April 14, 2008
Why bottled water? (or why not bottled water...)
• Bottled water bottles are made from oil, a limited resource. Just making the containers alone consumes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute. (Maybe we should get rid of the cars, but that’s a topic for another time.)
• It takes a lot of oil to transport bottled water from supposedly pristine springs all over the world to us. That bottle of Fiji water really does come from Fiji — and it doesn’t walk here by itself.
And all those trucks eventually clog our roads and double park in front of stores and offices to deliever their unneeded goods. But that’s just the production half of the equation, there’s the disposal too:
• Thirty million bottles end up in landfills every day — and considering that New York doesn’t have its own landfill anymore, we have to pay to dump our empty water bottles elsewhere.
• New York City tap water is safer and better than bottled water anyway. The Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for tap water, for example, is stiffer than the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for bottled water. Plus, our tap water tastes better than all those fancy waters (the Aquafina that’s bottled in Queens actually is New York City tap water — which is then distilled and reconfigured with Aquafina’s proprietary mix of minerals.)
How it works?
• The world spends $100 billion a year on bottled water at a time when the United Nations says that just $15 billion could double the number of people who have access to safe drinking water.
• And, rich people consume far more bottled water than poor people — so if tap water quality declines, it will fall to the politically less powerful to fight for cleaner water because the rich have turned their backs on the entire system.
What the individual can do:
1. At home, use a cup and fill it with tap water
2. On the go bring along a reusable hard plastic bottle and refill as necessary with tap water, remember to wash it periodically.
3. At the office, leave behind some mugs and cups that you can use there, again washing them periodically - the same applies to your morning coffee
4. If you end up having no choice and bottled is all there is available, save that bottle and reuse it later when you see a tap or a water fountain.
• less carbon
• utilizing resources close to home instead of depleting those half way around the world (like the island of fiiji)
The Pacific Island Countries also face critical water supply and contamination problems because of the inability of governments to maintain ageing water reticulation and treatment systems set up during the colonial period. Fiji has the largest water system in the Pacific Islands based on an economy of scale, but this is a legacy from when Fiji was a British colony. The system has deteriorated steadily since Fiji became independent and is now a major impediment to future tourism development. Between 1991 and 1995, for example, the amount of water lost through broken pipes, leaks, and clandestine connections increased from 36% to 43%
Implementation in other cities
City of NY---campaign to drink tap water
The City of New York is trying to persuade its people to give up bottled drinks and consume tap water instead to help protect the environment.
According to published reports, the city is pouring $700,000 of taxpayer money into ads promoting New York City water.
New York City boasts wonderfully clean water piped in from six huge reservoirs west of the Hudson in the Catskill mountains, as far as 125 miles from Manhattan. The city is currently running a huge campaign for New Yorkers to "Get Your Fill." But is New York water really that clean? ABC news' 20/20 took 5 bottles of national brands and a sample of New York water to be tested by a microbiologist. They found no difference between the samples.
How to Green your Water
1. No drips
A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day. A leaking toilet can use 90,000 gallons of water in a month. Get out the wrench and change the washers on your sinks and showers, or get new washerless faucets. Keeping your existing equipment well maintained is probably the easiest and cheapest way to start saving water.
2. Install new fixtures
New, low-volume or dual flush toilets, low-flow showerheads , water-efficient dishwashers and clothes washing machines can all save a great deal of water and money. Aerators on your faucets can significantly reduce water volume; water-saving showerheads can cut the volume of water used down to 1.2 gallons per minute or less, and some even have a “pause button” to let you stop the water while soaping up or shampooing. Our interns recently pointed out that “spending about $30 on low-flow showerheads and faucets is estimated to save 45 gallons of that 260 gallons of water [used in a typical household per day], almost 18% of your usage. Splurging on a low-flow toilet could save another 50-80 gallons of water a day. Together, those changes nearly cut in half the household's daily use, saving a considerable amount of water – and passing that savings on to your water bill, as well as your water heating bill.”
3. Cultivate good water habits
All the water that goes down the drain, clean or dirty, ends up mixing with raw sewage, getting contaminated, and meeting the same fate. Try to stay aware of this precious resource disappearing and turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving and always wash laundry and dishes with full loads. When washing dishes by hand, fill up the sink and turn off the water. Take shorter showers or, as the old joke goes, shower with a friend: Treehugger TV shows you how. To put things in perspective, take a quick look at your next water bill when it arrives. It probably won’t be costing you too much, but the average household consumes multiple thousands of gallons each month. See if you can make this number go down. If you’re the graphing type, go nuts.
4. Stay off the bottle
By many measures, bottled water is a scam. In most first-world countries, the tap water is provided by a government utility and is tested regularly. (You can look up your water in the National Tap Water Quality Database) Taste tests have shown that in many municipalities, tap water actually tastes better. Bottled water is not as well regulated and studies have shown that it is not even particularly pure. A four-year study of bottled water in the U.S. conducted by NRDC found that one-fifth of the 103 water products tested contained synthetic organic chemicals such as the neurotoxin xylene and the possible carcinogen and neurotoxin styrene. (Grist) Much bottled water doesn’t come from a “Artesian springs” and is just tap water anyhow. (Coca-Cola adds salt to its Dasani water to make it taste better, just like fast food.) Not only is it more expensive per gallon than gasoline, bottled water incurs a huge carbon footprint from its transportation, and the discarded bottles are a blight. It’s no wonder that some people even think it’s a sin. If you want to carry your water with you, get a bottle and fill it. (Look here for some advise on durable, non-toxic container options.) If your water at home tastes funny, try an activated charcoal or ceramic filter. Here is a comparison of home-use water filters from Grist.
5. Go beyond the lawn
Naturalize it using locally appropriate plants that are hardy and don’t need a lot of water. If you have to water, do it during the coolest part of the day or at night to minimize evaporation. Here is a useful calculator to figure out landscape water use. Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping that utilizes only native and low water plants. It is an especially appropriate approach for states like California and Arizona where people often plant lawns like they live in Florida despite living in the desert.
6. Harvest your rainwater
Put a rain barrel on your downspouts and use this water for irrigation. Rain cisterns come in all shapes and sizes ranging from larger underground systems to smaller, freestanding ones. Some even glow!
7. Harvest your greywater
Water that has been used at least once but is still clean enough for other jobs is called greywater. Water from sinks, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers are the most common household examples. (Toilet water is often called “blackwater” and needs a different level of treatment before it can be reused.) Greywater can be recycled with practical plumbing systems like the Aqus, or with simple practices such as emptying the fish tank in the garden instead of the sink. The bottom line? One way or another, avoid putting water down the drain when you can use it for something else.
8. At the car wash
Car washes are often more efficient than home washing and treat their water rather than letting it straight into the sewer system. But check to make sure that they clean and recycle the water. Better yet, try the waterless car wash. If you live in Manchester, the Levenshulme Baptist Church is recycling water from its Baptistery pool for charity car washes http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/08/baptismal_water.php .
9. Keep your eyes open
Report broken pipes, open hydrants, and excessive waste. Don’t be shy about pointing out leaks to your friends and family members, either. They might have tuned out the dripping sound a long time ago.
10. Don’t spike the punch
Water sources have to be protected. In many closed loop systems like those in cities around the Great Lakes, waste water is returned to the Lake that fresh water comes out of. Don’t pour chemicals down drains, or flush drugs down toilets; it could come back in diluted form in your water.
The Water Saving Hero campaign highlights simple and effective steps Bay Area residents can take to conserve water now and for the future. This site can help you learn more about water conservation programs and cash rebates provided by your local utility. With these resources you can become a Water Hero, saving water and money throughout your home and business.
April 13, 2008
City Farm: Chicago, Illinois
urban sprawl is eating up
farms as suburbs expand.
"Why not bring farms to the city?"
City Farm is a project of the
THERE ARE more than 80,000 vacant lots in
City farm started investigating whether intensive urban farming could provide enough income to support a house hold
"We found that by planning and planting carefully, you can create a job for an individual on about 10,000 square feet or about four lots,"
The anchor of the urban farming program is the center's static pile composting operation. The center contracts with bars, restaurants and grocery stores for food residuals; it has agreements with the Chicago Police Stables for its horse manure; and it accepts yard trimmings from landscapers - producing approximately 10,000 cubic yards/year of compost.
Another link that must be strong is the one between the farm and the community. An ideal situation, Dunn explains, has been established between a farmer and a school that has an adjacent plot of land. The farmer is allowed to use the land in exchange for teaching students about growing produce in a school gardening curriculum. "The nice thing about that situation is that one of the requirements of having an urban farm is having a relationship with the community and with the kids," says Dunn.
Four restaurants and three farmers markets currently purchase the produce. Contracts with restaurants are especially helpful because the fees are paid up front. On the other side, the chefs are paying for convenience and peace of mind. "We've discovered an attractive mix," Dunn notes. "Chefs don't have the time to purchase everything themselves or train a staff member what to look for. Our growers consistently produce the quality in appearance and taste that the chefs require and deliver it to the restaurant."
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company.
Green Streets Portland, Oregon
1. Manage stormwater runoff both at the source and the surface.
2. Use plants and soil to slow, filter, cleanse, and infiltrate runoff.
3. Design facilities that aesthetically enhance the community.
* traffic calming
* increases livability
* increases community involvement
* recharges groundwater supply
* stormwater harvesting for reuse
* reduces runoff volume
* cleans automobile drips of hydrocarbons and other pollutens (bioremediation)
* stores large volume of water
Managing stormwater runoff from the street through vegetated planters for flow and water quality benefit. A green street retrofit which manages stormwater at the source through a vegetated swale, while enhancing the neighborhood.
Stormwater Facility Science
The surface area of a typical stormwater facility allows runoff to pond and evaporate while sediments settle into a layer of mulch. The organic mulch layer prevents soil bed erosion and retains moisture for plant roots. It also provides a medium for biological growth and the decomposition or decay of organic matter. The soil stores water and nutrients to support plant life. Worms and other soil organisms are very good at degrading organic pollutants, like petroleum-based compounds. They also help mix organic material, increase aeration,
and improve water infiltration and water holding capacity. Bacteria and other beneficial soil microbes process the majority of pollutants, including most of the nitrogen. The stiff structure of plants such as rushes and sedges slows water passage and traps sediments within the surface area of the facility.
Mt Tabor Middle School
This summer, the City will build stormwater management facilities at the school and on SE 57th Avenue just south of Pine Street. The project will feature a raingarden, infiltration planters, and a stormwater curb extension. Over the last year, Environmental Services has worked closely with Portland Public Schools and the Portland Office of Transportation to design these facilities. The new systems will dramatically reduce the amount of runoff draining to the sewer, and reduce the risk of sewer backups in homes on Pine Street. These attractive facilities
are designed to improve the school grounds and the urban environment, in addition to managing runoff.
Construction is completed on two water quality planters in downtown Hillsdale in southwest Portland. The planters will treat stormwater runoff from 20,000 square feet of SW Capitol Highway. Runoff will enter the planters through curb openings and filter through soil to remove pollutants. The filtered water will flow into a storm sewer that drains to Fanno Creek. Each planter will have shrubs to improve their appearance, provide root structure to help maintain soil infiltration, and create habitat for soil organisms that help break down pollutants. The City will evaluate these planters, along with another design installed at New Columbia in north Portland, for potential use at other locations.
This summer, the City will build stormwater facilities along SW Texas Street to treat, detain and dispose of drainage from 17-acres bounded by SW California Street, SW Nevada Court, SW Capitol Highway, and SW 26th Avenue. The project will consist of a combination of conventional
stormwater conveyance systems and stormwater swales to manage runoff from roofs, driveways, and streets.
This project is the City’s response to a citizen-led initiative. This flexible, innovative project meets the needs of the neighborhood,helps meet regulatory requirements, and improves quality of life. The completed green street improvements will direct runoff away from homes and backyards, alleviate basement flooding, and reduce street erosion. The project will also protect
the City’s sewer infrastructure by managing stormwater that contributed to problems downstream in the Burlingame sewer.
NE Fremont and 131st Place
This project is the first in Portland to manage street runoff and accommodate a ramp crossing for pedestrian safety. The City removed 400 square feet of asphalt on either side of the pedestrian ramp and installed a variety of plants. Stormwater enters the vegetated area on the
west side through a curb cut and flows under the ramp to the vegetated area on the east side. The soil and vegetation slow runoff flow, filter sediments and pollutants, and allow the stormwater to soak into the ground, which reduces the burden on the combined sewer system and recharges groundwater. This was a collaborative project between Environmental Services and the Portland Office of Transportation. The two bureaus will team up on future projects to manage stormwater runoff, protect pedestrians and increase neighborhood livability.
Maintenance Policy Development
Because the number of Portland green streets is increasing, the City is drafting a formal green street maintenance policy to ensure facilities have long, productive lives and to let property owners and neighbors know what their responsibilities are. The main responsibility is simple maintenance. Neighbors and property owners should keep litter, brush and trees out of the green street facility, and shouldn’t stack or store anything in it. All other maintenance will be conducted by the City.
Owners would be responsible for items needed to maintain the facilities such as yard debris bags
and tools. The draft policy also recommends sending regular green street update letters or flyers to property owners and neighbors. The City wants to make sure that as new neighbors move in, they learn about their neighborhood green street and their maintenance responsibilities. We also want neighbors to know when city scheduled maintenance has occurred at a facility.
Gathering performance information on green streets and other stormwater management facilities is an important part of Portland’s Sustainable Stormwater Management Program. The City uses the information to determine which designs work best in specific locations to help plan and design new green street projects. So far, the City has tested the NE 35th and Siskiyou green street and the Glencoe Rain Garden. Tests at NE 35th and Siskiyou show the facility
cuts peak stormwater flows to the sewer system by an average 85% and that it captures and infiltrates all the stormwater during most rain events. The test shows the facility is effectively doing what it was designed to do, reduce residential basement flooding.
The City built the Glencoe Rain Garden at SE 51st and Morrison in response to a severe basement sewer backup problem on a residential street. Stormwater runoff from 35,000 square feet of asphalt flows into the rain garden. The facility captures all the runoff from small rain events and it reduces peak flows by an average 80%. Tests on green streets at SE 56th and Ankeny and SW 12th and Montgomery showed both facilities are meeting expectations. The tests also indicated the need for some simple design modifications to make the facilities more effective. This spring, the City will do more tests including the stormwater curb extension
at NE 131st and Fremont.
*images above from SW 12th Avenue Green Street Project, Portland, Oregon
Kevin Robert Perry, ASLA, Sustainable Stormwater Management Program, City of Portland, Oregon
Environmental Services City of Portland, Green Street News Projects around the city
Green Streets Tour Map
A green roof system is an extension of the existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repellent system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.
Green roof systems may be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable, interlocking grids, or, each component of the system may be installed separately.Green roof development involves the creation of "contained" green space on top of a human-made structure. This green space could be below, at or above grade, but in all cases the plants are not planted in the "ground'. Green roofs can provide a wide range of public and private benefits.
"Heat Island Effect":
Heat absorbency by roofs and pavement, air conditioner use, and the power plants that supply electricity for them help to create what is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect. This can exacerbate certain health conditions, and lead to more air conditioner use in a vicious cycle that costs government and individuals money. About 20% of NYC’s surface area is covered by non reflective roofs, so there is plenty of room to work with.
Temperature Reduction and Energy Conservation:
Reduced cooling costs by keeping the heat off the building and increasing the amount of insulation. Improved longevity for the roof by minimizing wide temperature fluctuations and exposure to the elements.
Green Roofs provide a way to prevent overflows by absorbing and holding onto the majority of water that falls on them during a typical rain. This water is then slowly released from the soil and into the atmosphere through the foliage – in a process called transevaporation.
Improved Air Quaility:
The amount of Oxygen produced by one tree with a 16 foot diameter canopy is equaled by the amount of Oxygen produced by a 16 square feet patch of green roof with 15 in. high foliage.
In NYC, it costs over $1000 to plant a small tree that takes years to grow that big, but it costs far less to build 16 square feet of green roofs today.
Vegetative surfaces also trap harmful airborne particulates and keep them from entering our lungs, and can dampen noise pollution too. Pollutants in the air are less harmful under lower temperatures that these roofs maintain.
Retrofitting and existing building with a green roof costs more than a conventional roof, but this investment yields cost savings over time through energy conservation and rooftop longevity. A green roof can also increase the resale or rental value of a property, as well as provide aesthetic enjoyment for you in the meantime.
Sustainable South Bronx:
Founded in 2001 by life-long South Bronx resident, Dr. Majora Carter, SSBx addresses land-use, energy, transportation, water & waste policy, and education to advance the environmental and economic rebirth of the South Bronx, and inspire solutions in areas like it across the nation and around the world.
CityTrees is a volunteer-based non-profit organization improving the environment and building community in Redwood City through a coordinated program of tree planting, pruning, and education. CityTrees works in close conjunction with the City of Redwood City Public Works Services Department. Since 2000, CityTrees has planted over 1,800 new trees in Redwood City. Our pruning program helps ensure the young trees we plant grow strong and healthy.
CityTrees raises funds for the purchase and maintenance of trees through grants, local business sponsorship, and individual memberships and contributions. CityTrees also recruits volunteers from the community to plant and maintain trees, and has established a number of ongoing partnerships with service groups and businesses.
The community organization of CityTrees could provide a solid foundation for community development while increasing Denver's Arboreal Infrastructure (see Ron Henderson above).
Their history http://www.citytrees.org/planting_history.html