As Earth Overshoot Day arrives sooner every year, it’s beyond clear that we’re not living within our planet’s means. We dump eight billion kilos of plastic into the sea every year. We pollute the land as we callously raise and slaughter animals in unnatural conditions. We poison the air with our attachment to non-renewable electricity and toxin-spewing vehicles. We waste water while others fall victim to desertification.
It’s time for some hope. Global Shakers has prepared a list of 10 startups fighting to make our world greener, healthier, and more sustainable — using futuristic technology developed in space, award-winning academic design, and our best impulses to pull together and help each other.
It’s in the name: it’d be impossible to avoid mentioning vegan burger company Impossible Foods, which has pioneered the use of a lab-generated, plant-based burgers that taste every bit as good as their living counterparts. The company, which recently raised $300m at a $1.5bn valuation, has partnered with fast-food chain Burger King for the Impossible Whopper, and aims to move into Asia in 2019 — a market which consumes more than 46% of the world’s meat.
This Swedish water-saving company, set up in 2015, is on the cusp of huge growth. It has created a tap nozzle that turns a regular stream of water into a fine mist, using 98% less water. The creation fits onto any tap in under a minute and can be adjusted to a stronger stream for filling up a cup or a jug of water, while still using almost 80% less water. Altered secured $1.8m of investment in late 2018; won the 2018 Climate solver award; and has partnered with IKEA to sell the nozzle in-store.
The Great Bubble Barrier
Amsterdam’s The Great Bubble Barrier is using air to remove plastic pollution from rivers without disturbing or hurting fish. The technology creates a barrier of air bubbles that push plastic and other waste towards the sides of a river, intercepting pollution before it flows into the ocean and allowing for easy collection. Although the startup is in its early stages, waiting for a full-scale pilot in the Netherlands, The Great Bubble Barrier is on a clear path towards growth: it was recently selected as the winner of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge for sustainable business, ahead of 800 other applicants. The two-year-old startup says that it wants to move into Asia “as quickly as possible”, given 8 of the 10 most polluting rivers in the world are in the continent.
This company, set up in 2014, has the ambitious aim to use drones to plant 500 billion trees by 2060. The company says that two operators could work with a fleet of 10 drones each to plant 400,000 trees per day — a speed 10 times faster than traditional hand planting. In Myanmar, a country plagued by the loss of coastal mangroves, Biocarbon Engineering has already succeeded in growing seeds planted through ‘seed missiles’ into saplings around 20 inches tall.
Sweden’s Sono Motors has come up with an intoxicating transport alternative: an electric car powered by the sun. A car that produces no emissions while being driven, and tops up its regular charge with renewable energy generated through 248 integrated solar cells. The startup, which has the support of automotive giants including Bosh, already has 4,000 pre-orders for the ‘Sion’. The vehicles will be available from 2021 for a price of 25,500 euros.
Ride-sharing company BlaBlaCar has been dubbed the “first smart green unicorn made in Europe”, with a valuation of $1.6bn. The company allows users across 22 countries to sell empty seats in their car whilst driving from one destination to another. What’s clever about the company is that the drivers and passengers ride together on a private basis, meaning no users needs a license for passenger transport or are considered to make a taxable profit. BlaBlaCar’s growth seems assured: it recently secured $101m in investment, and launched BlaBlaBus, a bus service across France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
This startup, from Munich, describes itself as a “leader in home climate management”. Its technology and associated smartphone app control domestic heating and air conditioning systems, offering advice on how to improve energy efficiency and when to air rooms to improve air quality. Since its founding in 2011, Tado has grown to encompass over 150 employees, growing at a reported 400% every year in 12 European markets, USA and Singapore. The startup says it is considering an IPO within the next few years.
This startup has hit upon a new way of offsetting carbon emissions: a monthly subscription to measurable, validated tree planting projects. The creators say previous programmes had struggled with fraud or “outright failure”, given that there was no transparency as to whether trees had been planted or remained in place. Wren’s offering, by contrast, allows users to check regular satellite imagery to ensure their planted trees still exist — and aims to be the first step towards carbon neutrality for individuals, corporations and states.
Another Swedish company, Orbital Systems, is bringing water-saving technology used in space to everyday life. Orbital has collaborated with NASA on Oas, a digital recirculating shower system that reportedly reduces water wastage by 90% — helping the world and saving families money in one fell swoop. Oas continually purifies the same batch of water, analysing it 20 times per second and only disposing of dirty water. In late 2018 the startup received a 15 million euro loan from the European Investment Bank to help commercialise its products and scale-up manufacturing.
Lille-based eco startup Energic is using 2019, and a recent investment of 500,000 euros, to expand beyond France and take its ‘gamified’ approach to energy saving international. The company has produced an app that encourages teams to compete to help the environment, with eco-friendly rewards provided to the most successful groups. Over 100,000 activities have been organised to date, leading to average energy savings of 10%. The company says it hopes to double its workforce this year and widen its focus to include print, waste and mobility.
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber
Join the discussion