May 11, 2021
How Art Can Tell Part of the Story Behind a Carbon Utilization Company
“At Carbon Upcycling, we understand the important role that art plays in portraying the magnitude of the world's largest problems,” says the company’s chief of staff, who graduated from both the Haskayne School of Business and the Faculty of Arts in 2019. Although Carbon Upcycling has been converting CO2 gas into solid products since 2014, the idea of collaborating with artists to showcase carbon capture is a new one. Its artist-in-residence program currently supplies materials, technical support and business-development skills to artists who, in turn, produce paintings, worry stones, soap dishes, planters and T-shirts — all of which are available for purchase on Carbon Upcycling’s new e-commerce site, Expedition Air. Besides her other job as chief of staff, Savilow doubles as venture lead at Expedition Air.
What exactly does Carbon Upcycling Technologies do and how does it link to Expedition Air?
We are a carbon-utilization company that produces advanced additives for use in many industries, but particularly in concrete and plastics. After making a few consumer products, we started to receive more inbound inquiries from consumer product manufacturers and artists who wanted to use our material in their work. We decided to embrace that and build a consumer-facing brand . . . that’s how Expedition Air was born, which just happened in March of 2021.
Is there a story behind the name, Expedition Air?
The definition of “expedition” is a journey undertaken for a specific purpose. It also means speed. As a company with a mission of driving climate action, the term “expedition” resonates with the time crunch we’re under to make significant change and the need for everyone to work together in this excursion. Air was added because we use gaseous CO2 in our products.
How exactly does every purchase support the advancement of carbon capture?
We are democratizing products that integrate materials made from captured carbon emissions. With each purchase, consumers are demonstrating support for the carbon capture and utilization industry. In addition to our physical products, theoffset packages we offer on our website quantify the carbon impact that individuals have. Funding from the packages go to select projects that reduce carbon emissions.
How many staff now work at Carbon Upcycling?
We have six full-time employees, five of whom are UCalgary alumni. Apoorv Sinha was enrolled in the MSc program of MSc in Chemical Engineering at the U of C 2011-12 and has been working on U of C projects ever since as part of the research we do at Carbon Upcycling. Other alumni on our team include Ryan Bourns, MSc in sustainable energy development, 2018; Peter Zhou, BSc in Chemical Engineering with a nanoscience focus, 2016; and Natalie Giglio, BComm, 2020.
How many products do you sell?
We have over 40 products and carbon-offset packages on the Expedition Air e-commerce website. The most popular are the concrete planters made by our partner, Vessel, as well as the T-shirts and worry stones made by our 2020 artist-in-residence, Annalee Levin. We dropship our products directly from our partners to reduce shipping emissions.
When will you scale up your product line at Expedition Air?
We offer a range of products on our site but we are also in the product-development phase with some larger consumer brands and we are looking to roll out new products soon. We’re always looking for more corporate partnerships with companies interested in integrating this material into their products.
How should a person test out their idea before launching something like you did?
After market research, launching a small pilot or minimum viable product is a great way to test out the market need for your idea.
Where do you hope your business is in five or 10 years?
I hope that Expedition Air turns into the consumer brand for products made from captured carbon emissions. Companies and consumers, alike, would recognize us as a leader in the Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage industry and rely on us to provide material that decarbonizes their products.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned at UCalgary?
The U of C taught me to take advantage of all opportunities and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. As a student, I tried to get involved in as many clubs, travel and internships as possible and some of my biggest learning moments happened through them.