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DuPont has had a radical policy in place for a number of years now.  
Their goal is
zero defects on the production line,
zero injuries in the workplace, and
zero emissions in their manufacturing and distribution.  

It has saved them billions and earned them more billions through consulting on their experience.  

Or so I have read.

Zero defects is an idea that comes from quality assurance, Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, W Edwards Deming, and others.

Zero injuries comes out of OSHA, EPA, and other Nixon era first wave environmental rules and regulations.

Zero emissions is quality control expanded and zero tolerance governance as well as one of the basic ecological design principles of architect Bill McDonough:
waste equals food
use only available solar income
respect diversity
love all the children

Climate change is moot.  It doesn't matter whether it is real or not, man-made or natural.  What we need to do in order to be productive, competitive, and successful requires the same things that responding to climate change does.  I'm not interested in the political debate about climate and carbon.  I'm interested in what works.

John Todd, one of the founders of New Alchemy Institute, winner of the first Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an ecological designer and teacher focusing on biological remediation and waste treatment, has twelve fundamental principles of ecological design:

  1.  Geological and mineral diversity must be present to evolve the biological responsiveness of rich soils.
  1.  Nutrient reservoirs are essential to keep such essentials as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium available for the plants.
  1.  Steep gradients between subcomponents must be engineered into the system to enable the biological elements to evolve rapidly to assist in the breakdown of toxic materials.
  1.  High rates of exchange must be created by maximizing surface areas that house the bacteria that determine the metabolism of the system and facilitate treatment.
  1. Periodic and random pulsed exchanges improve performance.  Just as random perturbations foster resilience in nature, in living technologies altering water flow creates self-organization in the system.
  1.  Cellular design is the structural model as it is in nature where cells are the organizing unit.  Expansion of the system should also use a cellular model, as in increasing the number of tanks.
  1.  A law of the minimum must be incorporated.  At least three ecosystems such as a marsh, a pond, and a terrestrial area are needed to perform the assigned function and maintain overall stability.
  1. Microbial communities must be introduced periodically from the natural world to maintain diversity and facilitate evolutionary processes.
  1.  Photosynthetic foundations are essential as oxygen-producing plants foster ecosystems that require less energy, aeration, and chemical management.
  1.  Phylogenetic diversity must be encouraged as a range of aquatic animals from the unicellular to snails to fish are as essential to the evolution and self-maintenance of the system as the plants.
  1.  Sequenced and repeated seedings are part of maintenance as a self-contained system cannot be isolated but must be interlinked through gaseous, nutrient, mineral, and biological pathways to the external environment.
  1.  Ecological design should reflect the macrocosmos in the microcosmos, representing the natural world miniaturized and reflecting its proportions, as in terrestrial to oceanic and aquatic areas.

from A Safe and Sustainable World:  The Promise of Ecological Design by Nancy Jack Todd
Washington:  Island Press, 2005
ISBN 1-55963-778-1

Originally posted to gmoke on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:09 PM PDT.


A zero emissions economy based upon ecological design?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:09:13 PM PDT

  •  Can you explain... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gmoke, rfall

    ...item number three on the list above?  I'm scratching my head.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:40:52 PM PDT

    •  Steep Gradients (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, geomoo

      Steep gradients between subcomponents must be engineered into the system to enable the biological elements to evolve rapidly to assist in the breakdown of toxic materials.

      John has approached biological waste treatment by running it through a series of different ecosystems from microbial digestion in slurries to water fit for fish and snails, aquatic and hydroponic plants, and through a marsh for filtration.  I believe he is referring to building in steep gradients, deep differences between the different ecosystems to break down complex toxins and sequester heavy metals.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:47:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Um... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...okay.  I guess I'm still confused.

        What does a "steep gradient" look like?  When I first read the sentence, I assumed that "gradient" was used in an analogical sense.  When you're talking about water and waste flowing, are you referring to "gradients" as actual pieces of landscaping?  Your second sentence doesn't read that way, but your first does.  Example?

        Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

        by WarrenS on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:51:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eco-Machines (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Maybe looking at some of his work would help:

          Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

          by gmoke on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:54:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Here is the problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Eco machines do some things, and that's great when it works, but they don't do everything or even most things.

            We are not blogging using eco machines, I assure you of that.

            One good example of eco machines aremoving bed hydrophonic farms, which are increasingly popular for production of some food. If the the farms are localized then the impact of transportation can be minimized.

            But most things consumed by developed countries are not.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 10:59:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I think he is referring to thermodynamics (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gmoke, WarrenS, geomoo

          each step in the process requires it's input to be far away (in energy & entropy) from it's output. This difference is what maximizes biological output and if managed correctly, diversity. Imagine a waterfall that is used to generate electricity. If you convert it into too many mini waterfalls each with water wheel you will not generate any significant power as it is no longer a waterfall with a large potential energy drop. Make one big wheel to harvest it all and you have no diversity thus the system can have a single mode failure.

          I'm not sure I entirely agree with all of this theory but I would need to read a lot more about it before criticizing it.

          "Everybody does better, when everybody does better" - Paul Wellstone 1997

          by yuriwho on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 09:34:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Nice list of ideals, but how the hell does it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yuriwho, gmoke, WarrenS, geomoo

    ...translate to real-life?

    For instance, in the design of a house?  Or a factory?

    "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

    by rfall on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:45:15 PM PDT

    •  Ford Rouge Center (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yuriwho, cfk, geomoo

      McDonough helped redesign Ford's River Rouge plant into the Ford Rouge Center:

      He applied his ecological design principles there.  Many examples appear in his book, Cradle to Cradle.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 08:52:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My company has (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        A green roof and wate heat cogeneration, the first reducing the air conditioning power burden and the latter reusing what would be wasted heat to generate some evergy.

        These are incrementa improvementsm and good to take because we can, but I think the question is valid and let me explode one node to illustrate the problem: how much energy and CO2 is required to produce and convert the steel the Ford plant uses to make cars?

        When you dive deep, you begin to understand how complex the problems are, how far we have to go, and why we need to do what we can as soon as we can since the ideals are just that.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 11:10:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good luck with phosphorous flows and "all new... (0+ / 0-)

    ...stuff" proposals.

    "All new stuff, better than the old stuff" has a, um, slightly consumerist ring to it.

    They aren't going to do too much "all new stuff" in say, Dafur, but who's paying attention in Dafur anyway?

    As for phosphorous, one of the more amusing factors in the on going destruction of the world's oceans is the effects on phosphorous flows.

    The dead zone off the coast of Louisiana, not the one caused by Amory Lovins' employers at BP, but the one caused by agricultural run-off from the Mississippi River, has a huge phosphorous component.

    For several hundred million years, one mechanism for the redistribution of soluble phosphorous on to land was, surprisingly, birds that ate fish.

    In fact, as I pointed out in a diary in this hand waving space, called Another Happy Story About Agricultural Resource Depletion:  Phosphate, Nauru, and Your Toilet, much of the world's commercial phosphate was in fact, birdshit deposited on the now completely strip mined nation of Nauru in the Pacific Ocean.

    Now of course, we plan to line our shores with, um, wind turbines that are pretty good at being bird blenders, not that we are likely to leave too many fish in the ocean for them to eat anyway.

    Throw in a little oil and gas from nation's like Denmark, Norway, and the United States that "Drill, Baby drill!" and we have a real ecological design going here.

    From my perspective, the "ecological design" proposals are typical of the vague non-specific "don't worry, be happy" proposals that are not designed for any practical analysis, but merely to be a kind of intellectual Prozac.

    I have a feeling that nobody seriously reads the works of Vaclav Smil, except for maybe, real scientists.

    I can't say that I agree with everything Smil says, but he's wonderfully cynical and realistic in a lot of ways.   One isn't going to get too much happy face glib optimism from him.

    (I detailed some of his points on another website where I sometimes write, in a bit called, Whither the Steel.?)

    Smil claims that people never think about the relation between coal and steel, especially when making happy face "all new stuff" proposals.

  •  Zero emissions economies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Are practical imposibilities in the near to mid term.

    Even with off-sets such as planting trees, no one even comes close except some very poor subsistence agricultural economies and typically these fail to meet the dietary needs of all members.

    Even if we assume a future for developed economies with very high rates of material recycling and a minimal amount of mineral extraction, many processes use quite a but of energy and just getting developed economies to the point where all energy is produced by carbon neutral zero emissions will take generations and a very significant investment in carbon to produce the infrastructure to achieve that.

    I'm one of the founders of Asia Green Electronics (now IEEE Green Electronics) and have been working on green design since 1997 and on developing green materials & processes even longer (since 1990). The deeper you dive, the more you see and the more you realize how far we are from achieving such goals, and the number of trade-offs involved and problems to be solved.

    In practical terms we are very far from where Jhon Todd wants to go and it means we need to accelerate technology development (that is happening), bt more importiantly, to addopt the bridge technologies we have to reduce the problems as quickly as possible or we will never get to the goal posts.

    Dupont may have the goal of zero emissions but they are very far from achieving that (something I certian of as a Dupont customer and knowing where they are on that path).

    BTW, quality is very importiant to the proces because poor quality is waste, and unneeded quality that causes unneeded effort is also waste. Let me give you an example I ran across today.

    Our company has a zero defect process (ie, less than 6ppm defects for our overall production). Today I joined a meeting to review a customer complaint; one of our customers is demanding we take back and retest a lot of parts produced because they found one defective. Reviewing our quality history for their products over the past year we produced more than 15 million parts and have 14 known defectives including the one defective they found, in other words, less than 0.95ppm defective.

    If they insist on this, it will consume more than 4x the energy normally used to just to ship the products back and forth, not to mention the extra processing.

    We know their process is about 40ppm, and so our contribution to that is insignificant and menaingless, so I felt justified to call this "nonsense" and advise our Sales Dept to send a letter apologizing for the problem caused but noting this level of defectives is background noise.

    And this is a company with a very strong CSR program and all the right inititiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and environmentaly impact (really).

    So this loops back to where I started; what we need to focus on is the big numbers using the method we have to make as much progress as we can our our ideals are meaningless.

    Here is some food for thought:


    This is a sampling of countries only, one with the long tails at both ends cut off.

    Ask yourselves what the rich countries can do to lower their emissions NOW because I assure you, the countries at the low end live at the mercy of the rich ones. I made this chart last autumn, but just by luck I included Pakistan.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 10:47:16 AM PDT

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