Oxymoronically titled British alternative bands aside, how can a Monday be happy in the midst of American Armageddon 2018? Thanks to 24 early and growth stage companies from all walks of the cleantech sector answering the question, “Who are you, and why should I care?” Monday has turned out to be the best day of my week so far.
I don’t know if any or all of these businesses can scale and make a go of it, but the optimism on display at the Washington Clean Tech Alliance annual Showcase was infectious and a welcomed respite from the madness and non-stop outrages of the day which are making me wonder what has become of us?
One of the main reasons I devote the bulk of my professional life to sustainable businesses is not just because they are a welcomed antidote to pessimism and cynicism, but because the diversity of ideas out there to make the world a habitable place is really astounding. When you use the word ‘sustainability,’ most people think about recycling and solar panels (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but this group is made up of a marriage of systems thinkers and dreamers.
A great example: everyone knows about how wind turbines spin and create clean energy, but what happens after 20-30 years when the turbine’s fiberglass blades wear out? Enter Global Fiberglass Solutions, who have thought through not just how to recycle the fiberglass, but to manufacture it into completely new products. There are currently over 52,000 wind turbines in the United States alone, and all of them will need to be replaced at some point–that’s an enormous amount of fiberglass they are diverting from the landfill.
Another intriguing company is at the forefront of the next generation of carbon capture. Most scientists believe we can’t keep global temperatures from rising above the three degree Celsius tipping point if we aren’t able to do something about the CO2 already in the atmosphere. The first and largely unsuccessful generation of problem solvers came up with the idea of storing carbon underground, an idea that always struck me like asking a smoker to inhale and hold his breath in perpetuity. Monday, I learned carbon capture and storage is yesterday’s news thanks to companies like Phytonix, who have developed a process to use CO2 from large industrial emitters as a feedstock from which they create natural chemicals (talk about an oxymoron!).
I could go on about bioplastics and hydrogen fuel cells that will be the backbone of a more sustainable future already being conceived an executed by these pioneers, and it makes me feel like I’m a visitor to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York when people were shown a future of flying cars, cosmic rays and Smell-O-Vision. An event like the Showcase can best be summed up in the words of a letter written by Shawshank escapee, Andy Dufrense. “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Here’s to more happy Mondays.