Nature has a tremendous capacity to sustain itself. Be it the maintenance of the soil fertility or the process of forestation, when left alone nature can rejuvenate itself to its original self. However, the speed at which the natural resources are getting depleted, it is not possible for nature to sustain itself anymore. To ensure that the ecological balance is not further lost we must make changes in the way we utilize the natural resources for our benefits. We have to employ environmentally sustainable methods to ensure that the future generations can enjoy the natural resources of our planet in the same way as we are utilizing it.
As, a result of which, many steps have been taken towards environmental sustainability to reduce the impact on the environment. Below are a few of the examples of environmental sustainability.
Repeated cultivation of the same crops on the same patch of soil can lead to the depletion of the quality of the soil and the quality of the produce. This leads to the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other medicines on plants to improve the productivity. However, this leads to the contamination of the crops with chemicals which can harm human health.
Sustainable agriculture integrates plant and animal production practices that are specific to the site and not only enhances the productivity but also has minimal impact on the environment. It incorporates biological and ecological processes into agriculture reducing the dependency on non-renewable resources and inorganic unsustainable inputs.
Crop rotation is a very effective way to maximize the productivity of the crops. Rotation of crops helps in rejuvenating the fertility of the soil and help to lower the presence of disease in the soil. Animal and crop waste is recycled and used as manure to improve the content of nitrogen in the soil. Water management is another very important factor that contributes to sustainable agriculture. In many droughts driven locations ample water resources may not be available, in such places water conservation and storage measures are enhanced. The drip irrigation system is another great way to manage water resources without causing any wastage.
Forests are very important contributors to the environment of the earth. They are not just a habitat for wild life but help in cleaning the air from harmful pollutants prevent soil erosion and contribute to the cloud seed formation. Forests are the main platform for the existence of an ecological system that not only houses it but actually sustains it.
But due to aggressive exploitation by humans have led to deforestation worldwide which has affected the environment by great measures. Sustainable forestry offers a chance to retain some of this natural resource in its original form by ensuring that the numbers of trees that are felled are replaced immediately with healthy saplings to replenish the number of trees in the forest.
In a sustainable forest, seedlings are grown in green houses which are then transferred to the forest. The seedlings then grow up to be young trees in about 10 years within the natural environment. Every 5 years the trees are thinned out to ensure the continued growth of the stronger trees. After 25-30 years the trees are felled and sent to the wood or paper mill. New saplings are then planted to replace the felled trees and the process continues. This is one of the great ways of sustainability and to make our environment more greenery.
The highest amount of energy is consumed every year for domestic purposes worldwide which include heating, cooling and lighting. This can be lowered by a substantial amount by ensuring that the homes, offices and other structures that are built are energy efficient and they incorporate renewable and recycled resources. In a sustainable construction an environmentally responsible and resource efficient process is applied throughout the life cycle of the building starting with the planning, design, the construction method, operation and maintenance.
In colder climates buildings are well insulated and constructed to ensure maximum surface exposure to sunlight and allow sunlight to enter the homes and allow natural warming and lighting of the rooms. In warmer or hotter climates, the buildings are well ventilated and the exposure to sunlight is minimized to allow lower heating but proper lighting. This not only lowers the cost of temperature control but also saves up a lot on the lighting cost.
Incorporation of green spaces into the residential or office areas not only enhances the aesthetics of the location but also provide a great outdoor location to relax and rejuvenate. These small patches of green across a city can go a long way in bringing in a positive effect on our lives and the environment.
Tons of waste is produced everyday in every country. The thoughtless disposal of these wastes into the water bodies since years has had grave results on the environment and the health of people. The aquatic life has had to suffer due to the disposal of waste into the water system. Even if the waste is not disposed in the water but discarded in the dump yards or incinerated then too it poses a great threat to the environment because of the foul smell and the rot it will bring in.
Sustainable waste management starts from the very start of the life cycle of a product. The design and manufacture process in sustainable waste management is developed in a way that it yields the minimum waste and even if it did generate waste then the disposal of the waste like the packaging should not impact the environment or should have minimal effect. Many companies have now started packing the products in biodegradable material which has a minimal impact on the environment and is grey water safe.
Composting is a very effective way to deal with organic waste that can be converted to manure for gardening or farming. The responsible segregation of waste to organic and recyclable forms further helps in ensuring that the wastes like metal, plastic or nylon can be recycled instead of discarding it for incineration or using it for landfill.
One of the greatest threats to the environment is the generation of a large amount of plastic waste every day. It poses a threat not just to the aquatic life but also due to the fact that most of them are not biodegradable the fertility of the soil is impacted. Burning of plastic waste is not advisable as well due to the emission of harmful Dioxins that are emitted. The best way to manage the plastic waste is to recycle them. Plastic waste is collected and recycled to make new plastic products or incorporated into other products. In recent years plastic waste has been used in the construction of houses and roads that have been reported to be much stronger than the usual roads and houses made of conventional materials.
Sustainable Water management
Our planet is covered mostly by water, but what is needed is drinkable and usable water which is a much rarer form. The constant use and disposal of water is leading to a fast depletion of this basic necessity of life which raises a vital question, how long can we continue to use this natural resource to meet our needs?
Various methods of water purification have been developed to make water drinkable and usable. However, it is important we try to use sustainable water management methods to ensure the water supply is not exhausted. The first step towards this is to install water efficient shower heads and low flow taps in our houses to make sure that there is no wastage of water and only the amount that is needed is used. Building complexes, be it commercial or residential can profit largely from a water treatment plant which can help to treat used water from the various users in the building and make it reusable again.
Using water efficient methods of gardening and farming can help in reducing the wastage of water. Using sprinklers and drip water method for farms and garden can help in a great way. Rainwater harvesting has been introduced in many places to ensure that this naturally clean water is not wasted and is stored for future use like drinking or cleaning purposes.
Renewable energy resources
The major energy source is the fossil fuels which is fast depleting due to the ever-increasing demand. It is definitely cost effective, but it is not sustainable. Hence it has become very important to find an alternative source of energy which will not only perform in the same way as fossil fuel in generating power but unlike fossil fuel will be sustainable. Here are few of the examples of alternative source of energy to regain a sustainable environment.
- Wind energy: Harnessing the power of wind is a great way to supplement the grid power without causing any harm to the environment. With only an initial investment on setting up a windmill power can be generated free of cost to power offices, buildings, farms or your homes. With the growing awareness of green power technology wind farms have been set up in many places that have good wind speed. The largest wind farm in the world is the Gansu Wind Farm in China with a capacity of over 8GW.
- Solar Energy: The energy from the sun can be harnessed as Solar energy using the various technologies. Solar Energy is the most common form of green power that has become popular all around the world unlike the other renewable resources which are yet to catch up. The photovoltaic system can be set up in an area that is sure to receive the maximum exposure to sunlight throughout the day. The energy can be stored and used as needed. The energy from the sun has been taken advantage of to develop new technologies that would help in replacing the constant need for electricity and other sources of thermal power that leads to environmental hazards. Solar Thermal energy systems have been developed that has been used in effective water heating, cooking, heating homes, and generation of electricity using the molten salt technology. Solar vehicles have been designed to run on solar power. It is not just the development of cars, but fully solar powered boats and airplanes have been developed too. With the advent of newer and advanced technology Solar energy has great promise in replacing the need for fossil fuels.
- Geothermal Energy: The Earth has a very hot core where the temperatures may reach 5000°C. This energy sometimes seeps through the Earth’s crust and heats up water on the surface also known as the hot springs or geysers. Geothermal energy has been used for therapeutic baths since ages. It was also used for heating up spaces but more recently it has found use in the generation of electricity.
- Hydropower and Tidal or wave: The hydroelectric power generation is another renewable source of energy which has contributed largely to the generation of electricity. Hydroelectric power has been generated by building dams and reservoirs. More recently Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity has been generated which functions without the creation of reservoirs or dams on rivers and is much more cost effective. China is the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world. Hydropower is now also being generated by harnessing the power of waves and tides.
This is also a very promising alternative for most fossil fuels. A lot of research is still on going to develop a very efficient form of Biofuel which is not only cost effective but can also be used commercially on vehicles and other machinery just the way fossil fuels are used. Although a few biofuels have been introduced into the market, a lot more work needs to be done towards the impact of cultivation of the biofuel generating crops on the environment. Example of Biofuels that have been tested is organically produced Ethanol from sugarcane, Jatropha seed oil and soya bean oil.
It is very important now that we all get together to save the environment from further depletion. The effects of the thoughtless exploitations by human beings are more apparent now than it was ever before. The climatic changes though started slowly have become more pronounced now and we are experiencing seasons we never did earlier. The catastrophic implications can be avoided by a stringent adherence to environment-friendly methods which will help to sustain the environment for longer.