· CBC News ·
Expedition Air is an online store focused on only selling products made partly from carbon dioxide, including watches, planters, pens and paintings. A wide range of environmentally friendly products already exist, but a new Calgary-based online store is now offering items made, in part, using greenhouse gas emissions. Expedition Air sells an assortment of items manufactured from carbon dioxide including concrete planters, yoga mats, crayons and paintings.
Those behind the new venture admit that buying a bar of soap or a pen isn't going to make a big difference in tackling climate change, but it could push bigger brands to pay more attention to the materials they use.
"The vision is to see many more brands come and join this and show that swapping out material for their supply chains really isn't as difficult as it seems," said Madison Savilow, venture lead with Expedition Air."Each product acts as a carbon sink. That's the whole goal — to showcase that this is possible and that everything around us should be made from carbon emissions."
Expedition Air is a spinoff of Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Calgary-based firm that is a finalist for the Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition to create technology that converts CO2 into valuable products. The company has spent the past six years developing technology to capture emissions and use the material in making concrete and plastics, among other uses.
Most of the carbon emissions are captured from a natural gas power plant in southeast Calgary. Instead of those emissions being released into the air, they are captured in a machine and turned into a powder. That substance is then used as one of the ingredients for the products featured on Expedition Air. Carbon Upcycling's latest piece of equipment can produce about eight tonnes of the carbon material every day.
Only a portion of each product is made up of the captured carbon material, so Expedition Air offers customers the option to buy carbon offsets to help cover the emissions associated with the other ingredients, packaging and shipping.
The online store sells 22 different products, including goods from Clean02, a Calgary startup that specializes in turning CO2 emissions from industrial furnaces and boilers into material for soaps and detergents. While products made in part from CO2 have been around for several years, Clean02 founder Jaeson Cardiff said customers still have many questions, such as where the carbon goes when the soap is used.
"I think that's the great part about what we're doing and creating these tangible products, whether it's concrete soap dishes from Carbon Upcycling Technologies or whether it's the soap from Clean02, it engages people to ask those questions and those are important questions to explore and understand," said Cardiff, who said the carbon is permanently sequestered in the soap.
Products made from captured CO2 are not a cure-all for climate change, but they can help decrease the amount of emissions released into the air, says Jaeson Cardiff, founder of CleanO2, a company that specializes in turning CO2 emissions from industrial furnaces and boilers into material for soaps and detergents.
Some environmental experts see a strong future for the carbon capture industry as the country strives to reach its climate goals. "When you see all the innovation that's happening these days with products that incorporate CO2, it's exciting," said Ed Whittingham, a Calgary-based clean energy consultant and former executive director of the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy think-tank.
Whether CO2 products will be successful may depend on how much of the greenhouse gases can be stored and the level of consumer demand. "In some cases, it might be simpler, and especially in a place in Alberta, instead of putting that CO2 into a product, just injecting it into the ground," he said.The province has a few prominent large-scale carbon capture projects in which CO2 is stored several kilometres underground.