It’s not news that climate change is the biggest threat to the globe. Rising average temperature, extreme weather events, shifting wildfires, rising seas, and migration are impacts we all face. While all these changes are moving to an extreme, the progress on tackling these threats hasn’t showed sufficient gains. Climate change not only needs action, but a great idea to change our way of life. So, it begs the question about the modern factory of great ideas — startups — what are they doing to address this global disaster? Great ideas can accelerate environmental solution, create awareness in the public, and invent solutions that promote more sustainable ways of life.
The solution factory
Startups are well placed to affect change on a micro level. They can focus on innovative solutions for our day to day life as well as creating sustainable commodity supply chains used for our consumption. Capitalism and the relentless advertisement industry push us to consume goods, but we never have the lenses to see the horrific environmental damage done to provide us with those goods.
In response to this, there are plenty of new ventures working to reduce waste on different levels of the commodity chain. A short-term solution is to lower the carbon footprint per person by adding sustainability to the commodities used in everyday life.
Algiknit is a good example of this kind of startup. Algiknit uses seaweed to make the fiber used in the textile industry, with the goal of reducing carbon footprint through a biodegradable product. Our clothes are produced after a long process within the textile industry, which produces waste that in turn impacts our environment. Creating a biodegradable fiber would severely decrease this harm.
Another area to tackle, for instance, could be toothbrushes. Toothbrushes are made of plastic and when we are done with them, we tend to throw them away. But that plastic could be substituted with reusable bamboo and replaceable brushes to lower plastic use, which can go a long way to reducing waste.
These kinds of innovation are important in order to lower the side effects of consumption. Every object we consume comes from a long line of production leaving a slew of environmental waste in their wake. Most environmental startups are succeeding by tackling waste, while others have eliminated the need for the waste by making goods reusable to a certain extent. This is a micro level solution to a bigger problem — but nonetheless a very vital one.
Other firms are also focused on different problems created by climate change, such as in predicting environmental disasters, and thinking up solutions before disasters strike. For example, environmental startups like Plan A are involved in making data-driven decisions in predicting areas vulnerable to climate disasters, and channeling funds to those areas by linking crowdfunding platforms.
The funding wall
Environmental startups struggle with a lot of challenges. First and foremost is funding. Funding is hard to come by because environmental investments has thus far yielded disappointing results. The current environmental denial of certain governments also create an extra layer of uncertainty.
Additionally, investing in the environment, or at the least supporting it can still frustratingly be seen as a vulnerability for investors and their business portfolio. In contrast, investment in oil and non-renewables bring much bigger returns than renewable energy sources. Having said that, investment in renewable energy is higher than it has been in history, but the pace needs to quicken.
Environmental startups require more than office chairs, computers and an internet hookup. They need labs and equipment to function. It is expensive to scale because of the capital intensive nature of production and R&D. This creates difficulties from office spaces and marketing budgets, to adequate manufacturing resources and talent attraction. To accelerate climate-saving innovation, environmental startups need all the support they can get.