The Natural Step: A Framework for Sustainability

the Natural Step

The natural step has been regarded as the world’s leading sustainability framework. It provides a set of sustainable management principles that have been tested and applied since the early 1990s to create a common language for businesses so they can move towards sustainability. This blog post will talk about what The Natural Step is, how it works, and why it’s an important tool for business owners who want to be more sustainable!

We will start with what the natural step is. The Natural Step provides a framework for sustainability upon which businesses can use to move towards sustainability because sustainability is such a precise topic that it needs an agreed-upon set of principles by society and industry to guide action.

The framework provides four basic rules which are the sustainability principles that define success. As captured in the Natural step framework, these sustainability principles provide the understanding that: In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing…

1…concentrations of substances from the earth’s crust (such as fossil CO2, heavy metals, and minerals)

2…concentrations of substances produced by society (such as antibiotics and endocrine disruptors)

3… degradation by physical means (such as deforestation and draining of groundwater tables).

4. And in that society there are no structural obstacles to people’s health, influence, competence, impartiality, and meaning.

To apply these principles, the Natural Step applies the ABCD process to implement the above sustainability principles into your business or organization. The implementation of the Natural Step can be applied in different contexts and it takes training, experience, and practice to apply the above principles more easily. The letters represent a process that is followed for each step:

A—Awareness & Vision

Envisioning the future starts with awareness and defining what sustainability means for individuals, businesses, and other organizations. The Natural Step framework uses a science-based system’s perspective definition as the foundation of decisions made at this stage in looking into envisioned sustainable futures.

B—Baseline Analysis (Baseline Assessment)

It is important for organizations to understand their sustainability issues and strengths as it helps establish goals, implement change, and make improvements. Gap analysis is a process that can be used by any organization to find out more about themselves through exploration of the differences between current trends compared with what they should strive towards being. By analyzing these discrepancies, we can identify where an organization needs improvement or provide a way forward on how best you might go about making desired changes happen.

C—Creative Solutions

The first step to achieving your goals is understanding the gaps and baseline of what you are currently working with. Understanding these will allow for innovation so that we can work on solutions to bring ourselves closer to this vision- a sustainable product or organization.

D –Decides on Priorities (Devise a plan)

Developing a plan is the crucial first step in any journey. It will help you understand what the next steps are and “low-hanging fruit” that can produce quicker benefits as well as develop your long-term goals. This process will also help you to formulate both short-term and long-term plans while prioritizing which goal goes first.

System Perspective – Design for Eco-Products

sustainable designMost people don’t realize that sustainable design is a lot more than just designing an eco-friendly product. It involves understanding all the steps that go into your product and how they affect the environment, from packaging to production to disposal. What’s even more important is analyzing these impacts using a system perspective. To help you with this, we’re going to dive deep into what system perspectives are, how they work, and why it’s so important for the sustainable design of products. So let’s get started!

Introduction

System perspective tools such as an environmental life-cycle analysis (LCA) or a Life Cycle Management tool (LCM) as well as The 5 Level Framework (5LF) can guide product development by shedding light on the life-cycle of any given product and illuminating ways to reduce resources consumed and lower costs all along the value chain. It does this by using an ecological footprint perspective–that is, looking at everything from cradle to grave in order to measure environmental impact during every phase. From a system’s perspective, it’s easy enough to identify what steps use up water or produce air pollution more quickly than others; as such these are good places for improvement!

The Components of a System Perspective

Life Cycle Management (LCM) is a business approach that ensures sustainable value chain management to target, organize, analyze and manage product-related information and activities towards continuous improvement along the product life cycle. LCM differs from an environmental LCA in how it measures performance; LCM focuses on improving environmentally conscious aspects of production while also considering economic factors such as cost efficiency throughout the process.

Unlike many other tools for sustainability assessment like ESG or GRI reporting standards which can only provide broad overviews of company operations across various industries/sectors at any given time period, an Environmental Life Cycle Assessment by contrasting forces companies to collect specific data about their products’ environmental impacts during each stage so they are able to accurately identify what needs improvements before making decisions.

In a world where sustainability is becoming more and more important, it’s crucial to know the different types of tools that can be used in order to create sustainable products. One such tool is LCM – Life Cycle Management which provides an umbrella for other assessment tools like environmental LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and offers a framework under which product-LCA are able to inform the design process of new sustainable products.

In addition, the organization called the Natural Step developed a five(5) level framework that can help companies create a picture of what it means to be sustainable not just for their product sustainability, but also in their operations, processes using a holistic approach. Using a holistic approach, and working with a clear vision of the end-point, companies can lay out the steps necessary to get there as the Natural Step founder, Karl-Henrik Robert calls it “backcasting from principles”.

The 5 Level Framework (5LF) is a comprehensive model for planning and decision making in complex systems based on whole system thinking. It comprises five levels: 1.) System, 2.) Success, 3,) Strategic Planing/Decision Making Strategies, 4) Actions to be Taken; and 5., Tools that can help accomplish the goals of each level. The framework helps one analyze any type or scale of complex system by providing tools to plan strategically towards success while respecting principles determined by how the working of the individual components influence its overall performance over time.

Who Uses Systems Perspectives?

sustainable design

The use of system perspectives can help policymakers and designers understand how to make their sustainable projects more impactful. Policymakers could use this perspective for example, when deciding where or what to build in order to have the most impact on improving sustainability.

Similar to the human body, a factory is well-designed when every part of it works together seamlessly for optimum efficiency. In order to do this correctly, you have to consider energy consumption as just one component in an interconnected system. Factors such as water usage and waste production rates also play into how much money your design will cost over time while still being environmentally friendly thanks to its incorporation of systems thinking which should be considered by anyone interested in creating sustainable solutions that are not only effective but profitable too!

Why is it Important for Sustainable Product Design?

First, what are system perspectives and how do they work? A system’s perspective analyzes the environmental impact of your product from start to finish – meaning your production process plus any other steps that lead up to or follow after its disposal. To illustrate this point, let’s consider an eco shampoo bottle as an example: by using system perspective tools such as life cycle analysis (LCA), you can determine which parts of the design might need tweaking in order to make them more sustainable. 

For instance, consider this real-world example: A shampoo bottle. It is designed with the end in mind, and you can look at it from three different perspectives to see how each impacts its sustainability. From a design perspective, use eco-friendly materials that are recyclable or biodegradable for less waste during the production of the product itself; If looking at disposal after usage, make sure your bottles will be recycled properly so they don’t find their way into our landfills – especially now when there’s not as much landfill space available because everyone has been using recycling bins! As an added bonus? Using sustainable practices like those outlined above also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better energy efficiency on every level throughout the process by reducing resource consumption needs and the use of chemicals.

Typical System Perspective Example

Design Perspective: Designing an eco product with materials that are non-toxic, biodegradable or that can be recycled easily

Post perspective: Disposal after usage, make sure your bottles will be recycled properly so they don’t find their way into our landfills – especially now when there’s not as much landfill space available because everyone has been using recycling bins! As an added bonus? Using sustainable practices like those outlined above also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better energy efficiency on every level throughout the process by reducing resource consumption needs and the use of chemicals.

Governing perspective: Analyzing the environmental impact of your product comes in handy using a system’s perspective.

For the above example, System perspective tools such as the environmental LCA can help your business capture these data and create metrics for measurement –and as a result, you can be able to track some basic environmental outcomes – the resources it uses and what it emits or wastes, etc

Benefits of sustainability in business: 5 examples of sustainable companies

go green

What are the benefits of sustainability? As the world becomes more conscious about sustainability and the environment, many businesses are going green. In this blog post, we will look at five (5) different inspirational examples of businesses that have gone green. These include both large and small companies. They illustrate a variety of ways in which you can reduce your company’s ecological footprint by using sustainable practices.

1. Coca-Cola sustainability initiatives – the recycling program

    The Coca-Cola Company has started a recycling program in which they commit to making “100 percent of the packaging for all its drinks recyclable or compostable by 2025”. Coca-Cola is making changes to its packaging in order to help the environment. With Coca-Cola’s new World Without Waste initiative, they plan on achieving three goals: 1) Designing recyclable products 2) Collect and recycle a bottle or can already sold by 2030 3) Partner with other companies who are looking at sustainability issues like climate change as well. By 2025, 100% of all coca cola’s packaging will be recyclable globally while 50% of it being made up from recycled material! It might not seem that far away now but this company has been around for over 130 years so you know they’re good when it comes to thinking long term! Already Coca-Cola is enjoying the benefits of sustainability by reducing waste and by recycling more packaging materials.

    2. IKEA’s Circular model of production

    The Swedish furniture company IKEA has set the goal to become climate-positive by 2030. This means that their business will be more sustainable, as they are shifting towards a circular model of production. One way for them to make this happen is prolonging the lifespan of materials and products in order to create less ecological footprint because it would lower both new material production as well future waste from these items when disposed of at the end of the life cycle.

    In addition to the circular model of production, IKEA is committed to renewable energy and removing CO2 from the atmosphere through forestation. For example, in FY20 they announced a EUR 200 million investment for production speed up as well an ambition of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions by one gigatonne per year with forestry projects alone.

    3. YesStraws – Biodegradable Straws

    YesStraws is an organization that has developed biodegradable straws in order to reduce pollution. The company was started as a result of bans on plastic straw use and the oceans being covered with waste, which can be attributed primarily to them. YesStraws aims at reducing these numbers by developing more environmentally friendly alternatives such as their own product: Bioplastics made from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane, they are 100% compostable so you don’t have to worry about it taking over our landfills!

    YesStraws are an environmentally-friendly alternative to disposable plastic straws. They’re made from plant materials, and they can be composted after use or just tossed in the household trash once you’ve finished drinking any liquids that were inside of them! YesStraws have a long list of benefits that make them worth considering when purchasing your next drink at a coffee shop: YesStraws don’t create waste like single-use plastics do; they won’t end up being caught as ocean debris either because it’s biodegradable material meant for our landfills instead. You’ll also save money by buying these reusable items over time – so what more could we ask for? Check out YesStraws products on Amazon.com

    4. Nike’s sneakers – producing sneakers with recyclable materials

    What is the environmental impact of your pair of sneakers? With over 23 billion pairs produced every year, 300 million thrown out, and an average lifespan to decompose being 30-40 years it’s alarming just what this industry throws into our landfills each year with plastic, rubber & petroleum as major ingredients when designing a new pair all together contributing to carbon dioxide emissions!

    As a consequence, Nike and other sneaker companies have been redesigning their shoe products to be more sustainable. In the past five years alone, Nike has used recycled polyester for six(6) straight years as well as transformed over 6.4 billion plastic water bottles into shoes or clothing. By 2020, Nike was able to go even further by using recycled rubbers on midsoles and outsoles in all of its sneakers from Nike SBs to converse.

    go greenIn addition, Nike has created a line of products called Nike Space Hippie that are made from recycled materials. The company also creates shoes like the new Cosmic Unity basketball shoe, which is produced with at least 20% recyclable content and offers comfort for players on their feet all day long as they make game-winning moves.

    5. Green Toys – Made with 100% recycled materials

    This company has combined the best of two worlds, environmental and economic. They use recycled materials to make their toys for children while also saving energy by diverting material from landfills. Beyond these great benefits, they are 100% US-made which further reduces greenhouse gas emissions due to being able to produce closer than other companies around the world can do without having such a large impact on our environment. Their toys are made with 100% recycled plastic while all toy producers around the world are producing plastic with at least 20% recycled content. That is, this company’s products are packaged with recycled and recyclable materials and printed with minimum color using soy inks. Check out Green Toys products on Amazon.com.

    Five (5) go green benefits for a sustainable business

    go green

    Go green concept is a step by step approach and can be implemented by taking a systems approach. Your business just needs to start somewhere and with time, you will have a strategy to assist you to move forward with your going green strategies.

    In that regard, businesses are increasingly going green in an effort to be eco-friendly and save money. Whether you’re a service company or a product-oriented company, going green will depend on various factors including your waste generated from the work system put in place.

    For instance, if you’re a marketing agency that works with clients all over the world then your core business is services and it would make sense for you to go paperless as much as possible. On the other hand, if you’re an industrial firm that produces goods like plastics then it’s likely more important for you to reduce energy costs, which means making changes such as recycling water or installing solar panels on your roof.

    The best thing about going green in the workplace is that it can be done as a gradual process. You don’t have to go all or nothing, you just need to start somewhere and take small steps towards sustainable practices for your company such as recycling paper, switching out light bulbs with LEDs, etc.

    The following four(5) benefits of going green should help convince you to go green for your company.

    1. Reduce waste and save the environment

    One way to reduce your company’s environmental footprint and save the planet is by going green. If you have implemented a variety of different processes, design techniques, or energy technologies in your business then you can generate quite a few benefits for both employees and our environment. Reduce your waste to improve the environment. One of many ways you can do this is by reducing or eliminating paper and energy usage, which will make a huge difference in sustainability.For instance, reducing and minimizing waste is a great way to be more sustainable. You can make an impact by reducing the use of paper for printing or using recycled products, as well as decreasing your carbon footprint with energy conservation tips like turning off lights when you leave rooms!.

    2. Go green cost-saving opportunities

    Going green is not just good for the environment, it can also be a great financial decision. By adopting strategies such as switching to electric vehicles and going solar you will save significant money that would otherwise go towards energy bills or gas expenses. Driving an electric car saves money in two significant ways. The first is the cost of fuel, which a study from the University of Michigan found costs less than half as much for EVs than gas-powered cars. The second reason they save money is through electricity rates that are more stable and predictable over time vs for gasoline prices.

    3. Go green is great for customer service

    When you go green, customers will like your business more! Customers are drawn to companies that care about the environment. And while it’s not easy going green, it only takes a little effort on behalf of one person who cares enough for their community and our planet as well. The benefits from being eco-conscious extend beyond just good customer service–it also helps protect the earth we all share together!–and make sure people can enjoy this beautiful world with us for many years into the future!

    4. Great for your company’s reputation

    The green concept is a trend that companies are following to ensure their reputation and sustainability. Studies show people would rather buy from environmentally conscious, sustainable products than the ones who don’t care or aren’t aware of these issues. Greener business practices are increasingly becoming the norm. In a recent international survey, 80% of people said they would respect companies and brands that adopt greener policies. For instance, with all the environmental problems such as climate change, we see that most consumers will be drawn more towards companies with cleantech instead of those who continue making harmful decisions about our planet’s well-being without any thought for consequences in future generations

    5. Increased productivity 

    With more and more people choosing to work from home, the go-green concept has taken on new meaning. Now with so many offices being converted into virtual workplaces, it is important for architects and employers alike to consider how their building will impact employees’ cognitive function while at work. One recent study out of Harvard University shows that a greener environment can have profound effects on the mental health outcomes in individuals exposed over an extended period of time – including increased levels of cognition by up to 61%. This makes sense considering we spend about 90% of our day inside buildings which are now responsible for providing us not just shelter but also shaping our moods; both positively or negatively depending upon if they’re designed using sustainable materials like recycled steel and bamboo floors as well as natural daylight. Green buildings not only affect the productivity of people at workplaces, but they also have a significant effect on their cognitive function.

    In addition, another study showed that Genzyme Center – a LEED Platinum building in Cambridge, MA – used 42% less energy and 34% less water than standard buildings of comparable size. In addition to this, the employees were 15% more productive because they didn’t have toxins like formaldehyde around them all day from typical materials found in regular construction.

    What is solar energy information?

    We take this opportunity to wish you a happy new year – 2021. We would like to start the new year by sharing our new going solar options’ app which is a one-stop place app for solar information concerning solar energy options’ available as well as online solar tools such as solar calculators for helping with your decision to go solar.
    Our new solar app will help you help access solar information easily and faster using your cellphone. The solar app is called “Going solar options’” and will help to promote solar energy and sustainability. The solar app comes in handy when you want to know your solar potential and provides a one-stop place of information for solar PV applications such as solar panels, solar generators, and solar gadgets.

    What is solar energy information? It is the type of information anyone interested in going solar will be looking for to understand the pros and cons of solar energy before making the decision to go solar. It is a go-to app for both solar consumers and businesses interested in strategies for going green or implementing sustainability or CSR solar-related activities. Please feel free to download here the app which is currently on Google Play App’s store. An iPhone version of the app will be available soon in Apple’s apple store.

    About the Going solar options’ app

    Going solar options’ app is the condensed version of the reneenergy.com website to help our online users access solar energy information easily and faster on their cellphone gadgets. As such, online solar tools such as online solar calculators, online solar marketplaces, and solar reviews of different solar panels, solar generators, and solar phone chargers. An online solar platform of information about solar energy options’, online solar applications, and sustainability. Find online solar calculators, solar apps, and information about solar PV solutions for different uses.

    Find solar reviews of different solar providers, including solar chargers, solar panels, solar generators, solar inverters, and solar batteries. Also, find solar energy calculators to determine how much you can save with solar or how many solar panels you may need to go solar.

    With regard to going green, it is about adopting eco-products or eco-practices that eliminate or reduce environmental burdens. Going green for businesses or individuals is profitable in the long-term depending on what strategies are taken by a specific brand to make it socially responsible both in the short and long-term. As such, going green is a concept that revolves many sectors in energy, transportation, manufacturing, food, health, and many other industries that help to build the economy.

    As a result, since all these sectors involve the end-user or consumers, many innovations both eco-products and eco-practices have been developed in each of these sectors to target consumers that are environmentally conscious about their carbon footprint or environmental impact. Going solar is one strategy individuals and businesses can adopt as an option for going green.  The aim of this solar app is to share solar energy facts information for solar consumers to make informed solar decisions. What is solar energy information? 

    What is solar energy information? 

    Solar energy information empowers the end-user to make informed decisions when it comes to going solar. A solar energy consumer needs to know solar energy facts information to distinguish between the different applications of solar energy. As a result, the going solar options app comes in handy in this regard. Here we capture the different applications of solar energy and their applications. 

    The abbreviation ‘PV’ stands for photovoltaic. Photovoltaic cells are composed of semiconductor materials. When they make contact with sunlight, the light excites electrons, which leads to the generation of electricity.

    A photovoltaic solar panel is made up of integrated components called solar cells, which fall into the categories of first, second, and third-generation solar cells. When people go solar, they will often get these solar panels added to their homes.

    1. First-generation solar cells are the traditional and widely commercially used photovoltaic cells. Also, known as wafer-based cells which are composed of crystalline silicon, including polysilicon and monocrystalline silicon.

    2. Thin-film solar cells fall into the second-generation category, and they include amorphous silicon, CdTe, and CIGS cells. Less used in residential solar panels. For the most part, thin-film solar cells are in building utility-scale PV solar power stations. Thin-film solar cells are integrated PV systems or more minor stand-alone solar power systems.

    3. Third-generation PV solar cells are not yet commercially available for public use. Most of them are still under R&D. The goal of the research is to decrease PV costs while maximizing the efficiency of solar cells. Researchers and engineers are trying to incorporate organic materials, including organometallic compounds, in addition to inorganic materials. The goal is to reach higher efficiency and lowered PV costs. As a result of this research, solar generators might become more effective in the future. As such, solar PV has several applications and therefore it has a multitude of different forms, such as

    • Solar phone charger
    • Solar-powered battery charger
    • RV solar panels
    • Solar panels
    • Solar generators
    • Solar Lighting
    • Solar Powered Water Pump

    Please access our new solar app here. We would appreciate it if you could review the app and rate it on the Google Play App store for our android users. Very soon our iPhone users will also have access to this particular app.

    Thank you and we look forward to receiving your comments and reviews regarding the going solar options’ app.

    Who makes method cleaning products?

    Method cleaning products use plant-based and a few mineral-based chemicals in their formulation. Some of the mineral-based or synthetic chemicals used in the formulation of these products are used mainly as a pH adjuster or fragrance.

    Method cleaning products are made with plant-based or biodegradable ingredients and packaged on recycled bottles ensuring sustainable design. Natural ingredients for these products are derived from plants such as corn and coconut or natural citric acids. According to Method, the formulations of their cleaning products utilize advanced green chemistry technologies to create strong and safe formulations that are good for their consumers and the environment.

    Also, the formulation for different method cleaning products follows the precautionary principle i.e. if there’s a chance an ingredient isn’t safe, they don’t use it in the formulation. In addition, Method all-purpose cleaners undergo a 3rd party assessment where all method ingredients are rigorously evaluated by an independent material agency for health and environmental safety. Learn more here about Method cleaning products.

    Three simple sustainable options for small businesses

    sustainable optionsIt is always advisable to conduct a comprehensive audit to understand what sustainable options that would have high impact for your triple-bottom-line, however sometimes you just want to get started to enjoy the benefits of implementing sustainable options. To start with, you can consider doing projects that have a high probability of success or focus your efforts on projects that make good business sense i.e. good for the sustainability and profits of the company. This blog attempts to capture a few low hanging fruit sustainable options, especially for small & medium-size businesses that may be interested in implementing low-cost sustainable options to save money or time and material resources such as energy:

    1. Plan an energy efficiency project. Small businesses may not have the finances to conduct a comprehensive energy audit that requires capital intensive modifications but could start with a walk-through audit to visually inspect each of the energy-using systems. Ideally, a walk-through energy-audit will perform a preliminary analysis of energy use or consumption to obtain the energy trends and patterns while benchmarking with other similar facilities. Small businesses can also consider performing a benchmarking audit which is faster because of the use of online tools such as the EPA ENERGY STAR portfolio manager. This online tool which is created by the EPA is a great tool that can be used to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. This tool is free to use and it is recommended for users to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings in a secure onlineenvironment. It is easy to use and it can be used to manage the energy use of any building.
    2. Implement solar photovoltaics (PV) project: Most solar projects especially commercial solar projects can be capital intensive, but in most cases, companies don’t have to own the PV system using flexible financing mechanisms such as the power purchase agreement (PPAs) and leasing financing models that allow companies to buy solar power at slightly lower rates compared to utility rates. EnergySage which is an online solar marketplace is a great starting point that online users can be used to estimate their solar potential, savings and get financing for their solar energy projects. At EnergySageyou will also have access to multiple solar quotes from your local solar installers.
    3. Consider using recycled paper for your office:Buying recycled paper may not have a direct impact on your bottom-line, but the indirect benefit this practice has on sustainability can be considered a high impact. Green America has made estimates for the sustainability impact of how recycled paper can have on environment and climate. According to Green America, recycled paper use saves resources and reduces the paper industry’s impact on the planet. For instance, using 100 % recycled copy paper instead of 100% virgin fiber paper saves: 100% of the trees, 31% of the energy, 53% of the water, and produces 39% less solid waste. In case, you consider, recycled paper, Amazon sells several brands of recycled paper. For instance, this example of 100% post-consumer recycled printer and copier paper for everyday use is made in the USA from recycled food and beverage containers and other paper-based printed materials.

    These are just a few examples of low hanging fruit sustainable options that can be implemented by small or medium-sized businesses. Learn more about greening your business here for more details. To learn more for instance about energy audits and the concept of sustainable business or sustainability, check out the following books on Amazon.

    • Handbook of Energy Audits 9th Editionto learn more about energy auditing in buildings and industry. Topics include energy assessment and computer software, etc.
    • A circular economy handbook to learn more how engaged businesses are now increasingly re-thinking product design, material choices, business models and supply chains, and adopting the principles of the circular economy.

    Earth Day 2020 is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

    Earth Day 2020Earth Day 2020 is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day although unfortunately, the world is facing global sustainability issues such as COVID 19, climate change, and other issues.
    Achieving sustainability is a work in progress and calls for a constant evolution of technologies, ideas, and concepts to develop solutions that are practical and effective. Sustainability solutions will be resilient and focused on overcoming technical and policy barriers that prevent the uptake of sustainability in different sectors of society.

    As of today, the world is experiencing some of the pressing global challenges that we probably have not experienced in our lifetimes. Clearly, technology will not or does not provide all the answers that we need today, however, it will help to speed up or assist in moving us towards a sustainable path. Technological solutions are just one part of the big picture as other solutions include policy, regulations, sustainable business as well as innovative financing options that are effective to promote sustainability from a systems’ perspective.

    Technology can be broadly defined as the entities, both material and conceptual created by the application of mental and physical effort to achieve some value. Technological change, on the other hand, can refer to several yet compatible concepts involving an improvement in technology or technological progress. According to Rogers (2003), the idea of technological change underpins a social process involving adopters and others who are profoundly affected by its cultural setting, political institutions, and marketing strategies.

    Sustainability calls for new concepts and ideas to reverse, for instance, the effects of climate change. Solar photovoltaics (PV) is just one of many of the new technologies to help in sustainability efforts. IRENA notes that renewables such as solar PV and energy efficiency offer a safe, reliable, and affordable way to achieve massive decarbonization in line with keeping the rise in global temperatures “well below 2°C”. IRENA’s analysis shows the combination of renewables, energy efficiency and increased electrification could achieve 90% of the reductions needed in energy-related emissions.

    wind power
    Renewables are also becoming cost-effective and with time we have seen for example solar power at grid parity. Grid parity is the point when the cost of alternative energy becomes equal to or less than electricity from conventional energy forms like fossil fuels. As such, renewable energy subsidies are now been phased out, and, in the USA for instance, the investment tax credit (ITC) to support consumers in switching to solar was reduced at the beginning of this year from 30% to 26%.

    Now, the solar investment tax credit is available to homeowners in some form through 2021. In 2020 & 2021 owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 26% or 22% of the cost of the system from their taxes respectively. The ITC will then be reduced to 10% available for only owners of new commercial solar energy systems while there will be no federal credit for residential solar energy systems’.

    Furthermore, IRENA’s analysis of renewable energy shows that the cost of electricity from renewable energy technologies has fallen steadily and even dramatically in recent years, and since 2000, especially for solar and wind generation and are now seen as viable commercial options. Also, power generation from renewable sources and technologies has become competitive with fossil-based or nuclear power.

    biogas technology

    Food waste is another issue that has become a huge sustainability issue over the last decade. In particular, food waste is a major source of methane (CH4) which is one of the most potent gases that is causing climate change. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming. Hence, reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas.

    With these sustainability challenges, it is clear that Earth Day 2020 presents us with an opportunity to contribute to efforts of fighting sustainability issues facing planet Earth and there so many solutions as we have captured above. Here at reneenergy.com, we want to thank you for your continued support and for subscribing to our blog posts. Thank you again. Please subscribe below if you haven’t to keep you posted about our blog posts.



    How and where to dispose of batteries in a sustainable way?

    where to dispose batteriesThe battery technology just like solar PV technology continues to advance and today there are various types of batteries being used to help power equipment or store energy for electricity. As the solar PV sector continues to grow whether with on-grid or off-grid solar applications; the battery technology will help to accelerate the increased adoption of solar PV in domestic, commercial and utility sectors and other renewable energy technologies that are intermittent in nature like the wind energy.
    Similarly, with the rapid development of electric cars in various countries, it means that we will see the demand for battery technology continue to grow exponentially. Solar PV and electric vehicles(EV) will definitely demand increased usage of the battery technology among other sectors that require batteries such as agricultural, commercial or even the household sector where batteries are used for TV remotes, flashlights, children’s toys and small electronics like cellphones.

    However, even with these technological developments; how and where to dispose of batteries after their useful life is completed is one aspect of sustainability that will need to be tackled from a system thinking perspective. At the development stage of these batteries, it calls for implementing sustainable design to make it easy to recycle most of the components of the battery technology in question. For instance, researchers at the IBM research unveiled recently a new battery technology that will eliminate the need for heavy metals in battery production hence improving sustainable design.

    As such, before looking into proper ways of disposing batteries, it is good to know what batteries are, the different types of batteries, and what they are made up of, making them something that requires proper disposal. Well, batteries are a collection of one or a group of cells that undergo various chemical reactions to create a continuous flow of electrons in a circuit.

    Battery cells are generally classified into three components that is the anode, also known as the negative electrode, cathode, also known as the positive electrode, and finally, the electrolytes. For sustainability, the battery chemical composition will matter as it will guide how a battery will be disposed of after its useful life. For instance, in the USA, when it comes to lead-acid batteries, 99% of these batteries are collected and recycled.

    However, according to the World Economic Forum, recycling lithium-ion batteries is a bit challenging due to the diversity of cell types and the broad range of materials such as an alloy of cobalt, nickel, and copper that may require manual sorting and handling or even smelting (pyrometallurgy) to recover individual metals or battery raw materials such as cobalt carbonate.

    Types of batteries

    There are many types of batteries classified according to their chemical composition, formation factor, size, and the purpose they serve. They include:

    1. Primary batteries: These are a kind of batteries that cannot be recharged once fully used. These batteries are made up of electrochemical cells that their electrochemical reactions can also not be reversed. This kind of battery is usually used in devices that require no charging. Primary batteries are made up in a way that they provide high specific energy, and whenever used, the devices consume little power to ensure the battery has a long life span. The most common kind of primary batteries is alkaline batteries. They have higher specific energy levels, are environmentally friendly, and are cheaper to purchase.
    2. Secondary batteries are the direct opposite of primary batteries. Secondary batteries can be recharged, and their electrochemical cells and electrochemical reactions can be reversed when all the energy has been fully used up. The secondary batteries are commonly known as the rechargeable batteries. Secondary batteries can be classified into different groups depending on their chemistry or chemical composition.
      1. Lithium-ion: they are also known as Li-ion batteries. They are used in smart devices such as mobile phones and other battery home appliances. It has Lithium electrodes on it.
      2. Nickel Cadmium: Also known as Ni-Cd batteries. They are made up of nickel oxide hydroxide chemical and the metallic cadmium as the electrodes.
      3. Nickel-Metal hydride. This kind of batteries has the same chemical reaction to Ni-Cd batteries, which is nickel oxide hydroxide. Although, a negative electrode uses hydrogen-absorbing alloy, but not cadmium like the Ni-Cd batteries.solar battery
      4. Lead-acid batteries: Lead-acid batteries are cheaper efficient power batteries that are used in heavy-duty applications. They are usually used in instances where they are non-portable because of their weight. Lead-acid batteries are used in an application that includes vehicle batteries for ignition and lighting and also as solar-panel energy stores. Lead-acid batteries are made up of acid that is used to ensure proper current flow in the circuit. Lead-acid batteries are the oldest form of secondary batteries and are relatively cheap compared to the other secondary batteries.

    where to dispose batteries

    Where to dispose of batteries

    Batteries are disposed of depending on the type which determines their chemical composition.

    a) Household batteries: Household batteries can be classified into two groups, either rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries. Disposing of the household batteries is not as complicated as disposing of the vehicle and industrial batteries.

    According to battery solutions, alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) can be recycled using a specialized “room temperature,” mechanical separation process to recycle alkaline batteries.

    The alkaline battery components are separated into three end products, that is, a zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, and paper, plastic and brass fractions. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products to offset the cost of the recycling process.

    However, when it comes to rechargeable batteries, for example, lithium batteries are recyclable. They can, therefore, be disposed of at the battery recycling centers, electronic retailers who recycle batteries, or a waste collection site for hazardous materials. Therefore, ensuring you dispose of batteries properly.

    b) Industrial batteries.

    Industrial batteries can also be referred to as forklift or traction batteries. Industrial batteries can normally be drained to about 20% of the maximum charging capacity before a recharge.

    Industrial batteries are manufactured with lead plates making them not disposable in the trash. Lead is considered to be a hazardous waste that is highly toxic to the environment. So when it comes to the industrial batteries, an estimated 60 to 80 percent of the used battery is normally reclaimed. More than 95 percent of the industrial lead-acid batteries are recycled.

    The outer plastic shell is recycled to make some new plastic items, whereas the metal plates undergo purification to manufacture new batteries. In most states, there is a law that accepts the return of the industrial batteries to the retailer for disposal purposes. In case one cannot trace the retailer, they can contact the government officials for the information on the directions to follow to ensure proper disposal of the industrial batteries, industrial batteries maybe containing sulphuric acid that is harmful.

    Safety precaution is normally advised when transporting the batteries for disposal. One should also avoid exposing the batteries to open flames or incidental devices like the cigarette lighters just for precaution measures.

    c) Vehicle batteries: Car batteries are made out of lead-acid which is hazardous. It is, therefore, essential to dispose of it carefully just to avoid harmful side effects that can be life-threatening to human beings. There are many ways to dispose of vehicle batteries.
    where to dispose batteries

    • Returning the battery to a retailer. When purchasing the battery, there is normally a core charge fee certain retailers usually add in the receipts. This charge means that the battery is essential to the retailer. It can either be recycled or be rebuilt. Meaning that you can return the battery to the retailers, and they refund back your money with the same amount you paid as a core charge fee.
    • Taking the car battery to a recycling depot: You can check on the closest designated recycling depots near you on the internet and dispose of your car battery there for disposals.
    • Taking the car battery to an auto parts store: You can make your take battery to an auto parts store as you go buy another one.
    • Selling the car battery to scrap metal depot: One can decide to sell their batteries off to the scrap metal depot near them at a fee.
    • Taking the car batteries to battery recycling centers where they can recycle them and make something good out of them.

    Each state has its own recycling program while resources such as Earth911 have a comprehensive online platform for helping online users decide on how to dispose of old batteries. Earth911 provides a recycling locator for all types of batteries where you just enter your zip code and it pulls the details for your specific battery and how or where to recycle them.

    Call2Recycle is another online resource that offers a network of over 34,000 local recycling centers and drop-off locations for rechargeable batteries such as local municipalities and local retailers like Best Buy.

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