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Environmental Impacts of what we do.


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#1 JBaymore

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 11:46 AM

NOTE: I think this subject likely comes into the general category of "Education", since I am thinking that I want to start a thinking process and discussion here. But if there is a better place to put this thread... some other MOD... please move it there. I'm not sure WHERE it best fits ;) .



This posting I've put in here below (in blue) is a copy of a response that I made in a recent Facebook thread that followed an image of a multi-multi-lane highway in California all packed up with cars, and speaking about CO2 and pollution and global warming and such.

This whole topic is a pet peeve with me. Not the environmental concerns.... I am afraid they are all too very real.

And to clarify my overall "stance" a bit here....... I've been a proponent of Zero Population Growth (remember that from the 60s), using renewable fuels (been burning wood for home heat since the late 70's and for kilns since 1969), keep acrerage in some tree regrowth, use solar energy (have had solar collectors and a solar greenhouse since the late 70's), own a 40 mpg vehicle (so the 20 mpg truck only gets used when necessary), upgraded the house's insulation, and so on. I was concerend about this way before the recent "fashionability" of the subject (child of the 60s).

I call much of the recent attention that some potters are putting onto "green" activities, "Greenwashing". By that I mean that the things that we are doing to be "green" amount to having vwey, very little impact in the big picture. We tend to worry about adding 1/2 inch of IFB to a kiln structure, call it "green", and go right on driving an SUV. We cut our firing temperature from cone 9 to cone 6, call it "green", and fly to NCECA or other conferences every year. And so on.

And yes, I do still fly to NCECA and to Japan. I, like most of us, have a large carbon foorprint. But drawing heavy public attention to our kiln firings is likely not going to end very well for us. Those glowing kilns scream out "energy consumption" to the uneducated observer whereas an SUV does not......... and our kilns are a great easy political target.

And doing a lot of the very, very small impact things that we are doing and not taking on the BIG ones that REALLY matter (real mass transit in the USA anyone?) makes us feel good, but severely limits our effectiveness. If we are concerned about the environment, we should be all over the BIG issues politically.... not lowering firing temperature and calling it a day.


While potters certaintly need to do what they can to monitor their ceramic work's
environmental footprint, this is also why worrying too much about the inpact of
our kiln firings on CO2 and other pollution is NOT really productive in the
bi
gger picture. This kind of picture is documenting one instant in one location on one day. Multiply it by
the world, by 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year.

In my presentation at the Portland NCECA conference I mentioned a comparison between the firing of
a 40 cubic foot gas kiln and driving a 20-ish mpg car. Do the chemistry and
math....... it is a no-brainer where this thought goes. I also compared one
single 747 flight from NYC to Tokyo to the firing of my noborigama...... and I
can fire for more than a lifetime on the CO2 from that one single flight.

Most potters would do better by looking at their other life habits like the
mileage of their cars and trucks, how far they physically travel in those
vehicles to market their works, how well their homes and studios are insulated
for heating and cooling, how much stuff they buy that is imported from CHina and
other far-waya places, and so on.

Another BIG issue is that the cars and drivers pictured above have more "political clout" in "the way of the world"
than today's potters will ever have. Because we have no "power" and no "lobby",
polititians will happily shut down "those terrible energy consuming CO2
producing kilns" before the car manufacturers get told to increase mileage or
real mass transit comes to America. We are unfortunately an easy target so that
they can say, "Look at me, I did something for the
environment"

best,

.......................john


John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#2 Stephen Robison

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 09:57 PM

I think Education is the perfect place for this well thought out synopsis. To expand on it may be going outside of the education in ceramics in some minds. But in my mind there is nothing outside of the realms of art. Any topic can be addressed. Love to hear move on this and with numbers that show the stats on a particular firing compared to a particular behavior that many of us undertake such as a flight or the fuel used if we commute 5-10 miles in a car compared to firing a kiln to cone 04, 6 or 10.

Food for thought John, Thanks
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#3 Frederik-W

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 04:58 AM

You make a very good point. You also set a very good example, and it is great to hear someone who is very rational about it.
It does not help to just have a heart in the right place and not making a real change - or just go along with something because it is the "cool" thing to do.
We have to do the maths and make the changes that really matter.
We need the help of those with a better technical grasp to explain what has a big impact and what not.
Everything matters, but some things help more than others.

And if we really want to make a big impact, we have to do away with some conveniences and we need to compromise a bit. But it is necessary, and it is worthwhile.

We should not be afraid to be political: The overwhelming scientific evidence is that global warming is caused by human activity.
We should reject those politicians that deny this, because doing our little bit is not good enough, we also need leaders with vision who can legislate.


My personal interest is firing at lower temperatures for shorter periods whenever I have a choice. I'm still experimenting. Our ancestors have made strong and beautiful pottery at low temperatures.


#4 Frederik-W

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 05:00 AM




#5 Chris Campbell

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 10:19 AM

There has always been "bullying" in the scientific community where everyone has to march in step and believe the current theories. Everyone knew for a fact that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around it, the atom was the smallest thing in existence, diseases were punishments, all that needed to be known was already discovered ... etc. etc etc. Ground breakers and wrong thinkers were punished.
Nowadays in order for a scientist to be taken seriously they need to absolutely believe certain things or they are ostracized. To me this is still not a sane way to obtain objective truth.

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#6 OffCenter

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 11:04 AM

Good point, John. I especially like the fact that you mentioned population growth in your preamble to the FB post. High time to dust off Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb"! (Hard to believe that seemingly forgotten book is almost 50 years old!) I get sick of hearing people talk about smaller carbon footprints, etc. without ever mentioning the problem that dwarfs all other environmental problems--the population explosion. For some reason, it is not PC to mention population when discussing our rapidly crashing environment, so we talk about more efficient light bulbs and toilet tanks that use a pint less water. It is sort of like a bunch of heavily armed people are kicking in your front door and you call the cops to complain about a neighbor's loud music. Several months ago I posted something similar to the following in response to a FB friend's post about his family of 6 deciding to have a smaller carbon footprint (very "in" phrase now!) by driving less and putting more insulation in their attic:

I'm glad you and your family are taking steps toward a smaller footprint, but consider this, some rich redneck (who thinks global warming is a hoax) driving a Humvee down the road throwing his cigarettes and beer cans out the window on his way to his private jet that he is taking to Alaska to hunt wolves does far more good for the environment by not having any children than even the most dedicated environmentalist leaving his a passive solar, straw bale, composting toilet house in an electric car to pick up the latest energy-saving light bulb with his kids.

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#7 JBaymore

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 12:45 PM

Good point, John. I especially like the fact that you mentioned population growth in your preamble to the FB post. High time to dust off Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb"! (Hard to believe that seemingly forgotten book is almost 50 years old!) I get sick of hearing people talk about smaller carbon footprints, etc. without ever mentioning the problem that dwarfs all other environmental problems--the population explosion.


BINGO, Jim!

I've been on that whole ZPG topic for a very long time. (Lived that philosophy also....2 kids.) Feel exactly the same. This ole' rock we all live on likely already has WAY too many people on it to support us for much longer as we strip it bare, treat it like crap, and dump our garbage in our own nest.

When I return home from Japan after making use of the fantastic mass transit available there, I lament America's short-sighted total dependence on the private automobile and heavy truck. But America is about "the individual"........ and Japan is about "the group". So significant mass transit is a hard sell here.

Yes, talking about the "BIG" changes is not popular. It requires BIG solutions.

And I DO feel guilty every time I go to Japan. Large jets are efficinet on a per person per mile basis... but overall they burn a LOT of fuel.

I sat in on an NCECA Green Task Force meeting a while ago at the conference, and all I saw was them possibly inadvertantly bringing undue attention onto a facet of society that, should it instantly totally cease to exist (the banning of all handcraft ceramic production in the world), would not basically make one speck of real different in the global pollution picture. I think it is a bad idea for all the right reasons.

While we all certainly need to look at how we live and how it impacts the world, and how we can make small changes for the better when possible........ it is the BIG stuff that is going to be the REAL things that will make the difference.

best,

................john
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Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#8 trina

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 03:17 PM

Good topic.

Interestingly enough I was just interviewed by a friend of mine who works for a sustainability group in Brussels. She is writing a piece about the enviromental impact of the industrial ceramic industry. She was using me 'the lone potter' as a comparison not only in terms of energy use but job creation / tourisim ect. I would be happy to post it here if anyone is interested once I get a copy. T

#9 JBaymore

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Posted 11 August 2012 - 05:06 PM

She is writing a piece about the enviromental impact of the industrial ceramic industry. She was using me 'the lone potter' as a comparison not only in terms of energy use but job creation / tourisim ect.


Glad you like the gist of the topic, trina. I think it is really important to look at from many different aspects.

I would really like to see that written piece when it is done.

The typical studio potter on "energy use", if looked at narrowly, will come up looking badly on a "per pound of clay fired" basis. The periodic kilns made out of relatively dense refractories and using high density kiln furniture we use are very inefficient compared to the continuous, fiber structure kilns with low thermal mass furniture that is the staple of most modern industry.

Most of the energy we use is used to heat up the kiln structure and the kiln furniture, not the pieces.

However, compared to ceramic industry... in the typical year we fire a tiny, weeny, little amount of clay. So that is the "saving grace" on energy use for us. THAT is the very important point that needs to be kept in the forefront of discussions... until the otehr BIG stuff is starting to get addressed. And then if that happens, we DO need to start addressing the little stuff like us... and how we fire ceramics.

Maybe the day of the communal large kiln will return. Large kilns fired infrequently use energy more efficiently than the same volume of work fired in multiple loads in smaller kilns.

One of the huge reasons that I built a relatively large noborigama kiln at my studio 32+ years ago is that they are highly efficient in their use of heat energy over something like the same cubic footage anagama. Anagama are VERY inefficient wood kilns. That is why the noborigama technology eventually had a huge impact on ware production; they use less fuel and produce more 1st quality saleable wares out of a load than the anagama style unit when producing glazed functional wares.

I made the decision that if I was going to commit to environmental concerns by burning a renewable, basically carbon-neutral fuel, I wanted to use it as efficiently as possible. The noborigama simply made sense.

Those "primitive and unsophisticated" potters really had it figured out "back in the day". If you built a noborigama today out of low thermal mass refractories and used low thermal mass furniture, the only thing more efficient than that would be to switch to a continuous tunnel kiln built of the same materials.

If those ancient potters could have figured out how to move the work through the heat zone instead of the heat zone through the work........ they'd have done it.

Congratulations on getting interviewed.

best,

...............john
John Baymore
Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#10 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 07:22 AM

Trina,
That would be great for you to post your interview. I think it is something of interest to all of us.
Marcia

#11 Idaho Potter

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 05:35 PM

My studio is a separate building with separate electric meter, so it was possible to do a little experiment. Last winter, I did a cone 6 glaze firing and made sure the only electricity used was to the kiln. In my house, the only electricity used was to the fridge, freezer (both new and considered energy efficient) and the TV (LCD flat screen with DVR). I set my gas furnace to off so the blower wouldn't turn on. I took note of the meter reading on the studio and the house. When the kiln finished firing, I took readings again. And the winner is . . . the kiln used less power than the three appliances over the same number of hours.

I am fortunate that I live where electricity is inexpensive--even so, kind of makes you think about the rest of our lives. I think the idea of zero population is warranted for our planet's existance, but it has been a non-starter (except on a personal basis) because of ethnic and religious beliefs. How do you plan to change that?

#12 TJR

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Posted 12 August 2012 - 07:27 PM

John;
Just read your blog, but was called away to supper before I could reply.I sat down with my wife and three kids. I have identical twin sons. Am I still allowed to play?
For supper we had beet greens sauteed with a small amount of butter. We also had green beans and a cucumber salad, grown in our garden. We did have frozen pizza, which I purchased by walking to Safeway.
We had been out of town for two weeks. On the highway into the city, I purchased a dozen ears of corn, new potatoes, bush beans, beets and local garlic. We try to buy bison when we can. We buy chickens from the Hutterites .We own half a pig which we don't name. He/she gets smoked into hams, bacon, pork chops, sausages.SHE MOVES INTO OUR FREEZER IN SEPTEMBER.
In other words, I try to buy local. We also buy 3 dozen eggs a week from the same farmer who provides the pig.We live in a city of half a million people, and we are still able to get local produce.
I drive a 1997 Ford Escort[four cylinder], but we also have a 12 year old Honda Odyssey van. Remember, there are five of us plus a mother-in-law.
STUDIO;
I always recycle my clay scraps. Two clay temperatures, but earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. We do not have a local clay as our province was at the bottom of a huge glacial lake called Lake Agassiz.[Now since receded] All of our clay is full of microscopic sea creatures which cause the clay to flux. I do use a local slip clay from the flood of 1997 from the banks of the Red River. It looks just like Albany Slip.I also save all of my scrap glazes to make Mystery Glaze.
One way to reduce firing costs would be to raw glaze, which I used to do. This would work for wood firing or salt, but I have moved away from it as I was losing too many pots to slumping and handles cracking.
I am always looking at firing with waste vegetable oil. I think I will still try this. It gets pretty cold here in the winter, so the WVO would just clog up.
I gotta go.I just have to go out and milk the goats.[Just kidding!]:D
Great thoughts.
TJR.

#13 bciskepottery

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 07:41 PM

This is "green" . . . http://www.bobvila.c...Ug8cJuc.blogger

Originally posted on the NC Clay Club blog by John Britt.

#14 TJR

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 07:53 PM

This is "green" . . . http://www.bobvila.c...Ug8cJuc.blogger

Originally posted on the NC Clay Club blog by John Britt.


That was a great video! Garbage is our only growing resource. Let's think about recycling more of our ceramic waste.
TJR.

#15 Idaho Potter

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Posted 16 August 2012 - 05:10 PM

Wow! What a great video! Are they only recycling porcelain products? This is a wonderful idea--how can us potters contribute?

#16 nancylee

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 06:40 AM

Very interesting topic. Question: how do, big production factories fire their pottery? Do they use kilns? Thanks,
Nancy
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#17 JBaymore

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 07:29 AM

Very interesting topic. Question: how do, big production factories fire their pottery? Do they use kilns? Thanks,


Nancy,

There are likely as many answers to that question are there are "big production facilities". We are back to the standard ceramics answer "It depends." ;)


The current "high tech" solutions are what are known as continuous kilns, often fired using something called high velocity burners, using low mass refractories and kiln furniture. They are VERY efficient in the use of heat energy.

Us "handcraft studio folks" almost always fire what is known as "periodic kilns". That means we load them, heat them up from ambient temerature to the desired firing point, and then let them cool down and unload. Technically VERY inefficient in use of fuel, since the vast majority of the energy used goes to just heating up the kiln structure and the kiln furniture. We don;t usually have any alterrnative to the idea of "periodic"; our production levels are intermittent.

A contiunous kiln is basically a "tunnel" of refractories with a peak heat zone located in the middle. The distance from that heat zone (where the electric elements or the burners are located) controls the temperature distribution of any point along the tunnel. The wares move through this tunnel on refractory decked carts or conveyors at a prescribed speed. As they move toward the heat zone they are heating up and as they move away they are coooled down. The profile of the heat distribution is carefully controled to get the desired firing cycle along the tunnel.

Of course such a kiln requires continuous production also. The conveyors or carts go round and round.... being filled on one end and unloaded on the other. Lots of toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.

These kilns are typically fired up once a YEAR.... and are held there as production flows through them 24/7. They shut them down once a year for maintenence.

Most potters don't realize this, but many types of refractories actually are better suited for this continuous use rather than periodic use. The thermal stresses of repeated hating and cooling cycles damages the structure of traditional (brick) refractories.

Also a lot of ceramic manufarturing uses "clay bodies" that contain alumino-silicates..... so it is "ceramic".... but very little clay. This allows forming techniques and firing situiations that are VERY fast. Some stuff is made, fired, and shrink wrapped ready to to ship in hours.

Some high teck ceramic "industry" still uses periodic kilns,.,.... but they are made of low mass refractories... so the heating up of kiln materials is less of a factor in energy usage, since the kilns themselves weigh very little.

And of course in the more "developing world" you'll find kilns doong production that more colsely resemble ours or the kilns from the western "industrial revolution".

best,

........................john
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#18 Kohaku

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:32 AM

John- I'm a professor in a Fish and Wildlife department in my 'real' job. As you can imagine, I've been increasingly troubled by this question as I've become more active and productive as a potter.

While I totally agree that the 'big issues' (global consumption patterns, population growth, etc.) are important, I also believe, profoundly, that the little decisions drive the big issues. Without a network of ethical decisions on the personal scale, it's impossible to effect large-scale social transitions. Thus, decisions about kiln temperatures and glaze materials matter. Cobalt carbonate doesn't arise from a vacuum, and I have no idea what those mines look like. As a relative newcomer, I worry a lot over my level of ignorance.

Having said this, there's no way that ceramics will ever be an environmentally neutral activity (at least not for any imaginable future). For me- the justification lies with the need to incubate an attitude that values things that are hand made, locally crafted, and emphasize beauty and function over cheapness of production. Still- this doesn't excuse us from researching and implementing better practices where they work.
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#19 Pres

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:14 AM


Good point, John. I especially like the fact that you mentioned population growth in your preamble to the FB post. High time to dust off Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb"! (Hard to believe that seemingly forgotten book is almost 50 years old!) I get sick of hearing people talk about smaller carbon footprints, etc. without ever mentioning the problem that dwarfs all other environmental problems--the population explosion.


BINGO, Jim!

I've been on that whole ZPG topic for a very long time. (Lived that philosophy also....2 kids.) Feel exactly the same. This ole' rock we all live on likely already has WAY too many people on it to support us for much longer as we strip it bare, treat it like crap, and dump our garbage in our own nest.

When I return home from Japan after making use of the fantastic mass transit available there, I lament America's short-sighted total dependence on the private automobile and heavy truck. But America is about "the individual"........ and Japan is about "the group". So significant mass transit is a hard sell here.

Yes, talking about the "BIG" changes is not popular. It requires BIG solutions.

And I DO feel guilty every time I go to Japan. Large jets are efficinet on a per person per mile basis... but overall they burn a LOT of fuel.

I sat in on an NCECA Green Task Force meeting a while ago at the conference, and all I saw was them possibly inadvertantly bringing undue attention onto a facet of society that, should it instantly totally cease to exist (the banning of all handcraft ceramic production in the world), would not basically make one speck of real different in the global pollution picture. I think it is a bad idea for all the right reasons.

While we all certainly need to look at how we live and how it impacts the world, and how we can make small changes for the better when possible........ it is the BIG stuff that is going to be the REAL things that will make the difference.

best,

................john



Your point about the individual vs. the group is well taken. Take it a little further and recognize the purchasing environment in the states today. I live in a community that in the 50's had maybe 10-15 mom and pop markets all over the town. Down town had clothing stores, hardwares, and department stores, theaters and recreation centers were also available. Walking distance to pick up what you needed daily. Approach of the refrigerator, better cars, look to strip malls, then bigger malls centralization of services, and voila we became a gas hungry mobile society. Wonder why many retirement communities have returned to local services, shopping and walking distances!

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#20 Mark C.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:14 PM

I have long ago realized potters are not green. Its a trade off- for me its functional ceramics that can last a few lifetimes for using natural gas/electricity and mined materials. It that green -no way. The way we each approach a less wasteful life is about all one can do. Solar water heating- using fuels wisely-recycle what you can makes the most sense.
Man has been at ceramic vessel making for a long while-its not going away. After my last few art shows the past two weeks I can say not many younger potters following in the footsteps-so the carbon footprint at least out west is getting smaller with less potters as we old folks slow down.
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