New Orleans is in the spotlight these days with the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this past weekend. As a resident of New Orleans during this life changing time, it is important for this blogger to shed a positive light on the anniversary. With a lot of controversy on how well New Orleans has recovered, it is important to recognize the victories New Orleans has reached and how it has expanded its horizons past its previous existence. One aspect is the insurgence of green projects that have developed since the storm. We are listing five that were highlighted from the Huffington Post article “5 Post-Katrina Innovations New Orleans Can Brag About”
The world is your oyster. At least it is for Tyler Ortego, Matt Campbell, and two professors at Louisiana State University, who invented the OysterBreak system in 2005 and brought coastal protection to life, literally. The system, which is essentially a chain of huge linked concrete cylinders, is made of an oyster-growing substrate that, once installed, is colonized by oyster larvae and eventually grows into a living reef. Because these solid reefs grow faster than sea levels rise, they reduce shoreline erosion. ORA Estuaries, the company that Ortego founded in 2010 to run the building and distribution of the oyster reefs, recently won The Big Idea pitch competition at the 2015 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. As of yet, the oysters can’t be eaten, but Ortego is working on engineering the reefs to double as a sustainable food source.
2. Public Lab
New Orleans residents are bringing DIY to environmental protection. Powered by civic engagement, Public Lab is a nonprofit network of locals who are working to make sophisticated environmental monitoring tools accessible to the general public. They cover everything from water quality evaluation to aerial mapping, coming up with innovative ways to make complex monitoring devices out of inexpensive materials. Travis Haas, an environmental science teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and his eleventh grade students recently collaborated with Public Lab to map and assess the progress of wetland restoration. Acting as citizen scientists, the high schoolers launched a helium balloon attached to a camera and used Public Lab’s MapKnitter software to piece together the photographs it collected.
3. The Green Project
New Orleans residents say that Hurricane Katrina created 20 years of waste in a single day. True or not, the disaster left the city sitting on over 55 million tons of debris. Enter The Green Project. Founded in 1994 as a paint-recycling business, the New Orleans-based nonprofit stepped up after Katrina, taking materials from destroyed homes and reinvesting them into community rebuilding projects. Ten years later, The Green Project is thriving. The project promotes creative repurposing and prides itself on being accessible to all populations–materials are sold to community members at one-fifth of new retail costs. It also has the only paint-recycling program in the Gulf region and leads regular community recycling education workshops. We agree, it’s pretty much the whole package.
4. Water Wise
It wouldn’t be New Orleans without stormwater management. In 2013, Global Green USA launched its Water Wise NOLA program in New Orleans to advocate for simple solutions to water-related issues, such as flooding and substandard water quality. The organization is working to help residents lower their water bills by reducing consumption and promoting rainwater management. And they host regular rain-barrel builds–does it get better than that?
5. Eco-Friendly Transportation
Don’t worry; the city government is making an effort to green-ify New Orleans, too. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city’s public transportation system in 2005, the Regional Transit Authority was tasked with a massive reconstruction project. Although the bus service is still operating at 35% of pre-Katrina levels, the RTA has made progress. Today, the transit network’s entire fleet is run on biodiesel and sixteen of their buses are biodiesel/electric hybrids. The city has also made pedestrian-friendly improvements to its streetlights. Since 2014, over 4,000 of them have been replaced with energy-efficient LED lights as part of the city’s ongoing Energy Smart Streetlight Conversion Program. We’d call that a step toward a brighter future.
At Waste to Energy Systems, we are constantly looking for ways to be green and sustainable no matter how big or small the change. Sometimes it is the simplest change that can make a big impact! A recent one popular way to be green is as simple as buying the “ugly” produce on the super market aisle. A recent article discusses how picking up that strangely shaped potato or knobby tomato can make a huge difference in cutting down on food waste, a huge issue in the world.
From the article “Eat Hideously Ugly Produce If You Care About The Planet” from Huffington Post:
One of the simplest things you can do to help the planet thrive is to demand uglier produce. Buy the apple that has a funky knob coming out of its side. It’ll taste just the same as its cosmetically pleasing counterpart. Then tell your local grocer you want more uglies.
“It’s the low hanging fruit of sustainability,” as Jordan Figueiredo, the co-chair of the Zero Food Waste Forum, punnily puts it. Figueiredo and his partner Stefanie Sacks, a culinary nutritionist, are currently campaigning for a decrease in ugly food waste on Change.org. Their petition, which has more than 44,000 supporters as of August 6, is pushing big food retailers Whole Foods and Walmart to sell “less than perfect”-looking produce in their stores.
It sounds almost trite, but consider this: In the U.S., 26 percent of all produce is wasted before it even reaches the grocery store. (Even more is wasted once it lands in our kitchens.) A lot of that 26 percent is tossed because it doesn’t meet our standard of beautiful. While there’s no official government estimate on uglies waste, one farmer told NPR that about 30-35 percent of his crops is tossed “because of weird, cosmetic things they have.”
Discarding uglies isn’t good for our planet. When dumped into landfills, they decompose and produce methane, a gas that is 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Methane absorbs the heat of the sun, further warming the atmosphere. That’s not to mention the water used in the farming process just to produce food that’s thrown away. According to the UN, the water required to grow food that’s eventually wasted (not just uglies, but all food that winds up uneaten) equals three times the yearly flow of Russia’s Volga River.
Food waste is a colossal issue: Americans waste about 40 percent of their food, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s enough food to fill 730 football stadiums. Yet in 2013, 49.1 million American lived in “food insecure” households, meaning they didn’t have dependable access to a commensurable amount of food. Instead of being thrown away, uglies can successfully be sold at a discount, making food more affordable, and farmers would be able to profit from more of their harvest.
The message in all of this seems to be the same one we’ve been taught since our pre-school days: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Eating ugly is a simple, proactive way to begin to undo the trauma we’ve forced upon our planet. There’s much more you can do to conserve and help the earth heal, but you can start by signing the petition and eating ugly.
#LoveUglyFood #EatGreen #Sustainable
Landmarks have always played a key role in a city’s economics because they draw tourists, which in most cities like Paris, Rome, and London plays a huge part in their yearly income. However, the unexpected cost of keeping these landmarks light up, running and awe-inspiring is the environmental impact. The Waste to Energy Systems team wanted to highlight those landmarks that are making the effort to stop making a negative impact and become an attraction for their green initiatives as well.
From the Huffington Post article, “The Eiffel Tower Just Became A Little More Green. Here Are 8 Other Landmarks That Did It First”.
The White House
President Jimmy Carter famously had solar panels added to the White House roof in 1979. The panels, which were intended to heat water, were removed after Ronald Reagan took office. With little fanfare, the George W. Bush administration installed the White House’s first active solar electric system in 2002. President Barack Obama installed another set of panels in 2014.
The Eiffel Tower
Two wind turbines have been successfully installed on the Eiffel Tower to offset some of the structure’s energy use, are expected to produce 10,000 kWh annually. This will offset the power used by commercial activities on the tower’s first floor. The project is part of a larger efficiency upgrade that also includes LED lighting and rooftop solar panels on a visitor pavilion.
Solar Panels were installed on the roof of the 6,300-seat Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican in 2008. During his papacy, Benedict XVI made calls for greater environmental protection, and his successor, Pope Francis, has acknowledged manmade climate change and lamented a “culture of waste.”
London’s Tower Bridge
In 2012, London upgraded the lights on its iconic Tower Bridge to more energy-efficient LEDs. “The spectacular view of Tower Bridge from my office in City Hall is one of my favorites in London,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a 2011 statement announcing the project. “It’s fantastic to now be able to crack on with this work to make it even better, brighter and greener and at no cost to the taxpayer.”
The Empire State Building
Berlin’s Reichstag Building
New York City’s Empire State Building underwent a significant renovation in 2009 that included retrofitting the skyscraper to be more energy efficient. It received LEED Gold certification in 2011, making it the tallest LEED-certified building in the United States. The building’s retrofit reduced energy consumption by an estimated 38 percent, and put it in the top 25 percent of the most energy-efficient U.S. office buildings.
Built in the late nineteenth century, the home of Germany’s parliament was damaged in a 1933 fire and by allied bombing during World War II. It fell into disuse after the war, but a rebuilding was completed in 1999 and it once again hosts the legislature of a unified Germany.
Along with a glass dome that lets in natural light, the building has a biofuel-powered combined heat and power system that produces about 80 percent of the building’s electricity and 90 percent of its heat. The building also has photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and low-flow water fixtures.
George Washington Bridge
In 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finished upgrading the George Washington Bridge’s light “necklace” to energy efficient LEDs. The Port Authority estimated that the upgrade would cut 260,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House has implemented several steps to improve the facility’s sustainability, including more efficient air conditioners and lighting, along with a cooling system that uses seawater and saves millions of gallons of drinking water annually.
As the population grows, so will our need for waste management. The current situation in the US alone may be surprising to most people. Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage a year, and some reports show over 400 million tons and only about 1/10th of all solid garbage in the U.S. gets recycled. These numbers combined with agricultural waste and other industry waste leaves the U.S. with a staggering number. This data lead many companies, including Waste to Energy Systems, to develop alternative energy systems to begin chipping away at the world’s environmental issues. A recent online article discusses how gasification can play a role in turning around these issues.
From “Gasification of MSW may save Mother Earth” published on www.wastedive.com
(Above Image): Gasification can greatly reduce landfill capacities.
To keep up with the amount of trash, hundreds of municipalities request permits to expand their landfill capacities. Geologist Walter Leise recently described expansion initiatives as building a mountain of trash on top of another mountain of trash, offering a vivid description of the concept. As landfills get bigger and expansions become more controversial, do officials have a better option for the disposal of municipal solid waste?
WSI Management seems to think so. The Plant City, FL-based waste management company focuses on two objectives: the need for environmentally safe and economically sound management of municipal solid waste, and the quest for clean, renewable energy. WSI Management’s Vice President Matt Linda explained to Waste Dive that the company does not look to dispose of solid waste through plasma technology, or anaerobic digestion, or incineration. Instead, the company has mapped an “intellectual blueprint” to turn MSW into fuel cubes and bioplanks through gasification.
According to a report published by the Gasification Technologies Council (GTC), gasification combines carbon-based materials in MSW (known as feedstocks) with oxygen to break them down into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, while removing pollutants. This process leaves clean, “synthesis gas” that can be converted into usable energy or products.
Despite common belief, the process of gasification is not the same as incineration. GTC defines incineration as using MSW as a fuel, “burning it with high volumes of air to form carbon dioxide and heat.” Gasification uses the MSW as a feedstock to create syngas, which is then turned into “higher valuable commercial products” instead of just heat and electricity.
“Instead of paying to dispose of and manage waste for years in a landfill, using it as a feedstock for gasification reduces disposal costs and landfill space, and converts those wastes to electricity and fuels,” the report states. Linda notes that the use of such gasification systems can solve disputes over landfill expansions and how to properly dispose of waste.
“Keystone Landfill in Pennsylvania is permitted for 7,200 tons [of MSW] a day. 7,200 tons a day that’s going into Mother Earth,” Linda says. “And now because of the expansion permits, the residents don’t want the permit and they’re up in arms. There’s another landfill expansion in Ontario, NY. You’ve got Saugus, MA; Suacon Township in PA … Prehistoric landfills don’t exist anymore and incineration just spews material into the atmosphere, which is not good for anyone. There are technologies out there that could fix all of these boo-boos, and WSI [technology] just happens to be one of many.”
Gasification will continue to be a growing source of responsible waste disposal for both waste management companies and municipalities to consider. “It’s good for the industry, good for taxpayers, and supports this Government’s long-term plan for a stronger economy,” said Maude.
Every renewable energy project is just as important as the next when it comes to changing the world’s view on its energy sources. But in this blog, the Waste to Energy Systems team wanted to recognize the amazing projects that make up the Largest Renewable Energy Projects in the World.
1. World’s Largest Solar PV Plant: The giant Topaz Solar Farms in the Carrizo Plains in California claims the title for Largest Solar PV Plant in the world. It is composed of 9 million solar panels and creates 550 MW of electricity. That is enough to power 160,000 homes!
2. World’s Largest Biomass Plant: Dry Biomass-Fired Power Plant Oy Alholmens Kraft in Pietarsaari, Finland is known as the largest biomass plant in the world. The plant produces 550 MW of heat, 240 MW of electricity and 160 MW of steam.
3. World’s Largest Wave Power Plant: The world’s first and biggest wave plant is the 2.25 megawatt Aguçadoura in Portugal. Even though it does not have competition, it is still an amazing size for being the first of its kind.
4. World’s Largest Wind Farm: With an end goal of 20,000 MW by 2020, the Gansu Wind Farm in China will continue to be the World’s Largest Wind Farm as it grows. It is currently the largest with a capacity of 6,000 MW.
5. World’s Largest Landfill Gas Capture Plant: Located in Puente Hills in Whittier, California, the largest landfill also hosts the largest landfill gas capture plant. It creates on average 50 MW a year of electricity and has not yet hit its peak capabilities.
6. World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dam: China, yet again, is home to one of the largest renewable energy projects, the Three Gorges Dam. Located on the Yangtze River, it produces 22,500 MW of electricity. It measures 600ft tall by 7600ft long.
In your every day life, you probably hear or see the word sustainable at least once a day. At the grocery store, items say they are from sustainable fishing or farming. Businesses claim to have sustainable practices. On this blog and our Facebook, we use the word often. However, does everyone truly understand the meaning behind a sustainable practice? Or is it just another trendy word to describe a product to increase sales? Understanding what lies behind this motivating ideal will help each individual make smart choices that actually further the “sustainable” movement. The following article explains these questions.
“What does sustainability mean exactly? Is it about people and culture, our environment, or jobs and money? Is it about cities or the country? Is it about you and me or is it something for other people to worry about? Sustainability is about all of these things and more. Sustainability could be defined as an ability or capacity of something to be maintained or to sustain itself. It’s about taking what we need to live now, without jeopardizing the potential for people in the future to meet their needs.
If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever.
Some people say it is easy to recognize activities that are unsustainable because we know it when we see it. Think of extinction of some species of animals, often due to the activities of humans. Or salinity (salt) in our rivers due to changed land management practices. And at home, the amount of packaging you put in the bin that has to go into landfill.
Living sustainably is about living within the means of our natural systems (environment) and ensuring that our lifestyle doesn’t harm other people (society and culture). It’s a big idea to get your head around, for all of us. It’s really about thinking about where your food, clothes, energy and other products come from and deciding whether you should buy and consume these things. Increasingly our lifestyle is placing more and more pressure on natural systems. Scientists continue to investigate how human interactions with natural systems can be improved and sustained.
A good example of a sustainable practice is timber harvesting from native state forests. Native forests have many uses and values. They provide us with timber, clean water and air and we value the biodiversity they contain, their beauty and links to Aboriginal culture. Timber is harvested from the same native forests over and over again. These forests continue to provide us with timber. How? No more timber is cut than the forest can regrow.
Also, many other factors are considered before any trees are cut down, including soil type, plants and animals and cultural heritage sites. Timber harvesting in native forests is carried out so that erosion is minimized, threatened species habitat and cultural heritage sites are protected, and trees remain to provide seed so the forest can regrow naturally after harvesting.”
So there you have it. Sustainability, like most things in nature, is all about not taking more than is needed to allow the perpetual cycle of the eco-system to continue. Sustainable forest practices are particularly important to us at Waste to Energy Systems, because they allow our bioHearth® downdraft gasification system to not only provide renewable energy but sustainable fuel sources.
Excerpts taken from http://www.landlearnnsw.org.au/.
After years of a poor job economy, seeing growth in this area is a welcome change. The growth may come in an unexpected industry for some. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released their annual report showing that the Renewable Energy Industry employs 7.7 million people. This is an 18% increase from last year with a total of 6.5 million jobs. The employment levels that the Renewable Energy sector is creating makes it a heavy hitter in the global job market. Solar leads the way in number of jobs but biofuels are quickly catching up. Waste to Energy Systems is proud to be part of the 822,000 jobs worldwide in biomass, proving that the industry is growing.
Where these jobs are located is an equally important aspect to consider. Through the years, there has been a growing shift toward Asian countries. This year, four of the top ten countries with largest amount of green jobs were Asian countries. China has maintained the lead for the past few years. This years they topped out at 3.4 million jobs, making up nearly half of the global green job industry. The second largest green job market may come as a surprise. Brazil beat out the U.S. with 934,000 jobs. The dominant green industry in Brazil is biofuels. They are heavy producers of ethanol and biodiesel with a growing focus on wind energy. The U.S. is the 3rd largest green job market in the world with 724,000 jobs, an increase of 16% from 2013. The largest growth occurred in the solar sector with biomass and biofuels increasing as well.
The information reported by IRENA should build confidence in our Renewable Energy future, both locally and globally. Companies like Waste to Energy Systems will continue to grow, creating more and more jobs as types of renewable technologies such as biomass downdraft gasification become a mainstay.
#renewableenergyjobs #biomassgasification #sustainablejobmarket
Newsweek recently released it list of the top 10 greenest companies in the US. Let’s take a look at the top 5 companies taking the biggest strides toward sustainable business and how they are doing it.
1. Biogen, one of the oldest and largest biotechnology companies in the world, has taken first place as this year’s greenest company in the US. Biogen’s sustainability goals fit within the context of broader sector, geographic and ecological limits. This has driven Biogen to significantly reduce its environmental footprint while still growing its business. Recognizing the heavy demands on water made by the biotech sector, Biogen has worked to reduce water usage across its operations. Its Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, facility features a 100,000-gallon cistern to harvest rainwater for irrigation, significantly reducing municipal water consumption. In its two main labs in Cambridge, Biogen has opted for an innovative approach. The building housing them saves the condensate water produced by the facility’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units—some 2.4 million gallons of water—and uses it in the facility’s cooling towers (newsweek.com).
2. Allergan, a health care company most well known for making botox, has fallen from first place 2nd this year. As the botox market rockets, Allergan is focusing a large part of their profit and attention on becoming more sustainable. Allergan started several energy efficiency projects and improved their waste management strategies drastically in recent years. A new solar panel installed at their Irvine, California HQ reduced electricity consumption by 11% from 2011 to 2012. On top of working within their own company to stay green, Allergan participates in numerous programs to help other companies improve their energy efficiency (sustainability-certification.com).
3. Adobe, the well known IT giant, is number 3 on the list. In 2012, Adobe became carbon neutral. This came 2 years before their original goal of 2015. In the past 12 years, Adobe has completed more than 180 energy efficiency projects that have reduced electricity use by 50 percent, natural gas use by 30 percent, domestic water use by 79 percent and irrigation water use by 71 percent. Adobe has also invested in renewable-energy technologies, including Windspire wind turbines and Bloom Energy fuel cells to help power several of its California facilities. These projects plus the continuous strive for new ways to be efficient and sustainable are why Adobe makes the top 5.
4. Broadcom Corporation, another IT company, has joined the ranks of greenest companies along side fellow IT company, Adobe. Broadcom designs and develops the integrated circuits that facilitate modern digital communications.The company has committed to increasing its energy efficiency and reducing natural-resource consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions and other negative environmental effects associated with the company’s global real estate portfolio. One way Broadcom is delivering on this promise is reducing water consumption. For example, its Irvine, California, headquarters uses more than 17 million gallons of reclaimed water for landscape irrigation annually—making it the largest user of reclaimed water in the city of Irvine (newsweek.com).
5. Sigma-Aldrich is a life science and advanced-technology company that manufactures a huge array of products used primarily in scientific research, biotechnology and pharmaceutical development. In recent years, the company has doubled down on its commitment to reduce water use; a recent project to improve steam use and boiler efficiency at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis led to savings of over 4,000 cubic meters of water in 2012. They also created a project that helps them to identify chances to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption by using the sea instead of the sky for shipping.
Here at Waste to Energy Systems, we think it is important to recognize companies that are making sustainable efforts to learn and grow together as a green community.