Connecting communities to fight food waste

Food waste is a common problem in all industrial societies. According to the Department of Environment and Energy, Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste in 2016-17. Of this, 34% was created in our homes. At the same time, more than 4 million Australians have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months.

Queensland impact start-up Spare Harvest is looking to bridge this divide. The app-based community facilitates the swapping, sharing, selling and sourcing of produce, pantry items, gardening equipment, and much more… “We have left the categories and ways in which people interact very open to make it easy for anyone to participate,” explains company founder Helen Andrew.

Over a period of three and a half years – and with very little technical knowledge –  Helen bootstrapped an online marketplace with 3,000 members and around 300 listings.

An idea to fight food waste – grown in the backyard

And it all started with a problem in Helen’s own backyard. When she traded life in the City and her corporate career in favour of a plot of land on the Sunshine Coast and raising her children, she knew one thing for certain: she wanted to be able to grow her own food and provide her kids with an experience similar to her own childhood in suburban Brisbane.

Helen Andrew is fighting food waste
Spare Harvest founder Helen Andrew. Image credit: Spare Harvest

The Sunshine Coast property looked like it would allow her to fulfill that dream. It had many established fruit trees with the potential to add more varieties over time.

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Protecting Australian native stingless bees from rising temperatures

Ann and Jeff Ross became beekeepers by accident. A few years ago, a hive of European honeybees had made themselves at home in one of the walls of Jeff and Ann’s car mechanic shop on the Sunshine Coast. Instead of just getting the hive removed, the couple decided to relocate them to their backyard and with that became hobby beekeepers overnight.

Hive Haven co-founder Ann Ross invented the bee box for Australian stingless native bees.
Hive Haven co-founder Ann Ross with version 9 of their bee box. Image credit: Hive Haven

Little did they know at the time that their new hobby would soon turn into a business. Ann and Jeff are the founders of Hive Haven, an Australian agricultural start-up that is one part boutique honey producer and one part award-winning manufacturer of insulated hives designed for the needs of the Australian stingless native bee.  

From hobby beekeeper to industry innovator

“I was doing a business degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast when we got that first hive”, remembers Ann. “While I was studying, Jeff’s interest in bees grew and he started growing his apiary .”

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This Aussie inventor is making wave energy affordable

In the search for a more sustainable energy mix, solar, wind and nuclear power are clearly dominating the discussion. But there’s another source of renewable energy that has great potential: ocean waves.

“Unfortunately, no wave energy technology has managed to be cost effective until now”, says Oceanographer Tom Denniss. “But we believe that will soon change.”

Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss
Wave Swell Energy Founder Tom Denniss. Image credit: WSE

Tom and his team at Australian energy technology company Wave Swell Energy (WSE) are about to prove that wave energy has the potential to become a serious player in sustainable power generation. WSE is about to construct and launch a 200 kW wave energy project on King Island, with Hydro Tasmania integrating the electricity from the unit into the local hybrid grid, alongside its existing wind, solar, and diesel generation.

Producing energy through waves at a competitive price

Proving that wave energy can be captured in a cost-competitive way has long been a challenge for the sector. WSE is aiming to demonstrate this capability via the King Island project – and as a result of that to become the first wave energy technology to enter the commercial phase.

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compostable alternative soft plastic

This Kiwi start-up offers a compostable alternative to soft plastic

As the former owner of three busy restaurants in New Zealand, Ben Grant knows a thing or two about the issue of packaging. “We had about 10,000 people moving through our premises every week and around 50% of our customers were ordering takeaway”, he recalls. “Add to that all the packaging the produce is coming in and you’re dealing with huge piles of rubbish and recycling every day.”

Having always been conscious about the footprint he’s been living, Ben decided to change the packaging industry for the better after he sold his restaurant business in 2018. Together with Josh Kempton he founded Grounded Packaging, a start-up company that is aiming to replace soft plastic with compostable packaging from bio-based materials.

“The reason why we focussed on soft plastic is that it is the most problematic area within our current waste and recycling system”, says Ben.

Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging offering compostable alternatives to soft plastic.
Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging.

Soft plastic cannot be processed through the kerbside recycling system because it gets caught in the machinery (side note: soft plastic can get recycled through RedCycle). At the same time, soft plastic – like most plastics – is made from petrochemicals and is therefore detrimental to the environment in more than one way.

Why we still need packaging

Yet, while the movement against single-use plastic is gathering momentum in some regions, it’s difficult to imagine a modern world without packaging.

“Packaging material fulfils an important role in life – and especially in the food industry”, says Ben. For instance, packaging is known to significantly increase the shelf life of fresh produce which in turn helps to reduce food waste.

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This circular fashion brand is changing the industry from within

The rise of fast fashion has completely changed the way we buy clothing. Trends come and go at the blink of an eye and ever-lowering price tags mean that it hardly seems worthwhile to repair a garment. The result? Globally one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second.

Courtney Holm, Founder of circular fashion A.BCH
A.BCH founder Courtney Holm

For a long time, making more sustainable style choices could seem like an absolute minefield. Fast fashion brands continue to dominate our malls and even if you are prepared to pay more for your clothing it doesn’t necessarily mean that the garments were made from better quality materials or under better conditions.

The good news is that as consumer awareness around the environmental and social impact of their fashion choices is growing, more and more brands are emerging that adopt more sustainable philosophies.

Courtney Holm is a Melbourne-based designer and the founder of Australia’s first circular fashion label A.BCH. Through local sourcing, the use of 100% traceable material and radical transparency, Courtney is looking to offer consumers the opportunity to make better choices and is working to change the fashion industry from within.

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An ethical investment app for the Netflix era

Shun the plastic bag. Eat less meat. Ride your bike instead of driving. Changing the default in our everyday choices is among the most common advice given to anyone looking to lessen their impact on the planet. And while each of these decisions does reduce our personal carbon footprint a little bit, many people are unknowingly undermining their own efforts to lead a more sustainable life through their investments.

Goodments founders Tom Culver and Emily Taylor
Goodments founder team Emily Taylor and Tom Culver

“It’s all well and good to take your KeepCup to the coffee shop, but if you are still investing in companies that depend on fossil fuels there’s a massive misalignment between your values and how you’re going about securing your future in economic terms”, says Tom Culver. To help bridge this gap, the former wealth and investment manager took a leap of faith at the beginning of 2017 and left his stable career to launch the ethical investment start-up Goodments together with his wife Emily Taylor.

Democratising ethical investment

The idea behind Goodments is simple: make it as easy as possible for anyone to invest in recognisable brands that are aligned with their values. The Sydney-based FinTech company is achieving this through a combination of different strategies.

  1. Ditching the finance jargon

“The world of finance is full of unnecessary complexity and language that is completely meaningless to the majority of people”, explains Tom. “That’s why we decided to move away from talking purely about financial returns to emphasising the impact instead.”

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