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Ecological impact of studio pottery


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Hello

Can anyone help me with a query about the ecological impact of studio pottery?

As far as I can tell, very little research exists on the ecological impact of studio pottery. If the (apparent) lack of resources online is a guide, very few people seem to be even talking about it. Where there is discussion, it focuses mainly on the impact of firing and on the need to recycle materials, particularly used clay and unused glazes. I can’t find anything on the impact of materials sourcing and supply, which seems important because it involves carbon-intensive mining and transport, respectively. And I can’t find anything on other ecological effects beyond carbon emissions such as the impact on the land (e.g. from mining), and sea (e.g. from liquid waste).

It may be that I haven't looked hard enough yet to find this information! But if anyone knows of any good research on the topic, can you please let me know?

Thanks very much!
 

 

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Pretty much all of the raw materials we use- clays, glaze materials, oxides, etc, are mined for industry and commercial purposes, not for potters. If all the potters stopped using them, there would be virtually no difference in the ecological impact of the mining and production of those materials. Potters use a super tiny percentage of the materials compared to industry, which is why we have to find new ingredients when a mine stops producing something we use- there's not enough potters to keep a mine in operation. Production/mining of clays in the US in 2018 was about 60 billion pounds. Remember that it's not just about production of ceramic dishes and bathroom tile. Clays are used for all sorts of things including paints, fracking, cat litter, drilling operations, cement, etc. Our mugs don't mean squat to a mine.

Same for firing kilns. The car you drive back and forth from the studio puts out way more harmful emissions per year than your kiln. The precautions we take with kilns are for our own safety- venting fumes to the outdoors so we don't breathe them in.

That's not to say that we shouldn't do what we can to lessen our impact on the environment. It takes everyone doing their part to save the planet.

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I have a friend who, years ago, moved to a new area, and learned that she would need a permit to build a gas kiln. So she went to the county offices, and learned that the person who approved the permits was her next door neighbor. He said he didn't know much about gas kilns and would need to research the matter, and get back to her. She figured she had no chance. The permit guy found out that firing a gas kiln emits lets than a commercial passenger airplane does every 30 seconds. He gave her the permit!

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A friend of mine did a study on the ecological impact of salt firing, and found that he could fire the kiln every week and use something like 25 pounds of salt in every firing and it would pollute less than driving his car.

I would worry more about your lawnmower than your kiln in terms of ecological impact:

The EPA estimates that hour-for-hour, gasoline powered lawn mowers produce 11 times as much pollution as a new car.  Even refilling lawnmowers damages the environment. It is estimated that 17 million gallons of gas are spilled annually while refilling lawn mowers. In contrast, the Exxon Valdez spill was just under 11 million gallons. 

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47 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

I would worry more about your lawnmower than your kiln in terms of ecological impact:

The EPA estimates that hour-for-hour, gasoline powered lawn mowers produce 11 times as much pollution as a new car.  Even refilling lawnmowers damages the environment. It is estimated that 17 million gallons of gas are spilled annually while refilling lawn mowers. In contrast, the Exxon Valdez spill was just under 11 million gallons. 

You mean the couple inch long exhaust system on my mower, isn't doing a lot to keep CO2 emissions down?!

Also, I think gas tanks on small engines, like mowers and snow blowers are purposely designed to be deceptive.  They look like they are not filling at all, and then suddenly it's overflowing...

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6 hours ago, Benzine said:

You mean the couple inch long exhaust system on my mower, isn't doing a lot to keep CO2 emissions down?!

:lol: Someday they'll require catalytic converters, but that'll double the price of the mower. I feel really bad because I'm still using an old 2 stroke engine. I keep hoping it'll die, but it won't. My dream mower is an 80 volt cordless electric self propelled.

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Just now, neilestrick said:

:lol: Someday they'll require catalytic converters, but that'll double the price of the mower. I fell really bad because I'm still using an old 2 stroke engine. I keep hoping it'll die, but it won't. My dream mower is an 80 volt cordless electric self propelled.

Yeah platinum and palladium are expensive right now!  

I use a plug-in electric and love it, more powerful than my old gas one for sure and the best part.... It starts in one pull :lol:

 

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From the responses, it sounds like by comparison to common activities and the scope of non-potter uses for materials the impact is negligible, but I think this is an interesting question from an academic point of view, too. 

Please, don't spend any time on it if you don't have anything handy, buy if anyone does have any research, or @justplaindavid, if you were able to find any articles or reports, I'd be curious to read them! 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, kristinanoel said:

From the responses, it sounds like by comparison to common activities and the scope of non-potter uses for materials the impact is negligible, but I think this is an interesting question from an academic point of view, too. 

Please, don't spend any time on it if you don't have anything handy, buy if anyone does have any research, or @justplaindavid, if you were able to find any articles or reports, I'd be curious to read them! 

In addition to the impact being very small, there's also just not a lot of us. If everyone in the world had a kiln the way we all have cars, then there would likely be more rules about dealing with kiln emissions. As it currently stands, the issue is the air quality in the kiln room, and venting properly to make it a safe environment for us, not preventing those fumes from entering the outside environment. I suppose that if the EPA really wanted to hammer down on us with the same rules as large commercial enterprises they could, but it would be difficult to justify the cost and effort for such a small improvement to environmental health.

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The straw and camel are flickering past my vision......pristine Arctic ,well you know, compared backstreet suburbia.

Can we do better?

Scythes and scissors...no need for gym membershop....

Kilns radiant heat channeled into better uses?????

Oh well, back to making compost. Nothing like shovelling s.... to bring on the philosophical thought trains

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14 minutes ago, Babs said:

Kilns radiant heat channeled into better uses?????

My kilns definitely heat my studio when they run. I don't vent the heat out. Nothing better than running the big kiln on cold winter days. It can replace the regular heating system for a day or two. And I don't have air conditioning, so I'm not fighting to cool that heat in the warmer months, I just open the overhead door and let nature do it for me.

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Neighbors bbq with charcoal, lighting with lighter fluid - more pollutants for one chicken dinner than my kiln puts out all year.

As for power, a firing does consume significant electricity (I'm firing electric), however, our solar array counts for somethin' (mainly for charging the car though).

Materials all ship from elsewhere - classify with other crafts that consume equivalent mass? I'd like to think the product is worthwhile.

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Actually a kiln does put out a non-trivial amount of co2 no matter what the fuel is, as well as heavy metal contamination in the immediate or exhausted area, and acid vapor, and sulfur dioxide gas, and the list goes on.  And then there's the question of how your electricity is generated, which is ultimately your fuel.

And then there's the actual impact of the transportation of your materials.  Can you pick them up locally? The inadvertent support of slave labour involved in mining some of the colorants and fluxes we use, etc.  I mean the list goes on and on.  

So I don't know about a bbq chicken being a years worth of kiln pollution, but yeah, fairly clean considering.

I'm fairly conscious of the impact of some of my decisions.  I try to use mostly locally mined clays (SPS's vashon line is made from locally sourced clay), I pick them up myself so they're not shipped, I fire electric with hydro power, I now avoid buying conflict or slavery oxides, but there's a lot to keep track of and it's more a personal statement than actually making any sort of dent in the situation.

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38 minutes ago, Bill Kielb said:

I think every bit adds up to a huge result. Think recycle twenty years ago, non existent. Lots of small change makes for nice gradual big change.

Not sure about your local jurisdiction but currently our Waste Management is putting all recycling into the landfill alongside the garbage because no other countries want to buy our used plastic, glass and aluminum.

So yeah, there's that :lol:

 

Edited by liambesaw
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34 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

putting all recycling into the landfill alongside the garbage because no other countries want to buy our used plastic, glass and aluminum.

Dont know for sure but had the pleasure (or misery) of designing high speed doors at a local drop off and sorting station several years back. (Veolia I think) Organics, definitely not in waste stream, glass to recycle and plastics I thought as well. Gotta cost more at this point separating them to bury. Lots of recycle plastic in use, I thought. Still a move forward, always can move more though.

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5 minutes ago, Bill Kielb said:

Dont know for sure but had the pleasure (or misery) of designing high speed doors at a local drop off and sorting station several years back. (Veolia I think) Organics, definitely not in waste stream, glass to recycle and plastics I thought as well. Gotta cost more at this point separating them to bury. Lots of recycle plastic in use, I thought. Still a move forward, always can move more though.

Yeah, it's definitely a great system for consumers too.  At least in my jurisdiction our recycling and organic waste is free, so we only have a 13 gallon garbage can and rarely fill it.

That's a family of 4 with 4 animals, pretty impressive I think!

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