Tag Archives: Ecology

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a concept of ecological engineering and design and environmental designs, modeled from natural ecosystems to develop sustainable architecture and self-mantaining agricultural systems. The core for Permaculture is:

  • Care for the earth: Secure for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish
  • Care for the people: Secure for people to access those resources necessary for their existence
  • Return of surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness

The basic for Permaculture is to find synergy from the final design to harmonize and have full benefit for the community by combining landscape, spices and function. It is not about separating parts, it is about combining parts to its maximum efficiency so the whole part has a greater function, than the parts separated. The concept teaches us to build natural homes, grow organic foods, collect rain water, take care of waste and make lowest inpact on the environment. It is about working with the nature, integrate with the nature and construct ecosystems. It is also about leaving the nature in its own evolution. Permaculture is not a fixed principle and changes depending on location, climatic conditions and available resources to become a responsable consumer and build a holistic approach.

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Text inspiration from: wikipedia, Permaculture Institute, Permacultureprincples
Photo: sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net
diversity, stability, and the resilience of natural ecosystems – See more at: http://www.permaculture.org/nm/index.php/site/permaculture_design_course#sthash.5zk51FYX.dpufconstuct
Permaculture teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities, take care of waste and much more. – See more at: http://www.permaculture.org/nm/index.php/site/permaculture_design_course#sthash.5zk51FYX.dpuf
Permaculture teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities, take care of waste and much more. – See more at: http://www.permaculture.org/nm/index.php/site/permaculture_design_course#sthash.5zk51FYX.dpuf

Energy Efficient Building

Energy efficient building solutions is a fast growing sector and new technology comes up every day. The standards varies from different areas, e.g. the german building standard can not be used to south italian building standards, because in Germany the standard has to fight cold temperatures, while in south Italy the standard has to fight warm temperatures. There are different solutions that may confuse the buyer, but all can be used in any region and here we shortly explain four of them:

Low Energy House is a building standard where design, material and technology is used to lower energy consumption and uses less energy from one or several sources. The standard varies but in Europe it refers to a house that uses half of the German or Swiss low-energy standards referred to below for space heating, normally in the range from 30 kWh/m²a to 20 kWh/m²a = 9,500 Btu/ft²/yr to 6,300 Btu/ft²/yr. Low-energy buildings typically use high levels of insulation, energy efficient windows, low levels of air infiltration and heat recovery ventilation to lower heating and cooling energy.

deepstone_house_w031209_6Example of a Low Energy House (Photo: e-architect.co.uk)

Passive House is a standard for energy efficient building, reducing ecological impact. It results in very low energy builiding  that require little energy for space heating or cooling. This standard is not limited to only residental building, it is also well adapted in construction of  public buildings, business facilities, schools, supermarkets to name few. The passive house standard is well developed in German speaking countries and Scandinavia. The Passive House standard is actually developed by a swedish and german collaboration.

The Passivhouse standard for central Europe requires that the building fulfills the following requirements:

  • The building must be designed to have an annual heating demand as calculated with the Passivhaus Planning Package of not more than 15 kwh/m² per year = 4746 btu/ft² per year, in heating and 15 kwh/m² per year cooling energy OR to be designed with a peak heat load of 10W/m²
  • Total energy source for electricity and etc., primary energy for heating, hot water and electricity must not be more than 120 kWh/m² per year = 3.79 × 104 btu/ft² per year.
  • The building must not leak more air than 0.6 times the house volume per hour = n50 ≤ 0.6 / hour at 50 Pa (N/m²) as tested

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A building based on the passive house concept in Darmstadt, Germany (photo: Wikipedia)

Zero Energy House is just what the name inteds, a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions. Depending of country and technology the house use the electrical grid for energy storage but some are independent of grid. This standard offers several options for producing and conserving energy and many ways of measuring energy.

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Example of Zero Energy House (Photo: zokazola.com – Stefan Behling)

Energy Plus House is the latest in energy efficient building (2013-09-28) and is a house that produces more energy from renewable energy sources than it consumes over an year. The house is a combination of microgeneration technology and low energy building technologies. This standard can be adapted to any kinds of construction as homes, offices, schools to name few…

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Prototype of Zero Energy structure in Germany (photo: Wikipedia)

 

Numbers and some definition sources: Wikipedia

Aquaponics – Sustainable Food Production

Aquaponics is an ancient, but upcoming sustainable way to produce foods. The system is combined with:

° Conventional aquaculture; raising water animals like prawns, fish and snails

° Hydroponics which is cultivation of plants in water, living in a symbiotic environment, an environment where two or more plants are combined.

The closed system makes the effluent-rich water become toxic by aquacultures excretions, but these toxics are very useful and nutrient to the plants. After the water has passed through the hydroponic subsystem, it is cleaned and oxygenated, and can return to the aquaculture vessels. This circle goes on and on. Aquaponics can be made in tanks, basins and sumps, in large fields and also in your own backyard. Shorty you can say it is a self cleaning fish tank that produces foods.

Most green leaf vegetables suits for the hydroponic subsystem; chinese cabbage, basil, roses, lettuce, okra, tomatoes, bell-peppers and cantaloupe. Also onions,  sweet potato, beans, peas, watercress, strawberries, radishes and melons to name some.

The size, complexity, and types of foods the farmer has choose to grow can vary as much as in any kind of farming. The most known aquaponic system in modern time is rice cultivation combined with fish. The aquaponic system has been used since ancient Aztec times, also in south China and Thailand.

aquaponic_plant_productionOne example: Aquaponic Plant Production

Photo: wrongwayhome.com

Lexicon: Ecology, Organic, Natural & Sustainable

This page will be updated all the time and serves as a mini lexicon

Compost: is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter; leaves, “green” food waste, and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months to become e.g. soil. Worms and fungi further break up the material. Aerobic bacteria manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide and ammonium. The ammonium is further converted by bacteria into plant-nourishing nitrites and nitrates through the process of nitrification. Compost can be rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover. Composting can be done at home or for an intire society.

Ecologist: An understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function is an important focus area in ecological studies. Ecologists are concerned with ecosystems as a whole and, within them, the abundance and distribution of organisms (people, plants, animals) and the relationships between organisms and their environment. Ecologists usually choose a specialist area (e.g. freshwater, marine, terrestrial, fauna, flora) and then carry out a wide range of tasks relating to that area. When starting out, ecologists often conduct surveys to identify, record and monitor species and their habitats. With career progression, work is likely to become more wide-ranging, with senior ecologists being more involved in policy and management work. Ecologist seek to explain:

  • Life processes and adaptations
  • Distribution and abundance of organisms
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities
  • The successional development of ecosystems, and
  • The abundance and distribution of biodiversity in the context of the environment.

An ecologist may be involved in environmental impact assessments which are required by law for planning permission. Alternatively, they may collect and manage biological information for national databases or produce comprehensive lists of species that need to be monitored and protected.

Ecology: is the scientific study of the relationships that living organisms have with each other and with their natural environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount (biomass), number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems. Ecosystems are composed of dynamically interacting parts including organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecology is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology and Earth science. Ecology is not synonymous with environment, environmentalism, natural history, or environmental science. It is closely related to evolutionary biology, genetics, and ethology. Ecology is a human science as well. Ecology addresses the full scale of life, from tiny bacteria to processes that span the entire planet. Ecologists study many diverse and complex relations among species, such as predation and pollination. The diversity of life is organized into different habitats, from terrestrial (middle) to aquatic ecosystems.

Ecosystem: Everything in the natural world is connected. An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living things that work together. Ecosystems have no particular size. An ecosystem can be as large as a desert or a lake or as small as a tree or a puddle. If you have a terrarium, that is an artificial ecosystem. The water, water temperature, plants, animals, air, light and soil all work together. If there isn’t enough light or water or if the soil doesn’t have the right nutrients, the plants will die. If the plants die, animals that depend on them will die. If the animals that depend on the plants die, any animals that depends on those animals will die. Ecosystems in nature work the same way. All the parts work together to make a balanced system.

GMO: A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods, and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. GMOs are used in biological and medical research, production of pharmaceutical drugs, experimental medicine, and agriculture.

Organic Certification: a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. Any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants. Requirements vary from country to country, and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:

  • no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals
  • avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge;
  • use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years;
  • keeping detailed written production and sales records;
  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
  • undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers. To put the word “organic” on a food product is a valuable marketing advantage in today’s consumer market, but does not guarantee the product is legitimately organic.

Organic Foods: are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry and many countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic.

Recycling: is processing used materials, waste, into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” waste hierarchy. Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste – such as food or garden waste – is not typically considered recycling. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.

Sustainability: is the capacity to endure through renewal, maintenance, and sustenance, or nourishment, in contrast to durability, the capacity to endure through unchanging resistance to change. For humans in social systems or ecosystems, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse, robust, and productive over time, a necessary precondition for the well-being of humans and other organisms. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems.

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