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Sustainability, Volume 11, Issue 8 (April-2 2019)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) Hi-sAFe is a mechanistic, biophysical model designed to explore the interactions within [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle
Restrictive Effects of Water Scarcity on Urban Economic Development in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei City Region
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2452; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082452
Received: 24 February 2019 / Revised: 18 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
This study provides a scientific assessment of water scarcity in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH) city region and investigates its restrictive effects on urban economic development by quantifying economic loss caused by water scarcity based on an input–output optimization model. The results show that the [...] Read more.
This study provides a scientific assessment of water scarcity in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (BTH) city region and investigates its restrictive effects on urban economic development by quantifying economic loss caused by water scarcity based on an input–output optimization model. The results show that the water scarcity reflected by shadow prices has significant sectoral and regional heterogeneities. Southern Hebei faces the most severe water scarcity in the BTH city region and the situation is worsening. Water scarcity is shown to have a negative impact on the economy of the BTH city region that amounts to CNY 270.02 billion. Hebei has the largest potential economic loss caused by water scarcity, especially in southern Hebei, the potential GDP (gross domestic product) of which is decreased by 6.2%. This study also points out that the water scarcity in the BTH city region is underestimated in terms of actual water prices, and the scarcity of agricultural water use is mostly underestimated. The results contribute to a deeper understanding of the restrictive impact of water scarcity on regional economic development, and thus provide a scientific reference for policymaking in the BTH city region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Water, Economic Management and Governance Issues)
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Open AccessArticle
Agricultural Informatization and Technical Efficiency in Maize Production in Zambia
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2451; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082451
Received: 21 March 2019 / Revised: 18 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
The cropland productivity gap between Africa and the rest of the world is widening. Fortunately, increasing farmers’ access to useful agricultural information reduces the costs of searching for information, thereby leading to higher agricultural productivity and sustainability. This study investigates the association between [...] Read more.
The cropland productivity gap between Africa and the rest of the world is widening. Fortunately, increasing farmers’ access to useful agricultural information reduces the costs of searching for information, thereby leading to higher agricultural productivity and sustainability. This study investigates the association between the adoption of mobile phones to collect agricultural information and farmers’ technical efficiency (TE) in Zambia. Different from previous studies, we focus on the actual use of mobile phones by farmers rather than mere ownership. Farmers were selected using a two-stage sampling procedure, and the Cobb-Douglas (CD) production function is adopted to estimate the association using two approaches—the conventional stochastic production frontier (SPF) and propensity score matching-stochastic production frontier (PSM-SPF) model. In both cases, we found that the use of mobile phones is significantly and positively associated with farmers’ TE. However, the conventional SFP model exaggerates the TE scores by 5.3% due to its failure to mitigate biases from observed variables. Regarding the agricultural growth indicators (income and output) related to TE, a close inspection reveals that increasing mobile phone use to close the TE gap between the two groups could result in a 5.13% and 8.21% reduction in severity of poverty and extreme poverty, respectively. Additional research is essential to corroborate the findings and analyze the potential causal mechanisms. Our study provides strong evidence to promote mobile phone use in agricultural production in rural Zambia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Severe Drought in Finland: Modeling Effects on Water Resources and Assessing Climate Change Impacts
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2450; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082450
Received: 4 March 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Severe droughts cause substantial damage to different socio-economic sectors, and even Finland, which has abundant water resources, is not immune to their impacts. To assess the implications of a severe drought in Finland, we carried out a national scale drought impact analysis. Firstly, [...] Read more.
Severe droughts cause substantial damage to different socio-economic sectors, and even Finland, which has abundant water resources, is not immune to their impacts. To assess the implications of a severe drought in Finland, we carried out a national scale drought impact analysis. Firstly, we simulated water levels and discharges during the severe drought of 1939–1942 (the reference drought) in present-day Finland with a hydrological model. Secondly, we estimated how climate change would alter droughts. Thirdly, we assessed the impact of drought on key water use sectors, with a focus on hydropower and water supply. The results indicate that the long-lasting reference drought caused the discharges to decrease at most by 80% compared to the average annual minimum discharges. The water levels generally fell to the lowest levels in the largest lakes in Central and South-Eastern Finland. Climate change scenarios project on average a small decrease in the lowest water levels during droughts. Severe drought would have a significant impact on water-related sectors, reducing water supply and hydropower production. In this way drought is a risk multiplier for the water–energy–food security nexus. We suggest that the resilience to droughts could be improved with region-specific drought management plans and by including droughts in existing regional preparedness exercises. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Party Agroforestry: Emergent Approaches to Trees and Tenure on Farms in the Midwest USA
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2449; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082449
Received: 29 March 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Agroforestry represents a solution to land degradation by agriculture, but social barriers to wider application of agroforestry persist. More than half of all cropland in the USA is leased rather than owner-operated, and the short terms of most leases preclude agroforestry. Given insufficient [...] Read more.
Agroforestry represents a solution to land degradation by agriculture, but social barriers to wider application of agroforestry persist. More than half of all cropland in the USA is leased rather than owner-operated, and the short terms of most leases preclude agroforestry. Given insufficient research on tenure models appropriate for agroforestry in the USA, the primary objective of this study was to identify examples of farmers practicing agroforestry on land they do not own. We conducted interviews with these farmers, and, in several cases, with landowners, in order to document their tenure arrangements. In some cases, additional parties also played a role, such as farmland investors, a farmer operating an integrated enterprise, and non-profit organizations or public agencies. Our findings include eleven case studies involving diverse entities and forms of cooperation in multi-party agroforestry (MA). MA generally emerged from shared objectives and intensive planning. MA appears to be adaptable to private, investor, institutional, and public landowners, as well as beginning farmers and others seeking land access without ownership. We identify limitations and strategies for further research and development of MA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agroforestry Systems)
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Open AccessArticle
Toxic Income as a Trigger of Climate Change
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2448; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082448
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 14 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
The rate of CO2 emissions concentration in the atmosphere increases the likelihood of significant impacts on humankind and ecosystems. The assumption that permissible levels of greenhouse gas emissions cannot exceed the global average temperature increase of 2 °C in relation to pre-industrial [...] Read more.
The rate of CO2 emissions concentration in the atmosphere increases the likelihood of significant impacts on humankind and ecosystems. The assumption that permissible levels of greenhouse gas emissions cannot exceed the global average temperature increase of 2 °C in relation to pre-industrial levels remains uncertain. Despite this uncertainty, the direct implication is that enormous quantities of fossil fuels have, thus far, wrongly been counted as assets by hydrocarbon firms as they cannot be exploited if we want to keep climate under certain control. These are the so-called “toxic assets”. Due to the relationship among CO2 emissions, GDP, energy consumption, and energy efficiency, the concept of toxic assets can be transferred to toxic income, which is the income level that would generate levels of CO2 emissions incompatible with keeping climate change under control. This research, using a simulation model based on country-based econometric models, estimated a threshold for income per capita above which the temperature limit of 2 °C would be surpassed. Under the business as usual scenario, average per capita income would be $14,208 (in constant 2010 USD) in 2033; and under the intervention scenario, which reflects the commitments of the COP21 meeting held in Paris in December 2015, the toxic revenue would be $13,433 (in constant 2010 USD) in 2036. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Global Economic Cost of the Paris Climate Agreement)
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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Listing Period on Corporate Social Responsibility: Evidence from Korea
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2447; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082447
Received: 5 April 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Newly listed firms can actively engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to build reputation, but they may postpone CSR until they have enough slack for it. Related to this, prior literature does not provide consistent results, the US evidence supports the latter while [...] Read more.
Newly listed firms can actively engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) to build reputation, but they may postpone CSR until they have enough slack for it. Related to this, prior literature does not provide consistent results, the US evidence supports the latter while the Chinese results support the former. To extend the literature, we use Korean listed companies and examine the association between the listing period and CSR. We further investigate the effect of analyst following on the relationship. The empirical results show that firms with a shorter listing period invest more in CSR and that the association exists only in firm-years followed by analysts, indicating the importance of the information environment to inform CSR. We additionally find that young listed companies mainly use social contribution and soundness, which can be discretionarily conducted from a short-term perspective. The results of this study using CSR to obtain a short-term objective suggest that policymakers need to analyze a firm’s behavior from various perspectives and to establish proper guidelines to achieve a long-term goal of CSR “sustainability”. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Eco-Costs of Material Scarcity, a Resource Indicator for LCA, Derived from a Statistical Analysis on Excessive Price Peaks
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2446; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082446
Received: 16 February 2019 / Revised: 11 April 2019 / Accepted: 16 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
The availability of resources is crucial for the socio-economic stability of our society. For more than two decades, there was a debate on how to structure this issue within the context of life-Cycle assessment (LCA). The classical approach with LCA is to describe [...] Read more.
The availability of resources is crucial for the socio-economic stability of our society. For more than two decades, there was a debate on how to structure this issue within the context of life-Cycle assessment (LCA). The classical approach with LCA is to describe “scarcity” for future generations (100–1000 years) in terms of absolute depletion. The problem, however, is that the long-term availability is simply not known (within a factor of 100–1000). Outside the LCA community, the short-term supply risks (10–30 years) were predicted, resulting in the list of critical raw materials (CRM) of the European Union (EU), and the British risk list. The methodology used, however, cannot easily be transposed and applied into LCA calculations. This paper presents a new approach to the issue of short-term material supply shortages, based on subsequent sudden price jumps, which can lead to socio-economic instability. The basic approach is that each resource is characterized by its own specific supply chain with its specific price volatility. The eco-costs of material scarcity are derived from the so-called value at risk (VAR), a well-known statistical risk indicator in the financial world. This paper provides a list of indicators for 42 metals. An advantage of the system is that it is directly related to business risks, and is relatively easy to understand. A disadvantage is that “statistics of the past” might not be replicated in the future (e.g., when changing from structural oversupply to overdemand, or vice versa, which appeared an issue for two companion metals over the last 30 years). Further research is recommended to improve the statistics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Life Cycle Assessment)
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Open AccessArticle
Identification and Analysis of Attributes for Industrial Food Waste Management Modelling
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2445; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082445
Received: 15 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 20 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Due to the large quantities of food waste generated by manufacturers and the associated environmental impact of these waste streams, improving food waste management is vital for achieving a more sustainable food system. Management of food waste can be complex and the most [...] Read more.
Due to the large quantities of food waste generated by manufacturers and the associated environmental impact of these waste streams, improving food waste management is vital for achieving a more sustainable food system. Management of food waste can be complex and the most appropriate methods may not always be selected. There are a range of aspects to consider in order to select the most sustainable option to manage food waste, such as the specific type of food waste generated, waste management options available, characteristics of food companies that generate food waste, features of the waste management processors that will manage it, and the sustainability implications of dealing with the food waste. To support food waste management decision making, this paper presents a modelling procedure to assist in identifying what type and range of information is needed to model food waste management systems, allowing the user to follow a systematic methodology to make more informed decisions. This procedure is based on the identification and analysis of qualitative and quantitative attributes necessary to model food waste management and an assessment of their relationships. Specifically, it describes a process to ensure that all relevant attributes are considered during the decision-making process. A case study with a large UK food and drink manufacturer is used to demonstrate the applicability and usefulness of this procedure. In conclusion, the systematic procedure presented in this paper provides a methodology to identify opportunities to improve the sustainability of industrial food waste management. The data obtained can be used to further undertake a life-cycle assessment study and/or to apply existing socio-economic methodologies to thoroughly assess impacts and benefits of food waste management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Methods for Food Waste Valorization)
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Open AccessArticle
Cost-Effective Options for the Renovation of an Existing Education Building toward the Nearly Net-Zero Energy Goal—Life-Cycle Cost Analysis
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2444; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082444
Received: 3 April 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 20 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
A comprehensive case study on life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) was conducted on a two- story education building with a projected 40-year lifespan in College Park, Maryland. The aim of this paper was to (1) create a life cycle assessment model, using an education [...] Read more.
A comprehensive case study on life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) was conducted on a two- story education building with a projected 40-year lifespan in College Park, Maryland. The aim of this paper was to (1) create a life cycle assessment model, using an education building to test the model, (2) compare the life cycle cost (LCC) of different renovation scenarios, taking into account added renewable energy resources to achieve the university’s overall carbon neutrality goal, and (3) verify the robustness of the LCC model by conducting sensitivity analysis and studying the influence of different variables. Nine renovation scenarios were constructed by combining six renovation techniques and three renewable energy resources. The LCCA results were then compared to understand the cost-effective relation between implementing energy reduction techniques and renewable energy sources. The results indicated that investing in energy-efficient retrofitting techniques was more cost-effective than investments in renewable energy sources in the long term. In the optimum scenario, renovation and renewable energy, when combined, produced close to a 90% reduction in the life cycle cost compared to the baseline. The payback period for the initial investment cost, including avoided electricity costs, varies from 1.4 to 4.1 years. This suggests that the initial investment in energy-efficient renovation is the primary factor in the LCC of an existing building. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Green Building Technologies)
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Open AccessArticle
Impacts of Environmental Factors on Waste, Energy, and Resource Management and Sustainable Performance
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2443; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082443
Received: 18 February 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 29 March 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
The management of waste, energy, and resources has received special attention from academics and practitioners due to the growing evidence for its effects on the environment. The aim of this study is to investigate the environmental drivers of waste, energy, and resource management [...] Read more.
The management of waste, energy, and resources has received special attention from academics and practitioners due to the growing evidence for its effects on the environment. The aim of this study is to investigate the environmental drivers of waste, energy, and resource management and, in turn, its effect on the sustainable performance of manufacturing firms. The data were collected from a survey of 173 large manufacturing firms in Malaysia and analysed using partial least squares. The results indicate that although environmental regulatory pressure, customer pressure, environmental uncertainty, and expected business benefits have positive effects on the extent of waste, energy, and resource management, social responsibility has no effect. Furthermore, waste, energy, and resource management has a positive effect on the sustainable performance of large manufacturing firms. The findings of this study extend the knowledge of the drivers and outcomes of waste, energy, and resource management. The results can help policymakers to adjust policies and strategies in a way to inspire managers to implement waste, energy, and resource management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
An Effects Analysis of Logistics Collaboration: The Case of Pharmaceutical Supplies in Seoul
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2442; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082442
Received: 29 March 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
This paper estimates the environmental, social and financial effects of logistics collaboration of the existing logistics companies in Seoul, Korea. The truck routing models for collaborative and non-collaborative deliveries are proposed to estimate the collaboration effects. Findings show that both major and minor [...] Read more.
This paper estimates the environmental, social and financial effects of logistics collaboration of the existing logistics companies in Seoul, Korea. The truck routing models for collaborative and non-collaborative deliveries are proposed to estimate the collaboration effects. Findings show that both major and minor companies can benefit from logistics collaboration by saving delivery costs and time through economies of scale. The results from the study further indicate that logistics collaboration can mitigate negative environmental impacts resulting from urban logistics by reducing the number of delivery trucks, and shortening delivery times and travel distances. Discussion of related challenges that must be addressed during the implementation of logistic collaboration is included as well. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Logistics)
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Open AccessArticle
The Influence of Alkalization and Temperature on Ammonia Recovery from Cow Manure and the Chemical Properties of the Effluents
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2441; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082441
Received: 15 March 2019 / Revised: 4 April 2019 / Accepted: 15 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Manure is a substantial source of ammonia volatilization into the atmosphere before and after soil application. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of temperature and alkalization treatments on the release of ammonia and ammonia recovery (AR) from cow manure [...] Read more.
Manure is a substantial source of ammonia volatilization into the atmosphere before and after soil application. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of temperature and alkalization treatments on the release of ammonia and ammonia recovery (AR) from cow manure and to characterize the chemical properties of the resultant effluents. In a closed glass reactor, 100 g of fresh cow manure was mixed with 100 mL of deionized water and the mixture was treated with various volume of KOH to increase the manure pH to 7, 9, and 12. Ammonia was distilled from the mixture at temperatures of 75, 85, 95, and 100 °C for a maximum of 5 h. Ammonia was received as diluted boric and sulfuric acids. Results indicated that the highest ammonia recovery was 86.3% and 90.2%, which were achieved at a pH of 12 and temperatures of 100 and 95 °C, respectively. The recovered ammonia in boric acid was higher than in sulfuric acid, except at a pH of 12 and temperatures of 95 and 100 °C. The effluents, after ammonia was removed, showed that the variation in pH ranged between 6.30 and 9.38. The electrical conductivity ranged between 4.5 and 9. (dS m−1) and total potassium ranged between 9.4 and 57.2 mg kg−1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges of Managing Organic Waste)
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Open AccessArticle
Model-Based Selection of Cost-Effective Low Impact Development Strategies to Control Water Balance
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2440; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082440
Received: 4 April 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Urbanization induces an increase of runoff volume and decrease of evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. Low impact development (LID) strategies aim to mitigate these adverse impacts. Hydrologic simulation is a reasonable option to assess the LID performance with respect to the water balance and [...] Read more.
Urbanization induces an increase of runoff volume and decrease of evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. Low impact development (LID) strategies aim to mitigate these adverse impacts. Hydrologic simulation is a reasonable option to assess the LID performance with respect to the water balance and is applicable to planning purposes. Current LID design approaches are based on design storm events and focus on the runoff volume and peak, neglecting evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. This contribution presents a model-based design approach for the selection of cost-effective LID strategies. The method is based on monitored precipitation time series and considers the complete water balance and life-cycle-costs, as well as the demand for land. The efficiency of LID strategies (ELID) is introduced as an evaluation measure which also accounts for emphasizing different goals. The results show that there exist several pareto-optimal LID strategies providing a reasonable basis for decision-making. Additionally, the application of LID treatment trains emerges as an option of high potential. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Unbearable Lightness of the Academic Work: The Positive and Negative Sides of Heavy Work Investment in a Sample of Italian University Professors and Researchers
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2439; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082439
Received: 9 April 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 22 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Universities perform very demanding tasks within a workplace characterized by a critical psychosocial environment. Against this backdrop, the aim of this study is to extend the current literature on the job sustainability of faculty professors, examine the associations of certain job resources (meaningfulness [...] Read more.
Universities perform very demanding tasks within a workplace characterized by a critical psychosocial environment. Against this backdrop, the aim of this study is to extend the current literature on the job sustainability of faculty professors, examine the associations of certain job resources (meaningfulness of work, reward) and job demands (work overload, conflict among colleagues) with workaholism, burnout, engagement. A self-report questionnaire was administered within a public higher education institution in Italy to a sample constituted by 291 professors. The results of path analysis show that meaningfulness of work and reward positively correlate with work engagement, work satisfaction, and psychological wellbeing and ward off emotional exhaustion and intention to leave. Work overload correlates positively with workaholism, work-family conflict and intention to leave and negatively with job satisfaction. Finally, workaholism correlates with work engagement and mediates the relationship between work overload and work-family conflict, emotional exhaustion, and psychological discomfort. The study highlights that to support the work of academic workers and build healthy and sustainable universities, it is necessary to promote job resources and control job demands. Moreover, the study highlights that work engagement and workaholism can be respectively considered as the positive and negative sides of heavy work investment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychology of Sustainability and Sustainable Development)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of the Construction and Investment Process of a High-Pressure Gas Pipeline with Use of the Trenchless Method and Open Excavation Method. Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082438
Received: 28 February 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
The study presents the application of multi-criteria analysis, i.e., the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), for the evaluation of investments related to the realisation of a high-pressure gas pipeline. The authors evaluated the realisation of the gas pipeline with the use of alternative methods: [...] Read more.
The study presents the application of multi-criteria analysis, i.e., the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), for the evaluation of investments related to the realisation of a high-pressure gas pipeline. The authors evaluated the realisation of the gas pipeline with the use of alternative methods: the trenchless Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) method and the open excavation method, based on the example of the construction of a high-pressure gas pipeline DN1000. Sections located in naturally valuable areas on the route of the pipeline Wierzchowice-Kiełczów (Poland) were analysed, on the section from the valve station in Czeszów to the Kiełczów node. The research considered the following criteria: technical costs, economic costs, social costs, and environmental costs. The sum of these partial estimations is the “total cost” of the investment. Research revealed that the technical costs of the open excavation method are in all cases higher than the technological costs of the trenchless method during the realisation of a gas pipeline (in the AHP analysis, they receive an average score of −4 or −3, compared to a score of −2 for the HDD method). On the other hand, the economic costs are comparable, with a slight advantage for the HDD method. The overall score for the open excavation method obtained with use of the AHP multi-criteria evaluation is, for different variants, approximately −19, while the evaluation of the realisation of a gas pipeline with use of the Horizontal Directional Drilling method gives a score from −15 to −10, depending on the section. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Engineering and Science)
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Open AccessArticle
Fiscal Decentralization, Local Competitions and Sustainability of Medical Insurance Funds: Evidence from China
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2437; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082437
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 20 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Local governments are responsible for the management of social medical insurance for urban and rural residents in China. Under the background of fiscal decentralization between the central government and local governments, the strengthening of supervision on medical insurance funds by local governments leads [...] Read more.
Local governments are responsible for the management of social medical insurance for urban and rural residents in China. Under the background of fiscal decentralization between the central government and local governments, the strengthening of supervision on medical insurance funds by local governments leads to a reduction in the expenditure of the medical insurance fund, which contributes to its sustainability. By employing the provincial level panel data during 2004–2014, we used a fixed effect model and a spatial autoregression model to investigate whether fiscal decentralization has had a negative influence on the expenditure of China’s new rural cooperative medical system (NCMS) fund. We found that fiscal decentralization has had a significant influence over its per capita expenditure. Our results also indicate that higher fiscal decentralization leads to higher financial aid in the NCMS provided by local governments. Additionally, the expenditure of the NCMS and the local financial aid are influenced by nearby governments. Our results suggest that appropriate fiscal decentralization, which helps to maintain the sustainability of social medical insurance funds, should be encouraged. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Social Impact Investments for a Sustainable Welfare State)
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Open AccessArticle
Prediction of the Energy Demand Trend in Middle Africa—A Comparison of MGM, MECM, ARIMA and BP Models
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2436; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082436
Received: 20 March 2019 / Revised: 14 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Africa has abundant energy resources, but African energy research level is relatively low. In response to this gap, this paper takes Middle Africa as an example to systematically predict energy demand to give support. In this paper, we utilize four models, metabolic grey [...] Read more.
Africa has abundant energy resources, but African energy research level is relatively low. In response to this gap, this paper takes Middle Africa as an example to systematically predict energy demand to give support. In this paper, we utilize four models, metabolic grey model (MGM), modified exponential curve method (MECM), autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) and BP neural network model (BP), to predict the energy consumption of Middle Africa in the next 14 years. Comparing four completely different types of predictive models can fully depict the characteristics of the predictive data and give an all-round analysis of the predicted results. These proposed models are applied to simulate Middle Africa’s energy consumption between 1994 and 2016 to test their accuracy. Among them, the mean absolute percent error (MAPE) of MGM, MECM, ARIMA and BP are 2.41%, 4.80%, 1.91%, and 0.88%. The results show that MGM, MECM, ARIMA, and BP presented in this paper can produce reliable forecasting results. Therefore, the four models are used to forecast energy demand in the next 14 years (2017–2030). Forecasts show that energy demand of Middle Africa will continue to grow at a rate of about 5.37%. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Value Chains for Industrial Biotechnology in the Bioeconomy-Innovation System Analysis
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2435; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082435
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is considered as a key technology with a strong potential to generate new growth, spur innovation, increase productivity, and tackle environmental and climate challenges. Industrial Biotechnology is applied in many segments of the bioeconomy ranging from chemicals, biofuels, bioenergy, bio-based [...] Read more.
Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is considered as a key technology with a strong potential to generate new growth, spur innovation, increase productivity, and tackle environmental and climate challenges. Industrial Biotechnology is applied in many segments of the bioeconomy ranging from chemicals, biofuels, bioenergy, bio-based plastics, and other biomaterials. However, the segments differ profoundly regarding volume, price, type, and amount of needed feedstock, market condition, societal contributions as well as maturity, etc. This article aims to analyse a set of five different value chains in the technological innovation system (TIS) framework in order to derive adequate policy conclusions. Hereby, we focus on quite distinctive value chains to take into account the high heterogeneity of biotechnological applications. The analysis points out that policy maker have to take into account the fundamental differences in the innovation systems and to implement differentiated innovation policy to address system weaknesses. In particular, market formation is often the key bottleneck innovation systems, but different policy instruments for various application segments needed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Research on Population-Land-Industry Relationship Pattern in Underdeveloped Regions: Gansu Province of Western China as an Example
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2434; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082434
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Urbanization is a three-dimensional process including population, spatial, and economic changes. The coordination among the three dimensions is the key to sustainable urban development. Here, a population-land-industry index system of urbanization is constructed, and the degree of coupling and mutual feedback among population [...] Read more.
Urbanization is a three-dimensional process including population, spatial, and economic changes. The coordination among the three dimensions is the key to sustainable urban development. Here, a population-land-industry index system of urbanization is constructed, and the degree of coupling and mutual feedback among population urbanization, land urbanization, and industrial urbanization are analyzed. The urbanization patterns and their spatiotemporal variation are identified. The results show that: (1) Population and land urbanization proceeded slowly in Gansu Province and their trends were similar, whereas industry urbanization proceeded faster than the two. From a spatial perspective, population, land, and industrial urbanization levels (PUi, LUi, and IUi) decreased from southwest to northeast. The coupling degree of population, land, and industrial urbanization increased from 1998 to 2016 and showed significant spatial variation, decreasing from northwest to southeast. (2) Population, land, and industry all play a role in urbanization. PUi was significantly and positively correlated with LUi. However, there was no significant correlation between IUi and PUi and between IUi and LUi. The improvement of PUi, LUi, and IUi effectively promoted the coupling degree of population, land, and industrial urbanization. (3) Seven urbanization patterns were identified in Gansu Province and evaluation units with the same urbanization pattern tended to be spatially close to each other. IUi > PUi > LUi (IX), IUi > LUi > PUi (X) and IUi > PUi = LUi (XI) were the dominant urbanization patterns. There was crisscross distribution of various urbanization patterns and, thus, it was not easy to observe the agglomeration center of certain urbanization pattern. (4) The urbanization pattern of the same evaluation unit changed with time. This change was mainly reflected in the change of relationship between population and land urbanization. Urbanization pattern changed more significantly in 2008–2016 than in 1998–2008. The changes were dominant by IX→XI, X→XI, XI→IX, and XI→X. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Characterising Draught in Mediterranean Multifamily Housing
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2433; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082433
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 5 April 2019 / Accepted: 16 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Social housing dating from the postwar years through the end of the twentieth century is one of the major stores of European cities’ residential stock. As it is generally characterised by a poor thermal performance and an inefficient control of energy consumption, it [...] Read more.
Social housing dating from the postwar years through the end of the twentieth century is one of the major stores of European cities’ residential stock. As it is generally characterised by a poor thermal performance and an inefficient control of energy consumption, it constitutes one of the main targets for residential heritage renewal. This study aimed to locate and quantify air leaks across building envelopes in Mediterranean multifamily housing with a view to curbing the uncontrolled inflow of outdoor air that has a direct impact on occupant comfort and housing energy demand. Airtightness tests conducted in a series of protocols to quantify draught across envelope elements were supplemented with qualitative infrared thermographic and smoke tests to locate leakage pathways. Air was found to flow mainly across façade enclosures, primarily around openings, as well as through service penetrations in walls between flats and communal areas accommodating electrical and telecommunication wires and water supply, domestic hot water (DHW), and drainage pipes. The general absence of evidence of draught across structural floors or inter-flat partitions was consistent with the construction systems in place. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Energy Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
An Empirical Study on User Experience Evaluation and Identification of Critical UX Issues
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2432; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082432
Received: 5 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
We introduce an approach that supports researchers and practitioners to determine the quality of first-time user experience (FTUX) and long-term user experience (LTUX), as well as to identify critical issues with these two types of UX. The product we chose to study is [...] Read more.
We introduce an approach that supports researchers and practitioners to determine the quality of first-time user experience (FTUX) and long-term user experience (LTUX), as well as to identify critical issues with these two types of UX. The product we chose to study is a mobile fitness application. Mobile apps tend to have a much shorter service life than most other products; thus, the developers/designers need to pay great attention to both first-time and long-term user experience. This study is based on a multi-method approach. We employed the AttrakDiff questionnaire to assess users’ first impressions of the app, and the UX Curve method to evaluate how users’ experience of the app has changed over time. Besides the quantitative data, which helped to determine the quality of user experience, we also collected qualitative data during two interviews with participants, and focused on the issues that predominantly deteriorated user experience. A four-coordinate plane tool was designed later in the data analysis process that combined the two kinds of user experience data at the same time, which led to a qualitative positioning of the user experience status of a certain product. The model was further successfully adopted in the identification of user experience issues of an online fitness application. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Social Media Usage and Tertiary Students’ Academic Performance: Examining the Influences of Academic Self-Efficacy and Innovation Characteristics
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2431; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082431
Received: 23 February 2019 / Revised: 13 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
The universal growth of social media usage among tertiary students has been linearly associated with academic performance. As social media use continues its constant growth, its application among tertiary students is inevitable. Its influence on academic performance turns out to be an ever [...] Read more.
The universal growth of social media usage among tertiary students has been linearly associated with academic performance. As social media use continues its constant growth, its application among tertiary students is inevitable. Its influence on academic performance turns out to be an ever more important question to think about. Researchers have mixed results, some found social media usage having little to no effect, and others found negative and positive effects on academic performance. Using a sample of 808 students in ten public tertiary institutions, this study makes an effort on how to deal with these differing outcomes and to investigate the effect of social media usage on tertiary students’ academic performance. We explored the relationship of the frequency of students’ use of social media for educational purposes and their academic performance, as measured by their cumulative grade point average (i.e., CGPA) with academic self-efficacy and innovation characteristics as mediator and moderator, respectively. The results revealed that social media usage for educational purposes positively related to academic performance. It also demonstrated that the use of social media can negatively affect academic performance. This study makes it more noticeable the effect of academic self-efficacy as a mediator in further improving the academic performance of students. Additionally, the empirical results of the study demonstrated that the moderating effect of innovation characteristics between social media usage and academic performance was stronger. The practical relevance of the study is to help governments, politicians, policy makers, students, educational institutions, and other stakeholders to carve specific policies, guidelines, and initiatives in support of social media usage as an innovative and effective tool for learning and sustainable academic performance. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Reverse Supply Chain of the E-Waste Management Processes in a Circular Economy Framework: Evidence from Italy
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2430; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082430
Received: 15 January 2019 / Revised: 14 April 2019 / Accepted: 16 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
In the last several decades, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) reverse supply chain management has increasingly gained more attention due to the development of an environmental awareness, the rapid raise of e-wasted products and the EU regulations. In particular, although the new [...] Read more.
In the last several decades, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) reverse supply chain management has increasingly gained more attention due to the development of an environmental awareness, the rapid raise of e-wasted products and the EU regulations. In particular, although the new EU WEEE collection target has not been reached by many EU countries, several studies show that an optimized WEEE wastes management processes could represent a relevant way to achieve economic, environmental and social benefits expected by the adoption of circular economy approaches. According to this, the paper aims to evaluate the extent to which the current Italian organization of the WEEE management system and the related legislation are able to support the achievement of the targets defined by EU with a specific focus on the collection centers (CCs) which play a key role being the initial point of the WEEE reverse logistic cycle. An illustrative analysis based on the transition probability matrix regarding both the e-waste collecting performance and the distribution of collecting centers in the Italian provinces is illustrated. Furthermore, we have analyzed the presence of a correlation between the WEEE collection rate and the presence of the CCs in different provinces in order to better comprehend the role that can play both the investments in CC system and other soft measures in achieving the WEEE collection targets. Results show that the current Italian organization of the WEEE management system and the related legislations are not so effective in supporting the achievement of EU WEEE collection targets at the national level, although some geographical areas and provinces outperform the EU targets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Characterization of Renewable Energy Utilization Mode for Air-Environmental Quality Improvement through an Inexact Factorial Optimization Approach
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2429; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082429
Received: 11 December 2018 / Revised: 23 March 2019 / Accepted: 5 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Energy-related environmental problems have been hot spot issues in regional energy system sustainable development. Thus, comprehensive planning of energy systems management is important for social and economic development, as well as environmental sustainability. In addition, uncertainties and complexities, as well as their potential [...] Read more.
Energy-related environmental problems have been hot spot issues in regional energy system sustainable development. Thus, comprehensive planning of energy systems management is important for social and economic development, as well as environmental sustainability. In addition, uncertainties and complexities, as well as their potential interactions pose a great challenge for effective management in energy and environmental system. This study proposes a stochastic factorial energy systems management model to conduct uncertainties and risks in the energy systems, as well as handle their interaction effects among different environmental policies. The developed method can not only tackle uncertainties expressed as probability distributions and even interval values, but also be applied to determine decision alternatives associated with multiple economic penalties if the formulated environmental policy targets are violated. Meanwhile, by introducing the factorial technology, it can analyze a parameter’s impact on the system and their coordination effect. To verify the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed method, the developed model was applied to a hypothetical case study for energy structure optimization under considering energy supply, SO2 emissions reduction, and environmental quality requirements. Multiple facilities, related environmental pollutants, and energy demand levels were taken into account. Moreover, the key factors of the system and their interaction effect were discovered. The results indicated that the developed method can resolve meritorious uncertainties in decision-making and analysis, generate effective management programming under multi-levels of the proposed energy and environmental systems. The method can be used for supporting the adjustment for allocating fossil fuels and renewable energy resources, analyzing the tradeoff between conflicting economic and environmental objectives and formulating the local policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Energy Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Carbon Emission Effects of the Coordinated Development of Two-Way Foreign Direct Investment in China
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2428; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082428
Received: 2 April 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
This paper innovatively combines Inward Foreign Direct Investment (IFDI) and Outward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI) as a measure of two-way FDI coordinated development to consider the coupling and coordination level of FDI. Under the analytical framework of Copeland and Taylor (1994), it introduces [...] Read more.
This paper innovatively combines Inward Foreign Direct Investment (IFDI) and Outward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI) as a measure of two-way FDI coordinated development to consider the coupling and coordination level of FDI. Under the analytical framework of Copeland and Taylor (1994), it introduces this new measure to investigate the effects of China’s carbon emissions during 2004–2016, using the spatial econometric model and the differential generalized method of moments. We find that China’s carbon emissions show significant spatial correlation characteristics and interregional diffusion, which indicates that regional coordinated cooperative governance is key to carbon emission mitigation in China, and that China’s two-way FDI coordinated development has presented a significant braking effect on carbon emissions during the research period. Furthermore, we decompose the effects of the two-way FDI on carbon emissions into three parts. This decomposition shows that the scale effect is positive, while both the composition and the technique effects are negative. The technique effect essentially dominates the emission reduction induced by the coordinated development of the two-way FDI. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Stories of Transformation: A Cross-Country Focus Group Study on Sustainable Development and Societal Change
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2427; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082427
Received: 20 February 2019 / Revised: 3 April 2019 / Accepted: 13 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
Societal transformation is one of the most topical concepts in sustainability research and policy-making. Used in many ways, it indicates that nonlinear systematic changes are needed in order to fully address global environmental and human development challenges. This paper explores what sustainability transformations [...] Read more.
Societal transformation is one of the most topical concepts in sustainability research and policy-making. Used in many ways, it indicates that nonlinear systematic changes are needed in order to fully address global environmental and human development challenges. This paper explores what sustainability transformations mean for lay focus group participants in Cabo Verde, China, Fiji, Sweden, and the USA. Key findings include: (a) Tightly linked to interpersonal relationships, sustainability was seen as going beyond the Sustainable Development Goals to include a sense of belonging; (b) transformations were framed as fundamental changes from today’s society, but most participants stated that transformation pathways need to splice new structures into the old; (c) new technologies are key engines of change. Yet, the most common drivers were awareness, education, and knowledge sharing; and (d) regardless of whether state-centric or decentralized governance was preferred, personal action was seen as essential. The focus groups displayed a shared understanding across the geographical settings; a common realization of profound sustainability predicaments facing societies across the world; and a desire for fundamental change towards a more sustainable way of life. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Dealing with Undeniable Differences in Thessaloniki’s Solidarity Economy of Food
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2426; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082426
Received: 22 February 2019 / Revised: 1 April 2019 / Accepted: 4 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
In the context of capitalist crisis, a re-emergence of reciprocal economic relationships has been praised by postcapitalist researchers. Self-organised solidarity food economies have indeed brought promise of democratic change. However, this article draws on two years of fieldwork in Thessaloniki to develop Iris [...] Read more.
In the context of capitalist crisis, a re-emergence of reciprocal economic relationships has been praised by postcapitalist researchers. Self-organised solidarity food economies have indeed brought promise of democratic change. However, this article draws on two years of fieldwork in Thessaloniki to develop Iris Young’s Politics of Difference in order to challenge the view of solidarity economy as wholly a process of collaboration. Thus, the article overturns prevalent myths regarding the cultural ineptitude of Greek actors. In doing so, it highlights the need for food movements to acknowledge the inevitable tensions that arise from structural inequalities. The article argues that overcoming these tensions requires challenging difference-blindness in grassroots democracy. It concludes that an acknowledgement of shifting structural inequalities, exaggerated by the economic crisis, must be incorporated into an initiative’s democratic processes alongside mechanisms for dealing with disharmony. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2425; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082425
Received: 28 January 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
If virtual heritage is the application of virtual reality to cultural heritage, then one might assume that virtual heritage (and 3D digital heritage in general) successfully communicates the need to preserve the cultural significance of physical artefacts and intangible heritage. However, digital heritage [...] Read more.
If virtual heritage is the application of virtual reality to cultural heritage, then one might assume that virtual heritage (and 3D digital heritage in general) successfully communicates the need to preserve the cultural significance of physical artefacts and intangible heritage. However, digital heritage models are seldom seen outside of conference presentations, one-off museum exhibitions, or digital reconstructions used in films and television programs. To understand why, we surveyed 1483 digital heritage papers published in 14 recent proceedings. Only 264 explicitly mentioned 3D models and related assets; 19 contained links, but none of these links worked. This is clearly not sustainable, neither for scholarly activity nor as a way to engage the public in heritage preservation. To encourage more sustainable research practices, 3D models must be actively promoted as scholarly resources. In this paper, we also recommend ways researchers could better sustain these 3D models and assets both as digital cultural artefacts and as tools to help the public explore the vital but often overlooked relationship between built heritage and the natural world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Sciences in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage)
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Open AccessArticle
Pakchoi Antioxidant Improvement and Differential Rhizobacterial Community Composition under Organic Fertilization
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2424; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082424
Received: 26 February 2019 / Revised: 19 March 2019 / Accepted: 21 March 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
A high level of antioxidants in organic-produced vegetables has been attributed to soil conditions; however, little is known about the relationships between antioxidants and rhizobacteria under different fertilization treatments. A pot trial for pakchoi (Brassica campestris ssp. chinensis L.) was conducted under [...] Read more.
A high level of antioxidants in organic-produced vegetables has been attributed to soil conditions; however, little is known about the relationships between antioxidants and rhizobacteria under different fertilization treatments. A pot trial for pakchoi (Brassica campestris ssp. chinensis L.) was conducted under greenhouse conditions with: (1) control; (2) chemical fertilizer; and (3) organic fertilizer. The responses of the plant, soil properties, and rhizobacterial community were measured after 45 days of cultivation. Fertilization increased soil nutrient levels and pakchoi productivity and the reshaped rhizobacterial community structure, while no differences in rhizobacterial abundance and total diversity were observed. Generally, most plant antioxidants were negatively correlated with inorganic nitrogen (N) and positively correlated to organic N in soil. The genera of Arthrospira and Acutodesmus contained differential rhizobacteria under chemical fertilizer treatment, which are known as copiotrophs. In addition, the addition of a chemical fertilizer may stimulate organic substance turnover by the enrichment of organic compound degraders (e.g., Microbacterium and Chitinophaga) and the promotion of predicted functional pathways involved in energy metabolism. Several beneficial rhizobacteria were associated with organic fertilizer amended rhizosphere including the genera Bacillus, Mycobacterium, Actinomycetospora, and Frankia. Furthermore, Bacillus spp. were positively correlated with plant biomass and phenolic acid. Moreover, predictive functional profiles of the rhizobacterial community involved in amino acid metabolism and lipid metabolism were significantly increased under organic fertilization, which were positively correlated with plant antioxidant activity. Overall, our study suggests that the short-term application of chemical and organic fertilizers reshapes the rhizobacterial community structure, and such changes might contribute to the plant’s performance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agricultural Genomics and Sustainable Productivity)
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Open AccessArticle
How Social Interaction Affects Purchase Intention in Social Commerce: A Cultural Perspective
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2423; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082423
Received: 19 March 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 18 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
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Abstract
In the context of social commerce, the influence of culture on consumers’ behavior and attitude is more significant. This paper empirically analyzes the influence of social interaction (perceived risk, trust, and intimacy) on consumers’ purchase intention in social commerce, and the antecedent effect [...] Read more.
In the context of social commerce, the influence of culture on consumers’ behavior and attitude is more significant. This paper empirically analyzes the influence of social interaction (perceived risk, trust, and intimacy) on consumers’ purchase intention in social commerce, and the antecedent effect of cultural dimensions (uncertainty avoidance and individualism/collectivism) on social interaction is also explored. Data were collected in China and France from consumers who had prior online shopping experience on social commerce websites. The results show that the impact of perceived risk on subsequent purchase intention in social commerce will be transferred by trust and intimacy to a certain extent. The intimacy between users contributes to trust-building, and both of their positive impacts on purchase intention would show distinct effects in different cultures. Besides, cultural dimensions are proved to have a significant effect on users’ social interaction. Although high uncertainty avoidance brings perceived risk, it can promote subsequent trust-building. These findings help provide managerial insights for social commerce community to establish effective trust mechanism in a multicultural context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Business and Development II)
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