Zooshare: a renewable energy project using biogas technology to create energy and fertilizer.
Executive Director, Daniel Bida, poses with one of Zooshare’s organic material contributors – a lovely giraffe.
Zoo animals are amazing. I remember the first time I went to a zoo and saw big animals ‘up close’, watching them move and eat and roar. It was inspiring. I also realized – like many observant and cheeky children before me – that animals create an awful lot of, erm, waste, shall we say. In fact, I’d never seen so much poo. While we tend to think of all that poop as a bunch of worthless waste, there’s actually a lot of greenpower and some money to be made by converting it, along with other organic material such as grocery store waste, through anaerobic digestion, into energy and fertilizer. Keep reading to learn about an exciting new project at the Toronto Zoo and to enter for your chance to win two tickets to the Zoo.
I was so pleased when Zooshare Communications Coordinator, Frances Darwin, asked me if I’d be interested in sharing this inspiring story of greenpower here at Sasstainable. I’m hoping to entice a few of you to consider supporting this project. I’d read a blurb about the Toronto Zoo biogas project in a newspaper ages ago and mentally catalogued it as something I should look into at some point. So, I’ve been happy to learn more about the project over the last two weeks, and hear from investors about what inspired them to get involved, so much so that I decided we’ll be investing in Zooshare this August, too. But, first things first, I had to discover what happens to all that poo, anyway?
Invest in a remarkable renewable energy project to support local greenpower and community development.
“Zooshare’s project to turn ‘zoo poo’ and grocery store waste into biogas, a renewable energy source, makes financial sense and will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to composting,’ explains one investor Mel Duhamel, referring to the current outcome for organic material at the zoo, composting. “Converting such wastes into biogas is a well-accepted technology in most parts of the world.” It’s not yet common enough in Canada. Smart investors and people concerned about the natural environment are passionate about renewable energy projects such as Zooshare, because it will have a great local impact: processing 17,000 tonnes of organic material and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane gas (which is 21x worse than CO2, quelle horreur!) by 10,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to 2,100 cars. Those numbers are pretty impressive. At the same time, it will generate enough electricity to power 250 Ontario homes via a connection to the Ontario power grid and produce farm quality fertilizer. That’s a win-win-win. What’s more, Zooshare’s mandate and mission is to reinvest the profits from the biogas plant project into even more biogas projects and educational initiatives that will teach our children the true value of waste. Inspiring. So, I couldn’t help but wonder, what makes a biogas plant such a sound investment?
A few families take an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at the Toronto Zoo.
“ZooShare hit three trigger points with me right off the bat and that is why I decided to invest within a few minutes of learning about it,” said Marisa Sterling, a Zooshare investor and professional engineer, “… it challenged the status quo, was viable and community-led… it had credible backers in the Toronto Zoo, [Canada’s largest grocery retailer] and a pending FIT contract, and it would engage citizens directly as the first community-funded biogas plant in North America.” Interested investors can purchase community bonds starting from $500, with a $10 membership fee. The annual rate of return is 7%, more than most savings accounts and some mutual funds and RRSPs.
Of course, every investment has potential risks. “Obviously, there is risk early on,” shared Zooshare investor, Steve Tower, “and I had to assess this personally with my family before proceeding. We felt that there were sufficient, conservative elements to the strategy to reduce risk to an acceptable level. Then my family devoted a portion of our personal savings to Zooshare.” The project is structured as a co-operative and investors receive fixed, stable returns for seven years, along with the attractive prospect of the diversification of their investments, with benefits to the local environment and community-focused education. I believe that’s the second win-win-win for this story.
How often do we have a chance to invest in a project that reflects our values?
Zooshare is inspiring, in part, because it is an effective and efficient renewable energy project that will benefit its investors. Perhaps it’s equally important that it also offers each one of us an opportunity to buy into something we believe in, to follow our passions with our pocketbook. “ZooShare fits my values perfectly, ” said Marisa, “…I am an early adopter of technology and get very excited when technology is used to bring about positive social change.” Zooshare members are motivated to make a positive impact on the natural environment and support a community led project that will create local benefits, beyond profits for fellow co-operative members.
“I believe neighbourhoods and communities should be able to use cooperatives to build resiliency and self-sufficiency, in a cost-effective, ethical and green way,” said Steve, “There are under-used natural resources that we can tap to satisfy our power needs without damaging our environment, or exploiting vulnerable people,” he concludes. That’s a sentiment so many of us share. Mr. Sasstainable and I spoke about it (over dinner on our recently eco-renovated balcony), and decided we’ll be investing in August, as the Zooshare team seeks to raise more investment. With bonds starting at just $500 with a $10 membership fee, it’s an accessible investment and an exciting opportunity to support renewable energy creation in our community. We want to try to help make the world a bit better as Little Miss Sasstainable grows up. And, when we take her for her very first visit to the Toronto Zoo, she might ask us, “Hey, do you know what they do with all the poo at the zoo?”, and we’ll have a pretty cool answer to share with her.
“I believe renewable energy systems need to be viewed as more mainstream, and I believe that the ZooShare model will achieve this,” Marisa Sterling.
“By demonstrating this technology in such a public, accessible way, I hope that Zooshare’s project will inspire many others to adopt this technology across the country, not only at other zoos but for other suitable municipal, agricultural, or industrial wastes,” Mel Duhamel.
To invest in Zooshare and learn more about the science, technology, profitability and timelines of this incredible community-based project, please visit http://zooshare.ca/. Thanks to Frances and the Zooshare team.