Call climate change an environmental crisis, an economic opportunity, a matter of national security… Call it whatever you want as long as you don’t call it a “hoax” or “fake news.” Our world is literally burning as we still sit idly by arguing this as a partisan issue. Our children should be ashamed of us.
I hope we can put aside the noise and see this issue for the moral imperative that it is.
Climate change is THE defining issue of the 2020 presidential election. Come November I’m not voting for a candidate (per se) or overly simplified ideology. My vote will be cast in favor of making the world a better place for all future generations.
This photo is of my three children: Jack (8), Janie (4), and Benny (2). I am voting for THEM.
Companies, non-profits, government organizations, healthcare facilities, and institutions of higher learning will soon look beyond survival to recovery, and eventually growth. It may be difficult to visualize this given our current state of affairs, but this too shall pass and better times will come. Our culture has seemingly lost its ability to think and plan for the long-term; priorities, politics, and results are driven by short-term metrics. As such, I believe that we should use this opportunity to reinvent, rethink, and rebuild with the following attributes in mind: organizational resiliency, serving the common good, equability, and sustainability.
Sure, this all sounds great. But what do you mean?
I tend to think of nearly every problem (opportunity) in terms of the Pareto Principle, better known as The 80/20 Rule. It asserts that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes for any given event. In business, for example, the goal is to identify what actions or inputs are most productive and prioritize them accordingly.
So, as it pertains to this concept, I believe there are two inputs we should focus on with respect to economic recovery, arguably the biggest global challenges of our time (COVID-19 + climate change), and the attributes I mentioned earlier (Resiliency, serving the common good, equability, and sustainability). Speaking broadly, they are 1.) Energy and 2.) Health.
No, seriously. I get it. Give me specifics.
OK, first we need to deal with the public health crisis at hand. Social distancing, wearing masks, and limiting travel — these practices are already in play and are driven by behavior. But the one thing we can do to make people feel more comfortable returning to our prior norms, such as returning to work, shopping, eating at restaurants, etc. is to invest in the health of our buildings. By focusing on healthy buildings (HBs), we will not only make people feel comfortable, we can actually help reduce the spread of the virus, let alone make ourselves more productive. This leaves our employees, customers, and any other stakeholders feeling better and more productive.
So, what constitutes a healthy building?
First, seek to understand both sick building syndrome (SBS) and building related illnesses (BRI). As defined by the EPA, SBS is a situation in which occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. Indicators are discomfort such as headaches; irritated eye, nose, or throat; coughing; dry or itchy skin; nausea; difficulty concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors. Complainants report relief soon after leaving the building. Physical evidence within the building itself includes an incoming draft at the front door; hot or cold spots throughout the facility; condensation on ceiling diffusers; slippery floors; mold; hard to open doors; stuffy or stale air; unpleasant odors; the presence of insects and/or dirt; and high energy expenses. BRI is indicated by occupants complaining of symptoms such as cough; chest tightness; fever, chills; and muscle aches. These can be clinically defined and require prolonged recovery, long after leaving the building.
Holy cow. I hadn’t thought of all this being related to buildings. What are the primary causes of SBS and BRI?
Poor HVAC performance such as inadequate ventilation and negative building pressure.
OK so, how can I invest to make my building healthy as you suggest?
This is a loaded question. There are A LOT of things you can do. I’ll try to keep this brief.
First and foremost, make sure the HVAC system has been well maintained. And think about the health issues described above. Are these currently problems? If not, you may not need to do much, though there’s certainly always room for improvement. If these are problems, consider consulting with an expert on HVAC and healthy buildings. Make sure they’re independent of whomever is responsible for your maintenance and certified to do so. They’ll likely perform an investigation and assessment on the HVAC system, as well as indoor air quality. The factors to be evaluated (and adjusted) on the HVAC system include but aren’t limited to verifying equipment operation; checking building pressure; inspecting filters, belts, and fans; and finally asking questions about comfort. The primary factors that influence indoor air quality are the occupants; the HVAC system; pollutants and their pathways; and internal and external contaminants such as chemicals, smoke, grease, molds, and pollen.
After these initial assessments are complete and adjustments made, get some form of system to monitor building health. Think of these monitors like having a FitBit for your building; empower yourself with data to maintain proper health. There are plenty of options out there and what you install should monitor some of the following attributes: differential building pressure (the #1 indicator of overall building health); C02; relative humidity; and temperature. Monitoring these core attributes will cover the 80/20. Other important, albeit less impactful, attributes to monitor may include volatile organic compounds, water quality, noise pollution, occupancy, lighting quality, and energy usage.
Building health alone covers more ground than I imagined. But you also mentioned energy. What can I do there?
Invest in Energy Efficiency (EE), Renewable Energy (RE), and Clean Energy Transportation (electric vehicles or EVs).
Why? And, how does this relate to helping with economic recovery?
There are a number of reasons. Quite honestly, too many to cover without writing a book. So, again, I’ll focus on the 80/20.
The first, and most pressing is economic opportunity. Energy, and the cost of it, flows through everything. Think about that. The cost. of. energy. flows. through. everything. As far as EE goes, the cost of energy saved is the lowest cost of energy. This is a no-brainer with a guaranteed ROI. Further, the cost of RE is at or below the cost of traditional fossil-fuel based sources, depending on the state, scale, and application. And EE, RE, and EVs are driven by technology — not sources of fuel. In terms of economic growth, every measure of kWh or BTU saved by EE or generated domestically by RE translates into wealth we are not exporting to foreign nations. In other words, we keep more of our own money, thus further strengthening our own economy. Put that into perspective, relative to the cost of energy, which is buried in the cost of… oh yeah, EVERYTHING!
Making the transition is a moral imperative. The science is clear and indisputable. We are harming our earth. If we do not reverse course, soon, the damage will be irrecoverable. Remember how quickly COVID-19 swept the globe and how we’re still reeling from its devastating impacts. Climate change is a crisis in slow motion. Yet, unlike this virus and the subsequent public health crisis, the impact will change the face of the earth — and humanity —forever. I cannot, in good conscience, put that burden on my children and grandchildren. We have borrowed at their expense for far too long.
Making the transition is a matter of national security. How many global conflicts have been fought over the allocation of natural resources? This strategy not only protects the lives of future generations through preserving the earth but, quite literally, may prevent them from fighting avoidable wars. When we leverage technology for our energy, we are not subject to the whims of foreign nations and their strategic interests. As the world seems increasingly less stable, this also seems like a no-brainer, let alone the cost savings relative to current military spending. Simply put, an investment in clean energy is an investment in our own national security.
Finally, consider how the industrial revolutions of the past have shaped our great nation: the emergence of water, steam, and coal as sources of power and how they expanded existing or developed new industries such as railroads, steel manufacturing, electric lighting, the automotive industry, transportation, and the digital revolution — which brought forth widespread globalization, low-cost economies, and new business models. What is next? I contend we are in the beginning of the Clean Energy Revolution. And when we have the benefit of hindsight, I truly believe it will dwarf those prior examples in terms of how it changes the world. Do we want to be the leaders of this revolution? Or will we continue to cede this opportunity to other nations to embrace? And, if we do not lead this New Age, what’s next for America? I can’t think of anything that compares. Let’s dismiss coal and oil to embrace the future. The potential for job growth and opportunities for continued innovation are beyond comprehension.
It is abundantly clear that investing in Clean Energy will make our great nation more resilient, equitable, sustainable, and resilient. Much like Google didn’t build its empire with fax machines, we won’t rebuild our economy by relying on fossil fuels. We cannot subsidize our way out of this. So, let us learn from our current crisis as we begin planning for a better future. None of us can carry the world on our shoulders. But we can carry our world on our shoulders. If we can do our part individually, collectively we can make America — let alone the world — a better place if not for ourselves, then for future generations.
The Melink family feels strongly about green causes and serving others. As servant leaders, several Melink Employee-Owners give back to the Cincinnati community by volunteering their time on advisory boards.
Angela Bradley, Director of Human Resources — Board of Advisors
The Goering Center is affiliated with University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business. The center brings together a community of experts and peers to support, train, and educate small and private family businesses. Educational events and workshops are held to promote development and collaboration. The Goering Center has a board of community leaders that provide their expertise and support. Bradley has been an advisory board member since 2018.
“The Goering Center’s mission and vision resonate with my own vision for service and stewardship. As an HR professional, I want to be of service to my employees and provide support and guidance to create a positive work environment. Through the Goering Center’s efforts, any small or private family business can impact our local community, retain top talent in our area, and elevate economic growth in the Greater Cincinnati area,” said Bradley.
Angela Bradley, Director of Human Resources — Board of Trustees Craig Davis, President — Board of Trustees Steve Melink, CEO & Chairman — Advisory Board
SonLight Power designs and builds solar energy solutions for community venues (schools, medical clinics, orphanages, community centers, churches, water-pumping stations) in remote locations. Work is conducted through mission trips where solar panels are installed. Not only are regions connected with electricity, but residents are trained on how to install solar power systems and how to care for them.
Green Energy Ohio
Green Energy Ohio (GEO) is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean energy practices through education, outreach, and representation. Miles serves on GEO’s Board of Directors.
Clermont Senior Services
Janice Scheid, Controller — Board of Trustees
Clermont Senior Services is a non-profit organization committed to serving adults age 60 and over in Clermont County, Melink’s home. The non-profit provides and coordinates in-home and community-based services with input from its board of trustees, in which Scheid serves.
Green Business Council of Cincinnati
Joel Geiman, General Manager — Board Member Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability — Board Member
The Green Business Council of Cincinnati (GBC) helps local business leaders collaborate on sustainability initiatives, such as energy benchmarking, waste management, and composting. To help guide the council’s direction and offer their expertise, Geiman and Sternad are part of the GBC’s Executive Board.
Working in Neighborhoods
Steve Melink, CEO & Chairman — Board Member
Working in Neighborhoods helps to revitalize Cincinnati’s low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through home building renovation and financial literacy training. Steve Melink has served as board member for the organization.
Are electric vehicles (and electric options of all kinds) the future?
The year is 2008. The best-selling vehicle in the United States for the 27th year in a row is the Ford F-Series truck with more than 500,000 sold.
Fast forward to 2020. We are entering a new phase in the automotive industry. As of February, Tesla passed a significant milestone, selling 1 million electric vehicles (EV). Plus, the Tesla Model 3 became the all-time best selling EV globally. This happened in just 2.5 years of production, which had taken the previous leader almost 10 years to accomplish.
Clearly, this is a very exciting time for EV enthusiasts as options become more stylish, have longer ranges, and achieve faster 0-60 MPH times, all while becoming more affordable for the average American. In fact, this is an exciting time for electric options of all kinds…
Is Everything Going Electric?
You may not realize it, but electric operation has been utilized for many years. No matter what your indoor or outdoor “go-to” is for fun or home improvement, chances are that an electric powered vehicle or tool has helped you get the job done.
Have you ever been golfing and paid for “18 and a cart”? If it has been in the last 15 years, it was probably an electric golf cart. More into walking the golf course? They make “smart cart” bag carriers that can now follow you based off of remote control or a “follow me” clip attached to your belt.
If golf is not your sport, how about skateboarding? Hop on one of a myriad of manufacturers’ longboard, traditional, or one-wheel style boards to rip the streets or trails with speeds of 60+ MPH, or a range of almost 60 miles.
Maybe being outdoors isn’t your thing, but you like having a tidy, well-groomed yard… Look no further than Husqvarna or Worx for their cordless, robotic lawn mowers, controlled by an app and GPS.
Electric History All these EVs, toys and tools sound great, but what happens when they run out of charge? Well, the history of the battery — the backbone of electric powered tools and toys — is longer than you may think. The first recorded battery to provide continuous electrical current to a circuit was created by an Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, in 1799. This was very crude, using zinc and copper for the electrodes and a piece of brine-soaked paper for the electrolyte. We have since gone through Daniell Cell (1836), Lead-Acid (1859), Nickel Cadmium (1899), Alkaline (1950s), Nickel-Metal Hydride (1989), and finally Lithium-Ion (1991) batteries. (Read more about “The Evolution of Battery Technology.”)
Or maybe you work in a warehouse and are sick of the noise and smell of gas-powered fork trucks. Well, you guessed it — there is an electric battery powered alternative.
And kids from 5 to 15 years are getting more and more into hoverboards; electric scooters; electric RC cars, planes and boats; Power Wheels, and even dirt bikes. In fact, I see this trend in my own home. My kids have hoverboards and love them, but they are already looking to the next electric transportation method of their dreams: the one-wheel, a scooter, a dirt bike, etc. I can no longer tell them that such “toys” will disturb the neighbors because the days of the iconic sound of a two-stroke or four-stroke dirt bike may soon be over with how quiet electric motors have become.
Benefits of Electric Vehicles
Now, this movement toward electric transportation (and more!) does not have to be all about fun. Some people choose electric it for the savings or the impact on climate change.
Let’s just focus strictly on EVs… Most consumers can expect to save $600-1,300 a year in fuel costs alone when switching from a conventional vehicle. Now, factor in less required maintenance like oil changes and brake service, and the savings just keep stacking up. It can take as little as $0.12/kWh to charge your car, meaning a full “tank” can cost as little as $5 or $6. How does that compare to your last fill up?
Other consumers may switch for the wellbeing of our environment and our children by aiding in the removal of toxic emissions. In 2008, the U.S. averaged 55,108,100 gallons of gasoline sold per day. That is an annual total sale of 20,114,456,500 gallons. This led the U.S. to 5,817 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
However, since the introduction of EVs, this consumption trend has declined. In 2019, the U.S. averaged just 24,239,300 gallons of gasoline sold per day. This makes for a 30,868,800 gallon per day difference, for an annual consumption difference of 11,267,112,000 gallons! That is an average reduction of 1,024,282,909 gallons per year.
If the EV trend sticks and its popularity continues to rise, the U.S. will consume 12,291,394,909 fewer gallons of gasoline in 2020 than just 12 years prior. At a current national average of $2.186, that means that as a nation, we will save an estimated $26,868,989,271.07 on gasoline purchases this year. That is enough money to purchase any of the following:
2 U.S. Navy Nimitz Class Aircraft Carriers
15 Buckingham Palaces
16 Burj Khalifa towers
50,000 Teachers hired for 10 years
597,088 Tesla Model 3 cars
700,000 Homes powered with solar energy
3,400,000 People fed three meals a day for a year
Our Electric Future
So, whether you are into electric power vehicles and tools for personal enjoyment or trying to do your part for a cleaner Earth, there is an electric, battery powered solution out there for you. So, get out there and form your own opinions on all things electric.
I challenge you to go electric and just see how you like it! Get behind the wheel of an EV, or climb onto an electric dirt bike and try not to have fun! The torque, the acceleration, and the handling — all of it is intoxicating. It pulls you in and makes you want to find reasons to drive the car or ride the dirt bike at every opportunity.
So drive a Tesla, do a handyman job using a 20v Li-Ion powered tool, rip the local trails on a Onewheel, film a YouTube video using a drone, go golfing and ride along in an electric cart, or start a new hobby with your kids with brushless electric motor RC vehicles. There are so many emerging trends within the battery powered world, and electric vehicles are just one of them.
Will the world ever regress, ever think about going back to its fossil fuel roots? Perhaps so, perhaps not. As for this new EV owner, I’m never looking back.
Supporting green business groups and clean energy initiatives is important to Melink as a company, and many employees have made a personal commitment to such initiatives as well. Melink employee-owners donate their time and expertise to serve on sustainability groups, advisory board committees, or professional boards at the local and regional levels.
Green Business Council of Cincinnati
Joel Geiman, General Manager Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability
The Green Business Council of Cincinnati (GBC) was founded in 2011 by several Cincinnati area corporations to help local business leaders collaborate on sustainability initiatives, such as energy benchmarking, waste management, and composting. The council meets on a bi-monthly basis to help guide its members to apply best practices for delivering a better social, economic, and environmental future. Melink employees not only offer their expertise on renewable energy and LEED building certification but also share their experience with their own internal sustainability programs.
Melink is also part of the GBC Executive Committee, which meets on a monthly basis. “Melink’s responsibility on the committee is to manage the list of all council members, keep members accountable on attendance requirements, and to help set expectations for new members in the GBC’s mentorship program,” said Geiman, who has been volunteering his time with GBC for about a year.
Joel Geiman, General Manager Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability
Through the GBC in early 2020, Melink became involved with Beyond 34, an initiative facilitated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Beyond 34’s goal is to increase the current 34% recycling rate in the United States through a multi-stakeholder approach. An implementation model was created for a pilot city (Orlando, FL) to increase and improve its recycling and recovery rates. The test program was successful in Orlando, so the U.S. Chamber Foundation chose Cincinnati in 2019 as its second region to apply its model.
Green Energy Ohio
Randy Miles, Vice President
Green Energy Ohio (GEO) is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean energy practices through education, outreach, and representation. GEO has presented testimony to Ohio legislators in support of policies and projects that advance the development and deployment of clean energy. Melink’s Randy Miles serves on GEO’s Board of Directors. Annually, Melink participates in the Green Energy Ohio Tour, which showcases renewable technologies in homes, businesses, and public buildings.
Green Workplaces Cincinnati
Natalie Heltman, Account Coordinator Allison Sternad, Director of Marketing & Sustainability
Green Workplaces Cincinnati is a program through the Hamilton County Waste and Recycling Office. The group consists of sustainability committee leaders from local businesses. Through monthly meetings, the program gives members a chance to connect to outside resources and share best practices. Great Workplaces Cincinnati supports the 513 Green Workplace Certification, a sustainability designation that recognizes businesses in Hamilton County that voluntarily operate in an environmentally friendly manner.
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful
Melink supports Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, an organization that focuses on building community through neighborhood revitalization and education. The organization is active in each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods and sponsors the Great American Cleanup where participants pick up litter, plant flowers, paint buildings, and more.
Matt Meyer, Director of Field Service
GoZero is a Cincinnati non-profit that provides food waste collection and compost delivery services. Its main goal is to divert food waste from landfills as a self-described “compost courier.” Essentially, GoZero organizes residential and commercial drop-off sites for food waste collection, picks up the waste, delivers it to a site to be composted, and then delivers the cured compost once ready for application. Melink has had a GoZERO food waste compost drop-off station on its campus since 2016. Area residents can subscribe to get a collection bucket and start dropping off food scraps from home. Learn more.
EV Cincy, Cincinnati Office of Environment & Sustainability
Nate Schmidlin, Account Specialist
EV Cincy is a project out of the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. Increased adoption of EVs reduces local air pollution, improves public health, and slows climate change. Schmidlin serves as an ambassador to educate others about the benefits of electric vehicles. However, due to the pandemic, original outreach plans like going on test drives are on hold. “COVID-19 has forced us to switch gears from our original outreach plan. Now it’s all about getting the EV awareness message out on social media to help people stay informed,” said Schmidlin.
Green Umbrella is the regional sustainability alliance of Greater Cincinnati with more than 200 member organizations, including Melink Corporation. Green Umbrella facilitates collaboration among non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, and governmental groups. The organization hosts the annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit and serves as a thought cultivator for sustainability initiatives in Cincinnati’s Tri-State area.
Cincinnati 2030 District
Facilitated by Green Umbrella, the Cincinnati 2030 District’s goal is to create healthy, high-performing buildings in Cincinnati. Members, including Melink Corporation, make a commitment to reduce their buildings’ energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions 50% by the year 2030. The company is actively helping Cincinnati meet its 2030 goals by providing industry expertise (through events like educational seminars) but also building data to help the city understand what can be accomplished and how.
The University ofNotre Dame chose sustainable, LEED-approved construction options and why you should, too.
Recently, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded the University of Notre Dame with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for the design, construction, and operation of three buildings attached to Notre Dame Stadium. These building are Duncan Student Center, Corbett Family Hall, and O’Neill Hall. Your next statement may be “So what?!” Why should the folks at Notre Dame care, and why should anyone else involved with owning, managing, and operating a commercial building care?
The answer? Money.
According to research from the U.S. Department of Energy, LEED buildings consume 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-LEED buildings. That translates to lower utility bills. If you could build the same facility but pay 11-25% less in operating costs, why would you choose otherwise? And this isn’t even taking into account all the environmental benefits of LEED buildings!
If the decision is made for the non-LEED option, then that is saying you know you could spend less operating this building, but you want to pay more. You know you could improve the income flow of your building, but you choose to make less. Why?
LEED Buildings: Financial Common Sense
Perhaps the concern is that a LEED building might cost more to construct than a non-LEED building. Depending on where you are building, there are notable tax benefits and incentives from states and municipalities (AKA free money). Choosing to build a non-LEED building is essentially saying you don’t want free money.
Finally, since a commercial building is an investment, the core factors of occupancy rates, lease payments, and long-term tenants are very important to cash flow. Citing the USGBC, LEED buildings retain higher property values than non-LEED buildings. LEED buildings are healthier for the occupants, and 79% of employees say they would choose a job in a LEED building over a non-LEED building. All of these point to greater demand (occupancy), longer term leases, and higher property appreciation. Money, money, money.
Intelli-Hood: A Solution for LEED Buildings
As I write this from Melink’s own LEED Platinum-certified headquarters, nicknamed HQ1, and across the street from our newly opened HQ2, which is a Zero-Energy Building, I am very happy for Notre Dame. I am also very PROUD that Melink’s Intelli-Hood® variable speed kitchen hood controls were a part of all the conservation measures that helped them achieve this certification. Within the three buildings that achieved LEED status, Intelli-Hood was installed on eight kitchen hoods. Intelli-Hood is now standard on any new hood installations, as well as retrofits, at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame opted for the sustainable, energy efficient, and financially smart option of LEED construction. What will you choose?
Melink Employee-Owner Natalie Heltman offers tips for home sustainability projects.
At work, I’m a member of Melink’s Sustainability Committee. We are a group of approximately 10 employee-owners working toward community involvement and education related to sustainability. Our team focuses on initiatives like ensuring our fellow Melinkers are educated on recycling and composting best practices. We conduct a monthly waste audit at our facility. We’ve set up initiatives to recycle items that typically aren’t recyclable, like toothpaste tubes and Plastic #5 items. Being part of the committee made me wonder how I could incorporate sustainability into my home life, too.
I began thinking of ways to add green infrastructure to my house. Based off electricity stats sent by my utility company, my house is ranked among the most energy efficient in the area. So instead of thinking inside my house, I wanted to “green” aspects on my home’s outside.
DIY Rain Barrel
So, I decided my first project (thanks to YouTube university) would be a set of three 55-gallon rain barrels to use in the summer when Cincinnati goes through its driest months. Full disclosure: Making a rain barrel is noted on most DIY sites as an easy project. I am not a handy person; I had never picked up a drill before this, and I was able to complete the project in about a day.
Rain barrels are an interesting project because there are many options. There are kits sold at home improvement stores, or you can reuse food-grade 55-gallon drums as an inexpensive alternative. With sustainability in mind, I went for the reusable option and was able to buy my drums online from a soy sauce wholesaler for around $10. Also, I purchased spigots to install on the barrel to give us the option to use a drip hose on especially dry days.
I use the collected water for watering my lawn, vegetable garden, and hanging flower baskets. I haven’t noticed a return on our water bill, but I do feel less guilty watering my lawn and garden when I’m using water from the barrels.
However, having large, blue barrels near our downspouts is not the most aesthetically pleasing look for our backyard. Before starting this project, especially if you live in a neighborhood, check to see if there are any restrictions. I followed our subdivision’s guidelines by installing the barrels on the back side of the house behind a fence. Make sure to reach out to your local officials to confirm any guidelines on water capture.
If you’re ready to get started, I recommend this video.
DIY Compost Bin
Since the rain barrels were so easy to make, I decided to step up my green infrastructure game with a second project. We already had a couple of compost boxes, but I wanted to try building rolling compost containers. This project required a few more tools but was also very simple.
If you’re a gardener, composting is a great way to boost your soil and, ultimately, your harvest. Composting enriches the soil by helping to retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
I made two rolling compost bins, using two additional barrels I purchased online. I am able to move them around the yard to add compost to our vegetable garden and potted plants. Compost is the “black gold” of soil. My vegetables grow really well with the compost, and there is almost no need to use any fertilizer.
This video gives a nice overview on how to build your own compost bin.
My Future Home Sustainability Projects
The great part about both of these home sustainability projects was how I was able to reuse items. Materials that might be deemed “trash” or unwanted were saved from going to the landfill. I was able to build both projects with materials I had around the house or from the barrels that had already served their purpose.
What’s next? During my time in the Peace Corps, I focused on community gardening and that is something I would like to revisit now. I think my next project will be a raised vegetable garden — maybe a keyhole garden with compost in the middle.
Melink envisions clean energy transforming the world by improving our global economy, security and environment — for ourselves, our children and future generations. “Walking the Talk” stories showcase Melink employee-owners that are making sustainable choices in their personal lives.
Internationally, the coronavirus has impacted many aspects of our world, from the economy and our spending habits to our jobs and everyday routines. But what about our climate? Yes, our ecological environment has been largely affected by COVID-19, too.
Decreased Greenhouse Gas Emissions
While COVID-19 has spread globally, governments have been forced to initiate social distancing and stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread. These lockdowns have caused many industries and individuals to cease production and travel, causing a ripple affect in greenhouse gas emissions. Countries across the world are experiencing a drastic drop in greenhouse gas emissions, according to an article from the BBC. In fact, China has experienced a decrease by 25% in CO2 emissions. In the United States, New York has seen a decrease as low as 50% in CO2 emissions. Other major countries seeing similar decreases in CO2 and NO2 emissions include Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
While this decrease appears to be some much-needed good news during the pandemic, scientists and ecological specialists are skeptical that these drops in emissions are going to have any lasting effects. If these drops in emissions are caused from a decrease in manufacturing and travel, then what will happen after the virus has been contained, when production increases and daily travel routines return?
“The fight against pollution is a long-distance race, not a sprint,” said Xavier Querol, a science researcher specialized in atmospheric pollution. Essentially, this means the sudden drops in emissions happening across the globe are temporary and if we truly want to see a lasting positive effect in greenhouse gas emissions, we must look to other solutions.
A Closer Look at Energy Consumption
The majority of greenhouse gas emissions (72%) can be attributed to energy. Of that 72%, the manufacturing and transportation sectors together make up 27.7%, which is the main contributor to the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that are being experienced around the world due to COVID-19 restrictions.
However, it is not feasible to assume that these emission levels are going to remain where they are once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Therefore, we must look to the highest contributor of energy consumption, which is electricity and heat, and find solutions to decrease emissions.
Currently, there are many companies creating technology to support the goals of lowering emissions, slowing climate change, and lowering energy consumption. Melink Corporation, a leader in Zero-Energy buildings, offers five energy solutions to help create healthy buildings and lower energy consumption:
Each one of these services not only helps to create a sustainable world for future generations but also serves as a cost-saving opportunity for businesses to implement.
Coronavirus and Climate Change
In summary, what is coronavirus teaching us about how to decrease climate change? Well, that’s a loaded question that cannot be answered fully. But the solution starts with decision makers, business owners/operators, and individual consumers. If any good can come from this pandemic, maybe it’s how our perspective is changing. Now, perhaps more than ever, we see the importance of preserving this world that we all know and love — not just maintaining our current environment — and ensuring future generations are set up for success. We can do better when it comes to climate change, whether coronavirus is in the picture or not.
Melink Employee-Owner Janice Scheid offers tips for switching to reusable straws.
Janice Scheid, Melink Corporation’s Controller,
made the switch to reusable drinking straws, and she’s not looking back.
“If I can give up normal straws, anyone
can,” said Scheid, who calls herself “The Straw Queen” — that’s how much she loves them!
So why did she make the switch? Scheid credits her son and the organization 4ocean with opening her eyes to her straw consumption. She estimates she was using two straws per day on average.
“When you think about two straws per day
for 365 days a year, that adds up. They were heading to a landfill or
potentially into the environment,” said Scheid.
In fact, Scheid’s disposable straw consumption is on par with the U.S. average. It’s estimated the average American uses 1.6 straws per day. This equates to each person in the U.S. using about 38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65. (Check out this article from the National Park Service for more stats.)
Thus, she decided to change her habit, a
promise she has committed to for more than a year. She purchased a straw
cleaning brush and multiple types of reusable straws — stainless steel and hard
plastic — to suit her drink preferences. She also purchased bent metal straws
and Tervis-sized plastic straws to fit specific cups.
Reusable Straw Tips
inspired? Here are sip-worthy tips from Melink’s Straw Queen:
Keep a straw close You made the investment, so make sure your straws are available at all times! Besides having her reusable straws at home, Scheid keeps straws in her car, at her desk, and in her purse.
Speak up to skip the disposable straw When going out to eat, Scheid asks for no straw when she places her order.
Educate your family and friends Just like her son inspired her to consider her straw consumption, she tries to make others aware. She has gifted her friends and family with sets of reusable straws, saying her mom and sisters are hooked now. “Little changes add up,” said Scheid.
Shop around Scheid purchased her first reusable straws through Amazon, but she said they are easier to find as they become more common. She has even found them in unlikely places, such as JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores.
Consider your other habits Scheid also has made changes in other areas. She avoids buying drinks sold in plastic beverage rings (i.e. 6-pack of bottled soda) because of the rings’ impact on the environment and wildlife. And to avoid single-use plastic grocery bags, she purchased heavy-duty, reusable canvas shopping bags. Additionally, she has swapped out one-time-use plastic sandwich bags (i.e. like Ziploc brand) for reusable options.
Melink envisions clean energy transforming the world by improving our global economy, security and environment — for ourselves, our children and future generations. “Walking the Talk” stories showcase Melink employee-owners that are making sustainable choices in their personal lives.
Buying an electric vehicle (EV) can be challenging, especially if you haven’t done so before. Here are four tips to help you get the most bang for your buck.
EV Purchasing Tip #1
Double Check Your Incentives
EV incentives are always subject to change at the federal and state level. As of December 2019, the reduced federal tax credit of $7,000 is no longer available to automakers that have reached cumulative sales of 200,000 vehicles. This places Tesla and GM vehicles at a higher price point, as the federal tax credit no longer applies to these automakers. All other automakers have available tax credits in the United States, with Nissan seemingly next in line to hit the 200,000-vehicle mark. Plus, certain states (such as California and Colorado) offer EV incentives. Check energy.gov for current credits.
EV Purchasing Tip #2
Define Your EV’s Intended Use
Vehicles can serve many purposes such as daily drivers, road tripping, and towing/hauling. It’s best to define early on what the use of your EV will be. Are you taking road trips in this vehicle? How long is your daily commute? How many miles do you typically drive in a day, a week, a month? This will help you to narrow down vehicles that are best suited for you, as EVs come in various projected ranges.
Typically, older, used EVs have lesser ranges per charge. A few examples:
2015 Nissan Leaf with 84 miles of range
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf with 83 miles of range
2015 BMW i3 with 81 miles of range
Newer EVs tend to have longer ranges:
2020 Tesla Model 3 with a minimum of 240 miles
2020 Nissan Leaf with a minimum of 150 miles
2020 Chevrolet Bolt with a minimum of 240 miles
With the capacity of a longer range, there of course comes a higher cost. That said, used EVs tend to be much less expensive than new ones, when compared to their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. EVs not only depreciate as they go from “new” to “used” vehicle, but they depreciate even further as the federal tax credit is not available to used vehicles.
For example, if a new EV sells for $30,000 in 2020, why would a prospective buyer purchase the same vehicle a year later for $26,000 when he/she can buy the same new vehicle for $31,000 (anticipating a price increase) and potentially apply a tax credit? Therefore, new EVs tend to depreciate more quickly than ICE vehicles, so take this into your equation.
EV Purchasing Tip #3
Consider Your Climate
An EV’s expected mileage range is greatly affected by the temperature. When an EV is parked where temperatures are at or below freezing, the projected mileage range can be decreased by 30% or more. This is due to both the efficiency of the batteries decreasing in cold temperatures, as well as the additional electric load to heat the car, seats, steering wheel, etc.
For those who park indoors, this may not be as much of a factor because your car is kept at a higher ambient temperature (60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) when not in use, so your battery efficiency won’t decrease nearly as much.
EV Purchasing Tip #4
Check the Battery Life
When purchasing a used EV, one of the deciding factors should be the condition of the battery. An EV’s range decreases over time due to the degradation of its batteries. How much a vehicle’s batteries degrade over time depends upon the specific vehicle/battery, as well as the utilization of the vehicle by the previous owner(s). Some vehicles may decrease in range by 1% each year, whereas others may decrease by 3% or more each year. Thus, this battery degradation directly decreases a vehicle’s range.
So, if you’re considering purchasing a used EV, what can you do? Do your research; check the online forums of the specific make/model to read about other owners’ experiences with battery life. If you’re purchasing from a dealership, ask them to run diagnostics to check the health of the battery. If purchasing from a private party, take the vehicle to an independent shop or a dealership to have the battery evaluated.
If you’re purchasing your first EV or just considering what EV options are on the market, I hope these tips help. Good luck!
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