Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

September 15, 2020 by  
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Beach and coastline cleanups have been a focus of many caring citizens and environmental groups for decades. The most-publicized beach cleanup effort, Coastal Cleanup Day, is typically slotted for a day in September. This year, the event has expanded into an entire month with the goal of involving more people at every level and from every community — not just those near the beach. According to Surfrider Foundation , “International Coastal Cleanup Month (formerly International Coastal Cleanup Day) is one of the world’s largest annual preservation and protection events and volunteer efforts for our ocean, waves and beaches.” Register your own coastal cleanup — wherever that may be One conservation organization, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County, serves as an example of this campaign by helping citizens coordinate their own cleanup efforts with a centralized registration system. As residents register events, other volunteers can join the effort to coordinate larger cleanup activities. Related: Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought The centralized information also allows organizers to track the amount and types of garbage removed. Knowing what has been collected is an effective way to identify the source of the pollution and provide data for policymakers. Save Our Shores recommends downloading the Clean Swell App to keep track of the items in your trash pile. “Data collection is an important part of Coastal Cleanup Day,” Save Our Shores explained. “The data that is collected about the types and quantities of debris picked up can be used for outreach, policy and advocacy, and more!” Further, the organization suggests that one member of the cleanup party be in charge of data collection to reduce the spread of germs. Safety tips for your beach cleanup To support community efforts, Heal the Bay provides tutorials and tips for safe and effective cleanups with information on how to dispose of collected trash and abide by LA County Public Health guidelines along with details regarding supplies and parking. Each region has varying needs, so participants can access specific information for their neighborhood. During this time of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the organization encourages social distancing during cleanups as well as the use of masks and gloves. Participants should only work with members of their own household and stay home if they feel ill. If you are in an area impacted by the ongoing wildfires, Heal the Bay advises you to also stay home to minimize your exposure to the smoke. Why is Coastal Cleanup Month important? The primary goal of Coastal Clean Up Month is to reduce the amount of debris that ends up in the waterways, including the ocean. Ocean pollution, particularly plastic from inland as well as boating activities, has become a massive environmental issue in recent years. The cycle is toxic. Animals are harmed by items like six-pack rings and plastic bags. Plastic in the waterways begins to break down into microplastics, which marine animals ingest. This comes full circle as seafood that may contain microplastics lands onto our dinner plates. In addition to waste removal, a secondary goal is to educate communities about the hazards of ocean pollution and share the importance of marine life and aquatic biodiversity. In addition, the event promotes more sustainable activities such as recycling and minimizing waste. Make a difference one small step at a time To support these educational efforts, Heal the Bay maintains five programs that, “allow citizens to explore and learn about the various issues facing the diverse regions that make up Los Angeles.” Volunteers can facilitate touch tank visits at the aquarium, participate in a beach cleanup , spread information through the outreach program, contribute to community science by collecting data or register middle and high school students as part of the youth program. The coordination in Los Angeles is just a sampling of similar events across the nation and around the world. In fact, Coastal Cleanup Month is a global movement that includes 6 million volunteers in 90 countries. Even though the efforts are widespread, coronavirus restrictions have resulted in several canceled events and made it difficult for organizers of various organizations to spotlight the effort this year. With that in mind, the push is for more of a grassroots coordination of many small groups rather than fewer large ones.  Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 That means the entire month of September is prime time to get out and lead your own cleanup crew, whether that’s a party of one or up to 10 people within the same household. With 30 years behind this organized beach cleanup movement, organizers report disappointment in not being able to host large events. However, they say this is an opportunity for every citizen to tackle the garbage in their own area, whether that be the street, park, mountain, sides of the roadway or parking lot. Although that may feel a little off-point, the majority of the garbage that ends up in the ocean stems from further inland, so you can think of it as confronting the problem at the source. While it might seem that a neighborhood pickup isn’t enough, individual efforts make a huge impact. As an example, Heal the Bay provides inspiration in the fact that, “In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy reports that nearly 800,000 volunteers collectively removed more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around the world. That’s 20 million fewer potential impacts on whales, turtles and other beloved ocean wildlife.” So whether in groups of 1,000 or one, those same hands can make a difference for the health of our planet. + Heal the Bay + Surfrider Foundation + Save Our Shores Images via Adobe Stock

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September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

Virtually visit these 10 farm sanctuaries on July 25

July 9, 2020 by  
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On July 25, animal lovers are invited to participate in a virtual animal sanctuary tour that will let them peek into 10 American sanctuaries. The  Great Farm Sanctuary Tour , organized by Lancaster Farm Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, will raise money to help these nonprofits continue caring for their rescued  animals . The Northeast, Midwest,  California , Colorado, Texas and Hawaii will be represented on the virtual tour. This event will run from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and costs $25. Each sanctuary gets a 20-minute slot to introduce who they are and what they do. Related: Jon & Tracey Stewart’s animal rescue in New Jersey to join the Farm Sanctuary family “Being the only  vegan sanctuary in our region, it is so great to be able to connect with other wonderful organizations that hold the same overarching mission,” Brittany Kane of Foreverland Farm Sanctuary in Amelia, Ohio, told VegNews. “FLF is a new, small sanctuary and we are ecstatic to be able share our work with folks nationwide. We’re looking forward to meeting everyone on our tour, and learning about the great work being done all over for the animals.” Farm animal sanctuaries rescue animals from factory farms. Animal lovers — especially those from urban areas — thrill at the chance to rub a pig’s belly or look a cow in the eye. Many vegans like to visit farm sanctuaries when they travel. Of course, the  coronavirus  pandemic has taken a huge bite out of travel and axed millions of jobs. For nonprofits like animal sanctuaries, money is even tighter than usual. To support these sanctuaries, buy your ticket and tune in on July 25. Perhaps you’ll virtually meet Grandpa Pancakes, a 30-something-year-old horse in Woodstown,  New Jersey ‘s Rancho Relaxo that was saved from the slaughterhouse. Or Yoru, an orphaned Polynesian piglet found scrounging for scrap by a hiking trail, who now resides at the Aloha Animal Sanctuary, Oahu’s first nonprofit sanctuary for farmed animals. The Great Farm Sanctuary Tour is matching donations given to these farm sanctuaries via this event up to $1,000–5,000, depending on ticket sales and sponsorships. + Lancaster Farms Sanctuary Via Veg News Images via Pexels

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Virtually visit these 10 farm sanctuaries on July 25

Two young architects travel the Arctic in a repurposed lifeboat

July 9, 2020 by  
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A tale of determination, exploration and sustainability, architects Guylee Simmonds and David Schnabel are taking the trip of a lifetime on a repurposed, retired Arctic lifeboat. Along with their seafaring dog, Shackleton the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, these two architects have given a second life to a decommissioned lifeboat that served in the Western Isles of Scotland. While the boat was originally designed to carry 100 people in survival situations, Simmonds and Schnabel set out to repurpose and rebuild it into a self-sustaining expedition vessel. The goal was to complete the project in a little over one year, just in time to take a 3,000 mile adventure from the U.K. to the Norwegian Arctic. Related: A solar-powered houseboat designed for the water-loving adventurer The architects renamed the boat Stødig, a Norwegian word meaning “sound and steadfast.” As the name suggests, the lifeboat’s reliable and functional design was a large inspiration for its newly adapted role as a self-sustaining and minimalist expedition vessel. The lifeboat , which was on its way to being scrapped if it had found no buyer, was bought in February 2018, and the voyage began in May 2019. The team departed from the southern British port of Newhaven before traveling along the Belgian and Dutch coast, sailing through the Kiel canal in Germany and then venturing into the Baltic Sea. The scenic route took them up the Danish and Swedish coasts past Copenhagen and Gothenburg, past Norway and up to Bergen. All along the way, Simmonds, Schnabel and Shackleton took in some of the best views the world has to offer, from showstopping sunsets and the dreamy Northern Lights to hushed evergreen forests and magnificent, snow-covered mountain landscapes. Stødig was first gutted to provide the architects with a blank canvas, on which they could bring their ideas to life. The boat redesign incorporates two forward cabins, a dining area, kitchen, a bathroom with a composting toilet, bunk beds for guests and a stern cockpit. There are solar panels on the roof, a wood-burning stove and small wind turbines incorporated for additional sustainability. It is made of fiberglass, measuring 11 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. An important feature for exploration, a number of large, curved windows were installed to provide breathtaking panoramic views and bring in as much light as possible. + Stødig Arctic Lifeboat Images via Guylee Simmonds and David Schnabel

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Two young architects travel the Arctic in a repurposed lifeboat

VERGE 19: Welcoming Remarks

February 12, 2020 by  
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GreenBiz Vice President and VERGE Executive Director, Shana Rappaport, welcomes VERGE 19 participants to the event with a clean economy call to action and surprise performance by The Seastars. “This isn’t just about avoiding an ecological and economic crisis,” Rappaport says. “It’s about helping a future unfold that has the potential to be more prosperous for all people and all life than it’s ever been.”

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VERGE 19: Welcoming Remarks

This carbon-neutral festival promotes sustainable fun in Thailand

December 4, 2018 by  
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The fields are alive with art, architecture, food, wellness, talks and workshops, family activities and music at the fifth annual Wonderfruit festival in Pattaya, Thailand this December. Wonderfruit is a five-day, carbon-neutral event that inspires curiosity and encourages exploration of the unknown while promoting sustainable practices. Technically, Wonderfruit is a three-part festival with phase one in September, phase two in November and phase three taking place in December. Individuals and families alike will find copious entertainment options with more than 60 musical artists and dozens of massive art pieces displayed throughout the venue, which they refer to as “The Fields.” There are a variety of accommodations at the event for those who wish to extend their stay and nearly 55 farm-to-table food vendors to explore while you do. The event even brings in world-renowned chefs each year to offer guests delicious feasts with a side of educational opportunities. Related: Bjarke Ingels is crowdfunding a massive reflective sphere for Burning Man 2018 After you’ve stuffed yourself, had a drink and danced ’til you dropped, you can attend one of the 100 wellness activities focused on yoga, chakras, meditation, drum circle dancing, massage and more. Once you’re relaxed, dedicate yourself to learning something new via the 35 different seminar speakers and workshops. But there is no need to set a rigid schedule. The idea is to simply move about the campus, taking in something new at every turn where you might run into a pottery-making demonstration, football lesson, musical engagement, light show, fire dancing or dragon kite flying. The festival hours for phase three of the Wonderfruit festival are as follows, where you can take in one day or multiple: Thursday, December 13: 4 p.m.-midnight Friday, December 14: 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday, December 15: 8 a.m.-midnight Sunday, December 16: 8 a.m.-midnight Monday, December 17: 8 a.m.-12 noon (site closes at 12 noon) In alignment with the mantra, “Reduce, reuse, refill,” the venue does not allow any single-use plastic, so visitors should bring a reusable water bottle. Of course, you can support the cause by purchasing a reusable stainless steel cup on site or before the event at a discount. This cup also provides a discount on all drinks purchased at the event. All servingware at the venue is biodegradable , and organizers request that all attendees do their part to create as little waste as possible. Recycling and food waste bins are located throughout the venue, and all visitors are expected to use them accordingly. Overall, if you are looking for a day (or four) of fun and sustainability, this is a festival worth attending. + Wonderfruit Images via Wonderfruit

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This carbon-neutral festival promotes sustainable fun in Thailand

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: NuLeaf Tech

November 5, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: NuLeaf Tech

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Infinited Fiber

November 5, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Infinited Fiber

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Regen Network

November 5, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Regen Network

VERGE Accelerate: Circular Showcase: Eon Group

November 2, 2018 by  
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A pitch competition that provides entrepreneurs in energy, buildings, transportation, supply chains, water, food, and cities the opportunity to present to the diverse VERGE community: executives from the world’s largest companies, public officials from progressive cities, venture capitalists, and others.VERGE Accelerate on Day 3 of our event focuses on the most promising early-stage CIRCULAR ECONOMY startup solutions.

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