An interesting study conducted in 2014 in collaboration between the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, and The Associated Press at NORC, classified American attitudes towards the environment.
The national survey included 1,576 adults over 18. The results found that religion and politics, as well as the individual’s personal experience with nature, have a big role to play on the issue of where Americans stand on the environment.
Most Americans feel the US government should take a leading role in the fight against global warming and participate in international treaty negotiations. But most Americans don’t think that protecting the environment should come at the cost of economic growth.
The question is, what is America doing about eco-friendly projects?
While there are groups like Greenpeace and The Nature Conservancy, which are directly working to conserve the environment, we want to find out what governments, businesses, and industries are doing to reduce human impact.
And the answers are a mixed bag. The EPA, of course, has been doing a lot towards the enforcement of laws and regulations. Strict enforcement has so far, managed to solve or vastly improve problems caused due to pollution by leaded gas, acid rain, smog, and DDT.
These are, of course, major achievements. Acid rain was a major problem in the 1980s, but it’s been reduced by as much as 70 percent with the efforts of environmental engineers. But climate change is a new challenge that the EPA is facing. Engineers are working to help industries and facilities comply with EPA regulations on climate change.
In the meanwhile, these are some of the advancements that America has made in recent years, in the field of environmental engineering.
Biofiltration systems pass water or air through moist, porous material containing micro-organisms. These micro-organisms remove contaminants and odors in wastewater treatment plants, industrial gas emissions, industrial composting facilities etc. The water treatment industry has been exploring biofiltration systems to replace or complement treatment with activated carbon, which only has short-term effectiveness. Biofiltration is a low-cost, practical and eco-friendly system of removing odors and bad taste in water.
Bioswales are green strips that many urban areas are using to treat water pollution. These mini gardens with pebbles, plants, flowers, grass or trees help to absorb stormwater runoff. This helps to prevent overflowing sewers from sending wastewater into waterways. Bioswales can remove contaminants like grease, oil, heavy metals, sediment etc. from stormwater. They are also pleasing to the eye and may harbor small habitats.
Certification programs like LEED, which was developed by the U.S. Building Council in 1998, set the standards for environmental design. These standards are now being used all over the world. There is also continuous amendments to the certification to include new building types, materials etc.
Hybrid vehicles are the result of automobile companies consulting with environmental engineers. These vehicles are designed to run on alternative, eco-friendly fuels. And while they can be more expensive than traditional vehicles, many states are offering incentives to encourage people to bring carbon emissions down by switching to these vehicles.
The Center for Disease Control allowed the use of UV germicidal irradiation for sanitizing air in hospitals in 2000. Hospitals continue to discover this eco-friendly way of killing microbes with UV light.
These are only a few actions that are being taken by environmentally-minded Americans. It is to be hoped that the new EPA will continue to be as effective as the EPA has been with enforcement in the past. Environmental engineers have a big role to play in the future of the EPA and global environmental projects.