La Chua Trail, Gainesville, Fl

Lachoola Trail, Gainesville, Fl

Todays Adventure: Lachoola trail. This entire 22,000 acre site was covered with water until a sinkhole formed draining it to it’s present swampy state. Most of the time, sinkholes are not natural occurrences, but the results of urbanization and lowering of the ground water table. They can drastically change the hydrology and ecosystem of an area, so whenever possible, vote, design, and develop responsibly!

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Technology and the Environment (DirectTVScholarship)

This entry is much different from those I’ve written in the past. I have focused on maintaining or restoring the natural environment, the way it was prior to civil development. This is to maintain the balance of the earth, the circle of life, and to sustain water quality. What I haven’t mentioned is how advancements in technology can help us do this. There are many technology based tools I use to find the best possible ways to preserve nature while providing a life for the growing human population. As it turns out, tree hugging and talking to bugs can only get you so far.

I had a choice of a dissertation topic, a “perk” choosing a professor with no funding (he saw my vision and that was priceless), and from my experience in the field of land development/sustainable design and engineering, I knew that only through technology, can nature can be preserved. It sounds crazy, I know, but would you believe that a computer can actually turn into a prophetic environmental crystal ball? My research involves the use of three different hydrologic models. These aren’t your run of the mill excel platforms, these are Geographic Information System (GIS) based hydrological and hydraulic models that allow me to actually see into the future! This technologically advanced system can allow me to see what the effect of a new development will be on the ecosystem, on the water quality and quantity, where to put pervious pavement to be most effective, how big a bio-retention area should be, what size a pipe or a weir will work, and actually design a system to work with the existing land to have minimal impact on the natural environment. Through this I can see how fish, birds, plants, water, air, and humans will populate and live simultaneously in the same place. Pretty amazing, huh? I can actually create a natural environment through the use of technology. Am I saying it couldn’t be done without technology? No, it probably could, but the amount of equations and iterations of those equations the computer runs in an hour, would take a human years, longer than the amount of time the project has to be built, it would be subject to human error, and wouldn’t present the results in a visually descriptive and accurate way. No company or municipality would spend that kind of money on labor just to save the lives of a few fish, thus, technology gives us the power to do plan and grow with the environment instead of against it.

I didn’t stop there with the use of technology. I truly believe to the depths of my soul that the fate of the environment lies in education. Most people simply do not know the environmental repercussions of their actions, and in addition, they don’t know a healthier, better way. In a study I conducted, 82% of people in areas without combined sewer systems either didn’t know where stormwater went after it entered into a manhole, or believed that it went to a wastewater treatment facility. All of those people were pretty surprised when I told them that the trash they throw out the window or the chemicals they put on their lawn, wind up being the lake or river habitat. My point is, that the more information people have, the more likely they will be to make better choices, to always recycle, to use less packaging, to use all natural cleaning products and use less fertilizer and water. People take action when there family, money, or they themselves will be adversely affected… so there would be a lot more people taking action if they knew the harmful impacts irresponsible environmental practices have on all three. This is where technology comes in. The best way to inform a large amount of people is through the internet, therefore, I made this website and connected it to a new twitter page, and my existing facebook page. Again, I am using technology to sustain the natural environment, as strange as that still sounds as I say it out loud.

I have no doubt that I will continue to use technology in my future career plans, especially if I accomplish my dream of making environmental documentaries based on my work. I can only hope that the advances in environmental engineering made through technology, will supersede the environmental impact of the increased energy use. Hopefully, the promotion of energy wise products will make an impact in that area.

Now the question is, are we too dependent on technology… I don’t have a good answer to that question. When I see young kids glued to the TV or game console instead of being outside, learning and playing, I think “whoa, this has got to stop or we’re going to have a future population of incarcerated Grand Theft Auto pros”. On the other hand, I see a large population not as dependent on technology, some don’t even know how to use a computer, and I think “wow, there needs to be more technology incorporated in grade school”. I think with everything, moderation is the key. Use technology as a tool for learning and growing, not as a crutch or dependency where you cannot function without it. See the world around you, and let technology make that world better!

To Recycle or Not Recycle, That is the Question! (that should never be asked) and did anyone else not know Reading Rainbow is still around??

rrrreading rainbow

We all know recycling is extremely important, we are loading landfills at a much faster rate than that of biological decay.  Our population is growing, the amount of products being produced is increasing, therefore the amount of garbage is increasing.

The first line of environmental defense is to be part of the solution, not the problem: try to buy products with the triangular recycled symbol, stay away from purchasing products with a lot of packaging, especially materials that are difficult to recycle.  Avoiding the purchase of packaged items seems nearly impossible, but we can lessen the waste we produce and encourage companies to change their packaging techniques by buying products with less, or resposible packaging.,

Most communities and businesses have made it very easy to recycle with recycling bins and hazardous waste pick ups.  The hard part is figuring out if the non-obvious items are recylable.  For example I had the question: Can I recycle a product box appearing to contain plastic, aluminum and cardboard?  Well I called my local recycling company, Recycling Services of America, and their answer was yes, it may be difficult for the workers to pull the box apart, but they will do it.  I was pleasantly surprised by this.  They also answered my questions about their process.  They are a collection and sorting station, and send the sorted recyclables to a company in North Carolina where they make Mc Donalds and Wendy’s products out of it.  Hopefully this is transported by train!  Call your local recycling agency and see how your products are reused!  Below is a link to a Reading Rainbow video shoing the recycling process.

Recycling companies have made it easy when it comes to labels and cleaning items for recycling: it is not necessary to remove labels and you only need to clean enough to prevent odors!

Here are some examples of what is good and not so good to recycle:


Easy to Recycle: Paper, Plastic, Steel, Cartons, Glass, Aluminum Cans, and Foil.  I will add a page to explain and breakdown these recyclable items more!

Harder to recycle: dental hygiene products, cling wrap (contains PVC causing hazardous fumes), CDs/DVDs, pill packets, bubble wraps and jiffy bags, silica gel, citris fruit netting, razor blades, kitty litter, broken plates, candy wrappers, product packaging, flourescent light bulbs, carpets, books, towels and fabrics, packing peanuts (source: DIYlife, resource.uk)

Household toxics like cleaning chemiclals and household appliances such as rechargable batteries, refridgerators, heat pumps, air conditioners, motor oil, car batteries, and tires should NEVER be thrown into a landfill.  These items should be picked up by your local hazardous waste facility, or dropped off according to your local waste or recycling center.


Who knew Reading Rainbow was still around?  Apparently it is and focusing on the environment! Did you ever wonder what happens after you fill your recycling bin?  Check out this video which shows the process!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w1l8HXa3HLk

Developers…Low Impact Development is your best friend

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I’ve been saying this for 10 years now: Low impact development techniques benefit all.  Developers cringe at the sound of anything “tree-hugger” sounding.  They immediately think “unnecessary, and expensive.”  You will not see many developers, or many people for that matter, going above and beyond to minimize their impact on the ecosystem when there is no immediate benefit to them or their company.  Low impact development (LID) are design strategies that increase aesthetics, increase water and air quality, provide storage to prevent from flooding, reduce peak flows, and reduce erosion (many of these are explained at inspectorplanet.com).  LID can be a profitable development strategy by providing treatment and attenuation are spread throughout a development, ultimately requiring less space for detention ponds, and allowing for more responsible development within regulations, therefore, more units to be sold.  Not that I would ever encourage that, of course the moral approach would be to exceed environmental expectations, but unfortunately, we live in a world where the right thing to do, isn’t always the choice of those monetarily motivated. 

In addition to the economic benefits that LID provides structurally, a study has been conducted concluding that people are willing to pay more for proximity to green space and LID…up to 1.95% more!  So not only are the lives of the plants, animals, aquatic life, and human life minimally adversely impacted by new urbanization, the developer, builder, realtor, and contractors benefits economically as well! 

See the story here:
http://blog.epa.gov/science/2014/04/willingness-to-pay-for-green-space/

Buffalo to treat stormwater with Low Impact Development!!!

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Buffalo, NY is one of the few places with combined sewer systems.  Overflow of these systems causes the combined storm and waste water into Niagara Falls.  Implementing LID to treat and attenuate stormwater can reduce this overflow of polluted water into the Falls.

From EPA:

EPA Approves Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Plan to

Reduce Sewage and Water Pollution in Niagara River

Close to Two Billion Gallons of Sewage Overflows Enter Niagara River and its Tributaries Every Year

 

 

(New York, N.Y. – April 14, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have approved the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s plan to reduce the amount of sewage and stormwater run-off that flow from the city of Buffalo’s combined sewer system. Combined sewer systems, which carry sewage from buildings and stormwater from the streets, are overwhelmed during heavy rain and send untreated sewage into local waters. The plan has been incorporated into a legal order issued by the EPA to the Buffalo Sewer Authority. Under the approved plan, the Buffalo Sewer Authority will implement a series of projects that will improve water quality in the Niagara River and its tributaries, including projects that use green infrastructure to soak up and store stormwater that would otherwise increase overflows of raw sewage into local waterways. The Buffalo Sewer Authority has committed to investing $380 million on these projects over 20 years.

 

“The Buffalo Sewer Authority has shown its commitment to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act and improve people’s health and water quality throughout the city,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The incorporation of green infrastructure into the plan will help restore the Niagara River, while building healthier, greener and more sustainable communities.”

 

“EPA, DEC and BSA have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive Long Term Control Plan to significantly improve water quality and reduce combined sewer overflows to the water bodies in the Buffalo and Niagara River watersheds,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “This plan is an important step in achieving cleaner, healthier and more vibrant waters in the City of Buffalo, while providing future opportunities for recreational activities for local residents and visitors. DEC applauds BSA for incorporating green infrastructure into the plan to protect the fresh water resources of the Lake Erie water basin and assist in beautifying an urban landscape.”

 

During periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the volume of wastewater in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the plant that receives the wastewater for treatment. When this happens, combined sewer systems discharge excess wastewater containing untreated sewage directly into nearby water bodies. These overflows not only contain stormwater and untreated human and industrial waste, but also toxic pollutants and debris. It is estimated that Buffalo’s combined sewer system contributes over 1.75 billion gallons of combined sewage overflow to the Niagara River and its tributaries each year.

 

Green infrastructure is an environmentally friendly technique to manage storm water. It uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier, more resilient urban environments. This type of infrastructure can replace more traditional concrete, or “gray,” solutions. Green infrastructure, which includes green roofs, permeable pavement and other surfaces, rain gardens and restored wetlands, mimics nature by soaking up and storing water.

 

Under a permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Buffalo Sewer Authority discharges from its Bird Island wastewater treatment plant outfalls and from combined sewer overflow points into the Niagara River, Black Rock Canal, Erie Basin, Buffalo River, Scajaquada Creek, Cazenovia Creek and Cornelius Creek. The Buffalo Sewer Authority’s 1999 permit required it to develop a Long Term Control Plan, to manage its combined sewage. The Buffalo Sewer Authority submitted a Long Term Control Plan in 2004, which was found to be inadequate and not approved.

 

A March 9, 2012 compliance order issued by the EPA required the Buffalo Sewer Authority to submit an approvable Long Term Control Plan to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that would include sewer system improvements to ensure that combined sewer overflows complied with technology and water quality-based requirements. The legal order also required the Buffalo Sewer Authority to develop a detailed implementation schedule that would take finances into consideration while meeting water quality standards. Both the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation encouraged the Buffalo Sewer Authority to incorporate green infrastructure projects into its plan.

On January 10, 2014, the Buffalo Sewer Authority submitted its final revised Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan to the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for review and approval. The plan was approved on March 18, 2014. The EPA is now issuing an amended compliance order memorializing the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s approvals of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Long Term Control Plan and implementation schedule with a 2034 final compliance deadline. The Buffalo Sewer Authority has already invested over $50 million in completed and ongoing construction projects under its approved Long Term Control Plan, including:

A $2.8 million pilot project to determine green infrastructure effectiveness related to rain garden/infiltration basins, pervious pavement and house downspout disconnections

$1.2 million for green street projects along Carlton Street and Fillmore Avenue to collect flows from these areas and to turn vacant land into green space

$7.5 million for demonstration projects to determine how to maximize wastewater and stormwater storage with real time control technology

$18 million to construct the Hamburg Drain Floatable Control Facility to control entry of large floating debris into the Niagara River

$8 million for a storage project at Smith Street to reduce raw sewage overflows into the

Niagara River

In addition to these projects, $93 million will be spent on green infrastructure for between 1,315 and 1,620 acres of impervious surface throughout Buffalo. Projects will include vacant property demolitions, vacant lot modifications to allow for infiltration, pervious pavements, rain gardens, downspout disconnections and rain barrels. The Buffalo Sewer Authority will also invest $41 million in upgrades at its Bird Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to increase the treatment capacity for sewage and stormwater run-off and to ensure that all discharges receive adequate disinfection. Other projects will increase the system’s ability to collect and transport wastewater. The Buffalo Sewer Authority estimates that total costs will be approximately $380 million over 20 years.

Reduce your impact

http://epa.gov/climatechange/basics/#difference
http://epa.gov/climatechange/basics/#difference

Forty-two percent of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. In every one of these stages of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact.

Reduce, Recycle and Reuse people!!!!

Of course it’s always better to reduce waste first, use re-usable cups, plates, water bottles, electronic copies of magazines and newspapers, etc.  However, if use on non-reusable items are necessary, Recycle!

Recycled Product

# of Recylcled Items

Can Produce Enough Energy to Run

Air Conditioner (hours)

Hair Dryer (hours)

Laptop (hours)

60W Equiv CFL Bulb (hours)

Aluminum Can

10

1.7

1.7

51.9

199.5

Glass Bottle

10

0.7

0.7

20.9

80.2

Plastic Bottle

10

0.8

0.8

25.4

97.8

Weekly Magazine

10

0.1

0.1

2.8

10.8

Plastic Grocery Bag

10

0.1

0.1

3.4

13.1

EPA Waste Statistics:

  • 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the provision of goods produced within the United States.
  • The provision of food contributes another 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Traditional “waste” management represents 1 to 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Find out what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint:

http://epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-waste/

Traces of radioactive water from Fukushima detected on US West Coast

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Uh… duh, obviously this was going to happen. As I always say EVERYTHING is connected!!! The amount of radioactivity which has reached the US is not enough to impact our drinking water supply, which is great, but the solution to pollution is NOT dilution, and this contamination is not without it’s victims. Just using common sense, small fish were exposed to this radio activity, and we eat fish from all over the world…just sayin’ there are reprocussions.

http://www.processingmagazine.com/articles/126985-traces-of-radioactive-water-from-fukushima-detected-on-us-west-coast

No more Japanese whaling!!!

japwhaleNo more Japanese whaling!!!

Big win for my Green Peace friend, Casson Trenor: “Today, the International Court of Justice has ruled that Japanese scientific whaling is in fact not a research program and must be halted. This is a huge step toward ending commercial whaling, and while the work isn’t over yet, is definitely cause for some celebration. So if you feel like popping champagne on a Monday afternoon, this is a pretty good reason why.

Thank you so much to the thousands of dedicated activists at Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and other organizations that have fought so hard for this over the past forty years. We are nearly there!”