"It's Not Easy Being Green... Or Is It?"
This article is about a more environmental awareness to social awareness or an appealing lifestyle. It is about decisions we make and the impact those decisions have on our environment. When we want to have a complete view of the impact that a product has on the environment we can use a process called Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). This process examines every part of the production, use, and disposal of a product. Which you have to take into consideration the collection and processing of the raw materials, the energy used in production, and use of the product, and transportation, and disposal (or recycling) costs. Three examples using this are: Would it be more environmentally friendly to purchase coffee in a disposable paper cup or to bring your own ceramic mug from home? The ceramic mug can be washed and reused many times. The amount of energy it takes to produce one ceramic mug would be 14 megajoules (MJ) . A joule is a unit of energy that is equal to 2.39x10 -4 kilocalories. To produce a paper cup it takes 0.4 MJ of energy. Styrofoam- 0.2 MJ. So, this means it would take you 35 times to use a ceramic mug to even out the difference in the energy to produce it over a paper cup. You also have to consider the energy it takes to wash the ceramic mug. So, is it really easy being green... should we ask the ceramic mug? Another example would be: Would it be more environmentally friendly to use cotton reusable shopping bags or environmentally friendly to use disposable plastic shopping bags? The LCA tells us that cotton production has had some well-documented environmental issues. The cultivation of the cotton is fossil-fuel intense because it takes a great deal of tractor work to prepare the fields and harvest the cotton. Cotton requires more pesticides than any other crop. The production of cotton reusable shopping bags release more greenhouse gases than plastic bags. A disposable plastic bag produces 27 grams of carbon dioxide. A cotton reusable shopping bag releases 131 times that amount. So again, is it really easy being green... should we say "disposable or reusable" more carefully? Lastly: Would it be more environmentally friendly to choose a disposable plastic bottle, a glass bottle, or an aluminum can when we buy a soft drink or other beverage? Disposable plastic bottles are more favorable to impact the environment than either glass or aluminum containers. Glass bottles are the heaviest of the three. This makes energy and greenhouse emissions larger for glass because heavy containers require more energy to transport and process. Aluminum is light but the energy required to smelting and forming the aluminum containers adds to their numbers. So, in this case is it easy being green... so maybe being heavier in weight is better than being skinny in weight? You decide! The LCA is an environmental tool that can give us a better way to make decisions about how we can better produce and consume products. Assessments like the LCA can be complex. Chemistry is involved in this process because there is such an impact on our ecosystems and the energy that is involved with these sustainable technologies. My reaction to this article was that it was very informative and it looked at both ways of our everyday products being maybe good or maybe bad for our environment. It looked at ways that I never really thought about things. I did learn something new as far as how much energy in megajoules it takes to produce different types of cups or mugs. Those statistics or numbers and" the whole megajoules thing" really surprised me. I would like to explore in more detail things about megajoules and different products and how many megajoules it takes to produce different products in our everyday life.