Place -based Environmental Research Project

Directions to SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility Directions to Sims – 472 2nd Ave

Place-based Research Project – Environmental Economics

This assignment encourages students to enhance their understanding of a particular environmental problem, issue or innovation through direct observation and experience. For this assignment, you are asked to conduct place-based research (either in small groups or individually) on some aspect of the economic impact – positive or negative – of a local business, a green building, rooftop garden, open space project, super-fund site, community improvement project, community resource use problem (i.e. ‘food deserts’), or the economic impact of possible climate change (i.e., Hurricane Sandy) on a local community. A number of the sources/organizations for student field visits are affiliated with the Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center. However, you are encouraged to choose sites that are of interest and are aligned with your semester research project. The assignment is aimed at encouraging the integration of knowledge gained first hand observation into their semester research project. While this assignment fits well with a range of general education learning outcomes, it focuses on the goal of gathering, interpreting, evaluating and applying information obtained from a variety of sources.  ________________________________________________________________________________________________

For this assignment, you will conduct research in teams of two or three on some aspect of the economic impact – positive or negative – of a local business, a green building, garden, open space project, super-fund site, community project, or community resource use problem.

1. You will have many options to choose from, and ideally your choice should reflect both your interests and thoughts about how the location you choose relates to a particular course topic. Your research will involve a visit to the site and a set of questions to guide this field-based research. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to develop further questions of your own.

2. Six broad topic areas are outlined here. Any of these topic areas may be used for the community-based research project, but you are not limited to these choices. These can serve as a beginning point in guiding you to develop your own proposal. The sites or communities you visit, the people you speak with either informally or formally (as in a brief  interview), will vary with the type of  project you decide to undertake. Links to additional resources follow.

3. In the course of your day of community research, you should document your findings in a number of formats – photographs, notes, comments or quotes from people interviewed, and (optionally) a blog post on the course site. The research that you conduct for this project will also be incorporated into your course case study project.

4. The research that you conduct for this project will be an important resource to be incorporated into your end-of-semester research project.

SOME EXAMPLES OF RESEARCH/TOPIC AREAS FOR THE COMMUNITY-BASED RESEARCH PROJECT

1.       Food Deserts: a visit to a community with few healthy food options would be reviewed in terms of specific questions such as: 1) What are the economic costs to communities lacking adequate access to healthy food choices? The emphasis here is not on coming up with a numerical value, but a thoughtful discussion of the qualitative effects: potential health impacts; the probability of a greater incidence of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. that have been associated with lack of healthy food choices). 2) If there is a greater incidence of health related effects, how does this have a potential economic impact? (i.e., health care costs because of more visits to medical providers; inability to work due to poor health; reproducing similar food choices for the next generation); How do these potentially translate into increased economic costs over time? 3) What changes can be made at the local community level to increase food choices for residents?

 2. Climate change issues: Example –the environmental and economic  impact of Hurricane Sandy on a coastal community in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in NY);  what were the principal economic impacts as measured by losses to local businesses, homes of residents, ecological impact caused by land erosion, ecosystem damage, and the economic costs of rebuilding and replacing. Are there any resources that are projected to be difficult to replace or regain? Why?

3. Building design and land use: Cost savings from environmentally conscious/green design and resource use; What are the principal energy sources?  Are they primarily non-carbon based fuel sources such as solar/wind/other?  What resources in the building are recycled and how? (i.e. building’s  air; water, other). Are their annual cost savings for the building’s operations relative to the use of traditional design and resource use? If the building is a business, how have cost savings to the business been estimated? If a residential building, are there cost savings to the residents? (i.e., lower electric, heating bills? Other cost reductions?) How are these comparative cots calculated? What are the estimated environmental benefits as measured by the emission of fossil fuels? Reduction in hazardous wastes?

4. Rooftop gardens and green spaces: What are the economic benefits? Does the increasing inclusion of green space on building rooftops conserve energy? Explain technically how this process works? How does it work to cool structures? How does it work to help retain heat? Can these benefits be measured in terms of economic cost savings to the businesses and/or residential buildings that use them? What are the economic benefits of food sourcing using roof space? Who benefits from the fruit, vegetables and herbs that are grown? (how are they distributed)? How can this benefit be measured?

5. Superfund sites: What are the multidimensional economic costs of ground and water pollution in the local community? What has been the estimated cost in terms of resource loss over time? What specific resources have been destroyed, compromised or deemed unusable? How has the problem directly impacted local businesses and residents over time? Is there an estimated value of losses to business? What are the estimated costs of cleanup and restoration?

6. Restaurants/tourism:  Visit to a local restaurant or tourism site in the City that practices some form of environmentally conscious business practices: What are the specific practices that the business engages in? (obtaining only locally sourced produce, meats, fish, etc.? What does the business view as the economic benefits and cost savings of these practices?  How does support of local farms, farmers’ markets, wineries, etc. benefit this and other local businesses? Are there cost savings from transport by buying local? What are the larger environmental benefits of such practices? (for instance, if increasing numbers of eateries engaged in such practices, think about what the larger economic benefit might be).

Some additional research topic Ideas

  1. Can ‘Cap and Trade’ programs effectively eliminate the growth of greenhouse gases on a global scale?
  2. How have Changes in Climate Patterns in the U.S. Affected Agricultural Output in the 21st Century? Where geographically is there evidence of this?
  3. What are the Estimated Costs to the U.S. Economy of Floods, Droughts, lack of adequate Water Resources and Invasive Species?
  4. Can Experimental Use of Natural Landscapes to Promote Flood Control and Improve Water Resources become a Model for the U.S. Economy? How can such practices preserve valuable natural resources that are vital to further Economic Growth?
  5. Can Eco Certification and Fair Trade Agreements – currently widely practiced in coffee production and other agricultural products -be expanded to include many traded goods?
  6. Can Sustainable Agriculture Become the Norm in the U.S. and beyond?
  7. Is there evidence of the extent to which renewable energy practices translated into cost savings for the overall economy? Are there estimates of cost savings that these practices have generated within particular industries? Cities? Estimates of Projected Savings in an Economy based upon Renewable Energy Sources (wind, solar, other)?
  8. Can consumer behavior be influenced to encourage sustainable consumption? Is there evidence that such behavioral changes have resulted in less waste and less consumerism?
  9. Can sustainable tourism become a model for tourism practices globally? What countries or sites offer a model for sustainable tourism?
  10. Fair Trade vs. Free Trade: How do fair trade practices promote renewable resources?
  11. Urban farming: A sustainable model for the future? What are its benefits? How does it save on energy costs? Water conservation? Provide a healthy local community food source? www.growingagreenerworld.com
  12. Is the increasing incidence of more severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 indicative of climate change? What evidence suggests this? What were the economic losses to businesses and residents in New York as a result of the storm?
  13. Can communities located close to the water continue to thrive even as evidence points to continued rising sea levels? Can such local economies make changes to adapt? How?
  14. How does sustainable building design translate into cost savings for consumers and business? (what are the cost savings of solar as a primary energy source, recycling of water, rooftop plantings and gardens etc.)?
  15. The Gowanus Canal Watershed: How has the pollution affected the community over time? In what ways are local conservation projects, businesses, and the community recovering and working to make the local economy viable again?
  16. What are the benefits of the model of urban agriculture offered by the Urban Grange Farm? How could this model if expanded to other cities and communities promote local economic self-sufficiency, renewable resource use and better access to healthful food?
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5 thoughts on “Place -based Environmental Research Project

  1. Lichi , Zhu

    Lichi Zhu
    We recently spent the day in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn to take a look at the newly opened Sims Municipal Recycling facility that focuses on material recovery. The Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility is a processing center for New York City’s curbside metal, glass, and plastic recyclables which is being undertaken by Sims Municipal Recycling and the City of New York. Before I go to Sims Municipal Recycling, I have no idea about how government manage life garbage. After this trip, I know that materials are received from City collection vehicles at Sims Metal Management facilities and then moved between facilities by barge to minimize truck traffic and air pollution within the City. The materials are sorted by commodity type, packaged and shipped to manufacturers as raw material for new products. The facility’s design was influenced by the neighborhood’s industrial vocabulary, as well as its programmatic use as a recycling center which inspired reuse throughout. Just one step in the recycling process, this facility sorts recyclable materials from all five boroughs of New York City. The facility—which itself is made almost entirely of recycled steel—uses the most state-of-the-art technology to process the bulk of the almost 900 tons of material delivered there per day. We got some valuable insights into how that giant load of stuff is sorted and prepared to become future products. One of the secrets: high-tech cameras that scan every single object on the conveyor belt. It can separate each object as faster as possible in order to sort out the plastic, glass and metal from the garbage in the facility. These recyclables things are sold to many different companies and produces other new products. This is a very helpful system for Sustainable Development because the quality of urban living has been damaged by excessive consumer waste.

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  2. Matthew G.

    For our ECON 2505 class, we took a field trip to the SIMS Municipal Recycling facility and learned about the different type of materials that’s being recycled and the process it takes to complete it. SIMS Metal Management began to expand its recycling program to the United States in 2003. Since then, the company has become a cornerstone of NYC recycling system, processing and marketing over 200,000 tons of plastic, glass, and metal. Throughout NYC, they collect recycled materials from the city collection, Sanitation Department, and then they are moved between facilities by barge to minimize the truck traffic flow and air pollution within the city. The materials are then sorted out by commodity type, packaged and later shipped to manufacturers as raw material for a new creation of products. In the last 15 years, the recycling rates have more than doubled to 31%. This is due to the fact of efforts of companies like SIMS, they increase global demand for commodities, and continue to increase public awareness of environmental issues. In Europe, where the SIMS Metal Management operates numerous recycling facilities, their programs are even more striving than in the United States, resulting in a recovery rate closer to 60%. This company plans to continue to build on its experience in bringing efficient and effective curbside recycling services to other municipalities across the US.

    It’s pretty amazing and fascinating exactly how a bottle on a store shelf can be turn and recycled into another product. When a bottle is purchase from a store, and it is used for its purpose, it get discarded into the recycling bin. In NYC, one recycling bin contains cartons, plastic, metal and glass, while in the other bin, it’s just paper. The Department of Sanitation comes to you neighborhood and collect the materials and brings it to a SIMS Municipal Recycling facility. From there, the material is transported via barge to a Materials Recovery Facility. From there, the materials are loaded onto conveyor belts, and a giant magnetic comes down to separate the metal from the plastic. Metal shredders are used to break down the metals in more manageable pieces so it can be sold to steel mills to make new products. The glass is cut and crushed in order to make a substitution for sand and gravel, or even sent to be made into new bottles. A scanner later comes and scans the plastics to determine what kind of bottles they are. The plastics are then sorted and bundled in 1000 pound packages to be sold to mills. At the mills, the plastics are washed, cut into smaller pieces, melted and then molded back into a bottle form. From this, it can be sold to another company to be used for another product. As you can see, you will be the recycling being repeated when another customer comes and buy back that same bottle for their use. The wheel keeps on spinning.

    Overall, the class field trip was very entertaining, as well as, educational. I learned a lot about recycling, and visiting this site definitely motivated me to do the best I can when it comes to recycling.

    Reply
  3. Prantick Dhar

    Prantick Dhar Prof. S. MacDonald and D. Mincyte
    November 18, 2015 Econ 2505 Environmental Economics

    Cost of recycling

    As people are becoming aware of their environment recycling programs are becoming popular. Earth cannot sustain current human population at the rate we are extracting resources from it. Action must be taken to ensure humanities future. One solution is to recycle our waste. Although people are becoming aware of our waste problems, people are driven by money. In this essay I will mainly focus on the financial aspect of recycling. Recycling is necessary to ensure humankind’s future.
    Many people believe that recycling is costly and is not economical. This is not true, if recycling is done correctly it is economical. It is economical because costs associated with future disposal are avoided. One of these avoided costs is for landfill depletion. Landfills have limited space, and so can receive a limited amount of trash. When it is full, it must be replaced by another landfill that is generally more expensive to operate and maintain. This is due to higher costs of complying with environmental regulations, higher expenses in siting a new location, buying or allocating land, constructing the landfill, operational expenses, and long-term maintenance costs after the landfill is closed. Additionally, the new landfill maybe further away than the old landfill, increasing transportation costs.
    Also new landfills costs more than older ones. If an older landfill is keep open longer paying for a new high cost landfill can be avoided. Recycling combined with other waste-deducting methods can keep older landfills open longer. It is because people don’t see direct correlation between recycling and cost, they don’t think about the savings recycling produces.
    Furthermore recycling is economical in many ways in manufacturing processes. Example of this are the followings, recycling aluminum reduces mining wastes, processing wastes, and emissions produced by extracting the aluminum from the ore. Recycled materials does not require processing of raw materials into usable forms, which cuts down on waste product. Recycled materials require less refining than raw materials. For example, it takes less energy and manpower to melt down an aluminum can to make another can than to process raw materials to make a can. This cuts down on chances for environmental damage and conserves our natural resources. Which reduces carbon emissions, and reduces the usages of scarce raw materials.
    Now let’s talk about the energy that can be saved when recycled materials are used. Manufacturing products for recycled materials requires less energy. Since this requires less energy, it cuts down on pollution emitted by utilities and companies themselves. When energy is used, indirectly the cost of the resulting pollution is passed down to all the energy consumers. Nowadays due to though regulations for clean air laws, utility companies must comply with tougher standards in reducing pollutants they release while producing energy. This cost is usually passed down on to each energy consumer. If energy usage is reduced by process such as recycling, less pollution is produced. That reduces everyone’s cost for paying to reduce pollution and putting less stress on Earth’s natural resources.
    Recycling programs are becoming popular as people are becoming aware of their environment. For our planet and the future generations we must act now to reduce our destructive path. Recycling is the solution to our current natural resource crisis. Now we know that recycling is economical. Recycling is currently in its initial phase and as time goes by it will be much more efficient and economical as seen in Sims Municipal Recycling, which is located in New York City.

    “About Recycling.” Missouri Department of Natural Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

    “Do the Benefits of Recycling Outweigh the Costs?” About.com News & Issues. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

    “The Costs of Recycling.” The Costs of Recycling. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov.

    “Industry-leading Material Separation Technology.” Curbside Recycling. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. .

    Reply
  4. prayudgurung

    Prayud Gurung
    Nov 18 2015
    extra credit
    The field trip we took on SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility located in the Sunset Park, Brooklyn was very much educational. I have always seen recycle garbage placed in various places near supermarkets but I never knew what happens after that. I learned that SIMS found a way to make profit off of waste that people deem are garbage and find a way to make our environment cleaner and greener. SIMS is a fairly new private company with a 20 year contract with the department of sanitation. SIMS has found a way to make profit by selling the recycled materials to different companies. SIMS receive 50% of the city’s papers and are distributed to other companies. The machines in the company separate metals, plastics, papers and other waste materials. They partner with different manufactures and sell them the sorted materials. The manufactures are the ones that reuse and produce new materials out of it. The garbage are passes from one section to another where they are further examined on the conveyor belt. The plastics are sorted and bundled into packages. Metals are shredded and broke down into smaller pieces. Glass are crushed and set to make into new bottles. Recycling materials is wonderful to make a greener city. I learned a lot from visiting this place. I will be more aware when it comes to recycling in the future.

    Reply
  5. prayudgurung

    Prayud Gurung
    Nov 18 2015
    extra credit
    The field trip we took on SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility located in the Sunset Park, Brooklyn was very much educational. I have always seen recycle garbage placed in various places near supermarkets but I never knew what happens after that. I learned that SIMS found a way to make profit off of waste that people deem are garbage and find a way to make our environment cleaner and greener. SIMS is a fairly new private company with a 20 year contract with the department of sanitation. SIMS has found a way to make profit by selling the recycled materials to different companies. SIMS receive 50% of the city’s papers and are distributed to other companies. The machines in the company separate metals, plastics, papers and other waste materials. They partner with different manufactures and sell them the sorted materials. The manufactures are the ones that reuse and produce new materials out of it. The garbage are passes from one section to another where they are further examined on the conveyor belt. The plastics are sorted and bundled into packages. Metals are shredded and broke down into smaller pieces. Glass are crushed and set to make into new bottles. Recycling materials is wonderful to make a greener city. I learned a lot from visiting this place. I will be more aware when it comes to recycling in the future

    Reply

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