Hi! I'm Milan, an LA based founder and writer, architecting impact-first businesses.
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In today’s article, I want to look at a few tech startups that are really putting the planet before profits. These aren’t just businesses that deal in ‘green tech.’ On the contrary, these startups are actively working to make the world a better place through their vision, leadership, innovation, and accountability.
Plenty of large companies try to cash in on the whole “go green” movement. Some do it out of a sense of obligation to the planet and a recognition that past or existing business practices are simply not sustainable. Others do it because they think it will improve their branding and their bottom line. In any case, the planet doesn’t care why companies shift to more environmentally-friendly processes, but I do.
Rather than giving companies a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum, I’d like to highlight some startups that are working to help the environment and promote change. Not only that, but the following 5 environmental tech startups are actually putting the planet before profits, which should attract everyone’s praise and attention. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the most forward-thinking tech startups of today:
Facedrive is a ride-sharing company that exclusively uses a fleet of hybrid and fully-electric vehicles. So, it’s just Uber with better gas mileage, right? Wrong. This Canadian-based startup began with the simple premise of hailing down an eco-friendly ride and turned it into a fully sustainable business.
While it’s easy to make comparisons to larger ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, Facedrive stands out in a number of ways. First, it promotes a driver coop to ensure that its drivers get higher payouts and company dividends. Moreover, every option that a user of the Facedrive platform encounters gives them the ability to make environmentally-friendly decisions. Once an order has been initiated, users get real-time feedback about the difference their decision is making for the community and the world at large.
For example, Facedrive’s food delivery division, Facedrive Food, contributes a portion of every delivery toward tree-planting initiatives in the local community to offset the carbon footprint of the service. Alternatively, for people who want to drive their own electric vehicle but don’t have the money to buy or lease one, Facedrive has created the perfect solution, Steer, which provides electric vehicles via a subscription-based service. This service has no mileage limits, includes insurance, and covers all maintenance and repair costs. This is to say nothing of Facedrive’s initiatives to make ride-sharing as safe as possible in the time of COVID-19 through its wearable contact-tracing tech!
Northvolt plans to be the center of the green revolution and one of the most impactful energy startups on this list. Since much of the current crisis is a result of unsustainable resource extraction, Northvolt has one mission in mind: help supply the transition to clean energy. According to its website, “in 2017, [Northvolt] announced a bold and simple plan: develop the world’s greenest battery cell and establish one of Europe’s largest battery factories.”
Since then, Northvolt has already followed through on its promises. Co-founders Peter Carlsson have evolved their startup to provide multiple energy solutions for the future, including custom, made-to-order battery cells. Based in Sweden, this ever-growing startup now has more than 500 employees worldwide and has partnered with dozens of major energy providers to develop the energy solutions of tomorrow.
So, what sets Northvolt apart from any other ‘green’ battery producer? Primarily, it is the startup’s dedication to making both its products and processes 100% sustainable by “closing the loop.” Northvolt acquires most of the metal needed to produce its batteries through recycling, while also engineering a new model to recycle end-of-life batteries — reducing the need to mine and extract new materials. At the same time, Northvolt has developed an entire ecosystem and sustainable infrastructure for battery recycling in Europe.
Zolar is one of the leading providers of solar energy panels for residential and commercial properties in Germany. Founder and CEO, Alex Melzer, had the vision for this startup after studying industrial engineering at the University of Dresden. He spent his post-graduate days traveling and biking around the world, taking in all the beauty that our planet has to offer.
However, his travels further exposed Alex to the destruction of the natural environment for energy and profit. Rather than just give up and become yet another cog in the system, Alex founded Zolar to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible. Since 2016, Zolar has expanded across all of Germany, providing low-cost energy solutions to millions of households.
There are many solar tech startups out there, but Zolar helps ensure that residential solar energy is not just a luxury for the wealthy. Not only does Alex envision a future of 100% renewable energy, but he also envisions a future in which every home can be self-powered, rather than depending on the non-renewable resources of large energy conglomerates.
Not all environmental tech startups have to reinvent the wheel. There are many old industries and processes and industries that help humans, as a species, thrive. However, they often do so to the detriment of the planet. One such industry is agriculture.
Fortunately, cleantech startups like WISErg are bringing 21st-century solutions to centuries-old processes in the United States and much of Latin America. One of the main problems with existing agricultural practices is waste. For years, large agricultural companies have had to expand and destroy in order to meet the growing demands for food worldwide. Enter WISErg and its proprietary fertilizer, Synergy.
According to its website, Synergy provides all of the following benefits to farmers and growers:
Synergy is an unmatched fertilizer technology that increases nutrient use efficiency in plants — with no application restrictions. When combined with conventional liquid fertilizers, the metabolites and carbon compounds in Synergy promote plant growth and improve soil health for better plant establishment and greater yields. Synergy is manufactured for ease of use with all types of fertilizer equipment, including overhead irrigation, drip tape, and sprayers.
In short, WISErg offers the agricultural industry a means to increase yields without taking more away from the soil or surrounding environment. In fact, WISErg even offers the ability to improve soil health over time. While this energy startup continues to research new ways to make agriculture more sustainable, it also works to keep costs low for both local farmers and large-scale growers.
While all of the previously mentioned environmental tech startups provide sustainable solutions to help combat climate change and promote sustainability, Cleantech Rising is a little different. More specifically, Cleantech Rising is a nonprofit advocacy startup focused on supporting and advancing clean technologies. Founded in Los Angeles in 2016, Cleantech Rising helps draw attention to environmental issues around the world and promote renewable energy startups.
The people behind Cleantech Rising refer to the companies they support as “Climate Solutionists.” Through newsletters, blogs, and live events, Cleantech Rising has become a one-stop guide for anyone who wants to learn more about a wide variety of topics — from the most eco-friendly solar tech startups to ways that individuals can help their local environment and spearhead change in their community.
Unlike the other cleantech startups on this list, Cleantech Rising doesn’t really have a product to sell. They just want to shed light on the problems of today so that we can (hopefully) have a brighter tomorrow. If you’d like to support Cleantech Rising and their vision, you can do so by supporting their Patreon for as little as $2 per month.
It’s not always easy to separate the startups that just sell themselves as “green tech companies” for branding purposes and the ones that actually want to make the planet a better place. At the end of the day, that’s why I created this list. I think it’s vitally important to promote startups and entrepreneurs who work every day to improve our world. Whether they’re providing environmentally-friendly transportation or just exposing people to the real effects of climate change, I have faith that environmental tech startups like the ones listed above can make a real difference for the future.
Originally published on Medium.