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Archive for the ‘Residential’ Category

SpiroFlo looks at how environmental issues and personal health issues became linked.

Last week, I met with a company interested in partnering with SpiroFlo as part of their “energy oasis”—essentially redesigning how cities are built to make them more energy efficient. For SpiroFlo, we have two main applications in residential water:

  • Reducing water consumption and improving the quality of what is used (both for drinking water and shower quality); and
  • Reducing pressures required on water pumps, saving energy and reducing wear.

As we connected, the owner of this energy oasis company mentioned that he was midway through dropping 50+ pounds. At least part of the reason for this weight loss is because he works in clean tech and, in his words, “Environmentalists don’t like fat guys.”

Well, then…

fat squirrel

Thank you, “Animal Obesity” section of Wikimedia Commons; I couldn’t have written this article without you.

I wouldn’t say environmentalists specifically dislike overweight people, but I’ve acknowledged this connection before—that environmental and personal health issues are tied. Yet when I think about why this is the case, the logic doesn’t work. You could hypothecate that someone who doesn’t care about their own health won’t care about the health of the planet, but it’s just that—a theory. Besides, if your stance on the health of the earth can be tied to your personal health, why not make meaningful assumptions based off the health of a person’s car (how often they wash it, change their oil, etc.) or the health of their home (how often they clean, etc.). Granted, homes and cars aren’t living, but to connect personal and environmental “health,” you do have to stretch the term.

Yet the perceived connection between environmentalism and personal health is still there, regardless of whether I can logically separate the two. So I set out to see if there was a credible connection between physical health and environmental health.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t.

This then brings us back to one major explanation: Bias.

We all have bias, and the more accepted ones bubble to the surface.

There’s a theory that says fat and/or bald people can’t win the U.S. presidency in this visual era. That makes sense, as we all know a politician like Winston Churchill made great decisions because of his Adonis physique and flowing Fabio hair. But he’s a Brit, so bad example anyway.

Maybe we can turn to art to help point out these foolish fallacies. No wait, that won’t work. Last time we got “Shallow Hal.” If you’re fortunate enough to not remember “Shallow Hal,” well, your luck has run out. It was a 2001 romantic comedy where a fat guy named Hal (played by Jack Black) is only attracted to gorgeous women until real-life, big-toothed, self-help Guru Tony Robbins hypnotizes him into viewing women’s physical appearances based on the goodness of their hearts. (Yup, Tony Robbins hypnotizing people to see inner beauty… this is the actual plot line.) What you got next was Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit, so that she could play both the skinny inner beauty version of her character and the actual version of her character that was overweight, because skinny is automatically beautiful and fat is automatically ugly, see?

Also, according to this movie, everyone who is physically unattractive has a fat heart of gold. No pandering there, and it totally doesn’t sound hollow after making a slew of stereotypical fat jokes. Really, you can find far deeper criticism of “Shallow Hal,” but the biggest offense is that for all the social faux pas it offered, it was still a crap flick. You can get away with a whole lot more if you’re actually funny.

Regardless, the tie between how you take care of your own body and how you take care of the earth is there, even if it shouldn’t be. Thus you’ve got one more reason to make your New Year’s resolution to get to the gym. It’s not like having a sustainable, green technology will get you taken seriously by the clean tech crowd. Mother Nature cares about those abs.

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Have a great New Year. We’ll see you in 2016.

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo and Vortex Tools comment on changes in Colorado—both in the recession of oil & gas and the rise of the marijuana industry.Marijuana

Despite being the VP Marketing for multiple companies, it’s rare I do a crossover blog where I represent more than one company at a time, as the marketing reality that most people only care about stories that impact their industry or scratch their interest (duh). However, since the business landscape in Colorado has shifted over the last year, we’ve seen changes that affect different industries, so here we go. Firstly:

Oil and Gas Has Scaled Back Out of Colorado

Overall, it’s been a brutal year for oil and gas. The top four global companies scaled back 10% of their work force… and that was just the beginning. The cuts have continued and spread to smaller companies. Companies have scaled back to their core assets, selling off the rest, and for most, those core assets aren’t in Colorado. Blame asset valuations, blame stricter regulations, but week after week, formerly prominent oil and gas companies are leaving Colorado,* or filing for bankruptcy, or, at the very least, not spending money on anything.

*Usually right about here I’d link up a few stories of this happening, but there are so, so many. Right now you can Google “Denver oil and gas company” every week and pop up a negative story, but hey, gasoline prices are low, so many don’t care.

Most analysts now believe oil and gas prices will not recover until 2017. Prices have dipped again in October and November this year due to refinery maintenance season (during times of cheap oil, they’re at high capacity, so any time one goes down for a period of time, it hurts an already stressed market). In addition, many wells are currently shut in, so when prices do inch up a bit, everyone’s going to rush to take advantage of that gain, flood the market with production glut, and, you got it,  tank the price again.

This means it should be a time of improving existing production—lowering operation costs, recovering more production/valuable liquids (condensates and natural gas liquids), and avoiding environmental fines (easiest way: by not polluting)—the kinds of applications Vortex Tools enable, but many of the employees who are left are just keeping their heads down and trying not to get laid off. This should also be a time of asset expansion for smart investors (the adage of “buy low, sell high” still applies), but for many oil and gas companies, they’re not doing much of anything save staving off going out of business.

At the same time:

Marijuana is Booming in Colorado

As one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, a whirlwind of industry has set up around this venture, but it’s still a complicated (and energy intensive) market. Energy companies call pot one of the most energy intensive ventures. In one Colorado service area, retail marijuana makes up for ~1% of retail electricity use. Increased electricity use was one of the ways (illegal) pot growers used to get caught—turns out when your electricity bills spike several times over what they used to be, people take notice, and the assumption is you aren’t just plugging in a slew of outlet air fresheners.

In addition to high electricity use, the marijuana industry uses a lot of water, and currently, what’s going down the drain untreated shouldn’t be (lots of nitrates, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.). Most everyone involved in the industry is surprised that the law hasn’t changed yet and that it’s a matter of time until it does. However, there’s a misconception that the marijuana industry has a lot of money, but most players do not. Once laws change to get more stringent, a lot of smaller operations that hopped into this growing industry will burn out. In addition, the marijuana industry has also been sold a lot of snake oil already, so there’s a lot of skepticism for even valid solutions.

That’s where SpiroFlo comes in. With no moving parts and no additional energy source required, there are two main applications we work in: 1) Reducing the amount of water used and improving the water quality/oxygen content of what’s left: Basically improved hydroponics—growing better plants faster with fewer resources. 2) Removing contaminants from water drainage: Most people expect the laws to change on this within the next 12 months, so spinning out contaminants from water used for marijuana will become important (and will be a determining factor in which companies go out of business). Given that we’ve done similar applications in other markets, we’ve got both credibility and low operating expenses covered.

As a company, SpiroFlo sat down and discussed the moral side of it, as marijuana is in a strange place: It’s legal in certain states, but not nationally, which causes issues with banking and credit. Then investors want to play games, too. They recognize there’s money to be made here, but they don’t want the negative association. Currently the general rule is: If you touch the plant, investors can’t fund you. However, if you help the people who do touch the plant, then they can fund you.

Yeah…

Anyway, we sat down as a company and had the moral conversation on marijuana and the conclusion we came to is this: When it comes to industries you can’t work with for moral reasons, where do you draw the line? What issues are more important than others? Even in Vortex Tools’ work in oil and gas, there are people who don’t like the industry enough to acknowledge the value in our tools reducing pollution, energy, and operational costs while increasing the efficiency and revenue generators from the oil and gas production. Regardless, some issues are gimmes to avoid (hint: you don’t have to discuss them as an organization, or if you do, you’ll be doing so in prison), marijuana isn’t. Not anymore. So we looked at our company goal as SpiroFlo, which is to reduce water use and improve the quality of the water left. Regardless of what different employees thought of the marijuana industry, we agreed that while it’s here, we should do what we can to improve water use.

Colorado Business is Going to Look Different

So overall, what this means is that oil and gas in Colorado will be replaced by the marijuana industry. However, that’s not the only business sector being replaced; it’s happening all over. There is little warehouse/retail space left to lease and what is left over is high above market value. Due to the population influx, residential rents are above what they should be, too. Yet all of this could bend as laws become more stringent or more states legalize marijuana. For now, this is a common sentiment from many Coloradoans:

stop-moving-to-colorado-bumper-sticker-car-1024x768

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo discusses food waste and how media is made and received.

It’s the biggest political story of the week: No, not the Republican Presidential Debate, but that Jon Stewart left “The Daily Show.”

This means:

my-condolences-news-nowhere-jon-stewart-KlT

Maybe it’s that modern-day media consumption travels faster than the speed (and timing) of truth; maybe it’s that objectivity can’t compete ratings-wise with caricature news anchors giving their spin on today’s stories; maybe it’s that huge, complex issues are distilled down to skewed memes and soundbites, but if you can’t entertain people quickly with your coverage of a news story, you might as well not bother. The truth or important points? Eh, if they happen to be bundled right, sure, why not? They can tag along.

Want proof? This is currently the most shared clip from the GOP debate:

Now there’s a statement that’ll draw people to the voting booth to steer the U.S. political future onward…

Did that clip summarize the approach of the top Republican Presidential candidates? I mean, it reminded me that Donald Trump having diplomatic conversations is a risky endeavor, but that’s about it.

So why bring this up? I bring it up because food waste is becoming much muttered about topic. Not talked about—because talking is louder than muttering—and certainly not yelled about, but it’s an issue that’s garnering more discussion in environmentalist circles. Lately I discussed how a local farm uses expired food to reduce waste and enhance sustainability, but there’s nothing wrong with most of the food getting thrown away. Here are some basics:

  • 40% of all food grown in the U.S. never gets eaten. Part of this is due to strict aesthetic standards (because we all know our bellies feel worse digesting ugly food); part of this is due to it being cheaper for small businesses to throw it away (blame unreliable tax benefits), but that’s a lot of food, especially when you consider how many families—both globally and in the States—don’t have enough food. The term is now “food insecure families.”
  • Despite only purchasing the pertiest fruit and veggies, Americans throw away $165 billion in food every year. This has increased by 50% since 1974. You can look up the graphic showing football stadiums full of discarded food—because it’s always football stadiums (or, every four years, Olympic-sized swimming pools)—but it’s a lot of grub. Some of this has to do with arbitrary expiration dates. Outside of baby formula, there’s no government requirement to have them, and since these “best by” / “sell by” / “use by” / “just buy more by” dates are set by those who want to sell you more of their product, it’s not surprising that these dates pass by long before these food items go bad.
  • So we’ve got wasted food, wasted labor, increased methane emissions (from excess food in landfills), and the ugly reality of some throwing away mountains of excess food while others go hungry.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve never thrown away food—I’ve found things in the back of my fridge that should not be able to move like that—but these numbers are worthy of attention and improvement.

There’s just one problem: Facts are boring.

Okay, two problems: Facts are boring and if they don’t hurt enough people, things don’t change.

But then some people made a documentary called “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story.” The facts you read above? Most of them came from it. But documentaries are boring. Sure, we’re willing to stare at screens all day, but just one documentary? One that goes longer than a standard TV segment? That’s asking a lot, but here’s the trailer:

But then “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver covered food waste. Same facts, more humor, a lot more YouTube views. Honestly, I’m surprised that they held the attention of many for over 17 minutes, but there’s a lot of hook in being alumni from “The Daily Show.” I‘m not even opposed to comedy shows like this—if anything, it shows that comedians hold more gravitas than your average news anchor—but it’s clear that how we distribute and receive media on important topics has a limited and skewed path. Anyway, enjoy the Donald Trump zinger. The joke came out last month and is more relevant today:

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo discusses reusing food for animals, creating compost, and the joy of exploding watermelons.  

Why did nobody ever tell me that you can be sustainable by launching rotten watermelons from the back of a pickup truck?

I recently visited my in-laws close to Durango, Colorado (near the New Mexico border). As they have a small farm out back of their house, all those animals need feeding. This includes the dogs, goats, pigs, peacocks, chickens, horses, and the cats with extra toes, missing eyes, and country music star names. One of the ways to feed all these mouths is with the help of the local food bank.

If you didn’t know, the U.S. throws a lot of food away. Some of it has nothing wrong with it (more on that food waste another time), but as the donations the food bank receives are already a little past their “best” date, inevitably, some of it is too far gone for human consumption. But you know who doesn’t care? Pigs and chickens.

So this happens:

farmfood1

Basically, the food bank now leaves all this expired grub out for pick up. The in-laws grab all this food, load it in their back of their truck, then drive it home. After reversing the truck into the yard, you get to launch this food all over. We’re talking fruit, veggies, bread, etc. Lobbing watermelons across the yard is, of course, the best part. Even almost accidentally splooshed a peacock with one (I did pelt a pig while wildly machinegunning rolls—didn’t seem phased). Finally, you get the tractor and push all this food into a giant dirt mountain.

By doing so:

  • Food doesn’t go to waste
  • The chickens have something to do the next few days (wandering around the dirt mound, pecking for food), so they don’t peck each other; and
  • Any food left in the dirt mound becomes compost

Oh, and that giant food mess in the yard? It’s eaten up in less than 24 hours (save the mountain of relish I dumped out from a giant jar—apparently even chickens have standards about that).

Thus it’s official: Using expired food for farm animals is my recycling happy place.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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cleantech open logoI’m pleased to announce that SpiroFlo qualified as a semi-finalist for the 2013 Cleantech Open (CTO) for our residential hot water savings and industrial biofilm removal applications.

If you’ve followed this blog—gnawing on every tasty word (and why wouldn’t you?)—you’d know that I had a lot to say, good and bad, about going through the 2012 CTO as Vortex Tools. A fair question then to ask is: Why are you doing it again?

There are two main reasons:

  1. The Cleantech Open receives criticism and makes changes: I’m not going to say that all the changes came from what I said—common problems become commonly shared complaints—but I’m as blunt in-person and I had opportunity to share my thoughts with the CTO planners. Regardless of how it happened, this year they’ve changed the overall judging scheme. I still think they’re going to be painfully shorthanded volunteer-wise, but I’m willing to wait and see.
  2. SpiroFlo is a better fit: Last year, we entered thinking that the CTO is a competition, and chose our more established, more successful green oil and gas company, Vortex Tools. While the CTO is a competition, it’s designed more to accelerate smaller companies, making SpiroFlo a better fit.

I highly doubt I’ll write as much on the CTO as I did before, but I do like that it keeps me apprised of innovation in the green sector, as well as the same old flawed thinking that doesn’t seem to budge. Odds are there will be a speaker who, A) believes nuclear energy and/or oil and gas can be done away with today; and B) we can do so because of what some non-American country (usually Japan or somewhere in Europe) is doing with wind and solar.

I’m a fan of some of these technologies—living in a dry state, seeing what Germany has done to implement green roofs makes me jealous—but there’s a misguided belief among some environmentalists that multi-year, best scenario projections will equate to reality. Even by favorable estimates, Japan’s current wind and solar use could offset maybe 10% of their nuclear energy use, and that’s before you get into the painful realities of what happens when you try to move large amounts of business from one entity to another.

However it goes, I’m sure I’ll annoy some people when I take to the microphone. I’m looking forward to it.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools looks at a boring video interview on how Prius drivers create habits that make other drivers nuts, but nets them great gas mileage.  

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia CommonsWho’s up for a hokey interview?

Fox News recently posted an interview called “Confessions of an Annoying Prius Driver” – complete with a guy sitting in, yes, a Prius during the whole thing. He covers why Prius owners coast when coming to a stop, why they’re slow to accelerate, and how these easy-going driving habits can greatly increase your miles-per-gallon if you can avoid stressing the electric battery. If anything, the interview shows the aggressiveness of drivers around a Prius, not the annoying habits of Prius drivers themselves.

Straight up: It’s a snoozer of a video—a hook title with no payoff (thus this brief article is largely the same)—but there’s at least a whooshing graphic noise early on. Yay technology.

There you have it. I watch lousy videos so you don’t have to (but you’re on the internet, so you’ll probably find something fitting that description anyway).

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at Sweden’s success in recycling and how that success has created a shortfall of trash for burnable waste.

Sweden: Land of neutral diplomacy, equal pay, and the top recyclers on earth (though it turns out that bit about them all being blonde haired and blue eyed is a myth).

While the rest of Europe wastes an average of 38% of their household trash in landfills, Sweden wastes only 4%, instead recycling or composting most of it. When that doesn’t happen, they also have high standards for their Waste-to-Energy program, where they burn trash to provide 20% of their district heating and electricity to 250,000 homes.

There’s just one problem: Sweden ran out of trash.

Sure, people are throwing things away every day, but Sweden is far enough behind that they’re importing trash from other countries. They’re looking for 800,000 tons a year from Europe. Right now, most of that comes from Norway; though Sweden is already eyeballing glorious trash piles in Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.

As much as I’d like to set up a catapult to fling trash at other countries, there are far more logical rules and tradeoffs:

  • For Norway, exporting their excess trash is cheaper than burning it (and landills are running out of space).
  • For Sweden, they get to return the toxic waste ashes (and the harder-to-treat-yet-easy-to-pollute dioxins) to Norway, thereby remaining all the more sparkly and clean.

Dioxins are nasty business (Agent Orange contained dioxins). Highly toxic, they’re established as a carcinogen that can mess with tooth and sexual development.

Yeah, not so sure if that trade is so great now…

However, some have already figured out that as the world continues to improve its recycling, the laws of supply and demand could push the value of trash up:

“Earlier this year, Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, said that in the future, waste will be valued even more. ‘Maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,’ Ostlund said.”

As of 2010, the U.S. only recycled 34.1% of its trash. I’ll see you at the catapult.

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SpiroFlo wishes you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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