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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Let’s be realistic, this isn’t a Mensa exam or anything!

Guys, let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. We are currently living on the planet inhabited by our parents, grandparents and so on. This planet has supported the human race from the beginning, supported life from the beginning, and is the reason for our very existence. It seems a little off-putting as a result to think that such a vast majority of us neglect to care for out planet’s future. Too many people see Earth as a stable entity, always present, never changing. Well, the harsh reality is, it is changing, and rapidly. I for one want to know that my future progeny have the opportunity to enjoy the planet as I have and generations before, to make the most of their lives without being hampered by environmental degradation. And the funny thing is, this can be a reality, all it requires is some minimal elbow grease from us lot. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Walk that extra couple of steps to recycle that milk carton. Pay that extra few cents for that organic in season tomato. And there it is. ‘Pay More’, almost taboo. I know, I know, ‘We’re in a recession!’ you say. But let me ask you, would you pay 5 cent extra for a large meal over a medium at McDonalds? Would you pay 5 cent extra for a newer model phone? Or would you pay 5 cent extra to ensure a future for our children. It’s that easy, and making the first step is the most important. It’s time we made this decision. I know I’ve made mine; I look forward to hearing yours.
Graham Mills

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Going Green - New Website

Subhajit Shome is a management consultant working in the UEA. Originally from India , Subhajit  has started a new  website/blog  called  Going Green.  This gives a range of useful ideas and insights into living more sustainably. Chek it out at:  http://www.savetree.net/

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A healthier and greener lifestyle – make a change

It’s time to move out of your comfort zone and make a change and I don’t mean only to your daily commute, but to your health, lifestyle and fuel expenses. Cycling is one of the easiest and best ways to exercise as contrary to what I originally thought, it requires the active use of every single part of the body. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%!! Cycling into work or college every day is a great way to reduce stress and boost your self-esteem as well as releasing no more CO2 then your own pair of lungs can produce.  I found myself after making that first small step to have more energy throughout the entire day which seemed to pay off nicely when faced with looming summer exams.
Cyclists breathe in less polluted air than car drivers, so feel free to be smug as you glide by motorists stuck behind red lights where you once were. The freedom of not being controlled by unpredictable jams or parking restrictions removes further stress from your day and allows you to be fashionably early. So why not ditch the stressful traffic jams, save your money and improve your health? More of us are burning calories instead of carbon everyday so join in and live the benefits at the cutting edge of the cycling revolution.
More info at: Link
John Barry
 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Reality of Water Resources

The lecture on living sustainably that I have taken this semester has really opened my eyes to how little recourses we have left and to how much we are using up the limited amount that we do have. Water is one very important resource that in the western world we are using in absolute excess. We (the human race) are using 50% of our fresh water supply. We are slowly but surely drying up rivers and lakes all over the world, such as the Aryl Sea, which was one of the four largest lakes in the world and now only holds a tenth of the water it once had.
With the majority of things we drink, eat and use, water is involved in its manufacture. This can vary from 300 liters used for 1 liter of beer to 10,850 liters used for 1 pair of jeans. We are using up the worlds water supply at an unbelievable rate. In the western world we take water for granted. We all know the figures of other human beings in different parts of the world dying of water related diseases and water deprivation so why are we not being more careful with the amount of water we use? Small change can make a difference, are only hope is that we all try harder to use less. You can be just as happy and turn the tap off when you brush your teeth, so do.
Jasmine Patel-Bolger

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Energy Use: Both Now and in the Future

The process by which energy is produced and the way in which it is consumed has become increasingly important in the recent past. The world has become increasingly more globalised and this has brought with it improvements in technology and an increase in scientific knowledge, among other things. These improvements have resulted in the production of new ways of both producing and consuming energy. It is evident that many goals must be met in the future in order to maintain a sustainable way of producing and consuming energy. Three of the most important goals are to ensure that future energy supplies are clean, to ensure that the supply of energy is secure and to ensure that energy use is carried out more efficiently.

The problems that currently exist in the energy sector must be addressed and solved so that energy can be consumed and produced as a sustainable commodity. The harmful effects that certain types of energy use can have on the environment and the diminishing sources of clean, cheap and reliable energy are two of the main problems that face the energy sector today. People around the world have only just begun to realise these problems. For years, the consumption of energy through fossil fuel use has taken place without any thought given to the impact that this has on the environment. This needs to change. Looking to the future, I am hopeful that continued improvements in technology and further increases in scientific knowledge will help us to tackle the serious problems that currently exist in the energy sector.

Simon Grennan

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sustainability in the lab

One day while doing experiment in the chemistry lab, suddenly I was shocked by the amount of water and energy used just for a single experiment. Even though I have been practicing habits that reduce carbon emission and water usage, an experiment I have done just ruined all the hard work I have made. The running tap water for washing apparatus and overnight heating supplies for experiment require big amount of energy, especially if this is repeated almost everyday in a year. It will be more if considering the compounds and solvents used, which require more energy for preparation and purification before usage.

In fact, in academic campuses and corporate research centers, laboratories are the major energy consumer. Despite most innovation nowadays take ‘environmental-friendly’ as one of their ground rules to achieve, it is unavoidable for the ongoing researches to use so much energy before any findings could be found. Instead of stopping the researches that sought to find greener alternatives for better life, the research lab can reduce their negative impact to the world by achieving higher laboratory energy efficiency.

To accomplish this, it has to be started with a well-designed laboratory that make good use of resources around, for example utilize sunlight for illumination. Besides, experiment conducted should be well planned so that it makes good use of all facilities. And the most important thing is, researchers need to have awareness of this and practice good habits so that sustainability can be reached ultimately.

For more details on improving laboratory energy efficiency, please visit Link

Yee Ann Ho

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Water, water, everywhere...?

In parts of Ireland it only rains 150 days a year, much less than we may initially think. Our annual water consumption (per capita) in Ireland is roughly 55,000 litres. Numerous daily activities that we all take part in consume water. This is ever so true at home; from the moment we wake to moment we go to bed. We all wash our hands, cook, shower, drink tea and coffee, brush our teeth, bathe, water the garden, wash our clothes, flush the toilet, wash the car and clean the dog. But are the options we take even necessary?
Research by Ideal Standard reveals that the average Irish person uses roughly 150 litres of water per day. But 52% of us use over 108 litres per day simply showering. And 40% of us flush the toilet 5-6times per day, using around 40 litres.  Our day-to-date habits create a huge water footprint.
We must change our living habits so as to adapt to a changing world. Climate change has, in recent years, led to shortages of water in Ireland; snow fall tied up water in the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, and summers over the last few years (except 2011) have recorded temperatures “above normal” according to Met √Čireann. These trends highlight the significance of using our water wisely and conserving it whenever necessary.
As a people we must make changes, to our lifestyles and habits. Choosing an 8 minute shower over a bath can cut the water used by 50% to 40 litres. Installing modern, dual flush toilets to replace traditional styles can reduce consumption by 80%. On an extreme level; become a herbivore! According to the British Meat blog it can take up to 15 times more water to produce one 1g of animal protein over 1g of plant protein. But there are also small things that can be done too; stop the tap while brushing your teeth, only use full washes when using the washing machine or dishwasher (no half washes), ensure the tap is fully turned off when you’re finished with it, and if it really is necessary to water those petunias, then use a watering can so that you water only what you need to.
Our futures are in our hands, and it is up to us to make the right choices. See links below:
Daniel Moody

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Snatching Carbon from the Atmosphere


The effects of carbon on the atmosphere are well documented and it is clear that we are producing far too much carbon for the earth to handle. Living sustainably is obviously the long-term solution, but it requires worldwide cooperation. In my opinion this is only likely to happen when people put the earth before profit, which I cannot see happening in the foreseeable future. Until such a change in mindset occurs there are short-term ideas that can help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

I have decided to focus on one short-term idea with a lot of potential, artificial photosynthesis without the use of cells. This may sound like a far-fetched idea. But using a concept devised by Dr. Montemagno, David Wendell and his team studied the foam nests of the Tungara frog and isolated a protein. They used this protein and it unique properties to engineer a type of foam, which can use sunlight to grab carbon from the air around it and turn it into sugar. It does this without harming the environment because it is not an organism.

This artificial photosynthetic foam was found to be incredibly effective in a number of ways. It converts sunlight to sugar at a rate of 16% unlike plants, which do it at 1-5%, also unlike plants it can continue to photosynthesize in carbon intense environments i.e. Factories. The sugars produced can also be used to make high-octane bio fuel. It is for all these reasons that this foam can greatly benefit the environment, reducing carbon in the atmosphere and supplying a carbon neutral energy source. These benefits won it the grand prize at the 2010 Earth Awards.

Fionan Magee