Let's get clear on the "Bioeconomy."

Let's first take a look at some of the most accepted definitions out there.

  1. The term 'biobased product' as defined by Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), means a product determined by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is composed in whole or in significant part, of biological products or renewable domestic agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials) or forestry materials.

  2. The European Commission defines the bioeconomy as "the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value-added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products, and bioenergy.

  3. The economic activity fueled by research and innovation in the biological sciences; derived from renewable raw materials.

  4. The bioeconomy is a global industrial transition of sustainably utilizing renewable aquatic and terrestrial biomass resources in energy, intermediate, and final products for economic, environmental, social, and national security benefits.

  5. The Bioeconomy Initiative focuses on biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower produced from renewable biomass material and wastes.

  6. The sustainable production and commercialization of products, goods, and services from raw and re-used renewable natural/biological materials made possible through the interaction of industry, educators, and policy-makers

  7. An interdisciplinary interaction of industry, law-makers, and educators to promote the production, distribution, consumption, and marketing of biological materials and bio-based products, including the conversion of waste streams into value-added products

So how do we define it at the Green Pill, and how can we describe it in a way that means more to even more people?

Although there are several definitions presented here, they have quite a bit of common ground. They employ many of the same keywords, and these shared concepts can be used to explain the bioeconomy better.

Keyword 1: Biomass

Utilizing biomass is one of the most fundamental qualifiers for any innovation's inclusion in the bioeconomy. Biomass is a natural and biological material of aquatic or terrestrial origins. Some examples of biomass are wood, manure, plants, algae, and crops. Biomass can be used for food, feed, bioproducts like sustainable packaging or consumer products, or for fuels by using its stored chemical energy.

Keyword 2: Waste

The bioeconomy is all about eliminating waste. Rather than viewing by-products and wastes as problems, the bioeconomy looks at them as new opportunities to create even more valuable bio-products, biofuels, and more. An example of a bioeconomy waste would be agricultural crop residue.

Aemetis's biofuels are a perfect example of biomass waste utilization. Rather than burning local orchard waste, Aemetis uses the waste to create valuable and sustainable fuels.

Keyword 3: Renewable

Renewable means that the raw material used can be replenished. Unlike resources whose depletion is equivalent to an irreversible loss, renewable resources will not run out.

Keyword 4: Interdisciplinary

Inclusivity is at the heart of the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy efforts look to include individuals at all levels of education and of variable backgrounds. From grade school students to high education, working professionals in any field, and legislators, the bioeconomy recognizes the importance of considering and including everyone as a key stakeholder in the fight against climate change.

Keyword 5: Value

Lastly, "value" and "value-added" are important keywords for any bioeconomy definition. Value refers to the economic value of the bioeconomy and its innovations. The bioeconomy is the child of an early push for environmental justice, which pitted the environment against economics. However, this was and still is the Achilles heel of sustainable movements. The bioeconomy deviates significantly from its predecessor in that it takes a much more realistic look at the situation. Ultimately, a successful and genuinely sustainable initiative cannot ignore jobs and the economy. In short, the bioeconomy recognizes that innovations need to be economically sustainable in addition to environmentally sustainable. To achieve both, bioeconomy innovations aim to add value to the environment, consumers' lives, and the economy as a whole. Thus, the bioeconomy equates combatting climate change with jobs and prosperity.

The goal of the Green Pill is to increase awareness of the bioeconomy. One of the biggest obstacles is that audiences are too often scared off by the name, or explanations get lost amidst the interpretations. Getting clear on the bioeconomy is the first step in increasing awareness, which isn't all too complicated. In truth, it is a complex topic, but that doesn't mean we can settle for a lack of understanding just because explaining it seems challenging. So, I have come up with three ways I explain the bioeconomy depending on who the audience is.

How I explain it to an elementary-school student: The bioeconomy is our way of caring for the planet and all the people living on it.

How I explain it to a middle- or high-schooler: The bioeconomy is an initiative that considers the environment, the economy, and our society.

How I explain it to college students & professionals: The bioeconomy is a collaborative effort that takes renewable biomass and waste and converts it into environmentally friendly, socially conscious, and economically valuable products.

This is how I explain the bioeconomy to newcomers and how I define it here in my blog. Understanding the industry is the first step in becoming a champion of the bioeconomy.

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