As the United Nations Cop 28 climate change conference takes place, there’s likely to be much emphasis on targets which can be a little overwhelming. But behind the headlines, some companies and individuals are working on some amazingly positive initiatives. A lot of them were at the WIRED Impact conference last month. Here are some highlights.
Plastic free packaging
Founded by Pierre Paslier, Notpla is producing plastic free and edible packaging made from seaweed. The company - based in London's East End – opted for seaweed as its material of choice because:
- It can grow up to a metre a day
- It grows in natural conditions (you can’t corrupt it with chemical fertiliser etc to make it grow)
- It sequesters carbon
- There are 12,000 species so you can create different solutions
- It’s biodegradable.
Notpla replaced the plastic water bottles at the London Marathon with a liquid filled shape the runners could swallow. They are now working with Just Eat on takeaway boxes that have a protective non plastic coating inside and are looking into soluble bags – eg put the spaghetti in its bag into the water to cook.
Pollution busting plants
Lionel Mora’s Neoplants are bioengineering plants to fight pollution. They have built plants that can purify the air in your home that are 30 times more effective than existing plants at this. Apparently, the air in your home can be five times more polluting than outside. The first 200 plants have been produced and you can join a waitlist on their website: https://neoplants.com/science
He believes further down the line they could engineer trees to store more carbon and plants that can grow in deserts.
Biodiversity funding gap
Naturalist and Ecoflix founder, Ian Redmond says it’s ironic that the countries where wildlife documentaries are filmed can’t afford to buy and screen them. He is part of the not for profit streaming service https://watch.ecoflix.com/browse which is trying to redress the balance. It’s available free to schools. For subscribers, the money goes to an NGO of your choice.
Redmond says we need to be a lot more aware of the positive contributions made by animals to the environment. Apes and elephants are the gardeners of the forest. They eat and then deposit seeds in their droppings which creates more trees. Forests that are inhabited by elephants have 7-14% better biodiversity. Trees don’t just store carbon they push water into the atmosphere that’s pumped around the world – and drawn on, for example, by Scottish hydropower. Currently huge subsidies are going to industries that are depleting the environment at great cost. In future he says part of the price of a product you buy will go to preserving the eco system. He calls it the biodiversity funding gap and it currently stands at $700 billion a year.
Cleaner air travel
Tom O’Leary’s Jet Zero is working on changes to air frames that require 50% less fuel using the same engines as those in general usage today. He discovered NASA had had the tech for decades and he’s now working with a grant from the US air force on developing it.