21 Sustainable Business Ideas from ZERI

I came across an incredible report from ZERI (Zero Emissions Research Initiative) who is famous for demonstrating how to turn low value wastes into profitable products without creating toxic byproducts in the process. They held a conference in Bhutan and helped identify 21 promising green technologies to vitalize the local economy. This is top notch work. One of the most interesting reports I’ve read lately. The same concepts also are under consideration by the Mindfulness Project folks I’m working with to create a sustainable community in Thailand. They understand how important it is to make profitable businesses within the community so they don’t have to rely on donations and/or live in cities.

Example — Silk for Sutures and Shoes (how to boost profits from silk production)
“A farmer could earn $5 for a kilogram of cocoons with silk, $50 for unraveled silk, $500 for processed textile, $5,000 for top quality fashion silk, but that the prices jump to $10,000 for medical devices like sutures and even $100,000 for sophisticated equipment like silk-based vascular implants…silk farming could generate $350 per acre in carbon credits…the hard cocoon – which is today discarded – has antifungal and antibacterial properties which make it an excellent candidate for shoe soles… more value out of what is available.”

Here are a few more great ideas from ZERI:
– combined heat and power with solar (doubles solar production!)
– vertical wind turbines installed inside high voltage transmission towers
– biogas from sludge and organic solid waste for municipal power supply
– LED and solar charged recyclable batteries
– turpentine (also used as fuel) from pine trees
– interlocking blocks (CEBs) and roof tiles
– bamboo as a structural building material with natural preservation system (non-essential parts of the plants are carbonized and then burned to cure the bamboo)
– concentrate magnesium from dolomite with citric acid
– free Internet
– jewelry from silicone in rice hulls
– soap products locally from soap nuts
– bioplastics from agrowastes

Apply this same thinking to earthbag building. For instance, use the pit where soil is excavated to create a fish pond. Besides raising fish, the pond provides a backup supply of water for dry seasons. Put a blacklight over the pond to attract insects to feed the fish. Irrigate your garden and a grain field with water from the pond (that’s now higher in natural fertilizer). Feed the grain to the fish. Dry and smoke the fish and sell at a premium price. Charge tourists for fishing.

And in case you’re wondering, Gunter Pauli and others at ZERI have over 50 integrated projects like this on four continents.

Zeri home page

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