There will soon be an app that allows users to buy surplus food that would otherwise become food waste for a discounted price from restaurants and grocery stores.
Photo credit: Flashfood via Facebook
Every year in Canada, roughly $31 billion worth of food is wasted. Flashfood, a Toronto-based app start-up founded by Josh Domingues, hopes to lower that number. App users will be able to purchase high-quality food at severely discounted prices.
“Our goal is to end hunger," Domingues told Motherboard blog. “I know it sounds crazy, but by utilizing the sharing economy and creating a sustainable company, I believe we can expand our service to the point where we can help those less fortunate."
Restaurants and grocery stores will post a photo of food that is close to its best-before date with a description and a discounted price of at least 60 percent off. That percent is required by the app, TreeHugger reported, but Domingues' target discount is 75 percent.
Flashfood users will be able to select specific stores or types of food and will receive notifications whenever a new offer is posted, Motherboard said. Customers will pay by credit card via the app and be given a confirmation code to show the retailer.
"If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of greenhouse gas, behind China and the States," Domingues told Toronto Now. "It's upsetting. It's heartbreaking."
Roughly one third of food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. An amount equivalent to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes. Lost and wasted food amounts to roughly $680 billion and $310 billion in industrialized and developing countries, respectively.
Reducing the amount of food wasted could save nearly $130 billion a year and reduce the stress placed on the planet from food production.
"The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings," Dr. Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at Waste & Resources Action Programme, said.
The program's 2015 study, Strategies to Achieve Economic and Environmental Gains by Reducing Food Waste, "produced international guidance on how to achieve that through implementing effective food waste prevention strategies that can be used across the world," Swannell added.
Photo credit: UN Food and Agriculture Organization
"The biggest issue with food waste is logistics," he said. "If a food company wants to donate its food, there are costs of transportation and preservation issues."
Flashfood will alleviate that with 75 percent of the consumer's payment going to the retailer and 25 percent to Flashfood. There are no sign up costs for the retailer and Flashfood will even provide stores with iPads to take pictures of the food available for sale, Motherboard reported.
Photo credit: Flashfood via Facebook
Fifteen Canadian restaurants have already signed up for Flashfood. Domingues also worked out a deal with a major grocery chain, according to TreeHugger.
Flashfood is set to launch Aug. 1 in Toronto, hopefully spreading the service to the rest of Canada by 2017.
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Boyan Slat's ambitious plan to rid the world's oceans of plastic has taken another step towards reality with its first prototype to be tested at sea. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, founded by the 21-year-old Slat, has deployed a 100-meter clean-up boom today in the North Sea in The Netherlands.
The electric car company made the announcement Tuesday and explained the offer in a blog post:
Tesla’s mission has always been tied to sustainability. We seek to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation by offering increasingly affordable electric vehicles. And in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.
It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.
“The world does not look for another car company, the world looks for sustainable energy companies,” Musk told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.
The prolific entrepreneur is the chairman of SolarCity, which was founded and is operated by his cousins, Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive. Musk is the largest individual shareholder of both companies, with 21.3 percent of Tesla and 22 percent of SolarCity, according to estimates.
SolarCity is the top residential solar installer in the country. Its customers pay for the panels with a monthly fee that's typically less than what they would pay to the power company. A marriage between the two companies would seamlessly tie SolarCity's panels with Tesla's Powerwall batteries. Having a solar-plus-storage system installed by a single company would allow an easier transition to customers to unhook themselves from a carbonized grid.
This morning, in a conference call to reporters and shareholders, Musk further discussed the rationale behind the offer. He said that the idea of consolidating Tesla and SolarCity "has been floated over the years" and it would be “extremely unwieldy” to operate as two companies.
Tesla makes offer to acquire SolarCity https://t.co/bo6TaeGvCJ— Tesla (@Tesla)1466544004.0
In its blog post, Tesla listed off a number of "significant benefits to our shareholders, customers and employees" if the deal is completed:
- We would be the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers. This would start with the car that you drive and the energy that you use to charge it, and would extend to how everything else in your home or business is powered. With your Model S, Model X, or Model 3, your solar panel system, and your Powerwall all in place, you would be able to deploy and consume energy in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, lowering your costs and minimizing your dependence on fossil fuels and the grid.
- We would be able to expand our addressable market further than either company could do separately. Because of the shared ideals of the companies and our customers, those who are interested in buying Tesla vehicles or Powerwalls are naturally interested in going solar, and the reverse is true as well. When brought together by the high foot traffic that is drawn to Tesla’s stores, everyone should benefit.
- We would be able to maximize and build on the core competencies of each company. Tesla’s experience in design, engineering, and manufacturing should help continue to advance solar panel technology, including by making solar panels add to the look of your home. Similarly, SolarCity’s wide network of sales and distribution channels and expertise in offering customer-friendly financing products would significantly benefit Tesla and its customers.
- We would be able to provide the best possible installation service for all of our clean energy products. SolarCity is the best at installing solar panel systems, and that expertise translates seamlessly to the installation of Powerwalls and charging systems for Tesla vehicles.
- Culturally, this is a great fit. Both companies are driven by a mission of sustainability, innovation, and overcoming any challenges that stand in the way of progress.
“This is what the world needs ... this is Earth’s solution,” Musk said of the merger this morning. Musk has long been a champion solar energy and highly critical of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.
“We have to look back on gas engine cars like we look back on steam engines,” as well as power from fossil fuels, Musk added.
The fact that Musk has the biggest slice of both companies leaves Musk in a bit of an awkward situation, media reports have noted. Electrek explained that the offer to SolarCity "will be contingent on a vote from the shareholders and Musk will abstain from voting his shares due to his vested interest in the deal."
Analysts and investors do not appear happy with the plan. Reuters reported that Tesla’s stock price spiraled more than 13 percent to $189.99 following the announcement yesterday. At the same time however, shares of SolarCity soared about 18 percent to $25.02.
This is what happened to the stocks after Tesla announced its bid for SolarCity https://t.co/KJfj1sc7jZ https://t.co/bjPgHbKmVv— MarketWatch (@MarketWatch)1466602282.0
Electrek also observed that shareholders are "calling the deal a 'bailout' of SolarCity, especially after Musk bought another $10 million worth of shares last year—before the stock fell 60 percent in 2016."
SolarCity is also in an ongoing battle against regulators and utilities in states that are unfriendly to rooftop solar, aka the "solar wars" in Nevada over net metering, which allows homeowners to offset the cost of their panels by selling any electricity they don’t use back to the grid. Nevada's NV Energy has been fighting these policies tooth and nail.
Musk, however, shot down the idea of a “bailout” of SolarCity, calling it a “false description.”
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Sysco Corp, the world's largest foodservice distributor, will be the first company of its kind to commit to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs in its entire supply chain in the U.S. by 2026.
Food distributor Sysco Corp is the latest major company to switch to cage-free eggs. Photo credit: Stephanie Frankle at Animal Place
The company, which clocked $48.7 billion in sales last year—about $10 billion more than McDonald’s—supplies food to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, hotels and inns and hospitality businesses nationwide, with approximately 425,000 customers to its name. It operates from 194 locations throughout the U.S., Bahamas, Canada, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Sysco's commitment to cage-free eggs comes after strategic conversations with The Humane League, which approached the company about the policy. The international animal protection nonprofit pointed out that although Sysco previously has an animal welfare policy and a commitment to eliminate gestation crates for sows, the company had not yet addressed the cages used in its egg supply chain. Following conversations, The Humane League and Sysco negotiated a 10-year timeline that allows the company to accommodate their massive supply chain.
Sysco's clients go through innumerable amounts of eggs, making its latest commitment a huge blow to the inhumane practice of confining egg-laying hens in cages in the U.S.
"What this means is that distributors are going cage-fee," David Coman-Hidy, executive director for The Humane League, told EcoWatch. "It’s going to impact the entire country."
Significantly, this also impacts Sysco's restaurants and other clients that have not made the decision to go cage-free, Coman-Hidy pointed out, making it "one more nail in the coffin for battery cages."
Although the label "cage-free" has its problems, the food industry's overall shift to cage-free eggs is a big step for animal welfare. The vast majority of eggs that we see in the U.S.—such as standard supermarket varieties and, yes, the ones that Sysco has been distributing—come from hens confined in battery cages. These hens cannot spread their wings, they cannot walk around or express other normal hen behaviors. They may never see the light of day.
Factory farm causes immense suffering. So help The Humane League fight it. https://t.co/8GnT5K2Sdq https://t.co/oAvCXf5M6O— The Humane League (@The Humane League)1464887965.0
So why pressure companies to switch to cage-free and not, say, "pasture-raised" or other more humane alternatives?
"We’re focused on what could reduce the most suffering," Coman-Hidy said. For now, it appears that cage-free is the most feasible and realistic switch for giant multibillion dollar companies.
Sysco said that the transition to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain by 2026 will require significant collaboration amongst industry participants, including its suppliers, to specifically address food affordability and environmental concerns. The company said it is committed to working through the supply chain to achieve a sustainable solution for both egg producers and its customers.
The Humane League has previously influenced a number of major companies across several industries, including Walmart, The Walt Disney Company, Kroger, Target, Aldi, Denny’s, Nestle, General Mills, Costco, PepsiCo, Grupo Bimbo, Unilever, Carnival Cruises and Starwood Hotels to convert exclusively to cage-free eggs.
Notably, the organization is also responsible for United Egg Producer’s recent commitment of eliminating the practice of male chick culling in the U.S. The decision will prevent the suffering of 260 million chicks and 960,000 hens each year.
The Humane League is hoping to eliminate the use of battery cages around the world and is pressuring global companies to end the practice, Coman-Hidy said.
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Aquaponics is an emerging urban farming trend that's ideal for big cities since it's relatively low-maintenance and can be set up just about anywhere, from rooftops to formerly abandoned lots and buildings.
Apple is seeking to sell a whole different product. No, not cars—yet. Try renewable energy. The iPhone maker has created an energy subsidiary in Delaware called Apple Energy LLC to sell surplus electricity generated by its various renewable energy projects.
Apple Plans to Sell Excess Rooftop Solar Energy From Headquarters https://t.co/2ruM8gq3rK #solarenergy #apple https://t.co/kOlDajSm6I— RenewableEnergyWorld (@RenewableEnergyWorld)1465581650.0
Documents seen by PV Tech show that Apple has applied to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to sell excess power from solar panels on top of its Cupertino, California headquarters as well as energy generated by its solar farms, hydroelectric plants and biogas facilities across the country.
This is big news. Most corporations usually sell surplus energy to power companies, but the tech titan is basically creating a green energy pipeline to consumers.
"If Apple’s application is approved, it will be able to sell electricity directly to its customers—eliminating the need for utility power," PV Tech observed.
In the FERC filing, Apple has requested to sell energy at market rates rather than wholesale since it's not an major energy company and cannot influence electricity prices, PV Tech noted.
“Applicant seeks the same blanket authorization and waivers of the commission’s rules and filing requirements previously granted to other entities authorized to transact at market-based rates,” Apple's tariff states.
The Apple blog 9to5Mac suspects that Apple’s FERC filing is following in the footsteps of Green Mountain Power, which also sells renewable energy to homeowners. Another guess is that Apple's potential new energy company could help fuel Apple’s long-rumored electric car project.
Apple has requested the tariff be granted within 60 days of its June 6 filing, so we'll have to wait until then to see if it takes off.
In recent years, Apple has worked hard to shrink its global carbon footprint, and CEO Tim Cook is known for being a green leader.
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Heinekens are now brewed with clean energy. The global beer company's Göss Brewery in Austria is the first carbon-neutral brewery of its scale in the world.
The facility, which kicked off its green upgrades back in 2003, has now met 100 percent of its energy needs via clean power sources including hydropower, solar thermal energy from a 1,500-square-meter photovoltaic array and biomass district heating, in which 40 percent of the brewery’s heat requirements comes from surplus heat discharged from a neighboring sawmill.
The site is also incredibly savvy with waste. It hosts its own grain fermentation plant that converts production waste into biogas—the first plant of its kind a major brewery. The grain fermentation plant converts 18,000 tons of the brewer’s grains, filter residues and other byproducts from beer-making process into biogas annually. Residues from the fermentation plant are used as fertilizer.
- Ninety percent of the waste heat generated in the brewing process is used to heat water
- A new type of boiling system is used during the brewing process, which helps to save electricity and water
- Energy generated from brewery residues will be used to generate steam and any excess volumes will be converted into electric current
- 100 percent of raw materials used at the Göss Brewery come from Austria
As Inhabitat reported, the brewery's operations will cut carbon emissions from approximately 3,000 tonnes a year to zero.
“Through a combination of innovative technology, creative thinking and partnerships with our local community, we have turned a heritage brewery into the world’s first major zero carbon brewery,” Göss brew master Andreas Werner told the publication.
“Our Göss brewery may be in a small town but our goal was to make a big impact. I am proud of what we have achieved for the Heineken Company and want to help our other breweries, and the wider brewing industry, make renewable energy part of their energy mix, just as we have done.”
The Göss Brewery's zero carbon status is only one example of Heineken's overall environmental goals. According to a blog post from Michael Dickstein, Heineken's global director of sustainable development, the beer-maker is now the world’s largest user of solar energy in beer production.
The company's Brewed by the Sun campaign boasts a number of solar achievements including:
- 100,000 glasses of Wieckse beer brewed through solar energy at the Den Bosch brewery in the south of the Netherlands
- Birra Morretti Baffo d’Oro is brewed with 100 percent Italian malted barley and 100 percent Italian sun
- The company's rooftop solar installation in Singapore, which brews the local Tiger beer, is the size of three football pitches
Heineken, the world’s third-largest brewer, is aiming to slash 40 percent of carbon emissions from global productions by 2020 through its Brewing a Better Future strategy.
Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack.
Several U.S. breweries have integrated sustainability into their business practices such as investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture and sustainable sourcing in order to reduce their environmental footprint.
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The 2016 Sustainia100 is out today and this year's solutions provide a glimpse into a global business landscape that is seizing a world of opportunities that arise from the UN's newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Get ready for an inspirational round-the-world trip to the 100 most innovative, available, scalable and sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. From health solutions that tackle climate change to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality, this year's Sustainia100 sets out the most outstanding solutions which respond to the interconnected global challenges addressed through the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to our findings, this is the year of "systemic opportunity" with more businesses around the world acknowledging the business case for solving global risks.
“The term 'systemic' often brings to mind intractable problems, such as systemic poverty or systemic corruption. The global goals give us focus and pace, so we think it's time to reclaim the word and talk about systemic opportunity, instead. The Sustainia100 shows us that the most compelling and successful solutions tackle multiple challenges and global goals, in one go," Morten Nielsen, managing director of Sustainia, explained.
The Sustainia100 is the fifth of its kind, behind which sits a database of more than 4,500 solutions from all over the world. This year's edition features solutions deployed in 188 countries and more than half come from the SME sector.
In her foreword to the Sustainia100, Lise Kingo, the executive director of United Nations Global Compact, reflects on the pace and direction set by the Sustainable Development Goals:
“The Sustainia100 offers us 100 reasons to be hopeful and inspired as we embark on this 15 year journey. The innovative thinking needed to accomplish the SDGs by 2030 already exists today. Now our task is to spread the word about these transformative solutions in order to help them scale and inspire new actors to take part in forging the path to a more sustainable future."
Since 2012, the Sustainia100 has tracked the rise of the circular economy, big data, leapfrog technologies, climate resilience and community action as some of the most defining trends within sustainable action. In 2016, the publication highlights four new trends that stem from the solutions identified.
Morten Nielsen continued: “The trends we've noted point to this new era of systemic opportunity. You can readily see this in the way that cities are becoming health facilitators or the disruption of the time-old electric grid, as just two great examples of big shifts in opportunity-spotting. It's exciting to see global markets respond favorably to this new landscape of sustainable action."
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Scientists estimate that more than 5 million pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans. From flip-flops to microbeads, this pollution poses a serious risk for marine animals, which often mistake plastic for food and starve to death or get caught in plastic packaging and suffocate. Giant plastic islands like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can span for miles.
Since it’s too late to stop that trash from entering the seas, the question is how do we clean it up? Here are some creative ideas.
1. Run Green
Activewear companies are known for using synthetic fibers and plastics in their products to make them more durable. Alongside Patagonia and Nike, sportswear giant Adidas will start showcasing sleek, ocean-friendly designs. Last year, Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans, an organization that provides a platform for designers, to focus on creating inventive, sustainable new products. The Adidas x Parley, which hits the market later this year, will be made from recovered ocean plastic, run through a 3-D printer to create a stylish running shoe.
2. Guilt-Free Drinks
Buying six-packs of soda can have a deadly effect on sea turtles, seals and seabirds—even if you recycle the cans. The plastic rings that hold the cans together can get tangled on an unsuspecting animal’s neck or accidentally eaten, which can kill an animal or stunt its growth. Enter the Edible Six Pack Ring, a potential replacement for its plastic cousin. Created by Saltwater Brewery in Florida, these digestible rings are made from barley and other natural materials, so they are biodegradable and sea life can safely eat them. We’ll drink to that!
3. Style Guide
Pharrell Williams might not be the first person who comes to mind when you think about green innovations, but the singer turned fashion designer is making waves in the world of ecofriendly fashion. Williams’s newly released clothing line, RAW for the Oceans, is helping turn ocean plastic into wearable fashion. The line is part of his larger G-Star RAW clothing collection, which is made using a four-step process that takes plastics found along shorelines worldwide and breaks them down into a weavable clothing fiber called Bionic Yarn, a product cofounded by Williams. The music star’s new ocean-centric line includes trendy jeans, graphic tees and modern kimonos.
4. Plastic Paradise
Trash may be turning our oceans into a deadly plastic soup, but SPARK, an international architectural design firm is looking to turn this polluting mess into something beautiful. The company hopes to repurpose plastic ocean garbage into brightly colored, solar-powered beach huts along Singapore’s East Coast Park. The huts will utilize high-density polyethylene plastic—known for its flexibility—from the South Pacific Garbage Patch to create the “scales” that make up each hut’s outer shell. The artichoke-shaped structures are designed to perch atop recycled-glass stems so that future beach campers can look out across a (hopefully) cleaner ocean.
5. Clean Dishes, Clean Ocean
The cleaning-products company Method offers an ocean plastic dish and hand soap that is doing double-duty against pollution. Method recovers plastic from the ocean, prevents the creation of new plastic by recycling and helps clean shorelines, including removing over one ton of plastics from Hawaii’s beaches. Plus, its soaps are largely biodegradable and its factory uses wind energy to power production. Once a limited-time product, Method’s ocean-plastic bottles are now available across the country.
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By Conscious Company Magazine
Conscious Company Magazine partnered with leading accelerators, incubators and educational institutions to identify 17 rising entrepreneurs who see things differently, are shaking the tree, disrupting industries, making money and doing good. These individuals are bold. They're young. They're fearless. And they are the face of the up-and-coming generation of change makers willing to risk it all to make the world a better place.
Angaza LTD. – Maria Mayanja, Co-Founder
- Founded: 2012
- Location: Kengali, Rwanda
- Industry: Ethical Fashion
For Upcycling Non-Biodegradable Waste Into Accessories
At Angaza Ltd., Maria and her team upcycle Kigali's non-biodegradable waste into fashion accessories such as bags, wallets and gadget covers, creating green jobs along the way. The team is also revolutionizing the way environmental issues are taught in schools in Rwanda by engaging students in fun, hands-on activities such as tree planting, competitions and upcycling to engender a more conscious generation of Africans rooted in sustainable practices.
“I am passionate about environmental conservation and want to help people understand it better in a 'non-rocket science' kind of way."
Because International – Kenton Lee, Founder
- Founded: 2009
- Location: Nampa, ID
- Industry: Ethical Footwear
For Creating a Shoe That Kids Won't Outgrow
Over two billion people have some kind of soil-transmitted disease. More than 300 million kids do not have shoes—and countless more have shoes that do not fit. When kids have shoes that fit, they can stay healthy and continue to go to school, help their families and communities and have as many chances to succeed as possible. Kenton and the team at Because International have created The Shoe That Grows—a shoe that can adjust and expand five sizes and last up to five years—to address this problem. The team distributes shoes to kids worldwide, providing a pair of shoes that fits year after year.
“The mission of my life is to put other people in the best possible position to succeed and I absolutely love doing this for kids around the world. I am constantly inspired as I listen to those living in extreme poverty to hear their thoughts, ideas and dreams for how their daily lives can be improved."
Ecoprise – Bhuwan K.C., Founder and CEO
- Founded: 2012
- Location: Nepal
- Industry: Clean Energy
For Providing Clean Energy to Base-of-the-Pyramid Communities
Through Ecoprise, Bhuwan and his team provide clean energy solutions to base-of-pyramid communities in Nepal to create economic, environmental and social benefits. The company's model is based on appropriate technology design, shared distribution channels and specific knowledge-transfer processes. The company works with banks, co-ops and self-help groups to develop financing programs that increase affordability and incorporate a support package that includes credit, marketing, sales materials and business skills training.
“Through my work at Ecoprise, we improve the lives of millions of Nepalis who face energy poverty and would not have knowledge and access to these solutions if we did not exist."
EZBZ Inc. – Shana Schlossberg
- Founded: 2011
- Location: New York City
- Industry: Internet Marketplace
For Connecting Consumers With Local Businesses
Shana and the folks at myEZBZ.com directly connect consumers with local businesses through an online concierge service. Using proprietary technology that can match any consumer request with related local businesses in minutes, the website presents a consumer with all reputable local businesses at the same time and creates a level playing field where large and small companies have the same opportunity to win the consumer's business. A business cannot pay more to receive an advantage and the consumer is able to support local businesses instead of the larger corporations that usually dominate first-page results on most other search platforms.
“I have been working with local businesses for over 15 years and always felt that marketing platforms work against them instead of for them. I wanted to create a platform that facilitated connections between consumers and businesses in a fair and honest way."
Green Monday – David Yeung, Co-Founder and CEO
- Founded: 2012
- Location: Hong Kong, China and U.S.
- Industry: Food
For Creating a Platform to Get a Country to “Go Green"
David Yeung and Green Monday are on a mission to combat climate change and global food insecurity. Using a plant-based diet as an entry point to promote a low-carbon, healthy and sustainable lifestyle, the group has created a platform that enables businesses, schools and individuals to make green behavior happen. The platform is built upon both a social pillar and a venture pillar. The social side drives advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and demand for a green lifestyle, while the venture side takes an active role in the market to increase the supply of green choices by way of impact investing, corporate consulting and food retail and distribution.
“Our planet is sick, people's health is suffering and animals are subject to unimaginable cruelty. As a long-time vegetarian, I know that if we can mobilize a collective shift to a more plant-based diet, all these environmental and social problems can be much alleviated."
Koe Koe Tech – Michael Lwin & Dr. Yar Zar Min Htoo
- Founded: 2013
- Location: Yangon, Myanmar
- Industry: IT, Healthcare
For Making Healthcare More Accessible
In Myanmar, eight children die every hour. Thirty-two million people suffer from infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Eighteen million people suffer from hypertension. Dr. Yar Zar Min Htoo, co-founder of Koe Koe Tech, contracted Hepatitis B from a rural doctor who reuses dirty needles. As a result, Yar Zar Min Htoo and his cousin Michael Lwin developed Koe Koe Tech. With just a phone and the company's mobile health apps, a rural person in Myanmar can gain access to Population Services International-generated information in 32 health categories; the ability to teleconsult with quality doctors (who use clean needles), rural health workers and midwives; and the ability to purchase high-quality, lower-cost health products.
“As a Myanmar-American who lived a comfortable, healthy, relatively easy life in comparison to my co-founder, I feel that it is fundamentally unjust that one's life outcomes are largely predicted by luck—luck of geographic location of birth, luck of the socioeconomic status of the family one is born into, luck of one's ethnic, gender and national identity." – Michael Lwin
Lucky Iron Fish – Gavin Armstrong, Founder and President
- Founded: 2012
- Location: Guelph, Ontario and Cambodia
- Industry: Natural Health
For Creating a Simple Solution to Combat Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is the world's most common micronutrient issue, negatively impacting the lives of half of the world's population, mainly women and children in developing countries. Gavin and the folks at Lucky Iron Fish have developed a simple solution to combat iron deficiency in Cambodia and beyond. The Lucky Iron Fish is a simple at-home fortification tool. Boiling the company's product for ten minutes as a part of food preparation can release up to 90 percent of a person's daily required iron intake. The product can be re-used for up to five years and only costs around $5. It is shaped like a fish—a symbol of luck in Cambodia.
“We are committed to being a true social enterprise with a positive social attribute in every aspect of how we do business and it is my hope that we can prove that social enterprises are not a fad but the future of business."
MiiR – Bryan Pape, Founder and CEO
- Founded: 2010
- Location: Seattle
- Industry: Adventure and Lifestyle Products
For Creating Activewear That Truly Gives Back
Bryan and his team at MiiR inspire and empower through amazing design and transparent giving. The company's line of bottles (water bottles, growlers and tumblers) directly facilitates clean water projects, its line of bags gives to educational initiatives and its line of bikes gives bikes to those in need in developing countries.
“We believe in good design and that products should be functional and beautiful and also believe companies have the unique ability to change the world for the better."
Obamastove SPC. – Yusuf Tura, Founder
- Founded: 2007
- Location: Ethiopia
- Industry: Cookstoves
For Designing An Affordable Cookstove
An estimated three billion people regularly breathe in poisonous smoke from open fire cooking. It is becoming one of the world's most pressing health and environmental problems, killing more than four million people each year, according to the World Health Organization. Yusuf Tura is tackling this problem head-on through his company Obamastove, a designer, manufacturer and distributor of locally made, low-cost cookstoves. In addition to cookstoves, Obamastove also manufactures improved briquettes, which are custom-made to fit inside its Obamastoves. The company has made, sold and delivered more than 250,000 stoves, each costing less than $10 and the product is now the top-selling stove in Ethiopia.
“The stove saves lives and the environment and creates green jobs for extremely poor communities. I am most inspired by the team that I work with and the villagers we serve who are living on less than $1 per day."
Regrained – Jordan Schwartz & Dan Kurzrock
- Founded: 2012
- Location: San Francisco
- Industry: Packaged Food
For Turning “Waste" From Breweries Into Healthy Food
Craft beer is booming and with it, so is food waste. Eighty-five percent of brewing's by product is grain—more than six billion pounds annually. Breweries extract sugars as a liquid and the physical grain that is left behind with its protein and fiber is considered “waste." Yet, this grain can offer the food system a sustainable source of nutrition. Dan and Jordan teamed up to create ReGrained to upcycle this grain and close the loop by turning it into delicious food, like granola bars.
“We are inspired by the potential to find the sweet spot between profit and purpose by creating win-wins for our customers, partners, community and planet." — Jordan Schwartz
“We see our work as an opportunity to use entrepreneurship as a means of creating a more sustainable urban economy—simultaneously upcycling 'waste' and feeding people." — Dan Kurzrock
Resonate – Ayla Schlosser & Solange Impanoyimana
- Founded: 2013
- Location: Rwanda & East Africa
- Industry: Women's Rights & International Development
For Empowering Women to Become Leaders in Their Communities
Resonate provides experiential leadership training to women and girls in Rwanda and throughout East Africa in order to support and unite them to lead change in their communities. Gender inequality inhibits the growth and development of communities both locally and globally. By coaching women to become leaders, Resonate unleashes their self-confidence, strength and power to lead positive growth in their communities.
“I want to live in a world where every little girl can be or do anything she dreams up—Resonate is building that dream into a reality." — Ayla
“Every day I get to witness the transformation of the women we work with—women like Francine, who was previously unable to live up to her dream to be a leader and who now conducts monthly meetings to solve problems in her community—and that gives me hope for a better future." — Solange Impanoyimana
Shea Yeleen – Rahama Wright, CEO and Founder
- Founded: 2005
- Location: Washington, DC and Ghana
- Industry: Beauty and Agri-business
For Employing Women Through Shea Butter
The motto of Shea Yeleen is Transform your Skin, Transform a Community. For the last decade, Rahama and the Shea Yeleen team have committed their efforts to supporting economic empowerment of women producers of shea butter in rural Ghana. The company helps Ghanaian women bring high-quality organic shea butter products to the global marketplace while providing them with a source of living wages. Through the business model that Rahama has developed, shea trees are protected from being cut down, consumers have access to healthy and natural bodycare products and women are financially and emotionally empowered.
“I want to live in a world where women everywhere have the financial stability to care for themselves and their families. Each time I visit the shea cooperative and hear a story from a woman who was able to save money or send her child to school, it keeps me going."
Tonle – Rachel Faller, Founder and Creative Director
- Founded: 2013
- Location: Producing products in Cambodia, selling internationally in 15 countries
- Industry: Ethical Fashion
For Turning Garment Waste Into Clothes
The garment industry is the world's second largest polluter, throwing away about half of what it produces (approximately 50 million tons) in wasteful manufacturing. Imagine if we could cut this pollution in half just by wasting less. Rachel and her team at Tonlé are on a mission to prove that that's possible. Using remnants discarded by large manufacturers, the company produces beautiful, comfortable garments and uses every scrap, creating zero waste in the process. In one year, Rachel and her team have saved 22,000 lbs of textiles, 70 tons of CO2, 450 lbs of pesticides and 46,296,600 gallons of water. And they're just getting started.
“It's hard to say whether the environmental significance of what we're doing or the positive changes in people's lives that we see through our work is more important to me, because at the end of the day how we treat the planet is destroying people's lives today—and we have to do something about that."
4P Foods – Tom McDougall, Founder
- Founded: 2014
- Location: Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC
- Industry: Local Food
For Bringing Healthy Food to Food Deserts
Tom and the good people at 4P Foods are working to fix the broken food system by bridging the gap between small family farms that use sustainable practices and those who want to support them. The company also uses the power of that community to get good, healthy food into the food deserts that need it most—those that bear a disproportionate burden of the externalized costs of industrial food production. In a sense, Tom and his team are delivering food from good people to good people and, perhaps more importantly, using food as a tool for social justice.
“Our farmers, our members, our team, our partners—as individuals they are all amazing, but the change that is possible when they are all working towards the same vision is humbling, inspiring and powerful."
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On the heels of Canada's approval of GMO salmon, Friends of the Earth U.S. and a coalition of more than 30 consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups released updated numbers Wednesday showing that nearly 80 major food retailers have committed to not sell genetically engineered salmon, despite FDA's approval last November.
“Despite irresponsible approvals, the growing number of commitments from retailers demonstrates there is no market for GMO salmon," Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said. “Retailers and restaurants are wisely listening to their customers and rejecting GMO salmon."
Albertsons Companies, owner of Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, ACME, Shaw's and others, stated its commitment to not sell GMO salmon.
“Albertsons Companies and its family of stores, have no plans to carry GE salmon," Jonathan Mayes, Albertsons Companies senior vice president, said in a statement. "The seafood products we offer will continue to be selected consistent with our Responsible Seafood Policy and our partnership with FishWise."
Albertsons Companies, which acquired Safeway in January 2015, continued Safeway's policy on sustainable seafood and GMO salmon for all of its banner stores.
With Albertsons Companies banner stores, a total of more than 79 grocery retailers with more than 11,000 stores have now made commitments to not sell the GMO salmon, including Albertsons, Safeway, Costco, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, along with restaurant chains including Red Lobster and Legal Sea Foods.
Walmart, the world's largest retailer, and Publix are among the last remaining large retail grocers in the U.S. that have not said publicly whether or not they will sell GMO salmon.
A growing body of science suggests that GMO salmon may pose serious environmental and public health risks, including potentially irreversible damage to wild salmon populations.
In the wake of controversy over the U.S. approval, the U.S. has put in place an import ban on GMO salmon until labeling standards are established. The day after Canada's announcement, Provincial Fisheries Minister of Nova Scotia announced the province will ban the farming of GMO fish.
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The Aquarium Garden kit is comprised of small growing plugs that fit inside just about any tank. All you have to do is insert seeds or seedlings into the plugs which are filled with Aqua Biofilter's growing material. Drop the pods into the tank and now you own your own mini-aquaponic garden.
"The concept of aquaponics is to nurture fish and plants at the same time," developer Michiel de Koning told EcoWatch. "Fish waste and all the waste water gets upcycled and fertilizes the plants. The roots of the plants grow deep down into the water and allow bacteria to biologically clean the water and transfer nutrients to the plants which grow healthy from all the nutrients. This is improving the water quality for the fish while the plants keep on growing."
He adds that aquarium owners will love the kit because the garden vastly increases biofiltration capacity thus dramatically reducing the amount of fish tank cleaning.
This 40-second video explains how the product works.
According to de Koning, the idea behind the project came from Australian environmental scientist and urban planner Tom Duncan who was involved in the world's largest floating wetlands project that cleaned up China's lake Taihu near Shanghai. The lake was badly impacted by toxic algal blooms, and thanks to Duncan's Aqua Biofilter technology, the bloom was completely eradicated in just three months after installation. Duncan is also behind other floating wetlands projects in Malaysia and Australia.
As for the mini-version, after living in apartments that didn't have a garden, Duncan got the idea of a indoor garden/DIY-floating wetlands system using everyday aquariums. He teamed up with de Koning and his two brothers, Peter and Gerjan, who each have backgrounds in business administration, civil engineering and mechanical engineering. After three years of prototype testing and development, they created the Aquarium Garden.
The plants growing in the fish tank soak up excess nutrients just like a wetland does in nature, so algae doesn’t have much of a chance to grow and the plants are much healthier, de Koning says.
Floating wetlands project, which spanned four acres in China's lake Taihu, cleaned up a toxic algal bloom. Photo credit: Home Ecology
Michiel de Koning took the time to answer some more of EcoWatch's questions.
Q. Why should everyone have an Aquarium Garden kit?
A. We hope to inspire kids and people all around the world to learn about the complexity of nature and develop ecoliteracy at an early age. When children build and interact with an ecosystem, they quickly understand its dynamics and can adapt their actions accordingly to the biofeedback that the aquarium ecosystem provides. It also suits self-directed learners who prefer to engage with their hands, not just learn from a book. Tom had restored wetlands in Australia and Asia, and wanted to bring the technology out of the field and into the home, school and office. It’s a self-cleaning fish tank that has an inbuilt ecosystem, and we believe everyone with an aquarium should have one.
With this aquarium sized aquaponics garden anyone can learn how to grow a little ecosystem in their home or school. It is a really fun process to create the garden and it’s just so much fun watching the fish goes straight to the garden roots dangling down, you can see the fish really love the roots habitat, it makes them feel safe and secure. It also keeps them healthy because the roots provide oxygen, beneficial enzymes and if you grow basil, mint and cilantro it also provides microdoses of health essential oils to the fish skin and gills, keeping it free of disease and parasites. It looks great and it creates a very healthy ecosystem for the fish.
The AquaBiofilterTM and plants soak up excess nutrients just like a wetland does in nature, so algae doesn’t have a chance to grow much, and the plants are much healthier. Photo credit: Home Ecology
Q. Can you tell me more about Tom Duncan's aquaponic floating islands? How has it helped reduce algal blooms or helped local ecosystems?
A. Currently the AquaBiofilter floating wetlands are being used in Australia and Asia by Governments, communities and industry to improve water quality in freshwater and marine ecosystems, as well as increase the biodiversity by creating fish spawning habitat and predator free nesting sites in urban water bodies. Environmental performance of the floating wetlands can reduce total ammonia by up to 90 percent when the hydraulic retention time is three days in a wetland and the surface area coverage approaches 45 percent. Aquaculture farms use AquaBiofilter floating wetlands to clean fish waste water.
Colloidally suspended heavy metals from roads, heavy industry, airports and factories can be cleaned significantly because the plant roots can grow up to 7 meters down in some cases depending on species, covered with a sticky bacterial and algal biofilm that traps the tiny heavy metal particles and the biofilm then passes the metals to the inside of the plant roots where they are stored securely in the carbon of the roots.
Lake Taihu water before and after floating wetlands cleaned up the toxic algal bloom. Photo credit: Home Ecology.
This is a much better outcome to trap the pollutants and treat them at their source, instead of allowing them to enter waterways and the marine food chain where other fish and mammals eat the fish, and even ending up in the human food chain as well. Heavy metals impact on fetal development is well documented, hence it is not recommended for pregnant women to eat more than one fish per week or month in some cases. In Melbourne, where floating wetlands are becoming popular, it is recommended that women and children up to 16-years-old eat no eels at all from Port Phillip Bay because of the heavy metals and chemical residues in the eels.
In many other bays and estuaries around the world it is the same story, too many heavy metals and chemicals have leached out of factories and roads into the marine food chain and humans and ecosystems are being contaminated. Floating wetlands helps restore the balance and trap the pollutants at their source. Regular stormwater wetlands cannot catch the colloidally suspended heavy metals due to the tiny size of the particles, so floating wetlands are essential if we want to clean up our marine environment and rivers for people to enjoy and fish to live healthy lives.
The Aquarium Garden also has AquaBiofilter technology inside it that biofilters out nutrients and grows plants quickly. Total phosphorous can be removed by up to 80 percent at the surface area coverage of 45 percent also, and total suspended solids can be reduced by 90 percent and algae also 90 percent.
Q. What are your future plans with the Aquarium Garden or Floating Islands? What are some of your other long-term plans for the company?
A. With the Aquarium Garden we hope to inspire kids and collaborate with schools to raise awareness for the complexity and circularity of nature. We are planning to sell the affordable Aquarium Garden in pet shops and ecostores in Australia, the U.S.A. and Europe.
After the crowdfunding campaign is successful we will publish blogs about home ecology with the goal of transferring our knowledge about nature, chemicals, herbs and health to the people for free.
At the moment we are designing a new sustainable aquaculture system with sustainable feed, while generating more value by creating products from what others call "waste," and doing all of this in closed-loop cycles that generate value for local communities all around the world. Some of these plans rely on grants and other projects are funded by communities and Government. We hope to leverage the awareness for health in people's homes into awareness and action for the large scale ecosystem restoration.
Also, we’re involved in a floating house project, so we hope to combine all of this and create scientific tourism instead of just the usual vanilla flavor ecotourism. Thereafter, we are trying to combine products that are a bit simpler, like an unbreakable glass bottle to prevent plastic entering our bodies and the natural ecosystems, that we hope to launch this year.
Q. Who are some of your team's environmental heroes and why? What are some other green projects you are really excited about?
A. Our main inspiration is Prof. Gunter Pauli, founder of the Blue Economy and creator of circular business models that create more value with what is locally available. He is collecting, describing and doing innovative businesses that are healthy for the planet and its inhabitants. His work and the work of the Blue Economy entrepreneurs are by far the most advanced in terms of sustainability since it is based on the core of biology and physics.
Some green projects we are very excited about are Blue Economy clusters across the world that can bring together 3D farming, ecosystem diverse aquaculture, algaeculture for human and fish feed, floating food production and floating houses that all together create climate resilient human settlements using nothing but renewable energy and positively impacting the local and regional environment, completely zero emissions.
Tom Duncan with Michiel and Gerjan de Koning. Photo credit: Home Ecology
On this track we are also very excited about our nearly unbreakable water bottle that is the answer to plastic and glass bottles that have a finite lifespan and much energy and in the case of plastic, harmful emissions in their recycling and pollutants into the local environment and atmosphere. We think it’s time to bring back sturdy design and products, so we are focused on a green product development that cuts through these complex issues and provides a bottle for life.
Key environmental heroes also include Elon Musk for making solar and batteries affordable and bringing electric cars to scale. We follow Musk’s work and always look for inspirations in his visionary approach whether we are looking at disrupting food production or designing positive human habitats resilient to climate change. Permaculture movement gives us inspiration providing methods for abundant food production and self sufficiency, as well as a design science that can scale from the kitchen to entire nations with a set of design tools.
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An American flag made of hemp grown from The Growing Warrior's eastern Kentucky farm. Photo credit: Donnie Hedden
The multipurpose plant, which has been used for centuries to make rope, textiles, foods, personal care products and more, became a controversial substance in 1937 due to the “Marihuana Tax Act,” which basically lumped hemp with marijuana and made it illegal to grow even though the former has no psychoactive properties. Hemp is listed as a federal Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act.
However, there are plenty of reasons why industrial hemp should be legalized, from its substantial health benefits to its potential to lower the environmental impacts of textile production. Also this: In 2016 alone, the U.S. will import an estimated $500 million in products made from the cash crop.
The film, Harvesting Liberty, follows Kentucky farmer and military veteran Michael Lewis and his Growing Warriors team, who are known to be the first private citizens to grow industrial hemp on U.S. soil in more than 70 years, thanks to the 2014 federal Farm Bill, which contained an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. The bill also allows states that already legalized the crop to cultivate hemp within the parameters of state agriculture departments and research institutions.
"When you think about the type of industry that typically takes place in central Appalachia, you're looking at coal and manufacturing and those are both very extractive industries. I mean they pull things out without giving back," Lewis says in the film. "Industrial hemp is a community-building industry. It's not a, let’s-come-in-and-take-what-we-can-get-and-leave, type of industry."
The 12-minute film was directed by farmer/surfer/environmentalist Dan Malloy and produced in partnership with Fibershed and the Growing Warriors, who are trying to reintroduce industrial hemp in Kentucky and eventually nationwide.
Rebecca Burgess, the executive director of Fibershed, explains in the video that a grant from Patagonia allowed the Growing Warriors to build their own machine by hand to process the hemp they grow on their Kentucky farm. She pointed out that because hemp infrastructure doesn't exist in the country, they couldn't do it any other way.
U.S. veteran and Growing Warriors director Michael Lewis with his hand-made hemp processing machine. Photo credit: Donnie Hedden
Patagonia, which already sells a variety of products made from imported hemp fabric from China, is in support of domestically grown hemp. The eco-friendly brand says on its website that the material is ideal for many reasons:
Hemp is a natural fiber that’s cultivated with low impact on the environment. It requires no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds. Cultivation of hemp improves soil health by replenishing vital nutrients and preventing erosion. It’s one of the most durable natural fibers on the planet and results in fabric with wonderful drape that’s comparable to linen.
"Patagonia is interested in expanding the use of hemp in its lines, but rather than buying hemp from China, the company would like to see the domestic hemp industry grow and flourish—both for the sake of the U.S. economy and for the sake of the outdoor industry," Patagonia said in a statement.
Patagonia says it supports a simple, commonsense measure to clarify that industrial hemp is not marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.
Harvesting Liberty highlights the immense potential industrial hemp holds for families.
"Industrial hemp is a cornerstone for financial and resource stability on a family farm," Lewis said. "I can only imagine what wonders we will see when every american farmer has the opportunity to grow this amazing crop."
“I don’t think there’s anything more direct, more empowering or more exciting that you could do for someone in modern society than to help them reconnect with the land in the way that our ancestors once did; American Hemp could offer that,” Burgess said.
This July 4, a petition will be delivered to Congress urging them to pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, or HR 525 and S 134, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, thus allowing it to grow freely.
The petition can be found here. Watch Harvesting Liberty below:
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