Earthshot programme winners
You may have seen this last week, the results of the 2022 Earthshot programme. It was televised on Sunday evening and shows the inspirational people that are thinking of ways to help the planet and those of us who live on it.
This was the second year the awards have been given, a project launched by Prince William and Sir David Attenborough to improve the state of the planet by 2030.
I chose this initiative last year as a subject for a blog and make no apologies for doing so again. I think that it’s brilliant to be able to report some positive news amongst all of the negative stuff we hear about. There are people and organisations that are trying to help the situation and they should be applauded for it, and hopefully they will inspire others to use their imagination to add solutions in years to come.
There are five categories:
Protect and Restore Nature
The aim is to reverse the damage being done to the planet by humans and make the natural world grow – not shrink – by 2030.
Clean our Air
Trying to ensure that the world’s population can breathe healthy air to the WHO standard – or better.
Revive our Oceans
To repair and preserve the world’s oceans for future generations
Build a Waste Free World
By using the leftovers or waste products of any process as raw materials of another process – mimicking nature.
Fix our Climate
To allow the world’s population to thrive by removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we put into it.
In the Protect and Restore Nature category the winner was Kheyti, a start up business from India that designed a “Greenhouse in a Box”, a product designed for small holders to grow their crops in. It gives the crops protection from pests, extremes of weather, and they need 98% less water than those grown outdoors.
The results have been amazing, as yields have been seven times higher than traditional growing methods. The cost of the greenhouse is 98% cheaper than a standard greenhouse, and with the support of Kheyti the farms and the greenhouses are very effective.
Farmers’ incomes have doubled, which has a knock-on effect of them being able to invest in their children’s education, their farms and are protecting the planet as well.
At the moment, 1,000 farms are using the produce, but Kheyti are hoping to have supplied 50,000 in the next 5 years.
In the Clean our Air category, Charlot Magayi from Nairobi won the award for her innovative cooking stove.
In places like Nairobi, cooking stoves have traditionally burned charcoal, but this causes respiratory infections regularly for those that use them. Following an accident to Charlot’s daughter, who was severely burnt by such a stove, Charlot decided to try find a better way to cook, and so Mukuru Stoves was formed in 2017.
Named after the area that Charlot lived in, the stoves cook with biomass which is made from a much cleaner combination of wood, sugar cane and charcoal. It produces 90% less pollution than a traditional open fire and 70% less than the old stove. They are very affordable, costing only $10, and the fuel cost is half what it was.
The success has been substantial, as now there are 200,000 Kenyans using the stoves. The added benefit is that whereas young girls would spend around 3 hours a day scavenging for firewood, that time is freed up for more beneficial use.
Charlot’s company Mukuru employs mainly women to run the company with her, and most of the distribution agents are female too.
She is working on the next stage, to create a cleaner oven that uses ethanol as the burning substance. Her vision is to have sold a million stoves in the next 3 years and in 10 years, to have reached 10 million across the whole of Africa.
Indigenous women of the Great Barrier Reef won the Revive our Oceans award.
The Great Barrier Reef has been under attack for years and needs protection from the environmental changes our planet is going through, as do the landscapes nearby that are under threat of bushfires.
A programme to train more than 60 indigenous women to help record vital information has been set up; they share their knowledge of the local area and stories that have been passed down over the years, combined with monitoring the current situation. The use of drones helps spot any changes to the coral reef, or bushfires and any change to the landscape.
Some of the rangers have found work elsewhere, either as rangers or in conversation and the aim is to encourage other nations to embrace these processes to help repair vital ecosystems around the world. Indigenous people have great knowledge of not only the local environment but also any spiritual significance of particular sites.
The award for Building a Waste Free World was one by Notpla, a British company that makes an alternative to plastic from seaweed.
The statistics are mind boggling – only 9% of all the plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled, and an incredible 12% has been incinerated. With the rest going to landfill or being dumped into our oceans, Notpla may have come up with a solution.
With untreated plastic estimated to total over 6 billion tonnes currently littering our streets and oceans, it’s clear a solution is needed.
Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez have thought of a way to use seaweed and plants to create alternative packaging materials, a coating for food containers as well as paper for the cosmetics industry. The products are always 100% biodegradable and natural.
Their products are already in wide use; they have made over a million takeaway cartons for Just Eat already, and are hoping to replace over 100 million more across Europe in future. In 2019, Notpla supplied 36,000 edible bubbles filled with Lucozade to runners of the London marathon.
Other products are in the research and development stages and the hope is that single use plastic could become a thing of the past – saving energy resources used in manufacturing, and less plastic being dumped into the seas.
Seaweed farming is creating new opportunities for traditional fishing communities and a great statistic of all this is that carbon is captured by seaweed twenty times faster than trees – so good news for the climate crisis.
Finally, the Fix Our Climate prize went to Oman based company 44.01
Capturing CO2 and removing it from the atmosphere is a way of helping the planet, but storing it safely is time consuming and expensive. It involves burying the CO2 underground in disused oil-wells, and there are companies that store and eliminate it but at huge financial cost.
The molecular weight of carbon dioxide is 44.01 – hence the company name – and they have found a way of removing CO2 permanently. They mineralise it in peridotite, a rock local to Oman, a natural process which is traditionally slow, but 44.01 accelerate this by pumping carbonated water into seams of peridotite deep underground. It is then removed from the atmosphere forever.
The possibilities of this process are exciting as there is no need for monitoring any levels in future of the stored substance, and as it is perfectly safe, it can be scaled up in a cost-effective way.
The plan is initially to mineralise 1,000 tonnes a year for a couple of years, building up to a billion tonnes by 2040.
The project can be extended to other areas for the world where peridotite is found, such as America, Australia, Europe and Asia. Wherever the process takes place, local economies will benefit through job creation.
Bear in mind that these 5 winners are just that – the winners – there were many more entrants trying to bring their ideas to the world stage and if this is what we can expect over the next few years, I feel more positive about the future. If a woman in Nairobi who spent her childhood collecting firewood can come up with a solution, then surely anyone is able to make a difference, even if only in a small way.
There is a Global Alliance of companies and organisations that have come together to create a worldwide network to share ambitions which will force change in an attempt to repair the planet over the next ten years. The strength of the names that have joined the cause is huge, the list is extensive and can be found at the earth shot website www.earthshotprize.org , as can more information about the concept of Earthshot.