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When Earth Day first arose in 1970, pollution was impossible to ignore. From burning rivers to urban smog, the need for environmental policy reform was undeniable. Thus, the modern environmental movement was born.
Since then, strong federal regulations have improved many of these issues, and today, our air and water are much cleaner. These days, Earth Day represents a broader set of sustainability issues — some of which are not as apparent.
We see more visible signs of climate change, but we also confront challenges like industrial legacies and the difficulties of decarbonizing an entire economy.
This year, Solve celebrates Earth Day by highlighting some solutions we work with every day. These Solver teams tackle sustainability issues around the world, inspiring a new generation of environmental action.
Copia: Using excess food to eliminate hunger
In the US, one of the richest countries in the world, there’s a food distribution paradox. Every day, 365 million pounds of food are wasted, yet 41 million people still go hungry. Beyond hunger, reducing wasted food is one of the top three ways to tackle climate change, per Project Drawdown.
One Silicon Valley startup, Copia, is fixing both of these problems at once. Copia makes it easy to donate excess food from corporate cafeterias, hotels, large events, and more. Their platform matches extra food with places that can make use of it, whether it’s hot, cold, kosher, or vegetarian. To date, this system has provided hundreds of thousands of meals, including food from events like the Superbowl and the Oscars.
Copia’s technology platform tracks surplus trends, helps make better buying decisions, and simplifies access to tax deductions, enabling donors to save money by doing good. As they work to activate more networks around the US, they’re keeping literal tons of food out of landfills, feeding people, and building the backbone for broader scale.
Eesavyasa: Community-specific water treatment
The World Health Organization estimates that 844 million people still lack access to treated drinking water, and industrial contamination is an increasing risk. Treatment options for removing specific chemicals, such as reverse osmosis, are often expensive or wasteful, losing much of the water during the treatment process.
Eesavyasa, a research and development company based in Hyderabad, India, has developed a new approach to water treatment that’s cost effective and loses only a small fraction of the water to remove ions or heavy metals. This conservation is especially important in poor or water stressed areas. Eesavyasa’s technology produces drinking water for several hundred communities in India, is being piloted for industrial wastewater at an aluminum plant, and new treatment facilities are in the works for Sri Lanka and beyond.
By using nano-patterned surfaces and different electrical signals, Eesavyasa can tune the treatment to local contaminants. They’re building both community-scale systems and new industrial options, enabling multiple revenue streams, additional technology development, and larger impacts through new partnerships around the world.
Green Gas: Bottom-up carbon pricing for unavoidable emissions
Our energy sources are shifting, but we still have legacy impacts — a transportation system built around cars, heating systems using natural gas, and a lot of gasoline vehicles on the road. Even with a faster transition, we’re still looking at significant carbon emissions in the next decade, and there’s no federal policy in sight to deal with them directly.
In response, Green Gas launched two options to help people seamlessly pay for their emissions, either at the gas pump or with their everyday purchases. One option is a debit card that automatically adds a per-gallon surcharge at the gas pump. The other is an app that automatically rounds up purchases at any location. Both options use these charges to fund accredited, rigorously vetted projects that reabsorb carbon into forests and the earth.
Until we all have easy access to a zero-carbon transportation system — electric cars or otherwise — we need to account for the emissions of everyday life. Offsets aren’t perfect, but Green Gas’ simple opt-in carbon pricing enables funding of the best options as they become available and validated. That’s a win for pragmatic climate hawks.
Become a Solver: Submit your own solution
Each of these three solutions addresses our modern Earth Day challenges, whether through water, food, or direct carbon emissions. At Solve, we believe there are many more great ideas out there — starting with yours.
We’re looking for solutions to our four new 2018 Challenges: (1) Coastal Communities, (2) Frontlines of Health, (3) Teachers and Educators, and (4) Work of the Future. Learn how to apply today, and let our community help you scale your work around the world.
Houses along a coastal community in Halong Bay, Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Maria/Pixabay)