A community garden in the Park View neighborhood of Washington, DC, may seem worlds away from the African island nation of Madagascar, but this spring, Wangari Gardens (WG) will play an important role in developing technology that will be used nearly 9,000 miles away.
Since 2010, Vort Port International’s (VPI) Biodigester (BioD) team of creative designers and engineers has been developing a low-cost anaerobic biodigester to generate clean and renewable energy in order to provide an alternative for cooking fuel in biodiversity-threatened, at-need regions of the world.
Part of the development process includes testing, so when VPI Executive Director Merry Walker heard about Friends of Wangari Gardens, a non-profit with a mission of converting DC vacant green spaces into sustainable parks and gardens, governed by and for the non-profit benefit of the community, she knew they would be a perfect fit as a VPI community partner.
“While the BioD will provide sustainable energy in underserved communities around the world, our partnership with Wangari Gardens will promote awareness in our local community of the most pressing global issues such as deforestation, air pollution and lack of access to clean energy,” explains BioD Project Director Rahul Mitra.
Through this partnership, VPI will test the BioD at the Wangari Gardens site using manure from a local horse stable and plant waste matter from the garden as inputs. The by-products of the BioD are a nutrient-rich sludge that Wangari Gardens’ growers will be able to use as fertilizer, as well as methane gas.
“Wangari Gardens is ecstatic to partner with VPI on their BioD Project for several reasons,” says Josh Singer, Executive Director of Friends of Wangari Gardens. “First, we hope to use the methane gas by-product to create an outdoor cooking class someday. We also plan to educate our community about the science, benefits and sustainability of biodigesters. And finally, Wangari Gardens is named in honor of one of the greatest tree advocates in the world, Professor Wangari Maathai. If this BioD model could save forests around the world, we are thrilled to help.”
On March 17, 2013, the BioD team officially moved the prototype to Wangari Gardens where members of the community got a chance to see the BioD in action. Using a mixture of horse manure and water, the team began the seeding process, which will develop an anaerobic bacterial colony in the BioD prototype required to generate methane gas. Members of the BioD team were on hand to provide information on biodigester technology, as well as the global energy issues that VPI hopes to address. Pictures from this event can be seen on the VPI Facebook page.
VPI’s BioD team will be participating in open houses at Wangari Gardens over the next few months. Check WG’s Facebook page for schedule updates.
In other BioD news, students at the Institut pour la Maîtrise de l’Energie in Madagascar have started testing their prototype as well. Results from the concurrent testing of the two prototypes will be used to make design modifications and performance enhancements. Merry Walker will be traveling to Madagascar in May, at which time she and the students will visit partner communities. She will also visit the Malagasy BioD prototype, and identify the pilot sites and on-the-ground leaders.
For more information on the BioD project or to make a donation visit www.vortport.org/our-projects/biodigesters/.
This blog post was written by Susan Patterson, Marketing and Branding Specialist for Vort Port International.
Vort Port International (VPI) volunteers have traveled to the far reaches of the earth — rural villages in India, the jungles of Uganda, the island nation of Madagascar — but early on a brisk Saturday morning in March many found themselves in what was, at least for them, new territory: Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park.
On March 2, 2013, VPI hosted its first 5K race/walk. Dubbed the “EmpoweRun”, the event saw 118 runners make their way through a 3.1 mile looped course of wooded trail by Rock Creek in the heart of Washington DC.
“I had a really great time. It was my first time running in a few weeks due to an injury, and I wasn’t sure whether I could drag myself out my warm bed so early on a Saturday. Really glad I did though — thank you for organizing this!” said participant Kathleen Coffey.
And runner Alvin Chen had this to say about the race: “I did my first 5K ever today and wanted to thank you all for a great event. Plus I learned a lot about VPI’s mission. Great work all around.”
The overall winner was Chip Daymude of Washington, DC, finishing with a speedy time of 18:33. Kate Norberg, also of Washington, DC, was the first woman to cross the finish line with a time of 23:17.
Several VPI volunteers participated as well, including Media Director, and first time 5K runner, Patrick Kwiatkowski, whose “rigorous” — and hopefully inspiring — training was documented in a series of humorous videos.
“When I realized that communities living below the poverty line abroad might benefit from my feeble attempt at some exercise — how could I resist? Every cramp and sore I might suffer is worth the chance to lift impoverished communities up with smart, sustainable technologies and practices — an easy price to pay,” said Kwiatkowski.
A series of signs along the course such as “You have just run half of the distance it takes for Ugandan children to go to school. You’re halfway there!” and, at the two mile mark, “You have just run half the distance it takes for women in Africa and Asia to gather water. Water ahead!” helped let runners know how far they had run, as well as remind them why they were running in the first place.
Post-race participants enjoyed drinks, snacks and an upbeat playlist of songs while cheering on the finishers that continued to roll in until just under the 58-minute mark.
The EmpoweRun raised more than $2,000 towards supporting VPI’s projects, which help further the development and distribution of technologies that provide basic needs such as sanitation, transportation, light and clean water in high-need areas of the world.
VPI would like to thank our sponsors Pacers Running Store, ING Financial Partners, Pepsi and Chamane Energy Drink; raceDC Timing for timing the event and all the runners and volunteers who came out to support the inaugural race.
Photos and results from the EmpoweRun can be found here.
This blog post was written by Susan Patterson, Marketing and Branding Specialist for Vort Port International.
Public and Private Partnerships are being praised everywhere throughout COP17. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech about what the delegates must accomplish for this COP, and he also praised rising Public and Private Partnerships. There was a new initiative that took place this year called Momentum for Change. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. This initiative’s goal is to celebrate the rise of grass root public-private partnerships that have changed the lives of communities in developing countries around the world and has scalable potential. Even though the right policy has not been reached due to political inertia, the COP still has seen success – success in bringing about awareness of the issues and encouraging other players to take stage. The Momentum for Change initiative says their goal is to debunk three misconceptions – 1) that change is painfully slow and very little action is taking place on the ground. 2) that the private sector can only act after absolute policy is made, and 3) that it is absolutely too expensive to make real change.
Although, I agree change is happening, I think it is much too slow, and still is not enough. Yes, the private sector can act without strong policy, however, it is very unlikely, that most people will want to take that risk. For widespread change to occur to meet our needs, the right policy must be in a place. Markets are created by demand and regulation, and without the regulation part, it is hard to create the right incentives. In the case of climate change, we cannot wait till the demand is so high that the whole world (including developed nations) is begging for help. At that point, it will be too late. We need to start supplying widespread low carbon technologies and solutions, now (well more like yesterday). I whole-heartedly agree with number 3, change is possible, but again regulation must set the right incentives.
To help jump start this change, parties have been talking about the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The details and logistics of how money will be distributed to developing countries are still being worked out. However, there is a lot of contention about whether this money should go directly to the governments or also go to private companies. Developing nations would like the money to go to the government to distribute and handle. However, some people believe that private companies due to their precedent of efficiency, should be eligible as well. These people note, that the private companies have made the tedious CDM process cost-effective and efficient. The decision of how this money will be distributed is very important. If given to the developed world companies it could be seen as manipulation of imperialism and the encouragement of “corporatocracies.” This would directly contradict the proclaimed purpose of the GCF.
In addition, I personally do not trust markets to fully regulate themselves. Although, private companies can be efficient, the incentives must set up the correct motives. Else it can be disastrous, as we have all seen that prevail in the United States with the recent financial crisis. What we really need for optimal performance is a perfect marriage of public and private. We know that is a hard thing to accomplish in this world. But it is essential that we try to get it right. How can we get this right? How can we use regulation to create the right incentives in the market to steer our world in the right direction? Isn’t this what we have been working on for the past 1293829018408 centuries? But, human nature, political deadlocks, and corporate greed keep getting in the way. Hopefully, we don’t mess up again.
However, I do want to leave by saying this – grass root projects happening around the globe are incredible and quite inspiring. I encourage you to go the Momentum for Change website and see the amazing work being done around the world by entrepreneurs and governments. I am proud to be part of an organization, such as Vort Port International, that is promoting the development of these types projects.
(Director of Business Affairs at Vort Port International)
Liability was a huge issue discussed at the COP17. Many developing nations are rallying for it to take as much importance as other issues discussed, such as Adaptation and Mitigation. I went to a talk by the South Centre organization with India’s Environmental Minister, where they were promoting this initiative. At this talk they spoke about equitable sharing of the atmospheric carbon space. Where they argued that the Cancun agreement did not represent the principle of common but differentiated action by nations. They urged that historical emissions by nations must be taken into account for fair sharing of the carbon space. It became clear to me that the slow progress and building deadlock on Climate Change policy is an inherited problem passed on to us by history.
India’s perspective is that developing nations have the responsibility to mitigate climate change, but also have the right to develop. South Centre panelists argued that Non-Annex countries such as India entered industrialization much later than Annex-1 countries. For India and many countries, this was due to unjust Colonization. Therefore, Non-Annex countries have not contributed to the emissions problem to the same degree as Annex-1, and they are still taking on the majority of the emissions reductions. Sunita Narayan stated, that Annex-1 countries are only taking on 40% of the reductions, when they were the original contributors of the problem. They suggest that the remaining emissions space should be delineated based on historical emissions and the equity principle to have a secure energy future, says India’s Minister of Environment. The Equity Sharing Principle suggests dividing emissions by per capita and taking in account the emissions that Annex-1 nations disseminated from 1850, at the start of industrial revolution, or from 1960, the peak of the industrial revolution. Annex-1 countries are against the per capita criteria and suggest that 1990 may be a more practical number to start from.
Though this contention lasts, Annex-1 nations have decided to support the developing world through a Green Climate Fund (GCF). This fund would be raised by developed nations and to be distributed to developing nations to support the development of low carbon technology, adaptation, and mitigation. An agreed upon amount of US $100 Billion will be placed in the fund. However, there is much agreement that even this amount is not close to enough. The logistics of the GCF are to be decided at the COP17. Many non-Annex nations are criticizing this fund as cop out by the Annex-1 nations to avoid liability and responsibility to cut their own emissions.
It was really interesting to hear the point of view of the many of the developing countries in person. It was refreshing to hear such direct conversation, but the politics were also evident. Granted, I sympathize with the developing nations point of view – that they were not the main contributors of this problem, and they are yet again suffering the consequences of western development. I do see an issue – that ego will rarely let a person put their hands up and say yes, sorry, it was my fault, I will fix it. So as Vikram mentioned in his last post, it becomes a game of pointing fingers and evading responsibility. Although, in discussion the Minister of Environment did note that India is not avoiding its responsibility and is taking serious measures to promote sustainable development. For example, India has a goal to have 20,000 MW of solar by 2020 and they have put in strong Feed-in-Tariffs for Wind and Biomass. Regardless of aggressive policy, they are worried that their emissions will continue to increase. However, the Minister of Environment did not mention that India has very low coal reserves and with growth comes an increasing demand of energy, and thus a need for alternative energy sources. That made me realize that may be the U.S is apathetic at this point because they have a lot of coal left, as compared to other nations? “Out of sight, out of mind?” Let’s hope our nation does not continue to take that perspective.
Even though the GCF, if implemented, could help the developing world, Annex-1 nations must not stop at that. They must take on binding emissions cuts to fuel mitigation, else, the problem will just continue. If they take on binding emission cuts, there is a chance that the developing nations such as China and India will also do so. This is becoming increasingly important as we near the end of the Kyoto Protocol.
~Chandni (Director of Business Affairs at Vort Port International)