Sustainability update #5

I continue to extend my efforts in personal (and industry) sustainability.  I have made a second trip to Australia and again offset my CO2 emissions.  I write this from a hotel in the USA on my third and likely final trip of the year.  I continue to struggle with the conflicting need to “physically see my customers” and what I can do to reduce my impact on the planet.  There is not an easy fix for this, but I will continue to use video conferencing to the greatest extent possible.   On a personal front, my “consumption level” is down considerably.  Much use, nearly exclusively, of public transport.  On this trip to the USA I will not rent a car and I believe in retrospect humans will view the personal automobile as a source/symptom of many of our environmental problems.    I continue to believe in the sum of all our small personal choices – recycling levels, minimization of useless packaging, consideration of transportation distance and impacts in purchase selection, there are many more things influencing my personal choices these days.   Of course, this is hard to see the evidence of on a daily basis, but I remain committed to the principle.

On the industry front, it is easier to see progress.  I remain very proud of the geosynthetic industry, but we need to, and are doing more.  I hope that the sum of all the contributions makes enough of a positive effect.

Ramsey Australia travel and GeoANZ #1

I was very pleased to be in Australia for 2 months this year in June and July. The initial focus of my trip was my participation in GEOANZ #1, which was held in Brisbane. It was a very good event. In addition to the strong technical content, it was wonderful to see colleagues in person again and share conversation, meals, experiences and discussions. In addition to technical content on the longer lifespan of white geomembranes, Preston Kendall and I carried the banner for the IGS Sustainability Committee, making certain that all the participants were aware of the IGS Policy and the work the IGS is doing in this critical area. This was followed by regulator. customer and client visits throughout Australia including site visits and presentations on PFAS containment options and techniques. On the fun side, I was finally able to visit the Australian Great Barrier Reef – a lifelong goal that had been missed during my prior visits to Australia.

Ramsey sustainability activities (Update 4)–May 2022

I continue to make efforts on the sustainability front, in multiple ways, some very small, but some more significant. One of the largest environmental/sustainability impacts I have made recently is a flight (and upcoming return) from Paris to Brisbane to attend an Australian chapter IGS conference event and make other client calls. I recognize my past history of lots of air travel as being a negative impact to a sustainable planet. It is my hope that the “good” value that I bring with my efforts on geosynthetics helps to balance this, but I feel that I need to make a more direct adjustment. I have looked through several on-line “flight impact” calculators and the results indicate my contribution to the flights emissions is roughly 14,585 Kg of CO2 with an appropriate financial amount of 377 AUD. To that end, I have made a charitable contribution to an Australian organization for that amount. I state this not as boasting, but acknowledgement that I and we all, need to do a better job of understanding and accepting the broader costs and impacts of our actions – the singularly capitalist economic model does not seem to be doing this sufficiently well. The concept of EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) Wikipedia link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_producer_responsibility should guide individuals as well as manufacturers. I am trying to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”.

Ramsey assumes IGS Sustainability Chair, publishes cover article – Geosynthetics Magazine

The first week of April 2022 was a busy time on the sustainability topic with two important events. An article, authored by Boyd Ramsey was the cover article of the April issue of Geosynthetics Magazine – an IFAI/GMA publication. The article is linked here: https://geosyntheticsmagazine.com/2022/04/01/geosynthetics-and-sustainability/ The article summarizes the geosynthetics industries positions, with interviews with several industry notables and a call to our industry to continue to improve. Geosynthetics are well positioned as sustainable materials, they provide benefits that are not only economic, but sustainable in all key regards: energy savings, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, durability and total [life-span] analysis. They also deliver sustainable outcomes for communities through water preservation, prevention of coastal erosion, avoidance of pollution and more resilient infrastructure. As manufacturers, our industry needs to further improve – environmetnal and sustainability statements and goals, operational and environmental impact improvements all are independent of the benefits of the materials themselves.

Further to this effort, I have accepted a position as co-chairman of the IGS Sustainability committee along with my esteemed colleague, Preston Kendall. I look forward to working with Preston and the other committee members who are working hard to support and defend our industry on this front. Geosynthetics have an extremely positive environmental and sustainable impact, we need to further communicate and support the contributions of our products.

Additional information can be found on the IGS webpage – https://www.geosyntheticssociety.org/sustainability/

Ramsey to travel (!) to Australia

Ladies and Gentlemen, Australian and NZ friends and colleagues,

I will consult for food….well, actually for money, but I promise to use the money to buy food! Assuming declining covid and open borders, I will be coming to Australia for a long visit, June 1 to July 15. I already have a plane ticket.

The primary purpose is to attend the IGS Australasian chapters conference event, GeoANZ #1 (link https://www.acigs.org/events/geoanz-1-advances-geosynthetics), in Brisbane June 7-9th, I would encourage you to attend. But in addition to that I offer geomembrane and geosynthetics expertise on a more specific basis. I am available for educational presentations, updates on the latest activities in geosynthetics and site visits. I can help you solve and understand your geosynthetic issues and problems.

My website is listed below, in case you wish to learn more about me. I would love to hear from you and look forward to seeing you’all in person and meeting people again!

Best regards, wear the masks and be safe.

Ramsey delivers “Ethics in Geosynthetics” lectures

Two webinars were held in December with two of the IGS chapters – IGS UK on December 1st (recording linked here: https://www.igs-uk.org/events/past-events/) and the IGSNA chapter on December 16th. Two comments on these – the first, my disclaimer that I include in each of these: I do not claim to be any more or less ethical than anyone else, I simply have “done the reading” of reviewing companies and trade group publications and websites for standards, both on ethics and on sustainability. One of the themes of the lecture is that ethics are usually a grey area and responsible, honest and ethical people often disagree on what should be done in a certain situation. Secondly, I think that we, as a human race, have not advanced philosophy and ethnics to the degree we should. We make major advances and changes in science, technology and the digital world, but we spend a vastly smaller amount of time and energy addressing and improving our priorities and standards. So this is my little contribution to fixing that…

Ramsey sustainability update #3

In keeping with the theme that small changes can make a difference, here are some of the efforts I plan for 2022.   First, and probably the most impactful is tracking and reducing the number of automobile miles that I travel as well as other modes of transportation.  I assume the train and public transport are “good” events.  Since covid, I have not taken any air flights, although I realize that I have a huge history of air travel that I need to balance.  But car travel is likely my largest contributor to “unsustainability”.  I have made some other changes: Switching from my beloved diet coke in cans and bottles to a SodaStream system that really tastes the same and has much lower transportation and recycling impact and complications.  I have begun to request recycling at the hotels where I stay and lacking that service at the hotel, I am carrying my own recycling to the collection points – not as difficult as it sounds, France has “déchetteries” all over the place.  And a continuation of home composting of organic matter. 

Ramsey leads panel discussion on geomembrane durability – It’s not just OIT!

On November 23 (with a rebroadcast on November 30th) Boyd led a panel discussion on the “other” facets of geomembrane durability besides OIT. The webinar was sponsored by the IGS Technical Committee on Barrier Systems (https://www.geosyntheticssociety.org/committees/technical-barrier-systems/) and I was joined by Graham Fairhead of Fabtech and Catrin Tarnowski of Solmax. We discussed a broad range of topics including resin selection, masterbatch and stabilizer delivery systems, manufacturing quality and machine type/conditions, MQA/MQC inspection and testing and others. There is a great deal to consider when selecting a geomembrane for critical applications, and like any complex engineering task is is much more than just one property, event, test or action. Organization, long term record keeping and inspection and general good technical and business practices remain important.

Ramsey Sustainability Update #2 – Golf and Cars

One of my hobbies is golf – a wonderful game. (Not quite tennis, but better suited for my age.) However, a golf course can be very environmentally unfriendly: chemicals particularly but also energy consumption,, etc. The FFG (France Federations de Golf) has a broad program on making golf courses as environmentally benign as possible, reducing use of chemicals and operating in a much more sustainable fashion. The program is linked here: https://www.ffgolf.org/Transition-ecologique. So I have joined a club that participates in this program – one benefit, and is also geographically much closer – a reduction in car/Uber miles. Perhaps the second benefit will be greater than the first, but we will have to see. In any case, I encourage my golfing friends and colleagues to consider this theme.

Ramsey Sustainability Changes Update #1

While working on my personal sustainability metrics, I have read several items that have prompted me to act immediately. One of the reading themes is that our personal consumer choices are an important driver for sustainability. Individually, all the choices are small, bur cumulatively they add up to make significant impacts.

So a couple of immediate changes. I have moved over to a product called “Sodastream” several months ago. Much like the transportation reduction with geosynthetics vs. natural materials, this system drastically reduced transportation volumes for carbonated beverages. You move gas cylinders and concentrated solutions, not cans and bottles of bulky and cumbersome (environmentally inefficient) soda. I am on my 5th gas cylinder and will no longer purchase Diet Coke and carbonated water in bottles.

Organic waste to landfills is another area where I can have immediate impact – I have begun, and will continue composting of organic waste and will begin to lobby for a community composting facility and iniative.

Again on the consumer side, I have made 5 or 6 brand changes to move to more sustainable packaging consumption – concentrated products and those with reusable packaging.

We all have to do our parts and this is a very little bit, but every little bit helps – at least I hope so.