Blog: The Evolution of Zoos

If you are an animal-lover, environmentalist and/or conservationist, then you have probably heard the full gamut of zoo criticism. Yes, animals belong in the wild…But what happens when “the wild” disappears?

First, let’s step back a bit and start with a brief history of zoos…They have come a long way from the menageries of the Victorian era, which were designed first for the scientific study of animals, then quickly took off as a form of mass public entertainment:

The Exeter Exchange menagerie in London, England, c.1820.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the idea of creating a space for the needs of animals was developed into a reality. Up until that point, the Modernist movement had influenced the design of zoos, meaning that they were designed to be functional.  On her website,, Zoological Planner Stacey Ludlum writes: “This belief, along with the advances in medicine and desire for sterilization, created zoo exhibits that were easily hosed down and cleaned regularly.  This meant concrete everywhere.” 1

"This was at London Zoo, on the famous Mappin Terraces...apparently practical, providing a catchment for water to feed the aquarium below, but it was no place for a polar bear. [They were] living in what looked like a concrete pit, where they had to endure baking sun with only a small, grey pool for their comfort, which seemed a poor substitute for the Arctic Ocean." writes Sue Gilbert. This photo was taken in 1972.

Blogger Sue Gilbert writes: “This was at London Zoo, on the famous Mappin Terraces…apparently practical, providing a catchment for water to feed the aquarium below, but it was no place for a polar bear. [They were] living in what looked like a concrete pit, where they had to endure baking sun with only a small, grey pool for their comfort, which seemed a poor substitute for the Arctic Ocean.” © Sue Gilbert 1972

It took Architect-turned-Zoo Director David Hancocks to revolutionize animal enclosures. By redesigning the gorilla cages into habitat-inspired enclosures, he not only changed the philosophy of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, but inadvertently designed a new model for modern zoos everywhere…But, as he explains, change did not come easily: “If a traditional Zoo Director had seen or heard what we were doing he would have stopped it” he says, “I had Zoo Directors tell me it was stupid, irresponsible and unnecessary…If the gorillas climbed they would fall and break their necks…We were putting their health at risk.” Despite the criticism, the team at the Woodland Park Zoo pushed ahead, and soon “landscape immersion” was born.  This coincided nicely with the building animal rights movement. (You can hear the rest of David Hancocks’ interview here.)


Just as larger societal movements influenced zoo design of the past, so too do they influence zoo design of the present and future.  Currently, with our focus on “the brain” (MRI technology etc) we are now designing zoos that reflect that focus.

Currently, Zoos are trying to create opportunities for animals to use their brains as they would in the wild–even if those opportunities don’t look like “the wild”.  A good example of this is the Philadelphia Zoo’s new trail system, Zoo360,  which allows animals to explore the Zoo above visitor’s heads. This campus-wide network of see-through mesh trails links similar animal habitats, so animals can use one another’s spaces in a time-sharing system. 2

Andy Baker, the Chief Operating Officer at the Philadelphia Zoo, says “this really came out of our goal of creating best experiences for animals, and I truly think this reinvents the way animals experience our zoo…We’re not truly trying to recreate the wild.  We’re trying to create environmental opportunities, so the opportunities for new sensory input, exploration, freedom of locomotion…The same functional needs and opportunities that animals have in the wild, without having to recreate the natural habitat.”3

But moving further into the future, we may see a model that is truly inspired by nature, and doesn’t just mimic the landscape or the activities that animals do in the wild.

Zootopia” is a concept that flips the modern zoo on its head.  The Givskud Zoo and Safari Park in Denmark is working with an architectural firm to create a zoo in which the animals roam free and the humans are in cages–or at least, in more confined spaces (safe from the animals).  Architect Bjarke Ingels says “What we’ve tried to do is eliminate all traces of human architecture.” NPR reports that buildings are to be “masked as rolling hills and hidden barriers in waterways [that] replace visible fences and barricades”.4  The model is inspired by the rapid collision of nature and cities, or as Ingels gently puts it “the distinction between the city and nature … is blurring more and more…It becomes more relevant to make sure that the other life forms can actually cohabit successfully with us.”big_zoo1_wide-8e7baed94fd23c77692855894388092e73594d80-s800-c85

Cohabitation is a very important point.  Because, up until recently, humans and wild animals have been able to maintain separate lives…But as cities and the human population grow, animals are having a harder time to find space to live.  In fact, many don’t.

Currently, we are polluting rivers, clear cutting forests and acidifying the ocean faster than our environment–and most animals–can keep up. The latest edition of the WWF’s Living Planet Report is devastating: Since 1970, 52% of all wildlife on Earth has been wiped out.

Let me repeat that: In the past 40 years, half of the Earth’s wildlife has gone extinct.

Credit: Courtest of WWF International

Credit: Courtest of WWF International

When The Guardian interviewed the Zoological Society of London’s Director about this report, he said, “If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news…But [this extinction] is happening in the great outdoors.”

The implication here is that the vast scale of what we have done to the planet is too hard for most people to fathom–perhaps they don’t even know…But in a smaller, controlled environment, such as the local Zoo, people care.  Julia Phillips, a Toronto Zoo employee explains, “When people see a live animal, they have a desire and a passion to protect that animal.”  Zoos inspire us to do more to help the animals we see.

What many people may not know however, as Phillips explains, is that “Zoos play a really important role in terms of protecting species and acting as assurance populations for species [whose] habitat is no longer there for them in the wild…We can eventually bring them back to life, it’s sort of a Noah’s Ark in a way.” In her TED Talk, the Toronto Zoo’s Gabriela Mastromonaco also uses “the arc” analogy for today’s modern zoos, making the case that Zoos are ensuring the survival of endangered species that can be released into the wild after their habitat stabilizes.

Gabriela Mastromonaco is the Curator of Reproductive Programs at the Toronto Zoo seen here in her lab with a liquid nitrogen 'dry shipper' which is basically a huge thermos used to transport frozen material January 9, 2014.

Gabriela Mastromonaco is the Curator of Reproductive Programs at the Toronto Zoo. She is seen here in her lab with a liquid nitrogen ‘dry shipper’ which is a huge thermos used to transport frozen material January 9, 2014. © Getty Images/David Cooper

In a video released this summer, The Toronto Zoo shows that they have a storage facility of genetic material (e.g. animal sperm, eggs, embryos etc) in tanks of liquid nitrogen, in which “there are herds of bison, prides of lion, and all sorts of wildlife that we don’t have enough space for in the Zoo itself, however these specimens fit perfectly well in the frozen Zoo, and are waiting to help repopulate species as needed. We are dedicated to conducting groundbreaking scientific research that will ultimately save many species that would otherwise disappear from our planet forever.”

Going forward, the public-facing exhibits of Zoos and the way we interact with the animals may change, but the role of zoos in the conservation of animals and valuable ecosystems must continue, and indeed, accelerate.  Hopefully, we can all play a role in the protection and conservation of what is left of “the wild”.

PS You can read more about the Toronto Zoo’s conservation efforts in their Strategic Plan.

Member update: November 2015

This past month, we achieved another two major milestones: 1) We selected a technology partner and, 2) We received Notice to Proceed from the IESO.   We also continued discussions with FSCO regarding additional bonds, which should be available in the coming weeks, and spoke with numerous waste management companies regarding our feedstock needs.

Bond Sales & Revised Offering Statement

Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 162 individuals and total pledges of between $765,000 and $1,012,000. We are planning to sell more bonds in the coming weeks, once we receive approval from the co-op regulator (FSCO), so please stay tuned for more info shortly.  If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here (make sure to check the “Yes, I am already registered as a ZooShare member” box).

Notice to Proceed

The Independent Electricity System Operator issued Notice to Proceed to ZooShare on October 27th.  As far as our FIT contract goes, the last remaining step is to complete construction and reach our Commercial Operation Date (when power will begin to be exported to the grid).

Biogas equipment and financing

After spending about a month reviewing technology proposals, asking questions to understand the gaps and differing design philosophies, on October 26th, ZooShare’s Board approved the recommendation made by its Executive Director to select BIOFerm Viessman as our technology partner.  BIOFerm Energy Systems is a Wisconsin-based renewable energy company providing North American operations with sustainable waste management technology through anaerobic digestion.  BIOFerm is a member of the Viessman Group, a $2.8 billion family owned business since 1917.  Viessman has installed over 400 anaerobic digestion facilities through the biogas companies of the Viessman Group.

In addition to a very strong proposal, BIOFerm also offered ZooShare construction financing at an attractive rate, which we were happy to accept.  This financing, together with our Community Bonds previously issued, will cover the costs of construction.

We are extremely excited to be working with BIOFerm Viessman on this project and to begin construction in Spring 2016.


While our discussions continued with multiple waste management companies, we have nothing new to report from the last month on this front. We will continue to negotiate and work towards an agreement with our grocery partner, which should only be helped by the additional milestones recently achieved.

Posted in Member UpdateComments Off on Member update: November 2015

Blog: Election Countdown:


The longest federal election campaign in recent history is coming to an end. We are now less than 2 weeks away from ushering in a new government, and advance polls begin this week.  Unfortunately, the topic of the environment hasn’t received sufficient attention, so we haven’t heard a lot about strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or develop more renewable energy–including innovative and impactful solutions such as biogas.  The Globe Debates didn’t shed any light on the political future of the renewables industry: “As the fastest-growing sector in Canada, it can’t be ignored, yet we didn’t hear details about a renewable path,” said representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation.  One reason for this may be that the production of electricity is a provincial issue, not a federal one–but that being said–the environment (read: climate change and climate change solutions) is a growing concern among Canadians, and the topic seems to have been underestimated–at least initially–by party leaders and their teams.

When the election campaign first took off in August, Huffington Post Canada readers expressed that “the environment was at the top of their list” of campaign issues, and in early September, a survey of CBC’s Vote Compass users confirmed that the topic of the environment ranked second only to the economy, above health, accountability and even taxes!  Despite the public’s interest in hearing about the environment, the economy has dominated discussions, and, as pointed out by the CBC, “the environment and climate change were reduced to fine print”.  An article in Macleans echoed the sentiment, stating that “as party leaders make speech after speech promising millions for this and millions for that, even the global threat of climate change warrants barely a mention…The silence is deafening from all three major parties.”  Indeed, continuing into October, The National Post wrote “If voters were hoping this election campaign would provide a stirring debate on the issue of climate change, with clear options from all the parties on how to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in the most cost-effective way, they will no doubt be disappointed. The parties have instead indulged in the usual finger-pointing and vows to do better, while failing to produce convincing plans to meet our international commitments.”

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris around the corner in November, it’s a surprise there hasn’t been a more concerted effort on behalf of the parties to communicate a strong message on what they think Canada’s position on climate change should be–especially since their current plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are essentially the same.  As pointed out by The National Post, “There is in fact little difference between the policies on offer from the three main parties: all would largely leave the task of emissions reduction to the provinces.” That being said, The NDP is the only party to pitch an actual action plan on climate change ahead of the election. Will we hear more about a path for renewable energy alternatives as the election comes to a close?  Your guess is as good as mine. For now, here’s what the parties have promised regarding the environment:


conservatives logo

The Conservatives would:
• Lower GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
• Move to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and eliminate use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
• Buy international credits to get to its greenhouse gas emissions goal.
• Reduce methane leaks from the oil and gas sector, capping emissions from the fertilizer and chemical producers and from natural-gas fired electricity.
• Approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.
• Support both the proposed TransCanada Energy East project, and TransCanada Keystone XL oilsands pipeline.
• Protect Canada’s environment by promoting hunting, angling, and snowmobiling tourism.
• Pay $200 million over two years for Environmental projects such as cleaning up federal contaminated sites and protecting species at risk.

liberal logo
The Liberals would:
• Partner with provinces and territories to establish national emissions-reduction targets and provide funding to create the provincial strategies, including carbon-pricing systems.
• Invest $200 million a year to develop clean technologies in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and farming.
• Put another $100 million into organizations that promote clean technology firms.
• Continue to oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline; but support Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines.
• Phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
• Put a moratorium on tanker traffic along the northern coast of British Columbia.
• Reinstate $40 million cut from the ocean science and monitoring program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
• Increase protected marine and coastal areas to five per cent from 1.3 per cent by 2017, and to 10 per cent by 2020.
• Along with the U.S. and Mexico, develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement.


The NDP would:
• Lower GHG emissions to 34 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025-2030.
• Create a cap-and-trade system with a market price on carbon emissions; revenue from cap-and-trade would be invested in a greener energy sector in regions where dollars are generated.
• Redirect $1 billion a year from fossil fuel subsidies to investment in the clean energy sector.
• Introduce the Climate Change Accountability Act to ensure that Canada meets its long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent below that of 1990 levels by the year 2050.
• Invest in Sustainable Development Technology Canada – including wind, hydro, solar and geothermal technologies.
• Work with provinces to create a new fund to help Canadians retrofit their homes and offices to save energy and money.
• Would oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline (it initially supported concept of west-east pipeline, but says Energy East can’t be approved without more stringent environmental review process).
• Is promising that Canada will become “the global leader in the fight against climate change”.


The Greens would:
• Reduce emissions 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, becoming carbon-neutral by 2100.
• Eliminate all fossil-fuel subsidies to industry.
• Bring in a $30/tonne price on carbon.
• Oppose “any and all” pipeline plans.
• Introduce carbon pricing through a fee-and-dividend system to reduce fossil fuel use and encourage private sector investment in green tech, clean energy and green jobs.
• Refine capacity to process the oil Canada already produces.
• Accelerate construction of green infrastructure, ensuring a majority of Canada’s energy needs come from renewable sources by 2025.
• Work with the provinces to ensure no new coal-fired electrical generation plants are built in Canada.
• Legislate a ban on super tankers on British Columbia’s coast and impose a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
• Produce stronger environmental assessment laws to help defend coastal communities from risky pipeline and tanker schemes.
• Repeal the Conservative omnibus security legislation.


The Bloc Quebecois would:
• Reduce dependency on oil.
• Make banks and oil companies pay more tax.
• Invest $40 billion in green technologies.
• Tighten security measures surrounding the rail transport of hazardous materials.
• Promote transportation electrification.
• Increase funding for greener residential, commercial and industrial buildings and introducing tax incentives for installing or converting clean heating systems via geothermal energy and hydroelectricity.

References include: The Maclean’s Primer on ClimateThe Toronto Star, The National Post (here’s the second of two articles), and The National Observer (here’s the second of 2 articles).

Member update: October 2015

This past month, after receiving our REA, we began to move forward on 3 important items that were all waiting for this milestone to be reached: 1. A revised Offering Statement; 2. Applying for Notice to Proceed; and 3. Selecting a technology supplier. We are also continuing discussions with waste management companies to finalize an agreement on process and delivery of organic waste.

Bond Sales & Revised Offering Statement

Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 122 individuals and total pledges of between $592,000 and $830,000. Given the strong demand for our bonds, ZooShare and its Board have decided to raise more funds from our community of supporters and less from commercial lenders. We revised and submitted the Offering Statement to FSCO on Sept 30 for approval. We are planning to sell more bonds in the coming weeks, so if you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here (make sure to check the “Yes, I am already registered as a ZooShare member” box).

Notice to Proceed

As you would have read last month, the final REA was received on August 28, and we are currently preparing the forms to to apply for Notice to Proceed (the next phase of the FIT contracting process).

Biogas equipment and financing

We have received proposals from 5 different biogas companies and 4 different generator companies, which are now being reviewed with a target of making a selection by mid-to-late October. We are focused on getting started with detailed engineering shortly, so that we can submit the designs to the Zoo & TRCA for approval, and have enough time to begin construction in the Spring.

Various equipment providers have offered construction and long term debt financing, and discounts, as part of their quotes for the project. This route, combined with the additional Community Bonds, is the likeliest financing avenue for getting the project off the ground.


We received Expressions of Interest from multiple waste management companies interested in working for both our grocery partner and ZooShare to process and deliver the organics we need. These letters should give our partner the confidence it needs to know that it will continue to have multiple service options once its contract with ZooShare kicks in next year. A meeting will take place in the next couple of weeks to deliver these letters and a draft contract for them to review. Given the milestones ZooShare has achieved recently, it is time to get this agreement finalized so that we can confidently move forward with detailed engineering.

Blog: What is “Food Rescue”?


In July, we had the pleasure of meeting some of our fellow food-waste innovators by participating in the Wast(ED): Food Education Speaker Series, a panel discussion initiated by the City of Toronto that featured local organizations exploring innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle food waste.

From left to right: Lori Nikkel of Second Harvest , Sue Arndt of Not Far from the Tree, Mike Nevin of FoodShare Toronto, Frances Darwin of ZooShare (not pictured: Helene St. Jaques of Informa Market Research.) Photo Credit: Twitter (@2ndHarvestTO July 9th 2015)

From left to right: Lori Nikkel of Second Harvest , Sue Arndt of Not Far from the Tree, Mike Nevin of FoodShare Toronto, Frances Darwin of ZooShare (not pictured: Helene St. Jaques of Informa Market Research). Photo Credit: Twitter @2ndHarvestTO July 9th 2015

An important distinction between ZooShare and the other panelists is that we will be dealing with a different type of “waste”.  As you may know, we believe that “there is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources”, and in our case, the wasted resource is rotting food (which we will turn into power for the Ontario grid). In the case of the other panelists, their resource is food itself.  Thankfully, organizations like the ones summarized below are able to “rescue” food before it rots, to feed people who need it.

Food rescue (also called food recovery) is therefore the practice of safely retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need. (The recovered food is edible, but cannot be sold.)

Food Rescue organizations and food-waste recycling organizations (like ZooShare) both play an important role in reducing waste in landfills and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Take a look at the Food Recovery Hierarchy (developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to see where each organization fits: Food Rescue (“feed hungry people”) comes first, followed eventually by biogas production (an “industrial use” to generate energy):


One of the conclusions from the panel is that food recovery organizations have to collaborate to create awareness of and reduce food waste. On that note, read on to learn more about the local Food Rescue organizations that are making a difference right here in Toronto:

Second Harvest is the largest food rescue program in Canada. Since 1985, Second Harvest has picked up surplus, donated food from manufacturers, restaurants and caterers, and has delivered it to community agencies in Toronto who feed those in need. They have rescued 100 million pounds of food from being thrown out, preventing over 50 million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents from entering our atmosphere.1 

Not Far from the Tree is Toronto’s very own fruit tree project, inspiring Torontonians to harvest, share, celebrate, and steward the bounty from our urban forest. When a homeowner can’t keep up with the abundant harvest produced by their tree, a team of volunteers is mobilized to pick their tree. The harvest is split three ways: 1/3 is offered to the homeowner, 1/3 is shared among the volunteers, and 1/3 is delivered by bicycle to local food banks, shelters, and community kitchens. It’s a win-win-win solution!

FoodShare is not a food rescue organization by definition…But their education programs may help save food in the future!  FoodShare is a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and hands-on education to teach students food skills, inspire healthy eating, and help people learn where food comes from. (Isn’t it true that if you grow your own food, you are less likely to waste it?)

YOU can be your own Food Rescue service: As we discussed in a previous blog, Canadians waste a staggering $31 billion in food every year, and as reported by Global News, “the biggest source of waste are households”.2 Below are their suggestions for making sure you’re rescuing food, too…


PS If you really wanted to get into Food Rescue to feed yourself, you could become a “freegan” (aka a “dumpster diver”). The producers of the Just Eat It documentary (which you can watch for free here) were able to eat like kings by doing the same thing…And didn’t pay a cent for groceries in 6 months!

Member update: September 2015

This past month, we reached a critical milestone: The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change issued their Renewable Energy Approval to ZooShare!  In addition to this, we made good progress in resolving the challenges related to securing our feedstock; And learned about the discounts that potential equipment suppliers can offer us.


As we stated last month, a meeting with our grocery partner revealed the path forward to resolving the remaining challenges and getting the contract done.  Over the last 4 weeks, we have been working on determining how many of the waste management companies operating in this market have the ability and willingness to pick-up organics from our partner, remove contaminants and drop off the material at our biogas plant.  Early conversations have been positive and we are working up an Expression of Interest for potential suppliers to sign in order to further support our research and give confidence to our partner.  We plan to have as many of these signed as possible in preparation for a September meeting with our partner.

In addition, we continue discussions with other waste producers and waste management companies, ensuring that ZooShare is able to get the supply it needs for the best possible price.

Bond Sales

Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 121 individuals and total pledges of between $561,000 and $762,000.    If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here (make sure to check the “Yes, I am already registered as a ZooShare member” box).

We are currently reviewing and revising the Offering Statement with the intention of renewing it, and at this point, if we decide to sell more bonds, it looks like they will be available in September or October.  Stay tuned for more information on this.

Renewable Energy Approval (REA)

We received the final version of the REA on August 28th.

Digestate (fertilizer) sale/disposal

This past month, we continued to work through the details and terms of our final agreement with Prongineer Ltd regarding the processing of liquid digestate and look forward to getting that done.

Biogas equipment and financing

Over the last 4 weeks, we began to reach out to the different companies that responded to our preliminary request for quotes to ask if they were able to provide further discounts in exchange for marketing profile, and if they had financing packages to offer.  Some have responded already and we are waiting for the others to get back to us, but from our early conversations, the response has been positive and in line with our needs.  We look forward to making decisions in this area in the next 4-8 weeks now that the REA is in hand.

Posted in Member UpdateComments Off on Member update: September 2015

Blog: Teach your kids about Biogas!

Would you like your kids or grand-kids to learn about ZooShare in the classroom? Now’s your chance!

We have co-created a workshop with TREC Education that teaches students about the science of biogas and the value of organic waste…It’s called “Digest This!”. We would love if you could spread the word and tell the teachers in your life about it. Scroll down for details.

Click here to see or print the “Digest This!” brochure.

IMG_20141107_133424 Above: TREC Education’s Program Coordinator Abasi Sanders teaches children in Grade 2 about biogas.

In the workshop, students use common household materials to create “a stomach” to learn how our bodies are like biogas digesters. They learn how organic waste is a form of renewable energy, and how biogas technology can reduce our impact on the environment.

IMG_20141107_145353 Above: This experiment, using household ingredients, teaches children about the breakdown of waste and the concept of collecting greenhouse gases.

The workshop was developed for the Grade 7 curriculum, but can be adapted for all grades.

“We received an email from the spouse of a ZooShare member whose child was in Grade 2,” says Kelly Park, Events and Communications Manager for TREC Education. “She was excited to teach her child about ZooShare, so we adapted the workshop for a younger audience,” she says, “And they’re smarter than you think!”

One of the great things about TREC Education is that their workshops are affordable for teachers — as a charity, TREC Education receives grants, sponsorships and donations to help offer workshops at affordable rates. The first “Digest This!” workshop is only $175 and additional workshops are $135. If you’re feeling generous, you can even sponsor a workshop.

Click here to download the “Digest This!” flyer and pass it along to the teachers in your life, or email Kelly to ask how you can get the “Digest This!” workshop in your child’s classroom.

IMG_20141107_134756 Above: Students learn about the different types of biogas plants around the world.

Posted in Biogas, EducationComments Off on Blog: Teach your kids about Biogas!

Member update: August 2015

This past month, we made excellent progress in getting the REA and establishing the business case for selling Poo from the Zoo brand fertilizer.  The challenges around securing feedstock remain, however, discussions internally and with our grocery store partners have been engaging and productive, making us confident a deal can get done in the coming months.


Over the last four weeks, we have continued to research and understand the market for organics as well as the constraints of our grocery partners.  This learning lead to ZooShare putting together what we feel is a very strong proposal to supply our biogas plant for the long term, under a flexible pricing mechanism. We had a productive meeting with our partners, where more of the complexities of the relationships involved were discussed, and we can now see a path to getting the contract done.  Our grocery partner remains engaged in our project and in resolving the challenges that have to date stopped us from signing the second feedstock contract, which we are very pleased about.

In addition, we continue discussions with other waste producers and waste management companies, ensuring that ZooShare is able to get the supply it needs for the best possible price.

Bond Sales

Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 108 individuals and total pledges of between $525,000 and $728,000.  If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here (make sure to check the “Yes, I am already registered as a ZooShare member” box).

We are currently reviewing and revising the Offering Statement with the intention of renewing it, and at this point, if we decide to sell more bonds, it looks like they will be available in September or October.  Stay tuned for more information on this.

Renewable Energy Approval (REA)

We were successful in resolving all remaining issues related to stormwater management and the approval process is in the final stages now.  The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is currently preparing a conditions sheet, which will be sent to ZooShare for approval, before the official approval is issued.  At this point, we are about 2-3 weeks away from receiving the REA, which is excellent news.

Digestate (fertilizer) sale/disposal

After working out the revenue sharing agreement last month regarding the fertilizer to be produced from the liquid digestate, this month we worked on figuring out the practical details and steps required to maximize potential revenues from selling solid digestate, or “Poo from the Zoo”.  After speaking to multiple zoos selling composted manure to the public, and some colleagues in the composting industry, we determined the best way for ZooShare to monetize solid digestate is to sell it in bulk directly to consumers from our site.  The details continue to be worked out, but it is looking like we will offer customers the ability to buy Poo from the Zoo by the truckload or by the bag, probably all done during April/May each year.  We will not be purchasing a bagging line and putting the product in garden centres as was the original intention, instead people who want to buy bags will be given a shovel and empty bags to fill up.

Posted in Member UpdateComments Off on Member update: August 2015

Blog: “Who Is ZooShare?” Part 2

A couple of months ago, we sent our members a gruelling 75 question survey. Amazingly…Gratefully, we received over 100 responses! Before this, we only knew the most basic information about our members–age, gender and location (which you can read about in Part 1 of this blog post). Our survey included a large variety of questions that explored other demographic data, as well as our members’ values, lifestyle and priorities. After an intensive study of the survey data, it became clear that although there are several life-stage differences between generations (marital status, kids etc), most ZooShare members share similar experiences, values and lifestyles. Scroll down to see the top 7 things we have in common:

1. A University Education


If you are a typical ZooShare member, you are most likely university-educated (three quarters of the membership hold a BA or higher).

2. A love of Learning


Your love of learning doesn’t fade after graduation, in fact, when asked what activities ZooShare members do the most during their leisure time, “Self education and reading” ranked above “spending time with friends and family”! You especially enjoy reading about topics concerning environmental conservation, science, technology, and travel (and if you are a Baby Boomer, you are really interested in reading up on health and wellness). Some ZooShare members love learning so much, they made a career out of it: 16% of ZooShare members work or worked in Education, Training or Library careers (one of the most common professions among our members).

3. Being Outside

high park

Whether it’s hiking, walking, camping or gardening, you love connecting with nature.  You also love to share this connection: 37% of ZooShare members have planted or tend to a community garden, and over 40% have attended a park clean-up.

4. Environment > $

money vs plantYour connection with nature is strong and the environment is a top priority for you. You are very willing–even extremely willing–to change your lifestyle to benefit the environment. You believe that reducing greenhouse gases is more important than improving the economy (58% of ZooShare members) so you shop green (94% of members) and passionately donate your time or money to Environmental causes (68% of ZooShare members) and species conservation (34%).

5. Political


But shopping green and donating your time and/or money to help the environment isn’t enough! You believe in the power of being politically active: You vote for leaders who share your values, and at some point you have attended a political rally (58%) or spoken in front of City Hall (33%).  You are also likely to be left-leaning (53% of members identify as “left” on the political spectrum, followed by 28% of those who identify as “centre”, 15% who don’t identify and 3% who identify as “right”).

6. Supporters of Divestment

CU Divestment1_Courtesy of Daniela Lapidous_Courtesy of Daniela

Speaking of being political, you probably know about and support the Divestment Movement (70% of the ZooShare members do; 20% don’t know or aren’t sure about it; and 8% do not support it). The Divestment Movement encourages institutional investors to remove their financial support from the fossil fuel industry. Click here to learn more.

7. Supporters of local initiatives


You may be in the 60% of ZooShare members who often find themselves in situations where their perspective is different from their peers (because of their age/language/culture/background/education etc). For this reason, it is important to surround yourself with a group that shares similar beliefs. You can’t save the planet alone! 77% of ZooShare members have attended a neighbourhood event, 35% are part of an informal community group, and 28% have advocated for a local cause. You are also a part of ZooShare: Most members feel like they are part of a ZooShare community…And 40% of members believe that when people get involved in trying to solve environmental problems, they “make things better most of the time”, if not “all of the time” (8%). 77% of ZooShare members own a ZooShare bond, investing an average of $6,974 (a median of $4,357).

Member update: July 2015

Our focus continues to be the same as last month – we are working daily on getting the Renewable Energy Approval and feedstock contract completed as they are essential to our success and we are eager to get started on building the plant.  We have also been investing time and energy into learning more about the fertilizer market so that we can maximize revenues from all possible sources.


When we started this project, we had an agreement that our partner was to supply 14,000 tonnes of waste to us each year. During the fundraising phase, 4,000 tonnes of waste was contracted from corporate stores. We continue to work with our grocery partners on the contract for the remaining 10,000 tonnes. The primary issue contributing to the delay is price – not the availability of waste supply.  At the current time, the commercial organic waste market is constantly evolving – making it difficult for us or our partners to comfortably forecast the value of disposing organic waste. We have now come to the conclusion that we would only be able to sign a long-term supply agreement (our goal) with Loblaws (or any other grocer/waste management company) if there was no fixed price.

We are working on a proposal that would include a formula for a flexible fee, that would fluctuate with the market each year, therefore remaining competitive. We are positive this will yield the desired outcome but are speaking to multiple waste producers and haulers to ensure we have a clear understanding of the market and some alternative options if we are forced to go that route.

Co-op Development & AGM

We hosted the 2015 ZooShare Annual General Meeting on June 11/15 at 401 Richmond St West. The meeting was well attended with 50 members there, all of whom cast votes in the Board elections. It was a good AGM with productive discussions regarding the challenges we still face. All members came at it from a place of trying to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. We elected 3 new directors to the ZooShare Board – Chris Benedetti, Peter Roles and Angela Wallace. Tom Ferencevic is returning for another 2 year term.

After conducting a member/investor survey, which closed in early June, we have been working on a report that ultimately will summarize the key learnings about our membership and the motivations of our target market, should we decide to market and sell additional bonds in the future. (Click here to read a high-level summary of our findings in this month’s Member Spotlight.)

We were also sad to say goodbye to Blair Coutu, who’s contract with ZooShare ended this month.  Blair was a valuable member of our team and played a big role in closing our bond sales as he stepped up to be our Investor Relations Coordinator last September.  We look forward to seeing him accomplish more great things as his career develops.

Bond Sales

Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 102 individuals and total pledges of between $408,000 and $609,000.  If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here (make sure to check the “Yes, I am already registered as a ZooShare member” box). We don’t know for sure if or when we will sell more bonds but the chances are good – stay tuned for more information on this.

Renewable Energy Approval (REA)

Our consultants and technical sub-consultants have been working to address the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)’s concerns about stormwater management. The primary thing they are looking for are additional details on what features we are planning to use to manage stormwater and which guidelines the design adheres to.  We had a very productive meeting with MOECC staff about their specific information needs and concerns last week. This meeting clarified what we need to submit in order to receive our REA. Our consultants will submit these items on our behalf in the next week, and we look forward to getting approval in the coming weeks.  This process has taken longer than we expected, but we are confident it is nearing an end.

Digestate (fertilizer) sale/disposal

We have also been hard at work at building a business case for selling fertilizer (liquid and solid) to help us better understand if and how we can generate sufficient revenues from this activity to support the project.

We finalized the Memorandum of Understanding with Prongineer to process liquid digestate.  The projected revenues from selling the fertilizer products the Prongineer equipment will produce are ~$40,000 per year for the first 6 years, increasing to ~$200,000 per year from that point forward.  This equipment will essentially separate the water from the valuable nutrients in the liquid digestate and allow ZooShare to sell these without needing to transport water around (which is costly).

The recent work is all about maximizing the value we can extract from the solid digestate. Initially we had intended to sell it wholesale for ~$20 per tonne.  From what we’ve learned so far, we can make much more than this by selling directly to consumers through multiple channels. We are looking into purchasing bagging equipment and how we could get “Poo from the Zoo” brand fertilizer in front of consumers (The names “Zoo Poo”, “Zoo Doo” and “Zoo Manoo” are already taken. Got a good name? Let us know!) . If we’re able to sell a bag of solid digestate for a price comparable to cow manure (~$4/bag), potential revenues from this activity could be as much as $500,000. Our initial research has told us we can sell it for a higher price than this, but we are fully investigating the costs associated with this plan and figuring out a way of pre-selling some of the first year’s output to help prove our case to lenders and ourselves.  It is also possible that we further process the solid digestate into a higher value fertilizer product, which can be sold for a much higher price, but would require additional equipment.  At the current time however, this is secondary to proving out the minimum potential revenues from selling bags of Zoo poo.

Posted in Member UpdateComments Off on Member update: July 2015