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Archive for April, 2014

Journal of the New Alchemists

John and Mary Todd from their old “New Alchemist” days discuss aquaponics (yes, it’s an old concept), bioshelters, and more. Download the free tech info!

The New Alchemy Institute was a research center that did pioneering investigation into organic agricultureaquaculture, and bioshelter design between 1969 and 1991. It was founded by John Todd, Nancy Jack Todd, and William McLarney. Its purpose was to research human support systems of food, water, and shelter and to completely rethink how these systems were designed.






University of California, Davis
April 22, 2014


[Editor’s note: Photos of the UC Davis biodigester can be downloaded at ]

More than a decade ago, Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at the University of California, Davis, started working on a problem: How to turn as much organic waste as possible into as much renewable energy as possible.

Today, on Earth Day, the university and Sacramento-based technology partner CleanWorld are officially unveiling the UC Davis Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester (READ) at the campus’ former landfill. Here, the anaerobic digestion technology Zhang invented is being used inside large, white, oxygen-deprived tanks. Bacterial microbes in the tanks feast on campus and community food and yard waste, converting it into clean energy that feeds the campus electrical grid.

“It has been the thrust of my research to bring the innovations we made possible at UC Davis to commercial scale,” Zhang said. “This technology can change the way we manage our solid waste. It will allow us to be more economically and environmentally sustainable. I am proud and grateful to be a part of the team who helped make this moment a reality.”

It is the third commercial biodigester CleanWorld has opened using Zhang’s technology within the past two years and is the nation’s largest anaerobic biodigester on a college campus.

The system is designed to convert 50 tons of organic waste to 12,000 kWh of renewable electricity each day using state-of-the-art generators, diverting 20,000 tons of waste from local landfills each year.

The facility took unique advantage of its location at the now closed UC Davis landfill by blending landfill gases — primarily methane — with the biogas to create a total of 5.6 million kWh per year of clean electricity. It is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13,500 tons per year.

The READ BioDigester encompasses several of the university’s goals: reducing campus waste in a way that makes both economic and environmental sense, generating renewable energy, and transferring technology developed at UC Davis to the commercial marketplace.

“The biodigester is the latest chapter in UC Davis’ world-renowned legacy of environmental sustainability,” said Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis. “This project stands as a model public-private partnership and demonstrates what can be achieved when research universities and private industry collaborate to address society’s most pressing challenges.”

The project is decidedly homegrown: Campus waste is converted into renewable energy for the UC Davis electrical grid using technology invented by a UC Davis professor and licensed by CleanWorld. The company’s chief executive officer Michele Wong and vice president of research and development Josh Rapport are UC Davis alumni. Rapport received his doctorate in anaerobic digestion from UC Davis under Zhang’s tutelage in 2011.

“There is so much to celebrate today as we recognize the far-reaching environmental and sustainability impacts this technology will have,” Wong said. “It will enable the more than 100 million tons of organic waste each year that is currently being landfilled in the U.S. to be converted to clean energy and soil products. CleanWorld is proud to be the commercialization partner with Dr. Zhang and UC Davis for these game-changing innovations. With this project, we’ve crossed the bridge from research and development to commercialization and proven that CleanWorld’s high-solid AD system can be a feasible, cost-effective, and repeatable solution, not only for municipalities and communities, but also for universities and public institutions throughout California and the U.S.”

The READ BioDigester is a closed loop system, moving from farm to fork to fuel and back to farm. Whatever is not turned into biogas to generate renewable electricity can be used as fertilizer and soil amendments — 4 million gallons of it per year, which could provide natural fertilizers for an estimated 145 acres of farmlands each day.

Nearly half of the organic waste, or feedstock, needed to operate the biodigester to full benefit will come from UC Davis dining halls, animal facilities and grounds. CleanWorld is working with area food processing and distribution centers to supply the remaining amount. Meanwhile, UC Davis will earn 100 percent of the project’s green energy and carbon credits and receive all of the electricity generated.

Anaerobic digestion is an age-old process. However, Zhang’s patented technology made it more efficient — capable of eating a broader variety and bigger quantity of waste, turning it into clean energy faster and more consistently than other commercial anaerobic biodigesters.

The project benefits from a unique public-private partnership. While Zhang moved the technology forward, CleanWorld’s commercializing efforts have made it modular, cost-effective and faster to deploy, making it one of the most advanced, commercially available anaerobic digestion systems in the country. The READ BioDigester, for example, went from bare ground to full installation within six months. Its $8.5 million cost was roughly two-thirds less than other anaerobic digesters the university researched as potential renewable energy sources.

CleanWorld financed the majority of the project with private equity and a commercial loan with First Northern Bank. Approximately $2 million in public funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission.

CleanWorld’s other two biodigesters are in the Sacramento area:

* The Sacramento BioDigester opened in December 2012 and can digest 25 tons per day. Construction is underway to expand its size to digest 100 tons per day and produce 700,000 gallons per year of renewable compressed natural gas, fueling both public and private fleets.
* The American River Packaging BioDigester in Natomas opened in April 2012. It can convert 10 tons of waste per day and generates roughly 1,300 kWh of energy daily.

About CleanWorld

CleanWorld is the leading North American innovator of advanced, high-solids anaerobic digestion (HSAD) technology. CleanWorld’s BioDigesters represent a generational leap forward in anaerobic digestion technology, dramatically reducing the time and cost of construction, commissioning and operation, while increasing output, efficiency, and revenue opportunities. A subsidiary of Synergex, a global leader in technology for more than 35 years, CleanWorld was founded and is managed by people committed to the idea that our precious organic resources should never be wasted.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Additional information:
* Download biodigester photos:
* Watch a video about the UC Davis biodigester:
* Vine video: From lunch to lights:
* Visit www.CleanWorld.com

Media contacts:
* Ruihong Zhang, UC Davis Biological and Agricultural Engineering, (530) 754-9530,
* Tracy Saville, CleanWorld, (916) 853-0362,, cell: (916) 717-3250
* Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704,, cell: (530) 750-9195

See all of our news releases at


Spent Brewer’s Grains Controversy

In the past, the brewing industry supplied the cattle feed industry with “waste” brewers grains. This was a good deal for them and the cattle industry, and helped close the resource loop. That symbiotic relationship is soon to be over, thanks to the feds:

A fight is brewing between American beer makers and the federal government over happy hour … for cows.

For centuries, brewers have given or sold the leftover grain from the brewing process to local ranchers and dairy farmers for cattle feed. But new regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration threaten to end that relationship.




Arbor Day 2014: History, growth and how to celebrate

Trees are a powerful part of environmental well being, and that’s not exactly breaking news. Arbor Day may not have a singular observed day around the world—through most places observe it on the last Friday of April—but it’s one of the oldest environmental holidays still celebrated.

The first Arbor Day

The origins of Arbor Day can be traced to 1802 when a priest from the small Spanish village of Villanueva de la Sierra organized a tree planting to beautify the village. It would be over fifty year, however, until such a movement came stateside.

Arbor Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1872. J Sterling Morton, a politician and magazine editor, rallied Nebraskans to plant over one million trees across the state, a remarkable feat considering the state’s population was only about 120,000. There’s no record of whether they utilized the campaign slogan “8 trees for every Nebraskan!” but hopefully they did.

Growing into a nationwide movement

In years since, Arbor Day has grown to include a breadth of planting events, from community-centric plantings to large-scale reforestry efforts at national parks, like the one organized in the wake of the Yellowstone fires of 1988. From 1990 to 2010, the Arbor Day Foundation (the nonprofit organization in charge of U.S. Arbor Day projects) planted 20 million trees in U.S. national parks. The Foundation will continue planting trees in years to come in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

In 2008, the Arbor Day Foundation launched Tree Campus USA, a program that recognizes colleges and universities for following best tree care practices. Check out the complete list of Tree Campus USA schools to see if your alma mater is recognized.

Take action

While Arbor Day has grown to encompass nationwide projects, it is still a grassroots (ortreeroots) movement at heart. To donate, volunteer or just get in touch with the Arbor Day Foundation, head to their Take Action page. Here you can find an Arbor Day project in your area in need of volunteers, and if you happen to be busy this month, that’s okay—year-round projects are often in need of help, too.

Current projects include revitalizing the Lost Pines Forest of Bastrop, Texas, which was ravaged by wildfires in 2011; another is centered around replanting in Joplin, Missouri, a city destroyed by a powerful tornado that claimed 160 lives.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type and would prefer to simply plant a tree or two in your backyard, that works, too. Check out our post What can trees do for me? on the benefits of residential planting and how to go about selecting an appropriate type of tree. Happy planting!

This article was originally posted at and submitted by USAGAIN.


Support Earth Day with Rareform – Billboards to Bags!

rareform1LOS ANGELES, April 11, 2014 – RAREFORM is creating quite a wave in the outdoor market with its innovative, eco-friendly manufacturing techniques. Aimed to reduce waste and sustain our natural playground RAREFORM creates one-of-a-kind bags and accessories that protect both your gear and the environment. By using an “upcycling” process RAREFORM is able to take billboards before they hit landfills and transform them in to into completely individualized works of art; perfectly fit for the active lifestyle. Founder and outdoor enthusiast, Alec Avedissian’s brilliant idea came to mind during a surf trip to El Salvador where he noticed locals using old billboards to protect their homes from nature’s elements. Launched in September 2012 and specializing in surf, RAREFORM’s stylish products are padded, waterproof, mildew-proof, and as tough as the products they protect. The brand offers all types of uniquely well -designed accessories ranging from surf bags, paddle bags, totes and backpacks to laptop and cell phone sleeves.

RAREFORM has pledged to donate 1% of sales to support the preservation and restoration of our natural environment. “With a continued commitment to the principles that got the whole thing started—quality, sustainability, and style—RAREFORM’s best days are still ahead,” Avedissian says. RAREFORM is sold in stores such as Patagonia, REI, and other outdoor retailers with prices ranging from $40-125;

For more information, please contact