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The Truth About Sustainability

SUSTAINABLE-ENVIRONMENT

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/.

Renewable Energy Industry Employs 7.7 Million Worldwide

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.

Renewable Energy Jobs

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.

Renewable Energy Jobs by Country

 

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

5 Unexpected Leaders in the Green Movement

Green Countries

(sourced from goodnet.org)

When researching the greenest countries, it is no surprise to come across trend setters like Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore. They are the first to implement new trends and technologies. However, the times are changing. There are some up and comers breaking into the green movement ranks according to the latest Climate Change Performance Index 2015 (CCPI).

1. Morocco- North Africa’s Morocco is one of the few emerging markets that perform highly on clean energy. The country was commended for its increasing number of solar and wind projects. Notably, Morocco is building a vast 160MW solar polar installation called Noor I, in Ouarzazate, south east of Marrakesh.

2. Cyprus- Earlier this year, Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, minister of energy, commerce, industry and tourism for Cyprus, stated that his country had, “Installed, and connected to the grid, 146.7 megawatt of wind parks, 36.5MW of photovoltaic systems and 9.7MW of biomass utilization units.”

3. Portugal- The Mediterranean country is one of the world’s leading nations for use of renewable energy. In the first quarter of 2013, 70 percent of energy consumption in Portugal was supplied by renewables, according to domestic company Redes Energéticas Nacionais. Portugal is home to Alto Minho, one of the biggest onshore wind farms in Europe, with 120 turbines and a capacity of 240 megawatts.

4. France- The country is one of Europe’s largest producers of wind energy, although its wind power installations fell by 24 percent in 2013, according to the European Wind Energy Association. France is also at the cutting edge in solar energy production. This year, French company Neoen began constructing a solar energy park near Bordeaux that will have a capacity of 300 megwatts (MW) of energy on completion.

5. Costa Rica– Costa Rica, a small country has performed remarkably well in the ‘eco living’ aspects. They have implemented strict environmental sound policies to ban any kind of sound pollution. Renewable energy sources are used for power generation. The government of Costa Rican have set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. Reforestation is taking place and already over 5 million trees are planted in last five years.

Excerpts for this blog were taken from cnbc.com “Are These the Greenest Countries?”

 

Evolution of CO2 Emissions from 1860s to Present

Ever wondered just how much our carbon dioxide emissions have changed and grown over the years? The World Resources Institute developed an informational video to clearly explain and demonstrate just how much our carbon dioxide emissions have grown since the 1860’s. It explains that the world has a “carbon budget”, which means the amount of carbon that can released before it increases the world’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees F). The carbon budget is based on global temperatures pre-industrialization. Currently, we have used 50% of our carbon budget in a short time frame. It is estimated that if we do not take serious actions to curb our carbon emissions, we will have exceeded our “carbon budget” by 2045. That is well within the average 30 year olds’ life span. And what happens if we exceed this budget? The drought, fires, glaciers melting  we see today will seem like child’s play. These types of events will increase and become more severe.

The U.S. has fallen out of the #1 spot for carbon emissions but this is mainly due to a large increase as China expanded. As we can see from the final numbers in the video, it is a global commitment that needs to take place. A global commitment cannot start without a personal one! So every time we recycle or conserve water or choose to bike instead of drive, it will make a difference toward keeping the world within its budget. We know the maximum capacity of the world and we are fast approaching it. We have the tools developed to switch to a sustainable life and now the important step is one as a community toward conserving the world.

Recycled wood: the truly green key to a sustainable built environment

Waste to Energy Systems‘ sister company, Albany Woodworks, specializes in recycled and reclaimed building materials. Both companies have a green focus and aim to create a renewable, more sustainable world through their respective products and goals. Below is an article discussing how recycled wood can have a huge impact on creating a better environment. 

Recycled Building Materials

An Example of Using Reclaimed Wood in a New Build Home.

“Home building has long been one of the most important industries in the US, with economists viewing statistics concerning new homes as a barometer for the country’s economic performance.

Americans’ affinity for newer and bigger homes, however, comes with a huge environmental cost. The recent foreclosure crisis is just a reminder of all the resources waste on millions of homes that have been abandoned and, yet again, remodelled. One precious resource used for these buildings that often goes unnoticed and is then lost forever is wood.

The remodelling and demolishing of homes in the US results in the equivalent of 250,000 single-family homes being interred in landfills or incinerated each year. Among the dry wall, plastic and concrete that are disposed of is lumber sourced from America’s forests. Within this lumber, there is also wood from older homes. This is especially valuable because it is of higher quality than material used in most new construction projects.

Wood in homes built 50 years ago or earlier was often sourced from first-growth forests. Whether a small, older home being destroyed for a larger, more modern home, or a historic beach-front house being targeted for removal and upgrade bya presidential candidate, these houses are a treasure trove of sturdy wood that builders should reclaim. Entrepreneurs can find lucrative business opportunities as salvaged orrediscovered wood is in high demand.

Current construction and demolition (C&D) techniques, however, are destructive and render most wood completely useless. Too much wood enters the C&D waste stream and then disappears forever. Of the approximate 70m tons of wood sent to landfill annually, the US government estimates 30m tons of it could have been reused.

Currently about 10% to 20% of wood discarded during construction projects is prevented from entering landfills. Pallets, however, account for most of that material, and hence that lower-quality wood is often shredded and used for mulch. But while aluminium, glass, paper and plastic are often culled for recycling from construction sites prior to final disposal, wood is overlooked and is about 17% of the waste that ends up in municipal dumps.

Meanwhile, valuable woods including Douglas fir and redwood, which could be repurposed for several more decades of use, are wasted. Evidence suggests that more tactical demolition practices can actually save and generate money for construction projects from reduced landfill fees and the sale of salvaged wood.

The national trade group for companies tasked with tearing down buildings, theNational Demolition Association, has long claimed its member companies have been “environmentally responsible”. Rhetoric aside, however, the association now cajoles companies to consider the smarter reuse of materials and increased diversion of waste from landfill, both of which can give builders more points if they are building a LEED-certified project.

Smarter demolition can also create good business opportunities for companies that undertake such projects at a lower cost in return for the rights to all recyclable materials. Careful deconstruction of old structures also creates business for local companies that cater to consumers who want their homes to become more eco-friendly.

One company that has found success in recycling wood is Crossroads Recycled Lumber in rural Madera County, California. For 30 years the company’s employees have harvested all kinds of used wood from old homes and buildings. The firm works with contractors to use smarter processes during demolition projects. It also educates homeowners and business owners on how to minimise the use of virgin materials in both new projects and remodels.

The company’s location, which is a stone’s throw from California’s geographic centre, is also a huge bonus. No more than 500 miles from any of California’s largest cities, Crossroads can provide recycled wood for almost any project following LEED certification standards. This allows builders to rack up a few more points, since they can win credits for using local materials. The company’s salvaged wood has emerged in a Whole Foods supermarket, a sporting goods store, and of course, houses.

With the world’s forests still in decline and the cost of energy rising, not only smart building, but smart remodelling and demolition, must become the norm.”

This article was written by Leon Kaye and published on www.theguardian.com

Syn-gas: A versatile and renewable fuel

So you may be asking yourself, what is syn-gas? No it is not a bad pun on a 90’s comedian. It is short for Synthesis Gas (also known as Producer Gas) and it is the end product of a gasification system. It has similar properties to natural gas and the key combustible gasses it contains are hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The beauty of syn-gas is it is very versatile and can be used for a multitude of applications. Lets take a look at a few applications you can use with this renewable fuel.

syngas from gasification

1. Power an internal combustion engine to create electricity: Syn-gas can fuel a modified natural gas or a specialized syn-gas internal combustion engine generator. This creates electricity which can be fed back into the grid or power your business. Another key element to this application is heat capture. Heat can be captured off the generator and/or the gasification system to heat water, dry feedstock or any other heat use a company may have.

2. Processed further to create various fuels: By further processing syn-gas through a method called the Fischer-Tropsch process, syn-gas can be turned into diesel, methane, methanol, and dimethyl ether which all can fuel vehicles.

3. Power a turbine for electricity: If you want a more simplistic application, syn-gas can power a turbine for electricity. The key for a turbine is the gas does not have to be cleaned or cooled. As hot syn-gas expands through the turbine, it spins the rotating blades. The rotating blades perform a dual function: they drive the compressor to draw more pressurized air into the combustion section, and they spin a generator to produce electricity. Heat capture can be added to the system just like an internal combustion system.

4. Power a boiler and/or kiln: In certain circumstances, pre-existing boilers, kilns, dryers and furnaces can be retrofitted to use renewable syngas in place of fossil fuels. Boilers and kilns are often used in everyday industrial applications.

The versatility of syn-gas is one of the reasons Richard Woods, found of Waste to Energy Systems, opted to develop a downdraft gasification system as one of our first products. To learn more about our gasification system, bioHearth®, click here.

How to Teach Children about Sustainability

Teaching children about sustainability is just as important at home as it is as school. Giving your children the proper knowledge and tools to live in the changing world is the best thing possible, and providing a good role model at home and school is most important of all. As they say, “children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate”. At a loss of how to begin teaching your kids about being green and sustainable? The Waste to Energy Systems team has put together a few easy ideas of their own to aid as hands on teaching tools at home or in the classroom.

Sustainable Childrens Garden

(sourced from sustainable-sphere.com)

1. Grow a garden: Growing a garden will help teach children how to be self-sufficient and appreciate where food comes from. Plus, it means they get to play in the dirt which has a whole different set of benefits for the health and overall well being.

2. Volunteer on eco-friendly projects: Volunteering to help plant in a community garden, clean up litter, or maintain the local park will help teach children to appreciate nature and learn that it is important to take action. Not to mention teaching them how to act as part of a team with a common goal to accomplish.

3. Set up a carpool system with other parents: This will teach children not only to help others but to look for ways to be more efficient in their energy usage and prioritizing.

4. Recycle and compost: Explain why recycling and composting help keep unnecessary waste out of landfills not to mention the value of compost for your home or school garden. Set up a fun game where every time they remember to recycle or put food waste in the compost, they get a good mark toward a reward.

Recycling

(sourced from womensday.com)

5. Go to Farmers Markets: If there is no room for a garden at home or at school, then visiting farmers markets is a great alternative (or addition). Farmers markets will teach children to look for local products first before choosing items that have a larger carbon footprint.

Upcycling Home Items

(sourced from babble.com) Old drawer repurposed into a doll house.

6. Repurpose old items: Instead of throwing away that old bike tire, wine bottles or that old lamp, teach your child through a fun group project creative ways to repurpose and reuse rather than shy away from a little elbow grease by throwing it in a landfill. This will help teach children to move away from the disposable mentality and learn to buy items that can have multiple uses.

7. Walk and/or bike places: A better choice for those that live in more urban areas. Group walks or bike rides to the park, to get ice cream or simply for exercise help teach kids to think of alternative ways of transportation and to stay fit!

Should Kids be Taught Sustainability in School?

Sustainability in Education

(sourced from www.celf.org)

The Waste to Energy team believes without a doubt that children should be taught sustainability not only at home but at school. Home and school are the two most important learning environments for children and it seems kids are demanding the change in their education. In a recent article “Youth Call for Climate Education to be Taught in Schools”, it discusses how today’s youth is starting to push back against those who do not wish to teach about climate change and sustainability in school.

From the article “Youth Call for Climate Education to be Taught in Schools”:

To coincide with Earth Day, the New York City Council, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) and Global Kids held a joint press conference this morning on the steps of New York City Hall to push for statewide climate education for K-12 schools in New York. Resolution 0375-2014 calls for climate education to be included in the New York State school curriculum and it currently has 21 of the 26 needed sponsors to pass.

According to a report released on Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change, only about half of Americans (52 percent) think that global warming, if it’s happening, is caused by humans. And, only about one in 10 Americans understands that over 90 percent of climate scientists think human-caused global warming is happening. Campaigns that spread doubt about climate change are winning, but young people see a better path forward: better, early education about climate change.

Today’s youth understand that the key to climate action at scale is an informed public, which is why they’re leading the way by demanding that climate change be taught in their classrooms across the country.

Research shows us that education remains a fundamental ingredient in ensuring citizens are ready for their leaders to take swift action on climate. It was recently demonstrated in another Yale Project on Climate Change report that there is a strong correlation between senators’ acknowledgement of manmade climate change, and the general public opinion of their constituents.

Annie Willis, a high school student currently serving in a yearlong Fellowship with ACE and Global Kids in New York, wants all of her fellow New Yorkers and elected leaders to be educated. She says she knows the realities of a changing climate all too well:

“I am angry that Sandy destroyed my house and that over two years later, we, high school students, are not being properly informed. Students have the right to know about the causes of climate change and the solutions to address it.”

These students in New York are part of a growing national and global movement. Just this Monday in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee announced a new partnership with ACE that will provide climate education to all San Francisco public high school students. Mayor Lee is preparing to host the Annual Conference of Mayors in June, and he’s calling on cities across America to join San Francisco in immediately implementing climate education for all students. Speaking at an ACE Assembly at Raoul Wallenberg High School on Monday afternoon, Lee said:

“San Francisco is the first major city to embrace climate science education for students, and I will be engaging mayors from across the country to join in and equip young people with the knowledge to understand the causes of climate change and the solutions to reverse its effects.”

Meet the Owner of Waste to Energy Systems, LLC

They say “When you change yourself, you change the future.” This is true for Richard Woods, owner and founder of Waste to Energy Systems. His choice to change created a business that would not only improve his family’s future but hopefully, the world’s.

Waste to Energy Systems Owner

Richard Woods owns Albany Woodworks and Waste to Energy Systems.

Richard made this type of decision once before in the name of being green. Over 37 years ago, he started his recycled flooring and building materials business, Albany Woodworks. He was committed to green practices in both his business and personal life. About six years ago, he decided having a successful, eco-friendly flooring company, a home built out of recycled building materials, his own organic garden, and his own composting system was not enough. He was unhappy with the sawdust waste his mill created and wanted to harness the untapped power that the sawdust waste held. He began researching and came across the gasification process. Armed with a good concept and lots of determination, Richard proceeded to build several of his own small scale gasification systems to see if the technology could be successful.

Above is a video of one of the first  downdraft gasification systems built by Richard Woods.

Waste to Energy Owner with Downdraft Gasification System

Richard working on one of the earlier versions of the bioHearth® downdraft gasificiation system.

After several successful builds and interest from his Albany Woodworks customers, he decided to open Waste to Energy systems. His choice to open a business that took on renewable energy issues caused his two daughters to join the ranks of Richard and his wife Judith in the family businesses, making Waste to Energy Systems and Albany Woodworks truly family owned and operated. After 5 years of intense research and development, bioHearth® was born, bringing truth to the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Richard and his Waste to Energy team continue to improve their methods to produce a system that will provide one of the best answers to the renewable energy problem.

What takes place in a gasification reactor?

The concept of converting waste to energy to help us heat and power our daily lives is pretty amazing. If we think back 50 years ago, the environmental movement was barely a blip on the radar. Now being environmentally friendly is not just a trend but an expectation. Technology has come a long way in the past 50 years and thanks to those advances we have systems that can take the wind, the sun or our daily garbage and convert it to electricity, heat, and steam to power the world. So just how does a waste to energy technology like downdraft gasification work? What goes on inside the gasification reactor to turn our banana peels and lawn clippings into a gas (known as syngas) that runs a generator?

Stages of Gasification

(sourced from hlerectors.com) A diagram of the 4 stages of gasification.

As our CEO at Waste to Energy Systems likes to describe it, it is like the oxygen two-step; there are only a few oxygens at the party and everyone wants to dance. This is due to the fact that the partial combustion of the fuel for the gasification process takes place in an oxygen deprived environment. For this discussion, we will use wood chips as our fuel. When the wood chips drop in the reactor, it enters the first stage, the drying stage.The wood chips enter an area of 200 F, where any moisture left in the wood chips is driven off and turned into steam.

After the moisture is successfully removed, it enters the pyrolysis stage. Here the fuel is exposed to higher heat levels and no air is available. The heat and lack of oxygen causes the fuel to begin breaking down. What is left from this stage is charcoal, gas, a sticky substance called tar, and some liquids.

As the newly formed gasses, liquids, and solids continue down the rabbit hole, they end up in the combustion stage, where things really heat up. Air is added back in at this point to create temperatures so high that they burn off any unwanted elements in the fuel stream. We are talking temperatures up to 2200 F! That is equivalent to the heat needed to forge steel.

Downdraft Gasification

An inside view of the Combustion Stage of Gasification

Then its on to the reduction stage, where the oxygen do si do really begins. The combustion stage has broken everything down to the basics and it is a battle between carbon and hydrogen for the oxygen atoms attention. In the end, the oxygen is more interested in the carbon and they become the final dance partners. So, we are left with carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are the main components of syngas (the goal of gasification). Both of these gases are highly combustible and can easily power a generator to create electricity.

Without every stage of the gasification reactor, systems like our bioHearth downdraft gasification unit would not be successful. Gasification is a simple and effective technology that will only become higher in demand as our population grows. It is a great way to create a renewable, alternative energy system!