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Sustainability : Innovation + Job News

189 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All

Evergreen's Centre for Green Cities at the Brick Works aims to incubate sustainable innovation

For 20 years, the non-profit group Evergreen has been working on its mandate to bring nature into cities. Their efforts gained their most visible expression over the past few years at the Brick Works, a reclaimed industrial site in the Don Valley that serves as a natural conservation area and educational centre, as well as home to a farmers' market. The focus has been very local. But lately the organization has been thinking much bigger, looking closely at "larger global sustainability issues related to cities," says Evergreen public relations manager Anthony Westenberg. That includes issues ranging from food supply and water use to building construction and land use.
In order to further the climate of green urban innovation—here and around the world—Evergreen opened the Centre for Green Cities last year at the Brick Works, which Westenberg describes as a sort of "MaRS for Sustainability." The centre serves as a place for entrepreneurs and researchers to showcase their work and connect with each other. They aim to study the best urban sustainability practices from around the world and to support and export the best innovations from Canada.
In the wake of all this activity, the Centre for Green Cities has just launched a website to share knowledge and information at cgc.evergreen.ca. Staff are beginning to populate the site now (one of the first links posted was to a piece by yours truly). They've also started a series profiling innovative individuals and organizations, starting with electric car company Better Place, which Yonge Street covered last year, and lighting technology company Fifth Light Technology.
Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Anthony Westenberg, Public Relations Manager, Evergreen

Morgan Solar raises $28.8 million in financing, including first solar investment from Enbridge

When Yonge Street first wrote about Liberty Village-based solar startup Morgan Solar in 2010, it was big news that the company had secured $5 million in seed capital and landed a top-notch CEO. The innovative energy creators have grown since then, so much so that this month they announced they had raised an additional US$28.8 million in venture capital. The financing will expand Morgan Solar's production of its revolutionary Sun Simba lightweight panels, and expand its sales efforts.

Among the investors is Enbridge, the large natural gas utility, which has invested $10 million (US$9.8 million). According to a statement from Enbridge VP Chuck Szmurlo, this is the energy giant's first investment in solar technology.

"We’ve been excited for a long time about the potential for solar electricity, and we’re now pleased to help advance innovative ideas that will help reduce costs and enable the increasingly economic deployment of this emissions-free energy source. We look forward to playing a role in Morgan Solar’s growth."

The announcement caps a big year for Morgan Solar on the capital front. In May the company announced it had raised US$16.5 million.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Emma Hemmingsen, communications manager, Morgan Solar Inc.

Innovative insurance product guarantees savings from energy efficiency

For property owners, a key selling point of energy efficiency improvements has long been that more than just saving the environment, they'll also save money.

Now, an innovative new insurance policy offered by Jones Brown—developed with the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF)—insures against the possibility that retrofits to building do not deliver on expected savings, allowing building owners to be confident they will be able to pay off financing secured to complete the renovations.

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund has long been a pioneer in self-financing energy retrofits, and saw a need for what they're calling the Energy Savings Warranty. Fund VP Tim Stoate says his experience has taught him that there are "lots of barriers" to going ahead with energy efficiency projects for building owners. Programs that take the financial risk away from building owners help fuel the process, allowing a win-win-win situation.

"There's no cost for the capital improvements [since they pay for themselves through energy savings], there's free cash flow from the savings over and above the cost, and there's no risk to the lender [such as a bank] because the savings are insured." says Stoate. All of that is in addition to the environmental benefit of lower carbon emissions in buildings. 

Stoate says this new policy is targeted at smaller owners of large buildings. Large institutions such as hospitals and universities already have access to similar policies because their credit is assumed to be rock solid. But condo boards, malls and owners of buildings such as Harbourfront Centre can now enjoy the same advantage—lowering their energy cost and actually earning a profit without putting up capital in advance.

In making the announcement, Jen Aitchison of Jones Brown estimated that the market for such a product extended to "tens of thousands" of building owners across the country. She said that building owners would not be the only ones whose fears are eased by the insurance, as it could provide banks and other lenders the confidence needed to finance large-scale building sustainability improvements.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Tim Stoate, VP Impact Investing, Toronto Atmospheric Fund

New innovation could see rapidly expanding ViXS add 107 new jobs

Yonge Street has reported on the explosive growth of technology company ViXS twice in the past year, and the good news has continued flowing for the company. Just last week, ViXS was named one of the top tech companies in Canada and its CEO, Sally Daubs, was named a top female entrepreneur by the prestigious Deloitte Fast 50.

Last month, the provincial government announced an investment that will help ViXS develop a new energy-efficient media processor to power multimedia devices including set-top boxes, TVs and digital recorders. The devices will help stream content to mobile tablets and smart phones.

The investment will help ViXS create 107 new jobs in Toronto. "We're positioning ViXS as an ahead-of-the-curve leader in digital media delivery," Daubs said in the announcement. "Through this investment, we can increase our world-class employee base, expand our global presence and support the GTA's ever-growing ICT cluster development."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Andrew Block, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Innovation

HRCarbon aims to bring sustainable innovation and certification to clients around the world

HRCarbon, a Toronto-based consulting and education firm specializing in carbon management, will soon be partnering with Ontario colleges to help companies in Canada and around the world lower their carbon footprint and, as founder Jay Parmar says, better engage in "climate risk management."

Under a program announced this month, the company will partner with Durham College to develop software to help companies assess and manage their transportation-related carbon emissions. And in a separate partnership that is awaiting announcement by a government agency, according to Parmar, HRCarbon will help develop a course to see 180 students—drawn from existing professionals such as accountants and lawyers— obtain certification as Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quantifiers, in project management and in LEED certification. Parmar points out that HRCarbon is currently the only firm in the world offering education that leads to CSA certification for Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quantification.

Founded four years ago, HRCarbon discovered that in its early consulting meetings, up to 80 per cent of time was being taken up simply explaining the concept of climate change risk management. So they established educational courses on the subject targeted at corporate clients. Since then, the company has established offices in the US and UK and offered its services around the world.

Parmar says the future is bright for the industry. "Every job out there is going to have sustainability embedded in it. And companies will need professionals who understand the risk metrics associated with it." Just as accountants have always helped companies manage their financial risks, he says, they will need to track, measure and manage the risks associated with their carbon footprints. That will become increasingly important as more countries introduce carbon taxes.

Parmar says the company expects to do some hiring over the next year, but cannot say exactly how many new staff will be added. However, he points to still another growth area. "We've partnered up with the CSA and Cushman Wakefield to develop green business standards through a registered Carbon Neutral Program," he says. That program will be launched in July.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jay Parmar, founder, HRCarbon

GTA's PowerStream becomes first electricity company in Ontario to win two LEED Gold certifications

PowerStream, an electricity distribution utility jointly owned by the cities of Markham, Barrie and Vaughan, has become the first company in the 905 and the first electricity company in Ontario to have two different buildings certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold.

In announcing the new green credential at the company's south operations centre in Markham, president and CEO Brian Betz said the recognition was a tribute the company's commitment to "innovation and forward thinking."

The facility is home to more than 150 staff, about a third of the company's workforce. Among the sustainability innovations that earned the facility recognition were 16.5 kilowatts of solar energy generation capacity, along with a host of conservation features including a white roof to keep the building cool, drought-resistant landscaping to lower water usage, and heating and air-conditioning systems the company says are "free of harmful gases."

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti, chair of PowerStream's board, says that the efforts put into the building show the company's dedication to innovative social and environmental consciousness. "This building's achievement of LEED Gold certification is consistent with PowerStream's corporate vision," he said in a statement, "committed to the environment and sustainable growth."

PowerStream's head office in Vaughan was certified LEED Gold three years ago.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Eric Fagen, PowerStream Inc.

ClimateSpark looks to crowdsource green innovation; offers $50K in startup funding

The ClimateSpark Social Venture Challenge launched late last month, offering people with innovative green business ideas access to as much as $50,000 in startup funding. The challenge, run by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto Community Foundation, draws on a fund of $500,000 that can be awarded through grants and loans to the most promising business ideas.

Jason Wagar, manager of donor services and marketing for Toronto Community Foundation, calls it a method of "crowdsourcing green innovation." Within two weeks of the phase one launch, 26 business ideas were submitted.

"What`s interesting is that some of the ideas are fully developed business plans, and others are just the beginning of an idea, but a community of more than 200 people are sharing thoughts and suggestions," says Wagar. "So these ideas can be shaped by the city--by experts, potential clients, potential suppliers.... At the end of the process the community has done some of the due diligence for the investors."

The first phase, gathering ideas online, will last nine weeks. Then 10 finalists will present their proposals to expert advisors. Finally, the finalists will make their pitch to investors, who will decide on awards, grants, loans and investments.

"Ultimately," Wagar says, "we're hoping to see a cleaner environment."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jason Wagar, Manager of Donor Services and Marketing, Toronto Community Foundation

Expanding R&D into electric car battery system creates 102 new jobs at Dana's Oakville operation

Just two years ago, a heat exchanger essential for the operation of lithium-ion batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles was developed in Oakville, Ontario, at the global battery R&D centre of Dana Holding Corporation. The exchanger is now featured in the Tesla Motors Sport, the Ford Focus EV and the Chevrolet Volt, as well as in new models from Hyundai and Kia.

Recently the company received a $2-million grant from the province of Ontario to fund ongoing development of such battery cooling systems, funding that the government and the company say will add 102 new staff to the company's existing team of 53. For its part, Dana expects to invest $37 million in expanding its Oakville research centre and its Cambridge, Ontario, manufacturing facility. It's also engaged in research projects with three Ontario universities.

"We're pleased to collaborate with the province of Ontario," stated Dwayne Matthews, president of the Power Technologies business at Dana, in a news release after the grant was announced. "Clean energy is a global need, and will require commitments from both public and private sectors to make alternative-energy vehicles more broadly available."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Lauren Tedesco, Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Trade; Dana Holding Corporation

Owens-Illionois to hire 20 with innovative retooling of Brampton plant

In a move that company vice-president Ryan Modlin heralded as signalling "a vibrant future for glass packaging in Ontario" Owens-Illinois (O-I) announced earlier this month that it would be undertaking an innovative update of its Brampton glass manufacturing facility. Company spokesperson Beth Peery says the plant will be seeing $29 million in updates and innovation upgrades to add capabilities.

The updates are to add new capabilities to the plant's product offerings, make the building more sustainable and, it was announced, would add 20 new jobs to the existing staff of 314 as part of a financing deal with the provincial government. Peery says that since those numbers were agreed to and announced, the company has already exceeded hired more than twice as many new staff as had been expected.

The global glass manufacturer's GTA factory produces glass bottles for the LCBO, among other things, and the changes at the plant should add the capability to create more colours and styles of bottles ncedin line with sustainability efforts to create more lightweight packaging. The company will also update the heating at the facility to make it more energy efficient.

The move was heralded by spokespeople for the provincial government -- who are preparing for an election -- in a statement crediting favourable tax benefits to the company and an $8.8 million loan to the expansion effort.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Beth Peery, O-I; Lauren Tedesco, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development

100km Foods among six Toronto companies to get local food funding

The local-food distribution company 100km Foods Inc was launched in 2008 by Paul Sawtell and his partner Grace Mandarano from their Indian Grove home near High Park, in connection with the growing popularity of the locavore movement and in accordance with "Local Food Plus" guidelines. The pair built a network of farmers near the GTA and supplies restaurants and caterers. This year, Sawtell says, he expects sales to top $1 million.

Last week a bit of help growing the company even more arrived in the form of a $171,000 grant from the provincial government's Greenbelt Fund. "When we buy Ontario, everyone wins. It strengthens the local economy and supports our farmers," said Carol Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in announcing the grants. "Through this program, we are increasing the amount of local food in the kitchens of our hospitals, schools, daycares and other public institutions, providing our patients and families with fresh, local Ontario food."

100km Foods was just one of six Toronto organizations to receive funding through the project. The others were Dana Hospitality, George Brown College, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Scarborough Hospital and St. Michael's Hospital.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Melissa Zanette, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; The Globe and Mail

Markham's Novo Plastics gets $1 million loan from province for eco-friendly auto parts

Markham-based injection-moulded plastics manufacturer Novo Plastics, whose manufacturing facility employs 70 people in the GTA, has received $1 million in support for an innovative car parts line. The money, provided in the form of a loan facility, is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Innovation through its Innovation Demonstration Fund.

The company was founded in 2006 to design and manufacture parts for heating and air conditioning systems and for automobiles. It's products for cars aim to be more environmentally friendly than alternatives. Novo Plastics President and CEO Baljit Sierra said in a statement that the loan from the government will help fund the continued testing and commercialization of a muffler system that is lightweight and offers lower carbon emissions than traditional metal mufflers. "Novo Plastics in honoured to have this vote of confidence from the government of Ontario," Baljit said, calling it an "investment in advanced, green technology."

In its five years of operation, Novo Plastics has grown to fill an 80,000-square-foot headquarters in Markham that runs three production shifts, as well as establishing sales and manufacturing facilities in the US, Germany, India and South Korea.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Baljit Sierra, President and CEO, Novo Plastics

SunEdison announces 400 new GTA solar energy jobs

Rapidly growing local solar energy company SunEdison, a subsidiary of the international conglomerate MEMC Electronic Materials, has announced a deal to increase production of solar panels at the Flextronics facility in York Region. The increased production sees Flextronics physically expand their plant and hire 400 new staff to meet demand.

Jason Gray, SunEdison's Canadian manager, says that with this announcement, his company has been involved in creating between 800 and 950 green energy jobs in the solar industry in the GTA within the past two years. That includes a growth at the company's head office from two to 50 staff over that time, as well as the creation of 100 new jobs building racking equipment at the Samco facility in Scarborough.

"A lot of our investment here has been spurred by the [locally manufacturing requirements] Ontario government's Feed-in-Tarrif program," Gray says, "But Ontario has a long history of manufacturing, so it makes a lot of sense that the region is able to leverage that existing strength."

Gray says that right now most of the increased production capacity at these plants where SunEdison has created increased opportunities will serve the company's local projects, but that in the long term, such production experience and capability will create excellent potential for a green energy export industry.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Jason Gray, VP and Canadian Country Manager, SunEdison

Toronto's Innovative Composites lands "game-changing" $68 million overseas housing contract

Earlier this year, Clive Hobson of Innovative Composites International told Yonge Street that the local manufacturer of innovative building materials expected to soon land a contract that would be a "home run in terms of growth and revenue." A $68 million deal to supply housing in Haiti and Ghana announced last week appears to fit the bill.

Innovative Composites will supply 2 million square feet of its patented EcoScape housing under the deal, and will construct and operate a new manufacturing facility in North Carolina to serve the contract.

"This is a game changer for ICI. One we have been working on for the last two years," said Innovative Composites President and CEO Terry Ball in a release. "We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I believe we haven't even scratched the surface in terms of market penetration and will be able to accelerate project roll out once the SC facility is up and running,"

The company was founded in Toronto in 2007 by former Magna International employees who have developed new thermoplastic building materials used to construct bridges, shipping containers and housing, among other things. Company spokesperson Hobson says it is hurricane-proof, fire-proof and virtually indestructable, and can be used to make almost anything.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Clive Hobson, Director of Communications, Innovative Composites International

Ajax's Messier-Dowty draws $1.9 million investment in aerospace innovation, will hire 5

The Ajax, Ontario plant of Messier-Dowty Inc will be adding five new jobs immediately to its existing staff of 500 to work on an innovative new green innovation initiative. The company's Toronto-area plant specializes in the design and manufacture of aircraft landing gear, and is working on developing a more environmentally friendly way to apply and remove chemical coatings on the gear. If it proves successful, the technique could have applications in aircraft manufacturing plants around the world.

The project has drawn a $1.9 million investment from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation's Innovation Demonstration Fund. In announcing the funding, provincial minister Glen Murray said that the company helps "demonstrate how research and innovation help keep Ontario's economy strong while protecting our environment," a claim to global fame his ministry hopes to cement through direct funding. For his part, Bryan Teed, president of Messier-Dowty added to the statement by giving some credit for the company's success to the talent coming out of local universities--name checking Ryerson and University of Toronto--and praising the local industry. "Our location...is the centre of the North American aerospace industry, and that enables us to service our clients quickly and efficiently."

Messier-Dowty's 19,000-square-metre facility in Ajax employs 500 people, and has been in operation for more than half a century. It is now part of the Safran Group Messier-Bugatti-Dowty multinational aerospace empire.

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Ralph Benmergui, Office of the Minister of Research and Innovation

Local inventors win Ontario Water Innovation Award for most efficient toilet in the world

The Proficiency ultra-high efficiency toilet is the most water-efficient toilet in the world, requiring just three litres of water per flush (versus the standard high-efficiency level of 4.8 litres, and previously standard levels of 6 litres or 13 litres per flush). It was invented in the GTA by the firm of Hennessy and Hinchcliffe and is distributed by Mississauga's WaterMatrix.

Recently, this homegrown success in sustainable washrooms was recognized by the provincial government with an Ontario Water Innovation Award. Rock Rotman of WaterMatrix says that this latest in a long string of awards for innovation is significant because it comes from the government. "It's validating, especially when you've got the government onboard, because they're the ones who can really help promote this, he says, pointing to regulations in various jurisdictions that require high efficiency in toilets and rebate programs that reward homeowners who replace lower-efficiency models.

WaterMatrix has distributed the Proficiency since its launch two years ago, Rotman says, and they've seen the market growing as environmental awareness grows and the stigma attached to older models of efficient toilet -- which were known not to work as well -- fades.

Rotman says the benefits of conservation are not just government recognition and environmental good feelings: those who replace even a six-litre model with a three-litre one see savings in water usage of 33-44%. And as the world market for water heats up and conservation efforts force prices higher, the market for this local innovation will only grow, he says.

Writer: Edward Keenan

Source: Rick Rotman, Marketing Communication Coordinator, WaterMatrix

189 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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