Roofs of Green

Check out this fantastic article in ECOS Magazine about Green Roofs; “Green roofs and walls are growing up” by James Porteous.

I adore green roofs and walls, I can’t wait until the day I can have one of my own, I’d be happy to just live near one at this point. They are stunningly beautiful, a great use of space and offer great environmental benefits (increased biodiversity, decreased stormwater run off, habitat, heat dissipation amongst others). The technology has been around for a while but it’s still a major project and I’m not sure how your local government would go assessing it. Hopefully they would take it in their stride but you never know. I remember talking to a building department about a hay bale house (the likes of which have been around for a long long time) and they where quite hesitant to say the least. With initiatives such as Water Sensitive Urban Design becoming pretty much mainstream I’m sure these sort of projects will become more popular with the masses.

Can you imagine what our neighbourhoods would be like covered in a living blanket of green? It sort of reminds me of The Shire in The Lord Of The Rings..

 

 

Well…Water?

Our water suplies are running out.

This figure is from the Water Corporations document ‘Water Forever – Towards Climate Resiliance’, 2009:

http://www.thinking50.com.au/files/Water_Forever_-_Towards_Climate_Resilience_SUMMARY_%28web%291.pdf

Experts are predicting the next world war will be over water….. a war over water within my lifetime (lets be generous and give me another 65 years). We could look back and say that we didnt know, but it wouldnt be true.

I am a firm believer in human ingenuity and its very likely that technology will come to the rescue yet again and dirvert us from the path of disaster. However, this doesnt mean that we should all just sit around twiddling our thumbs and waiting for all those incredible scientists and engineers to work it out on our behalf. Our excessive water use is causing a problem right now, just look at the Murray Darling Basin as just one of thousands of examples. Plus, I think it would be pretty great of us to give these great people a bit more time to work the problem out, this will undoubtably give us a better solution.

We are already looking at alternative supplies; pipes from wetter neighbours, recycling, desalination etc.

“Over the next 50 years, it is expected that existing surface water and groundwater sources will comprise an increasingly smaller portion of public water supply. As the climate dries the focus of new source development will continue to favour rainfall independent sources such as recycling and desalination.” (Water Corporation, 2009)

Climate change is a major consideration. Through a process being dubbed “future proofing” organisations are planning how to adapt to the changing climatic conditions. I find it so interesting that we have moved the focus from stopping climate change to adapting to it. So new “rainfall independant” sources are appearing more often in strategic planning documents for water supply.

A hugely popular one both in the Australia and internationally is desalination.

Wiki -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desalination

In my opinion desalination is not the most elegant of solutions.I believe that sustainable solutions work with the existing natural cycles. Are we solving a problem by creating another?  How will its greenhouse gas emissions be managed? (an issue which caused climatic change and the reduced rainfall which led to the need for desalination.. )

Pwer supply (peak oil, coal industry decline etc) have been a pressing issue for quite some time and research and development focussed on this issue is far more advanced than the industry for water supply. So it is possible that it is far enough ahead to be able to solve this issue pretty quickly once desalination and the like kick off. Although the economic considerations seem to drag and holds back great technology because they are not cost effective (a very valid concern).

Perth’s Kwinana desalination plant is wind powered, although they could have easily gone with non renewable power and i’m guessing it probably would have been cheaper. Great work though :)

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency of Western Australia) did some very extensive investigations into the environmental impact of the proposed desalination plants in Perth. The EPA’s document “Southern Seawater Desalination Project – Water Corporation, Report and Recommendations of the Environmental Protection Authority” of October 2008 states:

“The EPA has concluded that Environmental Quality Objectives can be met subject to the proponent complying with the recommended conditions which provide for the identification of trigger levels, monitoring, reporting and contingency measures. The EPA considers the effects on biota including marine mammals and benthic habitat relating to the construction of the intake and outfall structures should be limited in area and duration, and best practice design and management measures should minimise impacts.”

The EPA also supported the Water Corporations proposal to offset the native vegetation removed to built the plant and the damage to a conservation catergory wetland, and bestowed on them a long list of regulatory conditions.

The social impact which was not considered by the EPA of the location on a pristine beach which has high community value was mentioned a lot in the public consultation. I don’t know how much that was considered, I will atempt to find the planning decision (either the Town of Kwinana or the Western Australian Planning Commission). However either way, a desalination, no matter how urgent, will be placed on a beach close to a city – this will always cause the community some loss.

It seems unnecessarily ugly and disruptive in my opinion.

People need water (of course) so I’m not disputing the fact that we need to face this issue. I believe that we shouldn’t give up on being able to make real changes in the way we use the water we have!

We can use water as close to possible to its source (to avoid treatment, infrastructure and evaporation) by installing water tanks on all houses, developing using awesome water sensitive urban design techniques (follow up post to come on this!), standard water efficiency for our stuff, developing water recycling technology etc.

We can make it beautiful, elegant, and engaging instead of grey, damaging and boring. The solution for the long term has got to be something that mimics nature.

Wallet Greenery

Or is that mould?

How “green” or “eco-friendly” are business you buy from or products you buy?

Who should I trust? is it really making any difference anyway? why should I even bother?

Confusion! No wonder everyone is resigned and cynical about all of this.

But how about how we purchase things like cars or electronics? We know what we think are reputable brands, some of us act on this and only get the best and the ones we consider trustworthy, others purchase based purely on price at a much higher risk. However in this case the risk your taking is purely personal – you are the one burdened when the ramifications of your actions.

A wise purchasing choice environmentally speaking would take into account many many factors; where was it made? what was it made from? how was it made? how did it get here? when will I need to replace it?

You can end up going around and around in circles. Veggies for example, buy organic produce which is more expensive and perhaps brought in from another state (or country) or buy locally grown non organic produce which may be causing water issues closer to home, it can all be very depressing.

I am far from an angel in terms of ensuring that I spend my money on ethically sound products, I’m a human being, I am lazy sometimes, I am unorganised, and sometimes I lose sight of the goal completely.

However! Two factors which I think will make a difference in this debate;

The precautionary principle:

From Wiki: “One of the primary foundations of the precautionary principle, and globally accepted definitions, results from the work of the Rio Conference, or “Earth Summit” in 1992. Principle #15 of the Rio Declaration notes:

“In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.””

In this case what I mean is that in the face of uncertainty we should take action. Don’t let negativity, inadequacy, confusion etc lead you to choosing to do nothing at all. The world is made up of many many little actions and every one makes a difference to the planet. Every time.

Plus, action taken by companies and organisations to lead them to a place where they can feel they can describe themselves as ‘green-ish’, is something! It might not be much, it might look like a complete waste of time, but its an action.

Treehugger did an article recently about the UK postal service running a series of ‘eco’ stamps which featured designs like “use less water” and “turn off lights” and other [mind numbing] things, despite being a huge contributor to the country’s carbon pollution. I’d, of course, encourage the organisation to grow a back bone and do something awesome, but there is no point wasting our energy shooting them down.

A good example of this is the personal care products debate. I buy “sulfate, paraben etc free” products because I want to be better safe than sorry, plus it suits my skin (see next point). Yes there is a whole heap of conflicting evidence around, I’ve done some research (I’ve done a bit of chemistry in my time but I’m not a doctor), I’ve chosen the ‘lets not poke the synthetically produced ugly beast in the eye’ route. My precaution is to stick with as un-tampered with my human kind as possible.

Make the eco-concious decisions that make you happy:

This is not intended to be some hippy rubbish – but my opinion is that our actions should create a world that we love and adore. Meaning: a fully functioning, efficient, healthy ecosystem – this might not be your vision of utopia but I can almost guarantee (unless your vision is set on some other planetary landscape) that this will allow your vision to exist.

The backyard of your electronic filled, high-tech, wonderful dream house complete with waterslide to a ball pit, doesn’t look like this;

Sorry, that was a bit extreme.. but you get the point.

This doesn’t mean that we should give up buying speccy new iPads or a new car, it just means that these purchasing decisions (visibly somehow) should connect to how we want our world to be.

I guess it’s an awareness thing more than anything. But then again humans often do not make sense. I want to be skinny .. *freddo frog*…

anyway! point is, decide what matters to you in this debate and act on it.

For instance, I want to eat lots of locally produced food because it supports my local farmers, the town I live in, it doesn’t have to travel, I don’t need to go to the sterile yucky supermarket to buy it, I get to go to the farmers market, and its cheaper.I drive a fuel efficient car, it saves me lots of money, its super quiet and it causes less pollution.

Heaps of people shoot down environmentally driven actions with all the other ‘what about..? what about..?’ so you end up feeling like throwing your hands in the air and screaming. Who cares!? do what makes you feel good. If everyone felt fricken AMAZING about making a choice towards something a bit more enviro friendly that would be brilliant and more people would do it, and then the choices would get better and better and better.

Don’t waste things, buy good quality so you don’t have to keep replacing it and wasting all those materials etc again and again, plus you end up with a nicer product. Be patient, and be sure of what you want – it’s not a money thing, it’s a happiness thing.

Have you seen “The Story of Stuff” if not you definitely should, well worth your time (20 mins)–> http://www.storyofstuff.com/

Thoughts??