Ecological footprint is a familiar concept to most people. The more environmentally conscious individual might also be familiar with such terms as water footprint and carbon footprint. These kinds of terms are useful if one wants to compare their own level of waste production to others, or discover areas that they could possibly improve on.
The ecological footprint gives insight into how much land and water is needed to produce the food, materials and energy, a person or group of people need in order to deal with the waste produced by their lifestyle. Finns have one of the largest ecological footprints in the world. According to a 2006 WWF study, we are right behind the United Arab Emirates and the United States in the size of our ecological footprint, which is concerning.
The water footprint measures how much water a person or country spends yearly on all different kinds of goods. This includes all drinking and household water, as well as the water used for farming and industrial purposes. The average Finn’s water footprint is 1727m³, while the world average is 1243m³ water/per user/per year.
The carbon footprint refers to the environmental load a specific product, action or service causes. This is measured in the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced during the lifespan of the product/action/service. In contrast to the ecological footprint, the carbon footprint is reported in mass and not area. According to a study published in the Environmental Research Letter, Finland has the highest average carbon footprint in Europe.
Organic waste footprint
We want to bring a new term to use; the organic waste footprint. We define the organic waste footprint as all organic waste (fat, starch, cellulose etc.) that ends up in the sewer pipes. Maintaining the functionality of sewer pipes is not only important for personal comfort, but also has a direct effect on the environment. “There are 7,6 billion people in the world. Each person creates around 1,3 kg of organic waste daily. All together, that is roughly 10 million tons a day. When people become aware of their organic waste footprint, they also learn to reduce it.” ProtectPipe’s Director of Administration Hannu Keränen points out in the newest issue of Kemia-magazine (p. 86).
Organic waste, and figuring out what to do with it, will be a major problem in the future. For most people, adding more to their checklist of an ecological life might seem overwhelming. There is already so much to remember; recycling correctly, using reusable bags and water bottles, eating organic, locally produced vegetarian food, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, avoiding certain brands and products, and using public transportation instead of taking the car. Understandably, many people are not eager to add more to this list, unless it would bring personal benefits as well.
Organic waste in pipes is both a financial and an environmental problem
As organic waste gathers in the sewer pipes, it starts to rot and produce hydrogen sulfide. This gas forms a bubble on the surface of the pipe and turns into sulfuric acid, which over time causes the pipe to corrode. The pipes start to embrittle, which causes a need for pipe repair. Also, the rotting organic waste creates bad odors, sewer blockages and an ideal breeding environment for fruit flies. Not maintaining the good condition of sewer pipes will become expensive in the long term, while decreasing living comfort.
All organic waste, which makes it through the home’s sewer pipes, goes through the city’s sewer system, and eventually ends up in the water treatment plant. The more waste that is carried to the water treatment plants, the more strain is put on the plants and they can no longer clean the water at the required level of efficiency. If the unpurified water ends up in nature, it will cause eutrophication in natural water sources, causing many environmental issues. For example, the already fragile Baltic Sea suffers greatly from eutrophication.
Microbes eat away organic waste
Preventative and ecological sewer maintenance is the direction of the future. Start taking care of your sewer pipes by using the Finnish ProtectPipe’s Home Microbe- solution. ProtectPipe will keep the home’s sewers in good condition, the fruit flies and odors away, while keeping your organic waste footprint low.