Green 360

Environmental Sustainability Issues


Is Nuclear Energy the Answer?


                For many individuals, when we hear the word nuclear, an image of a nuclear bomb or nuclear weapon immediately pops into our head. However, with the prevalent concept of mutual mass destruction, the threat from nuclear power seems much more imminent and dangerous than the threat of a nuclear bomb. A fear of nuclear meltdowns persists from previous accidents including Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and more recently Fukushima, Japan. The nuclear meltdown catastrophe which occurred in Fukushima, Japan on March 11th 2011, brought the fear of nuclear disasters to the world’s forefront. 

                Why did the nuclear meltdown occur? The Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants are located near Japan’s Eastern shoreline. On March 11th 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred one hundred and thirty kilometers offshore with a magnitude of 9.0. The earthquake caused a large tsunami which killed nineteen thousand civilians and destroyed close to a million buildings. Although no serious damage occurred to the nuclear reactors from the earthquake, all six external power supplies were extinguished. When the tsunami hit both power plants, the water submerged and damaged the seawater pumps for the main condenser and auxiliary cooling circuits.

                With the significant damage caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, all employees evacuated the buildings for fear of nuclear meltdown in reactors one through three. At 7:03 pm a nuclear emergency was declared. Although, this major nuclear catastrophe occurred two years ago, the world has faced serious consequences. According to various studies, a radioactive plume of water in the Pacific Ocean, will reach the United States shoreline by 2014. The radioactive plume comes from radioactive particles falling out from the atmosphere into the ocean, contaminated water directly released from damaged power plants and water that became contaminated by leaching radioactive particles from tainted soil. This radioactive plume may have subsequent health and environmental impacts.

                With three major nuclear power disasters highlighted throughout history, the question comes to mind, is nuclear energy a form of sustainable energy? The answer is that it is not. Various organizations have deemed nuclear energy as unsustainable, uneconomic, dirty and dangerous. Nuclear power is inflexible in nature, generates radioactive waste and has hidden costs. The energy is created by splitting uranium atoms in a process called nuclear fission. Although, generating nuclear energy has no upfront greenhouse gas emissions, uranium itself is a non-renewable energy source thus making it an unsustainable practice.

                Although, using nuclear energy is flawed, the world on a global level cannot immediately stop using non-renewable energy sources. The United States should take a leadership role in this area of expertise and begin to build renewable energy infrastructure and provide increased financial incentives for using renewable alternatives. Nuclear energy can be used as a bridging source while the world innovates the best method for diversifying its energy resources. We will never find a perfect energy source that solves all energy issues but with intensified collaboration on global, regional and local levels, it is feasible for countries to begin to phase out fossil fuel use with renewable alternatives.


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Green Buildings in Rhode Island

Green Buildings in Rhode Island

                In 2006 in the United States, buildings accounted for thirty nine percent of total energy consumption and approximately seventy one percent of total electricity consumption. Worldwide buildings accounted for thirty three percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore in 2002, buildings constituted one hundred and seven million acres of the total land developed in America. Why should existing buildings and/or new buildings not be built as green buildings? Home owners are fast finding that green buildings save large amounts of money, energy and resources. A green building can be defined as a sustainable building. They use healthier more resource efficient models for construction, renovation and maintenance. The design takes into account overall impact on human health and the environment by focusing on various characteristics including: efficient usage of energy, water and other resources, protecting occupant health and employee productivity and reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation.Image

                Why should we use green building techniques? Green building illustrates smart growth which represents sustainable development. Building green provides three types of benefits, environmental, economic and social. Environmental benefits include improving air and water quality, reducing waste streams and conserving natural resources. Example of economic benefits are creating a market for green resources and reducing operating costs. A two thousand square foot home with fifteen windows can cost approximately ten thousand nine hundred and fifty dollars with fifty four percent cost savings and one thousand nine hundred and forty four dollars saved. This illustrates that retrofitting existing buildings with green techniques is viable and feasible. Social benefits consist of improving the aesthetic qualities and minimizing strains on local infrastructure. The ingenious design of green buildings strives to improve the overall quality of life for all involved.

                Although green building techniques represents an exciting facet of sustainability, one has to ask the question is there a specific standard for using these kinds of building techniques? LEED which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design provides high standards and certifications for buildings built with green materials and renovations. LEED focuses on specific areas including: human and environmental health, sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Building types include homes, commercial, public and institutional buildings, schools/universities, laboratories and healthcare facilities. An individual building or neighborhood can achieve four different levels of certification which are certified, silver, gold and platinum. Platinum represents the highest level of green building certification.

Examples of innovative green buildings in Providence, Rhode Island are buildings named the Box Office and Wolcott Eco-Office. The Box Office is constructed of 32 recycled steel shipping containers which would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. The building has twelve office units with one thousand square feet. Wolcott Eco-Office illustrates the significant potential for converting preexisting buildings into models of sustainability. The old industrial building was changed by RISD graduate, John Jacobson who made the building completely self-sustainable. For further information on these Rhode Island innovators, please visit Providence Online:,1521/p/stories/Reduce-and-Recycle-Providence-Monthly,1527


Barriers to Green Building Practices in America

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Green building is the practice of 1.) increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials; and 2.) protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life cycle: sitting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” The many benefits of installation of green building practices such as energy conservation, the best use of all possible resources, longer lasting materials and an increase in environmental awareness and consciousness have led to an increase in green building practices over the past decade. However, despite the many advantages of having green building practices established in your home, green building practices have not completely taken over the architectural industry. The Several barriers are: having innovative designs approved by building code officials, the expensive initial cost of installation, lack of green technology skills among some architectural firms in the industry and lack of public information about performance cost and attributes.

Building codes represent a strong barrier towards green building practices because building code officials have to approve these new and innovative designs. Since green building practices and environmental awareness has increased in the last decade, traditional building codes do not include much instruction for building safe green practices leaving blurry areas for architects. Based on a small study conducted, the three main reasons why building code officials deny green building practices include: clear conflict with the intent of the code, insufficient knowledge or technical expertise with the product, material, safety or design and lastly insufficient time in the building department to conduct sufficient research to understand the product, material, system or design (Development Center for Appropriate Technology). Based off of these findings, the implementation of new plans to train building code officials is needed to provide officials with confidence and sufficient knowledge in this area of expertise. Having organizations and programs such as the Leadership in Environmental Design (LEEDS) which provides third party certification will help instill knowledge of green building practices in building code officials and allow for quicker and increased establishment of green buildings and homes.

Secondly, new green practices have evolved much faster than traditional building codes and building code officials have found it difficult to keep up with the rapid usage of green practices (Dovetail Partners Inc.). However, new educational programs such as LEEDS and the use of variances will allow for the establishment of green building practices. Currently, to install green building practices architects use “Variances which are an exception to the existing building code.” (Dovetail Partners Inc.). Most building code officials approve variances because the new green practice still follows the original intent of the building code. Variances provide a form of compromise between traditional and green building codes. However, the need for more educational programs and workshops on the importance of green building practices is great because variances provide much extra workload for all parties involved.

The initial costs of green construction often deter consumers from investing in projects that could economically benefit consumers in the long run. The upfront costs of green practices are typically higher than projects which cause detrimental harm to the environment, but these costs are often balanced out by the low, long-term operating costs.  In America, individuals tend to focus on projects that benefit us within a five to ten year forecast.  However, one of the main ideologies instigating the increase in green construction is realizing the long-term benefits counteract the expensive short-term initial costs but this takes longer periods of time depending on the type of installation. Secondly, because America is a capitalist economy, individuals spend large amounts of time analyzing activities and investments in terms of dollars and cents. Many individuals invest in projects with the lowest bottom line instead of factoring in the true cost and benefits of conservation and sustainability of our personal environment because the true cost is difficult to quantify.  A study conducted in California found that the initial cost to bring a home to a minimum green building level was an additional $1,578 added to the current costs of a home (Is Building Green Expensive). Due to the current recession, many individuals are apprehensive to large expenditures. However, although this amount may seem large for most American homeowners in the long-run, green construction has proven as an economically feasible and beneficial home impact when the individuals analyze the true cost in their decision.

Having innovative designs approved by building code officials, expensive cost of installation, lack of green technology construction skills among some architectural firms and lack of public information for performance and attributes of green practices all represent significant barriers for the industry of green building to overcome. However, over time solutions can and will be found as the world’s need for more environmentally conscious individuals increases and fossil fuels run out. Solutions such as subsidies for green building practices to lessen the initial cost or more educational programs for architects and building code officials will be seen in the future.

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Jessica’s ‘No Light Left Behind’ Fellowship

CaptureName: Jessica May Vickers

Major/Minor: Environmental Science/Management

Graduation Year: 2014

Hometown: Montrose, Colorado

AC: How did you collaborate with Professor Langlois, and eventually have the opportunity to complete this fellowship?

JV: Dr.Gaytha Langlois played an instrumental role in securing my nomination from Bryant University for a Clean Energy Solutions Fellowship from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Without Dr. Gaytha Langlois’s involvement and passion, I can honestly say this opportunity would have never been possible.

Initially, Dr. Langlois sent an email with a short description of the fellowship and link to all biology and environmental science majors and minors. I expressed interest in pursuing the application process. We collaborated on proposal ideas in a brainstorming session by discussing the various items of the proposal process including short and long term goals, purpose of the project, and participation and support. She provided innovative and thought provoking suggestions to increase the effectiveness of…

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More Companies Should Follow in the Footsteps of Puma

What is the true cost of creating a product?

Most companies of today fail to capture the trust cost of creating a product. When reading companies’ profit and loss statements one finds it difficult to find/identify the cost of environmental loss, pollution or damage in a product’s life cycle. Many businesses share the belief that environmental pollution is an unfortunate cost of doing business but this is an archaic way of thinking.

Companies like Puma will pave the way for the future.

In 2011, Puma completed their first environmental profit and loss account which valued their environmental impact at €145 million. Puma derived these environmental costs from its core operations: offices, warehouses, stores and logistics. This profit and loss statement was the first of its kind in the corporate world.

 Puma derived four key findings from its Environmental profit and loss account:

  1. The supply chain was responsible for 94% or €137 million of PUMAS total environmental impact.
  2. Over half of all environmental impacts were associated with the production of raw materials (including leather, cotton and rubber)
  3. PUMA’s core operations were responsible for only 6% or €8 million of its waste.
  4. GHGs made up 90% of the total impact of PUMA’s offices, stores and warehouses.

This environmental profit and loss account will serve as an important metric for future operations. Natures services will no longer be taken for granted. PUMA has raised awareness of the importance of sustainable business through its environmental profit and loss account. The company has rightly realized that continuously updating, measuring and improving upon its environmental costs will increase the company’s overall longevity.


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Opportunities Come When You Least Expect Them

National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Fellowships

I received an email last month from a Professor alerting me about an application for a campus ecology fellowship from the National Wildlife Federation. Since 2000, the National Wildlife Federation has awarded over 150 Campus Ecology Fellowships to students across the United States of America. These projects have helped improve the lives of over 2.5 million students, faculty, and community remembers in America’s universities. Had I received this email freshman year of University, it is most likely I would have disregarded this potential opportunity because of the sheer number of applications these organizations receive. As a Junior at Bryant University, I thought what a wonderful opportunity and immediately applied with the hopes that I would be picked.

Last week my prayers were answered. I am 1 of 22 new campus ecology fellows for 2013. My project called No Light Left Behind focuses on clean and renewable energy for the United States of America. Below I have detailed what my solar panel project will entail for the next year. The National Wildlife Federation has given me a grant of $2000 to implement this project over a fifteen month period.

MORAL of this story: Never let any opportunity pass you by  no matter the odds!


As noted in a recent article, UCLA Engineers Pioneer Affordable Alternative Energy Resource-Solar Energy Cells made of Everyday Plastic, Professor Yang is quoted, “It’s clear given the current energy crisis that we need to embrace the new sources of renewable energy that are good for our planet. I believe very strongly in using technology to provide affordable options that all consumers can put into practice.” The project entitled, “No Light Left Behind” will encompass the installation of small photovoltaic panels on top of all lamp posts on Bryant University’s campus. This project represents a visible manifestation of Bryant University’s commitment to the sustainability plan and provides a wonderful opportunity for the university to gain positive publicity. The campus ecology fellowship will provide funding for surveying all outdoor lighting on campus, conducting site assessments, identifying the most functional and aesthetically pleasing PV applications, carrying out a cost/benefit analysis, and developing an implementation plan.

Bryant University’s beautiful 428 acre campus represents a home for 3,300 diverse and motivated students. Established in 1863, the university has many accredited business programs while the expanding College of Arts and Sciences gives the university new perspectives on sustainability and renewable energy. This project addresses NWF Clean Energy Solution’s goals because this effort engages the Bryant community in an effort to increase renewable energy. No Light Left Behind will save the university $2,710.13/year with additional savings as the retrofitting project is expanded in future years, and will provide a platform for other lighting upgrades elsewhere on campus. This number is derived from wattage information from the facilities department and from surveying the university’s light fixtures.


The short term goals and objectives will include:


  • Implementation of solar photovoltaic units in 20 percent of Bryant University’s outdoor sidewalk lamps within a fifteen month period.
  • Completion of a projected Cost/Benefit analysis, including calculation of the payback period, energy and cost saved, depreciation of equipment; this information will be analyzed in a report to the Bryant University Sustainability Committee after fifteen months.
  • Publication of the project in Bryant University’s newspaper, The Archway and local newspapers such as the Providence Journal for added outreach impact when the first solar panels are implemented.


The long term goals and objectives will include:

  • Conducting a feasibility analysis of the potential for solar photovoltaic and/or solar thermal panels on at least ten percent of Bryant University’s rooftops within a five year period of the start of the project.
  • Identification of potential grants to help in the funding of capital costs for this project.
  • Assess the availability and appropriateness of corporate sponsorship for some facets of the project.
  • Increase publication of the project in local newspapers and television stations to garner more attention and attract students from different states and countries.
  • Within a five year period of the start of the project, work with student sustainability groups to persuade one other university in the area such as Rhode Island College, or Providence College, to also implement solar panels in their lighting systems.

For more information on this project please contact me at: or comment on this blog post.

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Waste as a Resource

Waste as a Resource

                Most individuals consider waste as “trash” or “garbage. Many people think of waste with an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and are something that they do not want to see on a daily basis. However with increases in technology and innovation, waste can be used as a significant resource to create a sustainable future. Major companies like Waste Management whose headquarters are in Houston, Texas, have created technologies such as bioreactor landfills which help look at waste as an economic resource. Waste Management works with industry solutions such as food and retail, commercial property, manufacturing and industrial, recycling, construction, universities and many other areas requiring disposal of waste.

Bioreactor landfills can be defined as waste treatment landfills. This technology accelerates the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills. Why should we care? We should care because this kind of technology helps reduce the amount of leachate that can cause acid mine drainage from pyrite (FeS2). Research has shown that municipal solid waste can be rapidly degraded and made much less hazardous by controlling the moisture within a landfill. Waste Management is currently evaluating the economic and environmental impacts of ten bioreactor landfills across the United States of America.

Waste Management has also invested large amounts of money into using trash as a form of renewable energy. With the world’s ever growing consumption of non –durable goods (goods that last temporarily), the piles of trash never run out. Most of our waste ends up in landfills. The environmental protection agency (EPA), has labeled landfill gas as a renewable energy source that could potentially be an alternative source of energy to fossil fuels. For example, Waste Management currently produces over 550 megawatts of electricity which can power over 440,000 homes. This amount of energy is also equivalent to offsetting over 2.2 million tons of coal per year. Land-fill gas has produced more energy than the entire solar industry in the United States of America. If land-fill gas can be used in conjunction with other sources of alternative energy, America may have a chance to gradually convert from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Waste Management also uses waste to energy facilities that combust trash in a controlled and efficient system which recovers energy from the combustion process. These facilities are equipped with air emission control systems that reduce potential emissions. The trash is transferred from a feed hopper to a boiler, in which a metal grate slowly moves the trash through a heating process. The temperature exceeds 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermal energy is recovered in the form of high pressurized steam which turns a turbine which turns a generator to produce electricity. This process is very similar to the processes which occur in a nuclear or coal power plant. Using this process, the overall volume of trash is reduced by greater than ninety percent.



Using different and innovative technologies such as bio reactor landfills, converting land-fill gas to renewable energy and waste to energy facilities has the potential to significantly impact America’s energy and recycling industry. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated approximately 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted 85 million tons of this material. This is equivalent to a 34.1 percent recycling rate. On average, Americans recycled 1.51 pounds of individual waste generation. New innovations from companies like Waste Management will help increase these numbers and provide an alternative source of energy to fossil fuels. Based off of these statistics, waste could prove to be a major resource for the future.