Living Sustainably

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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



Coconut Coir, Say Goodbye to Peat Moss!

coconutPeat Moss is a common material used for gardening, but it’s not sustainable, mining is damaging to the environment and it’s acidic.

The Dirt on Peat Moss

Does Peat Moss Have a Place In the Ecological Garden?

We use recycled coconut fiber, called coir, a food industry byproduct. As such it’s sustainable, less acidic, and performs better for the myriad of uses we need:

1. Cover Material for Composting Toilet
2. Worm Composting Bedding
3. Mulch and soil additives
4. Upholstery Stuffing

There’s a great tutorial for using Coconut Coir at The Real Garden.

We get ours at Amazon with free shipping, and are very happy with the results. It comes in 11 lb. compressed bales (expands when hydrated) for $22.


The Return of the Green Trust Rain Water Harvesting System

rainbarrelkitThe Green Trust Rain Water Harvesting System is back! Our tested and approved rain barrel kit for turning your plastic barrel into a source of water for gardening, flushing, even drinking (with the DIY Berkey Water Purifier)  is back in stock!  We have used this ourselves and it’s a great way to obtain water for general use or emergencies. Works with rectangular downspouts.

Comes with our DIY Water Systems eBook package!

See at


Coal-fired boilers will go cold in days as Ball State continues conversion to geothermal

Coal-fired boilers will go cold in days as Ball State continues conversion to geothermal
Nearly 70 years after Ball State University installed its four coal-fired boilers, school employees are shoveling in the last few lumps of coal. In just a few days, the boilers will go cold as the university embraces renewable energy with world’s largest district closed geothermal energy system.
Jim Lowe, director of engineering, construction and operations, will be there to watch the historic event. He’s overseen the $80 million geothermal project — consisting of 3,600 boreholes to the system that heats and cools 47 buildings on campus — since the first hole was drilled in 2009.
“It has been incredible to witness the progress over the last few years,” Lowe says. “I think we’ll realize the full extent of the changeover from consuming about 36,000 tons of coal a year to renewable energy when the two smoke stacks come down in 2015.”
The work to be completed includes finishing the system’s south borehole field, modifications to the South District Energy Station to accommodate the two new 2,500-ton heat-pump chillers, hot and chilled water distribution looping, and modification of the remaining buildings (predominately on the south side of campus) to accept the geothermal connections.
Lowe notes that when the system is complete next year, the shift from fossil fuels to a renewable energy source will reduce the university’s carbon footprint by nearly half while saving $2 million a year in operating costs.
The Earth’s ability to maintain a constant temperature supports the thermodynamic principle for the geothermal system’s operation. A ground source heat pump coupled with a vertical closed loop piping system uses the Earth as either a heat source, when operating in heating mode, or a heat sink, when operating in cooling mode.
Phase 1 was completed in 2012. It consisted of two borehole fields, construction of the North District Energy Station and connecting buildings on the northern part of campus to the new distribution system.
“When costs began to escalate for the installation of a new fossil fuel burning boiler, the university began to evaluate other renewable energy options,” Lowe says. “This led to the decision to convert the campus to a more efficient geothermal-based heating and cooling system.”
Federal and state officials have endorsed Ball State’s foray into renewable energy. The U.S. Department of Energy provided a grant of $5 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Indiana General Assembly authorized nearly $45 million in state capital funding for the first phase. In 2013, the Indiana General Assembly authorized a $30 million cash appropriation for the second phase.
The project has caught the attention of universities and communities across the nation. Lowe is sharing information about the university’s new operation with others who want learn how they, too, can benefit from a geothermal system.
“The geothermal project provides research opportunities for faculty, and by creating a sustainable university, we can provide a learning environment for students,” Lowe says. “This project further demonstrates that we practice what we teach.”
Contact information
Jim Lowe may be reached at 765-285-2805 or
Marc Ransford
media relations manager
Ball State University
Muncie, Ind .47306

Affordable Solar Starter Kit

solar kitSo you want to get started in solar, but don’t know where to start? Here’s an inexpensive ($190, delivered) quality starter kit. 100 watts of monocrystalline solar which could generate between 250-500 watt hours daily (up to 8 hours on  laptop, or get two to run a dorm fridge), depending on your location and weather conditions. Comes with a 30 amp charge controller so you can add more solar panels, wiring, and a mounting kit. Add a battery and a inverter to get your journey started. Great for learning how solar works, science fair projects, and a building block for a larger system. You can go off grid as you build your system, taking more and more devices off the grid, a device or a room at a time. Once you have the starter kit, you can add more panels. Make sure you get additional mounting brackets and cables for your expansion. The 30 amp controller can handle 3 solar panels, so get another starter kit for your 4th panel, etc.

DIY Solar Installation Tutorials


The DIY Berkefeld (Berkey) Water Purifier Is Back!

diyberkeyAfter many issues with a supplier, and their quality control, we are re-introducing The DIY Berkefeld (Berkey) Water Purifier with the original white ceramic / carbon / silver impregnated purifier cartridges. Ceramic cartridges have been proven in third world countries for over 100 years. We are also including our eBook package on rain water harvesting, water purification and solar water heating. Get the details (and construction video) at

The Sterasyl grade ceramic is designed to remove suspended solids and pathogenic bacteria (>99.99%). The filter elements are produced using the latest ceramic techniques to provide a hollow porous ceramic, which is fired at a temperature in excess of 1,000º C. They are designed to operate with water flow going from the outside to the inside of the element. The ceramic shell exhibits a strictly controlled pore structure, so as to provide efficient sub-micron filtration, a proven defense against hard-shelled parasites such as Cryptosporidium as well as pathogenic bacteria. The ceramic also removes other less harmful, but equally unpleasant particulate debris such as rust and dirt. Composition of the SterasylTM ceramic contains pure silver. This silver is a material designed to significantly inhibit bacteriological mitosis or grow through. The result is that bacterial growth is inhibited from occurring within the SterasylTM ceramic element (which is possible with the other ceramic filter elements). This silver content insures that filtered water contains levels well below those required by international standards. Because of the silver, SterasylTM filter elements do not require sterilization after cleaning. Additionally, the bore of the ceramic shell is filled with granular activated carbon, which enables the filter to reduce chlorine and organic chemicals while improving the color, taste, and odor of the source water. The re-cleanable Super SterasylTM filter elements remove suspended solids, parasites, cysts and pathogenic bacteria (>99.99%) and reduce organic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, trihalomethanes, SOCs, VOCs and foul tastes and odors. The top of the Super SterasylTM element is closed with a unique ceramic dome. This prevents the possibility of breeching (leakage), which can occur with filtration elements that are closed with a plastic cap.


Wood Fired Emergency Heat and Cooking

vogelzangThe recent ice storm, and power outage, reminded me how we used to heat our home and cook with wood back home in NY. The EPA has been making noise about banning or restricting the sales of woodstoves, and quality stoves are expensive. In the past I’ve heated with barrel stoves, and they are cheap to make, and replace, as used barrels are plentiful. Broken limbs from the ice storm means a plentiful wood supply, and scrap wood from construction and pallets are also plentiful. Vogelzang makes a inexpensive kit that makes it easy to turn a 30 or 55 gallon steel drum into a workable heater and cookstove. The basic kit adds cast iron legs, door, and chimney collar. Addons include a cook plate, grate, and even a double barrel kit for increased heat output. Check out for more details.