Yesterday, on November 12, 2019, ZooShare met with senior officials from Oshawa Power and The Toronto Zoo to celebrate a newly inked strategic partnership that will make significant Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions a reality at the Toronto Zoo. We are joining forces with Oshawa PUC Energy Services (OPUCES), a municipally-owned sustainable energy corporation to complete the final milestone of the Toronto Zoo Biogas Project. This unique collaboration also includes the federal government’s Low Carbon Economy Fund, which will contribute $2.7 million over this phase and a planned expansion of the facility.
These new funds are in the form of a multi-year grant, totaling $2.67 million. It will enable us to double ZooShare’s processing capacity from 17,000 tonnes of organics per year to 30,000+ tonnes, doubling our positive impact on the environment.
With this grant in place, we will continue with our plans to complete construction this year and reach commercial operations in Spring 2020. We will also begin planning the facility’s expansion, which includes a second digestion tank, and the capacity to inject renewable natural gas (RNG) into nearby pipelines.
We’re incredibly thankful to the ECCC, and MP Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park). Their support will help realize our shared vision of diverting organic waste away from landfills, and using it to produce renewable energy.
We are very pleased to share that on Wednesday July 18th, we successfully commissioned our Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit and demonstrated ZooShare’s ability to export power to the Ontario grid–thus meeting the final milestone of our Feed-In-Tariff contract! We now look forward to moving ahead with the next phase of construction.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our partner, Miller Waste Systems Inc., for their incredible dedication to this project. They assisted in completing project designs, securing permits, coordinating vendors and managing the construction work at the site, which required 12+ hour work-days everyday for 3 weeks. A huge, huge thank you.
We would also like to thank the following organizations and partners who assisted us in reaching this milestone:
ANF Energy Solutions
Northern Building Contractors
R.A Graham Electrical Contractors
The Toronto Zoo
Total Power Limited
On a sombre note, you may have heard that the Ontario government recently cancelled 758 renewable energy projects, including 15 biogas plants. ZooShare is not among them. While our contract remains in good standing, we support the Canadian Biogas Association’s stance that, “this decision ignores the environmental benefits [of] clean, safe, locally-generated renewable energy and the many economic benefits including sustainable job creation within Ontario farms, agri-food businesses, and municipalities and millions of dollars of investment in local communities.”
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out by clicking the email icon at the top of this screen, or calling the 1-800 number, above.
The ZooShare Team
Daniel, Paul U., Chris, Melissa, John, Victoria, and Paul W.
We are excited to announce that the first piece of our biogas plant has arrived!
On Wednesday, May 9th, our Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, the engine that will generate electricity from zoo poo and food waste, was delivered to the ZooShare site across from the Toronto Zoo.
The unit arrived in two shipping containers from Europe.
ZooShare’s Executive Director, Daniel Bida, was there in-person to meet the delivery. “It was an exciting moment. The CHP is an essential piece of our project, and as the first piece of equipment to arrive, it is the first step towards construction,” he said.
ZooShare’s Executive Director, Daniel Bida, was there to meet the delivery of the engine that will turn poo into power.
So, how does this engine work? Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is the simultaneous production of electrical power and heat. First, biogas powers the engine, then the engine runs an alternator (an electrical generator) which creates renewable power for the Ontario grid. The rotation of the alternator also produces heat–and unlike conventional technologies that waste it by letting it float off into the atmosphere–the efficient CHP unit will capture that heat and use it to warm the ZooShare tanks and buildings on site.
The Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit.
The next steps are to connect the CHP unit to the Ontario grid, and then construct the tanks and buildings that make up the rest of the biogas plant.
Make sure to sign up for our newsletter (if you haven’t already) to make sure you are receiving the latest updates from us. We look forward to sharing our progress with you!
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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:
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, desigingzoos.com, 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
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”.4The 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.”
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
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.
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.
Denice and John at ZooShare’s “Thanks A Million!” party October 2014.
ZooShare Investor Denice Wilkins is a lifelong environmentalist, protector of turtle eggs (ask her about Turtle ICUs) and even owns an organic blueberry farm in Tweed, Ontario. Denice and her husband, John Wilson, built and designed their passive-solar home.
When did you become passionate about the environment?
“You’d think Detroit would be a weird place to become so interested in nature, but you don’t have to live in the country to become passionate about the environment,” Denice points out. The Michigan-native founded a neighbourhood environmental club at the age of 10, in which duties included: alleyway trash pick-ups and stuffing neighbours’ mailboxes at dawn with messages like ‘Keep America Beautiful’, written in red and blue. She and her friends even wrote to the Governor of Michigan and told him about their environmental concerns “and he wrote back!” exclaims Denice. Meanwhile, in Quebec, Denice’s future husband (John Wilson, pictured above) was catching frogs and snakes and appreciating nature “the country-way”. While Denice went on to get a degree in Environmental Education, John became a wildlife photographer and cinematographer. “He shot his first wildlife film in The Galapagos, during an 8-month motorcycle trip through South America,” Denice reveals. The pair even made films together in Iceland and South Africa.
Why did you decide to invest in ZooShare?
“We always wanted to invest in socially responsible investments, and so when I heard about ZooShare and the idea of ‘impact investing’, I really loved it because we didn’t want to profit from things we think are wrong: tobacco, nuclear missiles, etc…” laughs Denice. “And responsible investing is about the environment, social justice, gender equality…[Those concepts] are a part of our lives, our careers, our passions…and so ZooShare fits beautifully into that…It all weaves together…I’m very passionate and concerned about the state of the planet, from extinction to climate change to the myriad of problems that are impacting the planet right now…And I really believe in the power of one: The power of one person to make a difference, and the power that one idea can have to inspire a group of people to make a larger change…When you feel so powerless…It’s easy to become apathetic and say ‘there’s nothing we can do…we’re on the Titanic and it’s going down’, but investing in ZooShare is a way to do something, and that just helps me feel a little bit better about things.”
What are some conservation projects you think other ZooShare supporters would be interested in?
Denice’s husband, John, was really ahead of the curve when he designed their passive-solar home 35 years ago: “He was an early adopter of energy efficiency,” explains Denice: “The house is oriented to the south, with lots of large windows to let the light in. The windows on the North side are smaller and fewer. We only have one level that is above ground and the rest of the house is below ground, which keeps the house insulated. On a sunny day we don’t need any heat source on at all…Until the sun goes down, then we start our wood stove…We’re not off the grid, but we have a solar hot-water heater, and our home is Bullfrog powered.
Denice and her husband also own Wilson’s Organic Blueberries, an acre and a half farm in Tweed, Ontario, where people can pick their own organic blueberries (July through August). “We also help pick blueberries for people who don’t want to pick their own,” mentions Denice.
In addition to being a member of ZooShare, Denice has another special connection to the Zoo: “One cool thing I didn’t mention is that I am on the board of the Quinte Field Naturalists, and one day we received a package from the Zoo about their turtle conservation efforts. We worked with the Toronto Zoo to put a turtle nesting beach on my property.” Denice learned about Turtle Nest Protectors, simple contraptions that prevent rapidly growing raccoon and skunk populations from devouring turtle eggs, which are in decline due to habitat loss. Although Turtle Nest Protectors are easy to make, Denice recognized that most people wouldn’t bother making them, “so we sell them inexpensively,” she adds: “Turtle Nest Protector is a boring name, I prefer ‘Turtle ICU: Incubation Care Unit.”
“Turtles are very site-loyal,” Denice explains, “if a turtle nested in your yard last year, it will probably come back. And please help a turtle across the road! The ones that are killed on the road are generally females going out in search of a place to nest. If it’s safe and you can pull off the road, help the turtle go in the direction it was heading.”
You can read more about Denice’s Turtle Initiatives here.
The ZooShare biogas plant will recycle manure from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from Canada’s largest grocery chain into renewable power for the Ontario grid. This process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars from the road each year, and will return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. To build this project, we are selling bonds that earn a return of 7% each year for 7 years.
If you are a ZooShare member interested in being profiled for our Member Spotlight, please email Frances for details.