Originally posted on Nola.com. View original post and vote here.
Business and economic strategists around New Orleans say an environmental industry stoked by necessity — grappling with hurricanes, flooding, sinking land and coastal erosion — could turn out to be one of our main drivers of prosperity. The expertise and technology cultivated here, the reasoning goes, could serve the rest of the country and world.
With that in mind, I asked readers to send the names of environmentally oriented firms they believe warrant a closer look in an article by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. From those nominations, I’ve selected five for a reader vote, in which you help make the final determination of the story we write. Voting will remain open until noon Aug. 25.
Cast your vote below. Here are brief descriptions of the five enterprises, each with a distinctive angle on green business:
This startup combines Southeastern Louisiana’s strengths in tourism and recreation with education about its coastal losses using kayak, motorboat and walking tours of scenic, but also declining wetlands.
Its co-founders are Lindsay Pick and Marie Gould, who is the wife of Bob Marshall, former longtime outdoors and environmental reporter for The Times-Picayune who now writes for the non-profit news site The Lens and serves as chief tour guide for Lost Lands.
In describing the company’s informational approach and unusual legal designation as a “low-profit limited liability company” that must emphasize a social cause, Pick said, “There’s a lot of swamp tours out there. They’re really different from us.”
Sarah Mack spent five years, working alongside other scientists, uncovering the formulas to determine how much carbon a restored stretch of wetlands filters from the atmosphere, doing its part to resist chemical buildup that heats the climate. That information lets businesses calculate the benefits of their environmental stewardship through government or corporate programs, in turn encouraging them to invest in rebuilding Louisiana’s coast.
“We are the global pioneers in how you would transact wetlands carbon credits,” said Mack, a former New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board official who holds a doctorate with an emphasis in wastewater management. “The wetlands work just through photosynthesis. Anything that grows is going to take carbon dioxide out of the air.”
Her startup helps public agencies manage wetlands restoration projects and secure financing for them through her method of showing corporations how much carbon dioxide they can take credit for clearing from the air. Such mitigation programs, she projects, could become more than a $1 billion industry in Louisiana alone in coming decades.
This is a vegan cafe in Broadmoor serving an assortment of potato fries and sauces, soup, chili and ice cream that also prides itself on never throwing anything away. All materials it uses are recyclable, compostable, biodegradable.
But the food itself, with fewer resources required for processing because animal products are omitted, is perhaps the biggest environmental benefit, said the owner, Jehan Strouse.
“The 100 percent vegan has an extremely, extremely low carbon footprint,” Strouse said. “Zero waste is in addition to that.”
The Louisiana tax credits for installing solar panels helped spur those electricity systems to pop up on rooftops all over New Orleans in recent years.
Solar Alternatives owner Jeff Cantin said his firm distinguishes itself by reminding people that solar systems can take different forms and serve different needs. Water heating systems, for example, use direct sunlight on water containers and conduits, not panels on a roof. Some systems serve as continuous power supplies. Others serve as backup generators for outages of the traditional power grid.
“We try to show you all the really interesting things you can do with it,” Cantin said, even including powering festival stages. And, he said, the company follows other green stewardship principles through efforts such as recycling its construction materials and office supplies.
Chemical engineer Brandon Iglesias devised a process for making synthetic crude oil using ingredients such as algae, coal, natural gas, waste and geothermal heat in underground reactor systems. This type of oil, which can be used in manufacturing, lowers the need for drilling and supplements finite supplies of conventional oil, he said, and it reuses old oil wells in the process.
“It’s a way to renewably produce crude oil,” Iglesias said.
The company’s technology is patent pending. It aims to position itself to take advantage of a market for clean technology that seems poised for growth.