Reducing Cows Environmental Impact

Bessie producing methane

Andreas Aluia- Forestry

Sean Davenport- Environmental Science

Haley Goulet- Animal Science

Picture this. Miles of rolling green fields sprawled out in front of you, dappled in hundreds and hundreds of black and white cows. Their heads low as they graze the young grasses covered in early morning dew. Behind you the farmer is preparing the barns for the cows return in the afternoon. Each breath of air making you feel renewed with the peace and clean air of the countryside. But how clean is it?

 

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Massachusetts’ Green Wave

A jar of weed grown in a commercial facility.

The mayor Holyoke, a small city in Western Massachusetts, is hoping he has found the golden ticket that will save the area’s economy, and it comes in the form of legalized pot. Effective December 15, 2016 Massachusetts became the first East Coast state that will allow the sale of recreational marijuana and many cities are hoping the new industry will jobs and money to poorer areas (Massachusetts Legislation, 201). When recreational marijuana was first made available in Colorado there was a large spike in commercial cultivation facilities to keep up with the demand. The first week that marijuana was legal in Colorado stores sold over $14 million worth of recreational marijuana and this number continues to grow as more user adopt the practice (KansasCityFed). By the end of 2016 Colorado had given out nearly 500 permits to sell recreational marijuana and 700 permits to grow it, resulting in $1.3 billion dollars worth of marijuana being sold (KansasCityFed). All of the marijuana sold in Massachusetts needs to be grown in Massachusetts which has resulted in 172 recreational cultivation license applications being submitted to Massachusetts’ cannabis control board from all across the state, showing that Mass is on track to follow Colorado’s cannabis boom (CCC).

These facilities are almost exclusively indoor cultivation facilities that are housed in warehouses or greenhouses. Indoor grow facilities are utilized because of their ability to deliver a high yield of crops year round while protecting plants from any adverse environmental conditions and keeping the grow area within precise environmental conditions (Baptista et al., 2017). Indoor grow facilities produce as much as ten times more crops compared to traditional farms, making them an obvious choice for growing expensive crops like marijuana (Barbosa et al., 2015). In Massachusetts indoor grow facilities are used almost exclusively for large operations because of the long winters and short growing season that would drastically impact the growers overall yield. Consumers also demand a very high quality product when they purchase marijuana from a store and these products can only be grown in intensly regulated facilities. Without the use of indoor grow operations marijuana cultivators would not be able to produce enough high quality product to yield a reasonable profit.  The major problem with controlled environment agricultural is the reliance on outside energy sources and the effect this energy consumption can have on the environment (Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017).

However, greenhouses use significantly more energy than more traditional open air farms. The amount of energy utilized fluctuates based on the individual greenhouse because of differences seen in technology and construction, but it is inevitable that greenhouses will use more energy than traditional open air farms due to the equipment needed to produce a high yield of crops. A recent study found that greenhouses use as much as 160.5 MJ/kg while more traditional outdoor growing options like open air farming only uses 0.8-6.9 MJ/kg (Ntinas et al., 2016). Marijuana cultivation is considered to be one of the most energy intensive industries in America today (Warren 2016). In the United States 1% of the entire country’s energy use is spent on marijuana cultivation  (Magagninia 2018). This can rise to 3% in cannabis rich states like California (Magagninia 2018). Most industrial grow facilities have large, overhead lights that replace the sun, bring water straight to the plants in the absence of rain, maintain precise air quality through the use of air filters and dehumidifiers. (NCLS). Each of these necessary tools needs a large amount of energy to function at peak performance.

To grow a high quality product facilities must employ very specialized lighting units that provide a specific wavelength of light to optimize production. Different lighting systems can produce very different effects on the plants that can change the height of the plant, the amount of product produced, and the amount of THC and CBD found in the marijuana (Magagninia 2018). Lighting can account for 76-86% of the entire facility’s energy usage, which toals 2283 kW/hr per kilogram of marijuana produced (Arnold 2013). Unfortunately, cutting back on lighting isn’t an option either. Because of marijuana’s intense cultivation needs any compromise in lighting quality can gravely impact the amount of product yielded and the quality of the product.

Another large consumer of energy within an indoor grow facility is the transportation of water to the facility and the method utilized to water the plants.  Most facilities utilize hydroponic systems because of their ability to maximize crop yield while minimizing the amount of water being used (Barbosa 2015). However, the addition of hydroponic systems can increase the amount of energy needed to effectively operate an individual greenhouse (Cannabis Control Commision). Extra water handling uses approximately 173 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded (Mills, 2012).

Large marijuana facilities are forced to use ventilation systems like air scrubbers or charcoal filters in their facility to help mitigate noxious gases or any other fumes associated with cultivation (Marijuana Facility Guidance 2016). These machines help remove any impurities from the air while maintaining safe working conditions for workers who will be subjected to the fumes all day. When studied these machines consumed 1848 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded (Mills, 2012). Despite their large energy draw, ventilation systems are imperative for maintaining a safe work environment while insuring the cultivation plants are not dumping a large amount of noxious fumes into the surrounding area.

Marijuana is a very climate dependant plant that requires specific temperatures to grow as productive as possible. Most facilities are need to use air conditioners for a large part of the year because of the immense amount of heat being produced by the equipment being used, however, in Massachusetts facilities would also need to provide heat in the winter. Without air conditioning the plants would overheat which can impact the amount of product yielded and they could even be at risk of dying. Massachusetts’ winters are so cold that it would necessitate additional heat sources be provided or the plants could again face decreased yields or death. It was shown that the average facility uses 1284  kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded on air conditioning and 304 kW/h for every kg of cannabis yielded on heating (Mills, 2012).

When a system is continuously using large amount of energy the waste product of these systems needs to be considered.  The introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a leading cause of climate change that has been proven to warm the earth, resulting in melting glaciers, rising sea levels, warmer oceans, and more natural disasters (NASA). Indoor agriculture’s high energy needs often results in a high amount of carbon dioxide being produced as waste  (Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). A 70 m2 greenhouse heated solely by natural gas produced 2.9 kg CO2 eq./kg more than one of the same size that was heated by natural gas supplemented by solar power (Hassanien et al., 2017). Most marijuana grow operations do not follow organic production standards which have a 35%-45% lower carbon footprint than organic farming (Bos et al., 2014). This carbon being pumped into the environment can negatively impact the Earth by promoting climate change. Thankfully, there are renewable sources of energy that can be harnessed that have a much smaller carbon footprint while still providing a quality source of energy.  

Large Legal Marijuana Farm Professional Commercial Grade Greenhouse Filled With Mature Budding Cannabis Indica Plants

Massachusetts has been slowly working towards more eco friendly energy solutions like energy that comes from solar panels, nuclear reactors, and natural gas. In 2017 68% of Massachusetts’ energy was produced by natural gas and only 4% of its energy from coal (eia). Solar panels are also gaining popularity and 1,867 megawatts of solar power was installed in Massachusetts in 2017 (eia) . Carbon emissions were also decreased by 19 percent from 1990 t0 2015 (Mass.gov). However, 27% of Massachusetts heating needs still come from oil (eia). Such a large and energy intensive industry that requires a large amount of heat could jeopardize Massachusetts goals to reduce carbon emissions and increase clean energy usage. One popular solution is the use of photovoltaic cells, also known as solar panels.  

 The use of technologically advanced solar panels would help offset the shortcomings of greenhouse growing maintaining a high agricultural yield without contributing to global warming by releasing greenhouse gases. When solar panels are placed on an area that covers  20% of the roof of a greenhouse it can replace 20% of the energy necessary to power the grow site (Hassanien et al., 2017). In Massachusetts standard solar panels are able to produce approximately 1130 kWh of energy per year (Solar-Estimate). A large marijuana cultivation facility can use an upward of 210,000 kWh of energy per year, which would require approximately 185 panels to completely run the facility off of energy generated by panels (CPR.org). Energy use is directly linked to size and not all facilities are as large and energy dependant; they can be as small as a few hundred square feet or as large as 100,000 square feet (Cannabis Control Commision).  Not only can greenhouse energy production be supplemented with renewables, but renewables could possibly meet all of a greenhouse’s energy demand. Previous marijuana grow sites have been able operate while only utilizing energy from solar arrays, making it likely that greenhouses in Massachusetts could do the same (Barok 2017).

By adding solar panels to grow sites the amount of fossil fuels  used will drop dramatically which will also combat the amount of carbon dioxide being produced which will ultimately help slow the rate of climate change. When compared to greenhouses that relied on fossil fuels alone to produce their electricity demand, ones that supplemented production with solar panels had a 29% lower carbon footprint (Ntinas et al., 2016). The potential for greenhouses to run largely off of solar energy while still producing a high yield of crops will result in a large cut to each facilities carbon footprint. The 240 solar panels they installed generated 440,000 kWh of energy in five years, which would have cost $88,000 and was more than enough to power the facility throughout the year (Barok 2017). A solar array of this size would make almost two times the amount of energy needed for an average facility that only consumes roughly 210,000 kWh of energy per year (CPR.org). Just one building was able to save 550,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere (Barok 2017).

Often times when considering the amount of energy used by indoor grow facilities it is tempting to offer solutions that involve less intensive cultivation practices that often use less energy. By using open air farming practices a cultivation site could use close to 23 times less energy than indoor growing facilities (Ntinas et al., 2016). The problem with less intensive production practices is that they often produce a lower yield of poorer quality cannabis. Growing outdoors leaves plants vulnerable to volatile weather, mold, and pests (Leafly). Massachusetts winters would also drastically limit the grow season for cultivators to just a few months a year, while indoor facilities could continue to produce products all year (Leafly). These drawbacks are not worth the potential energy savings.

Solar panels are the best option for cannabis cultivators that are looking to reduce their carbon footprint through the use of low emission energy, but putting these practises to use might not come naturally to companies that are usually focus solely on profit. The availability of solar panels in America is at an all time high with energy subsidies projected to reach between $43 and $320 per megawatt hour for solar panel produced energy coming from tax credits that cover between 30% and 60% of wholesale prices (Maloney, 2018). Subsidies provided for solar energy bring the costs of energy provided by solar panels down drastically and continue to do so (Maloney, 2018). To further incentivise solar usage Massachusetts towns and cities should give preference to indoor cultivation facilities that utilize solar panels as their main source of energy. Towns have a high level of control when granting permits to businesses that are trying to grow marijuana within town borders (CCC). If towns made it known that they gave preference to facilities that utilize solar energy then incoming businesses would be more likely to implement solar technology as a way to get gain an advantage over their competition. This would also empower those looking to get a license to include as much renewable energy as possible as a way to maximize the chance that they would be granted a permit.

Fossil fuels are not a clean source of energy and while reduction in use of electricity can help to lessen pollution, to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions more eco friendly energy sources need to be utilized. In an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption, scientists have developed a multitude of systems that are able to produce large amounts of energy without releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere. One of the most common ways to harvest renewable energy is through the use of photovoltaic cells, more commonly known as solar panels. Because of the ease of production, limited drawbacks, and technological advancements surrounding solar panels it is widely thought that they will be the most abundant source of energy in the future (Schmalensee et al., 2015).

One way to encourage greenhouses to make the switch from fossil fuel powered grid energy to roof- or ground-mounted solar panels is for the government to provide subsidies to facilities that use solar panels to provide the majority of their energy demand. If subsidies are provided, more facilities will start using clean energy, bringing the industry’s carbon footprint down (Maloney, 2018; Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). In China, a different subsidy was proposed to provide greenhouses with between $62 and $140 per megawatt hour of electricity produced with solar panels (Wang et al., 2017). Although there is currently no such policy in China, solar powered greenhouses will help lead sustainable development and reduce carbon emissions (Wang et al., 2017). It is clear that if subsidies for using solar panels for energy production are offered, it will attract more users and bring the costs down while at the same time provide clean energy not produced by fossil fuels.

These results could be replicated across Massachusetts as a way decrease the amount of carbon dioxide produced across the state.  

When considering ways to reduce our carbon footprint most Americans do not consider the role that agriculture plays in climate change. 60% of Americans believe that climate change is an ongoing issue but they tend to focus on emissions produced by cars, planes, and factories, rather than agricultural industries (Borick 2018). However, according to the Washington Post, “the nation’s booming marijuana sector is struggling to go green”. They state that analysts and state regulators say the cannabis industry, including states that have legalized recreational pot and those that offer it only for medicinal purposes,  is outpacing many other areas of the economy in energy use, racking up massive electricity bills as more Americans light up. The county’s Marijuana Energy Impact Offset Fund, which tacks on a 2.16-cent surcharge for each kilowatt-hour of electricity used by grow facilities, is something of a model for other states, cities and counties that also recognize the growing energy drain that has resulted from the rapid expansion of legal cannabis (Wolfgang, B., 2018). By introducing legislation now that rewards the use of solar energy Massachusetts can incentivise new businesses to build more sustainable greenhouses from the onset. These eco-friendly greenhouses will reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and could drastically cut their carbon footprint (Ntinas et al., 2016).

The one major hurdle for most growers is the initial cost of adding solar panels being prohibitive. They simply cannot afford the start up costs associated with adding solar panels to a facility and don’t believe that they can be a money saving investment in the long run. However, in one study done by Petru Maior University, they found solar panels payed for themselves in 6 years. After considering the initial costs of the system, yearly operating costs, taxes, and income a facility studied by Petru Maior University found that the initial investment was paid back after six years after saving money on their electricity bill and selling excess energy back to the electricity companies ( hydroponic greenhouse energy supply based on renewable energy). Solar panels also reduce cost because the energy is generated at the site where it is needed and there are no costs associated with transporting the power to where it needs to be (Borenstein 2008). Even when you consider the cost of yearly maintenance of solar panels, the amount of money saved with a reduction of the facility’s energy bill far outweighed the money needed to be paid (LG Energy). These savings jump quickly when you consider the high cost of electricity in Massachusetts where residents pay roughly 14.8 cents per kWh, the the ninth highest in the state (NPR :) ).

Greenhouse agriculture, including marijuana grow houses, is a quickly growing industry that requires high amounts of energy that is currently supplied primarily by fossil fuels which produce large amounts greenhouse gases when burned (Shen et al., 2018; Sanjuan-Delmás et al., 2017). A shift can be made in the industry from fossil fuels to clean energy if subsidies are provided to greenhouses that use solar panels to supply their energy demand. Subsidies will incentivize greenhouse operators to use solar panels and will help make them more affordable to operators who may have not been able to afford solar panels otherwise. Subsidies will result in a reduction in the cost of solar panels over time as more facilities start to use them (Maloney, 2018). A reduction in the reliance on fossil fuels to lower our carbon footprint is essential if climate change is to be mitigated. Solar panels are a great source of renewable energy that are becoming increasingly popular and if utilized by energy-hungry greenhouses can greatly reduce their carbon footprint.

By adding solar panels to grow sites the amount of fossil fuels  used will drop dramatically which will also combat the amount of carbon dioxide being produced which will ultimately help slow the rate of climate change.

A greenhouse growing marijuana intended for legal sales.

 

Works Cited

Baptista FJ, Guimares AC, Meneses JF, Silva AT, Navas LM. Greenhouse energy

consumption for tomato production in the iberian peninsula countries [electronic resource]. Acta horticulturae. 2012(9521):409-416. http://silk.library.umass.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=agr&AN=IND44639795&site=ehost-live&scope=site http://www.actahort.org/. doi: //www.actahort.org/.

Baptista FJ, Murcho D, Silva LL, et al. Assessment of energy consumption in organic tomato greenhouse production – a case study. Acta horticulturae. 2017(1164):453-460. http://silk.library.umass.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=agr&AN=IND605853021&site=ehost-live&scope=site http://dx.doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1164.59. doi: //dx.doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1164.59.

Barbosa, L. G., Gadelha, D. F., Kublik, N., Proctor, A., Reichelm, L., Weissinger, E., . . . Halden, U. R. (2015). Comparison of land, water, and energy requirements of lettuce grown using hydroponic vs. conventional agricultural methods doi:10.3390/ijerph120606879

Barok, J. (2017). Is it time to consider solar power. Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved from https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/is-it-time-to-consider-solar-power/

Borenstein, B. (2008).The market value and cost of solar photovoltaic electricity production. University of California Energy Institute. Retrieved from escholarship.org/uc/item/3ws6r3j4

Borick, C., Rabe, B., Fitzpatrick, N., & Mills, S. (2018). Issues in energy and environmental policy. University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://closup.umich.edu/files/ieep-nsee-2018-spring-climate-belief.pdf

Felix, A. (2018). The economic effects of the marijuana industry in Colorado. Main Street Views.  Retrieved from www.kansascityfed.org/publications/research/rme/articles/2018/rme-1q-2018

Hartig, H., & Geiger, A. (2018). About six-in-ten americans support marijuana legalization. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/08/americans-support-marijuana-legalization

Hassanien, R. H. E., & Ming, L. (2017). Influences of greenhouse-integrated semi-transparent photovoltaics on microclimate and lettuce growth. International Journal of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, 10(6), 11-22. doi:10.25165/j.ijabe.20171006.3407

Holyoke, Massachusetts, is ready to welcome the marijuana industry with open arms. (2018). NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/holyoke-massachusetts-is-ready-to-welcome-the-marijuana-industry-with-open-arms/

Magagninia, G., Grassia, G., & Kotirantab, S. (2018). The effect of light spectrum on the morphology and cannabinoid content of cannabis sativa L. Med Cannabis Cannabinoids. 1:19–27. DOI: 10.1159/000489030

Maloney, B. (2018, March 23). Renewable Energy Subsidies — Yes Or No? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2018/03/23/renewable-energy-subsidies-yes-or-no/#7afc6c206e23

Marijuana Facility Guidance. (2016). Colorado Fire Marshals Special Task Group. Retrieved from https://fmac-co.wildapricot.org/resources/Pictures/Marijuana_Guidance_Document_v.1_2016%2003%2016.pdf

Massachusetts Legislature. (2016). Section 76: Cannabis control commission; members; appointment; terms; chairman; secretary. Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleII/Chapter10/Section76

Mills, E. (2012). The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Elsevier. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.396.4759&rep=rep1&type=pdf

NASA. (n. d.) How climate is changing. NASA Science. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

Ntinas, G. K., Neumair, M., Tsadilas, C. D., & Meyer, J. (2017). Carbon footprint and cumulative energy demand of greenhouse and open-field tomato cultivation systems under southern and central european climatic conditions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 3617-3626. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.106

Ronay, K., & Dumitru, C. (2015). Hydroponic greenhouse energy supply based on renewable energy sources doi://doi.org/10.1016/j.protcy.2015.02.099

Schmalensee, R., Bulovic, V., Armstrong, R., Batlle, C., Brown, P., Deutch, J., . . . Vergara, C. (2015). The future of solar energy an interdisciplinary MIT study. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://energy.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/MITEI-The-Future-of-Solar-Energy.pdf

Shen, Y., Wei, R., & Xu, L. (2018). Energy consumption prediction of a greenhouse and optimization of daily average temperature. Energies, 11(1), 65. doi:10.3390/en11010065

Warren, G. (2016). Regulating pot to save the polar bear: energy and climate impacts of the marijuana industry. Columbia J Environ Law 2015;40:385. Retrieved from http://www.columbiaenvironmentallaw.org/regulating-pot-to-save-the-polar-bear-energy-and-climate-impacts-of-the-marijuana-industry/

Wolfgang, B. (2018, January 7). Environmentalists alarmed at marijuana industry’s massive use of carbon-based electricity. Retrieved from washingtontimes.com

Where greenhouse gases come from. (n.d.) Ames Laboratory. Retrieved from https://www.ameslab.gov/esha/where-greenhouse-gases-come

(2015, January 1). Environment and Energy Facts and Figures. Retrieved from https://www.environment.admin.cam.ac.uk/facts-figures

Miami Forever: Combating Flooding Caused by Climate Change

Nicholas Lanni, Mariah Leslie, Hunter Magill, Jennifer Stowell

 

             Miami beach flooding in 2013

Home is where the heart is. But what if your home has been swept away in a catastrophic flood? Miami beach resident Bruce Bender represents one of millions of U.S. homeowners that are threatened by this reality with each and every hurricane that makes landfall. He shares with reporters how he is “completely, absolutely, one hundred percent desperate” (Harris, 2018). Due to climate change, sea-level rise is affecting Miami the hardest. Bender explains how he has to roll his pants up to his knees, to walk from his home to his garage, and he has photos of his home flooded in water a foot deep (Harris, Gurney, 2018). With sea level rise already impeding on life in Miami, hurricanes only worsen the problem and cause more damage. Hurricanes cause flooding, and climate change leads to more intense hurricanes which have worse floods and damage. As a hurricane hits land, it creates a rise in sea level called storm surge. A hurricane creates a storm surge due to the low pressure, large waves, and high wind speeds associated with its conditions (University of Illinois, 2010). Due to this rise in sea level, hurricanes cause flooding especially along coastlines, like those that Miami face (Loria, 2018). Due to climate change, hurricane flooding is only getting more intense. When the sea surface temperatures (SST) rise due to climate change, more seawater evaporates, increasing precipitation during hurricanes and other storms (Wang et. al, 2018) . This concept is similar to a sauna, where once you warm the coals to heat the sauna, the water you pour in quickly evaporates, creating more intense amounts of steam. When the sea surface temperatures rise, there is an increase in evaporation which intensifies hurricanes. Floods resulting from this increased precipitation damage coastal communities.

Miami plans to start its combat against climate change through a 400 million dollar general obligation bond called “Miami Forever”. The program’s main mission is to create future livability in Miami while trying to find more cost effective ways to withstand the environmental changes brought on by climate change (Smiley, 2017). Passed in Florida’s 2017 elections, the bond is intended to be paid back through property taxes and what’s more is that it will not raise property taxes for Miami residents. Instead, residents miss out on the reduction in tax rates they’d normally get when the city finishes paying off its old debt (Stein, 2017). Although the expected decrease in property taxes will not be coming to Miami residents anytime soon, they will not be paying extra for what this program, and voters, hope to achieve.

What the program lacks, however, is not being able to provide voters with any specifics on how it intends to achieve its climate adaptation and mitigation goals. Despite this, Miami officials can confirm that about 200 million dollars will be spent on sea level rise projects. The remaining 200 million will be spent on affordable housing, road improvements, parks, cultural facilities, and public safety (Smiley, 2017). The lack of specificity has left the program under high scrutiny and has stalemated the program from gaining any kind of momentum so far, however, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Leaders from the People of Climate Change March explains, “History has left us skeptical that the bond program will be implemented in an equitable fashion and without negative impacts to vulnerable populations” (as cited in Stein, 2017). In doing so, program directors are now held more accountable for how they spend the money, because, “programs like these are necessary for local government to begin addressing issues that our most vulnerable populations face.” ( as cited in Stein, 2017)

Before this program came to pass, voters passed the Stormwater Master Plan in 2012 and granted stronger water pumps to a few of Miami’s streets most impacted by floods. These pumps are capable of pumping 14,000 gallons of water per minute and were reported to be keeping the once regularly flooded streets relatively dry soon after implementation (Flechas, 2014). This program failed, however, because it failed to take into account local sea level rise projections for Miami so the pumps were not powerful enough (Stein, 2017). Mousavi et al. (2011) predicts climate change will cause the sea level to rise about one foot as soon as 2030. As tidal flooding continues to get worse in parts of Miami, Miami Forever should focus its sea level project efforts on installing more pumps. Updating Miami’s storm water drain system with more pumps will prevent Miami from hemorrhaging more funds into restorative projects, adding an overall cost effectiveness to the program. Although it’s important to note that these pump are only a temporary fix–like a band-aid over a deep wound–experts state it will give Miami a 30-40 year buffer for more conductive solutions to be made (Flechas & Staletovich, 2015).

Generally speaking, a city’s stormwater drain system consists of multiple storm drains, manholes, and basins from which storm water enters. It then flows through a series of well chambers and interconnected cylinder pipes before reaching an exit point; typically a nearby body of water (“MDOT Stormwater Drainage Manual”, 2006). Pumps are added along this pathway to help better guide the body of liquid by increasing the fluid’s static pressure. The water enters the pump inlet point and is fed through a turning, motorized impeller using centripetal forces to suction water into its center, or “eye”,  before exiting an outlet point at higher velocity (“HEC 24 Highway Stormwater Pump Station Design”, 2001). Because there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to water pumps, determining the pumps strength, or how many gallons of water it needs to move per minute, is based off different calculations discussed later in this paper. As climate change continues to be realized, Miami continues to be hit the hardest with rising sea levels, as well as increasing hurricane storm surges and precipitations (Wang, et al. 2018). Miami’s stormwater drain systems need to be equally equipped in any way it can be and should be the program’s first steps in mitigating these water increases and limiting the damages caused by hurricanes and tidal floods.

There is currently a project underway to raise the roads of miami beach to prevent flooding. This will cost the city about 25 million dollars (Flechas, 2014) and the funding for this project is just the beginning to solving the problem. Miami beach is only a part of Miami-Dade county and a very small part of the Florida. If these measures were implemented to the rest of the county they wouldn’t have the same financial impact. There wouldn’t be as large a need for raised roads and the funding can go to installing pumps. Additionally if there is still need for more funding it can be found with the various businesses found in the county. During major storms and hurricanes they have to close down from the flooding and wind, but if they each gave a small percentage of their loss from the flooding to fund the project there would be more than enough to fund the project. Even though there is less than a 1:1 ratio for the money spent on prevention and money saved by the flood prevention. There is still money saved to the people and the businesses. There is no specific date to only pump flooding prevention cost benefits so the data is also skewed by including the costs of raising streets above sea level.

Let’s look at the effectivity of this solution. This answer comes as one of the least costly and most effective. As we know, most any problem can be solved if we throw enough money at it but in a time where funds need to be distributed over a broad range of enterprises, we can’t spend it all in one place. A category 3 hurricane, Norbert, dropped 464 mm of rain per hour at peak measurements which equates to 18.27 inches per hour. (Black, 2012) The reason this particular hurricane is of importance is how recent it was, 2014, and the amount of rain it dropped for the relatively low category number. Now unfortunately we are going to have to come to the realization that this amount of rainfall simply cannot be diverted into places to avoid flooding. However there is a way to calculate the amount of drainage in gallons per minute needed to help with the surplus of water during flood level events and keep flooding to a minimum in low sea level areas. Miami covers 55.25 square miles. This roughly equates to 289,935 gallons of water per minute for one inch of rainfall over one square mile. When hurricanes make landfall and the amount of rain being dropped is found, it’s a simple calculation to find how much water needs to be pumped out of the city and what size pumps should be installed or how many. There are many companies who make pumps ranging from 1,000 gpm all the way to 100,000 gpm and can be utilized in two ways. One way is a hard mount and the pump never moves. This way would be used preferably under ground or at a pumping station which takes all the water from the city and pumps it into the ocean or reservoir after being disinfected of chemicals and contaminants. This is much how city water systems work. The other type of pump is a movable configuration and is typically used as needed. Imagine you’re filling your bathtub with water but the drain can’t handle the amount coming in from the faucet. Once the water reaches the drain flip on the side of the tub then it can handle additional water. This is how the movable pump would be used and would be great for those areas in the city that have a lower average altitude and thus accrue more water and need additional support. Installing them to the existing storm drain infrastructure would minimize costs and increase effectiveness of the system. A 50,000 gpm pump could easily be integrated to the system at a rate of 6 per square mile to drain the water from, for instance, a hurricane like Norbert.

A possible argument against the use of drainage pumps is that these systems must be installed which costs time and money. While any addition of infrastructure will hold an economic impact, the amount of damage avoided by avoiding heavy flooding will save much more money than it costs to install the systems. As stated above, researchers are finding that the effects of hurricanes are only becoming more intense, and this includes flooding from excessive precipitation. Based on a report from Moody Analytics, “Property damage and disruption from Hurricane Florence is expected to total at least $17 billion to $22 billion, but the estimate could end up being conservative, as the Carolinas continue to face historic rainfalls and flooding” (Domm, p. 1). This estimate of cost in repairs was for one hurricane alone, meaning that with each additional hurricane more damage is done, and worse flooding will result. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans was reported to have cost $108 billion in damages, half of which were due to the damage done by flooding (Amadeo, 2018). After this hurricane, Louisiana began to install stronger, more effective pumps in order to avoid facing that same level of damage (Schleifstein, 2018). These drainage pump systems ended up going over budget, and costing the city of New Orleans $728 million for three main pumping stations. While this is a large sum of money, comparatively to the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, these costs could pay off for another high intensity hurricane. Half of the damage costs of Hurricane Katrina were reported to have been due to flooding, meaning that the $54 billion amount of damage could have been drastically reduced if proper infrastructure were in place (Amadeo, 2018) (Schleifstein, 2018). This comparison between the costs in New Orleans, could speak largely to

Bruce Bender is one of many home and business owners who are desperate to find solutions that will make their quality of life at the coast more sustainable. Stronger drainage pumps are not the only solution to Florida’s flood problem, but it is a practical approach to a much larger and complex issue in which they cannot afford further delay. If there is one thing we can be certain of is that climate change is here and creating more intense hurricanes. Combined with a rising sea level, another side effect of climate change, and recipe for disaster is likely to ensue upon coastal communities as has been the case for Miami, a major U.S. city. NOAA reports that the U.S. has seen 25 500-year hurricanes since 2010, in which the U.S. has paid a little over 300 billion dollars in damages for just 2017 alone (Ingraham, 2017). If even a portion of that cost can be reduced by adding stronger drainage pumps it could give coastal communities like Miami time to respond and reevaluate the framework of their society’s infrastructure. The millions it costs to install these pumps are alarming but nominal when compared to the billions it could save in flood damages. Adding stronger drainage pumps could be the starting point that allows for more permanent solutions to be made.

Assessing and Combating the Enteric Methane Contributions of Ruminants

Authors: Melissa Bonaccorso (Natural Resource Conservation); Morgane Golan (Animal Science, Pre-Vet); Ben Phaneuf (Building Construction Technology)

In a new effort to better quantify the methane emitted by livestock, researchers are utilizing methane-collecting backpacks on cows.

Most of us have the best intentions when making decisions at the grocery store – we often try to choose what is best for our health, and many of us have environmentalism in mind, as well. It can be difficult to know what is best, and all the contradictory information out there can leave us frustrated and confused. It seems that every few months there is a new set of rules for how we are supposed to eat: vegan, vegetarian, antibiotic-free, gluten-free, cage-free, GMO-free; and when it comes to beef, grass-fed is now all the rage. Unfortunately, if environmental sustainability is your motive, grass-fed beef actually does more harm than good. Ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats, are animals that are able to subsist on plant matter because they have a stomach compartment, the rumen, in which microorganisms digest these cellulose products. However, this form of digestion, known as enteric fermentation, comes at a cost. The microbial ecosystem of the rumen generates methane as a byproduct of this fermentation, in a process called ruminal methanogenesis (Lassey 2006). Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas, and is of critical importance because it has a global warming effect that is 28-36 times that of carbon dioxide (EPA). Nearly half of all human-caused methane emissions come from agriculture, and livestock contributes nearly 70% of CH4 emissions from the agricultural sector (Vergé et al. 2008, p.132; Lassey, 2006; Wysocka-Czubaszek 2018). In the context of the US specifically, methane accounts for 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions, and 26% of these methane emissions comes from enteric fermentation – the second-highest portion next to natural gas and petroleum systems (EPA). While its concentration in the atmosphere is much lower than that of CO2, methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is, and has the potential to contribute 18% of the total expected global warming up to the year 2050, next to carbon dioxide’s 50%  (Milich, 1999). Thus, while CO2 tends to get the most public attention for its contributions to climate change, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas, which calls for more significant consideration.

An average of 30 million animals per year are slaughtered for the beef industry in the US, and an average of 2 million animals, with an additional 3.4 billion pounds of beef, are imported to the US from Canada annually (ERS, 2015). In addition, about 9 million milk cows are active in the US in 2016 alone (statista.com). In all, approximately 20 billion pounds of beef is consumed in the US each year, accounting for approximately half of the American dietary carbon footprint (Waite, 2018). The amount of CH4 emissions from ruminants in 2016 was equivalent to 170 million metric tons of CO2 (Center for Sustainable Systems, 2018). To put these numbers into context, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions produced by annual US beef consumption is equivalent to that which would result from a car driving around the entire Earth 22,000 times (space.com; ewg.org). In response to the severity of methane output via enteric fermentation, the scientific community has become increasingly concerned with identifying resolutions that are considerate of productivity within the agricultural sector, as well as environmental efficiency.

Significant enteric methane production, and the overall increasing trend in GHG emissions by the beef and dairy industries, are symptomatic of a high demands for livestock products (Place, 2016). Many environmentalists and animal-rights activists advocate for a drastic decrease in or even total elimination of beef and dairy consumption in the American diet. Reduction in meat and dairy consumption is certainly linked to a lower personal environmental impact: the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the average meat-eater’s diet are about 1.5 to 2 times those of vegetarians and vegans, respectively (Scarborough, et al. 2014). But most people are resistant to altering their diet in such a radical way, due to a plethora of social and physical barriers; global demand for meat products is actually increasing at a rate faster than land availability can accommodate (Kwan, 2011; Jenkins, 2004; Verge, 2008). In fact, demand for beef and dairy products in the US is expected to increase 70% within the next 36 years (Place, 2016). Although veganism and vegetarianism can help reduce total greenhouse gas emissions, we simply cannot rely on everyone to adopt these lifestyles if we are to make significant changes with haste. In addition, campaigns to reduce meat consumption pose a threat to cattle farmers’ incomes. Harsh restrictions on the beef and dairy industries, or campaigns to reduce the consumption of these products across the nation and world, are both insufficient and would also pose a threat to those whose livelihoods depend on these industries. For these reasons, research teams including veterinarians, environmental specialists and other invested individuals, are collaborating to identify strategies for reducing ruminal methane emissions, without harming invested parties. To minimize the impact of ruminal methane emissions without negatively affecting animal welfare and the livelihoods of stakeholders, we propose the integration of dietary supplements into ruminal feed to naturally inhibit methanogenesis.

One of the most promising methods of reducing ruminal methanogenesis without posing a threat to the industry or the animals is through supplementation of the animals’ diets. Since feed efficiency and methane production are intrinsically linked, ruminants reared on cellulose-based diet, such as those destined to become the beloved “grass-fed” beef, will produce more methane, and for a longer time than they might otherwise, since the cellulose-based diet is not conducive to optimal growth of the animals (Tirado-Estrada et al., 2018). Experts in the field have acknowledged that completely altering the diet of every ruminant on earth is not feasible: grain-based diets can be costly and are often inaccessible (Tirado-Estrada et. al., 2018). It is possible and cost-effective, however, to improve the digestibility of the livestock diet by replacing some of the fiber content with protein-rich concentrates, while still utilizing the typical pasture-based diet. Increasing the digestibility of the diet of dairy and beef cattle can reduce methane emissions in two ways: first, by helping these cows reach market weight sooner, thereby limiting the amount of methane that each cow can produce throughout its life, and second, by inhibiting the process of methanogenesis in the rumen. Any compound with a high protein/low fiber content would be a fine contender for the improvement of the ruminal diet, but those that are naturally sourced, readily available and less costly are most ideal for the animals, the environment, and stakeholders. An excellent option which meets this criteria has been identified: mangosteen peel powder (MSP). Mangosteen peel powder, or Garcinia mangostana, is very highly regarded among animal nutritionists, because it does not negatively affect the crucial microbial populations of the rumen, but can reduce the population of methanogens, the microorganisms most responsible for methane production, by up to 50% in a safe manner (Polyorach et. al., 2016). The utilization of MSP in feed has been found to significantly reduce methane production between 10-25% (Wanapat et al. 2015; Manasri et al 2012; Polyorach et al. 2016). Aside from reducing the population of methanogens, protein-rich plant concentrates present in mangosteen peels, called saponins and tannins, have also been found to minimize the growth and activity of methane-producing protozoa in the rumen, without inhibiting their function entirely (Wallace et al, 2002, Patra 2011). Supplementing the diet with naturally derived plant compounds such as this effectively reduces methane production, and does so without causing significant consequences to the animal’s microbial system or putting the animal at risk for ruminal disease (Patra, 2010).

Dietary additives are already widely used to supplement cattle feed, which makes further supplementation feasible once high-protein supplements, like MSP, are made readily available in the national market. For example, Rumensin is a feed additive that has been used in the cattle industry for over 4 decades (Greenfield et al., 2000). The active ingredient in Rumensin is a coccidiostat, meaning that it is an antibiotic specifically geared at killing coccidiosis bacteria in the animal body. Rumensin is an attractive product because of its prevention and control of disease, as well as its capacity to improve feed efficiency by 4% (“Data on Dairy Science”, 2012). Because of the traction and popularity associated with this feed supplement, which improves productivity while also combating a severe public health crisis, there is potential for MSP to be utilized in a similar manner, with the intent to mitigate the impending public health crisis of climate change.

In anticipation of concerns among farmers and other food animal industry leaders that dietary supplementation would be too costly, it is important to emphasize that methane reduction and productivity are not mutually exclusive; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Dietary manipulation, as a means by which to decrease methane emissions, may also have the attractive quality of improving feed efficiency and animal productivity (Lovett et al., 2003). Protein rich, plant-based supplements are capable of improving milk production and composition, daily weight gain, and feed conversion efficiency (Khan et al., 2015). In other words, with the use of dietary supplements, animals can be brought to their goal weight more quickly while producing higher-quality meat. The inclusion of such methane-inhibiting concentrates has been found to correspond directly with more rapid animal development and increased body weight while potentially reducing enteric methane by up to 40% (Benchaar et. al., 2001, Lovett et al., 2003). The investment in dietary supplements may therefore ultimately result in money saved that would otherwise be spent on longer rearing times to get animals to their goal weight. The inclusion of protein-rich plant concentrates also has the potential to not only decrease enteric methane production but also increase the fat content in milk when included in the diets of dairy cows (Tirado-Estrada et. al., 2018). Integration of protein-dense supplements into the diet may be the most feasible option for increasing productivity while decreasing enteric methane production by dairy and beef cattle. For this reason, dietary supplementation of this sort is considered the most appealing and cost-effective option to motivate farmers to adopt more sustainable practices (Patra, 2010).

In order to effectively address

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Single Use Plastics

Erik Engstrom- Building and Construction Technology

Hunter Chapdelaine- Building and Construction Technology

Meaghan Asklar- Animal Science

Ellie Card- Sustainable Food and Farming

Single Use Plastics are causing damage to marine life as well as human lives.

 

 

From the outside looking in, it is quite easy to overlook the catastrophic damage that single-use plastics are causing to not only marine life, but human beings as well. Furthermore, we tend to forget that, as humans, we are reliant upon the oceans that surround us for survival, and it is the responsibility of human beings to protect these oceans to the best of their ability. That being said, it is important to educate ourselves and those around us in terms of the severity of this particular problem along with how to combat it. One particular study that attempted to do so involved the examination of a group of 256 women at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center from 2004 to 2014 during their medically assisted reproduction process. During this study, the researchers measured the different levels of concentration of 11 phthalate metabolites in the women’s urine around the approximate time of conception. For those that are unaware, phthalates are a group of chemicals used in order to produce plastics that are more flexible and durable (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). The results showed that women who possessed the highest concentrations of phthalates were 60% more at risk of losing their pregnancy prior to 20 weeks than the women with the lowest concentrations (Messerlian et al., 2016). It is important to understand that these phthalates that are appearing in the bodies of humans and causing irreversible, long-life damage are the result of single-use plastics, particularly plastic bags, being irresponsibly released into the oceans where they will break down and be consumed by fish that are later consumed by humans. Therefore, it is vital that humans do everything in their power to combat the issue of pollution that we have created and ultimately caused irreversible and life-altering damage to marine ecosystems and humans. Continue Reading

Wildfires and Climate Change, what can we do?

Ivan Chukarov, Chris Clark, Amelia Midgley, Jeffrey Trainor

The devastating Camp fire in California that raged in November of 2018 has left more than 70 people dead and more than 1,000 people missing. In Butte county, the Camp fire has destroyed 12,784 structures, including 9,891 homes (Holpuch & Anguiano 2018). The emotional and physical stress these large wildfires put on residents of burned areas is unimaginable. Lilly Batres, a 13 year old resident of Magalia, a town affected by the California Camp wildfire, was evacuated to a shelter nearby.  Lilly doesn’t know whether her home is still standing and while she seeks refuge at a camp, she cannot grieve in privacy. To Lilly, the camp is “cold and scary”,  and even to some extent she feels like “people are going to come into our tent,” she explains (Anguiano 2018). The Camp Fire is not the only fire that has burned massive plots of land in 2018. The Carr and Ferguson fires in California, burning more than 80,000 hectares, and in Oregon and Colorado have orched more than 100,000 hectares collectively (Selby 2018).   Continue Reading

Hurricane Resistant Building Techniques for New and Restorative Residential Construction in Coastal Communities

 

Emma Curran- Environmental Science

Erika Smith- NRC

Dean Jenssen- BCT

George Baidoo- BCT

From Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘claustrophobia’ is the fear of being enclosed in a small space or room and unable to escape or get out. Many people in the world suffer from this phobia, while others simply feel uncomfortable with the idea of being stuck in place. This is a feeling thousands of people have endured, especially in times of a natural disaster, faced with a rising storm surge and trying to escape. This is the fate many residents in hurricane prone areas, particularly the Gulf Coast and Florida have encountered. Unfortunately, a storm surge rises irrespective to one’s claustrophobia. Brendan Smialowski and Gianrigo Marletta interviewed Mexico beach resident Loren Beltran after the recent devastation Hurricane Michael caused. “My house, which is in Mexico Beach, is under water,” said Beltran, distraught after learning that water had reached the ceiling of her damaged home (Smialowski, B et al. 2018, October 11). Climate change is progressing, and factors like storm surge, sea level rise, and sea surface temperature (SST) increase are causing high intensity hurricanes to happen at a higher rate. This has led to more much more flood damage in coastal communities.  The only viable solution to better protect the homes of residents living in coastal areas is building with flood proof materials and methods, such as concrete foundations, to ensure minimal damage possible from the hurricane. Continue Reading

It’s Sink or Swim for Lobsters in Southern New England: Climate Change is Turning Southern New England into a Boiling Pot and Lobsters are Leaving

There are two stories in New England currently: one of success and one of failure. The lobster fishing industry is without question one of the most significant parts of the New England identity and culture. Lobster fishing has provided a lucrative livelihood since the 1800s and continues to do so for those fishing in Northern New England. While those fishing for lobster in the North are hauling record numbers, the industry in the South has been heading toward the verge of collapse since the late 1990s. Tom Tomkiewicz, a Massachusetts lobsterman who fishes in Long Island Sound describes it himself, saying “there is nothing here… it’s crazy” (Abel, 2017). How can one of the biggest industries of a region suddenly be at massively different levels of success? The answer lies in the rising temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and historic management practices that have lead to this disparity. Continue Reading

Green Weed, Green Planet

Tyler Clements (Environmental Science), Rudy Marek (Geology), Mitch Maslanka (Natural Resource Conservation), Olivia Santamaria (Horticulture)

In 1996, California voted to become the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. Fast forward to today, and the legalization of marijuana is now a seemingly unstoppable movement that is sweeping across the United States. With recreational and medicinal use being rapidly legalized all over the country, 29 states have already legalized marijuana medicinally and 9 have recreationally (Robinson, Berk, & Gould, 2018, para. 2). From the start of California legalizing marijuana, this new industry with seemingly endless potential was given the green light to begin at the commercial level. As of 2017, the industry has grown from $6.73 billion to $9.7 billion in North America (Borchardt, 2017, para. 1; Robinson, 2018, para. 6; Zhang, 2017, para. 2). The entrepreneurs of the country began to think of ways to create and expand a marijuana based business and one of the most important aspects of this process was how the marijuana itself was going to be grown. Continue Reading