What Design Can Do, an international organization, introduced an international challenge in January 2021. The competition "No Waste Challenge" called for entrepreneurs from all around the world to come up with innovative ideas to tackle waste. It received a lot of entries from which only 16 teams were selected for their winning ideas.
As a tribute to International Women's Day, we have picked out five who we believe to be uplifting female-led businesses making positive changes.
In most African countries, talking about a women’s menstrual cycle is still considered taboo. In the wake of environmental degradation, most sanitary products are not made from an eco-friendly material but rather harmful chemicals and plastics. Additionally, they are so expensive that a majority of the female population cannot even afford to purchase them. African girls have to use cow dung, soil, and feather as an alternative to sanitary products.
Mary Nyaruai Mureithi initiated the Nyungu Afrika campaign in 2020 to tackle period injustice. The business manufactures biodegradable sanitary pads made from corn husks and pineapple leaves. It serves as a solution not only to help with a more sanitary product for a woman’s cycle, but it is also kind to the environment. Check out her story below:
Outlander Materials' Unplastic
Lori Goff launched Outlander Materials in 2018 with a vision to protect the planet with the help of a home brewing hobby and a biotechnology degree. She, with her team, came up with the idea to create a non-plastic and non-toxic material to reduce or replace the use of plastics, using the wastewater caused by breweries, called "unplastic".
Lori Goff said that she had to leave her job to pursue her business which felt like jumping off a cliff, but with hope. She had to teach herself how to brew by combining the techniques of biotechnology and brewery waste to manufacture new products.
She is working with her team to manufacture the semi-transparent and compostable material. Their fundamental focus is on retail applications, food, and cosmetics first. According to her, they have an efficient facility of lab-based samples. She aims to scale her business on an industrial level, where they have potential partners all across Europe and Asia.
Working with renowned and expensive brands like Nike and Adidas, Jen Keane, after completing her master's degree from Central Saint Martins in London in 2019, launched Modern Synthesis. The motive behind her startup idea was to create the next generation of material implementing biology rules.
Her team has established a technique to grow textiles composed of the fine type of cellulose called Nano cellulose which is much stronger than steel. They have developed a new mixed category of material that is somewhat woven, and partially grown to address the problems of structural integrity that a synthetic material provides. Keane’s dream is to skyrocket the production of materials and make partnerships within the fashion sector. She wants her team to connect with future engineers, scientists, and potential investors to make a real difference.
Club de Reparadores
Camila Naveira, Melina Scioli, and their team launched a social program Club de Reparadores in 2015. After the UK passed legislation of 'right to repair' in 2021, which allows both consumers and businesses the right to repair their own items without any restrictions from the manufacturer, their motivation behind this start-up strengthened. The idea is to allow for the repair of items easier and cheaper way while also reducing waste. According to them, the governmental organizations are not doing much for this cause which is both inefficient and frustrating.
They have been voluntarily running multiple repair campaigns all around Mexico, Uruguay, and Argentina after being inspired by electronic repair and repair cafe parties in the UK. They recently developed an online directory where people can conveniently search for repairers in Buenos Aires. They also launched a circular economy educational campaign in schools in the hope to drive the 'right to repair' movement in South America.
The duo has a firm belief in resolving climatic and ecological challenges with community-led solutions, which the community adopted and actively takes part in. To find a repairman to potentially fix your next broken item, visit their platform at Reparar.org
Packing up PFAS
Since the 1950s, PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used in various products like non-stick cookware, firefighting foams, food packaging, and waterproof clothing. The damage they have done to the environment came to the limelight recently because these chemicals do not degrade. Emy Bensdorp, who founded Packing Up PFAS, said that in some parts of the Netherland, people are warned not to eat food grown in the soil due to contamination of these chemicals.
Bensdorp managed to find a solution to this growing concern. She discovered that if we heat the soil with high clay composition, the chemicals can be washed away. But, the high temperature causes damage to the soil and makes it barren. With this, she discovered that this heated soil can be used in the brick kiln industry to manufacture clean brick products in the end. Her initiative earned an impressive response from all across the world.
https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/business/five-female-run-businesses-using-design-to-create-a-waste-free-world http://www.newsincyprus.com/news/379738/five-female-run-businesses-using-design-to-create-a-waste-free-world; https://www.teenvogue.com/story/zero-waste-movement-women-owned-brands ;https://www.positive.news/society/five-female-run-businesses-using-design-to-create-a-waste-free-world/