From Greenlivingpedia, a wiki on green living, building and energy
Interesting facts on green topics.
Carbon usage by humans
Around 100 million barrels of oils are used by human civilisation per day in 2011. The amount of fossil fuels burnt in one year by human civilisation is equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by the earth over a 3 million year period.
Water is an essential input for food production. CSIRO Land and Water scientists in Australia have used precision weighing systems to measure water use by various crops, and the yield from the crops. The following approximate figures were revealed:
- To produce one kilogram of oven dry wheat grain, it takes 715 - 750 litres of water
- For 1 kg maize, 540 - 630 litres
- For 1 kg soybeans, 1650 - 2200 litres
- For 1 kg paddy rice, 1550 litres
- For 1 kg beef, 50,000 - 100,000 litres
- For 1 kg clean wool, 170,000 litres
Coal electricity generators use one-third of Melbourne's annual water consumption
Latrobe Valley generators use about 125 billion litres of water a year - one-third of Melbourne's annual consumption - and have asked the government for access to a larger volume and more guaranteed supplies.
Source: Don't give water to generators: panel, The Age, 13 April 2010
Oil imports estimated to cost Australia $66 billion
Goldman Sachs have predicted that in 2015 oil will cost US $200 a barrel. In 2015 Australia will be importing 80% of oil mostly from the middle east. That is a $66 billion oil import bill. This will eclipse Australia's total coal export revenue, both metallurgical and steaming coal.
374 excess deaths attributed to January heatwave in Victoria, Australia
There were 374 excess deaths over what would be expected during the heatwave in Victoria, Australia from 26 January to 1 February 2009, compared to the same period in previous year(s). The results of this analysis have shown that there was substantial morbidity and mortality related to the heatwave, with associated demands on health services. The greatest number of deaths occurred in those 75 years or older, representing a 64% increase.
Source: January 2009 Heatwave in Victoria: an Assessment of Health Impacts (PDF), Victorian Government Department of Human Services Melbourne, Victoria, 13 July 2009.
China closes down coal-fired power stations and India commits to solar
- In the past three years from 2006 to 2009 the Chinese have closed down more than 54 gigawatts of inefficient coal-fired generating capacity - equivalent to closing all of Australia's coal-fired power stations twice over.
- India just decided to increase its solar power capacity from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2020 - that's more solar power than is currently produced worldwide.
Source: Man of coal, Guy Pearse, 13 December 2009
Giant Nomura jellyfish in Japan may be attributed to climate change
Giant Nomura jellyfish in Japan have appeared in 2009. They have:
- sunk a fishing trawler when many were caught in its nets
- caused an estimated loss of $100m to the Japanese fishing industry
- grown to sizes larger than a sumo wrestler
Climate change may be implicated in their presence, as warmer waters where they spawn near the Chinese coast have been less aerobic, allowing the tiny juvenile jellyfish to grow free from fish predators.
Source: Japanese fishing trawler sunk by giant jellyfish, 02 Nov 2009
Extreme weather attributed to climate change was experienced in Melbourne, Australia in November 2009
- its hottest November on record with the city's average maximum temperature of 27.6 degrees to Saturday 28/11, besting the 1862 record of 25.5 degrees for the whole of November.
- 10 consecutive days over 30 degrees at the start of the month set the pattern for the monthly record to fall.
- November rainfall was 90.2 millimetres, well above the monthly average of 59.7 millimetres and the wettest November since 2004.
Senior weather bureau forecaster Terry Ryan said it was unusual to have the combination of the hottest November and above-average rainfall. "This is another statistic that says the Earth appears to be getting warmer," he said.
Source: Record month of heat and rain, David Rood, The Age, November 30, 2009
Climate and clean energy policies save money
- Comprehensive climate and clean energy policies will save United States households $900 per year on average.
- U.S. passenger vehicles (cars and trucks) consume about 380 million gallons of gasoline per day and contribute 20% of America's global warming pollution.
- The fuel for these cars is almost entirely refined from petroleum, nearly 60% of which is imported.
Source: Repower America
Some statistics of how much plastic waste countries succeed in recycling:
- United States: 5%
- India: 60%
- Denmark: 90%
Source: Addicted to Plastic, Documentary
See also: green plastic
Australian shopping habits
In Australia during the 2006-07 financial year:
- Retail sales reached more than $214 billion, up $10 billion on the figure from just three years earlier.
- 35m packets of Tim Tam biscuits were sold (nearly 400m biscuits)
- 22m jars of Vegemite were sold
- the box of takings for the Happy Feet movie were $31.8m
- 93.1m letters were mailed
- 5m people watch pay TV between 6pm and midnight
- 1.2m people eat at McDonalds everyday.
- The top selling vehicle was the Toyota Corolla (4 cyl) with the Holden Commodore (6 cyl) second.
- A cigarette brand was the top selling grocery brand
- The selling food was bread, the second was chocolate and the third was ice cream
Source: Shopping habits give food for thought, The Age, 22 May 2008
Logging Australian old growth forests
- As at April, 2009, around 8% of pre European settlement forest remains in original condition in Australia.
- About 5.5% of this is protected.
- The remaining 2.5% (including Brown Mountain old growth forest) is either being logged or is scheduled for logging - should be protected.
- Queensland and New Zealand have both protected all their remaining old growth forests from logging. Western Australia has protected most of theirs.
- Victoria, South East New South Wales and Tasmania is where the bulk of contentious old growth logging continues.
World CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations
The amount of CO2 that would have to be buried each and every day from the world’s coal-fired power stations:
- Global CO2 emissions from the consumption of coal (2004) = ~10.5 GT
- Volume of one ton CO2 at 25C and one atmosphere pressure = 556m3
- 10,500,000,000 tonnes X 556m3 = 5,838,000,000,000m3 = 5,838km3 per year or 15.99km3 per day
For muted carbon capture and sequestration projects to remove C02 emissions about 16km3 per day of "storable" CO2 must be stored somewhere underground.
South East Australian woodchipping and forest destruction
Between 2,500 and 3,000 trees from South East New South Wales and East Gippsland in Australia are cut down every working day to supply the Eden chipmill, including the magnificent Brown Mountain old growth forest. Source: http://www.chipstop.forests.org.au/
Many mobile phones end up as e-waste in landfills
- Thousands of tons of electronic waste hit landfills each year as users upgrade to new mobile phones and discard their old ones.
- There are already 11,000 tons of unused cellular phones in the United Kingdom that have not yet been disposed of.
- Most of these phones will eventually be discarded, with highly toxic metals and other chemicals in them leaching into the earth.
- An estimated 1 billion mobile phone handsets are sold each year, 1 million per day come from Nokia alone.
- 100 million people upgrade to new phones each year in Europe alone, even though the average handset has a life of 5 years.
- Many mobile phone service providers lure new customers by promising a free new handset for those who sign up.
- While many companies offer to recycle used mobile phones for consumers, the vast majority of such phones are still thrown away.
- The recycled handset market could be worth $3 billion by 2012, with recycled phone shipments numbering above 100 million.
Renewable energy installation in Israel, Spain and Northern Europe
- In Israel 90% of homes have solar water heaters installed, where they must now be installed on new homes by law
- In 2005, Spain became the second country (after Israel) to require solar water heaters.
- Spain was also the first country to require the installation of solar cells for electricity generation in new buildings.
- In many climates, a solar heating system can provide a very high percentage (50% to 75%) of domestic hot water energy.
- In many northern European countries, solar power is used not only to heat water, but also to provide 15 to 25% of home heating energy.
Road transport in Melbourne circa 2007
- Melbourne's traffic-choked road network is slowing down, leaving peak-hour motorists crawling through the city's inner core at just 23 kilometres an hour
- Drivers are travelling 3 million more kilometres a day on freeways than in the previous year, a VicRoads' Traffic System Performance report shows.
- Inner-city arterial roads with trams have sped up, calling into question the Government's new policy on extending clearway times.
- 80% of cars on Melbourne's roads have only one occupant: the driver.
- Drivers on Melbourne's roads cover 88 million kilometres every day, the same as last year.
- The average all-day speed on Melbourne's roads has fallen to 40.8 km/h, a kilometre slower than the previous year.
- Average freeway speeds are just 59 km/h in the morning peak, three kilometres faster than the previous year.
- Fewer inner-city residents are driving their car
- Traffic on the Western Ring Road had surged by between 11% and 20% in the five years to 2007.
Source Peak-hour motorists forced into 23 km/h crawl, The Age
CO2 levels in atmosphere and sea levels
Linking levels of CO2 (ppm) and global average temperatures (referenced to pre-industrial) with sea level rise:
- 180ppm gives a temperature of -5C and a sea level of -120m
- 280ppm gives a temperature of 0C and a sea level of 0m
- 280-300ppm gives a temperature of 1.7 to 2.7C and a sea level of 4-6m
- 380 (360-400)ppm gives a temperature of 2.7 to 3.7C and a sea level of 15 to 35m
- 425 (350-500)ppm gives a temperature of 5.7C and a sea level of 75m
World C02 levels are now at a record high of 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years. This could translate to eventual sea level rises in the range of 15 to 35m, which would be catastrophic. So we need to reduce C02 emissions now.
Australia meeting emission reduction targets
- For Australia to meet a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50% by 2020, one coal fired power station the size of Hazelwood needs to be decommissioned every year from 2009 to 2020.
- The Victorian Labor government has announced plans for the construction of a new brown coal fired power station in the Latrobe valley and describe this as a "clean coal" initiative.
- Australia has one of the worst rates of animal extinction in the world
- In 2007. more than 1500 kinds of animals and plants are close to dissappearing forever
Where are we at in 2007?
- In the past 20 years Australian homes have increased in size by 40%, while our families are getting smaller.
- Australians spend 90% of their time inside.
- 20 years ago there was no Internet. Today if MySpace was a country it would be the 11th largest in the world.
- Every year 125 million computers are thrown out across the world, most of these go to landfill.
- 10 years ago, half the people in the world had never made a phone call. Today, half the people in the world own a mobile phone.
- Demand for rooftop solar panels is increasing by 16% per year in Australia and by 40% globally.
- 0.25 hectares of land is required to feed each person. By 2025 there will be less than one third of that area each.
- The world's population is 6.5 billion, and is increasing by 77 million people per year.
Car fuel consumption standards
- Japanese cars are required by law to get more than 45 miles per gallon whereas for cars in the U.S. the standard is under 25 mpg.
- Australian cars have a voluntary target set in 2003 of 6.8L/100km for petrol passenger cars by 2010. This represents an 18% improvement in the fuel efficiency of new vehicles between 2002 and 2010.
Cycling saves carbon emissions
A cyclist who commutes 18km each way every day on a relatively flat commute will save each year:
- 2.6 tonnes C02 and $7000 compared to a large car like a Land cruiser
- 0.9 tonnes C02 and $3000 compared to small car like a Corolla
Trains are the best form of urban transport
Rail passenger transport has the lowest carbon emissions - full trains are clearly much more energy efficient than cars. Relative to a trip in a car, carbon emissions are:
- Train trips - one eighth (8 times better)
- Light rail - one quarter (4 times better)
- Buses - one half (2 times better)
Australian households create 9 tonnes of CO2 per year from electricity usage
- The average Australian home uses about 20kW/h of electricity per day, which translates to about 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
- A solar efficient house with a solar array can greatly reduce or eliminate these emissions. More information.
- The British Government estimates eight percent of all domestic electricity is consumed by devices in standby The Energy Challenge (PDF)
Rail vs road - some points to consider
- A modern small automobile with two passengers generates almost 25 times the air pollution, per passenger mile, as a four car commuter train at 35% capacity.
- Two sets of commuter rail tracks will handle the passenger traffic of at least six lanes of highway.
- A new light-rail line costs about a third of a new highway or loop road, and recent developments in track-laying technology can shave 60% to 70% off that cost.
- Trains are faster, quieter, and smoother than buses. In addition, they avoid traffic jams and most accident scenes.
- Modern commuter and light-rail trains are built to run forward or backward, eliminating the need for huge turnaround loops.
- Rail deaths and injuries are much lower compared to those in automobiles.
- Rail cars and locomotives last much longer than cars and trucks (in some cases up to 100 years) with appropriate maintenance.
- Railroad tracks are cheaper and easier to maintain than roads and highways.
- There is no rubber tire disposal problem with trains (a much bigger issue than many people realize).
Source: 13 Reasons We Need Passenger Rail, Rails - New Mexico's Passenger Rail Action Group
Melbourne house price rises
- The median house price in Melbourne soared 13.1% ($50,000) to $431,000 in 2006.
- This is the largest dollar increase over a twelve month period.
- $50,000 would pay for a solar panel system that would supply more than the average house electricity usage.
Source: Median house price soars in Melbourne, Sydney Morning Herald
Water consumption in Australia
- Melburnians' daily average water consumption average in 2007 was 277 litres per person, down from 303 litres per person in 2006. This reveals a massive change in habits from the 1990s, when the average for personal use was 422 litres a day.
- However, while the figure of 277 litres per day is celebrated by the Victorian State Government, it is still almost double the amount being used by residents of Brisbane and south-east Queensland, who have been limited to 140 litres per person a day since May 2007.
Source: The Age
Carbon emission offsets
- By the end of 2007, over half a million Australians have purchased carbon credits to help neutralise their greenhouse gas emissions. See Green travel for more information.
Plastic shopping bags
In 2008 in Australia, plastic shopping bags are given out at no direct cost to shoppers. Here are the facts:
- The energy consumed in the life cycle of a plastic bag is estimated to be equivalent to 13.8 millilitres of crude oil, or about a teaspoonful.
- 3.9 to 4.5 billion plastic bags are thought to have been used in Australia in 2005.
- 34% fewer bags were used in 2005 than in 2002.
- Most lightweight plastic bags in Australia are made overseas.
Source: The Age
- Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year, according to Washington-based think tank Worldwatch Institute, or more than 330 a year for every person in the country. Most of them are discarded.
- They can take from 400 to 1000 years to break down,. Their constituent chemicals remain in the environment long after that.
- They are made from crude oil, natural gas and other petrochemical derivatives; an estimated 12 million barrels of oil are used to make the bags the US consumes each year.
- Countries from Taiwan to Uganda, and cities including Dhaka in Bangladesh, have either banned plastic bags outright or imposed a consumerlevy on them,
- Britons use 13 billion single-use plastic bags a year, or more than 200 per person. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the country's biggest supermarket chains to cut use faster than planned and said Britain could eliminate them altogether.
Source: The Age
- Shipping is now a booming global industry, with most manufacturing being concentrated thousands of miles from consumer centres in Europe and the United States.
- Nearly 100,000 cargo ships transport 95% of world trade by sea
- The world shipping industry is expanding rapidly as countries such as India and China become major players in the global economy.
- The cost of shipping or "bunker" fuel has nearly doubled in the past two years, forcing the industry to consider alternatives.
- Concerns have grown about climate change and air pollution from shipping.
- It is estimated that commercial shipping uses nearly 2 billion barrels of oil a year and emits as much as 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 4% of the world's man-made emissions.
- Shipping also releases more sulphur dioxide than all the world's cars and lorries.
- The industry has so far failed to harness renewable energy, either because conventional fuel has been cheap, or because modern cargoes, mostly carried in containers, need to remain stable on deck or in holds.
- Sails or spinnakers have been proposed for merchant ships, but these can take up storage space and cause vessels to keel.
- Sails could pay off their cost within 3 years with oil priced at $US60 per barrel
- One kite on one ship over one year would save the equivalent amount of oil as converting every single automobile in California to a hybrid
- A United Nations study in 2008 has reportedly found that carbon emissions from merchant shipping are nearly three times greater than previously estimated - annual emissions from global shipping equal about 1.12 billion tonnes of CO2, or an estimated 4.5 per cent of global carbon emissions.
- Emissions from merchant shipping are not taken into account by the European Union (EU) when making its targets for cutting greenhouse gases.
- Green shipping blowing in the wind, The Age
- Video: Kiteship - a kite that generates 10,000 horsepower
- SkySails - Turn Wind into Profit
- Shipping carbon emissions greater than thought: UN report, ABC News, February 13, 2008
How to live an extra 14 years
- People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who don't.
- Overwhelming evidence has shown that these things contribute to healthier and longer lives, but a new British study actually quantified their combined impact.
Source: What could you do in 14 years?, The Age
Forest destruction and climate change
- Forest destruction around the globe is the largest single source of carbon emissions after energy, contributing up to 10 times as much as aviation.
- The Stern Report warned that rainforest destruction alone would, in the next four years, release more carbon into the atmosphere than every flight from the dawn of aviation until 2025
Source: Flying clouds the real climate culprit, BBC NEWS
Antartica, climate change and sea levels
- Antarctica , a deep freeze holding 90 percent of the world's ice, is one of the biggest puzzles in debate on global warming with risks that any thaw could raise sea levels faster than U.N. projections.
- If a fraction of Antartica's ice melted, this could damage nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu in the Pacific and cities from Shanghai to New York.
- Antartica has enough ice to raise sea levels by 57 metres (187 ft) if it melted, over thousands of years.
- A year after the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected sea level rises by 2100 of about 20 to 80 cms (8-32 inches), a Reuters poll of 10 of the world's top climatologists showed none think that range is alarmist.
Source: Antarctic ice riddle keeps sea-level secrets, Reuters, January 31, 2008
Facts about business computing
Some facts about business computing:
- Leaving a computer running consumes electricity and adds to computing costs.
- The use of screen savers does not save energy.
- It is estimated that a typical desktop PC with a 17-inch flat panel LCD monitor requires about 100 watts - 65 watts for the computer and 35 watts for the monitor.
- If left on 24x7 for one year, this system will consume 874 kilowatt hours of electricity - enough to release 341 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the equivalent of driving 1312 km in an average car.
- According to the Columbia University Guide to Green Computing, if the paper used each year for personal computing were laid end to end, it would circle the Earth more than 800 times.
Household airconditioner power consumption
Typical wall mounted household airconditioning units consume a lot of power. For example, Mitsubishi Electric reverse cycle airconditioners advertised in Autralia in early 2008 are:
- from 2.5kW cooling / 3.2kW heating (A$831)
- to 8.1kW cooling / 9.0kW heating (A$2397)
The smallest of these units consumes 1kW more electricty than a solar panel array of twenty 75W panels, which produces 1.5kw. The larger unit consumes over five times the amount of energy the array produces.
The increased usage of household air conditioners is one of the major factors causing increases in peak load - usually experienced on very hot days - which is a contributing factor to the possibility of more coal fired power stations being constructed.
A good passive solar design house can avoid the use of airconditioners entirely.
Data centre power consumption
Data center owners such as Google are building data centers in places where power is cheap. A decade ago, the main consideration was where broadband would be cheapest. Now, data centers can take up 50,000 square meters of floor space and require 40 to 50 megawatts of power.
- Source: Will thin clients rebound with higher power prices? Green Tech blog, CNET News.com
Biodiversity in Victoria, Australia
- 30% of Victoria's native animals are extinct or threatened
- 44% of our native plants are extinct or threatened (ref: Environmental Sustainability Issues Analysis for Victoria, CSIRO)
- Forests that provide habitat for threatened species such as Leaderbeaters Possum and the Powerful Owl are still clearfelled in Victoria
- more than 70% of Victoria's native bushland has been cleared in just 170 years
- 92% of Victoria's native bushland on private land has been cleared
Source: Victoria Naturally Alliance
Computer games consoles are not green
- Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer espouses what the world's largest software company is doing for the environment - but the company's Xbox games console does not rate a mention in this context.
- Microsoft have sold 18 million Xbox 360s sold as at March 2008.
- Worldwide computer use requires 14 power stations for the necessary electricity, producing more harmful carbon dioxide emissions than the entire airline industry - not including the emissions created and manufacturing and shipping the products.
- Games consoles - of which 62 million of various brands were sold in 2007 - are the high consumers of this industry, using huge amounts of energy to generate the necessary graphics and sounds.
- When played online, games consoles link up to huge server farms which use even more energy.
- With each generation of console - we are currently on the seventh - previous platforms are made obsolete by the newest technology. Millions of consoles, games and other accessories are thrown away.
- A personal computer setup for gaming with a powerful processor and video cards can have a power supply with a peak load rating of 1kW and consume up to that amount of power.
Source: Greenpeace takes on 'gas guzzling' gamers, The Age, March 9, 2008
Why GM is not green
- 114 million hectares of genetically modified (GM) crops is just 1.3% of the world's productive land.
- 98% of all GM crops are grown in just seven countries and five of those are in North and South America where most GM is used for animal feed or ethanol production.
- The US alone grows over half of all GM crops
- Since the GM cotton crop in Australia topped 90%, the area of cotton has fallen each year, from 230,000 hectares to 134,000 hectares, to ~65,000
in 2008. But has since increased to about 190,000ha in 2009. The area planted to cotton has very little to do with GM, its more to do with water availability. GM cotton is no magic bullet but it does help reduce the environmental impact of growing cotton.
- Concerns have been raised about whether GM licences are subject to a rigorous 'science-based' assessment process.
- In Australia, the ACT has a ban and GM and SA now prohibits the passage into or through its territory of any GM crop product - seed for planting, cleaning, crushing or export.
More information: http://www.truefood.org.au
Energy efficiency measures can repay their cost
- You can get a financial payback from embracing energy efficiency measures such as using low energy lighting.
- Councils and governments can save money by establishing revolving energy funds to provide a financial incentive to implement energy efficiency measures and practices. Energy efficiency projects reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They can also save money.
Transport trips in Melbourne, Australia
On a typical weekday in 2008, Melburnians:
- make 13.5 million personal trips
- 10 million of these trips made by car.
On a daily basis:
- around 78 per cent of people travel by car
- 7 per cent by public transport (train, tram or bus)
- 15 per cent by walking or cycling.
Source: Eddington Report
Australian coal exports
- Australia exports approximately 300 million tonnes of coal per year
- This coal potentially generates 720 million tonnes of CO2 if all was burnt for power generation.
- That means that while Australia emits approximately 20 tonnes per capita of CO2 domestically, Australia is exporting in coal terms, the equivalent of 720 million/24 million Australians = an additional 30 tonnes per capita
- In 2006, Australia's exports of black coal were worth $24 billion, which makes coal easily Australia's biggest commodity exporter. Source: Lateline - 15/02/2007: Coalfields to become climate change battle ground
Minimising and offsetting carbon emissions
- Average yearly emissions per car: 4.3 tonnes of CO2
- Emissions for an economy return flight Sydney London: 10 tonnes of CO2
- Average computer left on for 1 year: 340kg of CO2
- Average yearly emissions per Australian household: 14 tonnes of CO2
- Australia's yearly emissions per citizen: 28 tonnes of CO2
Source: Yourbit - doing your bit easy. Act against climate change. Reduce your carbon footprint.
Electric cars are more efficient
Electric cars are 30% more efficient (in terms of greenhouse gas emissions) than cars powered by internal combustion engines (that use petrol, diesel or gas), even taking into consideration coal-fired power generation.
Transitioning to electric drive trains for cars would reduce global carbon emissions. For those that need more range, a plug in hybrid would suffice - fuel can be used to generate electricity when needed for longer trips.
In November 2008, the numbers of electric vehicles of car size are:
- less than 300 on Australian roads
- about 500,000 world wide
Coal industry costs environment, society $717b each year
A report commissioned by Greenpeace has found the coal industry contributes more than $700 billion damage to the environment and society every year. The research, by a Dutch environmental consultancy:
- calculates the cost of dealing with natural disasters caused by climate change
- looks at the health problems caused by air pollution such as respiratory diseases
- found that over the next 10 years the coal industry will have caused damages in excess of $7 trillion.
- Source: Coal industry costs environment, society $717b each year, ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- See also Cost of Coal report, Greenpeace
External links and resources
- Eco House Challenge (DVD), SBS Television
- Home Builders Australia "Home Builders Australia" Save the environment by building a eco friendly house. Find your nearest Eco friendly Australian builder here. (Incomplete & Commercial)