Category Archives: Recycled Materials

Turning Trash into Treasure

On a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio I accidentally stumbled upon this excellent art exhibit that presents plastic ocean debris in a visually striking way. The artist is an advocate for plastic pollution awareness and creates artwork using plastic ocean debris, excess packaging, and junk mail. Scroll down for some highlights of Sacrifice + Bliss, the traveling exhibit by Aurora Robson, on display at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Sculpture created from plastic marine debris

Wonderful piece created entirely from plastic debris collected from Big Island, Kamilo Point. Kamilo by Aurora Robson

Description of Kamilo by Aurora Robson

Belch Plastic Debris Sculpture

Belch (aka Tarball , 2009) hanging from the Desert Room at the Conservatory. A black, toxic looking sculpture made from plastic debris.

For more information and examples of her great work, visit aurorarobson.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Beach clean-up, Environment, Garden, Innovation, Recycle, Recycled Materials, Upcycle

The Sustainable World of Packing Peanuts and Bubble Wrap

Here at PNS Energy we ship and receive enough packing peanuts, bubble wrap, cardboard, foam, and plastic to last a lifetime.  Shipping practices are oftentimes the most flexible part of the order processing procedure, yet it is widely known that the packaging and shipping arm of most companies are fairly unsustainable. We have all experienced the shocking feeling of opening up a package and wondering why 6 billion foam peanuts were used to ship a candle, then outraged when it is discovered that those peanuts are Styrofoam and cannot be recycled or composted.

We know first hand that the elimination of packaging all-together is highly unlikely (solar cells break very easily) but we can continually strive to become more efficient in our packing and selection of materials. We are seeing more and more companies and individuals that use recyclable or reusable material in their shipping and packing processes. With that said, I believe there is great potential and opportunity for us to come up with a widespread solution to sustainable packaging. This is something that should, and could easily be accomplished right now. Innovative people and leading companies are already developing shipping and packaging alternatives that will hopefully change how the world views product transportation. Here are just a few of those excellent ideas and companies that are taking sustainable packaging to the next level:

  1. Ecovative DesignEcocradle Mushroom Packaging is perhaps one of the most innovative products I’ve seen that involves mushrooms. This packaging material is “grown” from crop waste and is 100% renewable and biodegradable. Apparently they create the material by growing mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells, around crop waste like”buckwheat husks, oat hulls, or cotton burrs.” It takes 5-7 days to grow and they can make almost any shape to meet the packaging requirement so maybe someday we will be shipping our Anywhere Solar Modules in some Mushroom Packaging!

    EcoCradle vs. Styrofoam

    EcoCradle squares off vs. Styrofoam

  2. Eco.Bottle – The Eco.Bottle is distributed by Berlin Packaging and created by Ecologic Brands Inc. It is a molded fiber bottle made from “recycled corrugated cardboard and newspapers.” The shell is 100% recyclable and compostable while the inside features a recyclable inner plastic pouch system. With this design, the bottle uses up to 70% less plastic than traditional bottles. I have yet to see any Eco.Bottles in the supermarket but apparently it is being used by Seventh Generation for their Natural 4X laundry detergent and will hopefully be used for a wide variety of beverages, personal care products, paints and stains in the near future.
    Eco.Bottle and Seventh Generation

    The entire packaging system uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100 oz 2X laundry bottle. -Seventhgeneration.com

    These two products are just an example of the progress companies are making in the realm of sustainable packaging. There are many more organizations out there that are changing the packaging game for good so that in the future, all packaging will be environmentally responsible and more efficient (Here is a list of companies that offer certified compostable packaging materials).

    In closing I leave you with the vision of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition: Sustainable packaging should be “sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy, and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservation, Manufacturing, Recycle, Recycled Materials, Responsible Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess

Greening Beer – Notes and Highlights

For your viewing pleasure I will combine two things I greatly enjoy: Beer and the Environment. When breweries make it a priority to reduce their impact on the environment and try to give back, only great things can happen. Here are a select few that are doing just that; enjoy, and feel free to suggest other breweries that are making a difference (I know there are many more out there).
Central Waters Brewing Company – Amherst, Wisconsin
  • 1000 square feet of solar thermal collectors. The collectors produce around 2500 therms per year and Central Waters will save between $1.4 and $1.5 million over the life of the system.

    Solar Thermal Collectors at Central Waters Brewery

  • The brewery also uses a radiant floor heating system and more energy efficient lighting systems
  • They also work with local farmers in order to recycle the grain used in the brewing process. The spent grain is taken by the farmers and used as feed for livestock, and also as a compost.
Brewery Vivant – Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • In February 2012, Brewery Vivant was honored with the first Silver LEED certification awarded to a microbrewery in the U.S. and also published their first sustainability report. (triplepundit.com)
  • The brewery offsets 100 percent of its energy usage through purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs)
  • They choose to deliver their beer in aluminum cans. Cans protect the beer from light, oxygen, and other factors that could negatively affect the taste. Cans are also easier to transport and are more easily recycled (54% of aluminum cans are recycled in the US, vs 36% of glass bottles being recycled).
  • Very aggressive economic, social, and environmental goals that put them on the fast track to being a leader in the microbrewery industry. Some of those goals include:
    • Zero waste to landfill
    • 50% of food inputs from within 250 miles and 25% of beer inputs from 250 miles
    • 10% onsite renewable energy generation
    • Employee profit sharing program
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company – Chico, California (One of my personal favorites)
  • They completed what is now one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the country in December of 2008. They currently have a carport array that has a potential output of 503 kW DC and they also have a rooftop array that produces an additional 1.42 Megawatts DC. They also have an array on the daycare facility that has a potential capacity of 5.18 kW DC and another array on the rail facility that can produce 14 kW DC. All-in-all, the solar systems at Sierra Nevada are capable of producing 1.94 Megawatts DC. (Sierra Nevada Environmental Stewardship)
  • Sierra Nevada also produced another first when they installed hydrogen fuel cells in 2005, the first brewing operation in the United States to do so. This system consists of four 300 kW fuel cell energy units that can produce 1.2 Megawatts DC when combined. You can check out their real time power production here.

    Fuel Cells at the Sierra Nevada Brewery

  • Sierra Nevada implements many other energy efficiency and sustainable practices including:
    • Ultra efficient lighting system and the use of daylighting
    • The recycling of waste heat
    • They divert 99.6% of solid waste from the landfill with a goal to reach 100%
    • HotRot Composting System – providing compost for their hop field, restaurant garden, and employee garden area.
    • Use homegrown ingredients in beer and restaurant.
    • Transportation – They utilize a hybrid electric local route truck, constructed a rail car unloading facility near their plant to reduce the negative impact of transportation, and also utilize the spent vegetable oil from their taproom and restaurant to power their biodiesel transportation fleet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer, brewery, Brewing, Carbon Footprint, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Building, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar

Best News You Will See All Week: Volume 8

    1. San Diego ranks 1st in California in solar energy use thanks in large part to the California Solar Initiative which is spearheaded by the California Center for Sustainable Education and San Diego Gas & Electric. “With 4,500 rooftop installations generating nearly 37 megawatts ( MW) of electricity, San Diego’s solar panels produce more than $9 million worth of power annually. The report states that if San Diego were a nation unto itself, it would rank among the top 25 nations in the world in terms of solar capacity, with more solar power than Mexico.”
    2. I came across this graphic and had to share. It may be funny but the message is clear, we spend too much time in the shower (myself included) and one of the easiest and most effective ways to save water and energy is by taking shorter showers.
    3. If you are interested in business or entrepreneurship you should read this article – two friends who started a company by turning waste into fungal gold.
    4. A solar panel installed in Mwiki, Kenya by Eight19

      In the developing world, solar is now cheaper than fossil fuels. Millions of households in Africa now have access to cleaner and safer electricity as they make the switch from kerosene lamps to efficient LED lighting and small solar panels. In most parts of the world, electricity produced by traditional power plants is much cheaper than solar electricity but people who have no grid access in Africa have found that using solar to power lighting and other essential items sometimes costs half as much as using kerosene lamps. Read more here.

    5. And to continue the trend, I will leave you with this video explaining the importance of the number 350.

350 from Hans Hansen on Vimeo.

Leave a comment

Filed under Carbon Footprint, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Upcycle

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 1

Each and every day we come across some very interesting goodies on the World Wide Web. Each week we will compile our favorites right here so you can share in some of that goodness. Here is Volume 1 for your viewing pleasure!

  1. Terracycle – we did a spotlight (found here) on this wonderful company recently and love what they are doing. They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again. They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material). For example here is a large tote bag made entirely from used Capri Sun drink pouches and here is a short video with the founder and CEO of Terracycle, Tom Szaky.
  2. PlanetSolar– The logbook of the crew with the goal to be the “first to circumnavigate the globe in a “solar” boat, i.e. one driven by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine powered exclusively by solar energy.”

    PlanetSolar team navigating near Monaco

  3. Solar Power is not just for your roof anymore. Within the next five years expect to see it popping up in your siding, windows, walls, and more. Installed building integrated photovoltaic technology is predicted to exceed 1 gigawatt by 2016.
  4. Solar Roadways – An awesome documentary clip explaining the research and development of solar roadways. I encourage you all to watch!
  5. And finally, in light of the recent success of The Muppets…

    Kermit the Frog reminds us all to "be green" and recycle!

Leave a comment

Filed under Carbon Footprint, Cell Phone, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar, Upcycle

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Here is another clip from the documentary Y.E.R.T.(Your Environmental Road Trip)…Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Recycled Materials, Upcycle

Solar Roadways – “Roads that pay for themselves.”

This past Tuesday, I was invited to a screening of  the documentary Y.E.R.T.(Your Environmental Road Trip) at California Center for Sustainable Energy.  It was an inspiring film and I thought I’d share clips from the flick that I can’t stop thinking about.  First up…SOLAR ROADS!

Bennet – PNS Energy

1 Comment

Filed under Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar