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Sustainia wants us to start acting today, not tomorrow

Building finalist: Advantix Systems (Image 1 of 10)

Advantix air conditioning systems use 40 percent less energy than conventional systems by leading air through nontoxic fluid saltwater instead of chilling air to remove humidity and then reheating. When looking to the future of appliances, motors and air-conditioning units in developing countries, the implications for Advantix are far reaching

Learn more here.

IT finalist: Fairphone (Image 2 of 10)

With a phone made from conflict-free minerals, a company that provides fair wages to workers at production facilities and a transparent supply chain, the social business Fairphone is hoping to bring ethics to its industry. So far it has sold 25,000 phones, with an eye on the entire life span — from mining to reuse to recycling.

Learn more here.

Fashion finalist: I:Collect (Image 3 of 10)

By partnering with large retailers, I:CO has created a clothing take-back system, where apparel, footwear and other textiles can be redeemed by customers for financial rewards. The collected clothing can then be sold secondhand, recycled or upcycled depending on how it fares against a list of 350 criteria.

Learn more here.


Food finalist: Netafim (Image 4 of 10)

Using gravity to distribute water and nutrients to the root zone of crops from an elevated tank — which minimizes the need for electrical infrastructure — the Netafim irrigation system provides smallholder farmers a low-tech way to increase yields and address water scarcity.

Learn more here.


Resources finalist: AirCarbon by Newlight Technologies (Image 5 of 10)

Instead of creating products like chairs, cell phone cases and bags from oil-based plastics, AirCarbon captures greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and turns them into plastic, thus creating goods that are carbon negative even after you account for the emissions from energy used in production.

Learn more here.

Energy finalist: Opower (Image 6 of 10)

Keeping up with the Joneses can work for sustainability, as Opower shows through its cloud-based software for utility companies, which creates customer-facing applications that compare customers’ energy usage to that of their neighbors. This results in monetary savings for the customer and fewer carbon emissions for the planet.

Learn more here.

Education finalist: Floating Classrooms (Image 7 of 10)

More than 1 million Bangladeshis could be displaced by rising sea levels by 2050.  The Bangladeshi non-governmental organization Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has secured year-round education in floodprone regions by building a fleet of solar-powered school boats — and the model has been replicated in Nigeria, Cambodia, Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia.

Learn more here.

Transportation finalist: Spotcycle (Image 8 of 10)

Available in cities in North America, Australia and Europe, Spotcycle from 8D Technologies is a bike-sharing app that helps cyclists find bike-sharing stations and map routes, encouraging the use of programs that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation.

Learn more here.


Health finalist: The Solar Suitcase (Image 9 of 10)

The lack of light in many developing countries leads to many preventable medical situations turning dire, such as mothers dying in labor. So We Care Solar created the Solar Suitcase, which provides solar electricity for medical lighting, mobile communication and medical devices for rural areas.

Learn more here.

Photo by Bradly Wong

Cities finalist: Wecyclers (Image 10 of 10)

In developing countries, much of the waste in urban areas isn’t even collected, much less recycled. The Wecyclers bicyclers pick up, collect and recycle garbage in low-income neighborhoods in Lagos, Nigeria, offering incentives to participants through points delivered to cell phones that can redeemed for goods.

Learn more here.


Earlier this year, we asked if we might already have what we need to solve our greatest environmental challenges. Stop looking for the next big thing, we wrote, and start doing the last big thing better. Maybe, if scaled up appropriately or invested in properly, the solutions are already there for us.

A similar edict seems to be at the heart of global think tank Sustainia, which tries to look at “what we’re working for, not just against,” as Greenbiz wrote in 2013. With the publication of Sustainia100, a guide to innovative and readily available sustainability solutions from around the world, the nonprofit goes beyond attempting to inspire investors, business leaders, consumers and policy makers to choose a sustainable future — it puts the options for doing so right in front of them.

“The solutions are exciting because they give us tangible ways to start acting. Not tomorrow or when heads of states can agree on binding treaties — but today,” says Sustainia director Laura Storm.

The top 100 solutions in action are a result of choosing 10 entries — from over 900 — in each of 10 categories: buildings, food, fashion, transportation, IT, education, energy, health, cities and resources. Take the best in each of those sectors and you’re left with the 10 finalists vying for the Sustainia Award, which will be given out at a ceremony in Copenhagen on October 30, 2014. Above are the finalists for each category. View Ensia homepage

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