Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.
Biodiversity comprises all the millions of different species that live on our planet, as well as the genetic differences within species. It also refers to the multitude of different ecosystems in which species form unique communities, interacting with one another and the air, water and soil.
Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and industrial processes such as production of carbon neutral fuel.
The best practice for organizations and individuals seeking carbon neutral status entails reducing and/or avoiding carbon emissions first so that only unavoidable emissions are offset. Carbon neutral status is commonly achieved in two ways:
Balancing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, with renewable energy that creates a similar amount of useful energy, so that the carbon emissions are compensated, or alternatively using only renewable energies that don't produce any carbon dioxide (also called a post-carbon economy).
Carbon offsetting by paying others to remove or sequester 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example by planting trees – or by funding 'carbon projects' that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or 'retire') them through carbon trading. While carbon offsetting is often used alongside energy conservation measures to minimize energy use, the practice is criticized by some
Do Fluorescent Tubes contain mercury?
Yes, fluorescent tubes all contain a small amount of mercury. although it is potentially hazardous, mercury plays an important role in how fluorescent tubes work. Because mercury can be dangerous to human health, it is important to properly dispose of fluorescent tubes.
Can I recycle fluorescent tubes in my garbage bin?
No, Fluorescent tubes are considered universal waste, so they are not accepted in most garbage pick-up programs and you will need to find a take-back program or drop-off location for recycling.
What should I do if I break a fluorescent tube?
Luckily, fluorescent tubes contain less mercury than CFLs so don't panic. First, have people and pets leave the room, shut off centtral air and air the room out by opening windows and doors. You will want to air out the room for a couple of hours just to be safe. Find appropriate cleaning suppies which include sticky tape, stiff paper, damp paper towels, and an airtight container to put the broken pieces in. Do Not Vacuum. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken, as doing so may spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor. Follow the same detailed instructions you would for cleaning up a broken CFL.
Are there alternatives to fluorescent tubes?
Yes, there are a growing number of companies who have created LED tube lighting that is far more efficient than fluorescent tubes. LED tubes do not contain mercury. These tubes have been designed to fit where fluorescent tubes once went so there is no need to replace any hardware.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) The Forest Stewardship Council mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world's forests.
Its vision is that it can meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.
Principles & Criteria
To achieve its mission and vision, FSC has developed a set of 10 principles and 57 Criteria that apply to FSC-certified forests around the world. The Principles include the following:
UL Environment's GREENGUARD Certification program helps manufacturers create--and helps buyers identify and trust--interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions, improving the quality of the air in which the products are used. All certified products must meet stringent emissions standards based on established chemical exposure criteria.
UL Environment, a business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), acquired GREENGUARD in 2011, further advancing its mission of promoting global sustainability, environmental health, and safety. GREENGUARD Certification is broadly recognized and accepted by sustainable building programs and building codes around the world. Additionally, the GREENGUARD Product Guide serves as a free online tool for finding certified low-emitting products for offices, hospitals, schools, homes, and more.
Greenwashing – is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.
Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. It can also be used to differentiate a company’s products or services from its competitors by promising more efficient use of power or by being more cost-effective over time.
Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), are those pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects. For the original list of known Hazardous Air Pollutants, please go to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list at www.epa3.gov
LED Bulbs are carefully packaged arrays of light emitting diodes (LEDs). These simple LEDs are solid state devices which produce light through a process called "electroluminescence." They do this by moving electrons across a very special gap within their internal construction that gives off photons when electrons enter the gap. These photons are the light we see and are different colors based on what materials are used to make the LED. LED bulbs use arrays of multiple LEDs along with special reflectors to replicate the patterns and brilliance of standard lights in many shapes and sizes.
This method not only produces far less heat, but it generates an equivalent amount of light for roughly 80% less energy than a traditional incandescent lamp. Without a filament or glass bulb, an LED light bulb is also more durable and longer lasting than any incandescent can be.
LEDs are one of today's most promising lighting technologies. The best claims made by LEDs are:
When it comes to purchasing energy-efficient lighting, LEDs exceed CFLs by a wide margin. LEDs have a faster start time, work well in cold weather, and are substantially more durable since they're made from plastic rather than glass. From standard bulbs to fluorescent tubes, LEDs can replicate the same lighting conditions found in fluorescents while lasting longer and using less energy. As an added bonus, all LEDs are RoHS compliant and do not use mercury, a claim that can't be made by fluorescent lamps.
PEFC The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification – is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification.
PEFC works throughout the entire forest supply chain to promote good practice in the forest and to ensure that timber and non-timber forest products are produced with respect for the highest ecological, social and ethical standards. Thanks to its eco-label, customers and consumers are able to identify products from sustainably managed forests.
Each national forest certification system undergoes rigorous third-party assessmentagainst PEFC's unique Sustainability Benchmarks to ensure consistency with international requirements.
These Benchmarks have been developed based on internationally-recognized, ongoing and long term, intergovernmental processes and guidelines for the promotion of SFM to ensure compliance with globally agreed requirements.
The Benchmark criteria are regularly revised through multi-stakeholder processes involving participants drawn globally from civil society, business, governments, labour and research institutions to take account of new scientific knowledge, societal change, evolving expectations and to incorporate latest best practice.
Today, PEFC includes 40 national members among its membership, which is also open to international stakeholders such as civil society organizations, businesses, government entities and intergovernmental bodies.
Some 25% of the world's forests are managed by 2 billion families and community members, with 40% of forests in the North owned by 30 million families and 25% of forests in the South owned or managed by communities.
Through innovative mechanisms for group and regional certification, PEFC supports small land owners to gain recognition in the market place thereby making a lasting contribution to livelihoods and rural development.
To date, several hundred-thousand family- and community-owned forests have acquired PEFC certification.
PEFC certification is also favoured by numerous public and private timber procurement policies worldwide.
Photovoltaic panels (PV) or solar electric devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to the grid.
PV devices can be used to power anything from small electronics such as calculators and road signs up to homes and large commercial businesses.
In addition to crystalline silicon (c-Si), there are two other main types of PV technology:
Thin-film PV is a fast-growing but small part of the commercial solar market. Many thin-film firms are start-ups developing experimental technologies. They are generally less efficient – but often cheaper – than c-Si modules.
The PV effect was observed as early as 1839 by Alexandre Edmund Becquerel, and was the subject of scientific inquiry through the early twentieth century. In 1954, Bell Labs in the U.S. introduced the first solar PV device that produced a useable amount of electricity, and by 1958, solar cells were being used in a variety of small-scale scientific and commercial applications.
The energy crisis of the 1970s saw the beginning of major interest in using solar cells to produce electricity in homes and businesses, but prohibitive prices (nearly 30 times higher than the current price) made large-scale applications impractical.
Industry developments and research in the following years made PV devices more feasible and a cycle of increasing production and decreasing costs began which continues even today.
Rapidly falling prices have made solar more affordable than ever. The average price of a completed PV system has dropped by 33 percent since the beginning of 2011.
The cost of PV has dropped dramatically as the industry has scaled up manufacturing and incrementally improved the technology with new materials. Installation costs have come down too with more expereinced and trained installers. However, the U.S. still remains behind other nations that have stronger national policies to shift energy use from fossil fuels to solar. Globally, the U.S. is the fourth largest market for PV installations behind world leaders Germany, Japan and Spain.
Most modern solar cells are made from either crystalline silicon or thin-film semiconductor material. Silicon cells are more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, but generally have higher manufacturing costs. Thin-film materials typically have lower efficiencies, but can be simpler and less costly to manufacture. A specialized category of solar cells - called multi-junction or tandem cells - are used in applications requiring very low weight and very high efficiencies, such as satellites and military applications. All types of PV systems are widely used today in a variety of applications.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – It's one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. It's dangerous to human health and the environment at every stage of its lifecycle: from production, to use, to disposal, yet it's the most widely used material on earth. Beware of PVC, the Poison Plastic.
Did you know? Most plastics are made from petroleum (oil or natural gas) and plastics can contain a whole host of chemical additives that are never labelled that can be toxic to animals and humans. PVC is one such toxic-laden plastic.
The additives are not chemically bonded to the PVC polymer but are merely mixed into the plastic during its formulation. Over time the gassing out of vinyl products, entering the air, water or other liquids with which the product comes in contact with. Studies show that some toxins in plastics are building up in humans and that some of us may be experiencing serious health effects as a result.
Besides that, toxic manufacturing by-products like dioxin, (the most potent carcinogen known to science), hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride are unavoidably created in the production of PVC and may cause severe health problems like cancer, endemetriosis, neurological damage, immune system damage, respiratory problems, liver and kidney failure, and birth defects.
The chemical substances produced by PVC during its entire lifecycle are already present in global, local, and workplace environments at unacceptably high levels. Yet there is little public awareness of its adverse health and environmental effects.
PVC is an unnecessary toxic plastic. Although found in a wide variety of products – from food packaging to children's toys, plumbing, building materials to medical devices – in every case alternatives to it exist. Here's what you should know about PVC, a largely unrealized public health menace.
PVC: The Poison
Ever wonder why your new car; plastic shower cap, curtain or tote bag; or your baby's new toy has an offensive smell for days, even months? There's more to that "new" smell than you think. That whiff of bad air you get is from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created on earth –which is present in these and many other consumer products we use daily.
PVC products stink because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are poisonous carbon-containing chemicals that are volatile enough to evaporate at room temperature. This process, called outgassing, is also a problem with building products such as pipes, particleboard, carpet and pads, paints, stains and glues.
Outgassing odours are most noticeable when products are new, but diminish over time until they finally disappear. A shower curtain may outgas for a month or longer, for example, depending on conditions. High temperature and humidity will speed up the release of VOCs.
VOCs can be toxic. Most commonly, they irritate eyes, noses and throats, causing coughing, headaches, dizziness and nausea. The symptoms go away when outgassing ceases. But the danger does not stop there. Did you know? From the time it is manufactured right up to its disposal, PVC keeps on releasing dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer, making it the worst plastic for our health and the environment.
What is PVC? Polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC or vinyl, is one of the most common synthetic materials. It is widely used in construction materials (e.g.: pipes and fittings, windows, flooring, fencing, decking, roofing, wall coverings, wire and cable products), transport and packaging materials, medical supplies, and consumer products (e.g. credit cards, baby shampoo bottles, and toys), and thousands of other products.
PVC has grown rapidly since World War II, when it gained popularity as a rubber substitute. PVC is presently the second most used plastic in the world. And it's one of today's most dangerous toxic offenders. It cannot be recycled, and it is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous, carcinogenic plastic ever created by man.
Why It's Dangerous:
PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle – at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Its manufacture, product life and disposal all pose great environmental and health hazards. The dangers of PVC are from the persistent pollutants it releases and the toxic additives used to produce PVC products.
What it contains: PVC is the only common plastic that contains chlorine. Although the plastics industry likes to point out that chlorine comes from ordinary salt, chlorine is actually listed by the US federal government as an "extremely hazardous substance". Vinyl chloride, the building block of PVC, can cause cancer in humans, according to the US governement's National Toxicology Program.
PVC products also often contain dangerous toxic additives such as mercury, dioxins, lead and phtalates (used as softeners) which can leach out and pose dangers to consumers.
Lead, for example, can damage the brain and nervous system and cause behavior, learning and developmental disabilities. Phthalates are additives widely used in the production of PVC to make it soft and flexible. Phthalates have been associated with an increased risk of cancer and kidney and liver damage.
Exposure to phthalates has also been linked with premature births, early puberty in girls, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage, genital defects, and reduced testosterone production in boys.
Many of the chemicals are thought to interfere with the reproductive system and development.
When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.
Dioxins are extremely long-lived in the environment, and, because they are fat-soluble, they concentrate in the tissues of humans and other species. Whe used, PVC products pose health risks. Many of the toxic additives in PVC can be released from PVC products when they are handled by consumers. PVC products also release toxic fumes if they catch fire.
A Persistent Threat
PVC harms all who come in contact with it – from workers making the products, communities located near PVC manufacturing plants, consumers purchasing them, and to those living near landfills and incinerators where the products are discarded.
PVC uses and releases highly-hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride, dioxins, mercury, phthalates, and other chemicals that have been linked to deterioration of the central nervous system, liver damage, reproductive harm, and certain cancers.
Source: Utusan Konsumer, Jan-February 2010
Soy-based Ink You may not have noticed it at the time, but chances are you’ve written notes with pens or read documents printed with a few different kinds of ink. The traditional petroleum-based inks are environmentally hazardous, which is why many printing companies have made the switch to soy-based inks. And soy-based inks do not mean sacrificing quality – they’re capable of producing more vibrant colors, in fact, and ink can make any print media advertising campaign really pop.
Soy-based ink is an excellent alternative to petroleum or oil-based inks. Even though soybean oil is an edible vegetable oil, soy ink is not edible or 100% biodegradable because the pigments and other additives that are mixed with the oil are the same as those used in petroleum-based inks. Degradability studies conducted by Erhan and Bagby concluded that the pigment carrier in 100% soy ink degrades almost twice as completely as ink made from soy oil and petroleum resins, and more than 4 times as completely as standard petroleum inks.
Soy ink is a helpful component in paper recycling because the soy ink can be removed more easily than regular ink from paper during the de-inking process.
Some printers report that they need less ink to print the same amount of paper when compared to petroleum inks. Soy ink has been found to spread approximately 15% further, reducing ink use and printer cleanup costs.
Not only is this ink great for the environment and your eco-friendly business agenda, but it can actually be used to produce brighter, more vibrant colors. The end result is an eco-friendly and visually appealing creative every time, which says a lot about your business and demonstrates that you care about the environment – especially when combined with recycled paper.
Soy-based ink is, as the name implies, made from soybeans. The oil is refined and then mixed with other environmentally friendly compounds such as natural resins and waxes. The fine bright colors that can be produced with soy-based inks are a result of the soy oil – it is much clearer and less, well, “oily” than petroleum based inks. Soy ink is a frequent choice of newspapers and other mass produced documents since it can produce such bright colors, and it is substantially more cost effective than its oil-based cousins.
Petroleum-based inks, while effective, are more expensive than soy-based inks and have a much harsher effect on the environment. They tend to contain a rather high amount of what are known as VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, including toluene, benzene and xylene. These compounds can be very harmful to the environment, wildlife and people: For example, benzene is a common carcinogen. Consider the contents of soy-based inks in comparison: soy beans and natural resins, plus natural wax. That should say it all!
Other kinds of ink
The most common kind of ink used other than soy-based or petroleum-based ink is vegetable-based ink. While preferable to petroleum based ink, vegetable-based ink cannot produce the vibrant, lively colors that appear in creations using soy-based ink. It can also be slightly more expensive and affect your business’ bottom line.
A major problem with soy ink is that it takes more time to dry than petroleum-based inks, due to its lack of evaporative solvents in the form of VOCs. This creats challenges for some printing presses, especially those that use coated papers (such as magazines) instead of porous, uncoated paper (such as newspapers) where the ink can dry via absorption or IR in-line heaters. tehn
Which should you use then?
The clear choice for any business striving to be environmentally friendly without sacrificing quality or the bottom line is soy-based ink. Do some good for the environment, produce a better overall product and show your customers you care with soy-based ink.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air.
VOCs are chemicals that easily enter the air as gases from some solids or liquids. They are ingredients in many commonly used products and are in the air of just about every indoor setting.
How can VOCs affect human health?
Chemicals can enter the body through three major pathways (breathing, touching or swallowing). This is referred to as exposure. No matter how dangerous a substance or activity is, it cannot harm you without exposure.
Whether or not a person will have health effects after breathing in VOCs depends on:
Differences in age, health condition, gender and exposure to other chemicals also can affect whether or not a person will have health effects.
Short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. These effects usually go away after the exposure stops. In laboratory animals, longterm exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney and nervous system. In general, we recommend minimizing exposure to chemicals, if possible.
Up until a few years ago, consumers demanded soy-based inks basd on their environmental benefits. It was a welcomed change from the previous industry standard of petroleum-based inks. Soy ink was developed in the 1970s in a response to the oil crisis.
"What's the difference, isn't soybean a vegetable?"
Soy-based inks are made from soybean oil which is derived from soybeans, and vegetable-based inks are made from linseed oils which are derived from flax seed. Modern vegetable-based inks are created to have the best properties of the various plant matters in the use of the inks.
While a good deal of the focus on environmentally sustainable production processes for direct mail and other marketing materials has centered on paper, marketers can also make more eco-oriented choices when specifying ink. According to the Massachusetts Toxics Reduction Institute (MTRI), vegetable inks replace all or some of the petroleum oil commonly found in lithographic inks with, you guessed it, – vegetable oil. Some of the vegetable-bases used include soy, linseed, tung, cottonseed and china wood oil and all are biodegradeable. The big concern with petroleum-based inks is that they contain "ozone-damaging distillates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)."
But just because an ink contains vegetable oil doesn't mean it's as green as green can be. When assessing the value of "veggie ink," it helps to know a few facts about what they might be and how they perform: