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, June 27, 2012

Water Wasted Everywhere

                It’s scary to think of how some small and seemingly insignificant actions can have such a potentially huge impact on everything. Today I was finding out information on my personal water footprint and was shocked to find out my results. All the things that one would think would have the most significance; like showering, turning on the washing machine or dish washer, had a large impact alright but it fails to compare to the amount of water I waste through the food I eat. Only 10% (816Litres weekly) of my water footprint came from domestic use, e.g. washing up, showering, etc. Not what I was expecting at all. Amazingly the consumption of food accounted for 80% (6528Litres weekly).The large majority of that was through consuming meat. It is a mind boggling statistic, something that I can’t get my head around.
                It’s a weird feeling, the guilt you feel when you find out that something you thought was insignificant could actually have such a huge impact. The same happened when I carried out my own carbon footprint. You feel more aware of the issue, you feel you must react. I’ve set out a plan, as you may already know, about how I’m going to reduce my carbon footprint. In my next update I’ll show you my new plan to reduce my water footprint. I have loads of ideas. Although it doesn’t seem such an issue now, reducing my domestic water use is still my priority. The water wasted through domestic use can’t be ignored so I must start there.
                I would love to have some feedback on what you think I should do. And if anyone is feeling curious as to how much water they waste just use this website below: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=cal/WaterFootprintCalculator

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Energy saving ideas for homes

In relation to the home, energy efficiency can be defined as: Using less energy to provide the same level of energy service by getting the most out of our fuels and renewable energy sources.
A lot of the new energy efficient technologies that have been developed and designed to be incorporated into homes at the beginning of the building process. But there are also many ways in which you can make an older home more energy efficient. If a home has single glazed windows they can be replaced with doubled glazed windows very easily, cavity walls can also be insulated or reinsulated very easily now with the invention of liquid foam insulation that can be pumped into the walls. Using energy efficient light bulbs has become very common and is also very effective. A vast amount of energy in older homes is lost through the attic ceiling either because it’s poorly insulated or because it has a poor air seal, these two things can be fixed very easily. Copper pipes were very popular in heating systems but they are very poor insulators and vast amounts of heat are lost though them. There are new pipes that have plastic on the inside and outside and a thin piece of metal running all the way through it and these pipes retain heat much better. It is now also very easy to install solar heating systems, older houses tend to have energy inefficient boilers because of their age, but these can be replaced along with the installation of a solar heating system. The installation of wood pellet burning stove is also a very possible idea. It is much easier to make a house more sustainable if you are building a new house but as we can see there are many things that can be done to make an existing home more sustainable by just making improvements to the existing systems.
Wesley Shaw

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sustainable Housing

One of the best ways to think about how to live sustainably is by looking at where you live. Whether you are buying a new home or upgrading your current one, making your house sustainable should always be in your mind.
Obviously people cannot just move house whenever they feel like it but there are ways to make an older house more sustainable as well as thinking ahead to what kind of house you will buy next. Living sustainably in a home usually focuses on insulating the home to make it easier (and cheaper!) to heat. There are many ways a house can be built sustainably but all have one goal and that is to have a small environmental impact.
Most sustainable homes are built from wood which is naturally insulating and also comes from well managed forests. The use of triple glazed windows always very little heat to escape once the house has been heated. Solar panels for heating water are an excellent addition to any home being built to be sustainable and these can also be used in homes which would like to become more sustainable. Many older homes are not very sustainable but this problem can be easily rectified. Homes can be insulated in a number of ways whether it be internal or external and the government even provides grants for some forms of insulation as well as for solar heating.
Although sustainable housing may seem like an expense it will save money on bills and require less fuel which could become very important if current consumption trends continue!
Eóin O’Brien