8 Ways to Make Your Home and Business More Sustainable

Passive house (German: Passivhaus) is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, which reduces the building’s ecological footprint.

Despite many denying the existence of climate change, today more than ever are we aware of its effects. Steady rise of global temperatures; longer, more intense heat waves and droughts; stronger hurricanes; floods; air and water pollution – the list goes on.

We are no longer experiencing gradual climate change; we are in the midst of it. There are changes we can implement to decrease our consumption and environmental impact.

What’s the Cause?

We are! Humans. Well, at least partly. Are we causing climate change or contributing to it? We sometimes get lost in the debate whether climate change is naturally inherent in the fabric of our environment or man-made. It’s scientifically unverifiable nor unfeasible to attribute climate change as a whole to humans, but individual facets can be objectively verified by data.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century, the burning of fossil fuels has been increasing and since the mid-1960s, levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere have been reaching alarming levels.

Main culprits?

In the first place, large fossil fuels companies. Only 20 of them are responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gases emitted. The 5 largest firms paid over $200 million in 2019 to lobbyist groups to influence climate legislation.

Secondly, livestock. Methane, a gas produced from manure and fermentation, has 28 times higher effect on global warming than CO2. We are eating so much meat that it is killing the planet.

Thirdly, we, individually. Everything we do has some effect, even if it´s so minor we can´t imagine it can hurt our environment. Every single person on this plant leaves a carbon footprint which contributes to the total global CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently over 36 billion tonnes per year.

So what can be done?

We, at least individually, may not be able to influence what global companies are doing but we can certainly control the role that we play.

It can start with you and your home or business. There’s even an independent authority that governs sustainable accreditation called LEED Certification.

Here are 8 ways you can make changes to your home to make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Decrease your water consumption

The global average of daily use of freshwater per person is 3800 litres, while an average family wastes around 9400 litres of water just from household leaks and around 40000 litres from waiting for water to heat up!

First and foremost, ensure that there are no leaks in your household.

Second, change your habits. Close the tap when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving. Try spending less time showering and shut off the water when soaping. If you like taking long baths, these are a better option than long showers.

Third, don´t wash your clothes frequently (except underwear). Try piling them and then washing bigger loads.

Lastly, look into ways of reusing water sustainably. Collecting and reusing rainwater is a trend that has been growing in recent years. A residential driveway channel drain is a linear drainage system that collects and conveys rainwater to an outlet or catch basin. The materials are made using green materials like recycled cast iron and fiber reinforced concrete. The water is diverted to a storage tank where it is treated and reused for lawn care and other household tasks. Using eco-friendly building materials, sustainable drainage and reclamation of grey water practices decrease overall water consumption and lower home or business operating costs.

Turn off the lights

Even though many people claim that house lights don´t waste much energy, keeping the lights on in billions of homes is bound to have a significant impact. Just think how many people you know who leave all of the lights on? You might be one of them.

So we all should make it a habit to turn off all of the lights that we don´t need. One switch per individual can go a long way.

Replace your lightbulbs

Energy-efficient lightbulbs are not something new, but for some reason, they’ve taken a long time to become widely used in homes. They use less electricity and therefore reduce carbon emission.

For example, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) consume 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than regular, incandescent lighting. Even though pricier, they pay off in the long run through your electricity bill and longevity.

Unplug

Do you know that even though you´re not using an appliance or your charger is not connected to your phone, if it’s plugged in the wall it still consumes a bit of electricity?

And how many electronic devices do you have in your home that are on standby? All of them combined amount to more than just a little bit of energy consumed each they. So whenever you´re not using an appliance or device unplug it from the socket.

Opt for energy-efficient appliances

If you´re shopping for a new refrigerator or a new washing machine, look for energy-efficient models. Their price might be higher, but just like any energy-efficient investment, they pay off in the long run.

These appliances conserve energy by spending the minimum amount to perform their tasks which is reflected in your electric bill as well. Essential in conserving natural resources and pollution, by investing in energy-efficient appliances you directly contribute to a more sustainable environment.

Install solar panels

Depending on where you live and how much you earn, renewable energy might not be an option for you. But if you live in a country where it is legal to produce your energy from the sun and you can afford a one-time large investment, then we strongly encourage you to do it!

More of an ecological than a financial investment, solar panels provide you with completely clean electrical energy, which you can sell back to the grid depending on how much you produce.

Another option, legal in most countries, is installing solar panels only for heating water.

Invest in good insulation

Having high-quality insulation means that most of the heat you produce stays inside your home, so you´re not wasting energy reheating all the time.

Aside from regular insulation within your walls and in your roof, you should consider double glazing all your windows and covering your hardwood floors with area rugs. This is a stylish and cost-effective method of preventing the air from slipping through floor cracks. 

Introduce smart heating

During cold months, we use most of the energy heating our homes. However, more often than not we are overheating, leaving the heating on longer than needed.

You can prevent this by installing a smart meter that can be programmed to heat your home only when you need it, like just before you get home or before you wake up. You are reducing your carbon footprint and saving money at the same time.

By implementing these 8 methods we can have a net positive environmental effect and decrease home and business-related costs. Individual efforts are cumulative in impact and increase in efficacy collectively.

Comments

comments

LanzaJet launches to make renewable jet fuel a reality

Over a fifteen year stretch, LanzaTech has developed technologies that can turn carbon emissions into ethanol that can be used for chemicals and fuel. Today, the company announced the spinout of LanzaJet alongside its corporate partners Mitsui, Suncor, and All Nippon Airways, to bring sustainable aviation fuel to the commercial market.

The new company has launched with commitments from the Japanese trading and investment company, Mitsui Co. and Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy to invest $85 million to back the first pilot and development scale facilities that LanzaJet will be constructing.

The first tranche of money, a $25 million commitment from Suncor and Mitsui will be used to build a demonstration plant that will produce 10 million gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel starting from sustainable ethanol sources.

For LanzaTech chief executive, Jennifer Holmgren, the launch of LanzaJet is the next step in the process of bringing her company’s technology, which promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change by creating a more circular carbon economy, to market.

LanzaTech bills itself as a leader in gas fermentation, a process that takes industrial gases and makes sustainable fuels and chemicals from industrial off-gases; syngas generated from any biomass resources like municipal solid waste, organic industrial waste, agricultural waste; and reformed biogas. Through synthetic biology and industrial processing, the company says it can make over 100 different chemicals.

With the LanzaJet spinoff, the focus is squarely on sustainable jet fuels.

“We finished the investment side and the off-take agreements and that’s all committed,” said Holmgren. “Now we’re working on getting the feedstock… We’re making sure that we can source low-carbon intensity ethanol.”

Those suppliers of second generation cellulosic ethanol needs to meet the right carbon footprint criteria and LanzaJet is working with the relevant renewable energy standards organization to make sure that the ethanol its using has the right pedigree.

A history of innovation in second generation biofuels

Of course, some of that feedstock could come from LanzaTech itself. The Chicago-based company has been developing processes to capture emissions from power plants and other sources and convert those emissions into ethanol by injecting them into microbe-filled vats. The microbes convert the gas into ethanol which can then be used as fuel or feedstock for chemical manufacturing.

Once LanzaJet identifies its feedstock supplier, the company expects to begin working on building the demonstration facility, which should be completed by 2022, when production will begin on the first line.

In addition to its corporate partners, LanzaJet received a $14 million grant from the Department of Energy to work on the development of cellulosic ethanol manufacturing processes and the development of a biorefinery at the company’s site in Soperton, Ga.

Indeed, the whole story of LanzaTech’s fifteen year journey is woven with public private partnerships that were conducted alongside government research agencies. The conversion technology at the heart of LanzaJet’s process was the result of years of collaborative research between LanzaTech and the U.S Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

It was the PNNL that developed the catalytic process to upgrade ethanol to alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) that LanzaTech took from the laboratory to pilot scale.

Vintage illustration of couples walking inside chemistry beakers in front of a chemical processing plant, 1952. Screen print. (Illustration by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)

 

Investors with benefits

For Suncor and ANA, the development of sustainable alternatives is a strategic necessity. The International Air Transport Association has committed to cut emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005 levels and to achieve carbon-neutral growth by the end of this year.

While national lockdowns imposed earlier this year to combat the spread of COVID-19 reduced travel and dramatically cut into the emissions causing global climate change, the aviation industry will have to shift its sources of fuel consumption and invest heavily in carbon offsets if it wants to achieve its stated goals.

“ANA is thrilled to work alongside LanzaTech, Mitsui and Suncor on this new venture,” said Akihiko Miura, Executive Vice President of ANA, in a statement. “We believe that this partnership is a great step forward for carbon-neutral growth initiatives. ANA is happy to share in this innovative endeavor and to be a part of a carbon-free future in the aviation industry.”

For its part, Suncor, a Canadian oil and gas company with significant operations in that country’s controversial oil sands region, looks at LanzaTech’s LanzaJet technology as another way to diversify beyond the traditional oil and gas business.

The company has already begun installing charging stations for electric vehicles across its network of filling stations that span the breadth of Canada. With LanzaJet’s fuel, the company can add sustainable jet fuels to its services for customers at airports in Calgary, Denver, Colo., Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto.

Its diversification comes at a time when even Suncor’s chief executive is acknowledging the transition to a different energy mix.

“While Canadian oil and gas will remain a significant part of the global energy mix for some time, we have to take advantage of new opportunities that offer attractive growth prospects,” Suncor CEO Mark Little wrote in an opinion article for Canada’s Corporate Knights magazine, Reuters reported. “The temporary economic lockdown triggered by the 2020 pandemic is giving us a glimpse into a not-too-distant future where the transformation of our energy system could disrupt demand on a similar scale.”

The company’s work with LanzaTech can also help move it toward the commitments it has made to hit emissions reductions targets associated with the Paris Accord’s two degrees celsius goals.

“We’re taking a view towards how do we think the energy transition is going to progress,” said Suncor’s vice president of strategy and corporate development, Andrea Ducore. For the company, bio-based, low-carbon fuels is one solution, Ducore said. “As the owner of Petro-Canada gas stations across Canada, we’re asking ourselves what do our customers want today and what do they want ten years from now.”

Photo: Getty Images/ipopba/iStock

Taking Flight

Leading the charge as LanzaJet rockets into the sustainable aviation fuel industry is Jimmy Samartzis, a former United Airlines executive and current boardmember at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

With experience in both technology and aviation — including a stint with the International Air Transport Association — Samartzis is well positioned to make the new company’s pitch to potential consumers.

Samartzis and Holmgren, LanzaTech’s founder, initially met when she was working at Universal Oil Products (now a subsidiary of Honeywell). Eventually the two collaborated when LanzaTech began marketing its sustainable jet fuel to companies in the industry for pilot flights nearly a decade ago.

“When we did all of that, he was one of the people at United that was involved in sustainable aviation fuel,” Holmgren recalled.

As LanzaTech searched for an executive who could take the reins at its new jet fuel initiative, Samartzis was one of the first calls that the young company made, Holmgren said.

“The launch of LanzaJet marks an historic milestone in the clean energy transition that is underway globally. I’ve been part of many renewable energy and sustainability firsts over the last decade, and this one is the most exciting,” said Samartzis, in a statement. “The commercialization of LanzaJet – built on the shoulders of LanzaTech, Suncor, Mitsui, ANA and with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy – gives our world, and aviation in particular, an important solution in shaping a cleaner future.”

While Holmgren thinks LanzaTech could be one of the main suppliers for the feedstock that LanzaJet needs to operate, she said the goal in spinning out the company was to ensure that there was broad-based demand for ethanol coming from multiple potential vendors.

One of the reasons we created LanzaJet and decoupled them from LanzaTech was because it will incentivize others to produce the right low-carbon ethanol feedstock,” said Holmgren. “If you want a low-carbon future it cannot be about LanzaTech and LanzaJet. We thought lifting that limitation was the right thing to do.”

Eventually, those fuel sources could include things like ethanol from direct air capture of carbon dioxide and other emissions that cause climate change.

“LanzaJet as an entity can drive that to incentivize producer to drive to the lowest carbon intensity ethanol to provide feedstock for aviation fuels,” said Holmgren. 

Through a new partnership and $72 million in funding, LanzaTech expands its carbon capture tech

Eco-friendly electrochemical catalysts using solar cells to harvest energy from the sun

Green energy sources constitute a hot research field globally because of the current environmental crisis and the necessity to avoid non-renewable energy (fossil fuels). Researchers have been seeking ways to harness and harvest solar energy for decades, and photovoltaic devices, which convert light into electricity, are in high demand.

The study of these devices has progressed much since their interest last sparked in the 1970s after the economic shocks caused by oil prices. While most advances where made for silicon-based solar cells, scientists have demonstrated that organic photovoltaic devices can also achieve acceptable performance. Using organic materials is advantageous because they are printable and paintable as environmentally friendly processes unlike silicon processes. Organic materials also come in great variety, making it possible to tailor them for each specific application.

Organic photovoltaic solar cells consist of an “active layer” sandwiched between two different electrodes (a transparent front electrode and a back electrode). The active layer is where the magic starts; the energy from the photons of the incident light is transferred to the electrons of the material through collisions, exciting them and setting them into motion, leaving behind positively charged pseudo-particles known as “holes.” These do not technically exist, but can be used to approximately describe the electrical behavior of the material. The importance of the electrodes lies in that each one must collect one type of these charged particles (one gathers holes, and the other electrons) to prevent them from recombining in the active layer. The electrons flow through an external circuit that is connected to both electrodes, creating electricity from light.

However, it is challenging to collect large numbers of electrons and holes at the electrodes and convert light into electricity with high efficiency. Some researchers have proposed that it would be beneficial to directly use the generated holes or electrons in chemical reactions near the active layer. Thus motivated, a research team including Dr. Keiji Nagai from Tokyo Tech and Kanazawa University proposed a simple fabrication procedure for an organic photoelectrochemical device that can harvest solar energy to promote a chemical oxidation reaction.

Their approach starts with a conventional organic photovoltaic device, which can be easily fabricated and whose characteristics are well known, and mechanically removing the back electrode where holes are collected. The exposed active layer is coated with ZnPc and submerged in thiol. The holes generated by the incident light are directly used for thiol oxidation, which is catalyzed (facilitated) by the ZnPc layer. The excited electrons flow out through the remaining front electrode, generating an electric current.

The simplicity and advantages of the fabrication approach and the measured efficiency when harvesting light energy are very promising. “The removal of the back electrode is a promising and repeatable technique for constructing a well-characterized photoelectrochemical cell,” explains Dr. Nagai. The researchers also studied the topographic and electrochemical properties of the active layer coated with ZnPc to elucidate the principles of its catalytic activity. “The effects of the ZnPc coating were clearly observed in our analyses and consist of the effective accumulation of photogenerated holes,” states Dr. Takahashi of Kanazawa University. Environmentally friendly devices such as the proposed one provide more ways to harvest energy from the sun and get us closer to a greener future.

Renewable energy consumption exceeds coal for first time in 130 years

U.S. energy consumption from renewable sources was greater than coal consumption in 2019, marking the first time that has happened since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

This consumption shift can be attributed to the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade and the growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. Between 2018 and 2019, coal consumption fell by nearly 15%, while total renewable energy consumption rose 1%.

Wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States until the first hydropower plants started to produce electricity in the 1880s. Coal was used in the early 1800s as fuel for steam-powered boats and trains and making steel and was used to generate electricity in the 1880s. EIA’s earliest energy estimates began in 1635.

The EIA converts energy sources to common units of heat, referred to as British thermal units, to compare different types of energy that are reported in various physical units, such as barrels, cubic feet, tons and kilowatt-hours. The EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate electricity consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal.

In 2019, U.S. coal consumption fell for the sixth consecutive year to 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units, and this was the lowest level since 1964. Electricity generation from coal has fallen over the past decade, and in 2019, fell to its lowest level in 42 years. Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector has risen in recent years and displaced much of the electricity generation from retired coal plants.

Total renewable energy consumption in the United States rose for the fourth consecutive year to a record high of 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units in 2019. Since 2015, the rise in renewable energy can be attributed to the use of wind and solar in the electric power sector. In 2019, electricity generation from wind surpassed hydro for the first time and has become the most-used source of renewable energy for electricity generation in the United States.

Coal is mostly used to generate electricity but had been commonly used in the industrial, transportation, residential and commercial sectors. About 90% of U.S. coal consumption can be attributed to the electric power sector and nearly all of the rest is in the industrial sector.

Renewable energy is consumed in every sector of the United States. About 56% of commercially delivered renewable energy is used in the electric power sector, mostly from wind and hydroelectric power, but the energy is also consumed in the industrial (22%), transportation (12%), residential (7%) and commercial (2%) sectors.

Biomass, which includes wood, biogenic waste and biofuels, is consumed in every sector. Wood and the losses and co-products from the production of biofuels are the main renewable sources used in the industrial sector. Biofuels, including ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel, are used in the transportation sector. Wood, waste, solar and geothermal account for the most common sources used in the residential and commercial sectors.

COVID-19: Putting Sustainability in the Spotlight

  • The printing market has faced an uphill battle in creating an eco-friendly image as many people still associate it with deforestation and pollution.
  • By embracing wind and solar power, printing businesses can position themselves as cleaner companies that are reducing the power of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
  • To achieve a pure image of eco-friendliness, print service providers must be prepared to do their due diligence and only buy from suppliers that share their commitment to sustainable business practices.

By Colin McMahon

Introduction

Sustainability and the promotion of eco-friendly practices have been a priority within the printing industry for years. If the available data is any indication, the focus on the environment is stronger than ever. According to the Printing United Alliance, the recycling rate has doubled in the past 25 years. Furthermore, paper and pulp mills in the US now report generating roughly 66% of their own energy using renewable fuel such as biomass. These findings are encouraging—the printing market has faced an uphill battle in creating an eco-friendly image as many people still associate it with deforestation and pollution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily pushed the topic of climate change out of most headlines, but this will not remain the case forever. In addition, some research has already been published—and more will likely emerge—linking climate change to COVID-19. Although no one is saying that climate change directly caused the pandemic, some have suggested that certain practices likely increased the severity of the virus. Should these claims prove accurate, it will be more important than ever for the printing industry to present an eco-friendly face to clients and consumers. According to the FESPA Print Census, most businesses are taking actions to make their operations more environmentally friendly. The most common practices include using energy-efficient/certified equipment and providing training on the benefits of sustainable products.

FESPA Data on Sustainability Priorities

Source: 2018 FESPA Print Census

The Link between COVID-19 Severity and Air Quality

Air pollution is dangerous on its own, contributing to an estimated 7 million deaths on a global basis each year. This is particularly the case in cities with high levels of pollution and smog output. As if this was not enough, a recent study has shown a link between air pollution levels and the severity of COVID-19 cases. PM2.5 is a fine particulate matter pollutant that is typically generated from cars, power plants, fires, and dust storms. The presence of PM2.5 can damage lung tissue on its own, but a small increase in the amount of this substance noticeably increased the severity of coronavirus symptoms. For example, this study suggests that the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City is related to its high levels of PM2.5.

Printing firms that are hoping to reduce their contributions to PM2.5 levels can take a variety of measures. Although traditional power sources generate higher levels of PM2.5, solar and wind powers generate much less. The use of these new power solutions is increasing during COVID-19, and will likely play a greater role in energy production in the future. By embracing these technologies now, printing businesses can position themselves as cleaner companies that contribute less to the PM2.5 air problem, thereby reducing the power of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Ink Diversity Means Less Toxic Waste

The printing industry can also reduce its carbon footprint with increased use of eco-friendly inks. Many older inks are petroleum-based and release dangerous compounds during the printing process. Additionally, these inks are tied to oil—a frequently damaging power supply that is notoriously harvested through practices like drilling and fracking. Newer ink technologies such as aqueous inks, soy-based inks, and vegetable-based inks do not produce these dangerous compounds. On top of that, these inks tend to be easier to clean and recycle after use. While it is true that not every printer on the market supports these new ink types, but most new machines do. Many of these eco-friendly inks are even cheaper to purchase than petroleum or oil-based inks, reducing operating costs after a compatible machine has been purchased.

Quick Facts about Soybean Production

Source: North Carolina Soybeans

The Power of Responsible Sourcing

Nature is a complex ecosystem, and the printing industry is as well. Everything is connected, so one aspect will always impact others. Printing companies might claim to be eco-friendly, but even the best reputation can be damaged if a firm does not adhere to responsible sourcing habits. Sourcing involves the supply chain, so the suppliers that printing companies buy from must be able to withstand scrutiny.  Not all suppliers are equal when it comes to the environment. For instance, let’s imagine a company that uses all the eco-friendly inks in the world. This is a great start, but if that firm never buys from a supplier that uses recycled paper, how sustainable is it really?

It must also be remembered that recycled paper is just the tip of the eco-friendly iceberg. Suppliers often treat their materials with procedures like bleaching and coating. Although these practices can be done with sustainability in mind, they can also be performed irresponsibly. To achieve a pure image of eco-friendliness, print service providers must be prepared to do their due diligence and only buy from suppliers that share their commitment to sustainable business practices.

Another Advantage for Digital Printing

Although digital printing might still play a minority role in overall print production, its involvement is increasing—thanks in no small part to its ability to print more while producing less waste. Traditional production printing processes often generated quite a bit of unused materials. What’s more, mostly everything that was not sold by the retail partner ended up in landfills. Digital technology empowers printing on demand, eliminating warehouse waste and enabling customers to produce only what they need.

Because digital printing is designed to deal with shorter run lengths, it allows print companies to at least somewhat distance themselves from old supply chain constraints such as large-scale material orders. The new supply chain is shaping up to be smaller and more versatile, which hopefully translates to a positive environmental impact.

The Bottom Line

Climate change is an ongoing concern, and it’s not going to get better without real, sustained action. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to show just how fragile the world and its societies can be in the face of a natural threat. The businesses that enjoy the most success during and after COVID-19 will likely be the ones that project themselves as environmentally responsible. More than ever, today’s consumers care about where their goods come from—and what they can do to become a sustainable part of the chain. With studies linking the severity of COVID-19 to pollution and likely more to come, savvy print businesses will focus their efforts on becoming as green as possible.

At the same time, however, these measures must go beyond the surface. Thanks to the Internet, people have the ability—and the time—to conduct research on the companies that they plan to buy from. As a result, investing in sustainable practices is not enough; print service providers must promote their efforts. It’s important to be transparent and demonstrate all efforts that have been made in the name of sustainability. For the printing industry, the future is green!

Colin McMahon is a Research Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends. He primarily supports the Business Development Strategies and Customer Communications services. In this role, he creates and refines much of InfoTrends’ written content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. He also assists with the editing and formatting processes for many types of deliverables.

Ways to Make Your Business More Environmentally Friendly

Many people have embraced the benefits of living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, so it’s only normal to want to make these changes to your business as well. Turning your business into one that is more environmentally friendly can meet the expectations of your buyers and build your relationships with them. Having a “green” business can also increase your reputation because it shows your community that you are trying to make a difference in the world. You can even try making suggestions to lawyers to enact more environmentally friendly laws to help find some solutions to current environmental concerns.

Convert to Solar Energy 

Solar energy is a great way to save money for your business while helping the environment, and if you install solar energy, you may be eligible to receive the Federal Investment Tax Credit. Another big plus to having solar energy is that it requires very little to almost no maintenance at all because there are no moving parts. If you think converting to solar energy is not something you’re able to afford for your business at the moment, you can consider flexible payment options such as solar loans and leases, so you do not have to pay the whole price of it upfront. 

Use Eco-Friendly Chemicals 

There are many simple steps you can take to become more environmentally friendly in your workplace. One way is to start using eco-friendly chemicals. Using harsh chemicals around your business does not come without any risks. Chemicals are bad to breathe in and can cause irritation to skin and/or eyes. With eco-friendly products, you do not need to take any extra steps to protect yourself when using them because they’re safe to use. Some of the best eco-friendly products to use for cleaning include borax, washing soda, lemon juice, and white vinegar. 

Work with Someone Experienced in Environmental Law 

Another way to steer your business in the direction of becoming more environmentally friendly is to work with a lawyer who has this type of experience, such as Cory Briggs startup lawyer. A lawyer experienced with environmental law knows the ins and outs of using clean technology and primarily focuses on environmental rights. They are great advocates that can help you make the right changes to your business. 

Get an Energy Audit 

If you want to start using less energy to run your business, you can consider getting an energy audit. This will give you a clear idea if your business is as energy efficient as you’d like it to be. It can also help you understand if you have any areas of the business that are using more energy than necessary, which can be an indication of an underlying problem. An energy audit can help you save money in the long run, so it’s definitely something any business owner should get.

Make the Change to Cloud Computing 

Cloud computing is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to becoming a more eco-friendly business. Switching to working as remotely as possible can drastically slash your energy use while saving you a significant amount of money in the long run. If you can run your business mostly from the web, you do not need to spend a fortune operating on-site equipment. You also eliminate the requirement to commute to work, which is also another thing that benefits the environment. 

As a business owner, you can choose small ways to start taking steps in the right direction to becoming more eco-friendly. Changes such as eliminating plastic bags and using paper or reusable ones instead can make a big difference. You can also swap out all the lightbulbs with CFL bulbs, which last five times longer than traditional bulbs. Any changes you make, big or small, can still make a difference. 

Landfills emerge as promising battery storage sites to back up renewable energy

Solar panel installations have been one of the fastest-growing types of energy infrastructure in recent years and landfills have become fitting sites due to the sheer amount of land required. Now, for many of the same reasons, energy project developers are looking to landfills for a technology growing even faster than solar: battery storage.

Storage on landfills is still a novel idea, with closed sites seen as largely the most suitable, and only a few examples of these projects exist. But solar on landfills was in a similar position just a few years ago, Tim Ryan, director at New York-based developer BQ Energy, told Waste Dive. BQ Energy focuses specifically on brownfield sites and has built over a dozen solar or wind projects since 2012, but only recently began construction on its first storage venture. Solar on landfills “may seem routine now, but it wasn’t when we started,” Ryan said.

States like California, New York and Massachusetts have embraced aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions, requiring a quick transition to renewable energy as the primary source of electricity over the next several decades. That shift will require storage, such as large lithium-ion batteries, to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. Batteries can charge up from solar panels when the sun is shining, and then dispatch that energy at other times – at night or on cloudy days – when the panels are not producing energy.

New energy storage capacity in the U.S. grew from 311 megawatts (MW) deployed in 2018 to 523 MW deployed in 2020, compared to utility-scale solar that grew from around 6,000 MW added in 2018 to around 8,000 MW in 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie. The research firm expects storage deployments to be 14 times larger by 2025, exponentially more than the growth rate for utility-scale solar.

Acres of potential

The states moving the fastest towards more renewable energy backed by storage are also those where land development is relatively difficult, due to factors like population density and environmental restrictions. The answer, according to Strategic Management Group CEO Kelly Sarber, is to tap the large footprint of landfills.

Sarber, a veteran developer of numerous waste-related sites, said she currently has seven projects in various stages of development to build battery storage at landfills and wastewater treatment facilities. Under this model, the landfill owner receives a lease payment with some profit share for providing a 2-10 acre site to locate the energy storage project with access to the grid.

While she is bound by non-disclosure agreements regarding the specific identity of her partners, Sarber said some projects are in California and New York. The interest has been mostly word of mouth so far, driven not only by state-level policies that create a market for storage capacity, but also by clean energy goals at the municipal level. Battery storage lets those cities take credit for more clean energy that offsets their emissions, and also can cut the costs of operating landfills that serve those cities, or turn a closed landfill from a liability to an asset.

“Typically there is just empty space at these facilities that are not being used,” Sarber said in an interview.

She is also targeting sites that use landfill gas to generate electricity. The batteries can use the interconnection to the electric grid, freeing up the gas to be used for other purposes like being sold as vehicle fuel. “So there is the opportunity to create two revenue streams instead of just one,” Sarber said.

Despite this potential, there are only a few examples of storage projects located on landfills to date. “It is still a nascent technology. Waste companies operate in a different silo from energy storage,” Sarber said.

Landfill development also has its own set of challenges with various permitting and regulatory costs and those can be heightened when a technology is not fully familiar or established. For solar projects, the costs have been partially defrayed by tax credits and other incentives, according to Jesse Grossman, CEO of renewable energy project developer Soltage. Some states, like Massachusetts, offer specific assistance to solar developers who want to redevelop brownfield sites.

“As for storage on landfills, we haven’t seen specific incentives in place for these types of projects yet. One reason there may not be incentives in place for storage on landfills is that landfills are usually in rural areas with low power demand and batteries are most useful near city centers to mitigate congestion and provide backup power to high power demand areas,” said Grossman.

But some projects have emerged in the past several years, coinciding with certain states implementing the first regulatory storage incentives in the United States.

BQ Energy’s first solar plus storage project is aiming for commercial operation in New York later this year. Located in Westchester County, on the town of Mount Kisco’s closed landfill, the project will consist of solar power at nearly 1 MW of capacity, backed up by a 2-megawatt-hour battery storage system.

The biggest reason BQ Energy has not pursued storage until now is the cost of lithium-ion batteries, “Many of us recognized that energy storage is going to be a part of renewable energy in the future,” said BQ Energy Managing Director Paul Curran. “But it was too expensive.”

That is beginning to change as lithium-ion battery prices have fallen rapidly – Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently estimated prices fell 50% over the past three years and 87% from 2010 to 2019.

Around the same time, New York regulators implemented the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) tariff, which gives payments to distributed energy sources like solar and battery storage based on the services they provide for the electric grid. VDER created a market incentive to drive BQ Energy to go beyond just a solar project. Because the location was in a “weak spot in the grid” where the local utility needed to improve reliability, the tariff paid extra for a project that addresses that reliability concern, Curran said.

The Mount Kisco development is “our first project” and “it won’t be the last,” according to Curran. BQ Energy plans to use the batteries to study the nuances of storage so the company has more confidence to build bigger storage projects in the future. 

The project is also receiving a grant to cover part of its capital costs from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The organization “agrees that brownfields can be attractive sites for solar energy and also energy storage to repurpose these otherwise underutilized sites, especially when these systems are located in close proximity to electric utility distribution system,” a NYSERDA spokesman said in an email. “NYSERDA will continue to monitor opportunities to develop energy storage systems on landfills as the market matures.”

Future growth

Massachusetts-based renewable energy developer Kearsarge Energy has completed dozens of solar projects, but at the beginning of this year, its first solar-plus-storage project came online at a closed landfill in Amesbury, Massachusetts. The developer made this foray due to incentives launched by the state, under which storage installations are treated as an “adder” that increases the rate at which the solar panels are compensated for the electricity they supply to the grid.

“The storage would not have happened without that adder,” said Kearsarge Managing Partner Andrew Bernstein.  The business case for solar-plus-storage sited on landfills is not that different than it is for solar by itself sited on landfills, according to Bernstein. 

In both cases, there is “virtually nothing else that you can build on the land,” and so a renewable energy project creates an income stream for the site owner from space that would otherwise be dormant. The project provides credits to the city of Amesbury that reduces its energy bills and the electricity generated by the solar panels is also sold into the New England grid.

But the storage component adds yet another revenue stream to the project, while taking up relatively little additional space. Battery storage allows the project to provide services for the grid that wholesale electricity markets need and will pay for beyond the value of the electricity itself. These include tapping the batteries to regulate the frequency of the grid so power lines are not overloaded, and “peak shaving” – discharging the batteries at times of high electricity demand, like the hottest summer days. The merchant income from these services “is just gravy on top” of what the project would otherwise be making from the solar alone, Bernstein said.

Another recently completed solar and storage project was built by Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG), the largest utility in New Jersey, on a former landfill owned by the borough of Highland Park. The project, consisting of 1,764 solar panels, uses 2,000- Tesla batteries to reduce voltage fluctuations that can occur for utility-scale solar projects.

“Developing this solar storage project on a closed landfill allowed us to take space that was otherwise unusable and return it to a productive role,” said PSEG spokesperson Fran Sullivan.

More storage projects, including those on landfills, are possible for PSEG as New Jersey moves toward new requirements for energy storage. Gov. Phil Murphy has put an emphasis on climate issues in his administration, including a January announcement that the state will aim for 100% clean energy by 2050. One of the steps toward that target is the goal of 600 MW of energy storage by 2021 and 2,000 MW by 2030.

PSEG had been planning for the need to reduce emissions. In 2018 it announced a “Clean Energy Future” plan for $4.2 billion in investments in various clean energy technologies, including $109 million in energy storage. As part of that plan, the utility has submitted a storage proposal to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

If that proposal is approved, Sullivan said, “there would be a component of our efforts that involve solar storage and, under the right circumstances, it is possible we could use more landfills or brownfields for these projects.”

How to Effectively Implement Eco-friendly Strategy to Your Office

 

Climate change is a real problem in the modern world. For this reason, everyone should be responsible and practice eco-friendly behavior in their lives. This means your office as well. If you own a business, it is important to show an example to your employees. Then, your employees may implement the same eco-friendly strategies at their own homes, thus fighting together against climate change. Without further ado, here are all the eco-friendly strategies for your office. 

Reduce the Use of Paper in Your Office

Deforestation is one of the main reasons for climate change and paper is made out of wood. Since you can do everything and anything online, why waste paper on printing only to throw it away after some time? You can run your entire business online without using too much paper. For example, pick suitable intranet systems for your business. You can share digital copies of training materials, handbooks, weekly schedules, and all the other necessary documents on the platform. In addition to this, it is wise to use social media for your marketing. Most people spend more time on social media rather than watching a TV or reading newspapers. Rather than printing your promotional poster, make a digital one, and share it on social media. Apart from this, you can use applications for running your business, instead of relying on hundreds of pieces of paper. 

Cut Your Electricity Bill

This might seem like a contradictive from the first entry on the list. However, you will save time and be eco-friendly if you cut your electric use. For example, turn on the heater or the AC when you enter your office and turn it off when you finish your work. Do not leave it overnight since it is pointless to waste energy and electricity when your office is unoccupied. Then, you should use energy-efficient bulbs as it was proven it can save thousands and thousands of dollars annually. There is more than just replacing light bulbs. First, use smart power strips that turn off computers when they are not used. Next, you should use energy-friendly items, such as printer’s eco-mode, energy-saving refrigerators, phones, gadgets, etc. Solar power is also a great solution. However, do not forget to educate your employees on how to save energy. 

Encourage Healthy Lifestyle

You cannot escape stress in your everyday life. As you might know, stress is one of the main causes of countless diseases, including cancer. For this reason, it is extremely important to promote and encourage a healthy lifestyle. These would include the following.

  • Riding bikes vs. driving a car – it would be better to ride a bike to work than to drive a car. First of all, you and your employees should lead an active life. This means exercising regularly. Since many people don’t have will or time to hit the gym, riding a bike is a great alternative.
  • Free transportation passes – since biking might not be available for everyone, then reduce carbon emission by offering free transportation passes to your employees.
  • Healthy diet – instead of ordering fast food, provide healthy snacks, offer healthy meals at your cafeteria if you have one. 

Go Green in Your Office

By going green, it really means, you should go green. Put plants everywhere you can. There have been countless studies that show all the benefits of plants. First of all, you should put huge plants to clean the air. Your employees will have more energy and work harder if they breathe clean air. Some of the plants that are best air purifiers are Dwarf Date Palm, Boston Fern, Weeping Fig, Devil’s Ivy, Philodendron, and many more. Not only will plants purify the air, reduce radiation and noise level, but they will also beautify your office space. When you have clients over, they will feel more comfortable in a room full of greenery as opposed to a sterile office. In addition to this, you should turn your roof into a beautiful garden. It would be like having a small oasis in the middle of an urban desert. 

The last eco-strategies for your office

This is not the end. There are a few more eco-strategies for your office.

  • Recycling posters and educational material – even though you should reduce the use of paper, sometimes you need it. Clearly label recycling bins by printing the stickers. Make posters that promote recycling. In addition to this, place bins in some convenient places, such as near copier and in the break room. 
  • Avoid single-use items – instead of using plastic cups and plates, stock your break room with real dishware. Your employees can bring their own favorite cups. 
  • Paint your roof white – it might sound strange but is very effective when you want to save money by reducing your energy bill. 

As you can see, these would be all the important eco-strategies that you can implement and promote in your office. 

Philadelphia renewable energy plant could get green light following mediation

Anaerobic digestion (AD) as a conversion technology for discarded organic materials appears poised to retain its momentum in attracting investments in the waste and recycling sector.

The Ottawa-based Canadian Biogas Association (CBA) is tracking AD and other biogas installations north of the border and also has produced an AD Guideline document for existing and prospective AD plant operators.

Atlanta-based HRS Heat Exchangers, meanwhile, foresees downstream pasteurization technology as a likely pocket of AD-related investment in the agribusiness sector in particular.

A north star

An industry snapshot compiled by the CBA shows Canadian companies and municipalities have invested significantly in biogas projects during the 21st century.

The organization has identified more than 60 operating food and agricultural residue AD facilities and 86 wastewater treatment plants that produce biogas. Canada also has some 53 sites converting landfill gas into a usable energy product.

“AD has seen incremental growth in Canada over the last 10 years in the agricultural and commercial space,” says Jennifer Green of the CBA. She says municipalities have been using AD in the wastewater space “for decades,” and this sector is “now contemplating opportunities for co-digestion.”

An announcement about a new AD investment in Canada was made in February, when Montreal-based Xebec Adsorption Inc. and Bähler Biogas Inc., also based in Canada, completed an agreement to develop a facility to process “various organic wastes for the production of renewable natural gas (RNG) and biofertilizer.”

The Québec, Canada, facility will be designed to process more than 45,000 metric tons of organic waste per year through an AD process. The two-stage process will produce biogas that can be upgraded into renewable natural gas (RNG), according to the two companies.

Xebec says it will supply the “turnkey biogas upgrading equipment package” for the facility that will be able to produce more than 150,000 gigajoules of RNG and 7,500 metric tons of biofertilizer annually. The plant is expected to be commissioned in early 2021.

The $19.3 million plant will sell its RNG under a 20-year off-take agreement and the biofertilizer produced will be sold and distributed to farmers through an undisclosed biosolids management partner.

“Renewable natural gas presents a unique opportunity to both divert organic waste from landfills and produce a valuable source of clean energy to displace fossil natural gas and create a biofertilizer for farmers,” says Kurt Sorschak, president and CEO of Xebec. “Xebec plans to be a valuable technology provider and financial partner in the waste-to-RNG space in Canada,” he adds.

Beyond tracking AD and biogas installations, the CBA issued its AD Guideline document in 2019, available directly from the organization.

Welcomed guidance

“The AD Guideline was developed by industry for industry to assist stakeholders in the deployment of AD facilities in a manner that improves outcomes and ensures environmental sustainability,” says Green.

She says the CBA’s more than 130 members “span the entire value chain of the sector and are made up of: biogas/RNG owners and operators—comprised of farmers, municipalities and private sector [operators]; biogas/RNG technology developers and product suppliers; utilities; waste management companies, consultants and regional representatives.”

Input was received from all these sectors, says Green, to produce a document “intended to be used by developers, operators, government entities and any organization or individual with an interest in—or a role to play in—developing, siting or operating AD facilities.”

Green says the CBA had several objectives as it set out to produce the AD Guideline document, including to:

  • create a clear outline of best practices for biogas projects;
  • assist developers and stakeholders with the regulatory process and remove barriers to support growth in the green economy;
  • inform proponents to minimize or prevent the exposure of any person, property, plant or animal life to adverse effects associated with the operation of food and organic waste AD facilities, and
  • provide a reference document for the design, approval and operation of safe and efficient AD facilities.

In order to address those ambitious goals, Green says the CBA had to focus on several aspects of AD planning and operations, including: legislation, permit approvals and standards; planning and siting considerations; site design and operation considerations; commissioning and starting up an AD facility; operating an AD facility; odor prevention, control and treatment; contingency planning, safety and “spill” response; communication; and monitoring, sampling and documentation.

The CBA’s AD Guideline “does not provide any technology recommendations,” says Green, but around the world, technology providers continue to develop equipment and techniques they think will move AD forward as a waste conversion option.

A European import with potential

The production of both biogas and fertilizers via the AD process entails the need for plant operators to meet considerable industry quality standards and government health and safety regulations.

Atlanta-based HRS Heat Exchangers, part of the United Kingdom-based HRS Group, says a downstream pasteurization process can help make sure AD plant operators stay well within such quality and safety parameters for the solid byproducts created.

“In Europe, pasteurization is commonly used as part of the AD process to allow digestate produced from foodstuffs or animal byproducts to be used or sold as a fertilizer and soil improver,” HRS writes in a white paper issued in December 2019.

Pasteurization also can be used up front in some AD situations, according to HRS, which writes, “Some farm plant owners also pasteurize their feedstock or digestate in order to reduce the risk of plant pathogens and weed seeds carrying through in the digestate.”

While pasteurization has not been embraced in North America to the same extent it has in Europe, HRS says it can cite a number of factors to suggest that, going forward, “the pasteurization of digestate produced by on-farm AD plants in the United States will become more attractive to plant operators and, therefore, more widespread.”

Factors on the HRS list include:

  • The increasing use of AD overall in the U.S.: There are currently around 250 on-farm AD plants in the U.S., according to HRS, “but there is believed to be the potential for as many as 8,000 on-farm plants nationally.” An increase in the use of AD technology will also boost the amount of digestate produced, meaning more treated land will lead to greater levels of attention to safety.
  • The increasing use of food waste for anaerobic digestion: As AD becomes more widespread as a method of food waste treatment, the amount of digestate produced from non-crop sources will increase accordingly. Such material will need suitable treatment if it is to be applied as a fertilizer or used for other purposes such as landscaping, soil improvement or manufacturing.
  • The need for thorough pathogen control: While research suggests that certain plant pathogens and weed seeds, such as tomato or black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides), are not always destroyed by mesophilic anaerobic digestion at 99 degrees Fahrenheit, pasteurization has been shown to effectively control most plant pathogens and seeds, according to HRS.

HRS appears poised to help introduce the pasteurization step to North America, and it cites an example from the U.K. when stating its case.

Down on the farm

In Europe, some farmers choose to go beyond what is required by legislation and use pasteurization as part of their anaerobic digestion process even where crops from their own holdings are used as the feedstock. One such plant, says HRS, is Allen’s Farm near Colchester, England. That company grows around 300 acres of onions, 300 acres of potatoes, 1,000 acres of cereals and 500 acres of corn.

Three years ago, Allen’s Farm contacted Fullcircle Energy Ltd. to upgrade its existing 499-kilowatt AD plant by installing an HRS twin-tank continuous batch pasteurization system. The AD plant, supplied by Austria-based Thoeni, is fueled with what HRS calls “energy crops” and byproducts such as brewer’s grains and 8,820 tons of on-farm waste.

The biogas produced is burnt in a combined heat and power (CHP) engine to produce electricity for the distribution grid, creating an amount of power equivalent to supplying more than 600 homes.

The heat produced by the engine was previously wasted, but is now used to pasteurize the solid digestate. HRS says this improves the quality of the digestate biofertilizer by removing potential crop diseases and weeds. Adding the pasteurization step also allowed the farm to expand its renewable energy capacity.

Says David Hunter of Allen’s Farm, “The idea of pasteurizing is that we can feed more byproducts and waste from our potato and onion crops into the digester. We can then put the digestate onto our land without worrying about potential issues with weed seeds or spreading crop diseases. It will also remove the need to obtain a permit to spread the digestate, which can be very onerous.”

Hunter says the additional step also “allowed us to double the capacity of our plant and run two digesters rather than one, and we will then be able to export the electricity directly to the nearby University of Essex.” 

Matt Hale, international sales manager for HRS, sees a bright future for pasteurization systems to take hold beyond Europe. “As the demand for pasteurization at on-farm AD plants increases in the U.S., having access to a variety of [system] options means that farmers and plant operators will be able to select not only the most appropriate technology for their situation, but also the most cost-effective solution,” he remarks.

This article originally appeared in the April issue of Waste Today. The author is a senior editor with Waste Today and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net. Information on pasteurization was provided by HRS Group.