Tag: environment

By Maria Dermentzi for Mashable

Plastic Whale is a professional plastic fishing company that offers boat trips during which tourists — while sightseeing — will pick up plastic from Amsterdam’s canals. The plastic bottles that are being collected get turned into office furniture, in collaboration with Vepa.

Open plan: the suboptimal office?

Although the current work zeitgeist is for open plan offices, further thought is needed to keep different types of office workers happy throughout the workday.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says the open plan office has been around since the 1960s when it was first introduced in Germany to boost communication and de-emphasise status.

“As the idea took hold in North America in the decades that followed, employers switched from traditional offices with one or two people per room to large, open spaces.

“Right now, it is estimated that roughly two-thirds of U.S. workers spent their days in open-plan offices. South Africa has a similar experience.”

But as the layout became commonplace, problems emerged.

A 2002 study of Canadian oil-and-gas-company employees who moved from a traditional office to an open one found that on every aspect measured, from feelings about the work environment to co-worker relationships to self-reported performance, employees were significantly less satisfied in the open office.

One explanation for why this might be is that open offices prioritise communication and collaboration but sacrifice privacy.

“A reason for this is that ‘architectural privacy’ (the ability to close one’s door) went hand in hand with a sense of ‘psychological privacy’. And a healthy dose of psychological privacy correlates with greater job satisfaction and performance.” Trim noted.

With a lack of privacy comes noise—the talking, typing, and even chewing co-workers.
A 1998 study found that background noise, whether or not it included speech, impaired both memory and the ability to do mental arithmetic, while another study found that even music hindered performance. There’s also the question of lighting.

Says Trim: “Open offices tend to cluster cubicles away from windows, relying more on artificial light. Research has shown that bright, overhead light intensifies emotions, enhancing perceptions of aggression which could lead to a lack of focus during meetings if arguments get heated.”

Another under-appreciated twist is that different personality types respond differently to office conditions. For example, a study on background music found its negative effects to be much more pronounced for introverts than for extroverts.

“Even the office coffee machine could be hurting some employees. Although a moderate dose of caffeine was found to enhance long-term information retention and was ranked as the most important thing in the workplace by an Inspiration Office survey in 2016, caffeine has previously been shown to hinder introverts’ cognitive performance during the workday.”

A recent craze is the standing desk, inspired by the widely reported health risks of sitting all day. One study found that people who sat at least six hours a day had a higher risk of premature death than those who sat three hours or fewer—regardless of physical-activity level. But being on one’s feet presents its own health risks: standing for more than eight hours a day has been tied to back and foot pain.

So what’s a company to do?

“Give employees their own private offices, with plenty of sun, and turn off the overhead lights.

“Supply the introverts with noise-canceling headphones and decaf, but pump the extroverts full of caffeine and even let them listen to music now and then.

“And don’t let anyone sit too much—or stand too much.” Trim adds.

In the five years to May 2016, SA’s electricity use fell 6%, leaving a substantial and growing hole in Eskom’s budget. Eskom’s response has been to try to suppress new competitors and encourage big new customers. In a single week in July, it announced:

• It was negotiating with aluminium smelters to increase electricity use. Aluminium smelting in SA is predicated on access to cheap, (but dirty) energy;

• It would not accept further independent renewable producers after the current round of tenders because of the potential effect on its revenue. The share of private renewable energy in national demand rose from 4% in 2011, to 8% in 2016;

• It was trying to expand exports to the region in light of slow domestic demand.

The first two strategies will entrench commodity dependence and promote energy intensity. Instead of fostering growth in new industries and emerging enterprises, they will reinforce Eskom’s effective partnership with huge metal refineries.

Eskom’s dilemma is rooted in the end of the commodity boom, combined with a pricing strategy that is delinked from national goals around diversification and development. The recent commodity boom was an outlier. Yet SA’s electricity investment and pricing systems built in an assumption that metal prices would defy gravity for decades.

From 2008 to 2015, huge new coal-fuelled plants were initiated, while electricity tariffs in constant rand more than doubled. Below the radar, there’s a widely held belief that Eskom’s tariff hikes mostly reflected inefficiency and corruption. That view ignores both the cost of Eskom’s new investments and the soaring price of coal during the commodity boom.

This is not to deny inefficiency at Eskom. For instance:

• Eskom links the price of electricity for the smelters to the aluminium price, so it has in effect given them about tens of billions in rebates since the commodity boom ended;

• From 2008 to 2014, while its sales fell, Eskom’s employment climbed from 35,000 to 47,000;

• From 2014-15 to 2015-16, the remuneration of Eskom directors and group executives climbed from R50m to R75m.

Eskom’s model of increasing electricity supply and tariffs together clashed with global metal prices. Today, Eskom is in the midst of investments of more than R100bn in Medupi and Kusile even as the energy-intensive industries are downsizing.

Consider the steel industry. From 2007 to 2015, SA’s steel production fell about 30%. Virtually the entire decline resulted from the closure of electric furnaces, where production dropped by about half. Climbing electricity costs encourage a shift away from energy-intensive production even as Eskom races to increase its output.

Two factors shape Eskom’s response to its new realities.

First, it seems to know only how to build big plants, whether coal or nuclear. In 2013, the update report on the Integrated Resource Plan for electricity proposed a simple answer to managing uncertain demand: look to smaller plants that would enable more flexible responses. Instead, Eskom has forged ahead with giant projects, then sought to manage demand, alternating rationing and subsidies for the refineries.

Second, Eskom faces sometimes contradictory socioeconomic demands conjoined with a single hard financial requirement: it is required by law to remain self-sufficient and creditworthy. It is also expected to get electricity to poor communities; stabilise the supply to industry; provide a market and transmission for renewable energy projects in remote areas; and drive the construction of base load plants. Meanwhile, its prices are regulated through a complex, rigid and slow process without visible strategic aims.

In these circumstances, Eskom has tended to externalise costs wherever it can and to pursue socioeconomic imperatives only when they won’t damage cash flow. It’s hard to manage Eskom. The company knows far more about electricity than anyone in the government or civil society. Faced with a policy that it doesn’t want, it can argue that the result will be a blackout. Moreover, it habitually blames regulators or government officials when things go wrong.

But SA will pay a high price if we let Eskom respond to the looming oversupply by pumping out more energy for smelters and cutting support for renewables and energy efficiency.

If SA is serious about clean development and industrialisation, it should insist that any excess supply is used to encourage new industries, not to expand existing refineries, and that future electricity investment is small, decentralised and clean.

By Dr Neva Makgetla for www.bdlive.co.za
Image credit: www.bdlive.co.za

Ricoh is launching its own aqueous resin (AR) latex ink for the Ricoh Pro L4100 series of large format printers at FESPA Digital, Amsterdam, 8 to 11 March, to address the demands of its fast-growing sign and display graphics customer base.

“We’ll demonstrate how the new eco-friendly, durable, latex ink enhance productivity and image quality,” says Jacques van Wyk, COO of Ricoh SA. “The aqueous resin ink delivers sharper and richer colour on a wider range of substrates. It dries faster and uses less energy to apply. We’ll also show how print service providers can expand their indoor and outdoor sign and display offerings.”

Expanded colour gamut for vibrant results
The new inks are available in CMYK, plus orange and green for an expanded colour gamut. White ink is also available to enhance printing on transparent or dark substrates. The inks are ideal for a wide range of uses, from posters and point of purchase to window applications and outdoor banners. Spot colour simulation with six-colour process printing enables accurate printing of package proofs and other colour-critical projects. High black density and improved glossiness deliver rich and contrasting details, while white ink ensures vivid results.

Three-layer printing with white ink
The ability to print white ink as a foundation colour layer on transparent or dark material enhances the natural vividness of colours. With three-layer printing, where white ink is printed between colours, images are visible on both sides of transparent substrates even though the printing is only on one side. This enables more dramatic and impactful colour with backlit and other transparent signage.

Strong environmental performance
Ricoh’s AR latex inks dry quickly for more efficient production, enabling operators to quickly move to secondary processes such as laminating and installation.

Ricoh’s AR latex inks can be used with a variety of lighter weight and heat-sensitive media because they cold cure at 60 degrees Centigrade. Supported media includes film, coated paper, PET, tarpaulin, PVC, polyester cloth, cotton, wallpaper, transparent vinyl and more. Cold cure also saves money by reducing power consumption.

The new AR latex inks are good for the environment. They have been awarded Greenguard Gold certification by UL Environment in recognition of low chemical emissions and improvement in air quality where the inks are used. It means the AR latex inks are suitable for use in sensitive environments, such as education and medical facilities.

The inks also have minimal volatile organic compounds (VOC) and odour, eliminating the need for special ventilation. Ink is delivered in reusable ink cartridges and eco-friendly ink packs.

Ricoh new AR latex inks deliver excellent image quality and reliability while reducing ink consumption in combination with Ricoh’s print heads and jetting technology that deliver multiple drop sizes as small as four pico-litres.

Print service providers are also able to choose up to eight cartridges for the ideal ink colour configuration for their Pro L4160 series printer at the time of installation.

Multicopy Lansingerland in the Netherlands has been a test site for the ink, using its Ricoh Pro L4160 for a number of applications including indoor and outdoor signage and wall coverings.

Owner Robert de Klijne says: “We are extremely pleased with both the printer and the latex ink. We have experienced problem-free printing on all kinds of media, and that makes our clients and us very happy. The fast drying time streamlines production and has increased our throughput. The colour saturation is better and colour quality is improved over previous solutions. The black is deeper and gives us more contrast. I believe that when we have perfected our processes with this printer and the latex inks, our production capacity will be almost doubled. With the lower curing temperatures, we have less wasted media, particularly with lighter weight or heat-sensitive materials.”

60% business growth
As for the overall impact on his business, De Klijne says: “In the spring of 2015, we set a goal of increasing our signage business by 50%. By the end of the year, it had grown by 60%, in large part due to our Ricoh solutions.”

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