ABLC 2017 Summaries Now Published

The Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC) 2017 in Washington, D.C. was amazing, as it often is every year, but this year in particular was special because of all the uncertainty in our future regarding the government’s support of biofuels and biomaterials, the constantly changing global economy, and just the sheer amount of new and innovative technologies being developed on what seems like a daily basis.

There were many new announcements at the ABLC and some shocking things too, so check out my summaries below.

Day 1 ABLC Highlights

Day 2 ABLC Highlights

And don’t forget to visit Biofuels Digest for other upcoming biofuel and biomaterial conferences and their new NUU online publication for the latest news on the bioeconomy, with many articles written by yours truly. Thanks for your support!!!

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TerraTech’s “Hot Products and Trends in the Sustainable Markets” Radio Show

Missed me on this morning’s TerraTech radio show on Hot Products and Trends in the Sustainable markets? Hear my updates at 16:30 mark on latest biomaterials news and stories like 3D printed cars, ExxonMobil’s move into algae biofuels, biomaterial based organs for transplants, and U.S. Navy hagfish slime for defense!

 

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“Fountains of Youth and Fortresses of Steel” – Hear What I Have to Say on TerraTech’s Radio Show

I guess I didn’t do too bad of a job back on February 1st as a guest speaker on Jim Lane’s TerraTech radio show, as I was asked to speak again – this time for the full hour so we could go in a bit more in-depth on some of these fascinating biomaterials and genetics news articles I’ve been writing about lately.

Hear me speak for a full hour – if you can handle that – on
today’s TerraTech radio show about “Fountains of Youth and Fortresses of Steel.”

All these new innovations are important to show that we can make practically anything with biomaterials. It isn’t just biofuels anymore or bioplastics or biochemicals. It’s about a complete overhaul and new way of thinking at our world and seeing that anything can be made with biomaterials.

The key as we move forward in this direction is ensuring that we aren’t coming up with inventions or new ways of doing things that are less sustainable in the long run or more polluting or toxic or damaging than what we are replacing it with. I mean, when physicists came up with nuclear energy, it was supposed to be a great thing, but there are definite downsides to it as well.  So whether we replace our new car with a 3D printed biomaterial one, we have to really look at where did they get those biomaterials from? Was it helping an impoverished country and their farmers perhaps? Or was child labor used which wouldn’t be helping our people and planet at all?

Those are all things to keep in mind and consider as we talk about the future and implications of biomaterials.

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Shrimp Shells As Biodegradable Bags? Could Be Solution to Plastic Bag Pollution

The latest news from the University of Nottingham is that scientists have found a way to use shrimp shells to make biodegradable plastic bags. I recently reported for Biofuels Digest’s NUU publication how researchers in Portugal are using shrimp and crab shells for biomedical devices, which sounded like a neat biomaterial solution for the medical community. But what about shrimp shells to replace plastic bags? I’ve been thinking alot about whether this is really a better option and it’s a tough one. Here are my thoughts on this:

Pros:

  • This development in using shrimp shells is specifically for use in Egypt where plastic pollution is a huge problem, especially plastic bags which are contaminating the water ways. This directly impacts the health of the people in Egypt.
  • It can replace the fossil fuel, oil based plastic bags now used so that if bags do get into the water ways as they have been doing, then at least now they will biodegrade and not cause any harm to the aquatic life or humans living near those water ways and drink, bathe, irrigate crops, and use that water.

Cons:

  • It’s not providing a solution for the root of the problem which is 1) why are so many plastic bags being used in the first place and why can’t reusuable bags be an option? 2) how to prevent any trash, even biodegradable plastic bags from getting into the waterways?
  • There are some unknown questions that I can’t seem to gather the answers from based on the article. For example,
    • Where will they get the shrimp shells from? The article makes it sounds like the shrimp shells are coming from waste that otherwise would be thrown away. I am not sure how much shrimp is raised, caught or processed in Egypt but if they can take something that would otherwise be thrown away, then great. But I would hope they wouldn’t purposefully be growing shrimp for their shells to make the bags with.
    • What additives are they using to bind the shells and make the bags? I would hope they aren’t adding some chemicals or toxins to bind the material and create the bags.

So while I really love the idea of a biodegradable plastic bag that won’t pollute waterways and will biodegrade quickly, I would need more information on the actual way the bags are produced and how they get the shrimp shells, if they are really eliminating a waste by using the shrimp shells, etc.

I can’t wait to hear more about it and see what other new bio-innovations are created to help solve our huge worldwide plastics problem!

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A Fierce Green Fire

If you have nothing on your agenda for this Earth Day, check this out:

American Masters presents A Fierce Green Fire, the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement, premiering nationally Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 9-10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/schedule/) in honor of Earth Day.

The one-hour documentary chronicles one of the largest movements of the 20th century, and one of the keys to the 21st.

Written, directed and produced by Academy Award-nominee Mark Kitchell (Berkeley in the Sixties), American Masters: A Fierce Green Fire spans 50 years of grassroots and global activism from the 1960s-2009 and connects the major causes of environmentalism, from conservation to climate change. Narrated by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, Van Jones and Isabel Allende, the film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has won acclaim worldwide.

Inspired by the book of the same name by environmental journalist and film interviewee Philip Shabecoff, and informed by advisors like conservation biologist E.O. Wilson, A Fierce Green Fire unfolds in five acts, each with a central story and character, featuring vivid archival footage and new interviews that shed light on the battle for a living planet. The first four acts include success stories of people fighting for causes against enormous odds, and the fifth concludes with climate change.

 

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20 Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose Activities for Kids

20140418_152357Especially with Earth Day coming up this week, I wanted to share this neat list of 20 activities for kids that involve Recycling, Reusing and Repurposing! Enjoy!

I am spending my lunch break on Tuesday (April 22) Earth Day at my daughter’s school representing a local environmental organization I’m on the Board of called Keep Prince William Beautiful.  I’m so honored to have been asked by her teacher to come in and share some “Three R’s” information in a fun way with them! She knows of my environmental background so it’s neat to be able to integrate my work and my passion into young children’s education!

What will you be doing for Earth Day?

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Inspiration from the Young

I read this article in this month’s Biodiesel Magazine (http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/articles/9086/utahs-young-biodiesel-phenom).  In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, it’s about this intelligent, hardworking Sophomore young lady who has won tons of science awards, etc. from doing a variety of experiments on extracting biodiesel from things like used coffee grounds.

After reading it, it did two things for me:

1) Made all my high school accomplishments (heck, even college ones) feel like diddly-squat compared to this girl!

and

2) Inspired me that our youth have not given up hope and in fact are smarter than we give them credit for.

They are out there trying to improve our world, to ensure sustainability of the planet and of humanity, to really make a difference.

So if growing up means giving up hope on bettering things, on making a difference, then I definitely do not want to grow up.

After 14 years of working in the for-profit corporate world, and focusing so much on climbing the corporate ladder to prove to myself (and selfishly to others) that I can be a serious, successful corporate executive, I will admit the view from up there was not as nice as I had envisioned.

“Growing up” was not so attractive after all. Sure there were plenty of perks, but it lacked something crucial to me.  Something I had when I was in high school and college.  Something I always thought I’d have forever in my studies, career and continuous learning.

Passion.  It lacked passion.

My passion, my hobby of “greening” our family, our home, our local community, was always just that…a passion, a hobby, something I did for fun.

Until one day I decided to stop being such a boring grown up and try to get some of that passion back in my career.  I wanted a career that didn’t just pay the bills but made me excited to wake up in the morning and thankful when I went to bed at night.  It’s not as easy as it sounds to find a job that can do all of those things.

Maybe it was September 11 and seeing the smoke from the Pentagon from my office window or seeing the emergence of army personnel with weapons drawn on the streets and the Metro outside our office.

Maybe it was sitting in a high level meeting complete with leather chairs and marble tables that screamed luxury in a beautiful downtown office and thinking “I’m helping rich people get richer while poor people get poorer and that just doesn’t feel right.”

Maybe it was that my kids started asking me what I did for “work”, where I went all day, why I came home so late, or why I had to travel to that city or this one, all the while looking at me with those eyes that said “I miss you” and the hugs that felt like “Don’t ever let me go.”

Maybe it was a combination of all these things that made me realize I had to do something about it.  Things don’t happen by themselves.  I’m all for going with the flow, but I realized I had been going with the flow for far too long.

It was time to push my limits, just as this young girl, only a Sophomore in high school, has already done. While I wish I had figured this out at her age, you are never too old to push your limits and follow your dreams.

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Who Are We?

After a hideous scene at a local coffee shop yesterday I’ve been thinking about who we are, how we act, why we act the way we do, and why people place so much importance on things rather than on people.

The coffee shop was packed on Sunday afternoon as I stopped by to work on an article I’m writing for Prince William Living magazine.  Everyone, and I mean, everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at this Glittery Lady making a scene with surprise in their eyes.  We all looked around at each other with shrugs, confused looks, throwing hands up in the air as if to say “is this lady really serious?” and even nervous laughter to try and lighten the mood.

Glittery Lady was freaking out about how she spilled coffee all over her “$1,500 Gucci purse–do you realize what kind of purse this is?”  She obviously wanted to make a scene and loudly yelled at the coffee shop employee, a teenage boy working to make some money on a Sunday afternoon, about how upset she was that they overfilled the coffee so much that it “made” her spill her coffee all over her purse and glittery boots as she was getting in her car.  “I come here every day and this is crazy, why would you fill the cup so much to make it spill like this.  Look at my pants, I have spots on my pants!”

They were black pants and I didn’t see any spots on them…just sayin’.  Though I did notice my own shirt full of washable paint spots from a craft activity with my kids earlier in the day.

Someone yelled out “you know, there is this thing called a washing machine…”

She ignored the comment and responds to the teenage coffee shop boy with “This is terrible, this has ruined my day. YOU have ruined my day.  And my purse, what are you going to do about my purse?”  I’m still not sure what she expected a teenage boy to do about her $1,500 Gucci purse, but he offered her a free cup of coffee for her trouble.  She responded with “I don’t need a free cup of coffee, I can buy coffee if I want.  I want your card, I want to file a complaint because this is absolutely terrible, just terrible! Really, you have RUINED my day!”  The manager comes over, a young twenty something girl and kindly gives her the card with some apologies.

As she was leaving, a middle aged woman told her to “have a nice day” to which she responded nastily with a “How am I supposed to have a good day after all this? LOOK at my purse!!!” and the nice lady said “well, you can try to have a better day, try to smile, because you know spilled coffee is not the end of the world”.  I chimed in and said, “yeah, if spilled coffee on your very expensive $1,500 Gucci purse is the biggest problem you have today than you should consider yourself lucky.”  Several others chimed in with “yeah” and “seriously lady, worse things could happen.” and she walked out loudly grumbling “I can’t believe this, this is terrible!”

Those of us left in the coffee shop bonded…we found out that the kind “have a nice day” customer lady had cancer the year before and really was trying to make the other lady realize that spilled coffee really isn’t the end of the world…cancer, well, that might be the end of the world for that person…but spilled coffee? Not so much.

So how do we treat each other?  Do we treat our Gucci purse’s better than we treat human beings?

With this, I wanted to share a quote from a recent blog I came across:

“A life rich with faith, family, friends & creativity, secure in the idea that a life well lived has nothing to do with what we have but who we are.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thanks LivingWellSpendingLess for reminding us of this very important fact that it’s who we are and how we interact with others that matters…not a Gucci purse.

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