Since the industrial revolution, mankind has been on a dangerous loop of production and consumption. As of next August, we will have consumed all renewable natural resources the planet can produce in one year. We are living beyond our means.

We all know the story: human activity, particularly the energy we use (coal and oil), is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. This, in turn, is responsible for climate change and its devastating effects: rising sea levels, population displacement, destruction of biodiversity, and so much more.

And yet, here we are, twenty years later and still our consumption patterns have barely changed. We are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Why?
 After all, alternative solutions have been there all along! Renewable energies like solar power, wind power, hydropower, biomass, etc. have all proved effective.

There is clearly hope, and solutions.  And the ones who are on the front lines of finding those solutions are the youth entrepreneurs. They are learning from the mistakes of the older generations. They are ready for change.

Today, we outline those youth-led enterprises that are working hard to alter the destructive course in which the world is heading. These are enterprises which are putting sustainability at the heart of what they are doing.

Biomass

Biomass is one of the most interesting energy-producing processes because it uses organic waste to produce gas and electricity. Biomass can also be used to replace current polluting solutions; a lot of people in Africa use charcoal for cooking stoves, which very polluting and dangerous for human health. Young entrepreneur Leroy Mwasaru created Greenpact, a startup that recycles human waste to provide biogas for cooking fuel in his community.
Other startups like Greenchar, Zaacoal or Clean Coal Power use agricultural waste to manufacture briquettes that will serve as charcoal using the principles of biomass.

All Power Labs is the first startup to ‘democratize’ biomass power as it plans to commercialize its gasifier to the mass.

For more information on biomass energy, it’s here!

Tidal

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The tidal turbine by Tydalis


As a young French startup, Tidalys is now one of the most interesting we can find. They have developed a novel range of tidal turbines, using the rhythm of tidals to produce energy. Even if the turbines are still in prototype stage, the results have shown an incredible performance, mainly because of a high-energy production and decreasing operational costs.
Learn more here.

Energy efficiency

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A wall made of hemp concrete


There is also a need to change the way we build in order to be more energy-efficient and sustainable. Some startups studied alternatives to bricks and concrete (both very polluting to manufacture, the global production of bricks causes carbon dioxide emissions nearly equivalent to all of Germany’s). Biomason “grows” their bricks and other materials by using microorganisms. They eliminate the need to fire materials by replacing the hardening process with the formation of biologically controlled structural cement.

Another alternative material is hemp (or hempcrete). Hemp can be used for so many different components of sustainable, energy-efficient housing: from building to insulation. The startup Hempitecture made sustainable hemp its business model.

Biomimicry

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The wind turbines inspired by Humpback Whales' fins


Another fascinating alternative is biomimicry. Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human issues. It is applicable to many issues, and energy is one of them. For instance, a startup called Whale Power studied the movement of Humpback Whales. They discovered that its agility comes from the bumps on the humpback flipper, known as tubercles. They reproduced the model of the tubercles to develop a more efficient wind turbine; the turbines they designed allow the capturing of more energy from lower-speed winds.

11 July 2016 - Alexis Sadouni

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