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Different Approaches to Flood Mitigation

Monday, November 8, 2021  by qrelihan

   A recent news story caught my attention this week regarding a climate resiliency project being built in NYC. In fact, you may remember seeing news footage of flooded NYC subways and streets during Hurricane Ida. Well, the city of New York decided that the was the last straw and they had to do something to mitigate the effects of climate change. The city is constructing a system of seawalls and floodgates in the East River Park area to protect it from future flooding (Kaur 2021).  

   The goal of this project is to reduce the impact of storm surges in the future for the 110,000 residents that live there. However, New York City is not alone in this endeavor as coastal communities throughout the US either already have seawalls or are planning to construct them soon.  New York City is in the company of Jacksonville, FL, Virginia Beach, VA, Galveston, TX and Charleston, SC as cities that have proposed similar projects to reduce the impact of storm surge flooding (Dubb 2019).  

   Seawalls and floodgates are not the only solution being explored to mitigate the effects of flooding, in fact some cities in the US are embracing the Dutch concept of "working with flooding rather than fighting it".  The Dutch leave their coastline open, creating designated flood parks for the water to go.  This concept has inspired city planners in Boston, MA to consider alternative options to the originally proposed 4-mile seawall around Boston Harbor (Hunt 2018).  Now, Boston city planners are looking into creating flood parks that will divert water to designated areas rather than building a seawall.

   There is no one solution to flood mitigation, in fact what works in one city, may not work in another.  For instance, in a city such as NYC, there is a lot of infrastructure and not a whole lot of space available to build flood parks along the coast, making a seawall their best defense against flooding.  Whereas smaller coastal communities such as Gloucester, MA may have more space available along the coast to dedicate to flood parks. Some coastal communities may opt to build both flood parks and seawalls to best protect their communities from the impacts of flooding. The biggest takeaway from this is that coastal communities and cities have options when it comes to protecting themselves from floods.

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Is Daylight Savings Time Good For The Environment?

Monday, November 1, 2021  by qrelihan

   This coming weekend is Daylight Savings Time and most of us associate it with gaining an extra hour of sleep. However, studies have been done to see if setting back the clocks has any effect on the country’s electricity use. Since Daylight Savings Time has been around long before electricity, it can be difficult to know what electricity use would look like without Daylight Savings Time.  Over the years many have conducted research, trying to answer the question of whether it is a good thing for the environment.

   When Benjamin Franklin originally proposed the concept of Daylight Savings Time, part of his proposal was the fact that people could rely on sunlight for light and heat instead of burning candles and wood.  Thus, conserving resources and utilizing renewable resources such as sunlight, making it cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  Although this was true when Daylight Savings Time was first implemented, Benjamin Franklin did not consider the role that electricity and air conditioning could play.

    In fact, increased use of air conditioning to cool homes in warmer climates, during the long summer days is part of the reason many argue that Daylight Savings Time is not a good thing for the environment.  People can rely on sunlight to some degree for lighting and heating but in warmer climates they need relief from the sun as it can provide too much heat.  Despite this fact, Daylight Savings Time is still serving its original purpose of providing longer, brighter, and warmer days. 

   To settle the final score of whether Daylight Savings Time is beneficial to the environment, a nationwide study was conducted to see if it decreases overall energy use. In 2008, the Department of Energy found a “decrease in energy use of about 0.5 percent—doesn't sound like much, but that's enough to power a dishwasher in every single US house for more than a week straight”(Nosowitz, D., “Daylight Savings Time is Actually a Good Thing” 2020).  Therefore, while you will benefit from an extra hour of sleep this weekend, the environment will benefit from fewer fossil fuels being burned from energy production.

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Good News from World Clean-Up Day

Monday, October 4, 2021  by qrelihan

   Last Thursday I went out in my neighborhood with a trash bag and a pair of gloves to pick up trash.  I have always thought of my neighborhood to be very clean and did not expect to come close to filling up a full trash bag.  I was wrong. It didn't take long for the cigarette butts, face masks and Dunkin Donuts cups to add up, making my bag heavier with every street I went down.  At first seeing all the trash was discouraging, but I soon realized that majority of what I picked up could be recycled or find a second life that wasn't a brick sidewalk.  

   For instance, all the plastic coffee cups, and water bottles can be sent to a recycling facility instead of a sidewalk or landfill.  It got me thinking about access to recycling bins because trash cans are on every street corner, but recycling bins are not.  In fact, I think if there were recycling bins next to every trash can in my neighborhood, then more trash would be kept off the sidewalks and out of landfills.  I'm not saying that there wouldn't be litter, but there would be an improvement.  The same goes for our office spaces, if there is no recycling bin then no trash can be diverted from landfills, but if there is a recycling bin next to every trash can, then that much more trash will be kept out of landfills. 

   Another positive take away from my trash pick-up was finding out that I was not the only one out there picking up trash.  As I was making my way down one of the side streets in my neighborhood, I was stopped by a woman who teased me saying I was taking her job.  She then proceeded to tell me that every week she goes out with a trash bag and picks up the litter on her street.  This woman was not motivated, nor did she have any knowledge of World Clean-Up Day, she simply picked up trash because she wanted to preserve the beauty & cleanliness of her neighborhood.  It made me realize that picking up trash is easy and seeing that I bought a pack of gloves it is something I can and will continue to do.  

Below is a picture of the garbage I picked up in my neighborhood (I was only out there for an hour)

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Why Have World Clean-Up Day?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021  by qrelihan

      This past Saturday was World Clean-Up Day and although the MER Trash Scavenger Hunt will continue for the rest of the month, it is important to understand why we have a World Clean-Up Day.  According to a 2020 study by the Keep America Beautiful Organization there is a total of 50 billion pieces of litter in the US.  The top contributors to litter are cigarette butts, fast food packaging and plastic waste, all of which you would likely see walking in your local park or driving on the highway.  If every American went outside on World Clean-Up Day and picked up 152 pieces of litter than America would be litter free (Keep American Beautiful 2021). This just goes to show the positive impact that one person can have on the environment by doing something as simple as picking up trash. The standard sized household trash bag can hold 240 12 oz cans, this means that you would not have to fill an entire trash bag for the US to be litter free (New York Times 2013).  Although the offical date for World Clean-Up Day has passed it is never too late to get out in your community and pick up some trash!  

Complete the game card linked here to earn a prize by sending it along with photos to stewardship@moranenvironmental.com : MER_Scavenger_Hunt.pdf


All of the pictures below were taken on my 5 minute walk to the grocery store and all the litter pictured was subsequently disposed of properly.

Pictures Below (from left to right): PPE/face mask, cigarette butt, plastic cup and a battery


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Waste Disposal Methods

Wednesday, September 8, 2021  by qrelihan

Examples of beneficial reuse: Paint & coatings produce waste that can be used as solvents or fuel, and construction debris such as metal, glass and lumber can be reused to build smaller projects.

Examples of composting: Manure, coal ash, food scraps and lawn waste decompose naturally in the environment.

Examples of recycling: Paper products & packaging, and plastic water bottles can be sent to recycling facilities.

        According to the EPA, in 2018 paper products, food waste and plastics make up the largest percentage of waste that went to landfills (EPA 2018).  The good news is that the waste that makes up the largest percentage of landfills can easily be diverted using alternative methods. For instance, food waste can be composted, while plastic can be recycled and cardboard can be reused to serve a new purpose. While participating in World Clean-Up Day, make a mental note of the trash you are finding and ask yourself where it could have gone instead.  

*Reminder: World Clean-Up Day is September 18th and participating is as easy as picking up trash in your neighborhood*

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