Category Archives: Green Current Events

Pare’s Sustainability Committee Has Been Invigorated

By: Lindsey Machamer, LEED AP, Senior Engineer and Chair of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Pare’s Sustainability Committee is a group of committed professionals enthusiastic about incorporating innovative sustainability into our business operations, local community, and design practices. Over the past year, we have attended conferences, been involved in organizations, and studied the nuances of the newest sustainability rating systems.  Those activities have influenced our goals for the future.  We are excited to help guide planning and engineering within the Pare community into a future where we can create a better built environment. We are excited to share our efforts and goals.

First, we have revisited an analysis of our own company’s impact on the environment.  Our analysis includes Pare’s waste generation, transportation impact, and buying practices.  To advance this initiative, we will continuously review our options to reduce our impact on the environment. As part of this, we encourage Pare employees to expand our sustainability efforts beyond the walls of our office.  For World Environment Day last June, we led our coworkers on a lunchtime nature walk on the outdoor trails nearby and shared recommendations of nearby hiking trails for employees to explore with their families.

Pare’s lunchtime nature walk for World Environment Day

And, of course, we encouraged everyone to appreciate biodiversity this year with our 7th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. You can review the photo entries here.

Congratulations to Brian Dutra, an engineer in Pare’s waterfront group, who won the contest this year with his photo “Green Sea Turtle”!

Looking outward in addition to inward, we’ve spent time this past year giving back to our local communities through education, service, and activism. We have made presentations this year at local schools to show how new development can be kind to our water resources and nature. For example, we led an activity at Lincoln High School to demonstrate how mindful site selection can reduce the impact of a new building on the surrounding environment. We also shared with the 11th and 12 grade students at Blackstone Valley Prep High School how the rain that falls on their new school reconnects into local drinking water supplies. We tried to help them see the role that engineers have in design for the environment. In 2018, we are building on the momentum we have created to encourage students, the community, and ourselves to think sustainably. We have a distinct interest in helping create a future world of bright minds and friendly spaces.

Finally, to further our dedication to provide quality services, we have compiled what we’ve learned at building industry and infrastructure events and are adapting them in ways to share with our peers at Pare.  For example, at the ASCE International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure  in October we learned from leading cities in the world about how they are using the Envision rating system and other sustainability tools to guide development.  At the Greenbuild International Expo, in Boston in November, we joined in on the enthusiasm of the motto, “all in for green buildings.” We attended presentations on natural alternatives for resilient infrastructure, soils restoration, and water neutrality, among many others. We are committed to staying current with the most innovative case studies and design practices.   Our goal is to help guide our communities and clients to make decisions and pursue development that consider wholistic impacts on environment, society, and economic factors.

Greenbuild International Conference and ABX2017 Expo

Our efforts over the past year have outlined a three-pronged approach in our current goals. We will endeavor to apply innovative sustainable design concepts in our projects, to inspire and enrich our community through outreach, and to improve internal operations to make the work place more sustainable. While we will be working hard to achieve our goals, we will be having fun and enjoying nature on the way.  We look forward to sharing some of the details with you!

A Seawall for All: The Seattle Waterfront Project as a Model for Future Redevelopment

By Brian Dutra, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Coastline Along Marblehead, MA

New England’s coastline is home to some of the Nation’s first and largest waterfront communities, with nearly 6,100 miles of tidal shoreline in the region. Unfortunately, the nation’s coastal infrastructure is deteriorating, which greatly impacts these communities.  According to the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card, Ports and Inland Waterways were given a grade of “C+” and “D”, respectively, with a need to modify or replace structures that have far exceeded their design life.  The need to rehabilitate or replace these structures is further emphasized as the infrastructure along the coastline continues to age and deteriorate.

As we evaluate and rehabilitate New England’s coastal infrastructure, an ongoing project in Seattle, Washington can provide a template for innovative and sustainable design improvements.

The billion dollar “Waterfront Seattle” project is a total waterfront reconstruction along Elliot Bay that began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2023. Similar to a number of New England’s Ports, The Elliot Bay Seawall was built between 1916 and 1934 and has exceeded its original design life. The original concrete seawall was built on approximately 20,000 timber piles.  Deterioration of the structure had led to instability of the seawall and the development of sinkholes behind it. The design and reconstruction of the new Elliott Bay Seawall incorporates several sustainable features, providing ancillary benefits to the area’s infrastructure, tourism, and environment.

The Waterfront Seattle Project replaces more than just the failing seawall; it improves quality of life for both marine life and humans, including a salmon migration corridor and new pedestrian access to the water. The budget for the project includes nearly $350 million for the following:

  • Stabilizing the existing soil and foundations with jet-grouted columns.
  • Installing precast concrete textured walls for the salmon migration corridor.
  • Installing a habitat bench along the wall to increase fish and marine life habitat.
  • Installing a sidewalk and pedestrian space with light-penetrating surfaces

Overview of the Textured Wall and Concrete Shelves (currently behind a temporary coffer dam) from https://waterfrontseattle.org/

What makes this engineering project truly unique is the focus on promoting sustainable and natural environmental growth. The new textured concrete walls will create a salmon migratory corridor where one has not existed for over 100 years. Textured shelves cast into the concrete walls allow plant and marine life to adhere to the wall. The walkway above the new corridor consists of glass bricks installed into precast concrete sidewalk panels that are able to support pedestrian traffic and allow sunlight to penetrate the sidewalk, promoting plant and marine growth below the walkway and on the wall. An intertidal bench, located in shallow water, will also be constructed to simulate a nearshore habitat.

Now fish, crustaceans, and plant life that would typically be found in and around the shallow natural shoreline of Elliot Bay can find their way back to an area that was previously inaccessible. Plants that could not grow in the deep waters along the original wall can thrive on the textured shelves and intertidal benches creating aquatic food for the marine life in the bay. Juvenile salmon that would typically avoid the shoreline of the previous wall due to the lack of light will use the new seawall as a migratory corridor.

As we look to rehabilitate our aged coastal infrastructure in New England, the Waterfront Seattle Project is a prime example of how we can sustainably build and rehabilitate an already established waterfront. A thoughtful and innovative approach can update critical infrastructure while simultaneously benefiting businesses, people, and marine life for years to come.

For More Information:

Celebrating the 47th Annual Earth Day 2017!

By Chris Webber, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

The 47th annual Earth Day celebration, which has grown from a United States tradition to one shared by countries around the world, was held on April 22.

The idea for Earth Day was born out of the counterculture environment of the 1970’s, a time of protest and opposition to many established norms in the United States. Growing environmental unease backed by literature like the 1962 book Silent Spring and the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara served as the catalyst for the first Earth Day. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded a bipartisan effort to create events raising awareness across the country.  Over 20 million Americans turned out that day, which began a significant shift in environmental policy. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed before the end of the year and the passage of several major laws–including the Clean Air, Safe Drinking Water, Environmental Quality Improvement, and Endangered Species Acts–soon followed.

Earth Day expanded as a day of global awareness in 1990, with over 200 million people from 141 countries participating in events around the world. The event was followed by the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, which sought to address global environmental issues like increasing water use and climate change.  More recently, Earth Day 2016 marked the signing of the Paris Agreement as a worldwide effort to combat climate change.

Even as Earth Day seeks to promote global awareness through monumental events, the initial 1970’s grass roots mission to care for the environment in one’s local community continues.

It is that spirit that inspired Pare’s Sustainability Committee to hold its 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest with a theme of “Be Green Outside!”  The photos can be viewed at  http://blog.parecorp.com/2017/04/25/celebrate-earth-day-with-pare-by-voting-in-the-6th-annual-earth-day-photo-contest/.  Congratulations to Erika Klinkhammer, an Environmental Scientist in the Civil Division of Pare, for winning the contest with her photo of the Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound.

Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound taken by Erika Klinkhammer

In addition to the contest, several Pare employees participated in a local cleanup organized by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers Young Members Group (RI ASCE YM).  They participated in the 5th Annual Providence Earth Day Spring Cleaning event sponsored by the City of Providence, Providence Parks Department, and the Partnership for Providence Parks.   For the cleanup they were partnered with the West Broadway Neighborhood Association to help with the 33rd Annual Neighborhood Spring Cleanup.  More than 100 people came out to clean and improve this metropolitan neighborhood resulting in the pickup of 400 bags of trash, 300 bags of yard waste to be composted, more than a dozen mattresses, and several large items such as televisions and tires.  Despite the cold and rainy weather, Pare engineers Bobby Sykes, Jessica Damicis, and Marc Weller were cheerfully picking up trash, spreading new mulch in the play area, and helping to construct a brand new bocce court at the Dexter Training Ground Park.

Bobby Sykes who coordinated Pare’s involvement in the day stated, “I’m grateful to have participated in the earth day cleanup and to have had the opportunity to work with friends from engineering firms throughout Rhode Island. Pare has always had tremendous participation at our ASCE events, and I’m thankful I work for a company with so many like-minded individuals willing to donate a Saturday to give back to a local community.”

As April 22, 2018 approaches, there are many ways to participate in Earth Day activities; learn more at http://www.earthday.org/take-action/.  While the day is a fantastic way to stay environmentally conscious, simple efforts like recycling and composting at home and other small activities are great ways to reduce our environmental footprint throughout the year.  Every day is an opportunity to be a better steward of Planet Earth. Thanks to all who participated in this year’s Earth Day events; we’ll look forward to seeing you again next year!

 

Celebrate Earth Day with Pare by Voting in the 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

The focus for Earth Day this year is Environmental and Climate Literacy so that we can build a “global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our Planet.” (Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network)  Following that mandate, parties across the globe joined together to respond to global climate change and global warming at the Paris Agreement.  Learn more at http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climatechange/

In that spirit, the Sustainability Committee at Pare is pleased to share our 6th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest.   The theme of the contest this year is “Be Green Outside!”

Please enjoy the photos submitted by Pare’s staff below, and vote using the poll located at the bottom of this post. The winner of the 2017 Earth Day Photo Contest will receive a Gift Card to B-Good and their photo framed in the office. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 7.

 

 1. Handmade Water Quality

To treat runoff from the driveway, deck, and concrete walkway at our newly acquired home, we installed – by hand – water quality trenches with filter fabric. Our project also alleviated areas of standing water. The pipe system connected to an overflow discharge point after storing and treating a certain volume of runoff. We then capped off the project by raising the elevation about 18” with clean loam and new sod!

2. Franconia Ridge Vegetation Preservation

On the crest of Franconia Ridge in Lincoln New Hampshire, 5,260 feet up above sea level, a low rock path helps hikers protect the groundcover ridgetop vegetation.

3. British Columbia Roadtrip

 

This was from a road trip with my family up in British Columbia, an outdoor expedition into Alaska that definitely helped me appreciate being green outside.

4. 26.2 Emission Free Miles

You see stuff when you run. Stuff you don’t see when you drive. Little ponds. Nondescript trail heads. Wildlife. Unfortunately, you also see lots of trash, debris, roadkill. Running can give you a unique perspective on the environment and how we impact it.

5. An Early Appreciation of the Great Outdoors

To our family, “being green outside” typically means going for hikes and learning about nature. We came across this tree during a short hike in Scituate, RI. It was a great opportunity to discuss local wildlife and the role that specific animals, in this case beavers, have in the environment.

6. My Home Office

Wake. Skate. Work at Pare. Sleep. Repeat.

7. Mattapoisett Waterfront

Water front view of the Mattapoisett Marina that leads into Buzzards Bay. The sun is shining and the boating season is underway.

8. ‘It’s not easy being green’

A little green in an unexpected place. Almost 10 feet below grade in a dark catch basin this little guy found just enough sunlight to make it happen!

9. Latimer Reef Lighthouse on Fisher Island in Long Island Sound

Taken on the first cruise of the season in the Clam Ram, a mighty Boston Whaler coming out of hibernation. A nice day to test the electronics and run the engine, then sit in a protective harbor with a Sierra Nevada and a beautiful sunset. Beauty in nature at its finest.

10. The Dry Tortugas

The Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles off the coast of Key West, FL and is home to the largest stone-masonry fort in United States. Over 300 species of birds, 5 species of sea turtles, 30 different species of coral, and several hundred species of fish are protected within the waters and islands that make up the national park.

11. Below the Tower

Stissing Fire Tower stretches 7 flights into the air above the Nature Conservancy and hiking trails in Pine Plains, NY. Formerly for use to spot forest fires, the tower is now a viewing spot for appreciation of the area’s natural resources.

12. Winds of Change

Engineers can be the stewards of a healthy planet through the implementation of clean, green, renewable energy. Rhode Island has begun paving the way with the construction of America’s first offshore wind farm.

13. Chasm Lake

Chasm Lake, Rocky National Park, CO

14. Hiking Activist

Enjoying Mass Audubon’s Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary while promoting recycling on Earth Day weekend.

15. Cliffs of Prince Edward Island

Ever since I was a young girl, I have been in awe of the impact that water can have on a shoreline after watching the waves wash away a house following a hurricane on the Outer Banks. This picture was taken in this fall on Prince Edward Island where the magnitude and simple beauty of the erosion took my breath away.

16. Kayaking on the Colorado River

The Colorado River system is a vital source of water for 40 million people in southwestern North America. The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts, which in most years divert its entire flow for agricultural irrigation and domestic water supply. The Colorado’s large flow and steep gradient are used for generating hydroelectric power, and its major dams regulate peaking power demands in much of the Intermountain West. Intensive water consumption has dried up the lower 100 miles (160 km) of the river, which has rarely reached the sea since the 1960s. The river (pictured outside Austin, TX) is also a great recreational resource. It offers visitors and city-dwellers a picturesque escape from city life and an opportunity to “be green outside”.

17. “Cueva Ventana”

An hour west of San Juan, Cueva Ventana, or “Window Cave,” can be found. The lush valley below maintains its natural beauty as the rural area is situated away from urban Puerto Rico.

18. Sanctuary

Water cascading from the 317-foot Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park. Except for the thundering water, quiet as a church, not a conversation to be heard. Everyone enveloped in and reflecting on the natural beauty. To Be Green Outside is to be in the moment.

Thank you for voting for your favorite photo that best represents our theme of “Be Green Outside!”

 

 

 

 

 

E-Waste: Mounting Concern & What You Can Do

Did You Know???

  • “E-waste” (as electronic waste—anything with a battery or a cord—is frequently called) is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.  It is quickly filling our landfills and it has the potential to do significantly more harm than household trash.
  • The average lifespan of computers dropped from six years in 1997 to just two years by 2005, and cell phones have a life cycle of less than two years in developed countries.
  • The United States discarded more than 11 million tons of e-waste in 2014 (the data for 2015 and 2016 hasn’t been released yet) but only approximately 20-25% of that waste is recycled each year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves as much energy as the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.

Electronics Recycling Drive

By:  Cari Orsi, P.E., LEED AP on behalf of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

The Pare Sustainability Committee is sensitive to the environment and understands the need for reduction in landfill waste, so in March we organized an Electronics Recycling Drive for Pare employees. Through partnership with Northeast Computer Recycling (NECR, http://www.northeastcomputerrecycling.com/), we were able to recycle broken and obsolete electronics rather than putting them in mainstream waste channels.  This year over 40 electronic items were collected including computer towers, monitors, printers, cell phones and various chargers.   Thanks to everyone at Pare who supported this green initiative!

Ryan Lagace, owner and operator of NECR, explained that he was motivated to open NECR after witnessing companies throwing away a lot of old equipment when he worked in the IT industry.  He had a vision to dismantle and recycle these items.  Ryan explained, “100% of the material we take in is recycled, including plastics and metals.  Everything is sorted out.  I even found a local company to recycle polystyrene, and I get a lot of that from packaging.” NECR is staying busy with multiple pickups daily from businesses in MA and RI.  Ryan’s advice about electronics recycling when asked was, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle still rings true, but we don’t just recycle here.  I try to re-sell equipment when I can so items have a second life instead of getting dismantled.”

In addition to diverting waste from landfills, there are two important reasons for recycling electronics. First, materials that make up electronics are valuable resources (metals, plastics and glass), all of which require energy to obtain and produce for electronics. Second, electronics contain many different toxic materials including lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.  These items cause more potential harm to the environment than your typical household trash.   Left sitting in landfills, these materials may leach into the soils and potentially into groundwater.

Everyone can help to reduce electronic waste; here are a few things to consider before making a purchase:

  • Do you really need that new electronic device?
  • Can you repair or upgrade components on the one you have?
  • If your old electronic items are still working, consider re-selling them or donating them instead of throwing them out or recycling them.

Here are a few additional things you can do to reduce waste:

To learn more about electronics recycling visit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling.

EPA electronics recycling

The Results Are In!

By Danielle Goudreau,  Engineer at Pare 

The results from the Pare Climate Change Survey are in!

Pare’s Climate Change Committee would like to thank all who participated in our survey.  We appreciate your thoughtful responses, and have explored answer patterns and concerns below.

Climate change is a very important topic with many differing opinions about causes, implications, and even its existence. However, it’s been established that in order to combat climate change, it will require a broad consensus, and this survey did a great job of establishing how close to that consensus we currently are.

Among survey participants, there is a consensus that climate change is happening and that it is concerning.  It wasn’t surprising (based on the title of the survey) that a majority of respondents believe climate change is occurring.  Approximately 95% of the respondents believe climate change is occurring, 3% do not believe it is occurring. 2% did not express an opinion.  The aspect of climate change participants find most concerning is storm frequency and/or intensity (33%) followed by sea level rise (23%) and ecological changes (20%).

Concern and Age jpgConcern2 jpg 

As far as whether or not we can reduce climate change, there is a split consensus.  Approximately 42% of respondents believe that we are able to reduce the effects of climate change. However the majority of participants (about 50), believe we can’t or won’t do anything to change the effects.  Approximately half of the respondents who believe we can reduce climate change also believe we will make changes to reduce the effects.

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Who should be responsible for mandating changes that may reduce climate change? One third of respondents believe that the Federal Government should be implementing regulations.

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Contest winner Ann Cote at Bryant University provided us with an optimistic view of the future (albeit with a major caveat):    “Only once society is educated on the topic and the seriousness of it, will ideas come forward and the passion to correct the issue surface.”

Sources2 jpg

Thanks to your participation, Pare’s engineers are now even more equipped to assist in providing clarity and recommendations to the state of the consensus among those associated with or working in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction.

 

Take Our 3-minute Climate Change Survey!

Over the past month we have all heard a variety of updates, opinions, and developments regarding the Paris Climate Summit and the Global Climate March, a gathering that produced significant awareness and opened the dialogue between hundreds of thousands of people. Although there is still much debate about the causes of climate change, there is growing evidence that storm severity may be increasing, and sea level rise and coastal erosion are well documented, especially in the Northeast.

As one of our founding fathers Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Sparked from the interest of our employees and in an effort to stay up to date with the possible ramifications climate change could pose, Pare’s Climate Change Committee (PC3) was born. Active for almost a year now, the committee has become a critical clearinghouse of climate change-related information and includes representatives from each division at Pare. PC3 includes committee chair Ryan McCoy from the Geotechnical/Waterfront Division, Chue Kue from the Transportation Division, Travis Johnson from the Environmental Division, and Briscoe Lang and Marc Gabriel from the Civil Division.

image7- PC3

Committee members Travis Johnson, Briscoe Lang, Ryan McCoy and Marc Gabriel (missing from photo: Chue Kue)

It has become more and more apparent that the A/E/C industry will hold a crucial role in responding to climate change through innovation, adaptive design, and proactive planning. Pare believes it is imperative to integrate proactive measures into our projects to better protect the public and our clients. In addition to collecting information and advising staff and clients, PC3 is continuously adding to our extensive in-house library so Pare can provide our clients with best practices for their projects. In most cases this will mean creating resilient or adaptive designs that minimize infrastructure and environmental damages resulting from severe storm events, flooding, and sea level rise. By doing so, Pare can better ensure post-storm continuity of business and reduce the amount of maintenance and repair that may be required from storm damage.

To help us understand how climate change impacts you, we invite you to complete the following short survey. We promise it will only take about three minutes of your time, and all who complete the survey will be entered in a drawing for a solar and hand turbine-powered American Red Cross Emergency Radio (which will even let you charge your cell phone when the power goes out!)

prize

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Results of the survey will be posted in a future Pare Blog. The survey also allows you to provide an email address if you would like us to send you the results. If you have any questions about the survey or PC3, please send us an email at mailto:PC3@parecorp.com. Thank you in advance. Your input is greatly appreciated!

Pare Gets Resilient!

Pare’s Ryan McCoy Presents at the ASCE COPRI Coastal Structures Conference in Boston

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From September 9-11, 2015, Ryan McCoy, a project engineer with Pare’s Waterfront/Marine team and co-chair of the Pare Climate Change Committee (PC3), attended a 3-day conference in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by ASCE-COPRI (Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute). The “Coastal Structures and Solutions to Coastal Disasters Joint Conference” highlighted resilient coastal communities focusing on coastal protection and the vulnerability of the coastal infrastructure to coastal storms. In addition to attending technical sessions with topics ranging from coastal storms and flood mapping to tsunami response and protection to climate change and sea level rise, Ryan presented on day 2 at the conference’s poster session. Ryan discussed the Salisbury Tide Gate project, highlighting the resiliency of the structure which was designed by Pare with construction completed in 2014.

ryan

Oxford dictionary defines Resilient as “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”   The Salisbury Tide Gate project exemplifies the resiliency that is required when future sea level rise and the intensity of coastal storms are unknown. Pare reviewed available data including FEMA flood maps which indicated a 100-year flood elevation several feet above the embankment’s crest. In lieu of raising the crest elevation of the entire embankment (over 1 mile long), Pare incorporated resiliency into the embankment and tide gate design by allowing the site to be overtopped during significant storm events. Pare’s engineers designed the structure to be reliable and robust in order to preserve the structural integrity and water control required for post-storm recovery.

dam

The reconstruction of the site included the reconstruction of the embankment, replacement of the single culvert with twin culverts, and the installation of new tide gates. In order to make the site resilient, the new design included the installation of a steel sheet pile core wall driven to effectively eliminate seepage through the embankment, installation of armor stone on both sides of the embankment to reduce the effects of erosion potentially caused by flood waters, setup of remote water level sensors upstream and downstream of the embankment to alert DPW employees to rising flood waters, and new tide gates designed as combination sluice/flap gates to provide additional water level control during predicted flood events. In addition to these hard and fast solutions, proper tidal exchange and flushing of the sensitive salt marsh was reestablished, which restored the health of the resource area and provided a natural buffer during storm events.

These types of design considerations are going to be required as coastal communities look to improve public or private infrastructure across the country. Pare’s Climate Change Committee has worked diligently to understand the effects that climate change may have on future projects and the civil engineering industry as a whole. By remaining current with the science and policy of climate change, PC3 and Pare will provide our Clients with knowledgeable recommendations to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change through resilient design that is adaptable to a dynamic environment.

How Much Does Your Caffeine Routine Contribute to the Waste Footprint?

By Victoria Howland, Civil Engineer and member of Pare’s Sustainable Design Committee

Each morning you wake up, get ready for the work day, and reach for that delicious, aromatic and caffeinated beverage…which is filling our country’s landfills. Yes, I’m talking about coffee. An estimated 83% of adults in the United States drink 587 million cups of coffee a year. Coffee provides us with caffeine to keep us alert through the day and antioxidants to keep us healthy. This miracle beverage has even been linked to reducing our risk of getting (liver) cancer. So if you drink coffee, there’s no way you could be doing any harm, right? Wrong.

14060801044_1aa6113469_o_d Bin_overflowing_with_Starbucks_paper_cups

Coffee has become a large contributor of waste. Every time you go to a coffee shop and grab a cup to go, your cup contributes to the waste footprint. Some companies use paper cups, which is an easy material to recycle. But do you recycle it? Other companies use Styrofoam for its insulating properties. It’s understandably difficult to turn down a cup option which keeps both your hand and the precious liquid a desirable temperature. And these environmentally unfriendly options are of low cost to the coffee shop and consequently to you.

Professor David Tyler, a chemist at the University of Oregon, addressed Styrofoam’s “worst material” stereotype by conducting a life-cycle assessment. The results of his study demonstrated that Styrofoam cups are no worse than paper cups for the environment. The carbon footprint of a Styrofoam cup (i.e., its contribution to greenhouse gases) is less than a paper cup. However, it does take Styrofoam longer to degrade. The choice is up to you; do you care more about carbon footprint or garbage reduction?index

Before we’re able to take a sip, we need to address another important coffee waste concern which is infamous in the New England region: the double cup. Found in both icy and sweltering temperatures, Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops allow you to request your iced coffee in a cup within a cup. In the colder weather, your plastic drink cup is slid into a Styrofoam cup to keep the iced coffee from chilling your already chilled hands. In the warm weather, the Styrofoam second cup catches the condensation from your refreshingly cold drink. In both cases, the Styrofoam cup is being added as an insulator. And in both cases, you are contributing twice the amount of waste to the garbage.IMG_0829

And it’s not just cups that are filling our landfills.

In recent years, the single-serve coffee brewer has been at the forefront of home brewing. Keurig (now owned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) developed the K-Cup brewing system in the mid-1990s. As most of you know, it consists of a brewer and a K-Cup – a plastic container with a filter and 11 grams of ground coffee beans, vacuum sealed to prevent oxidation. The plastic container is made from a special plastic mix designed to withstand the heated brewing process. The brewer punctures a hole in the top and bottom of the K-Cup and passes hot water through the cup and into a mug. Once the K-Cup is brewed, it is disposed of, and it becomes a component of our waste footprint. While coffee grounds are compostable, K-Cup plastic containers are not. That isn’t to say they aren’t reusable though! Click the image below for ways to reuse your office’s K-Cups.

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John Sylvan was the brains behind Keurig and what he calls the “single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.” He created Keurig in 1992 and sold off his share of the company in 1997 for a mere $50,000. Keurig is now generating $4.7 billion in revenue. Now that the K-Cup has received backlash from consumers, environmentalists, and more, John Sylvan states, “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”

Coffee grounds are compostable, however the K-Cup plastic container is only recyclable in a few Canadian cities. The good news: Keurig Green Mountain has taken a pledge to create a fully recyclable K-Cup. The bad news: It won’t make its debut until 2020. Until then, we’ll have to be conscious about how we make our coffee!

Now that we’re finally ready to take a sip, cherish that taste of sweet…guilt! But perhaps there are ways we can lessen the guilt and lessen the environmental impact of drinking coffee. Coffee has always served as a treat, an energizer, and it is known for bringing people together. Consider bringing people together for an even greater benefit by encouraging environmentally responsible caffeinated practices in your office, whether it is supplying company-wide reusable coffee cups that all coffee shops are eager to fill, or by using a coffee-koozy to substitute the Styrofoam cup. Hey, there are some great opportunities for company branding here!

Use these links to read the details of Professor Taylor’s research, and the fascinating story of John Sylvan’s remarkable invention:
http://cascade.uoregon.edu/fall2012/expert/expert-article/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/

Why the Northern Long-Eared Bat Should Be On Your ‘Radar’

Usually bats fly under the radar (no pun intended). However, the Northern Long-Eared Bat was recently listed as a threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to a quick-spreading fungal disease, White Nose Syndrome. Discovered in 2007, the disease has caused unprecedented mortality of the Northern Long Eared Bat across the United States and Canada.

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Myotis septentrionalis, northern myotis (Vespertilionidae) showing signs of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). LaSalle County, Illinois. January 2013 Photo credit: University of Illinois/Steve Taylor

Bats play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations, so protection of a threatened species is understandable and justified. But our clients and colleagues should recognize that this recent threatened species listing could affect their construction and development projects. This listing is of particular concern for projects where federal funding or permitting is required. Schedules may also be impacted, as the removal of one acre or more of trees from a development site will be prohibited during the months of June and July. While this species of bats reside in caves throughout the winter, they move their habitat to trees during the summer months. Because the Northern Long Eared Bat will live in any tree species, projects that involve tree removal may be an obstacle for permitting.

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For project specific questions and more information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s webpage about the Northern Long-Eared Bat and the consequent regulations here.

Thanks to Lauren Hastings, Senior Environmental Scientist at Pare for bringing this issue to Pare’s attention!