When it comes to saving our planet, we’re all in it together! And although one person can’t single handedly reverse global warming or the effects of El Niño, we can all modify the way will live to minimise environmental damage. It’s about changing the way we think and act, and if enough people are committed, global change is entirely possible.
Ideal for environmental consultants, those involved in conservation, or anyone keen to explore a more sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle, the Certificate of Environmental Studies will encourage you to think about the impacts of your actions in daily life.
In this environmental sustainability course, you will gain an understanding of basic ecology, the binomial system of classifying living things and global environmental systems.
You will also learn about the earth’s major environmental problems and how they’ve come about, and the importance of conservation and reducing your environmental “footprint”.
Outcomes achieved by undertaking an environmental sustainability course include:
- Learning about living things
- Exploring the classification of plants and animals
- Gaining an understanding of how to identify living organisms
- Studying how to use identification keys
- Gaining insights into basic ecology
- Examining populations and communities
- Understanding ecosystems and their constituents
- Learning about the ecosphere
- Exploring the web of life
- Gaining an understanding of habitats and niches
- Studying humans in the environment
- Gaining insights into global environmental systems
- Examining the earth’s structure
- Understanding the atmosphere
- Learning about climatic systems
- Exploring the Gaia theory
- Gaining an understanding of the carbon dioxide cycle
- Studying El Nino
- Gaining insights into environmental problems
- Examining deforestation
- Understanding the loss of agricultural land
- Learning about the loss of biological diversity
- Exploring the loss of water
- Gaining an understanding of the loss of non-renewable resources
- Studying environmental weeds
- Gaining insights into the Greenhouse Effect
- Examining ozone depletion
- Understanding ozone as a Greenhouse gas
- Learning about conservation
- Exploring the definition and goals of conservation
- Gaining an understanding of the history of conservation
- Studying renewable and non-renewable natural resources
- Gaining insights into acting locally and thinking globally
- Examining humans and water
- Understanding how to minimise water usage
- Learning about energy use in the home
- Exploring how to reduce household waste
- Gaining an understanding of domestic transport and its affect on pollution
- Studying building materials and their environmental impact.
Key Environmental Factors
Environmental courses offer amazing insights into some of the environmental issues currently affecting our planet. Here are some of the main factors currently on the radar (pun intended)!
El Niño and La Niña
In terms of Australia’s weather, it is influenced by many climate drivers. El Niño and La Niña have perhaps the strongest influence on year-to-year climate variability in Australia. They are a part of a natural cycle known as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and are associated with a sustained period of warming (El Niño) or cooling (La Niña) in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. The ENSO cycle loosely operates over time scales from one to eight years.
An El Niño occurs when sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical and central Pacific Ocean become substantially warmer than average. This causes a shift in atmospheric circulation. Typically, the equatorial trade winds blow from east to west across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño events are associated with a weakening, or even reversal, of the prevailing trade winds.
Warming of ocean temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific causes this area to become more favourable for tropical rainfall and cloud development. As a result, the heavy rainfall that usually occurs to the north of Australia moves to the central and eastern parts of the Pacific basin.
Potential effects of El Niño on Australia include:
- Reduced rainfall
- Warmer temperatures
- Shift in temperature extremes
- Increased frost risk
- Reduced tropical cyclone numbers
- Later monsoon onset
- Increased fire danger in southeast Australia
- Decreased alpine snow depths
The Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases include water vapour, ozone, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and some artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The absorbed energy warms the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. This process maintains the Earth’s temperature at around 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise be, allowing life on Earth to exist.
The problem we now face is that human activities – particularly burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) and agriculture and land clearing – are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases. This is the “enhanced greenhouse effect”, which is contributing to warming of the Earth.
Tips for Saving Water and Energy
As you’ll learn in an environmental sustainability course, Australia’s unforgiving climate means we all need to be conscious of how much water and energy we use. And even the simplest things can help! Here are some tips on how to save water and energy in in the home and garden.
- Take shorter showers – cutting back to showers less than four minutes can reduce water usage by up to 20 per cent
- Install low-flow shower heads – three-star rated versions can cut your hot water usage by around 40 per cent
- Place a cistern-displacement device in your toilet tank – this reduces the amount of water used per flush.
- Check your toilet for leaks – placing food colouring in the tank and then if, without flushing, colour begins to appear in the bowl within half an hour, you have a leak.
- Wash your clothes in cold water – 90 per cent of your washing machine’s electricity is used for heating water. Washing in cold water can also extend the life of your clothes as it minimises fading and shrinkage.
- Fix leaks – a hot leaking tap wastes over 6000 litres of water every year!
- If rinsing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running – instead, fill up two sinks, one with soapy water and one with rinsing water.
- Always fill up your dishwasher – you should also choose shorter, economy wash cycles if possible.
- Water in the cool of the day – either in the early morning or late afternoon
- Avoid spraying water on windy days
- Gain extra water by installing a rainwater tank
- Use micro-irrigation systems – trickle systems where possible
- Check your fridge and freezer – your fridge should be set between three and five degrees and your freezer at minus fifteen degrees to keep bills down.
- Use air-conditioning wisely – only cool the rooms you use most, and keep the temperature between 23 and 26 degrees. Also consider using a timer to pre-set the system if you are out.
- Heat smartly – switching from an electric fan heater to a split system can save the average home up to $700 on energy bills.
- Clean your dryer – clothes dryer use a lot of energy, so cleaning them regularly will ensure they remain as efficient as possible.
- Defrost food naturally – pre-planning dinner will allow you to thaw food out without using the microwave.
- Insulate your roof – effective installation can save you up to 20 per cent on your cooling and heating costs
- Lighting – replace old halogen and incandescent globes with energy efficient ones, and turn lights off in the rooms you aren’t using.
- Turn switches off – turning off non-essential appliances at the power point.
- Use natural gas – this is in preference to electricity, or use geothermal, wind, solar or hydro-thermal energy
- Seal gaps under doors – this will minimise heat gain or loss
- Use blinds, curtains and awnings – this will reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter
- Choose energy efficient appliances – most modern appliances have an energy efficiency rating sticker to help you choose wisely.
- Hot water pipes and tanks – insulate this and turn down your water heater thermostat.
- Get the best energy deal – this is one of the easiest ways to save money on your electricity bill.
Gain a better awareness and understanding of environmental issues, which will increase your motivation to preserve its beauty, value and fragilities with an environmental sustainability course such as our Certificate of Environmental Studies.