This Week the BaerEngineering Green Team brings you a few fun facts about the environment!

Air pollution and it’s affects

Did you know air pollution, particularly ground-level ozone, is at its worst between April and October?  Air emissions from vehicle engines, electric generation units, industrial facilities, and many everyday activities contribute to the problem. In fact, on-road vehicles account for nearly 50% of ozone-forming emissions released in Central Texas.  Elevated ozone levels can have a significant impact on human health. When ozone levels are high many individuals may experience increased respiratory ailments.  Especially susceptible are children, older adults, and those with lung diseases like asthma.

Now is a good time to become air aware. Here are some steps you can take to learn about and reduce air pollution:

  • Take action by reducing drive alone trips and conserving electricity
  • Learn about the color coded air quality guide call the Air Quality Index (AQI) by going to www.airnow.gov
  • Check the daily air quality forecast every day by watching the local weather forecasts, sign up for air quality forecast emails from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or download and use the AirNow app on your mobile device

For more information visit: www.aircentraltexas.org

Happy Breathing!

Just say “No”…to bottled water

Today’s heat index is 106..Summer is almost here! In three days, to be exact. Time for cookouts, floating the river, and lounging by the pool (if you haven’t done so already). But before you load up your cooler with ice cold beverages, consider what kind of packaging you select. You know what I’m talking about…the biggest scam of recent history…bottled water.

According to National GeographicAmericans drink their way through 50 BILLION bottles of water per year (and spend over $100 billion per year to do so), and most of those bottles do not get recycled (over 80% end up in landfills). Consider these other ramifications of bottled water:

  • Transporting the bottles and keeping them cold also burns fossil fuels, which give off greenhouse gases.
  • Groundwater pumping by bottled-water companies draws heavily on underground aquifers and harms watersheds.
  • According to some estimates, it takes up to three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. What kind of ROI is that?
  • As of 2013, 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. And we are paying for something free!!! WHY.
  • Bottled water, even that “organic sustainable artisan spring water hand-captured by underprivileged yogis on a spirit journey” is not necessarily healthier or cleaner than tap water, and in many cases is often of lower quality. And that’s not even getting into the BPA and other chemicals in the bottles themselves that leach into the water. On that note, bottled water is usually taken from municipal supplies anyway, so I say again, we are paying for something free.

I want to encourage everyone to make more sustainable choices in your outdoor activities, and use reusable drinking containers. We got those excellent insulated mugs at the White Elephant party last December. Hard-plastic and stainless-steel water bottles are also good options. For picnics, why not buy reusable plastic cups (they are like 80 cents each), or challenge yourself to make a Solo cup last all summer (my grandma has used the same pack of Solo cups for several years). On that note, instead of buying lots of individual bottles of water or juice, why not buy a gallon or two and pour it into said reusable cups? That way we can save the bottled water for the people who actually need it, like those in developing countries, or Flint, MIWest Virginia, or North Carolina.

If you would like more information on bottled water, you can refer to these articles.

Reader’s Digest

United Nations

 

Catie Sauer
Archaeological Technician
LEED® Green Associate™

2015 EBJ Business Achievement Award – Small Firm, Gold Medal Winner!

Each year Environmental Business Journal recognizes outstanding business performance in the environmental industry with our EBJ Business Achievement Awards. Environmental Business Journal is proud to announce its 18th annual business achievement awards. Congratulations to the winners, thanks to all the companies that submitted nominations, and we hope to see you in San Diego for the official awards ceremony at Environmental Industry Summit XIV on March 9, 2016 at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

In October-December 2015, EBJ solicited the environmental industry via e-mail, social media, its website, industry events and word-of-mouth for nominations for the EBJ Business Achievement Awards. Nominations were accepted in 200-word essays in either specific or unspecified categories. Categories or size designations may have been adjusted depending on the volume of nominations or the number of worthy recipients. Final awards were determined by a committee of EBJ staff and EBJ editorial advisory board members.

Read more…

EnviroMentors Help the Boy Scouts “Be Prepared”

Together, they work to bring a well into compliance (Natural Outlook, March 2015)

The Boy Scout Oath begins, “On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country.” Rick Denison and Bob Oatman, with the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, learned that their country, or at least their state, had some rules they needed to follow.

In 2013, the council bought the 91-acre Smilin’ V Ranch, outside of Liberty Hill, as a facility for day camps and training. It was during one of these training sessions that Denison and Oatman discovered that they might have a problem.

Therese Baer, P.E., a volunteer with both the Boy Scouts and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s EnviroMentor program, pointed out that in the eyes of the state, the council was operating a public drinking-water system at the camp. That was quite a surprise to Oatman, who handles maintenance for the ranch. READ MORE

Transportation Transformation

The topic of the day is transportation and commuting traffic, so buckle up 😉

Austin likes to promote its weirdness and its breakfast tacos, but our dirty little not-so-secret is that traffic is an absolute nightmare. You may have noticed this on your daily commute.
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Mayor Adler has designated May 11 as “Austin Don’t Rush” day, as part of an effort to recreate the traffic miracle that occurred during President Obama’s visit for SWSX. On that day, which will go down in history, the City requested that people work from home to minimize the predicted carpocalypse. The results were impressive.  

Compared to peak times on an average Friday:

— Drivers on MoPac experienced a 60 percent reduction in travel times.

— On Highway 183, travel times decreased by half.  

— Drivers on Cesar Chavez, Congress, Guad, Lamar, Lavaca,  and South 1st enjoyed a 32 percent drop in traffic volume and a 22 percent decrease in travel time.

Austin Don’t Rush has a similar goal, which is getting Austinites to avoid driving by themselves during morning and afternoon rush hours on May 11. Some alternatives include working flex hours, work from home during the first part of the day and come in for the afternoon, take transit (MetroRail, MetroBus and MetroRapid), use “active transportation” (bike, run, walk, scooter, skate, etc.), or even telecommute. The jury is still out regarding teleportation devices.

To support this effort, CapMetro is making service on ALL of their buses and trains and special access FREE to ride all day. This includes all users of MetroBus, UT Shuttle, MetroRapid, MetroFlyer, MetroExpress, MetroRapid, MetroRail, even MetroAccess.

Shifting gears (heh), have you voted on Proposition 1 yet? Early voting ends May 3rd and the last day to vote is the 7th. Whether you are for or against it, I encourage you to vote since it is a local election and we can actually have a say in what happens in our city. Now is your chance to tell Uber and Lyft (or City Council) to go kick rocks.

More about Austin Don’t Rush: www.mayoradler.com/austin-dont-rush-on-may-11/?utm_source=Austin+EcoNewsletter&utm_campaign=38d4e7a72a-EN4%2F28%2F16_ADR_Prop+1_Recycle+Games_EV_Monarchs&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e376911220-38d4e7a72a-171079381#more-3666

More about Proposition 1: http://www.mayoradler.com/statement-by-mayor-adler-on-proposition-1-and-the-smart-city-challenge/?utm_source=Austin+EcoNewsletter&utm_campaign=38d4e7a72a-EN4%2F28%2F16_ADR_Prop+1_Recycle+Games_EV_Monarchs&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e376911220-38d4e7a72a-171079381

Pollen Season

The season of pollen is upon us, and rough winds do shake the darling oaks of March. My car is covered in yellow dust, how about yours?
Did you know that Austin’s trees provide the city with 30.8% canopy cover? Here are some other stats about our urban forest:
  • Every year, Austin’s trees remove 1,253 tons of pollutants from the air, which is worth about $2.8 million in avoided human health costs.
  • Austin’s urban trees help capture stormwater and reduce runoff, which in turn helps to reduce the amount of pollutants entering our waterways
  • By providing shade for buildings, Austin’s trees account for $4.9 million worth of avoided carbon emissions from power plants each year. This saves Austin residents $18.9 million a year in energy costs.
  • Our trees help to mitigate climate change by storing 1.9 million tons of carbon, a service valued at $242 million. On top of that, each year they sequester an additional 92,000 tons of carbon, which is worth $11.6 million.

– Courtesy of Austin EcoNetwork and the USDA – Austin Urban Forest Report 2014

Second-Life Uses for Batteries

Batteries often get a bad rap, since they’re associated with toxic heavy metals, acid, and other pollution that can leak into the environment if they are not properly disposed of, i.e., put in a landfill. The upside is that batteries are some of the MOST recyclable items we use, often being 99 or 100% recycled into a new product!

I’d like to take a moment to shine a light on lead batteries, an unsung hero often viewed with suspicion in the environmental world. Although lead has numerous documented, detrimental effects on health and development, and is not a thing we really want to come into contact with on a daily basis (shout out to the IH folks!), there’s a reason it is so widely used, AND it’s a recycling superstar to boot!

Lead Acid Batteries yield the following materials:

  • Plastic, often used to make new battery casings
  • Lead, generally used to make new batteries
  • Water (seriously!) that is treated to clean-water standards and released into the sewer system
  • Sodium sulfate, which is used in laundry detergent, glass, and textile manufacturing

Lead-based batteries can be infinitely recycled. They are used to store renewable energy from wind turbines and solar panels, power over 1 billion vehicles worldwide, are used in 100% of hybrid vehicles, and, by 2020, will save the equivalent of 25 billion kg of CO2 by their use in vehicles.

To learn about the many second-life uses of lead and other types of batteries, you can explore these links:

http://www.gopherresource.com/what-we-do/power-of-recycling/recycling-facts.html

http://www.gopherresource.com/what-we-do/battery-recycling-process.html

http://www.batteryrecycling.com/Battery+Recycling+Process