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!!!


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!



“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.


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.



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?





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!


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.


Made In China

Not to sound like an alarmist, but wow, this is a bit alarming especially when you see the video of Beijing over the last 3 weeks.

And to think that we contribute to this every time we buy something that says “Made in China”.  Take a look around your house, your closet, your car, your kitchen, even your refrigerator and freezer.  How many things did you find that say “Made in China”?  Did you even realize that jar of chopped garlic came from China?

I know it’s hard.  Especially when it’s shiny or new or oh, such a great price!  Been there, done that.  Still struggling with that every time I walk into a store (as you can tell from my Cupcake post).  Every. Time.

I’m not against buying anything from China (sort of).  I understand we live in a global business environment and want to support other countries (and vice versa) through trade.  I love the bamboo bowl I bought several years ago through Ten Thousand Villages – handmade by artisans in Vietnam through one of their special arts programs.  I love the scarf I bargained back and forth for in a Portugal flea market.  But there are some countries with very strong, rigorous environmental and human rights laws or with great programs that work directly with struggling artists or crafters.  And there are some countries that, simply put, suck at all that.  We just need to be more aware of which countries those are and put pressure with our purchasing dollars to encourage them to change their ways.

It gets to a point that you have to stop blaming others for the problems we see in the news (like this air pollution article) and take some of the blame ourselves for our every day decisions.

It gets to a point that we can no longer say “I don’t care. I don’t live in China so this is not relevant to me.”

It gets to a point that you look in the mirror and ask what is happening to us as human beings.
Or worse, you look at your child and wonder what it’s going to be like for their generation and feel fear for them.

It gets to a point where you stay up late to write a blog post about all this to share with people even though you’ve worked hard at your full time job all day, cooked dinner, cleaned up and washed dishes, did a load of laundry, read the kids some stories and brushed their teeth and now all you want to do is just crawl into bed and go to sleep.  Even if just one person reads it and thinks twice about their next purchase or the next time they throw something in the trash, it was worth it.

We are all in this together, but individual actions matter.


Reality Check

In case you were wondering if I, in fact, had the nerve to walk up to a group of women with chainsaws on Saturday and ask them about their CO2 emissions and if they would consider using sustainable biofuels to power their chainsaws next time…

With 18 month old in arms, I walked towards them, in awe of the art they were creating with simply tree trunks, chainsaws, and their imagination.  I was struck by the fresh scent of fresh wood chips in the air.  So not “green” since there were these piles of dead trees everywhere, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to the wonderful scent that was better than any car air freshener I’ve ever seen (Note: In my 35+ years on this earth, I have NEVER had an air freshener in my car–but that’s another post at another time.)

But I never made it to the ladies with the chainsaws.

I had a baby in my arms.

Babies don’t like loud noises.

Baby + loud chainsaws = Lots of crying

Mission Aborted

Yet another reality check that in my wonderful vision of making a small difference one person at a time, I forgot about the one person in my arms and their little ears.  Does it mean I have given up?  No.  I wrote a letter: 
“Dear Chainsaw Chix,I enjoyed viewing your sculptures and artwork at the Fall Festival in Manassas this weekend, Saturday, October 6th.  It is amazing what you can do with a simple tree trunk, some chainsaws and a world of imagination.

I was wondering if you have considered the environmental impact of the gas powered chainsaws you were using.  May I encourage you to look into alternative powered chainsaws such as electric or sustainable biofuels powered chainsaws?  Since you are probably not near an electrical source at these festivals, electric may not be an option at all.  But I wonder if sustainable biodiesel or even a sustainably sourced ethanol mixture could be used in the chainsaws?  I haven’t done any research on this for chainsaws, but if cars, trucks, and even airplanes can now run on biodiesel or ethanol or other biofuels, then I wonder if chainsaws can to?  How wonderful would it be for your marketing and PR efforts if you showed the world that not only are you mega-cool and incredibly talented, but that you are eco-conscious too!  What a great example you could set for everyone!

Again, I enjoyed the art this weekend.  But I would have enjoyed it even more if those chainsaws were powered by a renewable sustainable fuel.


Helena, a fan of Chainsaw Chix”