Sunday, October 4, 2009

From gadgets to mails

Another interesting aspect is related to the carbon footprints of spam mails. A McAfee study says that the mere act of people around the world deleting spam and searching for legitimate email falsely labelled as junk creates the annual energy consumption equivalent in the US of 2.4 mn homes using electricity, with the same GHG emissions as 3.1 mn passenger cars using 2 bn gallons of gasoline.

The average greenhouse gas emission associated with one spam message is 0.3 grams of CO2, about the same as driving three feet in equivalent emissions. When multiplied by the 62 tn spam emails sent globally, that is like driving around the earth 1.6 mn times! So just think how green is your inbox.

Even the storage of emails contributes to environmental hazard, warns writer and environmental activist Sami Grover. Retained data means storage space used; storage space used means energy consumed; and this means nothing but carbon emission!

Our drawing room is also not that green either. An average television or computer running for eight hours per day generates 618 lbs of CO2 annually. And for a laptop this is 77 lbs.

Dangerously e-wasting!

The concept of long lasting is a pass for the modern-day man, who is turning away from the earthly feelings. We have no prick of conscience in changing the gadgets like soiled clothes! But again we feign ignorance about one thing our contribution to e-waste. The problem of e-waste management warrants greater attention. Unlike the organic waste, e-waste doesn’t decompose and the hazards thereof are beyond our imagination.

A major concern is that developing countries are falling victims of this e-waste threat. According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), up to 50 mn tonnes of waste from discarded electronic goods is generated annually, with the majority being shipped from the west to developing nations.

PC maker, Dell, recently announced its strong stand against e-waste export. Nokia’s recycling program is also worth mentioning here.

And, interestingly, though we are all concerned about the R-word that made the world economy make a nosedive, statistics show a shade of green in the environmental front. A study from America says that ever since the global economic meltdown began, energy-related CO2 emissions in the US declined by 2.8% in 2008. The Energy Information Administration estimates this as the largest annual drop since the US government began recording the data in 1990.

So, should we say a green cheers to the economic meltdown that saves Mother Earth from the dangerous global warming?

- Dataquest

How Green is our gadge life?

A couple of days back, while attending a green initiative by the International Indian Film Academy in Gurgaon, evergreen superstar of Bollywood, Amithabh Bachchan made a startling remark, To go green you should get rid of the mobile phone that you are using!

And this statement assumes greater significance in today’s tech-driven world, where gadgets are becoming style statements; at times even becoming kind of an extension of the human body.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a gallon (around 3.8 litres) of gasoline has 131 MJ of energy and emits 8.8 kg of CO2. Based on this, if we calculate the energy consumption in the manufacture of a mobile phone, it would come to 1,390 MJ of energy, while CO2 emissions would be 60 kg, says a blog post in Likewise, the production of a computer and monitor takes 6,400 MJ of energy, or 4.6 times that of a mobile phone.

According to another report published on, carbon emissions from personal gadgets (such as mp3 players) and electronic devices (including televisions and mobile phones) will rise drastically over the next twenty years. The report, quoting a study by Frances International Energy Association says that their energy-use would triple between now and 2030. So, you understand from where all the bullets pierce the fragile ozone layer!

The IEA pointed out that over half of the world’s population now has a mobile phone and forecast that the number of PC users will surpass 1 bn in 2009. If we fail to adopt new policies, the energy consumed by such devices will rise to 1,700 TW hours by 2030, significantly undermining efforts in reducing global emissions, it warns.

According to the IEA estimates, by 2010, there will be over 3.5 bn mobile phone subscribers, and 2 bn televisions in use around the world.

It is this awareness about environmental hazard that prompted Ericsson and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to partner in encouraging the use of climate-smart telecom solutions across industries.

According to a recent study by Gartner and WWF, the ICT(Information & Communication Technology) industry has been slow to embrace the low-carbon economy, and is missing out on opportunities. The ICT industry is responsible for approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions.

-Dataquest (Edition: June 30, 2009)

14 firms shortlisted for city makeover - TOI

MUMBAI: The dream to re-mould the city and its surroundings into a cleaner, greener and a hi-tech metropolis is firming up with the state shortlisting 14 international firms out of 39 that had expressed interest in the project.

The programme, meant for the city and its metropolitan region, involves the drawing up of an overall prespective plan, which will be worked upon for the next 30 to 40 years and will cost around Rs 6 crore. The shortlisted firms are from three continents.

"After receiving letters of interest from 39 firms, we screened and shortlisted 14 from them. Now, the steering committee, headed by MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, will examine these 14 firms and the bids should be in by September. We plan to appoint the consultant by the end of October,'' said UPS Madan, head of the city transformation unit of the All India Institute of Local Self Government, which is helping in the Mubai makeover plan.

The steering committee members include municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak, the urban development secretary, chairman of Bombay First Narinder Nayyar, city planner V K Phatak, architect P K Das and former chief secretary D M Sukthankar.

Madan said the plan would have several broad parameters to be worked upon, including housing projects aimed at reducing the number of slums and developing economic centres in the metropolitan region. "The plan will also focus on transport and better use of land. A list has also been drafted for certain sectors, which need investments from financial institutions in India and abroad, to give the city a global makeover.

Narinder Nayar, chairman of Bombay First, said they would also emphasise the development of social infrastructure such as educational and health institutions to ensure a holistic makeover of the city. Several civic groups and NGOs have not been too happy about the infrastructure projects in the city, which they feel, has not given importance to social developments.

Among the consultants shortlisted are Jurong Consultants, Singapore, Lea International, Canada, Urbis, Dubai, Calthrope Associates USA, Groupe SCE,France, Gensler,USA, ILFS and Perkins Eastman, US, Arup Consultants with Domnique Perrault (France), Atonk International/Edsa, US, Buro Happold, London, Maxwan Arehelt, Rotterdam, GFB, Germany, and Consulting Engineering Services, India.

Green Ganesha

An article published in Hindustan Times

Sustainable Development in India

India marches onto the “Green/Sustainable development Bandwagon” with the words of Mr. Singh. Truth be told, we had started marching a long time back. As far back as 3000 years, when India had developed a unique irrigation system, which conserved and replenished surface and ground water. Back then as is today, everyone from the Sarpanch to the village idiot respected “Panchavati”; a name derived from the 5 essential medicinal trees in various forests in India.

Insatiable human wants

Before the Egyptians started using scented oils for “various” ceremonies, Indians used the juice extracted from the leaves of one of these trees (Bilwa tree) as it removed all foul odors from the body. The perfume industry probably contributes in a marginal way to global warming but the rationale for using perfumes is simple- It makes us feel good. A fast Google-search on how much energy and water it takes to make a wedding ring will make an environmentalist squeal.
This is not an attempt to prove that the perfume and jewelry industries are the bad-guys, but to unravel human psychology. In some cases, our “want” hasn’t transformed but the solution has- From the humble juice to sophisticated woody flavours. In other cases, a new “want” has been created in the form of an indispensable marriage memorabilia.

We have old wants and new ones, all being satisfied and created by brilliant innovators and marketers’ world over. Human wants are insatiable by today’s standards. If we satisfy all the wants of six billion people we will have a bigger problem at hand than we had bargained for. Most kids covet their friends’ toys. The same holds true for mature adults as well. Everyone will want a share of the “good life”.

Take away – Maybe it is time we make a difference at a personal level by moderating our wants and spreading the sustainable development message more strongly.

Home Advantage

Developing countries blame developed countries for global warming as they waste a lot of resources. I am sure Mr. Prime Minister will not face that issue in India because most Indians still have the “save today” mentality. Some Indians waste resources but that of course isn’t a “direct” expense for them. However, I am still talking about a minority who has access to these seemingly inexhaustible resources. India still has a considerable population that has to satisfy its basic needs on a day-to-day basis.

Take away – We are intuitively savers. This attitude will only aid the green movement as Governments can think of unique taxes for wasteful usage.

Policies aren't solutions

India is a heady mix of cultures and economies. Tackling global warming with generic policies is not a foolproof solution. For instance, a policy on having “Bharat-x” norms on every vehicle that is manufactured now onward, will prevent the upward-mobile population from polluting the air. However in cities, millions of these “Bharat-x” vehicles with engine specifications such as 0 to 100 in 9 seconds ply at an average speed of 20kmph. Did traffic management strike anyone apart from Mr. Rahul Dandekar?(The man behind the idea MESN) People in certain areas in UP still use Bharat minus hundred “Jugads”( unregistered indigenous vehicles). Policies cannot be made for each and every one of these situations and therein lies the limited reach of policies in making a difference.

Take away – Policies help to a limited extent. But it is very important to have the right policies implemented quickly. Testimony to policies not being ratified- The hybrid cars of the world have still not made headway in India due to 100% + duties on these cars.

Localized Solutions

What we need are micro solutions for a diverse India. This can be achieved by making people more accountable. There are officials in government organizations responsible for certain areas in every city and town in India. These officials have teams who monitor the area. The questions the PM should be asking are - Are these officials aware of sustainable development? Do they know what can be done in order to implement sustainable development? Can public transport be made fast and convenient? Is the waste management system of the area resourceful? And many more.

Take away – A city’s/town’s problems are many. However solutions can be best implemented by locals. The roadblock here is inadequate education and lapses in accountability.

Rural India Too

The questions above may not be relevant to a village with a population of 60 which relies on agriculture as their only means of survival. What may be relevant is how to sustain cultivated land without overusing fertilizers? The questions will differ as per geography, occupation, income and many other variables. When answered the government can make sure we make a collective difference to the environment in our country.

Take away – To achieve sustainable development in India in a meaningful way various pieces of the “green” puzzle have to come together. This can be achieved with adequate Government hand holding.

- Karthik