ZooShare is comprised of 3 staff, 7 Board members, and most importantly, over 450 Ontarians from across the province who are a part of our co-operative. Our membership stretches beyond Temagami to the North, Sarnia to the West, and Ottawa to the East. Our membership is concentrated in the city of Toronto.
Most of ZooShare’s members were born in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, but there is also a large number of members born in the 1980s. Baby boomers comprise the largest demographic, followed closely by the next generation, Gen X, then the “Millennials”, Gen Y.
If you’re wondering why people born in the ’90s or 2000s (Generation Z) are investing, it’s because they were gifted a bond by their parents or grandparents.Our youngest member is 9 months old. (Technically most of these “members” are only bond-holders, members must be 18+ to vote at our AGMs).
Finally, we have a small but passionate group of the Silent Generation (Why so quiet?). Happy Birthday to our oldest member, who is turning 83 this month!
In terms of the gender split, the numbers are very close! The ladies “take the lead” by 1%. We will be following up this blog post with a member-only survey to help us learn more about you, our members. Stay Tuned!
Last month we continued to prepare for construction of our biogas plant – clarifying remaining questions and concerns related to permits; working through the logistics of organic waste supplies; solidifying our fertilizer plans; and articulating our specific requirements to be included in the construction contract.
Co-op Development & AGM
At the end of the first quarter we began planning for the 2015 ZooShare Annual General Meeting – more news about this will coming to the inbox of members in the next 7-10 days.
We closed our offering once we reached the $2.2 million target – which only served to increase market demand for ZooShare bonds. Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 82 people and at least $375,000 committed if ZooShare opens up the investment opportunity further. If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here. Make sure to check the “Yes, I’m already registered as a member” box to avoid filling in information you already sent to us.
Renewable Energy Approval (REA)
We had 3 calls with reviewers from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and also hosted them, together with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, at the site of our biogas plant in order to give everyone a clearer idea of how our plans will environmentally affect the site. Discussions continue to be open and productive, and many of the questions at this stage seem to be about clarifying details rather than larger questions requiring further studies. We believe we are still on track to receive our REA by the end of May, however, the ball is in the Ministry’s court for now and we continue to work with them to ensure a timely approval.
As you may recall, at the outset of the project, ZooShare secured a Letter of Intent for the full supply of organic waste (14,000 tonnes) with Canada’s largest grocery retailer. Following this, we executed a contract for the first 4,000 tonnes in June 2013 for waste to be supplied from stores equipped with on-site mills (to liquify the waste at the store). We have been working with our partners on the second contract (for the remaining 10,000 tonnes) as it needs to come from a different part of the company since not all stores are equipped with the mills. Complicating the situation somewhat is that there is a different waste management company contracted to pick-up and manage these organics, meaning more players at the negotiating table. Furthermore, the organic waste market in Ontario is quickly evolving, slowing down each party’s ability to forecast future prices for transporting and processing waste. This past month, we continued to meet with and talk through the remaining issues with our partners so that we can execute the second contract, which is a pre-requisite to ZooShare initiating construction of the facility.
Digestate (fertilizer) sale/disposal
Digestate is the nutrient-rich substance produced by our biogas plant that can be used as a fertilizer. The digestate is a slurry when it first comes out of the biogas plant, containing both liquid and solid components. The solids are what we have proposed to put in bags and sell back to you and other gardeners. For the last 9 months, we have been working on ways to maximize the value of the liquid component and reduce the transportation costs. We have made good progress on two fronts: 1. A farmer nearby the Zoo has expressed tentative interest in taking the digestate for his crops, which would mean zero cost for disposal but also zero revenues; 2. A memorandum of understanding is in place with a BC-based technology company that can provide equipment to ZooShare that would process the liquid into concentrated fertilizer and clean water. This technology would have no up-front cost to ZooShare but would require sharing of revenues until the technology is paid off, approximately 6 years. We are hopeful that option 2 will work out as it will mean greater revenues for the project, but are planning on option 1 to be conservative.
Events and Media
The media loves you as much as they love Zoo poo! In March, the media was excited to share the news that together, we raised $2.2M. Since then, we have also had interviews PRI World, BioCycle Magazine and the writer of an accounting textbook for 1st-year university students, who is featuring ZooShare as a business case for alternative financing methods.
We also attended Earth Day at the Zoo and Earth Week in the financial district, as well as having a booth in the Social Enterprise Zone at the OCE Discovery Conference.
Zoo-biogas is heating up!
In early April, our two student-interns from Seneca College submitted their final report on the biogas prospects of 10 zoos based in the United States. Their report examined the feasibility of creating similar-sized biogas plants like the one we’re building here in Toronto. The report will allow us to confidently approach other Zoos in the US to discuss potential partnership. Initial introductory emails have already been sent to the 10 zoos identified in the study, and we look forward to providing future updates on this pursuit.
We also recently connected with the Detroit Zoo, which has initiated a biogas project of their own. The Detroit project differs from ours in that they are only digesting zoo manure and waste produced at the Zoo, and the power will not be sold to the grid, but instead used for internal operations. We’re very excited that the market is developing and interest is growing.
Spring cleaning? Donate your things to Furniture Bank and stop “waste” from going to landfills while turning someone’s house into a home…
Like ZooShare, part of Furniture Bank’s mission is to divert “waste” from landfills. Since 1998, Furniture Bank has saved over 320,000 tonnes of furniture from being thrown out. Items are given, at little or no cost, to individuals and families in need. So far, 62,000 people have been made to feel more at home.
A look at some of the quality items donated to Furniture Bank
The History of Furniture Bank
Furniture Bank began almost 20 years ago thanks to one woman and her car: Sister Anne Schenck was working at a refugee centre in Scarborough, when she realized that newcomers to Canada “were literally moving into apartments with nothing”. When the Refugee Centre closed in 1994, “I finally had some time to think about how I’d set up what became Furniture Bank,” says Schenck, adding “There was no business plan. I was just doing what I could do and I started talking about my dream.” As word spread, Torontonians who were downsizing or upgrading saw donating to the Furniture Bank as a “natural opportunity to help,” she says.1 With the help of numerous volunteers, countless hours of pro-bono work and financial donations, small and large, Sister Anne formally incorporated Furniture Bank as a charity in 1998.2
Furniture Bank isn’t simply a warehouse for donated chairs and tables–it is a resource to find the confidence to build a better life. 70+ agencies refer over 5,000 people every year to Furniture Bank. Clients are newcomers to Canada, people transitioning out of homelessness, mothers with children exiting abusive relationships and many others in need.
ZooShare Visits Furniture Bank
ZooShare recently visited Furniture Bank in Etobicoke to learn more about the process: “It was incredible, like walking into an IKEA showroom of quality furniture,” says our Communications Coordinator, Frances Darwin. To learn more, Frances sat down with Noah Kravitz, Community Manager and Fundraising Coordinator at Furniture Bank:
ZooShare sat down with Noah Kravitz, Community Manager and Fundraising Coordinator at Furniture Bank.
“Donations are not limited to furniture,” explains Kravitz. “We also accept artwork, pots and pans, carpets, TVs, computers, printers and small kitchen appliances.” Thinking of getting a new mattress? Even your old bed can be donated. Furniture Bank also works with Sleep Country as part of their Mattress Recycling Programme, receiving 20-25 beds every 2 weeks. Concerned about bed bugs? No need to be. Furniture Bank has a 99.98% prevention rate due to the extreme care of inspection of all donated items (before pick-up, during processing, after processing) and even bring in a special dog once a month to sniff out the little critters, just in case!
Furniture Bank also accepts beds, artwork, pots and pans, carpets, TVs, computers, printers and small kitchen appliances.
Keeping Money in the Bank
How does furniture bank make money? “As a charity, we are grateful for monetary donations, but we also recognized the need to be self-sustainable,” explains Kravitz. For this reason, Furniture Bank launched its Social Enterprise delivery service 10 years ago “which has been the bread and butter since then,” he explains. How does it work? “There is a fee to pick-up your donation, which starts at a competitive $99 $150*.” And why would you choose Furniture Bank over other “junk-haulers”? “Because, as a registered charity, Furniture Bank can issue a “donation-in-kind” tax receipt for the value of the donated furniture. When you donate your furniture, you change a life and reduce you tax bill at the same time!
Recycling Materials into Dollars
In addition to donations and revenues from their pick-up service, Furniture Bank is also able to recycle unsuitable furniture and e-waste to earn additional dollars to help their mission. “Where items aren’t in good enough condition to make it into our showroom, we can recycle the raw materials,” says Kravitz. According to the Furniture Bank blog, over 4500 kgs of cloth and fabrics, 2000 kgs of electronics and 50,000 kgs of metal last year.3
By training and employing youth and newcomers to Canada through a skills training and employment programme, Kravitz says, “Furniture Bank offers employment to individuals facing barriers in our warehouse, call centre, in furniture repair, upholstery and woodworking.” In the near future their employees’ skills will enable Furniture Bank to provide an additional revenue generating arm: a furniture repair service. Are you a carpenter, cabinetmaker, upholsterer or designer? Click here to learn more about how you can help.
Win a $99 $150* furniture pick-ip!
This month, let ZooShare and Furniture Bank help you with your Spring Cleaning. You could win a Furniture Bank pick-up worth $99 $150* when you enter our monthly contest. (Please note: There may be additional charges based on the volume of donated goods and the location of the pickup.) To learn more about Furniture Bank’s pickup service, click here.
1. Interview with Sister Anne Schenck by Cam Gordon: http://www.furniturebank.org/discover-sister-anne-started-furniture-bank/
We SOLD OUT of bonds! We are still taking pledges from people who would like to be added to our Waiting List, should we decide to raise additional financing. Click here to join our waiting list (make sure to click “I’m already a member”). Hurry–the waiting list is first-come, first-serve.
We are also excited to share that we have received our Connection Impact Assessment (CIA) from Toronto Hydro! This confirms ZooShare’s space on the Ontario grid, allowing us to sell the power we produce each year.
We expect to receive our Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment in May. In a recent interview, the Ministry said “We expect to make a decision on the application shortly.”
It’s time to celebrate! With your help, we have reached our goal of raising $2.2 million!
The demand for bonds was so strong that we sold out before the anticipated date of March 31st.
We already have a waiting list of individuals who want to invest if we decide to raise additional funds. Get yourself on the waiting list by clicking here then check the box “I’m a member”.
Here’s a toast to you:
Thank you again to each of you, for your faith in our vision, for sharing our story with your friends and family, and for being a part of ZooShare.
Daniel, Frances & Blair
The ZooShare Team
PS Come celebrate with us at this Thursday at the Community Bond Showcase! Reserve a ticket or get on the waiting list by clicking here. VIP ZooShare tickets include a free drink! (If you reserved tickets for the Community Bond Showcase but can no longer attend, please release your tickets via these simple steps.) Your fellow members will thank you!
Well–after a bitter cold snap it seems like winter is coming to an end…Just like our bond sales! We have now raised over 1.8 MILLION and we expect to close the offering by March 31st. Here’s our most recent news:
– ZooShare now has 370 members and has raised $1.86 in Community Bonds!
– We are expecting to receive our Connection Impact Assessment from Toronto Hydro soon
– We hope to receive our Renewable Energy Approval from the Ministry of the Environment by May 25th
– We presented at the Toronto Zoo Board meeting in February regarding amending project milestone dates
– We applied for a $20,000 grant from the Co-operators through their CDP grant program.
– 2 Seneca College Non-profit Leadership students are expected to finish a ZooShare feasibility study in April
– We Continue to explore different technologies and methods for processing digestate into higher value products
– We made presentations to Monitor Deloitte, the SouthBrook Retirement Community, & Amica Balmoral Club
(If you know of other community groups who would appreciate learning more about ZooShare, email Frances.)
Did you get a T5?
All ZooShare members should have received their T5s. If you haven’t, please email Frances. (Unless you specified that you wanted your T5 mailed, you should have received an email from “trecservices” entitled “ZooShare 2014 Tax Information”. Please check your junk/spam folder before emailing us.)
Bullfrog Power is Canada’s leading green energy provider, one of our initial Founders Club investors, our official Education Sponsor and recently invested an additional $125,000! Daniel said: “We are extremely pleased that Bullfrog Power continues to support our vision. Bullfrog Power’s leadership in the community power sector has been invaluable in getting our project and programs off the ground and we are grateful for this additional investment, which comes at a pivotal point in our fund raising process.” Read more here.
ZooShare is pleased to announce that Toronto Hydro has come on board as our 1st Community Partner! Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages, together we will be spreading the word about ZooShare and Toronto Hydro’s conservation programs and how they can benefit you. For now, check out this awesome Energy Conservation Handbook.
Last week, the Biogas Association held its annual conference in Hamilton, Ontario, which included a full day of touring nearby biogas plants. The purpose of the tour was to continue the up-close and personal learning that has facilitated the growth in the industry we’ve experienced to date. The conference brings together people and companies from around Ontario, across Canada, and increasingly from the US and Europe as well. The tours are the highlight of the conference for me because they provide the opportunity to see different configurations and strategies for effectively and efficiently converting organic waste into energy and fertilizer. These are the biogas plants we toured:
Toronto’s Disco Rd. green bin processing facility
Eilers Farms – the first hog farm in Ontario with a biogas plant
The Hamilton Wastewater Treatment Plant
Bio-En’s commercial biogas plant in Elmira
Municipal biogas projects have different priorities and constraints compared to farm-based projects, which are also different compared to commercial projects like ours. These factors drive design decisions. Everyone working in the sector has a different approach to creating as much energy as possible while keeping capital and operating costs low. This includes different ways of processing waste (dry vs. wet), as well as different mixing systems and tank configurations. Each approach has its merits of course, so it brings the plant owner back to assessing what the primary goal of the facility is.
It is also important to remember that biogas plants are living systems, and just as living things tend to get sick if not properly cared for, a biogas plant is no different. This doesn’t just mean keeping the machine well oiled, but maintaining a healthy diet that doesn’t change greatly from day to day or week to week. While the odd piece of cake doesn’t hurt, like us, biogas plants won’t be too productive after gorging on certain foods. Just like us, biogas plants have to watch their intake of junk food–actual junk–like plastic, metal, glass, bones and sand. These materials could break the pumps and mixers that keep the big stomach going, while the bone fragments and sand (collectively known as grit) can settle on the digester floor, slowly reducing the digestion capacity over time.
The light fraction of contaminants – plastic bags
Grit and the heavy fraction of contaminants in Toronto’s curbside organics
The biogas tours continue to show me how important it is to design care right into the plant itself. Recipe planning is essential, but also being flexible enough to handle shifts in the recipe. Purchasing sufficient pre-processing equipment to remove as much junk as possible is essential, but having a maintenance plan aimed at minimizing digester downtime is just as important. Without this care and attention to detail, plant performance will suffer, which means more downtime and ultimately reduced profitability.
Just like our bodies, biogas plants work best when the health of their digestive system is at its peak. Should we get sick, a few days off typically resolves the issue. This is where the analogy of a human stomach versus a biogas plant tends to diverge –- a biogas plant cannot take a few days off: Waste management companies and municipalities need somewhere to drop off their waste, because the waste never stops…They would have to deliver it somewhere else–probably less sustainable and more expensive. The biogas plant needs to run with minimal down-time, and to ensure this, it is equipped with multiple redundancies and tested on an ongoing basis, allowing it to be fed 24/7. This satisfies the needs of waste producers, waste haulers and ultimately the people of Ontario consuming the green energy.
All of these lessons have permeated ZooShare’s plans and designs over the years – our focus from the start has been to learn from what is being done around us as the industry grows and evolves. Our biogas plant is essentially a hybrid of the smaller farm-based systems and the larger commercial ones, giving us plenty of examples to draw from to ensure that our gut is healthy and the feeding never needs to stop.
Bonus! Learn what happens to Toronto’s Green Bin Waste
One of the stops on the biogas tour was at Toronto’s Disco Road Green Bin Processing Facility. As many of our members live and work in Toronto, we wanted to share the journey of these organics:
Once the trucks empty the green bin at the curb each week, the waste stream is taken to a transfer station, where all of it is transferred from the smaller trucks making the pick-ups to larger transport trucks. These larger trucks bring the organics to one of two digester projects located within the City, either to Disco Road (near the airport), or the Dufferin Transfer Station (located near Dufferin and the 401).
Upon arrival, the mixture of organics, plastic bags, diapers and everything else that ends up there begins the process by getting tipped onto a big concrete floor in a sealed building.
Toronto’s green bin waste begins its journey from waste to biogas
From here it is loaded onto conveyors by a front-end loader. It is then mixed into large receptacles known as hydro-pulpers, which are used to separate the organic portion from the plastics/metals/other portion. The light and heavy waste products, which collectively make up 19.5% of the total volume entering the facility, are separated here. The remaining mixture is then pumped into centrifuges, which are used to remove the grit (sand, broken glass, broken bones, etc) – collectively totalling another 1.5% of the total volume of material that enters the facility.
All the grit removed from the waste prior to digestion
All together, Disco Rd receives 300 metric tonnes of material per day. After the contaminants have all been removed, the material is then pumped into the digestion tanks, of which there are 2 with capacity of 5,300 m3 each. Digestion occurs over a period of 17/18 days, at which point the facility is left with biogas and digestate. The liquid digestate is reused in the process, while the solid digestate is loaded onto trucks to be taken to a compost facility north of the City for ‘finishing’. Unfortunately, the biogas is currently being flared (burned to neutralize its impact, but not used for energy), however, there are plans to begin generating power in 2017 that will be used to run the facility and adjacent public works yard. All of this is controlled by a computer system, which is monitored 24/7 both onsite and remotely via cell phones.
ZooShare investor Betty-Anne Howard is a “financial planner with a social conscience”, meaning she cares about the environment, the world, and how people make their money. While in school, Betty-Anne learned a new way to see the world, and now she passionately champions protecting that world through the UN’s Principles for Sustainable Investment.
When did you become passionate about the environment?
I’ve always been passionate about the environment…Part of that was because I had to be: We grew up poor, we didn’t have a lot, so we had to reduce, reuse and recycle out of necessity! In the early 80s, when I was in my late 20s, I learned about and developed a feminist construct that allowed me to see the whole picture…What I learned through feminist theory was respect, power…and care for the community and other communities, and that strengthened my passion for the environment.
Why did you decide to invest in ZooShare?
ZooShare sent out a post to the members of the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) asking impact investors to share their stories. As a result of [Frances] reaching out to me, I decided to take a closer look, and I thought “this is something I could really get into”. I’m a big believer of practicing what I preach, like my involvement with the RIA and micro-enterprise lending through KIVA…It just made sense to me, especially with the 7% return, I thought “I would like to get behind ZooShare”.
What are some projects you think other ZooShare supporters would be interested in?
There are many things that are happening out in the community, as well as some things that are unique to Kingston. For example, I’m part of a a group that’s associated with Wintergreen Co-op…and I’ve been a member of SWITCH for about 5 years…
Wherever I go and whatever I do, I look for opportunities to talk about the environment and to talk about issues related to being socially responsible…For example, in my work, I wanted to hear from money managers, to what extent–if at all–we were implementing the UN Principles for Sustainable Investment, because, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance issues (ESG) form the basis for Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). I spoke with [one of my managers] about [implementing SRI principals and] he was completely behind it, he was prepared to send out a memo about it…and later that week, he received a memo from [the parent company] asking for the same type of transparency! I was excited and thrilled and so proud of [the parent company]…My ideal goal is to not have a separate group of funds called SRIs, I want these principals to be completely integrated in every part of every portfolio manager’s investment decisions…That’s my dream.
Looking to make the world a better place while growing your money?
According to a recent report from the Responsible Investment Association, more than $4 billion has been allocated in Canada to “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”. This definition speaks to the notion of a ‘blended’ return whereby investors are rewarded with both a financial return AND a social / environmental impact. It’s a clear win-win-win for the economy, society, and the planet.
Community bonds can enhance any portfolio by offering a strong return on investment, while hedging against systemic risks that could affect the entire stock and/or bond market. Since community bonds aren’t traded on any exchange, they will remain stable in the event of a crash. Community bonds do come with some unique risks, and investors need to do their homework before investing.
So how can everyday investors like you and me get in on this action? Thankfully, three leading organizations have teamed up to present a quick factsheet that outlines their community bonds:
I love the content of this factsheet, and what excites me the most is the collaboration it represents. All too often in the investment industry, I’ve seen organizations competing against each other for your (or my) money. It’s refreshing to see that these nonprofits, instead of competing for a bigger piece of the pie, are collaborating to make the whole pie bigger! This speaks volumes about the culture in the social finance sector, and provides a stark contrast to the cut-throat nature of the old investment banks.
My hope is that investors will stop asking ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ around community bonds and start asking ‘what percentage of my portfolio should I invest?’. If Canadians allocated just 5% of their money into community bonds, it would activate more than $50 billion of capital to help the nonprofit sector grow and thrive. Now that’s a sustainable economy!
Want to learn more? Get your tickets to the Community Bond Showcase happening March 19 6-9pm at CSI Annex (720 Bathurst, just south of Bloor).
**DISCLOSURE – The author is a member of both SolarShare and CSI and is about to join ZooShare**
Bond sales are going well, so well in fact, that we expect to close the bond offering by March 31st! If you’re thinking of reinvesting, better to do it sooner rather than later: The offer is closed when we reach $2.2M.
– This month we raised $176,000!
– In addition to the bonds raised in January, The Catherine Donnelly Foundation invested $100,000,
– Our Education Sponsor, Bullfrog Power invested $125,000.
– The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) selected ZooShare for their Catapult Loan.
– We are working together with the Ministry of the Environment and Parks Canada to address the questions raised in relation to our application for Renewable Energy Approval, which is required before construction can begin. We are hopeful that we will receive the approval by May 25th.
Thank you for your patience with our bond recall and reissue process. If you have not received your bond, please call us at 1-888-990-9095 or send us an email. (Please note: For people who lost their bond, we need you to sign the indemnity form that we mailed to you on behalf of our trustee before we can mail you your bond.)
T5 + Did you move?
Your ZooShare T5 will be sent to you in mid-February. Please make sure we have your updated contact information. Most T5s will be sent via a secure, password-protected email (unless you specified your preference for a physical copy of your T5, in which case it will be mailed to you). If you have a new email address or if you have moved since purchasing a ZooShare bond, please email us or call us at 1-888-990-9095 to let us know. Please keep in mind that because your bond started earning interest immediately, you will need to pay tax on the earnings even though we have not serviced your bond yet. This is in accordance with CRA Tax rules. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.