Follow by Email

Friday, August 29, 2014

Green Initiatives: The #1 Way to Improve Your Bottom Line

We love this story.   Below is the link as well.

LINK: Read more: http://www.benzinga.com/14/08/4798596/green-initiatives-the-1-way-to-improve-your-bottom-line#ixzz3Bgz3bmd4 


"Even when business is good, most enterprises are on a constant quest to improve profits and strengthen the bottom line. After all, you cannot grow a business without increasing your income.
While innovation, excellent customer service and cost-cutting measures can all contribute to a healthy balance sheet, there are other, easier ways that companies can increase their profits. In fact, some of them are so simple and straightforward that it’s a wonder that every business hasn’t already done them.
Case in point? Green initiatives — that is, telling your customers how you’re minimizing your impact on the environment and making positive changes toward “going green.” It’s a simple change, but one that can have incredible impact on your business’s success.
Customers Buy Green
When you think of the typical environmentally conscious consumer, you probably think of a minimalist or someone who consumes as little as possible.Perhaps you think of the stereotypical “granola” or “crunchy” shopper, someone who buys exclusively organic, local or independently, sustainably produced products and maintains an overall “natural” lifestyle.
Those shoppers are certainly a segment of the market, but research shows that the average “green” shopper doesn’t fit the “granola” stereotype. In fact, most people who prefer green products tend to shop more often, buy more items and spend more than any other segment. Green shoppers tend to be more loyal, as well, repeatedly buying products and services that align with their values even if less expensive or convenient options are available.
Not only do those people who buy green products spend more, they also form a large, and growing, segment of the buying population. According to research firm Ipsos, almost half of all adults are more inclined to purchase a product or service if it is environmentally friendly — and about 40 percent of adults are willing to pay more for products that are environmentally friendly. And it’s not just the products that a company offers that can make a difference: That same Ipsos study indicated that about half of adults are more likely to make purchases from companies that support environmental causes or charities.
So what does this all mean for your business? In short, you need to communicate your environmental initiatives to your customers — no matter how small they may be.
It’s Easy Being Green
Instituting green initiatives in your business doesn’t require making wholesale shifts to your business model. Just a few small changes can reduce your footprint and give your customers greater confidence that they are purchasing from environmentally conscious companies. For example:
  • Reduce your power usage. Encourage employees to turn off their computers at the end of the day. Turn the thermostat up or down a few degrees; even in the server room, which needs to be kept cool, a few degrees difference can save a great deal of energy and money.
  • Speaking of servers, invest in refurbished equipment instead of buying new. A Dell PowerEdge R2950 refurbished server, for example, can cost almost 50 percent less than a new model, while also saving the hundreds of pounds of raw materials and energy used to manufacture new servers.
  • Institute an office recycling program. Reduce paper usage by encouraging email communication and limiting how often employees print.
  • Reduce travel costs and environmental impact by using technology.
  • Invest in green building materials and follow green building standards when constructing new facilities.
Shout It From the Rooftops
While you might be tempted to go about your business of going green quietly and without fanfare, it’s important to let your customers know about your commitment to the environment. Remember, buyers prefer to support those companies that share their values, so it’s important to tell them what you’re doing and how you’re meeting their expectations. It could be as simple as a page on your website outlining your initiatives or a sticker on a product package — or as elaborate as a full-scale PR campaign announcing your initiatives.
Sharing your green initiatives with your customers (and potential customers) does more than spur them to spend more money with you.  Taking even small steps toward environmental sustainability shows that you care, and that you want to use your resources responsibly. It also shows your customers that you’re remaining current with prevailing trends and evolving. Companies that stagnate and try to maintain the same business model with little deviation often fail to grow — and usually lose business to more innovative companies.
Above all, going green is the right thing to do. Because even small changes can make a big difference, there’s no reason for a company not to care about the environment and tell the world how much they care."


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The New Flow of Green Money

This is a good week to bring you some of the recent shows we've released on our main site (still planned for fall release on our radio network, specially on the flagship station, WRNP 1320).  On Weds we promoted our segment with Sara Gonzalez Rothi of National Wildlife Federation.  Today we bring you a phenomenal with Richard Bookbinder of Terra Verde Capital.

Here's the link:  http://www.renewablenow.biz/peter-arpin-remewable-now.html

And a description you can find on our main site, Renewable Now.biz:



Show Description:We love reporting to you on the business side of green.  There's no better show or guest than this one--Richard Bookbinder from Terra Verde Capital Partners--giving us an amazing insight into the financial markets and their lightning shift into sustainable investing. 

Mr. Bookbinder has a long history in shifting millions of dollars into building a cleaner, brighter future.  The companies he has headed, including Terra Verde Capitol, have funded huge projects of building clean energy plants, new technology improvements in reducing the use of  energy and the creation of waste, and the paramount global quest for clean water. 

The global economy is clearly being reshaped, we think in a very good way, by financial leaders like Richard.  Everyone  can help such leaders make quality investments in sustainability by investing in their funds. 

Do you want to make a difference in the world?  Listen to this segment and reshape your own managed portfolio.

Guest Bio:
Managing Member Mr. Bookbinder formed Bookbinder Capital Management LLC (“BCM”) in 1999 and is actively involved in all aspects of fund management including portfolio allocation, manager research, and due diligence. Mr. Bookbinder currently manages two funds of funds, The Roebling Fund LP launched October 1999, and TerraVerde Capital Partners LP, launched July 2009. 

Prior to forming BCM, Mr. Bookbinder was a Founding Principal of Sandler O’Neill & Partners, L.P, a leading investment bank specializing in middle-market financial institutions. Previously, Mr. Bookbinder was a Limited Partner and Associate Director in fixed-income sales at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. and before that he directed the sale of municipal bonds to high net worth individuals at L.F. Rothschild & Co. He began his career in the fixed income area of J.B. Hanauer & Co. 

Mr. Bookbinder is registered with the National Futures Association as an NFA Associate Member, and currently holds a Series 3 registration with FINRA. Mr. Bookbinder earned a B.A. in Economics from Upsala College. 

Mr. Bookbinder is a member of US SIF, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and CERES. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Darrow School, New Lebanon, NY, and a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors Investment Committee of Washington College, Chestertown, MD. He also serves as the external advisor to Washington College’s student run Alex Brown Investment Fund. His book, Fund of Funds Investing: a Roadmap to Portfolio Diversification, was published by John Wiley & Sons in 2009.

Website:

http://www.terraverdecap.com

Boeing Turning Tobacco Into Aviation Biofuel

Biofuel hit disfavor when corn stock became the dominate source of material.   Since then we've learned to avoid feed that competes with food supplies.  Last month we talked to an expert in NC who helped local farmers grow material that complimented their lands, was not a food supply and allowed them to provide material for local biofuel.

Now, we see the same positive steps coming together in South Africa in conjunction with some excellent work done by Boeing.  EPA, in the US, set some high standards for air quality improvements.  To meet those, we need contributions from car manufacturers, building designers, grid operators and, as we see here, suppliers of transportation fuels.  We applaud everyone of you for your innovation and commitment to protecting our environment.



South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG announced in August that they are collaborating to make sustainable aviation biofuel from a new type of tobacco plant. This initiative broadens cooperation between Boeing and SAA to develop renewable jet fuel in ways that support South Africa's goals for public health as well as economic and rural development.

"It's an honor for Boeing to work with South African Airways on a pioneering project to make sustainable jet fuel from an energy-rich tobacco plant," said J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International."South Africa is leading efforts to commercialize a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation's environmental footprint and advance the region's economy."

SkyNRG is expanding production of the hybrid plant known asSolaris as an energy crop that farmers could grow instead of traditional tobacco. Test farming of the plants, which are effectively nicotine-free, is underway in South Africa with biofuel production expected from large and small farms in the next few years. Initially, oil from the plant's seeds will be converted into jet fuel. In coming years, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa's aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant.

"By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking," said Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist. "This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region's economic opportunity."

"We strongly believe in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable," said Maarten van Dijk, Chief Technology Officer, SkyNRG.

In October 2013, Boeing and SAA said they would work together to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. As part of that effort, they are working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to position farmers with small plots of land to grow biofuel feedstocks that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.

Boeing is the aviation industry's leader in the development of sustainable aviation biofuel, working with partners in the United States, Europe, China, Middle East, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Australia and other countries. When produced sustainably, aviation biofuel reduces carbon emissions by 50 to 80 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel through its lifecycle. Airlines have conducted more than 1,500 passenger flights using biofuel since the fuel was approved in 2011. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Wildlife Federation/Sara Gonzalez Rothi Interview

We very much hope you listen to our weekly radio show.  We recently released a fascinating segment with Sara Gonzalez Rothi, Senior Policy Specialist at NWF who gave us great insight into the on-going ramifications of the Deepwater Spill in the Gulf and explained in very simple terms the environmental and economic changes that came out of this disaster.  Below is a link to the show and a description/bio of Sara as well.  Enjoy.

While there, please listen to some of the other shows as well.   We encourage you to listen live on-line each Weds, 1-2p, EST, on WRNP 1320 AM.

LINK: http://www.renewablenow.biz/peter-arpin-remewable-now.html

 

Show Description:
Our quest for domestic oil and gas, in so many ways a bonanza to our domestic economy, comes, as we know, with steep risk.  Too often, from Valdez to the incredible Gulf of Mexico, we have seen the results. 

Today we welcome to ReNewable Now Sara Gonzalez-Rothi from National Wildlife Federation as we try to explore this complicated and emotional issue and try to bring balanced reporting to the specifics of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and explain for you, as best we can, what happened, who is responsible, who will pay for restoration and how much--a staggering number--that restoration will costs. 

We grapple with the over riding concern:  Can we ever truly clean up a spill? 

Join us and see what you think.  All the while ponder this as well:  If we do fully restore, than what options do we have in trying to remove the mountains of plastic equally choking off our oceans?

Guest Bio:

Senior Policy Specialist, Gulf and Coastal Restoration 

National Advocacy Center - Washington, DC 

Sara Gonzalez-Rothi Kronenthal joined the National Wildlife Federation in September 2012. She works primarily on Gulf of Mexico restoration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, including restoration of America’s Everglades. Sara also serves as the Interim Policy Director for the Campaign to Restore the Mississippi River Delta. Prior to NWF, Sara served as Legislative Counsel for Senator Bill Nelson, managing a wide range of environmental, energy, and agricultural legislation. In that role, she supported the Senator’s immediate and long-term efforts to address the Gulf oil disaster. Sara was a key staffer in drafting, negotiating, and final passage of the RESTORE Act. 
Sara is a Florida native, and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Miami. Sara is currently pursuing an LL.M. in environmental law at the George Washington University.


Website:

http://www.nwf.org/

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The 10 best U.S. cities for work-life balance

How great is it to have balance in life?  Just as we try at Renewable Now to help bring balance to the environment and economy, so, too, do individuals need to achieve stability in all aspects of their lives.  Of course, the sooner, the better.

Where do you live?   Can you find peace within the daily demands of life?  Are their places that grace equity in life, and place a strong emphasis on quality of life?  This article say's an unequivocal, "YES".

Our ecosystems, too, are under stress.  We battle contamination in food, water supplies, air quality degradation and  multiple environmental on onslaughts.   We self-inflict punishment on our systems as well.  Those living in these areas, or similar conditions, should feel good about the many advantages you enjoy.  Those outside these "best" meccas should strive to create as many of these positive conditions as possible within our means and geography.

We don't advocate working less--we love work.  We simply encourage everyone to work smarter and find your own way of reducing stress and adding enjoyment.



Having a positive work-life balance isn't totally dependent on your job; where you live can also play a role.
 
Bloomington, Indiana, tops this year's ranking of the best cities for work-life balance, according to the finance site NerdWallet. Home to Indiana University, the top employer in the region, Bloomington was crowned the best city for work-life balance because of the low number of average weekly hours worked, as well as its shorter average commute times.
 
"Workers who seek a healthy work-life balance can reduce stress and improve the quality of their lives," Divya Raghaven, a strategy associate at NerdWallet, wrote on the company's blog.
 
NerdWallet figured its rankings of 536 U.S. cities based on four factors: the mean hours worked per week by an average employee in each city, the average daily commute time, as well as the median earnings for full-time, year-round workers and the median rent in each city.
 
A common theme among the highest-ranked cities is that seven of the top 10 are home to major colleges or universities. Rounding out this year's 10 best cities for work-life balance are:
  • Provo, Utah — Employees in Provo average 30.9-hour workweeks, the lowest of all the 536 cities in the study. Brigham Young University is located in Provo and is among its top employers.
  • Gainesville, Florida — The average Gainesville employee works just 32.5 hours a week. A major employer there is the University of Florida, the eighth-largest university in the United States.
  • Eau Claire, Wisconsin — In addition to a workweek with fewer hours, Eau Claire employees spend less time commuting and have a relatively low cost of living. The home-improvement chain Menards is headquartered in Eau Claire and is one of the city's major employers.
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama — Besides being home to the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa is a manufacturing, service and retail hub. Employees there average just 33.1-hour workweeks.
  • Iowa City, Iowa – Employees inIowa City work an average of 34.1 hours a week and spend just 17.2 minutes on their daily commute. The University of Iowa is the largest employer in Iowa City.
  • College Station, Texas– College Station is home to Texas A&M University, one of the largest institutions for higher education in the nation.Residents there work an average of 34.1 hours each week and have an average commute of 17.1 minutes.
  • Eugene, Oregon – Employees in Eugene work an average of 34 hours a week and have median earnings of $42,288. Top employers in Eugene include PeaceHealth Medical Group and the University of Oregon.
  • Bellingham, Washington — Workers in Bellingham spend an average of 33.4 hours a week on the job and have average commute times of just 17.5 minutes.
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan — Employees in Kalamazoo work an average of 33.6 hours a week and spend an average of $866 a month on rent. Kalamazoo is home to companies in the pharmaceutical, life sciences and manufacturing industries.
Some of the cities that ranked among the worst for work-life balance include Dale City, Virginia; Waldorf and Germantown, Maryland; Menifee and Tracy, California; and New York City.


Read more: http://www.mnn.com/money/sustainable-business-practices/stories/the-10-best-us-cities-for-work-life-balance#ixzz3BVx69mKI

Monday, August 25, 2014

What's wrong with the electric grid?

We've done many shows on the potential benefits of reducing our dependence on large, centralized grids and looking at alternatives such as building microgrids.   This article does a great job of giving an overview of the problem inherent in the current structure.

It is fairly long and complicated (and thanks to our co-host and contributor, Seth Handy for sending this story along) so we'll run some of it and you can read the rest at:  http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.5020

A massive blackout in August 2003 forced a reexamination of the mixture of physics, engineering, economics, and politics that attempts to keep the power flowing.
The warnings were certainly there. In 1998, former utility executive John Casazza predicted that "blackout risks will be increased" if plans for deregulating electric power went ahead. And the warnings continued to be heard from other energy experts and planners.
So it could not have been a great surprise to the electric-power industry when, on 14 August 2003, a blackout that covered much of the northeastern US dramatically confirmed these warnings. Experts widely agree that such failures of the power-transmission system are a nearly unavoidable product of a collision between the physics of the system and the economic rules that now regulate it. To avoid future incidents, the nation must either physically transform the system to accommodate the new rules, or change the rules to better mesh with the power grid's physical behavior.
Understanding the grid's problems starts with its physical behavior. The vast system of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution that covers the US and Canada is essentially a single machine— by many measures, the world's biggest machine. This single network is physically and administratively subdivided into three "interconnects"—the Eastern, covering the eastern two-thirds of the US and Canada; the Western, encompassing most of the rest of the two countries; and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), covering most of Texas (see figure 1). Within each interconnect, power flows through AC lines, so all generators are tightly synchronized to the same 60-Hz cycle. The interconnects are joined to each other by DC links, so the coupling is much looser among the interconnects than within them. (The capacity of the transmission lines between the interconnects is also far less than the capacity of the links within them.)
Figure 1. Normal U.S. base electricity transfers and first-contingency incremental transfer capabilities, in MW. Credit: North American Electric Reliability Council
Figure 1. Normal U.S. base electricity transfers and first-contingency incremental transfer capabilities, in MW. Credit: North American Electric Reliability Council
Prior to deregulation, which began in the 1990s, regional and local electric utilities were regulated, vertical monopolies. A single company controlled electricity generation, transmission, and distribution in a given geographical area. Each utility generally maintained sufficient generation capacity to meet its customers' needs, and long-distance energy shipments were usually reserved for emergencies, such as unexpected generation outages. In essence, the long-range connections served as insurance against sudden loss of power. The main exception was the net flows of power out of the large hydropower generators in Quebec and Ontario.
This limited use of long-distance connections aided system reliability, because the physical complexities of power transmission rise rapidly as distance and the complexity of interconnections grow. Power in an electric network does not travel along a set path, as coal does, for example. When utility A agrees to send electricity to utility B, utility A increases the amount of power generated while utility B decreases production or has an increased demand. The power then flows from the "source" (A) to the "sink" (B) along all the paths that can connect them. This means that changes in generation and transmission at any point in the system will change loads on generators and transmission lines at every other point—often in ways not anticipated or easily controlled (see figure 2).
Figure 2. Electric power does not travel (a) just by the shortest route from source to sink, but also by parallel flow paths through other parts of the system. (b) Where the network jogs around large geographical obstacles, such as the Rocky Mountains in the West or the Great Lakes in the East, loop flows around the obstacle are set up that can drive as much as 1 GW of power in a circle, taking up transmission line capacity without delivering power to consumers.
Figure 2. Electric power does not travel (a) just by the shortest route from source to sink, but also by parallel flow paths through other parts of the system. (b) Where the network jogs around large geographical obstacles, such as the Rocky Mountains in the West or the Great Lakes in the East, loop flows around the obstacle are set up that can drive as much as 1 GW of power in a circle, taking up transmission line capacity without delivering power to consumers.
To avoid system failures, the amount of power flowing over each transmission line must remain below the line's capacity. Exceeding capacity generates too much heat in a line, which can cause the line to sag or break or can create power-supply instability such as phase and voltage fluctuations. Capacity limits vary, depending on the length of the line and the transmission voltage (see table 1). Longer lines have less capacity than shorter ones.
TABLE 1. CAPACITY LIMITS FOR ELECTRICAL TRANSMISSION LINES- Data from Transmission Planning for a Restructuring U.S. Electricity Industry, by Eric Hirst and Brendan Kirby, June 2001, prepared for Edison Electric Institute, Washington, DC.
Table 1. Data from Transmission Planning for a Restructuring U.S. Electricity Industry, by Eric Hirst and Brendan Kirby, June 2001, prepared for Edison Electric Institute, Washington, DC...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Can green-themed TV shows gain mainstream success?

Any media attention to the cause of building a cleaner, brighter future, including themed TV, is welcome:

Tom Szaky, Guest Writer (@tom_terracycle)
Living / Culture
August 8, 2014


Pivot TV garbage is my passion

Reality television has become an integral part of Western pop culture whether or not you like it – and there are a million reasons you shouldn’t. Many of these shows highlight the glamorous lives of the outrageously wealthy, or the over-dramatized dysfunctions of the most banal D-list celebrities. For such a popular genre of television, many real-life topics pertinent to, you know, reality, are left by the wayside. Where are the shows that engage viewers about issues affecting us all, like the struggling health of our environment? For years, various television networks have tried to create successful “eco” reality programming, but none have been successful enough to make it past the first few seasons.
The Lazy Environmentalist was a 2009 program that followed my good friend, Josh Dorfman, creator of sustainable furniture store Vivavi, who traveled around the country showing people easy, cheap ways to make their lives greener. His approach was simple: relate to the everyday viewer who thinks he or she doesn’t have the time to be eco-friendly. Despite his simple approach, the show was canceled after two seasons and ended its run in 2010.
Many of you ought to be very familiar with the channel Planet Green, which featured 24-hour programming exclusively focused on ecology, green issues and the environment. Wa$ted, a reality series that began broadcasting on the channel in 2008, followed hosts Annabelle Gurwitch and Holter Graham as they toured the nation, confronting average households about their long-term impacts on the planet. The series had a similar approach to The Lazy Environmentalist, in that they would attempt to connect with the regular viewer by showing how even the smallest green changes can make a difference. Despite the opportunity that Wa$ted and the other eco-reality shows had to gain an audience, Planet Green was ultimately remade from the ground up in 2012 into Destination America.
These pitfalls suggest that the networks, channels and reality shows themselves have failed to excite viewers. What will it take to finally engage them about environmental issues in the same ways they are engaged about the inner-workings of some celebrity’s mundane life? To start, it might require selecting the right audience.
Pivot TV, a channel that specifically targets socially conscious millennials, focuses on programming that hopes to initiate discussions about urgent social and political issues applicable to all of us, including the environment. While there is obviously no absolute formula for success, a new reality TV series from TerraCycle and Pivot called “Human Resources” will hopefully be a step in the right direction. Premiering today, August 8th at 10pm ET/PT, we hope that the new series will redefine what “green reality TV” really means. The series follows the TerraCycle team as we work day-by-day to recycle and discover new solutions for the waste we are all responsible for generating. Human Resources won’t just show what goes on in the office behind closed doors; it will educate viewers on the ins-and-outs of upcycling, proper recycling techniques, and will offer various PSA’s and calls to action to engage socially conscious viewers into getting up and making a difference.
© Pivot
Plus, it’s more than just a show about recycling – it actually presents an opportunity to recycle! Viewers can go to takepart.com/humanresources and download free shipping slips to send their waste to TerraCycle, all at no cost. Or they can request standardized recycling labels from our nonprofit partner, Recycle Across America, who will also earn 2 cents for every piece of waste viewers send to TerraCycle.
Eco-reality shows have seen their fair share of losses in the reality arena, which is a shame because of how wildly popular and powerful of a platform it could be for the movement. But as the premiere for Human Resources fast approaches, we hope that it will lead to environmentally focused reality programming becoming more widely accepted by reality show audiences. Do we really need to see yet another “Housewives of Whatever” iteration, anyway?

Cigarette Butts A Commodity?

This is a strange twist on life...did you imagine a day when discarded cigarettes, killers for the people who smoke and flick them away, could  contribute to better electric storage and fuel EV's.  Amazing.

This story ran this week on our main site--http://www.renewablenow.biz/renewable-science.html.  Once you finish here, click over to our site and enjoy much more on the business side of green.  We'd love to hear from you if you are a smoker as well.

We've seen and read a lot about R & D on supercapacitors.  We know a group in Texas has made great progress in trying to bring them to the commercial market.  Stay tuned.



For those of use who have walked along a beautiful beach and enjoyed the warm water upon our feet only to have the moment utterly destroyed when we come upon a slew of cigarette butts in our path there may be some good news in possibly curbing such horrible pollution. News out of Seoul Korea just may make cigarette butts a commodity in helping build, of all things, electric cars!

SEOUL, South Korea, August 6, 2014 (ENS) – How can used cigarette butts contribute to the development of superior electric vehicles? South Korean researchers have found a way.

Five scientists from Seoul National University’s College of Engineering have converted used cigarette filters into a high-performing material for supercapacitors that could be integrated into electric vehicles to store energy.

Unlike batteries that offer limited charging/discharging rates, supercapacitors require only seconds to charge and can feed electricity back into the vehicle’s air-conditioning system, GPS, radio, and other devices as needed.

Publishing their findings August 5 in the Institute of Physics Publishing’s journal “Nanotechnology,” the scientists say they have demonstrated the material’s superior performance compared to commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes.
cigarette butts

They hope the material derived from cigarette butts can be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors – electrochemical components that can store large amounts of electrical energy – while also offering a solution to the growing environmental problem caused by trillions of used cigarettes filters discarded annually.

It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes, or 766,571 metric tons, are deposited into the environment worldwide every year.

Study co-author Professor Jongheop Yi said, “Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society.”

“Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used-cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year,” said Yi. “Our method is just one way of achieving this.”

Scientists around the world are currently working towards improving the characteristics of supercapacitors, such as energy density, power density and cycle stability, while reducing production costs.

As compared to the basic electrostatic capacitor used to tune radio frequencies, the supercapacitor is ideal for energy storage that undergoes frequent charge and discharge cycles at high current and short duration.

Carbon is the most popular material that supercapacitors are made of, due to its low cost, high surface area, high electrical conductivity and long-term stability.

In their study, the Seoul researchers demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibers of which cigarette filters are made could be transformed into a carbon-based material using a simple, one-step burning technique called pyrolysis, conducted in a nitrogen-rich environment.

Used cigarette filters from Marlboro Light Gold, Bohem Cigar Mojito and The One Orange from the Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corp. were collected.

They were pyrolyzed for two hours in an atmosphere of argon and NH3, a colorless, pungent gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen.

The carbon-based material resulting from this burning process contained both tiny nano-pores and medium-sized nano-pores, increasing its performance as a supercapacitive material.

“A high-performing supercapacitor material should have a large surface area, which can be achieved by incorporating a large number of small pores into the material,” said Professor Yi.

The porous carbon material developed by Yi and his colleagues spontaneously contains both micropores, with pore diameters of less than two nanometers, and mesopores, with pore diameters of about 25 nanometers.

“The unique self-developed pore structure allowed a favorable pathway for electrolyte permeation and contact probability, resulting in the extended rate capability for the supercapacitor, said Yi.

“A combination of different pore sizes ensures that the material has high power densities, which is an essential property in a supercapacitor for the fast charging and discharging,” he said.

Once fabricated, the carbon-based material was attached to an electrode and tested in a three-electrode system to see how well the material could charge and discharge.

The material stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon, the researchers found. It also had a higher storage capacity compared to the graphene and carbon nanotubes reported in previous studies.