Archive | Recycling

Metro Detroit Rolls Out Curbside Recycling

Recycling just became easier for residence in the Metro Detroit area. The city now offers a curbside program that allows a person to offer up unsorted recyclables in exchange for gift cards. RecycleBank and the city of Detroit have teamed up to offer and incentive based recycling program that cuts down on traffic to the landfills and the amount of waste that is not being properly disposed.

The program is simple and hopes to stimulate recycling practices in almost 70% of the current households in the programs area and have high hopes of including apartments and businesses by the end of the year.

Officials haven’t calculated an estimated savings in landfill fees using the single-stream recycling program, which allows participants to dump all recyclables into one bin to put at the curb.

Click here to read the full article on Metro Detroit’s newly implemented curbside recycling program.

Posted in Landfills, Recycling, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

Malthusians & Raindancers

Published in 1968 “The Population Bomb” became an enormously influential book, postulating, among other things, that humanity’s population growth, at current rates of expansion, would within perilously few centuries become a spherical ball of human flesh expanding at the speed of light in all directions into the universe. Like other such doomsday tracts, the Population Bomb extrapolated select demographic trends into the future, and predicted catastrophic shortages – land, food, energy, water, even the air itself.

Now we know better. We know, for example, that greater overall prosperity combined with female literacy – both ineluctable trends – lead to declining human populations, not an exploding population. Within the next century, humanity’s most likely demographic challenge will be how to maintain economic and scientific vitality amidst an aging and declining human population. We know that human population is unlikely to ever exceed 10.0 billion, and that most people seem to voluntarily prefer living in fairly dense urban areas. Despite the apocalyptic and emotionally compelling visions of doomsaying artists and analysts, from Soylent Green to the Population Bomb, these Malthusian messages are incorrect.

With respect to energy, for example, even though easily extracted light crude may becoming somewhat scarce in the world, at $100+/BBL, our planet’s remaining supply of fossil fuel is in no way limited by any realistic constraints. As we document in “Fossil Fuel Reality,” at 1.0 quintillion BTUs of energy consumption per year – 100 million BTUs per person per year on a 10 billion person planet, we have a 300 year supply of likely fossil fuel reserves. This clearly affords us plenty of time to discover and deploy cheap fusion power, or whatever.

With water the argument of the Malthusians remains more credible, at least on the surface. Water is the “new oil,” and pundits predict wars over water as humanity’s industrializing multitudes relentlessly consume more water than ever. The raw materials of prosperity are energy and water, and there are already alarming examples of regional water scarcity that could disrupt the lives and delay the economic development for billions of people. Nonetheless the Malthusians are wrong about water, too.

Ethiopian raindancers – now joined with the
raindancers of technology & free enterprise.
(Photo: Wikipedia)

For thousands of years, human societies turned to raindancers who would perform their sacred rites in an attempt to bring on livegiving rains. But to address the water needs of 10 billion thirsty humans it is not necessary to only bring on the raindancers of antiquity – we now have several new promising technologies that will deliver water abundance at a global scale.

Desalination is a cost-effective, energy-efficient option for many water challenged regions – it can offer a backup source of water as well as a less expensive source of water. Using California’s Los Angeles basin as an example, a desalination plant constructed for $5.0 billion dollars could desalinate 1.0 cubic kilometers of water per year from the California Channel, enough water to satisfy the urban residential needs of 5.0 million Angelenos (ref. Desalination Costs). And the perhaps 5-to-1 waste water brine could easily be safely dispersed by outfall pipes running well into the California Channel, where more than 20 sverdrups (one Sverdrup equals 35 thousand cubic kilometers of water) of ocean water per year is passed along the coast by the California current.

The energy to desalinate water, 2.0 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter, is less than the amount of energy necessary to move, for example, up to 6.0 cubic kilometers of water per year over the Tehachapi Mountains (a lift of about 700 meters), from California’s Central Valley into the Los Angeles basin. That is, at somewhere between 500 and 700 meters of lift, it takes more energy to pump water over a mountain than it takes to desalinate an equivalent quantity from the ocean.

Another technological raindance, again using California as an example, is seasonal runoff harvesting. During even routine droughts, especially now that California’s policymakers intend their state to host up to 50 million residents within a couple of decades, Californian’s fret over finding enough water for the burgeoning annual needs of environment, agriculture, industry, and residents. But even during droughts, often during spring, there can be significant torrential storms that will each introduce cubic kilometer quantities of runoff, temporarily overwhelming streams and rivers downstream from reservoirs. If anything, this runoff often can seriously disrupt ecosystems, and should instead be captured and sequestered. At the same time, hydrologists estimate there are at least 10.0 cubic kilometers of aquifer storage already identified in California, with far more storage than that potentially available. California needs to develop systems to harvest runoff and refill her acquifers. In addition to percolation ponds and direct injection facilities, this particular raindance will require massive construction of weirs and holding ponds, aquaducts, pipes, and pumping systems (ref. California’s Water System).

Reuse and recycling technologies deliver additional raindancing enablers of water abundance. The potential of water reuse and recycling technologies is only beginning to be tapped, and the proliferation of these technologies is only beginning. Closely tied with these advances is the phenomenon of miniaturization and decentralization, whereby water harvesting, storage, reuse and recycling technologies can be implemented to create a water-positive usage profile at the building scale, at the scale of a community, or at the scale of a mega-city. Water, like energy, has the potential to be realized in an autarkic mode, and hence can make any building, community, or city able to elect to live off-grid or on-grid.

Last but not least are the raindancers of the market, where a well-regulated water grid, of sorts, operates like an energy grid, with spot prices and as much fungibility as can be cost-effectively facilitated. Water shortages need never occur if there is a well-established market-oriented grid for water supply and delivery among a pluralistic assortment of water suppliers and consumers, using the entire array of new raindancing technologies. A grid of exchange and delivery, where for each ton of Alfalfa or Rice not grown, for example, residential users purchase the water instead at a fair price, and within the arbitrage of such transactions are extracted revenues to finance increasingly advanced water infrastructure.

The essense of the Malthusian fallacy is the notion that human innovation cannot create abundance, cannot alleviate all needs. As long as the spark of individual creativity is not squelched by the vested interests of those who only benefit from extrapolations of the status-quo, abundance in all things is our destiny.

Posted in Consumption, Energy, Infrastructure, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology3 Comments

AbTech Sucking Up Pollution

Oil drips to the ground at the neighborhood filling station-from cars and trucks passing through and from the rows of storage tanks. The spill sits on the cement innocently enough, but takes on a life of its own when rain pummels to the ground. With the force of rain, the oil snakes its way towards the storm drain and slithers towards the coast. There it joins the other pollutants that arrive by leaching into rivers flowing into the ocean. Water pollution is a huge issue: In fact, the annual global petroleum pollution alone, is comparable to the Exxon Valdez spilling 5 times over!

Water pollution comes in many forms including industrial or sewage pollution. But nonpoint source pollution (NPS)-pollution from a variety of sources-is much harder to track. In the U.S, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that “NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water.”

Vacationers who have come to find their favorite surfing spot inaccessible because of unhealthy toxicity levels in the water leave disappointed, while wells supplying water to cities are often closed due to chemical leaks into the groundwater. ABtech Industries, Inc, a technology firm focusing on solving the issue of water pollutants, has figured out a solution by developing products that absorb the many harmful pollutants that find their way to our water supplies and beaches. AbTech explains that their products are “based on polymer technologies capable of removing hydrocarbons, bacterial pathogens, sediment and other foreign elements from still (ponds, lakes and marinas) or flowing water (curbside drains, pipe outflows, rivers and oceans).”

AbTech’s Smart Sponge®, for example, fully encapsulates oil, soaking it up so effectively that it won’t leak out. A surprising fact is that the absorbed oils and pollutants don’t stay liquid once absorbed. The Sponge transforms the pollutants into a solid form which make the recycling process much simpler. The technology is ideal for use in Marinas, where boaters would discharge clean water from bilge pumps with the use of the sponge and AbTech is proud to say that the “proprietary polymer technology unique in its ability to effectively remove, absorb and retain hydrocarbons from flowing or pooled water and is the only company to combine an anti- microbial agent in a polymer-based filter to destroy bacteria at the street level.” The Smart Sponge can simply be placed at storm drain entrances to filter out the harmful bacteria and oils before they even get a chance to surprise unsuspecting beachgoers.

AbTech goes on explaining that their lab tests prove that the Smart Sponge is able to absorb up to 5 times its own weight, and will remove oil from water regardless of the amount. This means that even the thin sheen of oils floating on top of water can be absorbed without a problem.

Costing almost $1000 a piece, a Smart Sponge is a worthy investment for cleaner and healthier water. A sponge is more appealing than the complicated ultraviolet or chlorine treatments (also expensive options) and is even reusable (up to a point).

It isn’t a surprise that AbTech was named the winner of the water management category at the 2008 GoingGreen event. Even the EPA lists the Smart Sponge Technology as a Best Management Practice and it would be government money put to good use.

Time to suck up the oil that’s spit into our waters.

Posted in Cars, Drinking Water, Other, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology, Water Pollution1 Comment

Bedminster – Digesting Waste

All organisms have the amazing ability to process all kinds of substances that enter their bodies-separating food into smaller components to be absorbed in the blood stream as energy, while the useless particles are eventually excreted. Our bodies try and make the most out of everything that passes through, turning any possible nutrient into a useful component. Food and minerals entering the body are transformed into proteins, energy or the ever popular; fat. Bedminster Industries named an integral part of their patented carbon-reducing technology the ‘digester’ that separates garbage into non-renewable waste and carbon-rich compost, thus mirroring the effect of any digestive system.

According to their homepage, Bedminster Bio-Conversion (1970 to 1999) and Bedminster AB (1999 to 2003) developed the Bedminster Technology as a waste to compost solution for municipalities in the USA, Australia and Japan.

Garbage arrives at a facility and is transferred to the Bedminster Digester. The Digester dutifully separates this waste into non-biodegradable and biodegradable portions. Just like any digestive process, the Bedminster Digester first breaks down the biodegredable materials with the help of natural enzymes and mechanical motions. It takes about two days for the final biomass (or compost) material to form. The output materials then run over a sifter (or trommel) where the smaller compost materials easily pass through the grid while the unchanged materials,such as bottles, plastic bags, and other non-biodegradable items, are too large to do the same. The materials that fall through the trommel are called “unders”.

Bedminster explains that “the now homogenized organic rich “Unders” are formed into windrows in the fully enclosed Maturation Hall. Here the material spends 21 days being aerated and systematically turned. Monitoring ensures that the material is turned at least 3 times at no less than 2 days intervals attaining a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°F) between turnings to ensure that the final compost is fully sanitized.” A final screening stage occurs where a vibrating screen removes any inorganic particles like pebbles and glass and a magnet separates out the metals for further recycling.

The digester is extremely efficient, separating 95% of the biomass found in the delivered waste. By diverting this waste from landfills, Bedminster reduces greenhouse gas emissions and obviously ensures that precious energy isn’t wasted. Energy generated by the facility is also sold and offsets the CO2 generated at a power-plant: The biogas formed in the digester when the biomass is heated is stored in tanks and fed to turbines and engines that power electrical generators.

Companies like Bedminster are increasingly successful in a world where fuel is a valuable resource and environmentally friendly alternatives appeal to investors.

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Landfills, Other, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology1 Comment

Green Abundance, the Future of Sustainable Living

As the cleantech revolution gathers momentum and environmentalist values command unprecedented influence on policy, it is more important than ever to have a vigorous global dialogue as to what constitutes clean technology, and what constitutes a legitimate continuum of environmentalist values.

How these questions are answered will have profound impact on the nature and speed of economic growth, as well as the quality of our lives and the quantity of our individual rights and freedoms.

There are two fundamental assumptions that govern environmental values today:

  1. The use of fossil fuels should be phased out as soon as possible
  2. Resource scarcity is an inevitable reality will not be escaped for generations.

To this end, massive reallocations of wealth are being enacted to subsidize alternatives to fossil fuel, and rationing of resource use is becoming policy in the areas of energy, water and land. But what if both of these assumptions are completely wrong?

Tomorrow’s leaders today, children
at the slopes to Kilimanjaro.

There is a case to be made that resource abundance, not scarcity, is the immediate destiny of the human race, and that scientific innovation combined with free markets are the keys to realizing this optimistic scenario. In every fundamental area, energy, water and land, there are promising trends – unfolding with breathtaking speed – that provide humanity with the opportunity to realize global wealth and prosperity within a generation.

Probably the most difficult notion to intuitively fathom is that land will become abundant again, but for several important reasons, that is precisely what is going to happen. The primary reason for this is that human population growth is finally leveling off. From today’s total of 6.7 billion people, projections now indicate human population will peak at somewhat less than 9.0 billion around 2050, an increase of only another 30 percent. While this seems like a lot, it is important to remember that in 1970, the world population was only 3.7 billion, meaning the last 40 years has registered a human population increase of 80%. We have already seen the dramatic growth in population, and are now in the leveling off phase.

The reason this slowdown and leveling of human population will result in more abundant land is because as human population increase slows, human migration to cities continues to accelerate. In 1970 only 1.3 billion people lived in cities, 35% of the world’s population. Today over half the world’s population live in cities, 3.4 billion people. Over the past 40 years overall population has increased 80%, but urban population has increased by 160%. Urbanization is accelerating, and is depopulating rural areas far more quickly than projected remaining overall population growth will fill them. Forty years from now, there will be more open land in the world than there is today. And these twin phenomenon, urbanization and population stabilization, are completely voluntary, inexorable, and are occurring at rates that are, if anything, underestimated.

If land abundance on planet earth is going to be achieved by a stabilized population living mostly in megacities, how will we build these cities? How will we transform our cities, already swarming with far more people than they were originally designed to hold, into 21st century magnets for humanity, offering economic and cultural opportunities instead of merely a last destination for the destitute? Here is where Malthusian assumptions, combined with an overweening environmentalist ideology that condemns development, have conspired to stifle the building of next generation infrastructure. The good news is these delays have also allowed us the time to develop better-than-ever technology.

High-rise agriculture has the potential to greatly
reduce the amount of land required for agriculture.
(Photo: Vertical Farms LLC)

From high-rise agriculture to high-speed rail, from advanced water recycling to ultra-efficient energy conduits and appliances, from cars that are clean, smart and safe, to wide new roads that convert pavement heat into utility-scale electricity and convey luxurious mass transit busses that offer wi-fi and drive themselves, cities of the future can be built today – but not if the wealth we need to pour concrete and smelt steel is spent instead on environmentalist lawsuits, and not if the market incentives that animate billions of construction entrepreneurs are squelched because instead we gave the work to government bureaucrats. Creating abundance is human nature – but only individual liberty, property rights, and free markets will enable this nature to be realized. Governments enforce the rules, but only a free people can play the game.

Abundant water is just around the corner because of several interrelated technological opportunities. The most promising of all is the potential of smart irrigation. Primarily this means using drip irrigation instead of flood irrigation, but this also refers to no-till farming, new crops that consume less water, inter-cropping, and advanced irrigation management, where irrigation timing and volume are precisely coordinated with weather conditions. Smart irrigation techniques could reduce the volume of water required for global agriculture by 40-50%.

Other means to create water abundance span the gamut from traditional methods – contour berms to catch and percolate runoff, urban cisterns to harvest rainwater, or where necessary, massive new infrastructure projects to move large volumes of water from water rich areas to water poor areas. To save ecosystems and restore fisheries, why not build a gravity-fed canal connecting the Volga River to the Aral Basin, if the Caspian Sea is rising anyway? Diverting only 10% of the Volga’s 250 cubic kilometer annual flow would make a decisive contribution to restoring the Aral Sea. Why not divert a small percentage of the Ubangi River north to refill Lake Chad?

Finally, water reuse and desalination will guarantee water abundance in urban areas. High-rise agriculture, for example, can use gray water to irrigate hydroponic gardens at a commercial scale, and the transpiration these plants emit within these enclosed spaces can be harvested to yield pristine drinking water. Desalination is no longer a technology reserved for energy rich nations – it now only takes 2.0 kilowatt-hours to desalinate a cubic meter of seawater. Desalination already provides over 1% of the fresh water used world wide, over 30 km3 per year, and this total is rising fast. But water reuse is the most promising source of urban water of all – technologies now exist to create essentially a closed loop in urban areas. Water is used for drinking, then treated and piped back to use for irrigation and to refill reservoirs, then after percolating and filtering back into aquifers, is pumped up, treated, and used again for drinking.

Water abundance will enable us to grow all the food we want, using new strains of crops and new agricultural techniques that are enabling another revolution in yields, guaranteeing abundant food. Water abundance will allow us to finally begin refilling our depleted aquifers, restore our vanished lakes, and never have to wonder whether or not the next war might be fought to quench a nation’s thirst.

To create water abundance, however, and to build megacities, to create 21st century civil infrastructure, and to deploy advanced technologies, we will need wealth and prosperity, and more than anything else, the enabler of wealth and prosperity is energy production. Today global civilization produces about 500 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year, which equals an average per person of 75 million BTUs per year. But this energy consumption is not evenly distributed. In the European Union, per capita energy consumption is about 250 million BTUs per year; in the USA, the average is closer to 350 million BTUs per year. But energy consumption equals wealth. Even with extraordinary improvements in energy efficiency, say, twice what we enjoy today, for 9.0 billion people to average only half the per capita energy consumption of residents of the EU, i.e., 125 million BTUs per year, global energy production would have to more than double, to 1,125 quadrillion BTUs per year. And this is what needs to happen by 2050.

The challenge to achieve resource abundance is not impossible; it is within our grasp. Despite heartbreaking examples of lingering poverty all over the planet, the fact is the overall condition of humanity is remarkably better now than it was 40 years ago, 400 years ago, 4,000 years ago. Disease and starvation remain endemic, but by all objective measures, they are on the retreat; and this is the trend the future holds, if we seize the opportunity. But to achieve this bright future, we must ask these questions: What is clean technology, and what are legitimate environmentalist values?

To create prosperity, for example, given 80% of the world’s energy currently comes from fossil fuel, and given there is a staggering abundance of remaining fossil fuel reserves in the form of heavy oil, coal, and natural gas, do we really want to stop using fossil fuel? What if clean technology stopped at the point where harmful pollutants were reduced to parts per billion through advanced filtration and efficient burning, instead of having to make that gigantic leap beyond simply making emissions healthy, and requiring zero emissions of CO2? Given the certain and devastating price humanity will pay in the form of ongoing poverty and escalating tensions over resources – especially if we precipitously abandon developing new sources of fossil fuel – do we really want to stop emitting CO2? What if solar cycles indeed are all there is causing climate change? What if climate change isn’t anything but normal fluctuations? What if rainforest destruction and aquifer depletion, dried up lakes and misused lands are the reasons for regional climate change? What if we can’t do anything at all about climate change anyway? If you believe the worst scenarios, it is too late anyway – but what if the models are simply wrong? If they’re right, it’s too late, and if they’re wrong, it doesn’t matter. So why on earth would we consign humanity to much higher probabilities of poverty and war, instead of developing clean fossil fuel, at the same time as we systematically develop advanced, alternative sources of energy?

The challenge to achieve resource abundance in the world hinges on the role environmentalists play in influencing policy. There are vital environmentalist values that everyone should embrace, such as practicing sustainability, eliminating genuine pollution, and taking reasonable steps to protect species and ecosystems. But without the energy, without the mines, without the steel mills, without the paved roads and poured concrete and power plants and pumping stations and water treatment plants and countless other ecologically disruptive activities, humanity will struggle to realize their destiny of prosperity; humanity will struggle to find peace.

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Posted in Business & Economics, Cars, Coal, Consumption, Drinking Water, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure, Natural Gas, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Urbanization6 Comments

Streets for Solar

Steam rises from the never-ending stretch of road ahead. What looks like water rolling over the street, is just heat escaping. Walking on the blacktop barefoot would leave anyone but a fire-walker grunting in pain.

Our planet is covered with a web of streets and this cement absorbs and stores an abundance of the sun’s energy. Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), are looking into ways of using this heat as yet another renewable energy source. They have already developed solar collectors that would transfer the energy into electricity.

The ball started rolling with the president of Novotech Inc., Michael Hulen, who funded the research project meant to prove the efficiency of Novotech’s patented heat absorbing design. Based in Acton, Massachusetts, Novotech is one of the biggest suppliers of infrared optical and semiconductor materials.

WPI’s research was presented at the Annual Symposium of the International Society for Asphalt Pavements August 18-20, in Zurich, but like most things in life, the presentations are not accessible for free so I have no information about WPI’s results as of yet. (In addition to the topic of ‘roads for energy production’, other areas of interest such as noise reduction, recycling, drainage and environmentally friendly maintinence on pavements were also discussed at the event.)

The idea of using already existing streets as solar panels is a promising one; Roads are reworked every few years and the technology can be incorporated when repaving is necessary. Not only that, but the unfortunate truth is that roads, parking lots and sidewalks are more common than anything else in many areas. With Novotech’s design, at least these concrete landmasses can be retrofitted as solar power generators.

The heat collectors would be located a few centimeters underneath the pavement, not changing the outward appearance. Cars will roll along on the roads, as usual, but now power will be generated right underneath the tires.

For more information, check out an in depth article at Science Daily.

Posted in Cars, Electricity, Energy, Homes & Buildings, Other, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Walking0 Comments

Eco-ploration in Montana

Ranch Rider’s Rocking Z Ranch uses waste
vegetable oil to power an irrigation pump, saving
more than 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Editor’s Note: Ecotourism can take many forms – activist tours, where the line between work and vacation is blurry; adventure tours, where the tourist braves white water in a canoe, or thin air and freezing temperatures on a mountain trek, or any number of other challenges of nature; visits to pristine places, where one can view the most beautiful and unspoiled regions on earth, hopefully through their tourist dollars helping to fund the preservation and restoration of these places, and finally; low impact tourism, where the traveler stays in accomodations and enjoys means of transit that leave no footprint.

These distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, of course, since many tour operations combine all four of these characteristics of eco-tourism in varying degrees. Ranch Rider, a company marketing a huge collection of tourist destinations in the rugged heartland of North America in and around the massive Rocky Mountain range, has begun to see their affiliates systematically convert their operations to increasingly sustainable, clean and organic practices. From the food being prepared, to the fuel being used, to the stewardship of the land surrounding these resorts, these ranches been consciously evolving how they run their businesses with an eye to the much vaunted “triple bottom line,” paying equal attention to people, planet, and profit.

Being located in remote, mountainous areas in close proximity to wilderness, these tourist ranches are already familiar with sustainability in ways urban dwellers don’t often as easily assimilate. Harsh winters, unforgiving landscape, often intermittant water supplies, and other realities of nature inculcate a resourcefulness and responsibility towards the earth intrinsically. And what is invariably the case when sensible sustainability is implemented is what helps the earth will automatically help the bottom line, in addition to granting the tourist an experience that provides not only relaxation, but the comforting knowledge their experience is contributing to the preservation and restoration of nature. – Ed “Redwood” Ring.

Ranch Rider’s Siwash Lake Ranch has been
awarded Five Green Keys by the Hotel Association
of Canada, only given to hotels that exemplify the
highest standards of environmental responsibility.

In the old days, cowboys explored and exploited the vast open ranges of the country, embodying the frontier spirit of the Wild West.

Our attitude towards the environment has since changed, and now, a new generation of ranches offered by Ranch Rider seeks to co-exist harmoniously with nature.

These “green ranches” practice a more sustainable style of ranching through energy-saving techniques and conservation initiatives. The Siwash Lake and the Rocking Z are examples of how ranchers can be great stewards of the earth, ensuring that future generations can still enjoy the scenic beauty of the Wild West.

Many wilderness ranches claim to be off grid, but there’s no greenwash at the Siwash Lake in British Columbia, as the ranch has recently been awarded with a 5 Green Key eco-rating by the Hotel Association of Canada. The prestigious accolade is given to a hotel that exemplifies the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility in all areas of operations – the Siwash Lake Ranch employing cutting-edge technologies and eco-friendly policies.

While guests are out eco-ploring on unspoiled wilderness trails, the luxury ranch is working behind the scenes to ensure a seamless green stay for its guests. Siwash Lake runs on solar power and a combined diesel generator – the latter charging up the battery bank on cloudy days, or when city slickers who can’t resist curling irons and hairdryers stay at home on the range.

Always mindful of being environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the ranch uses propane, a clean fuel, for cooking and for heating hot water. In addition, guests lounging by the cosy fireplace are sure to find comfort in the fact that the wood is beetle-killed pine – Siwash ensuring that their waste wood is put to good use. Biodegradable chemicals, energy saving light bulbs and emission controlled wood stoves are further initiatives that have been brought to the fore by the eco-friendly ranch ensuring would be cowboys and girls minimise their impact in the West.

Eco-gourmands can have their taste buds tickled by the Siwash Lake’s 2-acre organic garden, a source of fresh greens, edible flowers and herbs. The ranch produces its own beef and pork, which is again organic and all the chickens at Siwash produce free range eggs. However it’s not just the hearty Western cooking that has a green stamp of approval as everything is 100% natural and even the water comes from the ranch’s own well! The water goes through a low power, high-tech filtration system, including UV light treatment, to make it 100% potable and pure, with no chemicals added into the process.

Situated in the heart of Cariboo Country, ethical ranchers can experience the wonders of the natural grassland on horseback, by canoe or on foot – numerous bird and wildlife stopping by to greet wilderness ranchers. (7-nights with Ranch Rider from £1,939pp, excludes transfers as car hire recommended.)

Energy saving light bulbs and wide windows minimise
the use of electricity at the Siwash Lake Ranch.

The Rocking Z in Montana might seem like an ordinary guest ranch at first sight, but ask the owners about their deed of conservation and you might see it differently. The ranch now uses solar and straight waste vegetable oil power to irrigate the land – saving over 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 600 gallons of petrol per year. The ranch also uses pure bio diesel for its tractors and earth moving equipment making the Rocking Z a truly green home on the range.

As part of their conservation commitment, the owners recently struck up a partnership with the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Foundation. The latest initiative, at the Little Pickly Pear Creek, has helped to lower stream temperatures by 2 degrees; ensuring a more amenable habitat for the resident rainbow trout who now thrive in their natural environment. The owners have also committed the ranch with a deed of Conservation, working closely with Montana’s Land Reliance to protect and conserve the ecologically and agriculturally significant land, as a living resource for future generations to enjoy.

Green moves implemented by the ranch include, the recycling of glass, aluminum, tin and all metals; and the composting of all waste foods and bio-degradable material ensuring everything comes back full-circle. A significant proportion of the ranch’s produce is also organically grown by local farmers, helping the Wolf Creek community with their livelihood. Ethical stewards, who are constantly looking for ways to further their green commitment, the owners of the Rocking Z have yet more plans in store, and in 2009 they are hoping to install a wind charged generator – making this the perfect stay for forward thinking ranchers.

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Posted in Chemicals, Composting, Conservation, Ecotourism, Electricity, Nature & Ecosystems, Other, Policies & Solutions, Recycling, Solar, Wind0 Comments

The Living Tower

Getting fruits and vegetables onto the kitchen table is a stressful affair. Farmers constantly deal with pests, weather changes, pesticides, droughts, increased costs of running equipment and crop diseases. For example, the moth, Helicoverpa armigera, causes crop damage in excess of 5 billion dollars worldwide per year, while the 2008 floods in the U.S Midwest have already soaked through thousands of acres of farmland.

Losing a crop is extremely frustrating; especially to farmers who excitedly bought land and then purchased the popular $110,000 180-PTO horsepower diesel tractor to maintain the now demolished harvest. Architects and agriculturalists believe that many of these issues can be solved with indoor agriculture. Not only that, but by incorporating farming into high rise buildings protected from outside variables, the volume of produce harvested increases dramatically. In fact, one indoor acre may yield up to 6 times as much of a crop as a traditional outdoor farm.

The Living Tower, a theoretical 30 floor high rise farming community designed by Paris based SOA architects, would house;
130 apartments on the first 15 floors, 9000 square meters of office space on the remaining 15 floors, a 7000 square meter shopping center, a library and even a nursery in addition to the gardens distributed throughout the building. Link to the Press Release for more information.

Living Tower architects have focused on specific crop productions and believe the following estimates will represent respective crop yields:

63000 kg of tomatoes per year
37 333 feet of salads per year
9 324 kg of strawberries per year

The building design keeps efficiency and alternative power in mind as well: two large windmills rotating on the roof will generate 200-600 KWH of electricity per annum and will assist in pumping recovered rainwater throughout the complex. Photovoltaic panels will cover the outer walls while inside the tower, ventilation shafts draw in underground air keeping temperatures comfortable throughout the year., a website devoted to vertical farming (VF) architecture, provides a list of benefits associated with the technology:

• No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
• All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
• VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
• VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
• VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
• VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of Evapo-transpiration
• VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals
• VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
• VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
• VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
• VF creates new employment opportunities
• VF may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
• VF offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical
• VF could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water and land for agriculture

There are few things more satisfying than picking a ripened tomato from your own tree and enjoying the fruit knowing that you don’t have to worry about pesticides, importing problems or other issues involved with the agriculture business. With vertical farming on the rise, it won’t be unheard of to enjoy homegrown strawberries while snow piles up on the busy city streets below.

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Buildings, Causes, Composting, Electricity, Energy, Homes & Buildings, Office, Other, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology, Shipping1 Comment

Mohawk-Yarn From Plastic

Companies are looking to landfills to make their products more “green” by using recycled materials that would otherwise end up wasted. Trucks overflowing with plastics, glass or rubber bring the products to companies instead of dumps. (Ideally these trucks would also run on the biofuel created by the landfill, but that’s another story.) Recycled glass, for example, is used to create exotic mosaic tiles that can outlast any comparable material. The Mohawk group, a leader in the flooring industry, has chosen to work with plastics and rubber, both of which are incorporated into their carpets, rugs, vinyl and other home products.

Mohawk prides itself on being green and putting a dent in landfills. A nifty calculator placed on their homepage shows viewers how much of a difference Mohawk has made in the few seconds it’s taken to glance at their page. In a little less than a minute the numbers whizzing by denote that:

• 2700 PET bottles have been recycled into carpet yarn
• 31 pounds of tires have been recycled into door mats
• 3100 pounds of waste were diverted from the landfill

Quoted from their site; “Everything we do at Mohawk is green. We’re the largest recycler in the flooring industry, a net purchaser of waste, and leader in green technologies and innovations.”

In Nov, 2007, Mohawk unveiled their greenworks center in Chicago. In a press release they described the unique recycling model: “GreenWorks Center is the first of its kind to not only process all major types of synthetic carpet fiber — accounting for 90 percent of the nation’s post-consumer carpet waste — but also the only recycling program to recover 90 percent of those materials into useable products…GreenWorks Center will process 100 percent of the carpet it receives, including fiber, backing and latex. It will also manage a variety of thermoplastic non-carpet recyclables, helping to further minimize the amount of carpet that finds its way to the landfills”

Mohawk’s impressive accomplishments since the introduction of greenworks include:

• the design of a carpet tile, free of PVC, that is 100% recyclable
• 3 billion PET bottles and cans recycled into fiber per year
• 30 million pounds of crumb rubber (from tires) diverted from landfills per year

Customers have the opportunity to choose from countless designs and as an additional incentive to buyers, 25 cents is donated to breast cancer research per square yard of carpet bought

Posted in Landfills, Other, Recycling, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

Desalination is Here!

With desalination, reuse & recycling,
and smart agricultural irrigation, fish can
thrive, and humans can avoid rationing.

Editor’s Note: In this excerpt from an in-depth study authored by international water investment expert Laura Shenkar of the Artemis Project, the state of desalination technology today is examined. It is clear that desalination has come a long way – and just in time, in order to address the “triple threat” of population growth, crumbling water utility infrastructure, and climate change.

Even if you believe climate change is overhyped, and we do, the challenge posed due to population growth, combined with increasing global prosperity which increases per capita water consumption, along with scandalously inadequate investment in water infrastructure, makes any drought or climate irregularity far more likely to cause catastrophe. But with any threat comes opportunity.

To answer this triple threat is a triple opportunity – the promise of desalination, smart irrigation, and advanced water recycling techniques – that in aggregate bestow the potential of water abundance at a level and quality unimaginable a few decades ago.

Technology and free markets create wealth and abundance, which happens when businesses compete for customers, never through punitive rationing. Defining what is clean sets crucial ground rules, but only free markets create abundance. And while we define what is clean, we might be cognizant of which special interests may wish to set the bar so high that nothing is clean enough, that only endless and futile war, only socialist misery, is an acceptible moral choice. But is this true, or a convenient deception?

It is quite plausible that the entire notion of permanent water, energy and land scarcity is a myth, a temporary affliction, inevitably doomed by the promise of technology; desalination, drip irrigation, advanced water recycling, urbanization, population stablization, clean fossil fuel, clean nuclear power, as well as alternative energy where and when it is competitive. Will humanity seize this bright and prosperous future, or will we succumb to the propaganda of extreme environmentalists who feed on panic and fear? Because the environment won’t benefit from a socialist, backwards march into the past; the industrial filth of the USSR is testimony to that. But politics of fear will enable environmentalist nonprofits to collect more tax-exempt donations from the terrified multitudes (as well as legislated set-asides), and enable unionized public employees to pay themselves outrageous wages and ridiculously inflated pensions, instead of earning market rate compensation and working hard to build new utility infrastructure that creates abundance, and competes for energy and water customers on the free market.

Scarcity is not inevitable. Often it is a political choice, the result of concessions to powerful special interests who have a pecuniary interest in high prices, artificial scarcity, and fomenting fear. The precious bird of environmentalism has been flying for too long with only one wing, the left one. Read on, and learn a little more about how easy it might be to know abundance. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Desalination – A Technology Whose Time Has Come
by Laura Shenkar, June 16th, 2008
Industrial Workers at Desalination Plant
Industrial workers at a desalination plant.

The global desalination industry has been one of the first to benefit from the impact of the triple threat to water supply. Desalination offers a means for increasing the supply of fresh water from a source independent of existing ground and surface water supplies.

It can form an important supplement to existing water supplies during droughts or periodic water supply shortfalls. Worldwide, desalination operations are set to grow from a capacity of 39.9 million cubic meters per day (m3/d) at the beginning of 2006 to 64.3 million m3/d in 2010, and to 97.5 million m3/d in 2015. This represents a 61 percent increase in capacity over a five-year period, and a 140 percent increase in capacity over a ten-year period, according to the latest estimates for the desalination market.

The compound annual growth rate of installed capacity is roughly 9 percent. The compound annual growth rate of the market for new capacity hovers around 13 percent. This expansion of capacity will entail capital investment totaling $25 billion by the end of 2010, or $56.4 billion by the end of 2015.

Dramatic improvements through innovation have brought the cost of desalted water closer to that of other water sources than ever before. Improved membranes and pumping systems have sharply reduced electricity costs. For example, the Carlsbad, California, desalination plant expects to pay $1.10 in electricity to produce 1,000 gallons of water, down from $2.10 per 1,000 gallons at the mothballed Santa Barbara plant. Costs have been as low as $0.50 per 1,000 gallons in the large-scale plant in Ashkelon, Israel. Here are two companies on the forefront of desalination technology:

Energy Recovery Incorporated

Location: San Leandro, California, United States

Funding: $9.5 million from private individuals, S-1 registered for an IPO

Value proposition: Energy Recovery, Inc. (ERI) invented, patented, and commercialized an energy recovery solution: the PX Pressure Exchanger® (PX), which saves energy in high pressure hydraulic operations, such as reverse osmosis for desalination. The PX energy recovery device uses the principle of positive displacement and isobaric chambers to achieve extremely efficient transfer of energy from a high-pressure waste stream, such as the brine stream from a reverse osmosis desalination unit, to a low-pressure incoming feed stream. According to ERI, the PX is 98 percent efficient, losing little energy in the transfer.

ERI states that it has 10 times more operating experience than competing manufacturers of isobaric energy recovery devices, including 10 million unit hours of proven experience and over 6,000 units installed or contracted worldwide. This install base is estimated to account for more than 5.2 million m3/day of capacity installed or under construction, and more than 450 independent reference plants.

Take away: ERI has established a dominant position for energy recovery in the desalination market. Given that leadership and the revenue and profitability (9.6 percent net) that position affords the company, it should be able to enter a host of other water and energy markets that use high-pressure pumps, such as the considerable market for cooling energy generation facilities.

Israeli Desalination Enterprises (IDE)

Location: Petah Tikva, Israel

Funding: IDE is equally owned by ICL (Israel Chemical Ltd.) and the Delek Group. Both holding companies are multinational and multidisciplinary groups, with an annual turnover of approximately US$2 billion (2003) each.

Value proposition: Established in 1965, IDE Technologies Ltd. is internationally recognized as a pioneer and leader in the delivery of sophisticated water management solutions. IDE specializes in research and development of saline water desalination processes, concentration and purification of industrial streams, wastewater treatment, heat pumps, and ice/snow machines. The company develops, designs, manufactures, and installs sophisticated equipment for industrial and domestic applications throughout the world.

While IDE lacks the market presence that the larger desalination providers such as Veolia and Suez possess, it continues to win portions of key projects based on its innovative approaches to various processes such as pre-treatment reverse osmosis, energy recovery, and input water uptake.

Take away: Look for spinoffs from IDE that provide breakthrough technology and are able to work with IDE competition in their niche markets.

Laura Shenkar

Laura Shenkar is an international water expert on water investments and water technology, and a Principal of The Artemis Project, a consultancy that specializes in supporting innovative technology companies achieve their potential in the global market. As a member of the leadership team of three successful startups, she has learned how to employ the unique capabilities of a company’s technology and its team to target the best opportunities in an emerging market. Laura is an active member of several national and international water industry associations and participates in governmental water management initiatives as well as venture investment conferences. This combination of activities enables her to share with The Artemis Project clients a wide view of emerging opportunities and new product trends. This report was excerpted from a recently released study by the Artemis Project entitled “Water Matters: Venture Investment Opportunities in Innovative Water Technology,” which can be obtained by contacting Ms. Shenkar at

Additional EcoWorld reports on water and desalination:

- India’s Hydropower

- India’s Water Consciousness

- Our Endangered Oceans

- India’s Water Future

- Arctic to Aral

- Mangroves Stop Tsunami

- Clean the Ganges

- Seawater Farms

- Affordable Desalination

- California’s Water System

- Sverdrups & Brine

- Revisiting Desalination

- Photovoltaic Desalination

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Consumption, Drought, Electricity, Energy, Fish, Other, Population Growth, Recycling, Science, Space, & Technology, Urbanization4 Comments

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