Leading initiatives from innovative urban farming to restoring the world's degraded and threatened reefs, these millennial entrepreneurs are developing inspiring solutions to challenging global sustainability issues.
Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien, co-founders, FoodCloud
Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien are the founders of FoodCloud, a Dublin-based online platform and app connecting British and Irish businesses with surplus food to local charities. Food retailers on the FoodCloud system upload descriptions of surplus dry and canned goods, and registered charities then receive a notification telling them that food is available for collection. FoodCloud also maintains storage Hubs to receive ad-hoc and regular surplus food from suppliers. The FoodCloud service and the surplus food is free for charities collecting from their local food retailer, and all food collected from the Hubs is available at operational cost. To date, the social enterprise has saved approximately 20 thousand tonnes of food, saving charities more than €61.5 million.
Andrew Almack, founder, Plastics for Change
Andrew Almack is the founder of Plastics for Change, a social enterprise that reduces plastic pollution and poverty in developing countries by creating income opportunities for waste pickers. The India-based initiative is the first fairtrade, ethical sourcing platform to help formalise the informal recycling economy and improve the quality control process for recycled plastic.
“There is no silver bullet that will solve this grand challenge, however plastic waste can be an enabler of sustainable livelihoods,” said Almack. “Recycling and reuse creates at least nine times more jobs than sending the waste to landfills. With three billion people globally living without waste collection services and another 4.5 billion at the base of the economic pyramid living on $5 per day or less, there is an enormous opportunity to create positive change through inclusive recycling initiatives.”
Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher, co-founders, Coral Vita
Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher are the co-founders of Coral Vita, an environmental startup restoring the world's degraded and threatened reefs. Using land-based coral farming, Coral Vita grows resilient corals up to 50 times faster than natural rates. The company is also able to boost corals' resilience against climate change, so that the corals they plant into reefs are able to withstand the warming and acidifying oceans that threaten their survival. Through ecological scale restoration projects, Coral Vita revitalises reef systems to preserve the ocean’s unique biodiversity and to help protect the communities, industries, and nations that depend on healthy reefs.
Elena Dieckmann and Ryan Robinson, co-founders, Aeropowder
Elena Dieckmann and Ryan Robinson are the co-founders of Aeropowder, an award-winning UK startup producing plummo, a thermal packaging material made from waste feathers from the poultry industry. The entrepreneurs created plummo as a sustainable alternative to expandable polystyrene insulation, which has a devastating impact on the environment. Using the surplus feathers, which would otherwise be converted into a low grade animal feed, Aeropowder creates a high performance insulation textile covered with compostable food-grade liners, enabling more sustainable deliveries and embracing a circular economy.
Rossi Mitova, co-founder, Farmhopping
Rossi Mitova is the CEO and co-founder of Farmhopping, a Bulgaria-based online marketplace allowing farms to sell directly to consumers. The digital farmers’ market delivers meat and produce without a middle man, giving producers the opportunity to sell to buyers at a lower rate, while increasing profits, and ensuring consumers know the origins of the products on their table.
Jason Green, co-founder and CEO, Edenworks
Jason Green is the co-founder and CEO of Edenworks, an urban farm set-up growing produce and fish in aquaponic ecosystems. The Brooklyn-based company retails their leafy green salads at Whole Foods Market and other area grocers. Their fish, which will launch commercially next year and include bass, salmon, and shrimp, have a Best Choice rating from Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. The company converts the waste from their sustainably farmed fish into organic manure, which is is used to grow healthy, nutrient rich soil for their plants. Jason reports, "The microbiome generated by our "whole ecosystem" approach allows us to more than double the crop yield compared to other indoor farms while eliminating crop diseases and foodborne pathogens. We use 95% less water than conventional farms and our products are free from pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, mercury, and PCBs."
Samir Lakhani, Founder of Eco-Soap Bank
Samir Lakhani is the founder of Eco-Soap Bank, a humanitarian non-profit working to save, sanitise, and supply recycled soap with hygiene education to the developing world.The startup collects used soap bars from hotels and guesthouses, sanitises and remolds them and then distributes the clean soap bars to schools, health clinics, and village communities and pairs the donation with hand washing training.
Eco-Soap Bank also makes use of other materials that hotels would normally discard, such as shampoo bottles or other packaging materials. To date, more than 1.1 million people have received soap and hand washing training from Eco-Soap Bank. The organization also employs 147 women in 10 countries to recycle hotel soap around the world.
Words: Claire Lancaster