Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable’

The California Institute of Earth Architecture hopes their Superadobe construction technique may be applied to more traditional contemporary homes found throughout SoCal suburbs.

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I recently attended a global eco design conference. Whilst the basic principles of a sustainable house such as insulation, ventilation and orientation to suit the climate were good – the resulting houses seemed to lack something. They didn’t seem to have much intrinsic beauty or elegance.

The only principle that was mentioned that excited me was “bio-mimicry” – copying nature. Although the concept has been around for some time, it has been brought to prominence recently by by Janine Benyus in her book “”Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired by Nature”. It was mentioned at the conference by Ray Anderson – an American manufacturer of commercial carpet tiles who is trying to make his company more sustainable and it was also touched on by Dr David Suzuki – the famous environmentalist – who also spoke at the conference. It seems to be the latest buzz word.

Perhaps it is the fact that Vedic houses – those based on ancient Sthapatya Vedic principles – are also based on natural design that makes them have a better feeling and which makes them look more appealing.

I have had a house built according to these principles. It faces true East and is aligned to the cardinal points. This design in accordance with natural laws is called “Vastu”. You enter from the East and North sides only. One of the main guiding principles is that everything good comes from the East. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t also design your house to suit the climate (in my case the tropics) and filter the light if necessary and have large eves.

So the design corresponds to the effect of light on the earth – to the effect of the sun. In fact you can work out what true North is simply by observing what the sun does to the shadows it creates at different times of day. You can also use a GPS to confirm it.

In Vedic architecture the placement and dimensions of the rooms, as well as the length, width and elevation of the building are individually calculated. The measurements are based on ancient mathematical formulas. These formulas take into consideration, among other factors, the relationship of the house owner with the planets according to Jyotish (Indian Astrology). So the design relates to the people – it isn’t based on some man-made notions of what would be good.

According to Vedic principles, the nourishing aspects of the house are placed on the East side of the house just as the rising sun coming from the East provides nourishment. So the meditation room is placed in the North East corner to nourish the spiritual aspects of the individuals in the house. The kitchen which nourishes the physiology is placed in the South-East. The North is considered the best side of the house in which to pursue creative activities and so that is where the study is located. The Western side of the house embodies the qualities of the setting sun – that being relaxation, calmness and restful sleep. So it is the best side on which to locate bedrooms and relaxation rooms. So in this sense, they are also mimicking nature.

I think that a lot of houses these days lack the fine details (see We used to have the beauty of ornate cornices and ceilings shaped like flowers and so on. When Ray Anderson talked about bio-mimicry he gave the example of his carpet tile designers going into the forest. They found that every part of it was different and that no two leaves or other parts of it were the same and yet the overall effect was one of unity. So he decided to make a range of tiles where no one tile was the same as the other. They were very popular. This also explains the beauty of marble tiles – no one tile is ever the same as all the others.

Sustainable agriculture is the ability of a farmer to produce food in such a way that the environment and surrounding ecosystem, is unaffected by their agricultural activities. There are a couple of issues that are connected with this form of agricultural activity which are the biophysical issue and social-economic issue. Biophysical is related to the biological activities such as crop rotation, usage of fertilizers and artificial nutrients and the availability of the other resources such as water, wind and sunlight whereas social-economic is concerned with the employment of farmers, the cost of production and total yield.

Talking about the physical attributes of sustainability, it is not properly understood. Most farming practices show that the end result of these practices has resulted in soil erosion, salination and water-logging. Most forests and tropical areas have lost their fertility due to over-cultivation and conventional farming techniques. These conventional farming techniques are being replaced by sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques include usage of modern fertilizers, genetically-engineered crops, artificial nutrients and usage of renewable sources of energy.

There are many sustainable techniques for extracting nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are essential for plant growth. For nitrogen, we can use nitrogen-fixing bacteria’s and the Haber Process to industrially extract nitrogen from the air. As far as phosphorous and potassium are concerned, right amounts of them can be mixed with nitrogen to produce high-yielding fertilizers.

In most areas, rainfall is sufficient to cater the needs of water supply but in other areas irrigation is required. These irrigation systems should be properly utilized in order to make the best use of the water available. Channels should have proper and adequate distribution. Moreover water logging and excessive use of chemicals should be avoided as these lead to salination. Some technologies such as tube wells and water drilling have considerably increased the spread and availability of water.

Natural Resources these days are scarce and bad agriculture practices mean their extinction. Moreover, these habits also contribute a hand to pollution and damage of the ecosystem. Crops at the time of their distribution should be accounted for the sustainability equation. This means that all the expenses of crop production and distribution should be taken in account before doing the final cost benefit analysis.

There is a big debate between different businesses, farmers and scientists on making the agriculture sustainable. One of the few practices can be growing many crops in a single field. This will reduce the loss of nutrients and will eliminate the chance of soil erosion. On the other hand, climatic conditions and water resources will be best utilized. Monoculture is another method that pertains to sustainable agriculture. This process consists of growing only one crop in a field, but it’s not highly encouraged because it will result in soil losing it’s fertility overtime.

Over-grazing is also one factor that is contributing to soil erosion. This factor’s impact can be greatly reduced by introducing a sustainable approach known as grazing management that include dividing grazing area into paddocks which are easy to manage and takes less space.

The sustainable agriculture does affect the overall food yield and it needs to increase because of ever-increasing world population but these techniques sometimes do negatively affect the environment e.g. usage of fertilizers use to eutrophication and burning of forests to clear land for cultivation may lead to carbon dioxide emissions. Some exponents who favour sustainable agriculture agree on using organic farming. Although this technique yields comparatively low but can be used as an alternative in those areas which are drought-pronged. It’s an expensive method but if people are educated about the usage of this technique, then there are fair chances that it will be used widely and new techniques will be introduced which will increase the output in future.

Another recent ideas that has flocked in market to achieve sustainability demands the introduction of vertical farms which will isolate the crop from pests, provide full year production and on-site production. Again, cost is the major concern which disallows this sustainable agriculture technique.

We can simply deduce the fact that sustainable agriculture is the need if modern world but considerations are to be made as the implementation of these techniques is not quite feasible and requires some thought. Although, really beneficial this technique still remains a dream for under-developed and developing nations.

Segun Olowookere recently started his own clothing company called Lowooke who speciallise in designing, producing and distributing a range of clothing aimed at the urban and youth market. The apparel that Lowooke sells is produced using organic materials that have been ethically sourced. You can view their range of Urban Clothing London at

We enjoy technology so much that we often do not see what we trade for the things we enjoy. The thrill, the comfort and even the joy of living the way we do takes a toll on our planet and we either are ignorant about it or totally ignore it.

Most of the gadgets that we use nowadays are all electric powered devices and contraptions. The problem is that we depend mostly on the use of fossil fuel and coal to produce the electricity needed to power these things. Sure, there are other sources of this electricity as well like hydro electric power plants, geothermal power plants and others but the most common are fuel based or coal based power plants.

This dependence on coal is problematic for us because it not only pollutes the environment it also contributes to the depletion of resources that we use on our everyday lives. What we need is to find a solution to create a sustainable lifestyle with the use of sustainable and renewable energy.

Solar Powered Lights, although these are small gadgets, contribute to the promotion of this kind of lifestyle.

It may not significantly reduce man’s consumption of electricity and the dependence on coal and fossil fuel just yet but it paves a way for the idea that using harnessing the power of the sun to provide electricity for homes is a possibility.

The products powered by solar energy like the Solar Powered Lights are still imperfect and simple but these products could be further improved to create a more efficient and effective product that uses solar energy.

In the future, if this technology is improved, it could be possible for people to enjoy the same things we enjoy now without depleting this planet’s resources and thus enjoying a sustainable lifestyle. But for now, we just need to learn appreciating innovative products like solar powered lights and continue improving these gadgets.

SMART is a research project – financed by the EU under FP7 programme – that has developed a new moulding process of granules and powders from tyre recycling without any addition of virgin rubber or linking agent.
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