5 Green Companies Changing the Sustainability Game
At Shoplet, we are really committed to valuing our customers, helping the environment, and growing our business at the same time. You’re probably wondering how a company can do all of those things offering discount office and medical supplies, an industry traditionally known for wasteful practices and non-earth friendly products. The truth is that we make sure to offer as many environmentally friendly alternatives as possible, and do our best to promote their use. We believe that it is part of our task to educate consumers on how sustainability can work for individual budgets and for our world as a whole. And for some extra inspiration, we’ve been searching the web to find some of our favorite green companies who are changing the sustainability game!
There are plenty of examples of major companies getting on board with the ‘Green Movement’. In fact, the Newsweek Magazine recently named the America’s top 10 green companies of 2015. It’s clear from their names (Adobe, Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, etc.) that the green movement has moved mainstream, and if that’s any indication of where things are headed, we’re ecstatic! We can’t help but add to the list though. Here 5 more green companies who are doing the incredible: creating sustainable business based on an awesome idea.
SolarCity has developed a their own system to allows virtually anyone to install solar panels on the roofs of their houses. With recent trends, this is just beginning to be possible. SolarCity, run by the cousins of Elon Musk, is definitely at the cutting edge. In the past there were two limiting factors when it came to the average homeowner who wished to go solar: efficiency and price. Solar panels have only very recently gotten efficiency up to around 22% (percentage conversion of solar energy to electricity) for the most affordable kind of panel. There are actually panels with efficiencies up around 50-60% but they are very expensive, delicate, and are pretty much just used in satellites and in outer space. 22% doesn’t sound too high, but that efficiency has more than doubled in the last 50 years. Price has also been an issue until quite recently. Since the 1970s the price per watt of solar cells has been halving every ten years. It’s currently less than 1 cent per watt when just few decades ago it was $100 per watt.
SolarCity takes advantage of these trends and creates a home plan to install your panels on the roof for no upfront cost. You pay for the panels by paying for the energy that they provide. In this setup, the solar energy you produce from the panels is cheaper than conventional, and you end up saving money on utilities in the long run. So to recap: SolarCity installs panels with no upfront cost, you pay less for utilities and eventually pay off the panels by paying for lower utilities. Genius, right?
Ok we’re not exactly sure how to pronounce this either but WISErg was started also by some people with real pedigree who decided to address the huge problem for food waste in America with startlingly simple solution (aren’t all the best solutions like this?). Former Microsoft engineers Larry LeSueur and Jose Lugo were primarily concerned with the amount of food that gets thrown away in this country. Their idea was to build a machine that can be placed behind a grocery store where people can deposit their food waste. They have dubbed it the Harvester and it can break down anything organic: shells, chicken bones, old fruits and veggies. It doesn’t use any secret technology. It’s essentially a special kind of sealed composter that doesn’t even out out a smell.
Over time the Harvester regularly outputs perfectly composted fertilizer that people can use in their gardens and lawns. But here’s the best part: on top of turning food waste in to something useful, and cutting down on carbon emissions by putting that carbon back into the soil, this machine also keeps track of what people throw in. It provides the food retailer with information on what food items are being wasted so that they can adjust their inventories as needed and cut down on future waste. An awesome idea which leads us to ask: Why hasn’t this been invented sooner?
Zeoform is a small Australian company with a gigantic goal: changing our entire culture of plastics. Currently most of our plastic is derived from oil industry feedstocks, which means that not only are many of them not recyclable, but they’re releasing large amounts of carbon just to produce. Over the last 30 years there has been rapid progress made on biological feedstocks for bioplastics. That’s stuff like compostable plastic utensils or to-go containers. Still, many of these bioplastics raise concerns as well: whether some are truly biodegradable, for instance. Zeoform outdoes the competition (in our humble opinion) for a simple hack that nature itself has used. Zeoform is a plant-derived plastic which uses no other binder besides cellulose and water. That’s it. No glue, no other chemicals. Zeoform uses nature’s own design to bind sheets of cellulose together, and uses just water to help this process along.
Long story short, zeoform plastic is amazing. It can be recycled; it can be made from plant scraps or old paper; and it can take the form of anything from a styrofoam to something with the hardness of ivory. There’s even a plan to make a 3D printer injector with the stuff. Zeoform’s edge comes from having only two inputs: plant fiber (the most renewable material in the world) and water. Because of this, the carbon footprint for producing the material is much lower than other plastic alternatives, and the material itself is carbon sequestering. Hopefully we’ll see the day when this stuff becomes common place. Can’t wait!
Guayaki Yerba Mate
Guayaki is a little off the beaten path, but it certainly deserves a place at the table. When conversations of sustainability come up, it’s easy to see why green companies like Seventh Generation make the list. But there are some products that are even easier to incorporate into your daily routine to start making a difference. The Shoplet blog team is probably powered primarily on caffeine, and we’re always looking out for that perfect morning cup. Enter Yerba Mate (that sounds like ‘mott-tay’). Oldest caffeinated beverage of South America, and the national drink of Argentina. So tasty, so caffeinated.
Guayaki does a few things that led it to making the list. One of them is that they are preserving rainforest in the areas where yerba mate is harvested (much like us). The other is that it provides fair trade wages to people who harvest the mate. This cuts down on slash and burn clearing of jungle required of other industry jobs. Jungles support so many species and produce so much oxygen that keeping them healthy is important. Guayaki is serious about their green credentials, and has introduced even more sustainable practices all along its supply line. And the best thing? They’re incredibly successful and growing! They exemplify how a green company can value sustainability and be profitable at the same time.
The Land Institute
The Land Institute is a non-profit scientific institution that will very likely be making headlines in the future. It’s so interesting that we had to add it, even though it’s not technically a company. The Land Institute is dedicated to addressing one of the biggest sources of waste that we deal with here on earth, agriculture. The Land Institute was founded in 1976 by with the intention of completely changing how we grow and harvest food. And for being almost 40 years old it’s still way ahead of its time. For as long as humans have been involved in large scale agriculture, we have been growing annual grains. Annuals, like the name implies, must be reseeded and regrown year after year. Because of that one simple fact humans have been running into problems. Tilling the soil, while good in the short term, actually depletes soil quality in the long. It releases carbon dioxide, and leads to eventual erosion. Most people don’t know that healthy soil is nonrenewable. Left to its own devices, Nature keeps soil healthy in the most efficient way possible. Think about a prairie. Perennial plants (which don’t die in winter) create deep and stable root structures that holds in the soil to prevent washing out. Multiple plant species work together to create a green ground cover that absorbs the maximum amount of precipitation and sunlight.
The land Institute is taking a lesson from Nature and developing new perennial grain crops that work like this. In the future, fields where we grow grain will probably look and behave much like a field you might stumble upon while hiking in the park. This eliminates the need for large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, tilling and seeding machinery. The Land Institute will likely be ‘seeding’ green companies down the road, so stay tuned.
These companies are doing some really amazing things and we’re excited to see them succeed. Are there some sustainability prodigies that we missed? Tell us some of your favorite green companies in the comments below!