Problems, obstacles, issues, barriers. Spend a week at COP and you will hear these terms quite a bit. Fortunately for us, there are solutions! Over the course of my time at COP21, I had the opportunity to see real solutions in action, working to combat climate change. Below (in no particular order) are a list of my favourites:
My first run-in with Fairphone happened at the World Climate Summit, where I had the opportunity to speak with them about their product and what is next for the company. Fairphone is a social enterprise that is aiming to produce a phone made from 100% fair trade materials. The second generation of the product, Fairphone 2, has sold almost 12,000 copies. Looking to reduce the effects of the electronic appliance industry on the earth’s resources, Fairphone is working to solve a very unique problem for today’s generation.
This social and environmental sustainability minded company first caught my attention at the Earth to Paris event, a side event of COP. We Care Solar was founded in an effort to minimize the 99% of 300,000 maternal mortalities that occur in underdeveloped countries every year. The product is fairly simple, a solar powered generator which provides light and electricity to remote areas long after the sun goes down. In areas without access to electricity, deliveries that occur after the sun has gone down take place in complete darkness- sometimes causing life threatening complications. In areas that are now equipped with We Care Solar boxes, maternal deaths have gone down by 70%. That stat alone gives this organization a well-deserved spot on the list!
And now for an organization that hits a little bit closer to home! Plastic Bank was founded by two Vancouverites in an effort to encourage the collection of plastic washed ashore in developing nations. The solution? Treat this plastic as currency, offering incentives to those who collect it. Depending on the region, plastic can be traded for Wi-Fi, clean drinking water, or even native currency. This idea earned Plastic Bank the “Community Award” at this year’s Sustainia Awards in Paris, and a spot on my list!
Due to the demands of modern Western culture, the fashion industry’s ecological footprint seems to be increasing all the time. Between harsh production environments in developing countries, and increasing turnover in trends, clothes are both environmentally and economically “expensive”. Vigga.US is trying to conquer this issue through their clothes sharing services. Currently serving children, Vigga.US allows customers to pay a monthly fee in return for a month’s supply of fair trade organic clothing for their children. Once the month is up, the customer returns the clothes, and is sent a fresh batch. So, rather than these clothes being put to use by only one fast-growing child, test results show these clothes are lasting for 5-7 cycles. New clothes every month for one low price? I think that’s an idea we could all get used to!
A unique combination of solar power and irrigation technology, SunCulture’s AgroSolar Irrigation Kit is unlike any other solution in its field. The UW COP21 team had the opportunity to hear one of the cofounders speak at the World Climate Summit, and learn more about how they are helping Kenyan farmers grow more crops, using fewer resources. Through the use of solar energy, AgroSolar equips farmers who may not have access to electricity with the tools necessary to irrigate their crops. Even for those who do have access to electricity, it is very costly and unrealistic for most farmers. AgroSolar solves this problem by using both gravity and solar energy to power its irrigation systems.
Photo Ark is a unique entry on this list. Unlike the others, which are categorized as physical products, Photo Ark is a campaign started by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. Day after day he would photograph endangered species, and day after day he would watch another one of his favourite subjects go extinct. Referring to the Earth to Paris crowd Joel said, “All of us in this room could, in fact, save the world if we tried”. And that is exactly what he is trying to do. By documenting the biodiversity at stake and getting people to care about these creatures, he is inspiring people to speak out and become climate warriors. Of course as one would expect, he has a killer Instagram page – click here to check it out!
Currently only operating in Paris, this start-up solves a very important issue for Generation Y – cell phone charging in public! Using an ATM-like passcode, users are able to charge their phone in a locked safe, which can only be opened with a password containing the digits of their birthdate. With the implementation of this security feature, users are free to leave their phones without having to worry about theft. They can then use the Tower Charge app to see the status of the phone battery, or scout out other Tower Charge locations. Not exactly ground-breaking in terms of sustainability, but definitely a useful solution!
Know of any other cool climate solutions? Post them below!
This piece was written by Bianca Salive
Bianca is a fourth year Environment and Business student minoring in geography. As a member of the UW COP21 delegation, Bianca is looking forward to building new connections with professionals as well as learning more about policy on loss and damage, northern and Arctic communities and their relationships.