Greywater into beer? Environmental innovations being discussed at APEC events

The APEC University Leaders Forum drew more than 130 University presidents, professors, researchers, and politicians from APEC's 21 member economies to San Francisco's Commonwealth Club Tuesday, for a day of speeches and panel discussions on the topic "Investing in Tomorrow's Biodiversity."

Eric Palkovacs, one of the Forum organizers and a professor at UC Santa Cruz says it was exciting to hear people discuss a wide range of environmental issues.

"We talked about the important role of biodiversity. We talked about the important role of climate change in coastal communities, in particular. That's obviously a big issue here in California. We talked about water, the importance of water in agriculture, and then we talked about food security," said Palkovacs.

"Government and the corporate sector are not going to move as far as we need them to in the time that we have," said Scott Sampson, the keynote speaker and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, "If the general public can get aligned on what's needed in a thriving future, we can influence government, we can influence the corporate sector, and one way we can do that is through higher education."

"We have growing concerns around sea level rise, and increased frequency of storms and storm surge and damage associated with those sorts of things," said Karen Fisher, associate professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, who participated in one of the panels.

"For Filippinos for example, climate change is real. It is not a theoretical concept. It is not an abstract concept. We feel it in the form of more frequent typhoons. Stronger ones," said Angelo Jimenez, President of the University of the Philippines who says he hopes universities will play a greater role in getting involved in the discussions with policymakers and getting messages about science and the  climate to the general public.

"We try to push it, but for the developing country and developed country we may push at a different pace," said Dr. Paveesuda Decharin, assistant director at Synphaet Seriruk Hospital in Thailand.

The pressures of global population growth was also a topic of discussion when it came to food security.

"When we think about trying to get to 2050, we need about 50% more food. And that's a huge challenge, because we're going to add another 1-1.5 billion people to the planet," said Jack Bobo, director of the Food Systems Institute at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

There was a call for professors, entrepreneurs and politicians to work together.

"We need more innovation but we need governments to put in place the laws, and policies, and regulations that allow those new innovations to come to market because science moves fast and governments move slow," said Bobo.

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Across town, preparations for the APEC CEO Summit brought attendees to Epic Cleantec, a San Francisco water recycling startup on Market Street where the golden toilet statue said it all.

"Our elected officials, our leaders came together and said why are we still using fresh water from our national parks to flush our toilets?" said Aaron Tartakovsky, Co-founder & CEO of Epic Cleantec, which is started with his father.

"San Francisco is the first city in the country to actually require that all new large buildings have to have on-site water recyling systems," said Tartakovsky, who led a tour for APEC attendees of the company facility which has a special chemical process that makes waste water into usable gray water and soil.

"Within this little one block radius we have three of the first on-site water recycling systems in the world, which for us is exciting because we have visitors from all around the world," said Tartakovsky showed their recycling process in action.

"We have 70% of the world's population by 2050. The rate at which we're building new buildings globally is like another New York City every month from now until then. We have to do things differently," said Tartakovsky.

Epic Cleantec has even devised a way of turning greywater into beer, which they say will be served at one APEC reception this week.