Episode #51 - This technology business is revolutionising the way we think about waste carbon

Show notes

Jennifer Holmgren, the CEO of pioneering green fuels business LanzaTech has been hunkering down at the beautiful Cedar Lakes Estate, some 70 miles outside of new york city. For two weeks of limited access to the outside world, she, along with 11 other business leaders have been put through some serious mentoring and business strategising as part of the Unreasonable Impact programme in the US – an initiative orchestrated by Barclays and the Unreasonable Group.

And it was for good reason. 

LanzaTech was selected as one of just 12 businesses from, let’s face it, a gargantuan list of innovative companies out there, because it is on the cusp of greatness, demonstrating through its unique business model that it can scale up marvellously, creating some 500 new jobs in the emerging green economy within the next five years.

Founded in 2005, LanzaTech has found a way to commercialize carbon capture and reuse technology.

Sean Simpson, chief scientific officer and co-founder, LanzaTech

It converts carbon-rich waste gases (which contain carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen) and turns them into high-quality biofuels and chemicals. So, taking the waste carbon in gases and residues coming out of steel manufacturing plants, for example, and sequestering them into a new product – fuels that can power our cars, our planes – and the future. “Everybody knows about the fermentation process used in beer-making, where microbes turn sugar into alcohol,” says co-founder of the business and chief scientific officer, Sean Simpson (pictured). “Well, in our process, the microbes turn gases into alcohol.”

In this week’s Better Business Show, Simpson explains how the business plans to shake up the renewable energy sector with its fuels which reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared to conventional gasoline – and by using waste as a feedstock, LanzaTech is operating wholly outside the food value chain, with no impact on land or water.

Enjoy. And, as ever, let us know what you think.

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

How the LanzaTech gas fermentation process works

Episode #49 - End of year review: Why Trump might be good for the planet, not bad

Show notes

These past 12 months have seen very strong progress by the business community in making the transition to being more resilient, robust, sustainable and responsible citizens. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, since I started writing about the business of sustainability 12 years ago, 2016 – even with all its Trump- and Brexit-shaped obstacles thrown in the way – has been one of the most exciting and uplifting of years working in this field.

This week, we are joined by five of our previous guests who give us their personal highlights from the past 12 months, an assessment of the most significant moments from 2016 (not least the shock victory of The Donald) and their hopes for the year to come.

Plus, I give you my top 9 highlights from 2016.

Thanks to everybody for listening to the show this year and being a part of such a fantastic community of better business makers. Happy Christmas and here's top an excellent 2017 one and all.

Enjoy the show.

Friday Five #4 - The Disney-Dole deal to get kids healthy; the big HFC agreement; and why Tyson is buying into the vegan market

This is the Better Business Show Friday Five, our brand new show coming to you at the end of every week – digesting the very best stories from across the world of sustainable business in the last 7 days.

This time, we're talking:

Don't miss our two Better Business Show episodes a week by signing up to our weekly newsletter: www.betterbusiness.show

Episode #33 - Turning waste bread into beer with Toast Ale

Show notes

This week's show is all about my conversation with Andrew Schein, one of the guys running Toast Ale. And we explore a whole range of food waste issues during our chat – not least the fact that around 25% of any loaf of bread is thrown away and wasted.

It’s something the business is trying to tackle, grabbing surplus bread that would normally be thrown away, toasting it and then using it as one of the key ingredients in its brewing process to make great-tasting ale.

It’s a great story and the company is going from strength to strength, with stockists across London.

But Toast Ale’s story raised an interesting question. When does a campaign become a business? And can that even happen successfully?

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

Andrew Schein from Toast Ale

A growing number of organisations – and we’ve featured a number on the show in recent weeks (from Hubbub, to Fairphone) are starting life as a campaign and then, at some point, have transitioned to become commercial entities. As you will hear, Andrew (pictured right) is fairly philosophical about that transition – that the separation that they have created between the enterprise that founded Toast Ale (a campaign group called Feedback) and the actual business gives them a clearly defined path to growth.

Of course, we’ve talked lots about how companies are increasingly thinking about why they exist – and the need to move beyond existing purely to keep shareholders happy. But what if you exist, in part, to provide funds for sustaining a charitable enterprise? It’s a really interesting concept and certainly left me with food for thought.

As ever, let me know what you think of Toast Ale and what they are trying to do.

You can find out more about the business here. And you can follow Andrew and the team at Toast across social media, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Grab a bottle now: There are plenty of stockists of Toast's Pale Ale across London

Grab a bottle now: There are plenty of stockists of Toast's Pale Ale across London

Perfect bedfellows: Toasted bread and beer

Perfect bedfellows: Toasted bread and beer

This week's news round with Vikki Knowles featured:

- Airbus's new flying taxi plans
- The Cool Effect collection of carbon-reducing projects that need cash
- Why buy stuff when you have the Library of Things
- The Too Good To Go app to tackle food waste


Episode #30 - We bought an off-the-shelf ethical supply chain

Show notes

I was delighted to have Rob Drake-Knight on the show this week.

He is one of the two brother co-founders (along with Martin, pictured together on the right) of Rapanui, an ethical clothing business taking supply chain traceability to another level. You can read more about the story here.

With a few hundred quid in their pocket, a garden shed as premises and a box of t-shirts, Rob and Martin set about creating a new brand whose power could influence customers to think more carefully about where the clothes they wear come from.

Eight years later and that is exactly what Rapanui is doing – and much much more.

As well as exploring the intricacies of running the business from the Isle of Wight, we also talk extensively about Teemill, a new feature of the business which allows anybody, anywhere to tap into the Rapanui factory, supply chain and back-end operations and start their own t-shirt business – with matching ethical, organic and fully traceable product credentials.

And as I rather excitedly explain at the end of this week's show, we decided to play around with Teemill ourselves and ended up setting up our very own t-shirt business. You can visit it here.

This is what the home page looks like....


This blog explains a bit more about the premise of the store and the range of products we have created. But essentially, if you’re a green geek and get excited about the words and wisdom of environmentalists, pioneers and innovators across the world of sustainable business, then you will hopefully love the t-shirts I have in the store.

Each is emblazoned with a great quote from the great and good of environmentalism – from the late great Ray Anderson and Jonathon Porritt, to Nick Stern and Peter Drucker.

Happy (ethical, conscious) shopping!

Episode #29 - ByFusion: Building the blocks to eliminate ocean waste

Episode 29 supported by:

Show notes

On the right is a picture of RePlast, an exciting new building block made entirely from plastic recovered from the ocean where it has been continuously dumped for generations.

While its viable applications are yet to be fully determined, the man behind the business bringing RePlast to life believes his company has a chance to take advantage of the 'perfect storm' brewing as the world wakes up to a huge problem which sees between 4 and 12 million tonnes of plastic spewed into our oceans every year.

By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

So, this week we explore RePlast, the company behind it, ByFusion, and its CEO Gregor Gomory, to discuss how RePlast is made, how it is being used (it has similar thermal characteristics to straw bales), and how to stay upbeat in the face of such a mammoth hill to climb in solving the issue of ocean plastic waste.

For more on ByFusion, check out the website. I also wrote this piece on the business for Sustainable Brands a few weeks back.

You can also find Gregor on Twitter and LinkedIn too.

This week's news round up with Vikki Knowles featured:

- The 8 pieces of tech PwC thinks you cannot ignore right now;
- The solar-powered plane that has just circumnavigated the globe;
- The company turning China's smog into diamonds. Yes, diamonds!; and
- High street fashion chain Zara's alleged plagiarism.

Our 'Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future' segment of the show, in association with Terrafiniti, concludes this week. We launched it to celebrate the launch of Terrafiniti's brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.

Episode #27 - Can we create a better world through play and adventure?

Episode 27, supported by:

Show notes

Andy Middleton gives a resounding 'yes' in response to the question posed in today's show – can play help to create a better world?

Through his organisation TYF – an adventure and activities-based business located on the Welsh coast – he believes getting people away from their desks in towns and cities and better connecting them to the natural world is the best way to encourage innovative, creative and sustainable thinking.

Andy shares with us his vision for connecting the rules of nature to the way we design our businesses – and why we need to put our values at the heart of what we do (and why play is so crucial to that process).

Enjoy the show.

And if you'd like to know more about TYF, head over the website.

You can also follow Andy on Twitter @GrinGreen.

Andy Middleton, co-founder of TYF

Andy Middleton, co-founder of TYF

Andy presenting at a recent Do Lectures event.

Andy presenting at a recent Do Lectures event.

TYF's coasteering.

TYF's coasteering.

Coasteerers in action!

Coasteerers in action!

This week's news round-up, with the brilliant Vikki Knowles, featured stories on:

- The company turning beer waste into edible snacks (and the Food Rush magazine running the story
Ann-Christine Duhaime's research into turning the brain green.
- Elon Musk's poor excuse for an apology.
- The newly-launched Natural Capital Protocol.

Don't miss our Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future segment of the show, in association with Terrafiniti to celebrate the launch of a new brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

This week, in Part 3 in the series, Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, explores principles for putting sustainable value at the heart of economic price.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.

Episode #26 - The innovators turning cow burps into plastic

Episode 26 supported by:

Show notes

We walk a lot about plastic waste on The Better Business Show and the issue gets lots of attention on this show and in the wider environmental media because, on the whole, it's nasty stuff. The chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that harm people and the environment.

On average, 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging.

And plastics manufacture makes up 4.6% of the annual petroleum consumption in the U.S., using roughly 331 million barrels per year. None of this energy is recovered when plastics are disposed of in landfills, and very little is recovered when plastic waste is incinerated.

In 2008, 34 million tons of plastic was disposed in the United States. Of this, 86% ended up in landfills.

Yes, biodegradable plastics are coming and recycling infrastructure is improving, but there are big problems with plastic - from the way it is made, to the way it is disposed of.

So, what if there was a different way of making plastics.

What if there was a different way of making plastics that used pollution as the raw material. so rather than being something that causes environmental problems, the production of plastic actually helps to take nasty greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Well, there is. This week I was delighted to speak with the founder and CEO of New Light Technologies Mark Herrema who explained how his company is capturing carbon emissions, combining it with oxygen and creating plastics that are being used everywhere.

This week's news round up featured:

1. The new cardboard and bioplastic tents pitching up at festivals
2. The new Hubbub website, sharing anti-litter campaigns – NeatStreets.co
3. Norton Point's new sunglasses made from ocean waste plastic
4. Daniel Matthews' piece on the West Virginian hemp sector

Last week we kicked off our Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future segment of the show with the good folks at Terrafiniti to celebrate the launch of a new brand new series of e-books which offer thoughts, provocations and big ideas for how we might create a sustainable future on a planet of 9 billion people.

So, Joss is back this week for Part 2 in the series as Joss Tantram, a founding partner of Terrafiniti, shares with us his best big ideas – all taken from this brilliant series of new books.

The Towards 9 Billion ebook series is out now and can be downloaded for free at the Terrafiniti website.

Episode #12 - Buy Me Once, for products designed to stand the test of time

Show notes

Thankfully there has been a bit of an environmentalist backlash against the current epidemic of over consumption. Episode #10's Tom Cridland is a great example of a business building things to last (in Tom's case, t-shirts with a 30-year guarantee) and this week's guest, Tara Button, is challenging companies to really get on top of the "crap and clutter" that makes up people's lives by encouraging them to buy less and buy quality.

BuyMeOnce.com is a website showcasing all the companies that offering products that are built to last – from Le Creuset kitchenware and Dr Martens shoes, to Feelgood beds and Mason Pearson hair accessories.

Tara's mission: to make buying things that are built to last easy. And through accompanying blogs, she offers a range of tips on how to take good care of things and to repair them if necessary. “We want people to buy just a few great things they love rather than huge amounts of clutter,” she says. Ultimately, she wants her business to start challenging manufacturers to build products that last longer and shift our culture of consumption – from ‘throwaway’ to ‘keep’ or ‘pass on’.

Check out the website here.

Episode #8 - Rype Office, disrupting how we buy (and throw out) office furniture

Show notes

A central theme in the circular economy conversation is how companies are starting to think differently about how they deliver products and services to market – and whether customers would be happy to share, lease, hire goods and services, rather than buy them outright – giving companies a huge opportunity to save on resources, strip out costs and really find efficiencies.

Have a look at a company like Ricoh and Kyocera, which have completely transformed their businesses in the last ten years. No longer do they sell big bulky photocopiers that are thrown into a skip once they are no longer useable. Now they sell access to large scale printers, photocopiers and office equipment; they charge a monthly fee and now take care of refurbishment, repair and the continued reuse of machines for much longer, rather than simply selling, installing and walking away.

And of course, the FMCG sector or other industries selling food stuffs or high turnover goods, will struggled to adopt similar models.

But one sector that is ripe for disruption and a new model is office furniture.

This week's guest on The Better Business Show is Greg Lavery, the founder of a business called Rype Office. Greg has been a sustainable business consultant for many years, producing numerous white papers and academic research highlighting the untapped potential of remanufacturing. The Next Manufacturing Revolution, co-authored by Greg’s consultancy practice Lavery/Pennell, with the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing, identified huge opportunity for remanufacturing in the UK, as well as barriers to adoption. For example, the profit and social benefits of remanufacturing versus traditional manufacturing using virgin resources – shows a 2.75 times profit margin – purely because of that huge reduction in input costs.

And it was this research and learning which prompted Greg to set up Rype Office – a company hoping to shake up the way companies buy – and get rid of – office furniture in the future.

Enjoy the show.

Below, you'll find some pics of Greg and the various products he sells via Rype Office, as well as some of the office installation he has carried out. You can find out more about Rype Office at the website.

IKEA's rug-making video, mentioned during Vikki Knowles' segment of the show, can be found here.

A more detailed explanation of EasyJet's hybrid plane, have a look at this graphic:

And The Guardian's take on Italy's attempt to get people on their bikes can be found here.

Don't forget: you can follow Vikki @_VikkiKnowles.

And you can subscribe to the show via iTunes here.


Episode #6 - Ecovative, the mushroom packaging guys

The thing you notice when you’ve got kids is the amount of packaging that comes with their toys – and the amount of waste created at Christmas and birthday time.

The proliferation of deliveries and goods being shipped around now that we all use the internet to buy stuff, is exacerbating the problem.

But packaging is big business. A recent report says that the demand for protective packaging in America is set to grow by almost 5% a year to a $6.8 billion industry by 2019 thanks to internet shopping.

Packaging is a necessity but its clearly something that needs to be tackled.

Right now, the trend within the FMCG sector is for the light-weighting of packaging. However, making plastics and films thinner and thinner is not necessarily the answer. For one thing, it makes the packaging harder and harder to recycle, creating increasingly non-circular systems.

There’s an interesting report by Use Less Stuff says that, in fact, larger product packaging sizes are significantly more efficient than their smaller counterparts, regardless of material type.

The Body Shop’s new commitment to become the most sustainable business on the planet has an interesting specific target on packaging – to reduce the use of oil based plastic packaging by 70% by 2020. The cosmetics brand will explore a number of new academic, technology and research partnerships to pioneer new product packaging solutions, covering packaging, product design and product life extension strategies.

To kick things off it has announced a partnership with California-based Newlight Technologies to introduce AirCarbon in The Body Shop products - a thermoplastic material that behaves the same as the plastics, but rather than using oil as a carbon source for plastic, this innovation uses methane and carbon dioxide.

Packaging: it's a bit of a minefield.

The subject of this week's show – Ecovative – proves there is an environmentally sound way to create an alternative to plastic or styrofoam packaging material? It has also found a viable alternative to formaldehyde materials used in the construction industry.

Check out Eben Bayer's story – the co-founder of the business which has been slowing transforming the packaging and building materials sectors with its biomaterials – and, most notably, its mushroom materials.

Here's some pics of Eben, his co-founder partner Gavin McIntyre, and a range of products and applications (including the GYI kit Eben mentions during this week's show).

You can check out Ecovative's website here. And follow the business on Twitter, and Facebook.

A big thank you to Vikki Knowles' contribution this week...more from Viks next week. The report on predictions for the luxury sector that she mentions in her piece is here. And the Asda wonky vegs story is here.