Tag Archives: sustainability

Are gyms eco-friendly?

Time to run from the 'deadmill' gym treadmill

People nowadays are more concerned about their health and are going to the gym to achieve their fitness goals. Many exercisers find that running on a treadmill is easier, and therefore more preferable, than running outdoors. Those who face seasonal allergies or live in cold temperatures seem to have no option but to remain indoors for their workouts. There is also a sense of encouragement from joining a gym. By getting on the treadmill at their local club, they are now a part of a group who strive to be healthy. But by jumping on a piece of exercise equipment they may be helping their bodies but are harming the environment.

While the treadmills these gym-goers choose appear to be rather simple machines that wouldn’t require high amounts of power, one treadmill can burn the equivalent of fifteen 75-Watt light bulbs while in use. Most people would never want to have five lights on in their house, let alone fifteen, yet most people have no problem using a treadmill. While most treadmills are not constantly running, treadmills and other equipment still use energy while in standby mode. Some local gyms are also crowded enough that their machines are in almost constant use, burning large amounts of energy. The temperature raises in the gym, causing the use of fans and air conditioning in addition to the level that it is constantly running at. The lights at most gyms are consistently on and using electricity, even if no one is working out. The soda vending machine alone at a local gym can use about 10 times the amount of a home refrigerator.

An amazing alternative to the conventional gym is the Green Gym, a concept that allows gentle exercise out in the countryside in fresh air. Green Gyms involve members ‘working out’ by planting trees, rebuilding damaged forest footpaths or rebuilding walls. Participants have been found to exercise moderately over a period of about four hours – equivalent to a short session on a treadmill. However, the advantage is that the air is completely pure and, more importantly, the energy expended goes into producing a tangible product. This form of gentle exercise has been found to reduce heart attacks and strokes by about 50%.

Mental health organizations have commented on the well-being effects of the Green Gym. They say that people have a natural biological attraction to nature, which is often referred to as biophilia. Connecting with the natural environment can have therapeutic benefits and can significantly lower stress levels. Not only that, it can improve physical health too.

Carbon-neutral gyms are also starting to appear around the world. Many of these have environmental policies that aim to reduce waste, increase recycling and encourage users to think about the effects of their workout on the environment. Some gyms are even levying a charge on users so that tree planting projects can be resourced. One gym is able to reclaim over 800 cubic metres of rainwater from the roof. This is enough to fill their 25metre swimming pool.

So, going to the gym on a regular basis can have a great effect on your health and body. But it comes at a cost. For the discerning environmentalist, using a gym may be an acceptable option, but it is always a good idea to check that the establishment has an environmental policy, with aims and objectives clearly stated.


Biogas: a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels

Food, meat waste saves electricity bills of Salem Corporation ...
Biogas Plant

Biogas is obtained from anaerobic digestion process, a fermentation process, which takes place in a closed airtight digester where organic raw materials such as manure, food waste, sewage sludge and organic industrial waste are converted into biogas and digestate as products. The produced biogas is a mixture of 50-70% methane and 30-50% carbon dioxide and smaller amounts of water vapor, hydrogen sulphide and other minor components and trace elements. The wet digestate results from anaerobic digestion of the substrates, which are pumped out of the digester tank, after the extraction of biogas.

Very simple biogas digesters have been in use in China, India and many other Asian countries for many years. Industrial applications of biogas production started well over 50 years ago as a means of stabilizing sewage sludge at waste water treatment plants. The biogas industry expanded in the 1970’s and 1980’s as increased production of different organic materials (such as manure and industrial wastewater from sugar refinery and pulp mills) became more widely used. Starting in the mid 1990’s extraction of landfill gas (low quality biogas) came to the fore, along with the construction of farm-based biogas plants and anaerobic digestion of solid wastes from food industry and food waste. After 2000’s, there was an increased interest in biogas and so, construction of farm-based biogas plants took place and an industrial sector was established.

The multiple functions of biogas in circular economy:

1. Biogas: a part of the modern society’s energy supply system

Biogas, made from organic waste streams, does not add to the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide produced during combustion of biogas is offset by either the carbon dioxide consumed by the biomass, which is digested. Biogas is thus a “green” sustainable energy vector and has a significant role in shifting to a sustainable decarbonized society. Biogas has many uses in the sustainable society that can be utilized in a broader perspective than today. Industries, as well as households, can use biogas for heating and hot water supply. Biogas can be used to supply warm air for drying, for example, in laundries, carpentries, industrial coating facilities and other places where there is a need for fast and efficient drying. The exhausts from upgraded biogas combustion are clean and do not generate odours or particles.

2. Biogas used for heat and electricity production

The most common use of biogas is in a non-upgraded form for production of electricity and heat production. The default use of biogas is for CHP (Central Heat and Power) production, which is in fact production of renewable electricity and heat, also known as cogeneration. The heat from the CHP engine can also be used to drive an absorption chiller to give a source of cooling, resulting in a combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP), also known as trigeneration. The utilization of the renewable heat is very important, as it brings about significant additional economic and environmental benefits, on top of the utilization of biogas for renewable electricity production.

3. Upgraded biogas or ‘bio-methane’ used as vehicle fuel

Raw biogas can be upgraded in a process which removes hydrogen sulphide, water, particles and CO2 present in the gas. The process creates a gas consisting mainly of methane and thus increases its energy content. Clean upgraded biogas is used as fuel for cars, buses and trucks of various sizes. In several countries, there is a well-developed infrastructure for vehicle gas, and it is possible to fuel natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the most densely populated areas of such countries. Today, vehicle gas like CNG, LPG is used mostly for buses, trucks and passenger cars.

4. Upgraded biogas ‘bio-methane’ injection into the gas grid

Biomethane from renewable sources is also fed into the national transmission network for natural gas in several countries.

5. Reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions

One of the main reasons for a transition from fossil energy and fuel to renewable energy and fuel is the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The production of biofuels and bioenergy contributes to a significant reduction of GHG emissions. In many areas around the world, organic substances, considered as waste, are still deposited in landfill sites where they decompose, releasing methane (CH4) with a global warming potential (GWP) 21 times that of CO2. When these streams of organic waste are redirected from landfill to a biogas facility, a significant reduction in methane emissions from landfills occurs.

6. Improved nutrient up-take efficiency in agriculture

Intensive agriculture is one of the major greenhouse gas sources worldwide. These emissions are associated with enteric fermentation, management of manures and production of synthetic fossil fuel based fertilizers. Anaerobic digestion systems remove the easily degradable carbon compounds in feedstocks such as slurries, and converts them to biogas. When the remaining digestate is applied as biofertiliser, the slow to degrade carbon is recycled back to soils, contributing to build up of the humus content of the soil and its long-term suitability for agriculture. Macro and micro-nutrients contained in digestate are predominately in mineral form which makes them easily accessible to the plant roots, compared with nutrients in raw manure and slurry, which are mainly organic compounds, and must be mineralized in order to be up-taken by the plants. As such digestate has a higher nutrient uptake efficiency, compared with raw manure and slurries.

Organic matter in digestate can build up the humus content in the soil; this is a benefit unique to organic fertilizers, which is particularly crucial for arid and semi-arid lands with low carbon content. The destruction of weed seeds in the AD process is another significant benefit to organic farmers.

7. Energy security

Fossil energy is still in abundant use around the world. This energy comes in the form of coal, oil and natural gas from a relatively limited geographical region and is used worldwide. Many countries are thus dependent on a few countries for energy supply. A transition to a bio-based/renewable energy production system would better balance the energy supply situation around the world; more countries and regions would be able to become energy self-sustainable.

8. Optimal utilization of resources

In a sustainable society where resources are used efficiently, what previously was considered to be waste is instead included in a production circle where organic material and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are returned to the soil to replace chemical fossil fuel sourced fertilizer. When digesting municipal and industrial food waste such as waste from super markets and restaurants or slaughterhouse waste, biogas is produced, and valuable nutrients accumulate in the digestate where they are easily used as fertilizer. One ton of digested food waste produces 1200 kWh biogas energy, which is enough fuel to drive 1900 km with a gas fueled car. The food waste from 3000 households can fuel a gas bus for a year.

Some countries already have targets for energy recovery from food waste. The Swedish government, for example, has a target that at least half of all generated food waste from households, shops and restaurants be separated and treated to recover nutrients and that 40% is treated to recover energy by 2018.

9. Generating income in rural areas

The biogas plant itself is not labor intensive but it can create new business opportunities in rural areas which otherwise suffer from depopulation. Through collaboration with different farms, the biogas plant can create different job opportunities along the process chain, such as raw material cultivation and collection. By increasing local energy production, income stays in the local area instead of going to global energy markets.

In the future bio-economy, wastes will be transformed to highvalue products and chemical building blocks, fuels, power and heating; biogas facilities will play a vital role in this development, and in the implementation of the novel production paths that arise in the transition to a bio-economy.

The future of the biogas facility is a factory where value is created from previously wasted materials. This ensures sustainability of the environment and potential for financial gain for the local community. The flexibility of the anaerobic digestion system and its ability to digest a multitude of organic feedstocks, while producing a significant range of products ensures the role of anaerobic digestion and biogas in the circular economy.

Traditional water conservation techniques of India

Traditional water wisdom and systems of RajasthanNews Cusp | News Cusp
A jhalara in Rajasthan

1. Jhalaras

Jhalaras are typically rectangular-shaped stepwells that have tiered steps on three or four sides. These stepwells collect the subterranean seepage of an upstream reservoir or a lake. Jhalaras were built to ensure easy and regular supply of water for religious rites, royal ceremonies and community use. The city of Jodhpur has eight jhalaras, the oldest being the Mahamandir Jhalara that dates back to 1660 AD.

2. Talab /Bandhi

Talabs are reservoirs that store water for household consumption and drinking purposes. They may be natural, such as the pokhariyan ponds at Tikamgarh in the Bundelkhand region or man made, such as the lakes of Udaipur. A reservoir with an area less than five bighas is called a talai, a medium sized lake is called a bandhi and bigger lakes are called sagar or samand.

3. Bawari

Bawari | Hindi Water | Flickr

Bawaris are unique stepwells that were once a part of the ancient networks of water storage in the cities of Rajasthan. The little rain that the region received would be diverted to man-made tanks through canals built on the hilly outskirts of cities. The water would then percolate into the ground, raising the water table and recharging a deep and  intricate network of aquifers. To minimise water loss through evaporation, a series of layered steps were built around the reservoirs to narrow and deepen the wells.

4. Taanka

Taanka is a traditional rainwater harvesting technique indigenous to the Thar desert region of Rajasthan. A Taanka is a cylindrical paved underground pit into which rainwater from rooftops, courtyards or artificially prepared catchments flows. Once completely filled, the water stored in a taanka can last throughout the dry season and is sufficient for a family of 5-6 members. An important element of water security in these arid regions, taankas can save families from the everyday drudgery of fetching water from distant sources.

5. Ahar Pynes

Ahar Pynes are traditional floodwater harvesting systems indigenous to South Bihar. Ahars are reservoirs with embankments on three sides that are built at the end of diversion channels like pynes. Pynes are artificial rivulets led off from rivers to collect water in the ahars for irrigation in the dry months.  Paddy cultivation in this relatively low rainfall area depends mostly on ahar pynes.

6. Johads

Water Johads: A Low-Tech Alternative to Mega-Dams in India

Johads, one of the oldest systems used to conserve and recharge ground water, are small earthen check dams that capture and store rainwater. Constructed in an area with naturally high elevation on three sides, a storage pit is made by excavating the area, and excavated soil is used to create a wall on the fourth side. Sometimes, several johads are interconnected through deep channels, with a single outlet opening into a river or stream nearby. This prevents structural damage to the water pits that are also called madakas in Karnataka and pemghara in Odisha.

7. Panam Keni

The Kuruma tribe (a native tribe of Wayanad) uses a special type of well, called the panam keni, to store water. Wooden cylinders are made by soaking the stems of toddy palms in water for a long time so that the core rots away until only the hard outer layer remains. These cylinders, four feet in diameter as well as depth, are then immersed in groundwater springs located in fields and forests. This is the secret behind how these wells have abundant water even in the hottest summer months.

8. Bamboo Drip Irrigation

Bamboo Drip Irrigation

Bamboo Drip irrigation System is an ingenious system of efficient water management that has been practised for over two centuries in northeast India. The tribal farmers of the region have developed a system for irrigation in which water from perennial springs is diverted to the terrace fields using varying sizes and shapes of bamboo pipes. Best suited for crops requiring less water, the system ensures that small drops of water are delivered directly to the roots of the plants. This ancient system is used by the farmers of Khasi and Jaintia hills to drip-irrigate their black pepper cultivation.

9. Eri

The Eri (tank) system of Tamil Nadu is one of the oldest water management systems in India. Still widely used in the state, eris act as flood-control systems, prevent soil erosion and wastage of runoff during periods of heavy rainfall, and also recharge the groundwater. Eris can either be a system eri, which is fed by channels that divert river water, or a non-system eri, that is fed solely by rain. The tanks are interconnected in order to enable access to the farthest village and to balance the water level in case of excess supply. The eri system enables the complete use of  river water for irrigation and without them, paddy cultivation would have been impossible in Tamil Nadu.

Pat System

The Pat system, in which the peculiarities of the terrain are used to divert water from hill streams into irrigation channels, was developed in the Bhitada village in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. Diversion bunds are made across a stream near the village by piling up stones and then lining them with teak leaves and mud to make them leak-proof. The Pat channel then passes through deep ditches and stone aqueducts that are skilfully cut info stone cliffs to create an irrigation system that the villagers use in turn.

reducing your carbon footprint

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint : 7 Instant Ways - CO2 Living

Carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services. Here are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint:

  1. The choice of diet is a major influence on a person’s carbon footprint. Animal sources of protein like red meat, rice (typically produced in high methane-emitting paddies), foods transported long-distance or via fuel-inefficient transport (e.g., highly perishable produce flown long-distance) and heavily processed and packaged foods are among the major contributors to a high carbon diet. Scientists at the University of Chicago have estimated that the average American diet – which derives 28% of its calories from animal foods – is responsible for approximately one and a half more tonnes of greenhouse gasses.
  2. Another option for reducing the carbon footprint of humans is to use less air conditioning and heating in the home. By adding insulation to the walls and attic of one’s home, and installing weather stripping, or caulking around doors and windows one can lower their heating costs more than 25 percent. Similarly, one can very inexpensively upgrade the “insulation” (clothing) worn by residents of the home. For example, it’s estimated that wearing a base layer of long underwear with top and bottom, made from a lightweight, super-insulating fabric like microfleece, can conserve as much body heat as a full set of clothing, allowing a person to remain warm with the thermostat lowered by over 5 °C. These measures all help because they reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the house.
  3. There are many simple changes that can be made to the everyday lifestyle of a person that would reduce their GHG footprint. Reducing energy consumption within a household can include lowering one’s dependence on air conditioning and heating, using CFL light bulbs, choosing ENERGY STAR appliances, recycling, using cold water to wash clothes, and avoiding a dryer. Another adjustment would be to use a motor vehicle that is fuel-efficient as well as reducing reliance on motor vehicles. Motor vehicles produce many GHGs, thus an adjustment to one’s usage will greatly affect a GHG footprint.