Eco Entrepreneurs

Peter, a retired engineer who lives in Waitati (near Dunedin), says he has designed a prototype system which will convert household organic waste into biodiesel fuel. His contraption links up to an existing ‘insinkerator’ disposal unit or can be fed directly with compost and shredded garden waste.

Future biofuel?
Future biofuel?

“With my system anybody can make biodiesel. It’s easy, you can make it in your kitchen – and it’s BETTER than the petro-diesel fuel the big oil companies sell you”, Peter said.

“Your diesel motor will run better and last longer on your home-made fuel, and it’s much cleaner – better for the environment and better for health. If you make it from kitchen waste it’s not only cheap but you’ll be recycling a waste product which otherwise goes down the gurgler.”

Is this for real?

Does this sounds fanciful? Maybe, but this story is not as far fetched as you might think (in fact, if you’re especially keen to DIY then here’s a recipe).

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’m working on an exciting new system which could help people like Peter, and anybody who needs help with an eco-project of any size.

My goal is to give everyone the opportunity to support the entrepreneurs, ideas-people and volunteers who need extra know-how, time, people, resources or money to get their eco-projects off the ground.

Questions for you…

Keep to help? You can start by answering these three questions via the ‘COMMENTS’ option below…

  1. What are your top concerns about the environment in your neighborhood/country/the planet?
  2. Do you feel as though you are personally doing enough to help the environment?
  3. If your answer is “NO” then what’s stopping you? (e.g. time, money, feeling like you can’t make a difference…)

4 responses to “Eco Entrepreneurs”

  1. Zef Avatar

    In my city they keep putting in new sub-divisions with no requirements for solar power or greywater – this is despite water shortages in our area, and ever-increasing power prices. I think New Zealand is in denial about our farming and horticultural methods, which means our land and waters are now increasingly toxic and polluted. When I was a kid I could drink straight from any mountain stream – but not now.

    At a global level I think the world’s natural resources are in an early state of collapse – but I think this can be resolved by a mixture of Government intervention, a change in business values, technology advances and by each of us living in a more sustainable manner.

    Personally I would like to do more for the environment but I most of my time is taken up with work, commuting and family commitments. So at this time in my life I can contribute small amounts of money. I do sometimes donate to international organisations such as WWF, Caritas and Greenpeace – but I would like to find a way to help projects happening in my part of the country.

  2. helen Avatar

    great stuff zef; i’ve just been to visit my brother in karamea where they have built a new house with a grey-water system & a composting toilet. i’m interested in wind power myself – living in wellington it seems insane not to make use of the wind. i emailed one company & have had no reply, but i’ve been told to look on trademe so will get round to that eventually. but i’m concerned about how the power generated would be stored, as i know batteries aren’t great for the environment – has anyone come up with a friendly way to store excess power for those (rare) windless days??
    h : )

  3. Alan Miles Avatar

    Having been involved in leading-edge technologies all my working life (I started as a DSIR technician in 1970) I have serious concerns about the environment, and our increasing (arrogant, I think) reliance on technology to "solve" environmental problems, or even just to survive.

    It would suprise many to know just how dependent they are on the smooth operation of complex technologies, involving the cooperation of many specialists just to maintain life. If society broke down significantly for any reason (natural disaster, political unrest etc) supplies of food, water and power could be affected, even to the extent of being virtually stopped. The events in New Orleans when hit by hurricane Katrina were a surprise to many, but unless people wake up and realise the "technology trap" they are in, it will happen again – perhaps worse next time. Perhaps for a longer period.

    If we don’t realise that "Global Warming" is less of an issue than facing the fact that the earth has cycles of warming and cooling REGARDLESS of the influence of man – good or bad – then we won’t be in any state to respond WHEN the next ice age arrives! The biggest danger with "Global Warming" is that this will trigger events leading quite quickly to the next ice age! By allowing people to think that it is a man-made problem, we can somehow feel confortable and complacent about it, as surely we can also fix it! Not so, as I understand it!

    Sorry to be rather negative about this. I do like to have a positive message, or at least some proposals to advance, but I don’t see one right now. I feel disempowered to do anything except sound a warning. I DON’T support much of the present political discussion, as I see it part of the delusion that somehow we can fix things. The natural world is vastly bigger than that! We are like fleas on a dog’s back – a bit of an irritation!

    We must accept that we have to respect the natural environment and conserve resources – all resources – much better than we do. BUT if we are to use technology, it has to be to find a way to somewhat deconstruct the modern reliance on a complex society based so heavily as it is on complex technologies and energy usage. We must develop ways of not just surviving but maintaining some standards in the event of the next ice age. The arrival of the next ice age is just a matter of when, not if, and could be within only one or two lifetimes! The problem is that urgent, I think.

    We have to come up with much more in the way of recyclable technologies – things that will continue to serve us for some indefinite period, rather than stuff we buy now and then replace in a year or two. (Less in the case of so much packaging today!) This will be essential in a world where we can’t simply go out and find more of anything we want. The extraction of metals, fuels, etc will all be so much more expensive when a large proportion of the planet’s surface is covered in permafrost!

    I will be interested in any responses to what I have written, and may add further thoughts.

  4. Richard Thompson Avatar

    Interesting comments and good on you Zef. Like most reasonably aware people I am concerned about the environment. I guess I have settled at a sort of mid-way point in the despair/no worries spectrum. It is important to acknowledge the problems, to understand them (to the extent we can) and do our best to look for solutions. Doing nothing is not an option for obvious reasons yet, ironically enough, that is exactly what a lot of environmentally minded people do. The problems seem too big, too intractable, and one person’s efforts seem so insignificant.

    Often this paralysis is accompanied by a generalised railing against the industrial capitalist world despite the fact that the person continues to enjoy all of the benefits of modern society. And, if we were being honest here, is unlikely to want to give any of them up. Herein lies the problem – it is all too easy to identify the villains (usually a corporate or multinational – easy targets) apportion blame, and slope off home thinking you’ve done your bit to change the world.

    Recently I engaged in conversation with a woman protesting against Meridian Energy’s proposed Makara wind farm. When asked what alternative she could offer to supply NZ’s increasing energy demand she could only offer vague statements about everyone using less. Did she practice energy conservation herself? No, I don’t have time? Does she have a solar water heater? No, can’t afford it. Where should wind farms go? Anywhere but here. Etc etc. Clearly other people need to make the sacrifices.

    But that is enough cynicism. I’m sure you get my drift.

    In my view the best idea to come out of 20th century environmentalism is sustainability. It’s a big concept and plenty of better scribes than me have written about it but in essence it is all about living in a way that can be "sustained" indefinitely. At a more complex level it also incorporates concepts about transition, depletion and recharge rates, scale and uncertainty.

    There is no doubt that we are presently living in an unsustainable way, and interestingly it is not the lack of resources that is our biggest problem but the absorption capacity of our home planet. Peak oil is going to have to give way to climate change because while we can find or make alternative fuels to replace oil (solar, wind, tide, hydro, biofuels), there isn’t an alternative atmosphere or hydrologic cycle we can switch to.

    But we have made huge gains in efficiency so although we are still overusing resources and over-polluting we are doing so much less proportionally in terms of the benefits we gain. The car I drive now uses half the fuel to travel the same distance as my trusty old Corona. Sooner or later the developed world, at least, will be able to more or less live sustainably, thanks to science, technology and money.

    That raises two important points. Firstly, yes we do have a problem with all those Chinese who are suddenly demanding plasma TVs, fast cars with air con, and a beer fridge. And it’s just not going to be possible to ask them to forgo those unnecessary and wasteful pleasures for the sake of the planet. That means that we are going to have to work harder on those solutions for sustainability.

    Which leads to the second issue: money. We are going to need lots of it to pay for clever research, to build and develop new energy sources, to finance the re-engineering of manufacturing so that products are made of more benign materials, last longer and can be reworked into new updated designs. We’ll have to ensure that consumers, industrialists, farmers all pay the real cost of the resources they use and the effects of their activities on the biosphere. That’ll mean paying a lot more for your car, TV and even butter. It is worth it because it is the real cost.

    And to get the money we pretty much need to keep developing economically. I know – more people, more stuff, more pollution. That’s the traditional view of development and, in the past, was largely true. On the other hand sustainable development is a form of growth that is not necessarily depleting or polluting. And a good NZ example of that is the huge wealth and economic activity created by Trade Me. Mostly just people buying and selling their stuff to each other. An incredibly effective form of recycling, with relatively low impact compared to similar sized businesses. But there are plenty of other interesting forms of economic growth that benefit the environment – research, renewable energy, recycling, revegetation etc.

    So, what I am suggesting is to work with rather than against the desires of most people in the world to have a better life. Drop the preaching (and I realise the irony of that comment after that rave) and look to clever solutions, effective regulation and innovative tools to tweak the market so that when we pay for or do something we pick up the true cost of our impact. Complain no more about increasing petrol or power prices – in fact welcome them because they improve the ecomomics of renewables. Embrace a waste levy. Buy less junky stuff and more quality. Buy expensive native furniture from a sustainably managed forest. Become an informed planet dweller, do your bit AND enjoy life.