Ingenious new technologies are helping to cut carbon footprint, as Jim McClelland discovers
You say tomato, I say food-processing byproduct as bioplastic feedstock. While the lyrical twist might not make for a classic sing-song, it could help manufacture cars for Ford. Two brand giants have teamed up to explore potential applications for use of leftovers from millions of tons of tomatoes that go into making the world’s most well-known ketchup. H. J. Heinz Company vice president, global packaging R&D/innovation, Dr Michael Okoroafor explains: “Repurposing factory waste to make composite materials with plastic is a novel approach to reducing dependence on petroleum-based resins. The Heinz-Ford tomato fibre project has the potential to replace £10 million to £20 million of plastic derived from fossil fuels and is a part of our journey towards developing 100 per cent plant-based materials through the Plant PET Technology Collaborative group.”
WAVE OF INNOVATION
AutoNaut is a 3.5 meter-long wave-propelled unmanned surface vessel (USV) that offers autonomous oceanic data gathering, with zero-carbon propulsion – a kind of green sea drone. The brainchild of Mike Poole and David Maclean, AutoNaut is already in production and their Chichester-based company Most (Autonomous Vessels) Limited hopes to build six to eight boats by the middle of 2015. The USV can be controlled via satellite from anywhere in the world, is silent, and boasts extreme long range and endurance. Describing its success, Stephen Browning, head of the small business research initiative at the Technology Strategy Board, one of the co-funders of the project along with the National Oceanography Centre, says: “AutoNaut is a great example of how innovative small businesses can help solve public-sector challenges, and in turn receive funding to develop their products and grow.”
ONE SCOOP OR TWO?
If not flavour of the month, a manure separator has certainly proved popular at a 375-cow farm, supplier to global ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s. As part of the Unilever subsidiary’s Caring Dairy Programme, the investment eliminates nearly 13,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, by separating out 50 per cent of manure solids and composting them into sanitary bedding material for livestock. The Help Build model at NativeEnergy provided upfront funding in exchange for certified carbon offsets. NativeEnergy president Jeff Bernicke explains: “Collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, NativeEnergy set out to create an innovative and replicable approach to achieve pollution-reduction goals, and also improve a supply farm’s financial prospects. The Green Dream Farm Methane Reduction project, located in Ben & Jerry’s home state of Vermont, demonstrates that sustainability investments can both create strategic value and long-term benefits for the ice-cream maker, and also for its communities and supply chain.”
Zero-cement structural concrete might appear a contradiction in terms, but that is exactly the sustainable solution for today’s construction industry offered by Cemfree. It activates 95 per cent ground blast furnace slag (GGBS), producing an ultra-low carbon alternative to concrete mix designs that traditionally use Portland cement (OPC). Total UK GGBS grinding capacity a year is 2,920,000 tonnes. Hypothetically, using all this with Cemfree for low-carbon concrete, in place of traditional OPC-based material, would equate to saving more than 2,100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to taking over 750,000 cars off the road. The product is evidence of sector carbon-cutting ambition, according to World Concrete Forum director Martin Clarke. “Cemfree is a symbol of the determination of the global cement and concrete industry to reduce environmental impact with innovative business-led solutions,” he says.
HOUSE THAT LISTENS
What if your house could talk or at least listen? Connecting to your Up24 wristband, Nest thermostat-based home automation can know when you wake and adjust room temperatures or anticipate arrivals by interfacing with your Mercedes. Associated efficiencies can help save energy and shrink carbon footprints. Following acquisition by Google, Nest has built on its Learning Thermostat and Protect products by launching a developer API (application programming interface) last month. For sustainable designer, writer and TV presenter Oliver Heath, this tie-up prompts mixed feelings. “On the one hand, embedding sustainable lifestyle practices into home technology can offer a low-interference way of reducing energy bills and CO2 emissions,” he says. “It’s easy to live better, smarter and more efficiently – who wouldn’t aspire to that? On the other hand, I am concerned Google ownership will lead to a web of ever-increasing mining for personal data.”
LIGHTING UP LEAGUE
In transfer news of a different kind, Southampton Football Club is about to make soccer history with its St Mary’s stadium becoming the first in Europe to switch to LED floodlights. New Premier League guidelines call for a significant increase in light levels for floodlit games and using traditional lighting solutions this could potentially require doubling the number of 2,500-watt luminaires. By contrast, an LED sports floodlight is only 720 watt and will fit into most stadium infrastructures without core upgrades, saving considerable capital costs. The second big benefit of LED is TV-related, as Southampton FC’s stadium facilities manager Mark Humby explains: “During this process I have been introduced to the technical term ‘flicker’ which only causes an issue during slow-motion and super-slow-motion footage. By using a top-quality LED product we have all but removed this.”