From soap and wristwatches to planters and pens, a Calgary company’s new online marketplace aims to prove that when it comes to the environment, the accumulation of small actions can make a big difference.
Expedition Air is a new e-commerce site dedicated to selling consumer products made from captured greenhouse gases. All of the products on the site — from the children’s crayons to the artwork using paint containing embedded carbon dioxide — contain CO2 from industrial emissions that has been sequestered into a solid form.
The marketplace is the brainchild of Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Calgary company that is currently a finalist for the Carbon XPRIZE, a $20-million global competition that aims to develop breakthrough technologies to convert CO2 emissions into usable products. Carbon Upcycling Technologies has developed a system that converts gaseous CO2 into an inorganic solid material that can be used in the production of concrete, plastics, pharmaceuticals, batteries and more.
The company — whose technology is located at Enmax’s natural gas-fuelled Shepard Energy Centre — ultimately aims to create a “circular economy,” whereby emissions created in the production of a product can be captured and embedded right back into that same product.
“The best example is our concrete example. We’re able to take emissions from a concrete manufacturing site — wherever the flue stack is located — and we can then put those emissions back into fly ash and that would go back into the concrete,” said Madison Savilow, chief of staff for Carbon Upcycling Technologies.
The Expedition Air marketplace is the company’s attempt to engage the public by showcasing more consumer-friendly products and helping people see the potential that exists through carbon capture technology.
“I think right now we’re at the stage where people don’t even know that they can demand this. They don’t know that materials exist like this that should be in their products,” Savilow said. “But each consumer has buying power that can be used as a vote when it comes to the materials used in the products they buy, and we just want to raise awareness around that.”
Currently, the majority of the products on the site are produced by Carbon Upcycling Technologies itself, though there are a handful of other vendors. CleanO2, for example, is a Calgary-based company that uses CO2 captured from heating system exhaust to create environmentally friendly soaps and detergents.
CleanO2 co-founder Jaeson Cardiff said while the idea of embedding carbon in consumer products is in its early phases, he believes it’s poised to take off.
“I think the rate of adoption is going to increase to the point where we will see exponential growth in this space, from everything from biofuels to consumer goods to textiles,” Cardiff said. “All sorts of products are going to have recycled carbon in them. That’s definitely the direction we see.”
Savilow said the ultimate goal is to have other carbon tech companies also sell their products via the Expedition Air site, as well as to use the site to attract the attention of large corporations who might be willing to switch out the materials they currently use for materials made from carbon dioxide emissions.
“Of course we understand that buying a pen with a very small amount of CO2 in it is not going to change the world,” Savilow said. “We’re really only at the starting point right now. But the end goal is that everything is going to be acting as a carbon sink, every product you touch is somehow embedded with CO2.”