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As part of the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK government has committed the UK to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Every business, whether they are industry leaders or bleeding-edge start-ups, has a part to play in creating a decarbonised economy and a greener future. 

Building and maintaining a green, environmentally sustainable business model is no easy task. Large companies can afford to ‘carbon offset’ or pay a premium for green energy, but the number of start-ups and SMEs built around sustainable solutions is increasing. 

From AI-powered insect farms to energy-saving measurement networks, here are five of our favourite green-tech start-ups and SMEs that are breaking new ground on the road to a sustainable future. 

  1. Ekko 

Providers of an innovative and convenient new climate change program, Ekko’s debit card is designed to counteract 14 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the sea and 10 million hectares of forest destroyed each year.

The card allows users to make transactions, pay for plastic bottles to be collected and trees to be planted based on how many transactions have been made with the Ekko card. A companion app then shows users the real-world contributions they’ve made to climate change. 

Partnering with Mastercard as part of their Priceless Planet Coalition – which aims to plant 100 million trees by 2025 – Ekko launched on the first day of COP26. 

  1. Better Origin 

Better Origin is introducing the concept of a localised food supply chain to minimise food waste and emissions, with the world’s first AI-powered insect farms. 

Using technology inside a converted shipping container called the Better Origin X1, food waste is deposited inside to be consumed by insect larvae, which are then kept as animal feed as a replacement to soy, one of the planet’s biggest contributors to deforestation. Additionally, being able to grow insects on a farm saves over 130 tonnes of CO2eq. every year. 

What’s astonishing about this type of biomass conversion, is that it is entirely automated via AI, letting farmers carry on with their normal day and cut down their carbon emissions with minimal effort. 

  1. Olio 

Using a free app to connect neighbours and businesses together, Olio aims to eliminate the 9 million tonnes of food wastage of everyday food items and food surplus in the UK. Users of the Olio app – including supermarkets and restaurants – can notify the local community about unsold or unwanted food available for free collection. 

Saasha Celestial-One, Olio’s co-founder and COO, saw struggles of her own growing up in rural Iowa. “My mother had to be incredibly resourceful in order to make ends meet, and I have memories of accompanying her on scavenging missions around town.”  

By providing local communities with a convenient and efficient alternative to their bins, Olio has helped to share over 57 million food portions and save 8.6 billion litres of water. 

The people behind this remarkable new app idea have even gone as far as organising pickup and distribution of surplus food to local communities with their Food Waste Heroes programme. 

  1. Mindsett 

Mindsett is passionate about eliminating waste. An offshoot of facilities management company Cloudfm, Mindsett’s mission is to ‘make today’s world more sustainable by helping prevent the needless waste of energy and resources’, with their innovative Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.  

With bespoke measurement devices and behavioural technology, Mindsett can guarantee facilities a 20% minimum reduction on energy usage and costs. During the pandemic, Mindsett also worked with NHS vaccine centres to monitor critical vaccine temperatures and automate maintenance processes to free up more staff availability.  

“The peace of mind that this simple, but effective, technology brings cannot be underestimated.” – Dr. Tim Cooper, Practice Partner and clinical NHS Doctor. 

  1. OnePlan 

A venue planning solution that enables small teams to organise and plan big events, OnePlan’s ‘digital twin’ technology gives event organisers the tools to boost sustainability and cut down on excessive waste. The British Formula One Grand Prix is planned and executed with OnePlan support, and the Paris 2024 Olympics is also using OnePlan’s bespoke solutions to design and structure one of the largest sporting events in the world. 

For the 2022 Tour of Britain – the UK’s largest and most well-known cycling race – event organisers were able to use OnePlan’s platform to remotely measure and structure the critical areas of the race, saving multiple scouting trips to each location and cutting down on unnecessary staff travel. 

For larger events, OnePlan can cut up to 20,000+ tonnes of CO2 emissions with sustainability-focused solutions, and reduce waste with tailored inventory management tools. Alongside this, OnePlan is committed to being a climate-positive company – meaning that they offset more CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions than they create. 

For more from Thinking Hat, read about the fashion entrepreneurs driving positive change in the industry.