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If Your Passion Is Saving The Environment, Start Here

Posted on the 25 February 2019 by Martin Zwilling @StartupPro

saving-the-environmentAlthough I hear more and more about “global warming,” and the many ways we are destroying our environment, I still don’t see many global business winners in this space, comparable to Facebook and Amazon. Al Gore, by just talking about it, still seems to be leading the way in monetization, having amassed an estimated net worth reported recently as around $300 million.

The ideas are endless, but we need more smart entrepreneurs to implement them. There are plenty of smaller success examples, including Impossible Foods, Inc., Choose Energy, and others highlighted in this recent Investopedia article. I still see a big opportunity to capitalize on sustainability, attract investors, be the next unicorn, and leave a legacy you can be proud of.

Based on my experience with founders in the “cleantech” and “green” space, I sense that many others are interested, but may be missing the best targets. Thus I offer some practical strategies if you are looking for direction or the best place to start:

  1. Look for opportunities to increase recycling and reuse. The EPA estimates that 75 percent of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30 percent of it. The percentage is even lower in many other countries. It’s also time to make more products recyclable, by designing them as a natural loop from creation to reuse.

    Another approach is simply repurposing used items, or simply passing them down to less demanding users, like the ecoATM story with used cell phones, tablets and MP3 players. This approach is more valuable than just reusing a chip, or extracting the gold and silver.

  2. Reduce waste from new production automation. Entrepreneurs with an eye on the environment can readily spot examples of inefficient material, water, or energy usage. This starts with closed loop manufacturing systems, but extends into efficient inventory management, avoiding hazardous materials, and reducing packaging materials.

    Rework is another common form of waste, when something goes wrong, and you have to discard partial products, and do the work again. It’s a problem that can be minimized with better automation, training, and the use of machine learning on the factory floor.

  3. Find alternate components for limited natural resources. In this new technology age, smart entrepreneurs are starting to be able to deliver higher-performance components at lower cost, such as composites in lieu of aluminum or steel. Many of these provide the opportunity to save energy and weight, as well as improve the environment.

    From a different angle, solar and other alternative power generation companies, such as BrightSource Energy, have been able reduce environmental impact by capitalizing on the wealth of non-polluting natural resources, including sunlight, wind, and thermal vents.

  4. Improve current product utilization, efficiency, and sharing. Today, statistics find that big trucks are sitting idle or deadheading empty as much as 50 percent of the time. Auto utilization is even lower. Uber and Lyft have jumped into the gap, but there is still plenty of opportunity for digital tracking, sharing, and scheduling to improve the situation.

    This new sharing economy is still picking up steam, with other winners already including Airbnb (rooms), Mobike (bicycles), and Chegg (books). If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s easy to see a wealth of additional opportunities in this space.

  5. Replace physical products with energy-saving digital ones. Whole products and industries have already been replaced, including film cameras by digital ones, and movie DVDs and packaging by streaming digital downloads. This not only reduces pollution, but it makes things much better in the process, and adds value to every customer.

    For example, internet digital sensors and devices, now called the Internet of Things (IoT), are already appearing to enhance common physical devices, including appliances, vehicles, and homes to help us manage the environment. The potential here is still huge.

Overall, despite all these opportunities, the environment that I’m most concerned about is the entrepreneurial one. We need change, and passionate and educated entrepreneurs are still one of the most critical “natural resources” in the world today. Thus I’m committed to helping where I can on both the idea and execution sides of the new venture equation. But it all starts with you.


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