Mar 11, 2010
Name: Danny Day
Job: Founder and President of Eprida
Why he’s brave: His company offers a promising method for absorbing and burying excess carbon dioxide.
Quote: “We have 3 billion people out there who are at risk for climate change and they can be making money solving our global problem.”
Indigenous tribes of the Amazon Basin had a neat trick for sequestering carbon: they buried a combination of animal by-products and charcoal in their fields, which made their crops grow in abundance. Thousands of years later, that soil, known as “terra preta,” remains exceptionally fertile—and rich in carbon. Day believes that this process could be the key to relieving the atmosphere of its burgeoning levels of carbon dioxide. He and others advocate expanded use of a material called biochar, which results when organic waste—like peanut shells or chicken excrement—is cooked in a special container that limits its exposure to oxygen. This process creates small pellets of charcoal (biochar) that lock in the carbon from the cooked organic matter—preventing it from escaping back into the atmosphere—and generates gasses that can be used as fuel. When the biochar is buried in the right agricultural areas, it enriches the soil, increases crop yields, and keeps the carbon trapped beneath the ground. The NASA climate expert James Hansen says that the carbon could be stored for “centuries to millennia.” Eprida hopes to use the biochar to soak up carbon dioxide at polluting factories and then bury it in areas with poor soil quality—potentially addressing two grave problems with one elegant solution.