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Monday, February 26, 2024

Cool Davis award winners recognized for sustainable efforts


Cool Davis honors Eco-Heros, promoting sustainable practices in consumption, transportation, built energy

Every year, Cool Davis honors Eco-Heros and grants Climate Solution awards to local businesses, organizations and residents for their efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cool Davis is a group of local partners that seek to implement the City of Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

During a ceremony held at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame on April 20, Cool Davis nominees were recognized for their environmental achievements in the local area under the categories of consumption, transportation and built energy.

Awardees include Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy; Parvaneh Keivanfar and Alex Gray, owners of Butterfly Vegan Bakery; and the UC Davis Aggie Reuse Store. Each of these recipients have unique, personal journeys toward their exemplary efforts to create low carbon alternatives, reduce carbon footprints and achieve energy efficiency.

Mike Hart, Sierra Energy

Mike Hart, CEO of Sierra Energy in Davis, was named an Eco-Hero for operating the first railroad to run on 100 percent biodiesel in 2001. Hart also developed the FastOx gasifier, which takes in unrecycable waste and then breaks down that waste into liquid metal, liquid stone and energy-dense synthetic gas.

Hart explained that from this gas, Sierra Energy can make renewable hydrogen, fertilizer, electricity or biodiesel, which is 20 times cleaner than the California fuel standard. By recycling garbage and converting it to usable forms, Sierra Energy is able to eliminate greenhouse gases produced by waste decomposing at landfills, such as methane and carbon dioxide. 

Over the past 10 years, Sierra Energy has built prototypes and demonstrated that the technology works. Additionally, Sierra Energy has contracted with the U.S. Army and the California Energy Commission to build their first commercial system in Monterey County.

Hart, who was named “The Champion of Change” by the Obama administration, explained that if Sierra Energy could make their technology accessible to the rest of the world, greenhouse gas output would decrease by 20 percent.

“We’ve decided to come up with a revolutionary way of sharing our technology. One company cannot save the world and is not big enough to build [this technology]. We decided to put the technology in the hands of entrepreneurs around the world,” Hart said.

Sierra Energy is putting their technology on an online auction, where people can acquire the exclusive rights to Sierra Energy’s technology. They can then use the technology to help their community for less than one percent of the normal cost.

Parvaneh Keivanfar and Alex Gray, Butterfly Vegan Bakery

Vegan baker Parvaneh Keivanfar and her husband Alex Gray won a Cool Davis award for a zero-waste business under the category of consumption. Keivanfar, a Davis resident, first began her journey to share healthy, plant-based desserts with a low carbon-footprint in January 2014. Butterfly Vegan Bakery is where Keivanfar first introduced her delicious vegan desserts to the Davis Community.

Keivanfar’s efforts to start a green business began when she was living in her native Iran. She realized how difficult it was to find healthy, vegan desserts and wanted to share her approach with the rest of the world.

“It was always my dream to start a business and I came to the U.S. with this dream. I was vegan back in my country and it was so difficult,” Keivanfar said. “When I came to Davis it was like a piece of heaven, because there are a lot of alternatives and people with similar interests. I got really into vegan baking, because there were all of these awesome substitutes I could use.”

All of the products that Keivanfar uses are local, plant-based, wrapped in compostable packaging made with corn starch and delivered by bicycle. The baked goods from Vegan Butterfly Bakery such as cookies and muffins can be found at the Davis Food Co-op. The bakery also visits the Davis Farmers Market on Wednesdays and the Midtown Farmers Market on Saturdays where tarts, crisps and pies made with only local and seasonal fruits are sold.

The UC Davis Aggie Reuse Store

The Aggie Reuse Store, located next to the UC Davis Silo, was awarded under the category of consumption to commend their efforts in reducing consumption on campus and in the community. The store was founded five years ago by UC Davis design professor Ann Savageau and graduate students Carol Shu and Margot Bennett. Today the store is entirely run by undergraduate students as a unit of ASUCD.

The store sells a variety of items ranging from office supplies to art materials to toys and clothing. According to Nicole Garcia, the director of the Aggie Reuse Store, clothing is the largest category and most popular item sold. The store carries both men’s and women’s clothing, and the styles change according to the seasons.

The mission of the story is outlined in three pillars: waste diversion, environmental activism and creative reuse. The waste diversion efforts are illustrated in all aspects of of the store, where materials are redistributed at a low cost to the community instead of ending up in a landfill. The store also engages in environmental awareness and advocacy in order to show others the value of environmental consciousness. The store also educates others on the potential of reused materials through upcycling, which represents creative reuse.

“While we are most obviously a store, our mission extends far beyond that,” Garcia said. “We are proponents of a lifestyle change — one that puts both our environment and other people at the top of our priorities.”

Written by:SHIREEN AFKARI – city@theaggie.org


Note – May 4, 2016: Changes for accuracy and clarification have been made to the section on Sierra Energy.


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