We are in the midst of an environmental emergency. The threats to this only habitable planet are numerous, ranging from rising temperatures, to the destruction of wildlife habitats, to pollution. Furthermore, humans’ reliance on fossil fuels is hastening climate change and degrading both land and sea ecosystems.
Finding innovative solutions and putting them into action as soon as possible could significantly slow the ongoing crisis — and protect the planet’s future! One such initiative is the Earthshot Prize awarded by an independent charity founded by Prince William and the Royal Foundation in 2020. The award is inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” initiative of the 1960s. Back then, it brought millions of people together with the goal of landing a human on the moon and promoting the development of new technologies to accomplish it.
Annually, the Earthshot Prize is given to entrepreneurs and innovators who are spearheading and finding innovative solutions to address the most pressing environmental challenges of today’s time. Each winner receives a £1 million prize to scale up the innovation and address the challenges.
The official website mentions: “The Earthshot Prize supports environmental innovators with more than prize money. The Earthshot Prize provides successful nominees a platform to showcase their solutions, introductions to potential partners and help with organizational capacity building (e.g., business planning, go-to-market strategy, talent planning, organizational design, fundraising).”
The 2022 competition’s winners were recently announced in Boston. At the ceremony, Prince William stated that this year’s winning solutions “prove we can overcome our planet’s greatest challenges.”
The winning solutions were chosen from a group of 15 finalists representing 10 different countries. The solutions are selected under these five Earthshot categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-free World and Fix Our Climate.
Here are the five Earthshot category winners of 2022:
Clean Our Air: Mukuru Clean Stoves, Kenya
This start-up aims to provide women in Kenya with cleaner-burning stoves. Charlot Magayi, who used to sell charcoal for fuel in Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, founded the company in 2017. The official website tells her inspirational story, revealing that Charlot’s daughter was severely burned by a charcoal-burning stove in 2012. This set her on a path to finding solutions to the governing problem.
The goal is to “reduce unhealthy indoor pollution and provide a safer way to cook.”
Around 700 million people in Africa are estimated to use traditional cookstoves, which emit harmful chemicals that can lead to life-threatening respiratory diseases.
Her solution costs only $10 and is made from biomass derived from charcoal, wood and sugarcane.
Protect and Restore Nature: Kheyti, India
A winning solution that comes from India assists “local smallholder farmers to reduce costs, increase yields and protect livelihoods in a country on the frontlines of climate change.”
Agriculture provides a living for approximately 100 million small-scale farmers in India. The country is also vulnerable to climate change, with scorching heat waves wreaking havoc on food production.
The start-up Kheyti has developed a “greenhouse-in-a-box” to boost yield. It protects crops against pests and other harmful weather conditions. Kheyti greenhouse has been used by nearly 1,000 farmers so far. The company intends to increase this figure to 50,000 by 2027.
Revive Our Oceans: Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is deteriorating with each passing year due to rising temperatures, ocean pollution and overfishing. Indigenous rangers in Australia are now working tirelessly to protect this vital ecosystem.
This women-led initiative protects land and sea by combining 60,000 years of indigenous knowledge with modern technologies (such as drones). They are working to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef against threats such as storms, ocean acidification, degradation and even forest fires.
The initiative aims to “build the next generation of women rangers.” So far, it has trained over 60 women and implemented new conservation strategies. The knowledge gained at the grassroots level aids in the implementation of better policies and solutions to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
“This place has always been our home, but today we risk losing it and the unique culture that has existed here for millennia. Our Women Rangers Network exists to protect our home and continue our traditions,” said Larissa Hale, the managing director.
Build a Waste-free World: Notpla, United Kingdom
Notpla, which stands for “not plastic” offers an alternative to plastic by utilizing seaweed and plants. Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Carcia Gonzalez founded this company in 2019. They collaborated to develop biodegradable seaweed-based packaging that could be used for a variety of purposes, such as holding liquids, coating food containers and in the cosmetic and fashion industries.
Notpla has so far supplied over 1 million take-out containers to Just Eat Takeaway, an online food-delivery service. The packaging could significantly reduce waste pollution dumped into the seas. According to the website data, only 9% of all plastic produced to date has been recycled, while only 12% has been incinerated.
Fix Our Climate: 44.01, Oman
The name is derived from the molecular weight of carbon dioxide, which is 44.01 grams per mole. The startup has developed a novel method for permanently removing CO2 from the atmosphere by mineralizing it in rock. Peridotite is an igneous rock formed from Earth’s mantle that can be found in Oman, America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Mineralization is the process by which it is stored.
“44.01 accelerates the process by pumping carbonated water into seams of peridotite deep underground,” the Earthshot website explains.
Mineralization aids in the permanent removal of CO2, as opposed to other carbon removal technologies, which store it underground in decommissioned oil wells or aquifers. As a result, carbon dioxide is completely removed from the atmosphere. By 2040, the startup hopes to have stored one billion metric tons of CO2. This technology can significantly reduce the impact of planet-warming carbon dioxide, which is the need of the hour.
The search for next year’s 2023 Earthshot Prize has begun. Submit your proposals by the end of January 2023 if you have innovative solutions to repair and regenerate the planet.
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