Welcome to the blog of the Broad Curriculum course Living Sustainably: A complete guide to surviving a changing planet. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘A week of Sustainable living’

After taking the Living Sustainability course at Trinity College Dublin I decided to undertake a week of sustainable living. Last week I began my sustainability campaign and here’s how it went.
Monday
Monday went well as I was full of enthusiasm for the coming week and my changing lifestyle. By 8 p.m. I had, taken a shower which lasted under five minutes (usually twenty minutes), went for a run outside instead of the gym, made dinner from locally sourced food and recycled my waste appropriately.
Tuesday
My new way of life continued into Tuesday. When taking a lunch break from the library I remembered to plug out my laptop charger and tell my friends to do the same. I was proud of my new environmentally friendly ways and decided to treat myself with take-out coffee from Starbucks, which, when finished, I tossed in the general waste bin in college. Oops, so much for my recycling today!
Wednesday
I filled my flask with coffee before heading out to lectures, not to make the same mistake as yesterday. Today went well. I noticed ways my friends could be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives, I may not have noticed if I wasn’t making such a conscious effort to change my own ways.
Thursday
I decided to change the light bulbs in my room so I proceeded to Dunnes Stores and bought three long life bulbs. LESSON NUMBER ONE: It’s good to be sustainable but make sure you have enough money in your bank account to support your sustainable lifestyle!
Friday
I went out for dinner with a few of my friends from college. I saw all the food that was being thrown away and wondered do restaurants dispose of their organic waste through composting. Not only am I being sustainable but I ate all my greens not to contribute to the restaurants organic waste.
Saturday
The sunny spell had gone and the rain descended upon the country. My run today would have to be done in the gym. I couldn’t get the flu running in the rain so close to exams!
Sunday
I filled my water and went for a walk to the market at Stoneybatter. I wandered around and bought fish and vegetables for my dinner that night, all the food was locally sourced.
My thoughts from a sustainable week of living:
I discovered it took a lot of discipline to stay on track but after making such an effort for the week I will find it difficult to go back to the way I was before. The sustainable living principles I have incorporated to my life in the past week are easy to adapt to day to day life. It was an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Sustainable living takes a lot of planning and does not just happen without practice and discipline in everyday tasks. That’s a lesson not just for me, but for the world.
 Katherine Hickey

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eco-friendly Cars

For decades human civilisation has been taking advantage of our natural resources with little thought in returning to the land what we have taken. It can be nothing but clear that today we can no longer do this, we need to be more aware of the effect we have on the earth and the atmosphere that surrounds it. CO2 emissions are an increasing worry from industrial emissions to right down to light bulbs. With a growing population annually, there is more demand for agricultural and industrial produce but also materialism gets hit with an increase also. Whilst cars and trucks and vans are all needed for personal transport in our daily lives and transport of goods for sale, we seem to have taken a purely materialistic view on them in the past century.
There is now a huge range of eco- friendly cars available on the market by all the top sellers. For example, the cars available to us in 2012 are BMW 3 series saloon, various Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Toyota, Peugeot and Nissans  amongst many more. These eco cars allow us to drive and decrease air pollution at the same time. Cars that run on electricity is the aim but before we get there hybrid cars are our first step, they have a half electric and half internal combustion system, this decreases the pollution factor immensely and are cost effective for consumers by reducing the need for gasoline. I think these cars need to be indorsed and marketed much more than the full combustion system cars, I am a strong believer that they will significantly help our planet in the long run and hope our aim of purely electrically run cars will be the norm sooner rather than later.
Amy Curran

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Agriculture: Feeding 7 Billion While Reducing Emissions. How can we do both?

With the world’s population recently surpassing 7 billion and still climbing, an increase in food production is unquestionably a necessity. Some predictions forecast a population rise to 11 or even 12 billion. These estimates become worrying when you take into account the fact that at current population figures it is stated that 19% of boy-children and 14% of girl-children in Ireland “always or often go to bed hungry”. So the challenge facing us is by no means trivial, we need to feed more people while reducing emissions from agriculture. Solving this problem however becomes multifaceted when you consider that 24.4% of Irish greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Roughly 10 energy units are spent for every energy unit of food on our dinner table. Reducing the emissions from the agricultural sector has been the focus of numerous studies. However the solutions, much like the problems are multidimensional. Some suggested solutions to the emissions problem include using feed additives, genetic engineering and better farm management. Solutions must however consider the economic aspects. Currently, farmers are being paid between 30 to 33 cent per litre for milk, however as recent as 2009 they were only receiving as little as 23 cent per litre. While the cost of producing 1 litre of milk varies seasonally, it can be as high as 23 cent per litre, thus leaving little room for profits. Therefore employing a solution at the production level must consider many variables and be economically viable. Along with all these aspects the population must be fed. Surely this highlights the need for detailed and extensive research.
Christopher Fennell

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A sustainable student life-is it feasible?

TCD Environment Society Community Garden, Dartry
Many students use the excuse of too little money as to why they can’t live more sustainable lives. They probably envisage having to solar panel up their house and pop a wind turbine in the garden, but with a few small changes students can make huge savings and improve their lives. The idea that living sustainably is expensive is a common misconception. By far the cheapest way to eat is by growing your own food, even just a few potato plants will give you more potatoes over the winter than you’ll know what to do with. Buying foods that have been grown locally from a market can also be a lot cheaper than you think. If you normally take the Dart/Bus to college and you switched to cycling you could save at least €700 per college year! Your health would benefit too from gardening and cycling so you could drop the gym subscription and save on the Zumba class. Swopping the tv/laptop for these outdoor activities, layering up during the winter instead of turning the heating on, cooking in bulk (saves time too!) and switching lights off when not in use can have surprisingly big savings on your gas/electricity bills! So make a few small changes and start saving money and enjoying your healthier life today!
 Gwen Duffy

Monday, April 23, 2012

“Practically perfect in every way ….”

-carried-carpet-bag.html
Mary Poppins definitely seemed to have had the right idea with her bottomless carpet bag that seemed to have had no bounds or restrictions when it came to inserting anything from books to lamp shades.

This seemingly ordinary carpet bag solved all problems that face each and every one of us when we go shopping. Plastic and paper bags are a nuisance. A little rain and the new must have blouse you just purchased is ruined. Not to mention the tendency for ripping. Retail anxiety quickly replaces retail therapy. The solution? Plastic and paper bags need to be replaced with the bags on our shoulders.

I’m not talking about this……



These bags that women all over the world so nonchalantly carry, containing possessions ranging from our to-die-for lip gloss, to our cannot-live-without i-Phone, have come to be known as the kitchen sink. So why not utilise this space that we carry around with us day in day out. Next time you buy something, check your space and decline the offer of a paper bag from the sales assistant. You don’t need it! You already paid for the bag you’re wearing so why not show it off and put it to its full use. Follow the trend and live that little bit more sustainably!


Elaine O’Flaherty

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today is Earth Day- April 22nd

Since the launch of the first Earth Day in the US on April 22nd 1970, tens of millions of people have taken part in global based activities…raising environmental awareness. Last year  in excess of 1 billion people participated in Earth Day activities making it the largest civic observance in the world. Link

 
Nick Gray

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bobble, Bobble, Bobble


The idea of Living Sustainably can be daunting, even when one has all the information necessary to change one’s lifestyle it may simply be too big a task. My own approach is to take small steps that are proven to decrease our ecological footprint and that we can spread to our friends and families.

One such step would be to decrease the amount of plastic consumed as in the production tonnes of water and oil are used, both of which are crucial to other areas of our modern lifestyles.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/waterbobble/4390944370/sizes/m/in/photostream/
 As college students our water bottles are like our comfort blankets, they accompany us everywhere and we can hardly function without them and at €1 a pop in the Arts Block café pretty cheap right? But this mass consumption and disposal of ‘single-serve’ plastic bottles is completely unsustainable. The Bobble could be a solution.

Bobble is engineered to be durable, recyclable and healthy. The aim is to buy it and keep it and it will keep you and the planet healthier. The plastic is Bisphenol A free and the carbon filter removes organic contaminants from the water. They make the argument that there is no need for the massive plastic bottle industry when we public taps are available and all we need is an appropriate device to store our water.

So maybe next year when your class are thinking of getting class hoddies somebody might suggest a class Bobble. Pick a colour that emanates your subject and make a small change that could have big affects. http://www.waterbobble.com/

Tara Mallon Doyle


 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Struggling to be sustainable? Maybe you need a holiday


You have heard it is the right this to do, read about it in the newspapers, heard your Granny harp on about valuing what you have, but are you really convinced about living sustainably? We get water from the tap in the kitchen, vegetables from the supermarket shelf, petrol from the end of a pump, how can we really appreciate their value?

Don’t stress, take a holiday!

Am I suggesting that you fly half way round the world to stay in an eco-labelled lodge in Costa Rica? Not at all. I am suggesting taking a holiday close to home where you can learn the value of a commodity.

Try working on a farm in Ireland. Spend a week away from work weeding, planting, watering, growing and most importantly… eating what you’ve picked that day! There’s no better way to appreciate the value of the food on your plate. And next time you head to the supermarket you’ll look differently at the bag of carrots on the supermarket shelf.

Why not take a cycling holiday around Ireland and give value to every kilometer you travel? It might make you think differently about the hundreds of kilometers spent in an airplane or in a car on those carbon intensive weekend breaks.

What about taking a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands? You might be kilometres from the closest water source whilst hiking, so you’ll need to measure just how much water you need for the journey. It might make you think differently about flushing the toilet six times a day and lingering in the shower for 40 minutes.

Getting to see and experience the limits to the commodities you buy and use everyday really gives them value and encourages that sustainable lifestyle we are all striving for. So next time you plan a holiday, think about what sustainable tip you can come away with!

 Alice Bentley

 Working on Mew’s Farm, Devon, UK
Taken by the author on 10/08/2011


Reaping the benefits of our work
Taken by the author on Landscove Farm, Devon, UK, 17/08/2011


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Every Chop Counts!


Meat production is one of the less obvious contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. During the production process of 1kg of beef, 34.6kg of carbon dioxide is emitted. This is equivalent to the carbon emissions of an average European car for every 250km it travels. [1]

Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to propose that we cut meet from our diets – I enjoy my Sunday Roast far too much for that! But what I am proposing is that we become more sustainable in our meat consumption.

For example, at home, we now buy a larger ham or chicken for our Sunday Roast and instead of throwing out the leftovers or giving them to the dog, we save them for sandwich making during the week. By doing this, we cut down our spending on meat by not buying premade sandwich meats, which add a large amount of emissions to the environment during production. Furthermore, the level of packaging for disposal is significantly reduced by not buying these products. Not only this, but by eating these leftovers you are producing less food waste and are not left stuck with packets of half finished ham and chicken slices in your fridge that have gone off as people have forgotten to finish them, etc.

I am aware that the leftover meat will only be able to cover a few days worth of lunch making before you run out, but this is not a bad thing! What I propose you to do here is have a meat free day, and then start this process again the following day.

Cutting out these premade meats from your diet is not only good for the environment – it’s good for you! More often than not, these meat products are full of unhealthy additives making eating the real deal much better for you.

The key thing here is to think twice before you buy, making small reductions in your consumption can have a massive knock on effect in your life and the environment. It is taking these small steps that can put you on the road to living sustainably.

Niamh Duggan

[1] Davies, C., (2008) Meat by Numbers, The Guardian (Online) Avaiable at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/07/food.beef?intcmp=239 (accessed: 25th March 2012)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CO2 -A problem today - A synthetic fuel tomorrow?

It is evident that increases in atmospheric CO2 are causing catastrophic and subsequent irreversible effects on our planet. Acknowledgement that a problem exists and taking action are two separate entities often confused. How many times have you heard someone say ‘’I know the effects of global warming and its repercussions!’’, yet that same person continues to live the same way week after week?. The time has come to forget the ‘what we know’ mind-set and concentrate on the ‘what we can do’ aspect.
Research by Scientists at the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Denmark has identified a possible solution to increasing carbon emissions. The process of electricity generation by conversion of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and oxygen into CO2 and water vapour by Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) can in fact be reversed. This realisation is highly significant and means that by supplying electricity to these devices atmospheric CO2 and water vapour can be converted into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which can then be combined chemically to make synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. Although the process costs money, there is a realistic possibility of producing synthetic petrol at a value of 73.97 cent per litre. Link
It may not be convenient, nor is it ideal but when solutions to carbon emissions are in short supply, something is better than nothing. Through continuous co-operation and interaction with one another the goal of becoming carbon neutral in future becomes highly feasible, and is something that we as individuals, communities, and nations should be backing 100%.
‘A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn'.
Ross McDonald

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Future Food Shortage Crisis

The plight that climate change has caused has been documented to death such to the extent that people have become immune to hearing about holes in the ozone layer and the melting icecaps. For some reason it seems people still cannot grasp the seriousness of the situation and how these changes will affect their lives and the lives of their successors.  For that reason this blog will address something we can all associate with, one of the most basic fundamental commodities we all need for survival and yet is something most take for granted. I am talking about food.
It was estimated that in 2010 13.6% of the world’s population was undernourished. This in itself is startling, however what is even more starling and worrying is the fact that it is estimated that our global population will double in the next ninety years. This means more people to feed with even less resources than now due to the rapid effects of global warming such as desertification,  higher temperatures and rising sea-levels. Ireland is an agricultural island nation, this fact means we will be very badly affected by these changes as we will be forced to change agricultural methods, try and produce climate-resistant crops and deal with the rising sea- levels that will claim fertile land. These revelations beg to question how it will be possible to provide for double the amount of people that are alive now when we cannot even provide for the current number of people adequately. The horrible truth is that realistically we will not be able to. That is of course unless we try to make a change now.
There is no point in lying and saying we can undo the harm we as a population have already caused because we cannot. However, we can prevent further damage and prolong the time we have before we have to face this crisis. With this valuable extra time we may be able to develop climate-resistant crops and introduce new methods for agriculture. Therefore, it is important that we make a change and commit to living sustainably through reducing carbon emissions and helping to control the rising global population.
Kate Hinchion

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sustainability in Ireland a Prime Example

In the long run people who live in suitably built, sustainable houses save a small fortune on heat and electricity bills every year: an example of which can be seen by looking at the eco- village in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. This eco-village does more than promote sustainability; it is aiming to establish a sustainable community.
The eco-project entitled, “The Village, Building, Sustainable, Community” is a concept were there are homes, business and the community, as a whole live an almost 100% sustainable life. This eco-village has set up directly beside the town of Cloughjordan. While originally “The Village” wanted to be totally independent of all other buildings, towns or villages, planning restrictions would not allow this, so they settled for Cloughjordan.  The idea of “The Village” is to build around eighty homes, twelve or so business and a community centre along with some plots to grow vegetables and cereals, as well as keeping a small farm to produce milk and some forestry; all this on a site which is sixty-seven acres in size. The way the land is used is important to the residence of the village as they want to gain as much out of it as possible: in order to achieve this they have set up a community land use plan:
The community's land use plan is based on the principles of environmental and ecological diversity, productive landscape and permaculture. The eco-village has 67 acres of land which has three broad uses- residential, woodland and farmland” 
John May

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Travelling Sustainably

I live to travel. It is when I am at my happiest.  We live in a diverse and beautiful world and in my short time here I plan to see and experience as much of it as possible. I can think of nothing better than hopping on a plane and landing in some new and exotic place, far from home and ready for adventure. I have always known travel comes at a high cost to our environment, but I’ve tended to ignore that fact. I was dreading our ‘Living Sustainably’ lecture on travel. I knew it was going to be confronted with a list of reasons of why travelling is a bad thing. I was right. ‘Hopping on a plane’ massively increases person’s carbon footprint. Approximately 20% of an Irish household’s carbon emissions are due to air travel. This is a huge figure. Emissions from flying can range from 140g to 260g CO2 e per passenger km-1.

I travelled to Tanzania last summer. My flight over, via Amsterdam, released in total 1,100kg of CO2 per passenger. I also flew from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Lilongwe in Malawi. This flight emitted 176kg of CO2 per passenger. Finally my flight home, via Johannesburg and Paris, released a staggering 1,400 kg of CO2 per passenger. In total, it increased my carbon footprint by 2,676kg of CO2. This colossal amount of carbon emission could have been avoided if I had simply stayed at home. Some say travel is a luxury, and perhaps a luxury we can no longer afford. It is ironic that every time I travel I am helping to destroy this magnificent world that I am travelling to see.  Our lecture left me troubled and so I decided to focus my blog post on it.
Should I have stayed at home? 

No. I don’t think so. Living in Tanzania this summer is something that I could never regret. It was a massively educating and defining life experience for me. I have never felt as alive as I did there. I learned to live a totally new way of life. I met people I would never have otherwise had the chance to meet. They taught me to look at my life in a completely different way. It is something that I hope everyone will someday get the opportunity to do. It is a cliché to say that travel ‘broadens the mind’, but it is a cliché for a reason.

However, we cannot ignore the huge impact these ‘mind-broadening’ experiences have on the environment. So what can be done?

We can attempt to cut down our footprint in all other aspects of our life. When travelling we can try be as ecofriendly as possible. However, doing these things will never fully negate the true cost of a flight. What I think must be realized is that you do not have to fly to travel. There are a huge number of other alternatives that are overlooked. It is true that these alternatives will take longer, but they are also usually cheaper. And hey, getting there is half the fun!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/Trans_mongolian_gobi.jpg
For overland travel not enough can be said about catching the train. Taking the train can cut passenger emissions by up to 90%. You can reach practically any country in Europe from the UK by rail. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Ireland, but the UK is only a ferry ride away. People are also quite unaware of how well connected Europe and Asia are by rail. Many of the rail routes are tourist attractions in their own right, not simply a means of getting somewhere. Famous railways, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Jungle line in South-East Asia, and the Palace-On-Wheels in India, attract thousands of travellers every year.  What better way to view a country than by watching breathtaking landscapes, and sprawling urban centers fly by your window.

And what if there is no rail route? Well there will always be a bus. I travelled from Arusha to Dar es Salaam by bus. It was a ten hour journey. This will probably conjure up horrific images of cramped conditions, no air-conditioning and potholed African roads. However, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this journey. Yes, things were not as spacious and airy as they could have been, but on this trip I bonded with many other travellers, listened to African chants being sung to pass away time and chatted with locals about their lives and their reasons for travelling. I would have missed out on a lot if I had taken the plane instead.

Travelling by sea can be a bit trickier. Ferry timetables can be more infrequent than trains or buses and prices can be quite expensive. However it is definitely worth considering the option. There are myriad of transatlantic passenger ships, along with ferries to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and even West Africa. Like train travel, a boat trip can be a once in a lifetime experience as well as an effective way of cutting carbon emissions.

I hope I’ve encouraged the reader to consider these other options. Longer journeys can seem like an inconvenience, but they can also be some of the most rewarding parts of a trip.

After college I plan to go to Beijing. I also plan not to take a single foot off the ground. I will go to the UK with the ferry and then take the train through Europe to Moscow. From here I can get the Trans-Siberian Express to Beijing. I will follow the old Silk Road on the way home, taking advantage of China’s railways. I will bus through Central Asia, then catch a train from Kazakhstan to Moscow and begin the homeward stretch through Europe. Direct travel expenses, train tickets etc., will cost me no more than €1,500. For this price I will get to see the diverse countryside of Europe, the vast wildernesses of Siberia, the steppes of Mongolia, the Great Wall of China, the foothills of the Himalayas, the hidden valleys of Central Asia, the Gobi Desert. I will share train Cabins with people from all over the world and make friends along the way. I think of nothing more thrilling. All the while my trip will have minimal adverse effects on the environment. How can an impersonal flight to Beijing and back again compete with this?

I do not think travel is luxury. It is a necessity. It changes your perspective on life. It gives you respect for other cultures and appreciation for the world you live in. It dispels ignorance and encourages tolerance and acceptance. It is the way we travel that is the luxury. When commercial flights became available, we lost one of the crucial and beneficial parts of travel, the journey. In this article I hoped to renew some appreciation for this part of travel. If more people began to use alternative options, think of the effect it could have on our world. Flights would increase in frequency; new ferry and train routes would be established. This could have a profound effect on the world. 20% of an Irish household’s footprint is due to air travel, and this is only a measure of fuel used, indirect costs could be extremely large too.

Please check out the excellent websites, such as http://www.seat61.com/, http://alittleadrift.com/ and http://www.busstation.net/index.htm, can help you to plan train and bus journeys all over the world and give advice on travelling without flying.

Lara Cassidy

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Agreeing to Painting Paradise rather than Conserving It

Society today is empowered with knowledge regarding sustainable living. We are more aware than ever of the devastating impact that we are having on our environment. Governments have implemented plans, strategies and quotas, yet we continue to cut away chunk after chunk of our natural habitat and replace it brick by brick with concrete and carbon dioxide. We side step the rules, cheat the system and admire the photos of nature while grumbling at our expanding dull, grey environment. Below I outline how we silence our conscience while disregarding the impact that we are having on the environment.
The Kayoto Protocol was set up in 1992 in order to reduce and stabilize emission levels. Although in theory the concept looks good it has ultimately failed because America refused to sign on, claiming that it was ‘fatally flawed in fundamental ways’. As the largest total emitter and the largest emitter per capita in the world this resulted in drastic under-achievements of KP.
The Cap and Trade system implicated in Europe in 2008 initially sounded positive. However we created loopholes for major companies allowing them to buy extra CDM/JI credits on the market, which now are too inexpensive to impact the emission levels of a company at any significant level. We also were extremely generous with the emission allowances allocated to countries, therefore impinging on the possible positive outcomes for our environment.
In short we seem satisfied with paying lip service to sustainable living in an effort to silence our conscience without really acting upon ideas. In order to actually make a difference we must begin to implement our policies correctly and be willing to come to a compromise between economics and sustainability.

Rebecca O’Connor

Friday, April 13, 2012

Could you live a day without energy?


For most of us in the modern world electricity/gas/oil power various activities that we need and/or enjoy throughout our days, from the hot shower in the morning to the midday cappuccino. If you strip back the day, how many things that we do in fact require no energy?

Personally, walking to college seems like the most eco-friendly part of my day. I wake up with the heating already on, turn on the lights, eat something from a refrigerator, shower, dry my hair, boil the kettle, turn on some music, take the lift and that’s all before I leave the house!

Therefore I propose a challenge for myself and who ever reads this to go a day without electricity. Just one day, 24 hours. Cold showers, non-perishable food and cycling may be required of the day! A man named Colin Beavan aka ‘No Impact Man’ went a whole year without electricity in New York City. With its hotter than hell summers and sub zero winters this was not an easy task. His documentary and story has inspired me to think ‘what if?’. I could never reach the feat of a whole year like Colin, not to sound pessimistic, but a day is possible. I admit I am too accustomed to the modern world and its frivolous yet enjoyable aspects, such as that midday cappuccino. Though energy was required to make the clothes we wear, produce the food we eat and build the bed in which we sleep, the aim of a no impact day is to lessen the load of current energy used and thus to get us thinking green! Link


Jessica Maddock

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Living sustainably through understanding your carbon footprint

Why focus on sustainable living? The answer is simple; us humans consume too much of the planet’s resources and perform various inconsiderate activities which harm our planet i.e. emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; creating an immense hole in the ozone layer, changing water levels, changing the climate etc. our lifestyles have a significant impact on our earth and soon enough it will no longer be able to support, for a lot of us but not all, our extravagant way of living. We only have one planet yet we are living like there are many. It is up to us, the current generation, to change these careless habits and live in a sustainable manner which ensures the preservation of the earth for future generations.
How can we change?
Through understanding our CO2 emissions and by calculating our carbon footprint. Our carbon footprint being the total of our CO2 emissions produced from the way we live our lives. Each individual has a carbon footprint and by understanding the size of your footprint you can begin to make changes to your living habits. Calculating our carbon footprint will help us understand where the biggest amounts of our CO2 emissions are coming from and recognise ways to use alternative modes of transport, energy consumption and to change how we shop for and cook food and how we dispose waste etc. Little changes adopted by everyone will make a difference to the maintenance of our planet.
To calculate your carbon footprint and to begin your contribution towards combating negative changes to our planet, visit: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx
Rachel McAllister

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Living Sustainability in a Modern World


“I am going to say a phrase, and as soon as you hear it, I want you to shout out the first thing that comes into your head. The phrase is: Living Sustainability.” When I asked this of my three friends while walking home from college, I was rather surprised at their responses, “hemp pants”, “hippies”, “recycling”. The latter I didn’t find shocking, however the two former reminded me that many people do not understand what is means to live sustainably in today’s world.

I admit, I do cringe at the sight of photos of my parents in their youth armed with Birkenstocks, long flowing hair (dad included), and a picket sign with a hand-painted slogan about saving the earth. However 30 years down the road a lot has changed on the front of living sustainability.

Not only has living green edged away from its hippie environmentalist stereotype, it has actually become a trendy way of life! So if you aren’t motivated enough by the impending destruction of our planet, do it to be hip. The new faces of sustainability are renowned designers Stella McCartney, Eileen Fischer, Levi’s, J Brand, to name a few, all whom have complete lines of organic clothing manufactured in minimal energy-using environments.

The support from celebrated Hollywood names to create awareness to environmental issues has also been astronomical. People like Ian Somerlander, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt have started their own foundations to protect rainforests, plant trees, or even just promote the use of energy-efficient light bulbs.

What the endorsement of these celebrities should help us understand is that saving the planet is no longer just a job for the environmentally conscious hippie, but for all of us. Every single thing we do has an impact on the planet, whether good or bad. The good news is that we are in complete control of our personal decisions, meaning we are also in complete control of our personal impact on the environment.

To live sustainably is to alter your lifestyle to cater to the needs of our planet to improve its health today, as well as improving the situation for future populations (no hemp pants required).

Fiona Saluk

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Technocentrism: The Bee All and End All for Sustainable Living? (See what I did there...?)


 Sustainable living, to some, may seem like nothing more than a pipe dream and indeed it’s hard to imagine achieving a truly ‘sustainable’ lifestyle without being regressive to some extent. However, with the continuous advent of new and more advance technologies is it now conceivable that progressive technocentric approaches will hold the answer to all our environmental problems?
Global warming is perhaps the greatest environmental problem we face today and in light of recent socio-economic adversity it’s easy to lose sight of this issue. In addition to the ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases that are industrially produced each year, logging operations exacerbate the problem. One of the biggest driving forces of deforestation is the production of cardboard and paper but with environmentally friendly alternatives now available is the 30% of remaining forestland safe from destruction? Polyart (Link), a completely synthetic and 100% recyclable paper, is just one simple example of how technology can be conducive of a more sustainable lifestyle and ultimately promote environmental mitigation.
Moving on to more extreme examples, the innovation of technologies that allows us to exploit renewable energy more efficient continues to increase the allure of these renewable energy sources and large scale implementation of these technologies becomes more viable. With more people now opting to install geothermal heating systems, solar panels and wind mills at home, does this reflect the early success of the environmental movement promoting sustainable living or merely represent a remnant ‘trend’ from the glory days of the economic boom? With over 3 million exajoules of energy being radiated by the sun each year (3 orders of magnitude more than the annual global energy consumption), solar energy certainly has the potential to alleviate our energy crisis. With solar panel efficiency increasing ever year it becomes more and more feasible that solar energy will do for us in the future what oil did in the past.
With so much technology at our disposal it’s hard to image what life in 10 years will be like, inevitably “big things have small beginnings” and the technology that is readily at our disposable may ultimately displace regressive anthropocentric approaches to environmentalism and sustainable living. 
Eoin Mac Réamoinn

Monday, April 9, 2012

A sustainable Kitchen

The average kitchen is much akin to a crime scene. It’s not necessarily a conventional crime which has occurred in it though, but a crime against the planet. This is a crime of waste, a rampant problem in the average kitchen. Like a crime scene the kitchen is full of evidence, evidence of this vast waste. It can be seen in the rubbish bin containing uneaten leftovers, and taps that are left running.
Anybody can and everybody should make a step towards sustainable living and this initial step does not have to be a newsworthy gesture. The small things count and if everybody is willing to make a small change for the better soon enough we’ll see a large change for the good. So what better place to start than in your very own kitchen.
A sustainable kitchen is a simple and achievable concept. Food can be saved by avoiding buying items that you know will not be eaten and by eating any leftovers rather than letting them go to waste. Energy can be saved by minimising the use of electric and gas ovens and of electric appliances such as the kettle and microwave. Water can be conserved by not leaving the tap running and secondly by swapping the dishwasher for hand washing, if you were to do this even two days a week you would save 70 litres of water a week, that’s 3640 litres a year! Everybody should make a step towards sustainability, why not step into a sustainable kitchen?
Bébhinn Maguire

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mary Portas: The New Face of Sustainable Clothing?

Mary Portas
Flicking through the channels on a Thursday evening, I end up on channel 4 and come across something that was in my opinion purely inspiring. Mary Portas, a woman who is London’s leading retail marketing consultant, has decided to try and make an underwear line that is purely British. This entails sourcing the lace from Nottingham, hiring eight people from Middleton and making them work in a factory that was closed due to the outsourcing of its business in the 1990’s.Although this programme is most likely designed to highlight the fact that the movement of clothing industries from Britain to cheaper countries had detrimental affects to numerous British communities, I saw something more.
This woman was trying to prove that the once considered ‘cheap’ clothing no longer exists. Countries such as India, China and Bangladesh were once considered to be the places to bring your business if one wished to keep up with the market that was competing for the cheapest clothing. Now, due to the ever increasing price of oil, and the fact that the recession has made consumers look for quality over quantity, Mary has found the niche in the market that may escalate to more than the sourcing sustainable British clothing.
If we were to embrace the clothing that was made in a factory no further than a short truck journey, the amount of carbon dioxide and oil we would be saving would be immense. I believe that this may be the way to a new era of sustainable clothing, and ensuring we live within our means. Link

Anna Connell

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Dilemma of Distance

Phoebe Elizabeth Lim Pei Jun

As an international student at Trinity for a semester, I could not have picked a better, or worse, time to read a course on sustainability. While the course has made me shrink in my seat numerous times at the realization of how unsustainable my current lifestyle is, every major contributor to carbon emissions listed on the slide during the carbon footprints lecture was an allegation laid against me.


http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/news/article/6006/1998/

First, there was the obvious heavy-weight champion for any international student - transport. As if flying 11,198.81 kilometres one-way from Singapore to Dublin wasn't bad enough (link, I had transited at Dubai, which meant greater quantities of carbon emissions from the additional take-off and landing compared to the option of a direct flight. Moreover, I still have to make the return trip home since overstaying my Visa and risking a falling-out with the guards isn't an option. Times like these, one wonders why anyone would have picked the more destructive of two options just to save some money. Not to mention all those sinful trips I had planned, around Ireland and Central Europe, purely for leisure.

While some kind souls might be willing to adopt my used items once I leave, the thought of having to throw almost all of it out is hard to swallow, let alone stomach. Yet, it is a common practice for international students it seems - bed sheets, duvets, pillows, thumbtacks, clothes hangers, porcelain utensils, the mundane stuff of everyday life I would never have batted an eyelid about before uprooting and planting myself in a foreign land. The embedded carbon I'm responsible for just from exploring Dublin city in the better part of my first month and half here, administrative documents, enjoying an Irish meal, is anyone's guess. At this rate, even sending postcards home may be hazardous, what with all these letters being posted by air mail.
           
I would have reckoned that the more global I become, I'd have a heightened awareness and understanding of the world I live in, and be in a better position to, if not help, at least curtail problems related to sustainability. Yet, not only do I find myself incredibly guilty of killing the planet slowly, I think it increasingly challenging to live a decent modern city-life, if at all, under such circumstances.
           
Ah the life of an international student, a tough life indeed.



Friday, April 6, 2012

Personal Definition of Sustainability - Fiona Saluk

Sustainability - A method of functioning that comfortably and effectively meets the (reasonable) needs of the present population without compromising, but rather improving the situation for, populations of the future.
Fiona Saluk, Economics and business, Trinity College Dublin

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Personal Definition of Sustainability - Jonathan Flynn

Sustainability: The means by which a system can continue indefinitely. In a modern sociological and ecological sense, it refers to means by which we can sustain an environmental system whilst still providing for societal participants. This can be done through advocation of new technologies, and imposition of true external costs.

Jonathan Flynn, Human Genetics, Trinity College Dublin

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Recycled fashion does not have to mean second hand clothing

The idea of sustainable living can sometimes conjure up images of  people living in squalors, ditches as toilets and leaves as meals.  Perhaps a bit extremist, but you get the general idea! There is no need for these Bear Grylles- esque  extreme ideas, sustainable living can be incorporated into all our lives, no matter what your interests.
As a fashion follower I’m always on the lookout for new ways to update my already packed wardrobe…inspired by my recent venture into the world of sustainability, I thought it would be interesting to see how I could make my passion a bit more eco-friendly.
The idea of recyclable clothing first came to mind. Recycled fashion does not have to mean second hand clothing, clothes can easily be restyled with small  additions such as buttons, studs etc. , which can be found very cheap in any thrift store. A quick raid of your mums wardrobe  can also lead to the discovery of some gems, as I found out myself…luckily before they were gotten rid of!
A quick browse of the internet led me to find some great sites which specialize in eco-friendly clothing. Sustainable clothing uses natural fibres, cellulose, materials manufactured from natural materials and recycled fibres. In the mainstream some designers such as Stella McCartney  and celebrities such as Natalie Portman are doing there bit to bring to light the concept of eco-fashion.  A stylish way to lower your carbon footprint. 
So get out there and get yourself looking ecofabulous!
Paula Fox            

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Use of genetically modified crops to achieve a sustainable future

Genetic engineering is a technique in which specific traits or genes can be transferred from one organism (e.g. an animal) into an alternative other such as a plant. The resulting entity is called a genetically modified organism or GMO.

Optimizing agriculture is a key aspect in achieving a sustainable future. Currently industrial agriculture in the developed world has negatively impacted global warming through greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer and pesticide use and extensive deforestation.

Presently the favored strategy in combating these detrimental farming practises is organic agriculture. While this tactic is “environmentally friendly” its main pitfall is that its rationale isn’t entirely realistic at a global scale. Relying on ecological processes and the rejection of pesticides runs a risk of crop disease epidemics which devastate yields. In addition plants relying on organic nutrition would result in a peak capacity for production which unfortunately would not meet the exponentially growing world populations requirement for food.

Genetically modified crops are quite advantageous in agriculture offering increases in crop yields and quality as well as reductions in the requirement for pesticides and fertilizers. Genes which confer for disease resistance provide food security for farmers in an ever competitive market. For example introduction of the insecticidal protein gene from the bacterium Bascillus thuringiensis allows crops such as corn to be insect resistant which subsequently negates the requirement for pesticide utilization.

Along with increased yields these advancements would allow for optimization of self sustainable economies and self efficient countries in my opinion. GMO would be beneficial for small time farmers providing them with the materials to grow a range of crops that can then be then sold locally. Substantial yields would allow reductions in prices for these local products that otherwise could not compete with large scale farmers. This would reduce the requirement of importations (where other countries may have the ideal climate for the traditional seed or can grow them at a high level and therefore sell them cheaply) and since each country could potentially grow a range of crops to meet the needs of the public exportations would also decrease as well. Taking this as a whole our carbon footprints, both personal and all inclusive, would be drastically reduced.

Controversial issues that surround GMOs are typically catalysed by bias media reports which scare an ill-informed public. One such example is the fear of ‘horizontal gene transfer’ i.e. genetic transfer between organisms. The main problem here is that this would result in resistant organism promoting the risk of disease outbreaks. In reality this risk is actually quite low. The phenomenon occurs naturally but also rarely and it has yet to be simulated in an optimized lab environment. In addition I believe the concern of its negative impact for ecological organisms pales in comparison to the detrimental consequences of our currently employed methods of spraying herbicides and pesticides religiously and broadly.

Therefore I am personally in favour of the employment of GMOs into agriculture practice in order to reach the ever tantalizing goal of sustainable living.


Robin Burns