to reassess the practices and procedures used throughout our communities has become increasingly urgent. How we produce food, manufacture goods, the transportation we use, and the approach we take when building new infrastructure are all being assessed and modified to reduce their environmental impact.
The City of San Antonio, a Texas leader in sustainability and green energy, is an active participant in the American Cities Climate Challenge (ACCC). Consequently, over the years, it has implemented various programs to reduce its impact on the climate and protect its community members. Its efforts include energy reduction strategies, water awareness campaigns, and, most recently, regulations that require the City's oldest housing stock to be deconstructed and salvaged instead of demolished and landfilled.
Prior to these regulations, standard practices allowed for the complete demolition of buildings that were to be rebuilt and replaced. However, throughout this process, perfectly good materials like flooring, drawers, cabinets, piping, and more end up in landfills where they could do nothing but contribute to the growing pollution problem.
Building and demolition projects can create highly hazardous conditions by releasing toxic chemicals and sediment into the air we breathe, especially in large, compact cities where harmful particle matter can easily end up in people's lungs. This debris can then travel through wind, rain, and landfills and wind up in our waterways, creating additional problems. Recognizing these procedures as a threat to public health for the people of San Antonio, community leaders decided to take action.
The Office of Historic Preservation launched the San Antonio Deconstruction Advisory Committee, bringing together building professionals, stakeholders, and neighborhood representatives as early as 2018 to develop a place-based deconstruction ordinance and enact lasting change. Initially focusing on City-executed residential demolitions beginning October 2022, the ordinance expanded in January 2023 to include all small-scale residential structures (single family, duplex, triplex, fourplex) if the structure was built on or before 1920 citywide, or on or before 1945 if located in a historic zoning overlay or within a Neighborhood Conservation District. But it doesn't stop there. Beginning Jan. 1, 2025, the program's final phase will expand to include 8plexes, and the date range will expand to 1945 citywide and 1960 in protected zoning overlays.
By implementing a system where buildings are taken apart and assessed for salvageable parts like wood and tiles, San Antonio leaders can limit the substances, harmful chemicals, and microparticles that end up in the air and water while significantly reducing the number of valuable materials that go to waste. As a city with a steadily increasing population, regulations that allow for the growth and improvement of its community while protecting the health of the planet and future generations through sustainable practices have been fundamental.
Sustainable practices and regulations, such as the ones seen in San Antonio, are extremely important. The world needs innovative and creative solutions to ensure a healthy, prosperous future. Learning about energy resources to better understand the world's energy obstacles is a great way to start. Visit Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers to learn more, and remember to follow us on Facebook.
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Watt Watchers de Texas
204 E. Dean Keeton Street, Austin, Texas 78712