Sustainability Technology & The Evolution of Smart Cities
Author: Sean Meriwether
Sean Meriwether has published over fifty short stories in various venues including Best Gay Love Stories and Lodestar Quarterly. His collection of short fiction, The Silent Hustler, was published in 2009. He is currently writing for The Green Economist, a journal focused on Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
Nitrogen runoff from agricultural use, as well as other pollutants, is flooding major rivers and large bodies of water.
Pollution creates hypoxic conditions, which fosters algae blooms and further destroys the aquaculture.
This deadly combination impacts drinking water, recreational use of the shoreline, kills marine life and creates human health hazards.
South Florida has been in the news for toxic algae blooms that are causing health and environmental damage to coastal areas.
FAQs on Manmade Floating Islands:
Manmade floating islands are built using a recycled polymer mesh to support aquatic-friendly plant life. The roots are submerged in water to help filter pollution, cleanse toxins, and absorb the excess nitrogen before it can create algae blooms.
Local plants are selected to ensure viability and self-sustenance.
Floating islands are anchored in bodies of water, large rivers, and offshore to clean waterways and recreate wetland areas.
Mimicking mangrove forests, which are quickly disappearing due to habitat loss, rising water, and warming oceans, the islands create several solutions:
Micro-environments that support plant life used to clean the air and water through natural processes;
Above the waterline: a habitat for migrating birds, turtles, reptiles, and other species;
Below the waterline: a marine habitat supporting fish and related marine species.
Coastal and lakeside communities
Manufacturers of manmade islands
Marine life and aquaculture
Mammals who breathe air
The implementation of manmade floating islands is a global multi-million dollar industry. However, wider-scale use is required to have a more pronounced effect.
Cost and custom-build time are determined by size and complexity.
Islands can take only a few weeks to months to mature, and are self-sustaining.
Continued adoption of manmade islands to reduce water pollution, improve air quality, and create new habitats for birds and marine life.
Substantial waste is created by our consumer society; capitalistic economy is founded on the unrestrained sale of goods and services to the buying public for continuous growth.
A majority of goods are intended for limited use and are frequently discarded prior to their lifespan; clothes are often discarded after one wearing.
Most of this waste is sent to refuse centers—ending in landfill—or sent to developing nations that have limited ability to manage the tsunami of products dropped on their shores.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated 254 million tons of solid waste in 2013; the waste leads in increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Developed Nations produce and buy more than we need, which drives the economy of developing and emerging markets.
Summary of Seoul Sharing City Executive Summary 2015
Seoul Metropolitan Management (SGM) has designated and supported 57 sharing organizations and businesses, and will promote 300 additional businesses, into their Sharing City initiative.
5M Won ($4K) per company has been dedicated to sharing business strategy within Seoul, and 3.5M Won ($3K) for surrounding areas. Car sharing alone accounts for 400,000 members.
Sharing City includes 2,000 parking spots in 7 districts, 8,000,000 articles of children’s clothing, 230 daycare centers, a reduction of single-person households, and other businesses that might target the emerging Korean middle class.
Since implementation in 2014, Seoul has saved 12 Billion won annually, created 1,280 jobs, and reduced almost 30 thousand tons of CO2 emissions by reducing landfill.
Locally developed application allows Koreans to share products and services to reduce the overall footprint/cost of the population.
Continued adoption of crowd-sharing services will reduce car production through ride-sharing, Uber, Lyft), parking spots, children’s clothing, and material goods (local application of shared services).
Many applications have been launched successfully in Korea and have spread globally with reduced engagement. Additional resources will need to be provided to upsell shared services to the US and European markets.
Animal husbandry is responsible for more than 14% of greenhouse gas emissions; 65% of those emissions come from raising cattle for beef and dairy.
Producing one kilogram of beef uses 15,000 liters of water and adds 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Livestock and livestock feed occupies up to 30% of the earth’s ice-free land; 1-2 acres of rainforest are clear-cut every second to raise animals; the majority of crops raised are used to feed livestock, not people.
335 million tons of animal waste is generated annually in the US alone. Animal waste is one of the main contributors to water pollution and of dead-zones in rivers and oceans.
The world’s population is projected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2060; the global diet has shifted to include more animal protein.
Description of Synthetic or Cultured Meat
Although fake meat has been around for decades, it has never successfully entered the market because many products are unpalatable and expensive. The complexity of meat, including the flavor and texture, is difficult to replicate.
An emerging method is to grow “animal free” meat. The process begins with the slaughter of an adult cow to extract stem cells, which is use to culture the muscle tissue, and a cow fetus to obtain a serum used to grow the tissue. The DNA from these two animals will be used to grow enough synthetic meat to replace herds of slaughtered cows.
Stem cells are fed into a broth consisting of around 100 synthetic nutrients combined with a serum extracted from the cow fetus. As the cells split over the course of a week they form sheets a few millimeters thick. The end result is mixed with other organic compounds, including beet juice, to simulate the texture of beef.
Science has not been able to recreate anything resembling steak or chicken, however a beef broth has been produced; it could help feed the world’s growing appetite for animal protein.
Following additional investments into R&D, “animal free” meat can be produced anywhere using significantly less resources that traditional animal husbandry.
The emerging industry’s goal is to create a 25,000 liter bioreactor, large enough to provide meat for up to 10,000 people per year.
There are two significant obstacles: the current process is prohibitively expensive and large-scale adoption of replicated meat will take a shift in culture/tastes.
The environmental impact of a “full service” burial is significant; including the resources for the concrete vaults, steel and timber for caskets, and the annual use of over 800,000 gallons of carcinogenic formaldehyde in the US alone.
Cemeteries have very little space for native plant or animal life.
Cremation causes less environmental impact than burial, however the process releases an average of 532 pounds of CO2 per body and other toxic gases into the atmosphere.
The World Health Organization estimates that 56 Million people die worldwide (2012).
Summary of the technology
The process of Alkaline Hydrolysis was patented by Amos Hebert Hobson in 1888, however it has only recently been used by the funeral industry.
The body is introduced into a pressurized steel chamber, where a solution of water, salt and potash creates an alkali solution to decompose the body organically. The solution is heated to 350 degrees and dissolves soft tissues in 2-3 hours.
Once the body has been decomposed, the sterile waste is safely disposed into the sewer system. The remaining skeleton is crushed into ash.
The process takes longer than flame-based cremation, however it uses less energy and emits no CO2.
Funeral home operators
Producers of caskets, formaldehyde, and other funeral-related products
The cost of an alkaline hydrolysis unit is approximately $150,000, which is almost double the cost of an energy efficient flame-based cremation unit; costs are anticipated to come down with wider-scale implementation.
Depending on the funeral home the cost of the green alternative can run as high as 3 times a flame-based cremation, but it can be less expensive than full service burials.
This process is only legal in 13 US states and 3 Canadian provinces, however due to the environmental benefits other states, including New York and California, are considering legalizing it.
Nearly 70% of people in cities are exposed to air pollution exceeding recommended levels; WHO counts 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in India and Asia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7 million premature deaths are linked to air pollution.
Summary of “How better technology can make city air cleaner—and help save lives” by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg
Dhaka in Bangladesh has air pollution rates 13-16 times higher than the international quality standard during the dry season, making it one of the most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution prematurely kills approximately 14,000 people from Dhaka ever year.
The primary driver of air pollution is the city’s brick industry, which creates 4 billion bricks per year for construction.
The widespread use of fixed-chimney kilns, which are energy inefficient, highly polluting and are run on poor-quality coal, is exacerbating the air pollution issue.
Hybrid Hoffman kilns are very efficient, but prohibitively expensive to adopt. However a simple retrofit of existing fixed-chimney kilns is 40 times cheaper with similar benefits.
The retrofit creates a more efficient kiln by distributing the heat in a zigzag pattern. This not only improves the quality of the bricks, but reduces fuel usage by one-fifth, reduces waste, and simultaneously reduces air pollution by 40%.
More of the bricks produced in the “zigzag” kiln are of better quality and command a higher price in the market. This, combined with reduced energy costs, makes conversion attractive to kiln owners.
The citizens of Dhaka
It takes 3 months to retrofit a fixed-chimney kiln into a zigzag kiln and costs 4 million takas per kiln ($50K USD).
Kiln operators can realize their investment in less than 4 years. Spending money on outdoor air pollution through kiln improvements does 8 takas of good for every taka spent.
According to the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals, 1 in 10 (663 million people) lack improved drinking water. Approximately half of the world’s population may be at risk of a water crisis by 2025.
Summary of “Highly Efficient Nature-Inspired Membrane Could Potentially Lower Cost of Water Purification by 30%” published in Phys.org
Traditional methods to treat water through high-hydraulic or osmotic process incur huge energy costs. High water pressure is required to force water through filtering membranes. The additional energy generation increases air pollution.
A team led by Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering associate professor, Tong Yen Wah, constructed a new biomimetic membrane that copies the natural process performed by the roots of mangrove trees. Mangrove trees utilize aquaporin to filter between 90 and 95% of the salt at its roots.
The new membrane is embedded with nano-sized aquaporin-vesicles offering a stable and functional ultrafiltration substrate.
The aquaporin-incorporated biomimetic membrane enables the water to pass through more efficiently at lower pressures, which decreases the amount of energy required to purify (30% reduction). The membrane also decreases salt leakage.
Water service providers
Water reclamation site developers
Humanity, particularly the urban poor
The material can be used in industrial application for wastewater treatment and desalination and a full-scale pilot will be developed in partnership with a US-based company by 2018.
Reduce gas usage in vehicles, which reduces CO2 emissions and related costs.
Summary of “The Fuel-Efficient Driver” by Daniel Gross
A matchbox-sized device with red, yellow and green lights is installed on the vehicle’s dash near the steering wheel. It objectively monitors 5 driving behaviors: hard breaking, acceleration, lane handling, cornering, and speeding.
Driving is a learned behavior. The GreenRoad device monitors the driver’s driving style in real time. When driving less efficiently—which wastes gas—the driver will receive a yellow or red status light. The driver will need to correct behavior for at least 10 minutes to return to the green status.
Good driving at consistent speeds (55 mph recommended) reduces fuel consumption between 4-5%. It also increases safety, reduces wear and tear on the vehicles, and reduces the number of accidents.
Data is transmitted to a centralized reporting hub. Driver reports are used to reward or correct drivers. In use, most drivers self-correct their behavior over a 3 week period using the status lights.
In one noted implementation the device was installed on a fleet of 2,400 busses with the target of reducing fuel consumption by 3%. A bus that drives 150,000 miles per year at 5 mpg uses 30,000 gallons of diesel. A 3% reduction saves $2,700 presuming a fuel price of $3/gallon.
The Energy Information Administration estimates that burning a gallon of diesel emits 22.38 pounds of CO2 . This fuel savings would reduce CO2 emission by 20,145 pounds per year.
Companies with fleets of vehicles
Oil & gas companies, producers and distributors
Mammals who breathe air
The $40 device can be installed on any vehicle.
Companies that run fleets of cars, trucks, or busses would see a quick return on investment in reduced aggregate costs, encouraging them to invest in the technology.
An online dashboard allows for real time tracking and monitoring reports to allow business owners to immediately begin tracking the behavior of their drivers.