Communities looking for the most cost-effective options for managing polluted runoff and protecting clean water should choose green infrastructure solutions, according to a report released April 12 by American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and ECONorthwest.
The report, Banking on Green: How Green Infrastructure Saves Municipalities Money and Provides Economic Benefits Community-wide, demonstrates that green infrastructure practices can offer more cost-effective solutions relative to traditional infrastructure approaches. The report also details additional potential benefits of green infrastructure such as lower energy expenses, reduced flood damage and improved public health.
Green infrastructure refers to practices like green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales and pervious pavement that capture and treat rainwater and runoff. These measures reduce the amount of polluted runoff—the water that mixes with oil, pesticides and other pollutants as it rushes over streets, parking lots and yards into local streams.
“Polluted runoff is a pervasive threat to clean rivers and streams nationwide,” said Chris Williams, senior vice president for Conservation at American Rivers. “Communities across the country are protecting their water resources with green infrastructure. It effectively reduces pollution, saves money and delivers other benefits like flood damage prevention and improved public health.”
“WEF was pleased to be part of this important project,” said Jeff Eger, executive director of WEF. “We strongly support innovative green infrastructure solutions, which can be economically effective ways to protect and sustain our valuable water resources. Case studies shared in this report should be helpful to communities around the country and are from areas where green infrastructure is already making a difference.”
“For many decades, landscape architects have been helping communities large and small manage their stormwater with innovative green infrastructure solutions such as green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales and pervious pavements,” said Nancy Somerville, executive vice president of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “The case studies and the cost analysis in this white paper clearly demonstrate that green infrastructure techniques are proven and cost effective at managing stormwater, preventing flooding, improving water quality and promoting public health. Landscape architects will continue to implement these projects in more and more neighborhoods across the country.”
"This report addresses the real economic tradeoffs facing local utilities and developers as they consider green vs. conventional infrastructure," said Mark Buckley, managing director of ECONorthwest.
The report features case studies from cities saving money and enjoying the other benefits of green infrastructure. For example, New York City’s plan to reduce combined sewage overflows will save an estimated $1.5 billion over 20 years by incorporating green infrastructure rather than relying solely on traditional gray infrastructure like massive pipes. In Louisiana, a high school in Baton Rouge spent $110,000 on bioswales and a rain garden to reduce flooding rather than the $500,000 it would have cost to re-pipe the site.
The report’s top findings are as follows:
- Not only can the green infrastructure option cost less, but these practices can further reduce costs of treating large amounts of polluted runoff.
- Green infrastructure can help municipalities reduce energy expenses.
- Green infrastructure can reduce flooding and related flood damage.
- Green infrastructure improves public health—it reduces bacteria and pollution in rivers and streams, preventing gastrointestinal illnesses in swimmers and boaters.
- The report is available for download by clicking here.
American Rivers also launched “Get More Green," an online calculator tool that lets people determine how much money and water they can save by greening a particular rooftop.
For more information, click here.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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