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Waste Management

From Waste to Win

Waste to energy conversion

How 3 startups are redefining wastewater management.

Burgeoning disruptors flush with new capital, these three startups stand to turn waste into windfalls for customers (and the planet). See how they're flipping traditional wastewater management on its head - and doing it for less.

Axine Water Technologies: A promising Canadian upstart, Axine provides a one-step process to efficiently treat industrial wastewater – often high in toxic inorganics and ammonia - allowing it to be safely recycled. Unlike conventional water treatment methods, Axine's hyper-efficient processing doesn't require supporting electrolytes and won't experience fouling. Impressed? You're not alone. Axine continues to bolster investment and just completed a capital raise of $5.6 million CAD ($5.1 million USD) from The Roda Group, Chrsaliz Energy Ventures, and BDC Venture Capital.

Gradek Energy: Fellow Canadian startup, Gradek Energy feeds another niche with a unique approach to processing wastewater from oil sands production. Gradek’s core technology, Re-usable Hydrocarbon Sorbent (RHS)](, uses penny-sized beads that attract hydrocarbons like a magnet, while simultaneously repelling water. In turn, allowing the RHS to recover oil from polluted steams and rivers, leaving clean fresh water behind. A promising new technology, Gradek Energy announced plans to open its first commercial demo plant as early as June 2015.

Cambrian Innovation: Last but not least is Cambrian Innovation. Initially fueled by a NASA grant, the startup was officially founded in 2006 by an MIT brain trust looking to cut energy usage during wastewater treatment. Cambrian Innovation’s flagship product, EcoVolt, uses ‘electromethanogenesis’ to create a significant amount of energy to offset the initial energy spent. Offering a scalable, cost-effective solution the company claims will provide customers with full return on their investments in five short years.

By Remi Dalton

Are You Green Enough?

City of Chicago Challenge

Inside The City of Chicago’s Green Office Challenge

Chicago’s competitive spirit may be taking a hammering around the nation’s baseball diamonds but it’s being re-energized by the City of Chicago’s Green Office Challenge. Literally.

About the Green Office Challenge
The City of Chicago co-created the Challenge in 2008 with ICLEI USA. Together, they wanted to create a collegial and inclusive way to reduce energy consumption in the Loop. The Challenge has since branched out into River North and, with support from companies such as Office Depot and Delta Institute, it’s now open to all Chicagoland businesses.

After just three years, the Challenge was already making a big impact:
• Over 263 offices and 98 buildings participated in 2011
• Spending $17,503,891 less on energy
• Saving 124 million kilowatt-hours (equivalent to ~45K homes)
• Reducing more than 85,000 metric tons of carbon emissions

How the Challenge works
The voluntary program is free to Chicagoland companies and runs from February through October, though new companies can jump in at any point. Participating businesses win points along the way for curbing consumption of materials, water and energy.

Aside from this core focus, businesses are also encouraged to take part in various subcategories, such as innovation, transportation, education and community outreach. Winners at the end of each round receive an award from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and traditionally get good media coverage.

What’s new this year?
The Challenge aims to broaden the base of participants in 2013. As Alex Moree, from the Delta Institute explained in a recent UR Chicago Magazine interview, they want to see Chicagoans “learning more about how they can save energy and why that matters.”

A new, user-friendly website makes it quicker and easier for offices to register and for browsers to see who’s participating. There’s also a “Knowledge Base,” providing tips on green office practices and listing relevant events. You can follow the Challenge on Twitter via @ChiGreenOffice or on Facebook.

Sustainable city
It’s a big year for Sustainable Chicago. Besides co-running the biggest ever Green Office Challenge, they’re also marking the first anniversary of their 2015 action agenda. The agenda maps out City Hall’s plan for a more sustainable Chicago and we’ll be providing updates as the City tracks progress against key milestones.

Posted by: Alex Yester

Energy and waste go together like clean and tech

Energy and waste go together like clean and tech

Ever contacted the sanitation department to retrieve something you lost down the drain? Jewelry? Keys? A turtle? Dentures, even?

Or maybe you’ve never felt strongly enough about a nick-nack or a pet to go through such indignity. Now what if you lost 350 billion kWh of energy down the drain? What then?

According to New Scientist magazine, the US pulls the plug on that much energy every year. After paying good money to heat baths, dishwashers, sinks and washing machines, we flush all that hot water away. Affluence, meet effluent.

On average, that wasted heat warms the sewer to a useless 60°F. Around the world, cities are now going back to get that precious energy. In Oslo, Norway, for example, engineers are reversing the principles of refrigeration to drag heat up from under the city.

Large coils containing refrigerant fluid extract heat from the sewer and carry it above ground. It’s then concentrated to 194°F using compressors and piped to 13,000 apartments. In Vancouver, a similar system was used to provide 70% of the heating for the 2010 Winter Olympics village.

With progressive farmers already proving there’s good methane energy in effluent—generating up to 4 kWh per cow, per day—this is just another way to rethink the relationship between energy and waste.

Produced by Eammon Conaghan

Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer with us - sustainable brewing is here

Beer. Everyone already knows that if we drink enough, we’ll eventually solve all the world’s problems. Now Sierra Nevada is proving it.

The North California brewery—6th largest in the US—produces beer so sustainable you can feel the planet healing with every sip.

They’ve halved water use, slashed transport greenhouse emissions and now generate more than 60% of their electricity onsite, from clean and renewable sources. All while delivering one of the most competitively priced craft beers on the market.

Here’s how they do it.

It’s hard to imagine when swigging a lazy summer beer in your hammock, but that beverage in your hand is energy intensive. Every drop has spent its entire life under some sort of temperature control—from steeping and boiling, through 60°F fermentation and into a refrigerated supply chain.

Sierra Nevada takes the heat off the planet with a two-pronged approach to sustainable energy that starts with efficiency. When done boiling a brew, for example, they don’t just cool the kettle with any old water. They use H2O that’s destined for the next batch. Doing so pre-warms the water, so it requires less energy to boil the next brew.

State of the art refrigerator seals and locks ensure cooling is equally efficient while large windows naturally light the workshop. Sensors switch on supplementary artificial lighting only when needed.

Even with these efficiencies in place, however, brewing still chews through a lot of energy. That’s why Sierra Nevada started generating their own onsite, using natural gas-powered hydrogen fuel cells and solar.

At almost 11,000 panels, theirs is one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the US, and literally no panel is left unturned to max out the available power. Tracking technology follows the arc of the sun through the sky and rotates some of the panels to face it, producing up to 30% more energy than if they were static.

Sierra Nevada also installed 2 miles of rail lines to connect their operations with the national network. The link not only cuts back on greenhouse-intensive road transport (rail is 50% cleaner than truck travel) but it significantly lowers their annual logistics bill.

Finally, and perhaps most ingeniously, the brewery derives energy from waste streams by using microbes to break down unwanted organic by-products. The process produces clean-burning methane, which is used to fuel boilers.

A typical craft brewery uses between seven and eight pints of water to put one pint of beer on the bar. Sierra Nevada does it with less than five.

After filtering yeast residues and unwanted proteins out of the brew, they allow the sludge to settle out in ponds. By adding microbes to the remaining water, they’re able to break down finer organic fragments and send it back to the city in good shape for further cleaning.

Sierra Nevada has also refined dry bottle- and kettle-cleaning technologies to meet rigid hygiene demands with minimal H2O. And by using brewing water for heat exchange, they not only save energy but water as well.

Hop for the best
There are many reasons to like beer. Many indeed. Sierra Nevada’s just given us another, with a sustainable brew that makes you want to send a late night text saying: “I love you, planet.”

In the process, they’ve proven sustainable manufacturing is not just viable, but profitable. The brewery says its practices are set to yield considerable operational savings over the coming years, rewarding them for an innovative approach to environment and business.

Produced by: Murad Sabzali

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