All posts by Keelin Mayer

How to Recycle Your Cell Phone

Lane Simond:

While Sparta Group is a B2B, the company often gets questions directly from consumers. As more people hear about the company’s e-waste recycling/upcycling operation, specific questions about dealing with common gadgets come up. In this blog, we try to answer a question we get regularly: “What is the best way to recycle a cell phone?”

The average cell phone user replaces their phone every two to three years. According to GSMA, the mobile industry’s leading data and analysis source, there are over 10 billion mobile phones in use worldwide. That is 10 billion phones that at some point soon, will be replaced with new phones.

Sparta Group has recycled and upcycled millions of phones for its clients and has built a strong reputation in the industry for safe data destruction. Sparta managers consider a cell phone a “personal item” and therefore process it in the most careful and safe way, thus protecting privacy.

“Our team members are proficient at safe, secure data destruction, which is why some of the biggest brands in the world choose us, but when it comes to consumers, there are steps they can take to not only protect their data, but protect the planet,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck

Sparta ‘s e-waste processors offer consumers the following tips on how to recycle a cell phone:

  • Prepare your phone – Before you recycle your phone, take some time to do a factory reset. This simply means that you remove data from your mobile and restore it back to factory settings. Essentially, all apps and their data are uninstalled (erased). Some people remove the phone battery when preparing a mobile for recycling, but this can be tricky and hazardous with many cell phones so you should consider leaving that to the recycler. Gather any charging cables and find out where you can recycle or donate the phone.
  • Donate your phone – In Canada, there are several ways you can donate your cell phone to someone who doesn’t have one but could really benefit from using a mobile. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has a program called,

Phone It Forward.  Another avenue for donation is through Africa Calling. The non-profit organization collects and donates the phones to disadvantaged people around the world. Except for stores in Calgary, Alberta, Staples stores across Canada collect and recycle cell phones. Both Telus and Bell also have mobile recycling/upcycling programs that handle outdated phones.

  • Trade – When you are ready to upgrade, depending on what type of phone you have, you may be able to trade it in for a new one. The authorized phone dealer will send the old phone to an e-waste recycling firm, like Sparta’s. Many dealers will allow you to put the trade-in value towards your new phone.
  • Certified e-waste recycler – Find a certified e-waste recycler near you that will destroy your old phone. Make sure the recycler has a data destruction policy, and ask if they refurbish the phones and send them overseas. If they can’t provide you with assurances that all data will be safely destroyed and that they do not send the used phones overseas, then take your phone and walk away.

Mobile phones have come a long way; from just being a phone to being a multi-purpose gadget. Today, most people consider a cell phone a necessity. Not everyone can afford a new cell phone though. It’s great if you can pass yours on to someone who can use it. If you decide to recycle your mobile, it is crucial that you choose an e-waste recycling facility that is certified in safe data destruction. In either case – donating or recycling, you can feel good about diverting your mobile from the trash and doing your small part to protect the environment.

Sparta Group’s Solution to COVID-19 in Condos

Lane Simond:

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many products and technologies have been introduced to address concerns over indoor safety. While Sparta Group is one of many companies that have solutions for offices, schools, factories, and gyms, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of people live in condos where there are shared spaces, and where it can be harder to address air quality issues.

Some condo building managers will be quick to point out that they are cleaning all the touch points in the lobby and elevator. This is vital, but what about disinfecting the air to protect people against viruses like COVID-19, as well as against bacteria and mold? Sparta Group’s CASPR technology is easy to install, easy to maintain, and it’s an efficient disinfecting solution that can be used in lobbies, elevators, community rooms, and even inside condo units.

CASPR was designed to replicate the naturally occurring process that you find in the outside air. CASPR or Continuous Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction provides a constant reducing of pathogens found in the environment and on surfaces that we touch. There is no need for manual cleaning or constant shutdown of a space so you can reapply disinfectant or adjust the technology before letting people in again.

Sparta’s partner, CASPR Group has been providing touch-free disinfection technology for close to two decades in Europe, South America, and Asia. In the United States, the healthcare industry began using it in 2016. Third-party testing substantiated CASPR Group’s own findings, including a 99.96 percent kill rate on surfaces. It was also proven to be effective against all types of airborne pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, mold, odors, and volatile organic compounds.

“This technology was not originally created as a solution for COVID-19; However, it has proven effective against similar coronaviruses, such as SARS and H1N1. We know that airflow can be particularly challenging in lobbies, elevators, and other common areas, so offering this to our clients who operate condos seemed like a logical move,” said the director of Sparta’s health division, Jason Smith.

CASPR technology comes in the form of an in-duct unit and a stand-alone unit that is often placed on a shelf or counter in an office, or community space. CASPR is not like typical air cleaning systems. In fact, it’s not an air filter. It works by using a proprietary natural catalytic process that reacts with water molecules found in the air, to continuously create effective oxidizing molecules that reduce the level of harmful pathogens. The molecules are delivered at safe levels for surfaces, people, plants and pets.

Whether its COVID-19 or some other virus or bacteria, Sparta Group sees CASPR as a long-term solution.

“We are proud to be working with the CASPR innovators to provide our customer base with this solution today and well into the future. We know that surface and air quality will be a concern long after COVID-19 case counts are low. We know this because the world’s leading medical scientists tell us that infectious diseases are not going away,” said Sparta Group President and CTO, John O’Bireck.

How to Recycle Common Items Not Allowed in Your Curbside Bin

Lane Simond:

At Sparta Group we talk a lot about recycling e-waste at our recycling operation in Toronto, Canada. While our focus might be electronics, we are always ready to share what we know about recycling in general. For example, in Toronto, residents place government approved blue bins at the curb with paper, cardboard, plastic jugs, steel and aluminum cans, as well as glass bottles and jars in them for recycling, but there is much more that can be recycled.

Utilizing recycled materials to create a new product takes less energy than developing that same product from virgin (new) materials. The list below outlines some of the common items many people don’t realize can be recycled.

  • Toothbrushes – there are a lot of recycled or renewable toothbrushes on the market today, such as bamboo, but even a standard toothbrush can be recycled. You can mail toothbrushes to TerraCycle thanks to a partnership with Colgate. TerraCycle does require shipments of about 100 toothbrushes, so you could consider doing a toothbrush collection program in your community. Alternatively, ask your dentist if he/she is involved in a toothbrush collection program.
  • Running Shoes – your old running shoes could become part of a new turf field, playground materials, or a rubber track if you recycle them. Participating Nike stores, like the Nike Factory Store in Concord, which is just outside Toronto, will take your old runners. There is another organization called, Soles 4 Souls that collects all types of used shoes to distribute to those in need. It’s a great way to help people and help the planet by diverting waste from landfill.
  • Eyeglasses – whether they go out of style, or you progress to a stronger prescription, your eyeglasses should not be trashed. You can bring used glasses to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Some glasses stores will also take used glasses, including LensCrafters and Pearle Vision. It is also worth checking to see if any service clubs in your area collect used glasses. In Canada, you can take used glasses to your local Lions Club. The headquarters for the Canadian Lions Club Eyeglass Recycling Centre is in Alberta.
  • Razor Blades – there is a Gillette Razor Recycling Program that accepts all brands of blades and razors. This includes systems and disposable units, replaceable blades, rigid plastic packaging and flexible plastic bag packaging. In Toronto, the sustainable store, Pretty Clean Shop collects the razors and sends them off to Gillette. To make this program work on a large scale, Gillette partnered with recycling experts, TerraCycle.

There are so many other common items that can be recycled. If you type a product name, along with your zip or area code into the search field on the website earth911.com it will tell you if and where that product can be recycled.

All About Data Destruction: Four Tips to Keep Your Business Safe

Teresa Madaleno:

If you own or operate a business, then you and your employees likely rely on various types of electronics to get the job done. The average lifespan of an electronic device is three to five years. These important tools often contain a lot of important data that you don’t want leaked. This is where safe, secure data destruction comes in.

Data destruction refers to the process of removing data from electronic systems. When data is properly destroyed, nefarious individuals can’t retrieve your information. It is important to understand that deleting data is not necessarily the same thing as destroying data.

If you are already well-versed in the subject of data management and destruction, we commend you. Not all businesses are prepared and often say they are blindsided when their data gets into the wrong hands. Data breaches can cost a company millions of dollars. Sadly, many businesses are still at risk because they just throw away end-of-life electronics.

Sparta Group’s e-waste recycling operation, ERS International, has built a strong reputation for proper data destruction. Companies from across Canada and the world rely on ERS due to its best practices. In addition to having a sophisticated data destruction process, the ERS facility in East Toronto is known as one of the most secure recycling/upcycling operations in the industry.

“We’ve been doing safe, secure data destruction for many years now, and with the generation of data being a driving force behind many businesses today, we can expect the demand for our services to continue to grow,” said Sparta President and Chief Technology Officer, John O’Bireck

The Sparta team offers up the following tips to protect your company:

Develop a Data Management Plan– A data management plan is an outline of how data will be managed and stored, along with standards for use, as well as how data will be handled and protected during and after the completion of a project, or during and after the life of the devices being used.

Train Employees – It is important that both IT staff, as well as any staff using electronic devices are educated about data destruction and are told about the steps the company expects them to take when a piece of work-related technology reaches the end of its life. Make it clear that computers, hard drives, etc. must be safely stored prior to destruction.

Set a Data Destruction Policy– Data management involves having a proper data destruction policy. Whether it is desktop computers, laptops, tablets or even company mobile phones, you need to know that there is a mechanism in place to destroy the data found on these devices. Data destruction needs to be taken very seriously. Your policy should state that all outdated technology is collected and managed by certain individuals within the company. Also, it should make it clear that no devices will ever get thrown away and taken to the dump.

Find a Full-Service Electronic Waste Recycler – All your company IT assets should be sent to a full-service electronics recycling company that is proficient at secure data destruction. Choosing a reputable recycling operation with the right expertise and machinery is crucial. Ask the recycler if they are willing to provide you with a certificate of destruction so you have proof that they destroyed your data.

Collecting data comes with great responsibility, and we live in a world where just about every business is gathering data of some sort. Whether you run a small or large business, a data destruction plan should be a top priority. After all, it is paramount that you protect your business, your staff, your customers, and your reputation.

Food Related Emissions and Transportation: Study says fifth of global food emissions come from transport

– Teresa Madaleno:

A lot is said and written about vegetarians, vegans, paleo diets, and keto diets; but you don’t hear a lot about locavore – a person who only eats food produced within a 100-mile radius of home. That could change now that University of Sydney researchers are urging more people to become locavore.

The call for consumption of food grown or produced close to home comes after the university conducted a study that showed that 19 percent of global food system greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation.

Sustainable food research tends to focus on the high emissions linked with animal-derived foods, but the Sydney study, published in Nature Food, demonstrated that transport, production, and land use change contribute to 30 percent of total human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. The food transport emissions add up to almost half of the direct emissions from vehicles.

While the authors of the study are in favour of plant-based diets to help the environment, they also suggest that eating locally is just as important.

The researchers calculated that food transportation creates three gigatons of emissions every year, which is equal to 19 percent of food-related emissions. During their analysis, the research team, including physics experts, looked at 74 different countries, 37 different economic sectors, as well as domestic and international transport distances. They discovered that China, India, and the United States are the top food transport emitters. Emissions from the transporting of food is dependent on the type of food being moved from farm to table. For instance, fruit and vegetable transport leads to almost double the number of emissions than the production of other foods. In fact, together fruit and veggies make up over a third of food transportation emissions.

The team from Sydney University calculated the emissions reductions if the global population consumed only local foods. While some areas of the world could never be 100 percent self-sufficient in terms of food supply, the researchers contend, eating locally could be implemented to varying degrees, creating significant potential for reduction in emissions. Aside from adjusting our eating and buying behavior, the study authors suggest using various methods to reduce harmful emissions, including investing in cleaner energy sources for vehicles, and providing food businesses with incentives to use less emissions inducing production and distribution systems.

Sparta Group management find studies like this one helpful since they too are focused on what is best for the planet. Whether it is through energy efficiency products and services, or upcycling and even recycling, Sparta is dedicated to helping companies run more sustainably.

“We understand what the experts from Sydney are saying. No matter what the source, and in this case, we are talking about food; there is not one solution, but several. We established our TruckSuite division to offer transport operators an opportunity to run their trucks more efficiently thus saving time, money, and the planet. However, we understand that when it comes to the food we eat, there are many approaches that can be taken. We all have some responsibility in helping the environment. Sure, eating locally could be part of it,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

Like the University of Sydney, which has a lab called, “Foodlab” to conduct research, Sparta Group has a specially designed Research and Development (R&D) lab used for various projects all aimed at protecting the environment. For instance, the Sparta lab is used to extract precious metals from electronics. According to the United Nations University, the manufacturing of high-tech gadgets uses over 20 billion dollars’ worth of gold and silver annually. Some experts suggest that recycling gold produces over 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than mined gold.

“Whether we are talking about the consumption of food or the use of electronics, we know there is plenty of opportunity to do better for our planet. Thanks to advancements in technology, we are living in an age where we can make positive change,” O’Bireck stated.

Note: The locavore movement started in 2005 when three American women challenged their neighborhood to only eat food from within a one-hundred-mile radius. Today, California, Vermont and Oregon are said to have some of the highest number of locavores in the United States. While no specific data is available for Canada, we can tell you that more Canadian restaurants than ever before are including local ingredients in their dishes.

Sparta Group’s Sustainable Photoluminescent Technology

Lane Simond:

Many businesses have emergency plans in place and believe they are adequately prepared for a serious emergency then discover they are nowhere near ready.  Sparta management know there is an easy fix to the problem.

Several businesses discovered that their emergency plans were insufficient during the 2003 multi-day blackout that hit Canada and parts of the U.S. They ended up in the dark and without any workable exit signs. Now imagine if you ran a business and experienced a fire during this blackout. How would anyone find their way out of the building? The answer according to Sparta is ‘photoluminescent exit signs.’

Photoluminescence occurs when a material absorbs photons (light energy), and then emits them when the light source is removed. It is referred to in children’s’ toys as “glow-in-the-dark”. When applied to safety signs it is a great way to guide people out of a building in darkened situations. Sparta Group works with one of the most reputable photoluminescent product manufacturers in the world to offer its industrial and commercial clients photoluminescent exit signs and egress pathway markings.

“These signs are cost effective, eco-friendly, and help reduce the carbon footprint of a business. Electrical signs require a lot of maintenance and depend on the reliability of your electrical grid. Fire exit signs also must be lit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year thus contributing to electrical costs. Our photoluminescent signs only need a good source of light to work,” said Sparta President and CTO, John O’Bireck.

How photoluminescence works

Photoluminescence happens when a substance is capable of absorbing energy photons and then emitting them later as light. Thanks to innovations in technology this eco-friendly light emission that only lasted a few seconds, can now last for hours. Photoluminescent exit signs take their photons from their surroundings, store the energy, and then release it as a glow when the building becomes dark. This means that the placement of the exit sign is important, and it’s something Sparta’s team is proficient at. While installation takes just a few minutes, Sparta staff are always prepared to guide customers. When it comes to maintenance, it is minimal. Occasionally, you have to wipe the face of the sign.

Many U.S building codes now require photoluminescent exit signs and markings. For instance, New York City’s Law 26 calls for all commercial buildings over 75 feet in height to have visible photoluminescent egress markings to provide adequate visibility during blackouts, fires, and other emergencies.

According to global market research firms, new construction in both the commercial and industrial sectors have increased demand for photoluminescent products. Creative building design with increased focus on energy efficiency also means there is a growing opportunity for manufacturers and distributors to expand their photoluminescent customer base.

Some of the Best Universities for Sustainability Studies

Teresa Madaleno:

The climate crisis is a complex subject. Fully understanding environmental degradation, its impacts, and potential solutions requires education. Expanding our knowledge about climate change and sustainability can help us make informed decisions about day-to-day living. It also teaches us about our own responsibility.

In a previous blog we outlined how sustainability professionals are in demand. In this blog, we provide a rundown of some of the best universities for climate and sustainability studies.

Today, many educational institutions have environmental programs; however, some are more focused on climate change and sustainability than others.

  • Harvard University – known as a research university, Harvard has a strong reputation for its comprehensive doctoral programs, including in sciences, engineering, and medicine. Harvard also happens to have a strong Environmental Studies program and offers Environmental and Science Engineering, as well as other climate focused programs. The university itself has an ambitious Climate Action Plan that calls for the shifting of campus operations away from fossil fuels. The goals…fossil fuel-free by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. Harvard has a sustainability Data Hub where people can track what the university is doing to reduce emissions and energy usage.
  • University of California – Berkeley has an advanced program in sustainable management. It covers everything from Carbon Management and Environmental Business Strategy to Environmental Law and Climate Change Risk Mitigation Strategies. There are many other environment and sustainability courses offered at Berkeley. UC Berkeley has had a long-standing history in sustainability research and today course offerings make up close to 50 percent of all campus courses.
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich – this Swiss school offers a wide array of environment-related studies, including programs on Atmosphere and Climate, Ecology, Environmental Systems and Policy, Forest and Landscape Management, as well as Human Health, Nutrition and the Environment.
  • University of Oxford – the Uk based university offers several environment and sustainability courses, including a Master of Science (MSc) in Sustainability, Enterprise, and the Environment. The Oxford programs address everything from the transition to a zero-carbon environment to sustainable development for both rich and poor. Courses also examine the challenges from a finance and economics point of view. The university offers full and part-time programs. For instance, there is the Oxford Climate Emergency Programme, a 6-week online course. They also have part-time courses in ecological survey techniques, as well as International Wildlife Conservation Strategies.
  • Wageningen University, Netherlands – Netherlands is known for its new innovations and policies related to environmental sustainability, so it’s not surprising that the country has a university with a host of environment-focused courses. Economics of Sustainability, Environmental Sciences, Food Studies, Forest and Nature Conservation, Soil Policy, Air Quality, Environmental Economics, Circular Fashion, and Environmental Technology, are just some of the course topics. Wageningen is considered the world’s top agricultural research institution. The U.S News & World Report ranks Wageningen number one in environment, ecology, and agricultural sciences.
  • University of Queensland Australia – Australia is home to the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The school boasts an impressive lineup of environmental courses, including coastal and ocean science, environmental management, occupational health and safety, town planning, and geographic science.

According to the online science, research, and technology news aggregator, Phys.org, China is the world’s biggest polluter when you look at the numbers. For example, 60 percent of power in the country is provided by coal and in 2019 China’s greenhouse gas emissions were twice as much as the United States. Still, China is home to Tsinghua University, which made the QS top 10 best Environmental Science University Rankings this year (2022). Tsinghua, located in Beijing, is number 9 on the Qs top 10. Number one is Harvard.

About the Writer: Teresa Madaleno is a former broadcast news reporter, journalism professor, and author. She is Harvard University certified in the Health Impacts of Climate Change, as well as certified by the Netherlands Wageningen University in Circular Fashion. Teresa operates a small communications consultancy.

Sustainability Professionals in Demand

– Lane Simond:

We keep hearing a lot about hiring blitzes across North America to make up for jobs left vacant by the COVID-19 crisis. The service industry was particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, but have you heard about the surge in environmental career openings?

According to employment and environment experts, there is a growing demand for sustainability professionals. It’s due to the pressure consumers are putting on companies to take action to reduce climate change. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the demand for sustainable products has jumped over 70 percent since 2016. Furthermore, since 2016 the number of businesses committed to sustainability has increased at least 45 percent.

Green Ideal, the online magazine dedicated to helping people live a greener lifestyle, reports that many businesses are adding a sustainability officer to their roster of employees. The U.S Department of Labour suggests that demand for the following jobs will be strong until at least 2029:

  • Environmental Scientist
  • Hazardous Materials Removal Expert
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Biochemists and Biophysicist
  • Solar photovoltaic installer
  • Conservation Specialist
  • Sustainability Officer

One sector that is driving demand for sustainability experts is agriculture. As the population grows, more food will be required, and more people will be needed to work farmland.  Many agriculture companies have already started using sustainable crop protection technologies to optimize crops. More technologies will be needed as the demand for food grows around the world. This means more agricultural scientists and engineers will be required to help develop new farming technologies.

Corporate America has embraced sustainability experts. In 2011, there were just 29 Chief Sustainability Officers working for Fortune 500 companies and now there are at least 95.

Soon those who deny there is an environment crisis, will be able to see clearly that the world has changed. The job market will be a constant reminder of the reality of global warming.

In a future blog, we’ll look at some of the best schools for learning about sustainability.

How Can Vaping Be More Sustainable?

Teresa Madaleno:

Cannabis experts report that vape product sales went up 79 percent between 2020 and 2021. While health warnings won’t scare all people away from the habit, we hope users will consider the environment when they do partake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the use of vapes, or as some people refer to them, e-cigarettes, is unsafe for teens and young adults because they contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Still, about 50 percent of young adults in Canada who are between the ages of 20 and 24 admit to trying it. Vaping is not only harmful to human health, it hurts the environment, but we don’t hear a lot about that.

Vaping creates waste in more ways than one. Vape devices contain plastics, electronics, and hazardous waste. All of these are bad for the environment.

Here’s how vaping can be more sustainable though…

  • Don’t purchase disposable vapes. Unfortunately, we live in a disposable society so when the first vapes were manufactured, they were designed with non-rebuildable atomizers. They are sealed with a coil that isn’t replaceable by the user. Since they are sealed and disposed of, they create waste. Now some vape makers are producing reusable vape pens. They allow you to reuse your coils, thus saving money and resources.
  • Think about using organic vapes. Typical vape juices contain propylene glycol (PG), but you can get organic vape juices that have vegetable glycerin (VG) in them. This will help cut down on pollution from the production process, as well as reduce waste impact since it is biodegradable. PG is a derivative of petroleum, so it doesn’t break down.
  • Choose glass vapes. Many vapes have plastic cartridges that are made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource. Also, these plastics can release harmful chemicals. If you use glass cartridges, you are helping reduce plastic waste. Furthermore, glass doesn’t contain toxic substances that can leak out in your local landfill or waterways in the way plastics can. Of course, glass can also be recycled.
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle. While there is a tendency to just throw vape parts in the trash, don’t do it. Take the used vapes to a hazardous waste facility or purchase vapes from a company that has a return policy and a relationship with a reputable recycling facility.

Sparta’s electronic waste recycling division (ERS/Re-ECO) handles every electronic gadget imaginable, including vapes.

“At our recycling plant in East Toronto, we are fully equipped to handle vape recycling. Every item can be tracked from the moment it comes into the door to the end of the process, providing complete transparency- and we have a state-of-the-art science lab on site, so if we come across something that requires closer examination before we process it, we can do that quickly,” said Sparta President, John O’Bireck.

Currently, Sparta’s ERS division is a business-to-business operation. The company handles some of the biggest name brands in electronics. If the environment matters to young adults as much as experts suggest, then they should be asking their vape providers which recycling facility they depend on to dispose of vape waste safely.

If you are vaping or thinking about trying it, consider the health implications as outlined in this Johns Hopkins Medicine article: 5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know.

Journalism Putting Spotlight on Environmental Concerns Again Are You Taking Notes?

Teresa Madaleno:

COVID-19 has occupied our minds for two years, but scientists and journalists are reminding us that climate change also requires our attention. It too is an emergency.

Recently, LA Times Energy Reporter, Sammy Roth wrote the following:

In the same way that journalists ought to be comfortable denouncing systemic racism and pushing politicians to tackle homelessness, we need to get comfortable decrying the horrors of the climate crisis and demanding solutions.

American politician and environmentalist, Al Gore, introduced us to the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. Media coverage of environmental issues peaked in 2007 and then suddenly coverage decreased. This was around the time that I left a long career in journalism to do communications consulting work. Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, I was assigned multiple stories that were climate-focused and many newsrooms around the country had reporters exclusively assigned to the environment beat. However, almost overnight those roles disappeared. Suddenly, nobody was talking about climate change anymore. It wasn’t until the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 that the environment made headlines again – and it was 2021 when scientists really sounded the alarm bells, saying, “Time is running out” to save our planet.

Today, the Globe and Mail and Canadian Press both have environment reporters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has several, as do many other Canadian, as well as American media outlets. Putting an emphasis on environment reporting is crucial because it leads to public, as well as political discussions, and it fulfills an organizations’ accountability when it comes to the climate change burden.

Many journalists now acknowledge that the environment will be one of the biggest topics of the next decade. The OCED (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has stated that for economic recovery from the pandemic to occur, “…environmentally destructive investment patterns and activities must be avoided.” Responsible for stimulating economic progress and world trade, officials with the OECD contend that unless we address climate change now, we will face economic and social damages much larger than those caused by COVID-19.

Environmental Technology

Sparta Group doesn’t have all the answers to the climate crisis, but the environmental technology company is focused on helping companies reduce their carbon footprint and operate in a more sustainable way. Sparta’s various divisions handle everything from recycling and up-cycling of electronic waste to energy saving technologies and services for the industrial and commercial sectors, as well as technologies and programs that help truck operators and drivers run more efficiently. Over the last few years, Sparta and its various environmental technologies have been featured by multiple media outlets.

Like any growing company, Sparta likes positive news coverage, but management also understand the importance of following what others are doing. The company has a large list of organizations they follow to keep up on environment news, including both traditional and digital media, environmental bloggers, journals, trade magazines, and financial publications, particularly those that write about ESG. They also consult with the company’s Technical Advisory Board (TAB), which consists of experts from the fields of engineering, science, health, finance, and IOT.

If you’re concerned about climate change, here are some of the media channels you can consider following. They will help you discover more about the environment and how you can participate in positive change.

Sample List Green Media

Huffington Post Green
National Geographic
BBC Earth
Columbia University’s Earth Institute
Yale Environment 360
Nature (Journal)
The Sustainable Scribe
CBC (What on Earth)
Environment Journal
Alternatives Journal
Science Daily
Envirotech
CleanTechnica

In addition to mainstream media organizations, there are several magazines and online sites specifically dedicated to the subject of environmental technologies. The sample list of green media listed here is a very small selection of the many organizations dedicated to covering stories focused on the environment, but it tells us that there is no shortage of environment-related information and no shortage of existing solutions to address our climate woes. Unfortunately, there is still a shortage of solution adopters. The good news is that more media reports suggest that the pendulum is about to swing in a positive direction; that adoption of advanced technology-based climate change solutions may soon become the norm.

“We agree that technology is a key component to addressing climate change, but we also believe that how people use the technology and how people behave day-to-day are equally important when it comes to solving the climate crisis. Educating ourselves is the very first step in the path to a cleaner, healthier planet. Literally thousands of articles are written every day about climate change and environmental technologies. It’s important for everyone to read as much as they can on the subject to learn how to contribute to change,” said John O’Bireck, President and CTO of Sparta Group.

About the Writer: Teresa Madaleno is a former broadcast news reporter, journalism professor, and author. She is Harvard University certified in the Health Impacts of Climate Change, as well as certified by the Netherlands Wageningen University, in Circular Fashion. Teresa operates a small communications consultancy.

Recycling Precious Metals

– Teresa Madaleno:

As Canadians we are accustomed to recycling paper and plastics. It is as common as brushing our teeth and combing our hair in the morning. As the saying goes, it is “second nature.” Many recyclers, including Sparta Group’s ERS/ReECO Tech would like to see the recycling of precious metals become common in the business sector.

By 2025, the well-known jewelry provider, Pandora plans to be using 100 percent recycled silver and gold in all its products. It just might surprise many people to learn that precious metal can be recycled over-and-over again without degrading its properties.

“This is a great way to preserve our natural resources, use less energy by not having to produce new materials and extract from mines, and it diverts materials from our landfills,” said Sparta’s Chief Technology Officer, John O’Bireck.

Precious metals, such as silver, gold and platinum are non-ferrous, so they don’t lose their chemical or physical properties during the recycling process. While many have tried to retrieve metals from electronic devices and found it difficult, as well as time consuming, Sparta’s recycling facility has developed a process that is fast and efficient. They report that their east Toronto plant takes in thousands of tonnes of electronic waste such as cell phones, laptops, desktops, and tablets every year and much of it contains precious metals that can be extracted. This diversion of waste from landfill is significant when you consider that the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in the United States estimates recycling metals can cut harmful emissions that lead to global warming by millions of tonnes.

We live in a technology-driven world and the tech sector is only going to grow. According to technology reviewer, TechJury, the number of smart devices collecting, analyzing, and sharing data is expected to hit 50 billion by 2030. Right now, there are over 4.88 billion phone users in the world. The amount of electronic waste that this leads to is staggering and so is the amount of silver, gold and platinum that can be extracted. No matter what the business sector you are in, you likely use technology. If your company has phones, computers, cameras, photocopiers, and scanners then you should have a recycler handling those electronics when they become out-dated, or you replace them for some other reason. It is an easy way to demonstrate that your company is being environmentally responsible.

“In the case of our recycling facility, we have one of the most secure data destruction systems in the country, so businesses never have to worry about privacy being breached. We can protect your privacy, extract precious metals, and prevent materials from your devices from landing in the local garbage dump because we have a zero-waste policy,” said O’Bireck.

Some of the world’s leading companies/brands turn to Sparta’s e-waste recycling division to handle their waste. Due to strict confidentiality agreements, we are unable to share the name of those brands in this blog; however, we know that providing strict privacy is another reason brands choose Sparta’s recycling service.

All About Poor Indoor Air Quality and a Verified Solution

– Teresa Madaleno:

Outdoor pollution is a well-publicized modern dilemma. Indoor pollution is equally troubling and is now becoming a hot topic of conversation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many people spend 90 percent of their time indoors where the concentration of some pollutants can be as much as 5 times higher than outdoor concentrations.

It has taken a worldwide pandemic to draw attention to indoor air quality. COVID-19 has businesses, government institutions, and schools rethinking their ventilation systems and searching for new ways to protect indoor dwellers.

How is indoor air bad?

Increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, household/office cleaners, as well as personal care products have led to high indoor pollution. The worst part is that most of the time, people inside houses, office buildings and commercial spaces don’t have any idea they are being exposed to pollutants or invisible viruses.

Indoor air quality is impacted by something called, Air Exchange Rate. This refers to the number of times that air gets replaced in each room, every hour. The air exchange rate is affected by design, construction and operating of buildings. Air flows into structures, including offices, industrial complexes, and commercial spaces; through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, ceilings, as well as around doors and windows. Some air is forced indoor via ventilation devices, such as fans. There is also the issue of viruses like COVID-19 and the common cold.  Research released in 2019 (just a year prior to the pandemic) showed that 89 percent of workers surveyed admitted to coming to work sick. To sum it up, outdoor conditions along with occupant behavior can impact indoor air quality.

CASPR Technology

Through Sparta’s Group of companies, customers can receive guidance on improving energy systems, which can help lower their power bill. They can also gain access to Metrikus technology to monitor and help maintain a healthy indoor environment for workers, as well as visitors. Additionally, Sparta offers CASPR technology to its customers. As first outlined by Sparta in a 2021 blog, CASPR allows for the reduction of viruses and other harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces. It comes in the form of a table-top unit or a technology that can be installed in a building’s HVAC system. It uses a proprietary, natural catalytic process that reacts with water molecules found in the air to continuously create an effective oxidizing molecule that is delivered at safe levels. CASPR technology has been proven in independent laboratory testing.

A report by Microchem Laboratory indicates that in one unit of an Iowa hospital, the use of CASPR appeared to reduce staff absenteeism by as much as 44 percent. The continuous application of low levels of oxidizing molecules generated by CASPR technology were found to reduce bacterial and fungal MB found on surfaces by as much as 97%. Meanwhile, the incidence of MRSA and VRE were reduced by up to 70%. MRSA is an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to many antibiotics. VRE is a type of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract that develops resistance to antibiotics.

Today, there is a long list of businesses that are using CASPR to protect workers, patrons, as well as children. Schools, government agencies, transit systems, restaurants, airports, and sports facilities, including F-45 in Toronto’s Leslieville area, are using CASPR technology.

“We are so happy to be offering this technology to companies looking for a solution that will not only allow them to operate in a healthy manner, but that is safe for occupied spaces not just surfaces, that is easy to install and easy to maintain,” said Jason Smith, Director of Sparta’s health division.

CASPR is known to perform well in all types of indoor settings. In fact, it seems to very helpful in old, historic buildings. For example, officials at one school in Saint Rose, Louisiana have reported that in addition to keeping COVID cases down, it seems the distinctive odour of the 107-year-old building’s brick has disappeared. “…it was a clear indicator that the CASPR units were living up to our expectations,” stated David Garland, Chair of the Board of Directors for Warren Easton Charter High School Foundations Inc.

Indoor Health Impacts

 There are several health effects linked to poor indoor air quality, including those listed below.

  • Eyes, nose, and throat irritation
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart diseases
  • Headaches, fatigue, and dizziness

According to the United States National Environmental Education Foundation (NEFF), Legionnaires’ disease, caused by exposure to Legionella bacterium has been linked with poorly maintained heating and air conditioning systems in buildings. There are also multiple studies on the phenomenon known as “Sick Building Syndrome” or SBS. SBS is a phrase used to describe building occupants who experience health impacts and discomfort, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The affected individuals often report feeling better when they stay away from a particular indoor setting for a period.

Sparta management is hoping that with their various technologies, including CASPR, they can help more businesses improve indoor air quality, allowing employees to focus on their work instead of constantly worrying about their health.

The Cost of Cleaning Solar Panels and a Possible Solution

– Teresa Madaleno:

The global solar power market is expected to grow from just over 184 billion to 293 billion by 2028. While this sounds like great progress for the environment, what many people don’t consider is the amount of water required to clean the panels.

Generally, small solar power systems require a modest amount of water for cleaning collection and reflection surfaces, but with solar expected to reach 10 percent of global power generation by 2030, it becomes a significant amount of water. Regular cleaning is a must if systems are going to operate efficiently. The good news is that a group of engineers believe they have a waterless solution to the dust that accumulates on solar panels. They think it can be especially useful in areas of the world where water is limited.

Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have devised a system that uses electrostatic repulsion to cause dust particles to fly off panel surfaces so there is no need for water or brushing. Here’s how it works – an electrode passes just above the solar panel’s surface, putting out an electrical charge that repels the dust particles by a charge applied to the panel itself. It can function automatically with an electric motor and guide rails along the side of the panel.

The same team of engineers conducted tests that demonstrated that the drop-off of energy output from panels with dust can reach 30 percent after just one month without cleaning. They calculated that globally, a 3 to 4 percent reduction in power output from panels would lead to a loss of anywhere between $3.3 billion and $5.5 billion.

Some of the largest solar panel systems in the world are in desert like regions. In many cases, water must be trucked in from a significant distance away. Some people try dry brushing or scrubbing, but it can leave deposits on surfaces thus reducing light transmission. The automatic cleaning system could reduce the time, energy, and costs of cleaning with water.

You can read more about the solar panel cleaning solution in a paper published in Science Advances.

Another Example of AI Helping Mankind and the Planet

Lane Simond:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers several advantages to the healthcare sector. Learning algorithms can be precise, allowing humans to gain insights into diagnostics and patient outcomes. In a previous blog we explained how Sparta Group uses AI within its Workplace Safe Entry program to help keep workers safe on the job. Now we’ve learned that a research team is using AI to try to provide benefits to the Environment.

Research scientists at Texas A&M have been able to use artificial intelligence to produce algae as a reliable and economic source for biofuel.

To date, bringing algal biofuel to market has been difficult due to low yield and the high cost of harvesting. Experts report that limited light penetration and poor cultivation cause the low yield. Using a patented AI learning model to predict algae light penetration and growth, the research team could see that the model allows for constant harvest of synthetic algae using hydroponics to help maintain rapid growth with the best light availability. The researchers are using an aggregation-based sedimentation approach to achieve low-cost biomass harvesting.

Here’s what Texas A&M Research Scientist, Joshua Yuan told AgriLife Today:

The aggregation-based sedimentation is achieved by engineering a fast-growing blue-green algae strain, Synechococcus elongatus UTEX2973, to produce limonene, which increases cyanobacterial cell surface hydrophobicity and enables efficient cell aggregation and sedimentation.

The Research team’s findings were published in Nature Communications and point out that scaling-up with an outdoor pond can yield biomass of about 43.3 grams per square meter per day thus bringing the price down to $281 per ton. To produce ethanol from corn, it costs $260 per ton and requires fermentation. Also, corn must be ground, mushed and cooked before fermentation, using up more energy.

Air Pollution Linked to Risk of ADHD in Children

Lane Simond:

Attention-Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a well-known neurodevelopmental disorder that strikes children. Over 120 million children worldwide suffer from ADHD, and a new study suggests the rising number of cases could be partially linked to pollution.

The study was published in the journal, Environment International. It found that children living in greener areas with less pollution have a 50 percent lower risk of developing ADHD. In fact, a lack of green spaces might have up to 62 percent increased risk of ADHD.

During the study experts used data from 37,000 children in Vancouver, British Columbia. The possible relationship between exposure and access to green areas, small pollution particles (PM2.5), as well as noise in early life was analysed.

Some of the researchers involved in the study are suggesting that this could represent an environmental inequality, where children living in areas with more pollution and less green space face a “disproportionally greater risk.”

The possible associations between the three environmental exposures and ADHD were assessed using a statistical model that determined hazard ratios. The researchers reported 1,217 cases of ADHD, equivalent to 4.2 per cent of the total study population. The green space analysis showed that participants living in areas with a higher percentage of vegetation had a lower risk of ADHD. The study went as far as to demonstrate that a 12 per cent increase in vegetation percentage could be linked to a 10 per cent reduction in risk of developing ADHD. It is worth noting that participants with a higher exposure to fine particles had higher risk of ADHD. No associations were found for the environmental exposures NO2 and noise.

According to the Regional European office of the World Health Organization (WHO), modern lifestyle is associated with stress, lack of physical exercise and exposure to environmental hazards. On the other hand, green spaces, including parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery promote serenity, good mental and physical health, as well as reduce morbidity and mortality.

For more on the importance of outdoor green space visit our previous blog on the subject. It relates to the green-focused housing development Sparta Group is involved with.