Done and dusted

Week 12 of sustainable development, and our last week of the class. For our lecture on Monday we talked about the module and how we feel now that we have completed it. I can honestly say that having completed the module I have gained knowledge in areas that I never thought I would be studying as part of a BSc in Energy.

We have covered a huge variety of areas form business to politics to corporate social responsibility. I would never previously have even considered that areas like this would have had any relevance to a degree in Energy but now it’s clear to mean that you cannot look at any one area of energy without looking at all of the other areas of study. They are all interrelated and after studying sustainable development for 12 weeks I can see that this interrelation means that problems become huge knots that must be carefully unravelled in order for us to take any sort of step in the direction of solving some of the energy problems that we are facing at present.

Everything that had seemed so simple to me at the start of the year has now proved itself to be anything but. It is the complete opposite of simple and we will have to spend much time in order to try and come up with some sustainable solutions. The module has proved to me how difficult it is to solve one seemingly simple problem without causing many more. It has shown me how difficult it is to please everyone. Fixing an environmental problem may cause economic problems and fixing a social problem may cause an environmental one. We are running around in a circle and we must stop doing so and find a way out of it.

I would definitely believe that this module is an important part of our course. Without the vital knowledge we learned we would have graduated with no respect for, or knowledge of other areas. We have learned life skills that will be vital to working in our field once we have completed college.  Sustainable development was my favourite module this semester and it is a module that I feel will stay with me for a long time.

Politics Yaaay?

Week 11 saw us talking a look at a topic that I had never found interesting in the past – politics. However after learning more about it I can now say that I have changed my mind. And as we found out this week politics is an important part of environmental sustainability. The EU makes many of the environmental policies that Ireland is supposed to implement. And apparently they are doing a very bad job of implementing many of these policies. We heard about some of the things that Ireland is doing (well not doing to be honest) in our lectures this week

Last week an article published in the Irish Examiner talked about a ruling that the European Court of Justice has just passed regarding Irelands breach of an EU directive which set out how potentially dangerous developments are examined in order to look at the possible environmental effects of the development before any planning permission is granted.

The specific case in question was one that was taken by CHASE (Cork harbour for a safe environment) about the potential building of 2 incinerators in Ringaskiddy in Cork. The multimillion euro incinerators were going to be built by a waste management company called Indaver. An environmental impact assessment was made by the EU and the proposal was found to be in breach of the environmental laws of the EU.

I find it hard to believe that Ireland is having such a difficult time implementing these laws. Surely it cannot be that hard to ensure that problems like the one at Ringaskiddy do not occur. Especially considering that other much larger countries in the EU find it much easier to implement such laws. In 2009 Ireland faced 31 cases for failing to implement or transpose EU legislation. The only countries that ranked behind Ireland were Spain and Italy.

Ireland has also been one of the slowest countries in Europe to implement the EU legislation that gives people greater involvement in the decision making part of issues relating to the environment. Ireland was the last country to ratify the Aarhus Treaty. This Treaty involves the right of a person to a healthy environment. It is another disappointment to me that Ireland is so much worse than the other EU countries to implement these things. Hopefully we will start to improve in the near future.


Big Feet

Taking a look at sustainable development from an environmental perspective was the topic this week in sustainable development. On Thursday we took a look at carbon footprints and this is what I’ve decided to find out more about for my blog.  A carbon footprint is “a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a person, organization or state in a given time”

I started off by calculating my carbon footprint. To do this I used the carbon calculator on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website: . According to the carbon calculator on this site my carbon footprint is 2.02 tonnes per year. The average for Europe is 8.5 tonnes per year. . I measured my carbon footprint a few months ago and I was told that if the planet was to sustain its population with everyone having the same environmental impact as me we would need 3 and a half planets. That’s an awful lot more than what we have.

I found this ad on YouTube and I thought it was very effective.

So what could I do to decrease my carbon footprint? I found a huge pile of things that I can do. However most people know about the basic things they can do in order to decrease their carbon footprint so I’m only going to list a few I found that I’d never heard before J.

  • Hoover behind the fridge at least once a year. The dust behind the fridge causes it to use more energy and means it is more likely to break down.
  • Stop and open the dishwasher before it begins drying the dishes and let them dry naturally.
  • Reset your printer margins and use a smaller font. It means you’ll use much less paper.

It’s not very hard to reduce carbon footprints so there are no excuses for people who don’t attempt to decrease theirs. To see more ways to reduce your carbon footprint have a look at .( Or as one website I was looking at suggested-buy some smaller shoes!)

Wal-Mart and its CSR

According to Wikipedia Corporate social responsibility is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. We heard a small bit about Wal-Mart and how it’s trying to

We saw in our lecture on Wednesday a part of the list of the 100 largest economic entities in the world. Currently Wal-Mart is number 19 on the list and it has been predicted that in the next couple of years it could be in the top 10.

Recently Wal-Mart developed three long-term goals

  • to be 100 per cent supplied by renewable energy
  • to make stores 25 per cent more efficient
  • to create zero waste.

Wal-Mart only manufactures 8% of the products it sells. In order to become more environmentally friendly Wal-Mart must look to its suppliers. But Wal-Mart isn’t relying solely on the suppliers. They has created energy-efficient stores such as its Supercenter in Texas. The Supercenter is powered by wind turbines. It has more than 160 skylights and it uses advanced heating and cooling systems. It also recycles cooking oil from the kitchen to provide supplemental heating. Wal-Mart saves over $300,000,000 a year in its fuels costs by reducing its emission’s and becoming more environmentally friendly. Wal-Mart has said that if themselves and their suppliers can’t figure out the what a problem is on their own or find a solution they go directly to the source of the problem e.g. the farmers who grow the product, in order to try and reach a solution.

Wal-Mart showed how much a company can help the surrounding community if they embrace corporate social responsibility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The government was unable to deliver food, medicine and water to the people who were stranded and left homeless by the storm. Wal-Mart stepped in and provided the community with these vital necessities.



E-waste, a closer look.

This week we learned about the problem of the export of e-waste to the developing world. I am going to take a closer look at the problem for this week’s blog.

According to Wikipedia E-waste (which is also known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – WEEE) is “discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic devices.” When this waste is processed informally in developing countries serious health and pollution problems occur. Some electronic scrap components contain contaminants such as lead, mercury, and flame retardants which are toxic not just to humans but also to the environment.

E-waste is regularly exported by developed countries to developing ones even though it is against international law. Colin told us on Wednesday that only 1 in 100,000 items for export was inspected. In 2005 18 European seaports were inspected and it was found that nearly 50% of the waste that was being exported was illegal. This shows us that on a day to day basis a huge quantity of illegal e-waste is being exported. In 2003 in the UK at least 23,000 metric tonnes of undeclared electronic waste was illegally shipped to the Far East, India, Africa and China. In the US it is estimated that 50-80% of the waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way. However in the USA this is legal as the USA has not agreed to the Basel Convention. I found this video which talks about where e-waste ends up.

What damage does e-waste do?

E-waste is often sent to third world countries by the shipping container load. Many companies who say that they are recycling e-waste are actually sending the pollution to other countries. Large piles of unwanted consumer electronics build up by the side of the road and in the landfills of the developing countries. They leach toxins into the soil and into the groundwater. This can cause many problems such as crop deficiencies, birth defects, and serious illnesses. A couple of companies have begun to take notice of this problem and are taking action to dispose of e-waste safely. This practice is supported by governments who have stated demanding e-waste processing fees are put onto the sale price of new consumer electronics.