A case of beer, some ingenuity and a lot of hard work have netted a Kelowna businessman a top city environmental achievement award.
John Anderson, whose local Bean Scene coffee shop chain includes its own roastery, says he did a lot of research before coming up with a way to reduce the smoke created by the coffee roasting process.
But while other companies have spent thousands to make their businesses more environmentally friendly, Anderson had another idea.
In the end, the most crucial component of his “wet scrubbing” technique for reducing smoke—a refurbished former fuel tank—cost him just a case of beer.
“I got it off a friend of mine,” said Anderson, who was rewarded Wednesday for his ingenuity with the Mayor’s Environmental Achievement Award for the most innovative business initiative.
The wet scrubbing technique uses water to spray the smoke created by the roasting, and that reduces the particulate that would ordinarily be released into the atmosphere.
Anderson said he got the idea from the mining industry, which developed the technology many years ago to deal with dust.
“I crossed my fingers and hoped like hell it would work,” said Anderson of his decision to use it for coffee roasting smoke.
But Anderson also took the process a step farther. His system also collects the used water, now enriched with nutrients from particulate it helps collect, and it is used to water plants outside his coffee shops.
As a result of the scrubbing process and the reuse of the water, as well as other measures such as the use of CFL light bulbs at the company’s four coffee shops, turning off gas pilot lights every night, the use of eco-friendly packaging, reusable plastic bins for coffee instead of bags and encouraging customers to use reusable cups, the business has cut its costs dramatically and reduced its environmental impact.
Anderson said he started looking at how he ran his business after his children were born and decided he wanted to do more to reduce his business’s environmental impact.
In addition to Anderson, the city also recognized several other local environmentalists, including double award winner Curtis Stone.
Stone, well-known locally for promoting the urban farming movement, was named a joint winner of the most dedicated individual award, along with former city councillor Angela Reid-Nagy, who operates several environmentally focused businesses.
He was also named the most environmentally friendly commuter because he does not own a car and rides his bicycle everywhere, including when making deliveries of his farm produce.
Stone said while it was nice to be recognized, that was not his aim.
“At first I just wanted to make a living,” he said, adding while there are challenges involved with going green, they are not insurmountable and even a small change in lifestyle by everyone would be a “win-win.”
He encouraged others to follow suit saying while initial steps have been made, “we still have a lot farther to go.”
The award for the most environmentally friendly school once again went to KLO Middle School, whose ECO Club has spearheaded several initiatives aimed at making the school a greener place to learn.
In addition to its recycling program—which includes battery recycling— KLO Middle has a composting program, uses rain barrels, has a school garden and has adopted nearby Fascieux Creek as part of the Adopt-A-Stream program. There students have installed two fenced-off areas to help protect endangered Western painted turtles that nest in the area.
The award for the most sustainable development went to Grace Pontes of Architecturally Distinct Solutions for a house her company built that uses a special roof featuring a reflective coating that helps reduce the interior temperature.
The most dedicated group award went to Oknagan Greens, which organizes the annual Organic Festival in Kelowna, as well as Green Drinks, the city’s only sustainability networking event.
Mayor Walter Gray said he was impressed by the number of award nominees this year in all the categories. “There are so many champions for the environment in Kelowna working to maintain the natural beauty of this great city. Our residents really care about the environment,” he said.