Friday, December 19, 2014

Green consumerism and ”Case Christmas”
by Krista Haapamäki

While (grocery) shopping, customers face several choices - of produce and products – which are more or less ethical. There's the regular product, the cheap product, the luxurious more expensive product, the ethical product (organic or Fair Trade, or both) and the product manufactured nearby. Which one to choose? Let's take ”Case Christmas”.

Christmas time is a holiday season when consumerism is almost unavoidable. Everything is consumed – food, presents and gift cards, festive clothes and decorations, and of course gift wrappings. Christmas and the tradition of exchanging presents place a huge demand on Earth's vital, limited resources. Christmas also depicts our generation, as consumers.


 But: it does not have to be so. Christmas can be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and friends without all that consumerism. Or at least, the money could be used for a cause! Small choices in a better direction, every now and then, can make a difference on a larger scale; choices such as buying less or buying better (ethical, organic or sturdier). After the present, another choice concerns gift wrappings – one could try e.g. not to pack their gifts at all, avoid individual wrappings, prefer recycled gift paper or even utilize newspaper.


To provide alternative Christmas choices and raise awareness among consumers, an event ”Vihreä Joulu”, ”Green Christmas” was organized on 13th of November in Tampere Hall by TAMK’s Proakatemia entrepreneurship students. The idea, or motto, behind the happening is ”You're going to buy anyway, so choose better” - this is a great idea!

The event Vihreä joulu was supported by Ruohonjuuri, Cabassi (bag, in the picture), and Ekona. 



In the event there were approximately 15 stalls which were full of recycled products, organic products or “green” cosmetics. (e.g. no synthetic ingredients in the D-vitamin tablets). Some of the products were recycled for example from bicycles' inner tires or silver spoons (see the picture, Retonki, SusannaN Design). The jewelry made from the tires was mesmerizingly beautiful and the silver spoon jewelry was jaw-droppingly delicate and luxurious.

“Green Christmas” is an excellent pioneer idea. One way to ”lighten the load” is truly opting for better products! Yet even better is to opt for services such as a massage gift card, a movie ticket, or donate something to charitable organizations. The best choice is not to buy anything, and just enjoy the company of family and friends during the holidays. 

Anyhow the goal is to buy less, or at least buy better – when possible. Whether “better” means domestic or Fair Trade products, is up to You!


Monday, December 8, 2014


Recycling on construction sites in Finland


By: Oskari Mäkelä


Construction sites are a very common view everywhere. There is always a demand for building new or renovating old ones. The waste materials that are created in these processes should always be recycled, yet this is not always done. On every construction site there should be separate collection points at least for wood, metal, plastics, glass, and hazardous waste.

Green building: goodbye to the concrete jungles!


By Paola Israde Burrola


Nowadays becoming “green” has gained popularity among designers and builders, since the needs of the housing market are continuously changing. Sustainable design covers a building’s impacts holistically, from the planning process to the deconstruction at the end of the building’s useful life. It is necessary to consider all the impacts a construction may bring, since wrong planning might affect the tenant’s health as well as the surroundings: ecosystems, air quality, animals and plants among others.

The aim of a sustainable construction project is to enhance the quality of life for the building occupants. People were not designed to live in an asphalt jungle, surrounded by traffic jams and having to breathe polluted air. It is necessary to implement projects, which allow public encounters with convenient access to public transportation, and natural spaces that promote walking instead of driving. Simply by incorporating natural features such as windows that permits natural light into the building or by adding some plants, the occupants’ experience can be transformed from just living in the building to enjoying their lives.

And what else makes this kind of building so attractive? It’s energy use. High-efficiency buildings use natural means for power generation, for instance solar and wind power, and they include as well the use of some principles which tends towards minimum performance standards such as:

  • 1.     The use of materials with efficient thermal mass and insulation: materials that readily absorb, store and release heat, such as concrete, bricks, stone and masonry.
  • 2.      Orientation of the building to take advantage of natural shading and solar heat gain.
  • 3.      A compact design, which can optimize the use of the heat trapped within the building.
  • 4.  A highly sealed and insulated building in conjunction with a mechanical ventilation system incorporating heat recovery.



However, what is usually thought about green building is that by implementing this kind of practices, the cost of the project will increase and result in more work. This misconception is far from reality. In terms of the construction process, sustainable practices are not very different from traditional procedures, but they result in a different and a more efficient construction. Green projects are demonstrating that many of the fundamental principles of sustainable building can be applied without increasing the project price and they also allow savings in terms of operating costs.



One model of a green building project is actually very near Tampere. The Vuores area is a typical ‘greenfield’ development in a woodland area to the south of the city of Tampere, which by 2020 will become an ECOCITY. This project is trying to incorporate all the fundamentals of green building construction with an optimum urban structure that takes into account the conservation of the natural environment, social issues, an efficient public transport system and of course, for the energy supply the use of renewable energies.




References

Image: Kubina, J. 2007. Technische Universität Darmstadt - Solar Decathlon 2007. Solar energy, Wikipedia.last modified on 10 november 2014. Accessed 10/11/2014. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Technische_Universit%C3%A4t_Darmstadt_-_Solar_Decathlon_2007.jpg 

Letcher, T. 2008. Future energy: Improvised, sustainable and clean options for our planet. China: Elsevier.
Yudelson, J. 2009. Green building through integrated design. USA: Mc Graw hill.

Bose, R. 2009. Energy efficient cities. USA: The World Bank. 




Friday, November 28, 2014

Deforestation in east Africa


By Mohamed.A.Jama 

East Africa is rich in tropical forests, dense montane forest and includes the eastern portion of the Congo rainforest. These forests are rich in bio-diversity and they are the home of different indigoes tree species like Olea africana, Dombea goetzenii, Acacia, and Bamboo. They also provide habitat for large animals like Bango’, Yellow-backed Duiker, Golden cats, Giant forest hogs, Leopards, Hyenas, Buffalos, Colobus Monkeys and Elephants.  The region is known for its great savannas too as shown in picture 1.





 Picture-1 savanna (National science foundation. August, 2011)




However nowadays the forest is decreasing year after  year. According to research made by the open access journal PLOS, the East African forest shrank 9.8% between 2001 and 2009. East African countries’ forest is declining year after  year  due to increasing population. Kenya’s forest cover decreased by 8% between 1981 and 1988. According to PLOS journal, 14% of Kenyan forest will disappear in 20 years.

Causes for deforestation

1. Local Level

Farmers are expanding their agricultural land and enlarging their cultivation area to get more revenue. Most East African local administrations have been involved in distributing land to local farmers without paying attention to environmental issues.

2. National level

The forest departments of East African governments do not give training to their staff to recognize the role of local knowledge in forest preservation. Decision-makers are only giving land to local farmers in order to get political benefit and some protected areas are destroyed for the sake of economic gain. 

3. Global level

In the developed world, industries and consumers promote the export of food from East Africa mainly in raw form for processing. The business motivated models imposed by international institutions like the World Bank have encouraged serious exploitation of forest land.

What could be done to prevent East African deforestation?

The governments of East African countries must promote conservation of forest in a sustainable way. The citizens should be encouraged to plant at least five trees per year. Local people should participate in formulation of forest management policies. Harsh penalties should be applied to those who destroy the forest in an unsustainable way. However, there is still this problem of how to feed the population and maintain the forest at the same time.  Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

Sources

East African forest. 2012. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:450729/FULLTEXT01.pdf
National science foundation. August,20011. http://www.nsf.gov)
PLOS Journal. July 31, 2012. 



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fish Cannon - Worth Shooting?

By Rena Ruusuvuori



When we think about energy production, the cleanest and most environmentally friendly options are generally associated with those generating energy from wind and water: renewable sources (see previous post about hydropower!). However, despite the positive image, hydro plants and dams associated with them do cause a lot of negative impacts on river habitats. In this blog post I will concentrate on those poor fish populations which find a dam wall straight up their fish-faces; and one fresh, splendid innovation to help them break through. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

GOOD, BAD HYDROPOWER

By Ira Leiviskä


The Hoover Dam in Nevada, United States

The dilemma

Hydropower is considered to be a green, environmentally friendly source of energy. After all, it is based on moving water, which earth has a vast supply of. Surely it is a better alternative to fossil fuels, which release major greenhouse gas emissions. Or is it?

What is hydropower?

The most common way of utilizing hydropower is through a power plant which is usually situated in a dam that has been built into a river. The plant normally has three parts: the plant where the electricity is generated, the dam which controls the flow of the water, and a reservoir where the water is stored. The water flows through turbines which spin a generator and transform the movement into electricity. Then it can be transported into homes and factories via electric lines.
Hydropower can also be produced with the tidal movements of water, but tidal plants are still few and far between. This way of producing hydroelectricity is nonetheless being studied, and could possibly be a success in coastal areas.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

European Week for Waste Reduction

By: Laura Puurunen


The European Week for Waste Reduction is approaching!  The program aims to raise awareness on waste reduction with the theme of three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. TAMK is participating this year by arranging the annual Stuff Exchange Days on Monday and Tuesday, 24th and 25th of November, and providing info about food waste in the lunch area.

We challenge you, fellow student, to take part in minimizing waste by reducing, reusing and recycling!

This year we encourage everyone to think especially about the food waste. In developed countries, food waste is a huge problem: it requires lots of energy, land and water to produce the food on your plate, and if it ends up in the bin it has all been for nothing. In Europe we waste food to the extent that by reducing it only by 15 %, we could feed the amount of people in Europe all over again. That’s something to think about! Therefore, please be mindful of your portion sizes and you’ll do the environment a favour!

Continuing an item’s life instead of throwing it in the bin is the ultimate eco-deed: compared to new stuff being produced, it takes much less energy to repair what’s broken and continuing to use it for the purpose it was designed for.  Also giving your stuff away to have a chance to fill someone else’s needs after you no longer need them is a great chance to reduce waste. Dig through your closets and check if you have unwanted things clogging up your space, and bring it to the Stuff exchange days!

Organic food waste. Source:
http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2013/01/11/31502/
The world’s resources are not infinite either, and also for that reason we should always rather recycle the raw material of an item at the end of its life, than throw it in the landfill. Have you for example known, that in addition to recycling the normal paper, cardboard, glass and metal, you can take your worn out clothes that’s not possible to be reused anymore, to the fabric recycling bin at any H&M and they will use it as material for new fabric? (Disclaimer: this is not an H&M ad; I just encourage you to take use of their recycling program! You should still consider whether buying things from them is smart.) In Tampere there’s also a currently ongoing plastic recycling test period where you can drop off your plastic at the recycling bins around the city. Unfortunately there are only eight of those points in the city, the closest one to TAMK being located in Tammelantori. It’s interesting to see how much you can actually reduce your waste by recycling even the plastic! I challenge you to try and guarantee that you no longer need to take the trash out very often!


Drop by on Stuff exchange days in Lämpiö near Teiskontie entrance, on Monday and Tuesday 24th to 25th of November, and learn about more ways to reduce, reuse and recycle!

You can also find us on Facebook:

References:  European Week for Waste Reduction. http://www.ewwr.eu/en


Monday, November 17, 2014

Toxins in textiles - can they be avoided?

Sonja Myyryläinen


Many different chemicals, some of them toxic, are used in the manufacture of textiles. Some are harmful to us humans or to our environment, while others are currently not considered hazardous. Some of the chemicals used in the manufacture and finishing of textiles  may remain in the final textile product when the products  reach the consumer.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Local activism works   

By Mirjami Kuoppala



According to The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the ecological condition of surface waters in Finland is 'good' or 'very good' for 65% of rivers, 85% of lakes and 25% of coastal water systems. But what if the opinion of local residents differs from the official classification of a particular water system? Is there anything that citizens can do in order to improve the quality of their local lake or river when the official classification does not support their aim? Luckily there is. Let’s take Lake Kuivasjärvi in Parkano as an example to demonstrate some activities which can be and have been done in real life by the public in order to improve the ecological condition of a lake. 


Algal bloom in Lake Kuivasjärvi, summer 2013. Source.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

Invisible Killers or indoor air quality


Written by: Shunova Kristina




People all over the world are highly concerned about air quality. Fewer people, though, have ever thought about indoor air. The majority are quite sure that air outside is more polluted than inside their houses. However, it is vice versa. I would like to present the major sources of indoor air pollution and give some tips which can help to improve the situation.

Household products.

First of all, I would like to mention personal care and household cleaning products which we actually use in our everyday life. Our morning starts in the bathroom and we use shampoo, soap, toothpaste and skin scrubs. Then we, mostly girls, use different types of cremes and, finally, we do our make-up and hair, again using plenty of beauty products. During the day, we wash dishes several times using washing detergent. We also do our laundry, which includes use of powder and softener, for example. All these products are made of chemicals and emit a huge amount of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can lead to cancer, asthma attacks, skin and eye irritation and so on. So, try to choose personal care and household products with low concentrations of VOCs.  Here is the link which I, personally, use to choose all the detergents, cleaners and laundry products. (http://www.ewg.org)

VOC's

Carpeting is another issue which is worth discussing. Materials which carpets are made of and the process of producing carpets involve plenty of chemicals which can affect our health as soon as they are released into the air. The component called styrene, which is used in latex for carpet base, is one of the most dangerous VOC sources in carpets. Along with chemicals, bacteria, dust, mold and mildew can be found in carpets. All together, these can cause skin irritation, headaches, fatigue, eye and nose irritation and difficulties in breathing. That is why, when choosing a carpet, I would strongly recommend you to buy Green Label products, which have a low level of VOCs. It is also quite a good idea to let your new carpet air out before laying it indoors, and keep the room with a new carpet well ventilated. You should also look for a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air filter) that will help you to keep the carpet clean and thus improve the indoor air quality. 
Nonstick cookware is also dangerous for our health. It emits a chemical (perfluoro-octanoic acid) into the air which is linked with cancer, thyroid decease, reduced fertility and elevated cholesterol. This issue is now being studied by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the USA, as this chemical has been found in people’s blood samples.

Radon

Another danger is radon gas, which comes from the ground and water. It actually comes from a natural decay of uranium, which is found in almost all soil types. Radioactive particles of radon can get inside your lungs and cause lung cancer. In order to protect yourself from radon gas penetration inside your home, you should prevent any cracks or holes in your house’s foundations.

Mold


Our daily routine includes cooking and washing, which leads to increase of water vapors in the air. A high level of moisture can result in mold growth. So, those who have some kind of allergies can have an asthma attack or start coughing.

In view of the fact that everything inside our houses pollutes the air we breathe, it is essential that we take steps to improve air quality. Proper ventilation is the key way to keep your indoor air clean and safe to breathe. 



Resources:
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Fluorinated Telomers. 2014. EPA. Read 10.10.2014. http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/
Radon.Health risks. 2014. EPA. Read 10.10.2014. http://www.epa.gov/radon/healthrisks.html
Volatile Organic Compounds. 2014. EPA. Read 10.10.2014. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Urban farming - greening cities

By Laura Puurunen 


In the past, every family had a vegetable patch in the back yard. When the shift to an industrial society took place and people moved to the cities, producing one’s own food became unnecessary.  Today, however, population growth especially in the cities sets many challenges for us, food security and pollution not being the least of our worries. Even though today more than a half of the world’s population lives in urbanised areas, the United Nations Development Programme estimates that only 15 percent of the world's food is grown in cities. How is it then possible to feed such a huge, constantly growing mass of humanity sustainably?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Health benefits of going outside

by Anna-Maija Mattila 


Much research has been done to figure out how the natural environment affects us, especially our health. A large amount of data has been collected and some things have been proven by different experiments but still much is under investigation. Here are some findings about the impact of a natural environment on our physical and mental health, what kind of landscape brings out those effects and how much time it takes to get the benefits.

Improvements to physical health

The forest environment with its scents, sounds and appearance can lower the blood pressure and stress level. A decreased stress level itself can protect people from stress-based diseases but also promote the functioning of the human immune system, which contributes to reducing the risks of illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria, or even cancer. Getting outdoors can also reduce cardiovascular diseases and mortality rate, but also help people who suffer, for example, from diabetes.

Maintenance of mental health

Nature seems to have even greater effects on mental health than physical. It helps to maintain good feelings and strengthen them, but also to make negative thoughts more positive. That could mean, for example, reducing aggression and depression, helping people recover from stress and mental exhaustion. And what is important (especially for us students) nature could promote memory and attentiveness, raise energy levels and clarify thinking.

What kind of environment is the best?

According to some experiments, even viewing a picture of natural scenery or nature through a window had some beneficial effects. Also listening to recorded sounds of nature or watching a video could make change for the better. Still, the most efficient environment seemed to be a forest with good natural diversity. Even just sitting there could improve mood. But exercising in green surroundings was found to magnify the positive health effects of exercising and also seemed to make it easier to commit to exercising and to keep to an exercise routine.

How much time is needed to get the benefits?

There is no need to wander around in the woods for many hours to start getting the positive effects. Even ten minutes in the natural world could lower your blood pressure, and that doubled could lighten your mood. An hour raises attentiveness and two hours could improve the functioning of the immune system. The longer one spends in a natural environment, the longer-lasting the effects are likely to be. A three-day walking trip is able to boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and sugar levels for days. 

References:
Picture:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ECOTOURISM: What can you do as an eco-tourist?


by Ines Koski
12IENVE

Although the world has not geographically gotten any smaller, it may seem so since you can get to even the furthest corner of the globe in under 12 hours. Nowadays, travelling has become a hobby and a popular life style for many people. For example in Finland, travelling abroad increased by 17 % from the year 2011 to year 2012. This 17% is equivalent to an addition of 7,8 million trips in various forms of travelling.  (Tilastokeskus, 18.04.2013) However, travelling, in general, has a lot of problems, for instance social, political and environmental. In this blog I will focus on the environmental aspects. According to traveltips.com (http://traveltips.usatoday.com/positive-negative-effects-tourism-63336.html) tourism, in general, has a significant impact on the environment. The main environmental impacts are littering, traffic emissions, increased and not properly constructed sewage production.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vegetarians vs. omnivores: the battle since time immemorial

by Martta Paavola


We have to eat – there’s no way around it. And unless you’re growing potatoes in your backyard and keeping cows in your toolshed, cultivating your food is likely a huge burden on the environment. Conscientious consumers wish to know how to minimize their own impact, and it is said that a rather effective way of doing this is cutting back eating meat. How exactly does meat production compare to vegetable cultivation, and would the planet be better off if we all became celery-munchers and carrot-chewers?

The answer is more complicated than one might suspect. This is partly because there are numerous ways of assessing the impact that a certain type of food has on the environment, including the water it consumes, the land it requires or the waste it produces. But there is no dearth of research exploring this very issue, from all possible angles.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) did a lifecycle assessment of 20 different types of meat and vegetable proteins on the basis of how much CO2 the production of each emits. According to their findings, beef, lamb, pork and salmon are the worst offenders, but cheese is also right up there, meaning that dairy-consuming vegetarians are not entirely absolved. But the greenhouse gases emitted depend heavily on the fertilizers used, the differences in soil conditions, and the extent to which practices such as cover cropping and manure managements are implemented. One lettuce farm may be much less environmentally friendly than a neighboring one, depending on the farming methods.


Full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of various food products
(based on data from EWG)


An article in The Star suggests that instead of comparing meat with plants in terms of the greenhouse gases each generates, or the feed or fertilizer that goes into its production, the comparison should be done in terms of the calories that each item provides. For example, a kilogram of beef contains 2280 calories, whereas a kilogram of broccoli contains only 340 cal, meaning you would have to eat 6.7 kg of broccoli to get the same amount of calories. This requires a whole lot of nutrients, water and space to grow.

What the calorie-based approach fails to take into consideration, however, is the calories that went into producing that one kilogram of beef in the first place. Livestock are fed mainly corn and soy, and resources and land that has gone into the growing of these crops could have been used to grow food for human consumption, instead. To avoid this issue, some livestock is fed only grass and hay, which is generally considered a more sustainable choice.

Another thing that The Star article points out is that where your meat comes from counts. Should you eat a wild animal whose overpopulation does damage to its habitat, you will be doing a favor to the environment. Of course, this is not an actual solution, because no wild populations of animals could possibly sustain the numbers required by the demand for meat. A tragic example of a species once estimated to number in the billions, but hunted into extinction in the late 19th century largely for its meat, was the passenger pigeon. These North American birds once flew in flocks so large it took hours for them to pass, but once the massive commercial exploitation of the species started, their numbers plummeted, and the last known passenger pigeon died in 1914.

But the type of meat and its origin certainly play a part in how environmentally friendly it is, and these issues are often more complicated than seems at a first glance. The grass-feed diet, mentioned above, is better because it leaves the food crops for human consumption, plus grazing can sometimes be done in areas where no crops can be grown, thus providing more efficient use of our dwindling land resources. But in the stomachs of ruminant animals, grass and hay also produce more methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide; furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations estimates that 20% of the world’s pastures have already been degraded by grazing livestock.

In the end, there are so many factors affecting one’s choice of diet that it is almost impossible to give any bite-sized advice. That doesn’t stop environmental groups from trying. The report by EWG boils down to a few basic things: get more of your protein from lentils, beans and tofu, consume only organic dairy products, waste less and buy only what you eat, choose chicken rather than beef, and try to at least have one meat-free day per week. Many big changes start from little ones.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

HORMONE INHIBITORS


                                     

Written by: Kashobwe Lackson


What are hormones?

 Hormones are chemical messages that are released from the body’s gland tissues located in the endocrine system. The chemical information is sent as a signal through the blood stream to the targeted cells that contain receptors.  The function of hormones on the targeted cells is to deliver the chemical message that activates the cell to perform a specific task, for example, estrogen from the endocrine system is responsible for egg (ovum) release during ovulation. An illustration of hormone release from the secreting cells and its flow to a targeted cell is shown below (image from: www.sinauer.com) in fig 1.

Fig 1. Flow of the hormone to targeted organ

             

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dioxins (The Nightmare of incinerating)

 By Bello Adedayo

I went numb as the lecture about the origins and effects of dioxins was delivered in one of my ecotoxicology classes. My mind flashed back to the ignorant behavior in my past adventures while growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. I reminisced about how I and my siblings were always excited when given permission by our parent to burn some old household materials in our backyard. We really got so excited that we went as far as collecting our neighbor’s trash so we could have more stuff to incinerate. We would all gather around the burndrum and watch it burn with so much excitement. That was then; now I know that improper incineration produces very toxic and hazardous chemical compounds called dioxins and furans. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014