On Friday 20th September, the world unified in what has been called the biggest climate protest in history. Millions of people took to the streets, many ‘skipping’ school or work, in an estimated 185 countries. Never has the message been more clear — we are genuinely afraid for our future and we demand that those with power listen to us and take action.
We can of course empower ourselves too. We have the power of protest and collaboration as we have seen. We have the power to change our carbon heavy choices and actions. And we have the power to choose the products that we buy and the companies that we invest in. In the face of climate catastrophe, it might seem trivialising to talk about ‘conscious consumerism’. However it would be naive to imagine that overnight people will stop flying, or buying electronics, or ordering their shopping online. With that in mind, here are the people we think genuinely stand out for putting the planet above any other variable.
The Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is a collaborative competition that tasks students and professors with developing innovative materials for our sustainable future. Working in cross-industry teams, participants leverage natural substances to engineer solutions to social problems. The high profile sponsors include Turkish denim manufacturer Orta and British fashion designer Stella McCartney. BDC 2019 winners, from Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes, created a power-free refrigeration system that enables vaccines or other volatile materials to be easily transported to remote regions. It relies on a protein isolated from a specific bacteria. You can enter BDC 2020 here
The Body Shop is the latest global retailer to implement a scheme that reduces the amount of virgin plastic used in production. Despite the numerous initiatives from brands, each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in oceans globally (UNEP, 2018). It is imperative for companies, consumers and legislative bodies to face the plastic problem together. The Body Shop is collaborating with international non-profit Plastics for Change to launch a recycled plastic scheme that supports India’s Bengaluru-based waste pickers. It will ensure that local employees receive a fair wage and better working conditions, while improving access to education, financial services and healthcare.
In partnership with global brands and retailers, Loop is providing a new zero-waste online shopping platform. The platform allows customers to order branded grocery, personal care and cleaning products which arrive in robust, multi-use packaging made from aluminium and glass. Loop then collect the used products free of charge in a reusable tote bag, to be sterilised and replenished. They are currently rolling out in the mid-US and Paris, with a view to expanding globally, so watch this space!
Scientists at this London start-up have conceived a way to reduce CO2 levels in polluted cities using bio-solar panels, whilst simultaneously producing next-gen nutrition. The BioSolar Leaf system facilitates plant growth, such as microalgae and phytoplankton, on solar panels. Through photosynthesis, algae convert solar energy and CO2 into breathable oxygen. Each panel absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide as 100 trees per day.
Atlanta is building the country’s biggest edible forest, where local residents can pick and grow their own food. Built by a US non-profit and a collective of local charities, the seven-acre forest will include walking trails with more than 100 fruit and nut trees providing figs, apples, nectarines and plums. People will also have access to planter boxes to home-grow fresh produce such as squash and tomatoes. The area served by the development is a food desert where a third of the population lives below the poverty line. While supporting these residents, the project will also help the city to reach its goal of ensuring that 86% of its population live within half a mile of a fresh food source by 2021. This exciting project serves as a blueprint for how urban areas can support themselves as climate change destabilises global food supply chains.
This online community is fighting for your ‘right to fix’ your products, in a bid to move away from the throw away culture and e-waste, that is damaging our wallets, and more importantly our environment. Based on a wiki-model, the site provides online repair guides and resources to allow people to fix or modify just about anything. From computers and phones, to home appliances, to vehicles, currently iFixIt offer over 54000 manuals and more than 153000 solutions.
The Dutch airline KLM have teamed up with researchers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to radically reimagine air travel, with the ‘Flying-V”. The new lightweight design, which would see passengers seated within the body of the wings, aims to use up to 20% less fuel. A further example of the airline’s commitment to a more sustainable future for aviation is the KLM Fly Responsibly campaign. Henri Werij, dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft, explains that “Our ultimate aim is one of emission-free flight,” adding “Our cooperation with KLM offers a tremendous opportunity to bring about real change.”
The premise is to provide a feedback loop, informing businesses with a commitment to sustainability, exactly which issues matter most to their customers. This is turn allows consumers to buy into the ethos of companies that share their values. All of the businesses on the app have been verified using the CoGo impact framework. The app will recommend businesses based on location and the things you care about. From hairdressers, to eating out, to beauty products, CoGo aims to make ‘ethical living easy’.
An ethical bank on a mission to make money work for positive, social, environmental and cultural change. As a result, the bank only uses customers’ money from current accounts to lend to organisations that can demonstrate a positive social or environmental impact, with a big focus on sustainability. Their upfront banking policies on charges, overdrafts and monthly fees are designed to make banking fairer, more honest and less punitive.
This company is tackling climate change by creating ‘altered nozzle products’ — a water nozzle that reduces water usage up to 98%. The nozzle can be installed onto any existing tap in just 30 seconds, where it then turns the tap’s flow of water into a heavy mist. The increased surface area of the water means that you get more use from less water. When the amount of water used commercially and per household is considered, the Altered Nozzle is boasted to “pay for itself within months.”