How the Construction Industry Can Aid in Ecosystem Recovery


World Environment Day is the biggest, most globally celebrated day for positive environmental action coordinated by the United Nations (UN). The first World Environment Day was held in 1974 and was created to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. 

Every year World Environment Day falls on June 5th. Each year World Environment Day is hosted in a different country, with events focusing on a particular centric theme. While last year saw the theme of Time for Nature, World Environment Day 2021 is being held in Pakistan with a theme of Ecosystem Restoration. With that in mind, Plant Planet Careers look at how the construction industry can aid in the recovery and restoration of Ecosystems.

Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of degraded or destroyed ecosystems, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. 

Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. Here are just a few ways in which the construction industry can do its part to aid in the recovery of Ecosystems.

Fewer Fossil Fuels

With growing concerns over global emission levels, the construction industry is tasked with considering greener energy solutions. The construction industry’s biggest negative impact on the environment is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, like gas and diesel. This is due to the heavy machinery used in almost every construction project, which results in gas emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other waste products that pollute the air and contribute to global warming and the destruction of the worlds’ ecosystems.

Much like how Smart cars helped to raise awareness that we could find ways to live our lives without needing fossil fuels such as gas, construction machinery can do the same for the rest of the industry. The use of electric plant machinery has many benefits.

Construction is responsible for 11% of energy-related carbon emissions. Electric equipment can assist in lowering this factor. Not only is electric machinery great for the environment, but it is also extremely cheap to run and so almost completely eliminates fuel costs for the owning contractors.

Major players within the industry are already on board with the move towards electrification. Machinery brands like CAT, Volvo, Merlo, and Komatsu already have all electric ranges of machinery in use throughout the industry.

Solar Panels

Despite the welcome sight of the growing use of electric-powered plant machinery on construction sites, many construction projects still need to run diesel generators to produce electricity due to an unavailability of grid-powered electricity, meaning further emissions down the line.

Last year, Volvo CE, Beam Global (formerly known as Envision Solar), and WiTricity joined forces to demonstrate the key to cutting emissions and fossil fuel consumption at construction sites at North America’s largest construction show ConExpo. The companies showcased construction equipment, which is not only electric, but also powered with solar energy wirelessly. In simple terms, solar panels work by absorbing sunlight, which generates direct current (DC) energy, after which it is converted to alternating current (AC) energy, which can be used to power most electric devices and vehicles. A construction site with all-electric vehicles would have the benefit of not only producing no greenhouse gas emissions, but it would also be significantly quieter.

Construction sites powered by solar energy are not yet common. However, with solar and other types of renewable energy, construction sites could encourage the industry to act to reduce the use of diesel and fossil fuels, thus with a decline of use in fossil fuels allowing for ecosystems to recover.

Stop deforestation

Forests are an essential part of the Earth’s biodiversity and oxygen production, yet according to the FAO, the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares in 2015-2020. A revolutionary new technology is aiming to fight this at its source, by targeting the machinery used in illegal logging operations, hoping to protect and conserve our ecosystems.

Code of Conscience is an open-source software, restricting the use of heavy-duty machines in protected forests for illegal activities. The WWF defines the process of illegal logging as timber being “harvested, transported, processed, bought or sold in violation of national or sub-national laws”, and it can also occur when the land is being cleared for palm oil plantations. The ever-growing demand for paper, timber and palm oil is putting increasing pressure on our world’s precious ecosystems, which are maintained by forest reserves.

According to INTERPOL, illegal logging accounts for 50-90% of all forestry activities in key tropical forests, i.e. the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia. Around 15-30% of all wood traded globally is illegally logged. Code of Conscience are urging the plant manufacturing industry to take action, and to take more responsibility to stop illegal logging.

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