News | 16 September 2021

Eco start-ups striving for a sustainable future

Making sustainable car commuting easier, keeping edible food out of landfill, and creating safer and more sustainable batteries are three Wellington-based initiatives helping to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

A young woman with long brown hair wearing a dark green blazer and a maroon skirt, beside a young man with shot brown hair, glasses, a blue shirt and white trousers, standing in the middle of the road with three lanes of vehicles behind them as well as tall buildings in central Wellington.
Carpooling app Hitch founders Claudia and Todd.

Wellington City Council is a supporter of Creative HQ’s Climate Response Accelerator, the first of its kind in the country, and designed to help innovative entrepreneurs develop climate-change solutions.

The three Pōneke teams selected to take part in the 12-week programme were behind carpooling platform Hitch, the Foodprint app where hospitality and retail sectors can sell surplus, imperfect and short-dated food at a discount to prevent waste, and TasmanIon, which focuses on sustainable alternatives to lithium-ion batteries.

The Climate Response Accelerator programme aligns with Wellington City Council’s Te Atakura – First to Zero blueprint and action plan, says Alison Howard, Manager Climate Change Response.

“As we gallop towards 2030 it’s heartening to know proactive people are out there working to make a difference for our city.”

Hitch

Hitch was co-founded by passionate problem-solvers, Todd Foster and Claudia Grave.

“One windy Wellington morning last November we were sitting at a cafe on Waterloo Quay plotting our next venture,” Claudia says.

“We couldn't help but notice the number of people all driving in the same direction with empty seats in their car, so we started counting. On average 28 cars with no passengers went by every 30 seconds.”

She says every day in New Zealand more than 1.4 million people travel in private vehicles, nearly all with just one person inside.

“The end result is that 5.5 million empty seats travel to and from work each day. Empty seats lead to traffic congestion, high cost of travel, strain on resources like roads, but most importantly, it contributes to climate change.”

Claudia says taking meaningful action against climate change requires a conscious mindset shift, breaking habits, and at times making sacrifices.

Through the duo’s platform, Hitch, they aim to change the way people think about commuting by making carpooling more flexible and convenient, by connecting commuters heading the same way at the same time.

“Many people who drive to work could start commuting in a more environmentally friendly way tomorrow. We hope Hitch will ultimately give commuters a chance to do their bit for the environment and their community.”

Hitch’s current focus is getting workplaces carpooling.

“Sustainability is becoming more top of mind for workplaces and one of the easiest ways we can reduce our carbon footprint is staring us right in the face - our commute!”

Claudia says carpooling will help with building a sense of community within workplaces and reduce parking pressures.

Visit the Hitch website to find out more.

A smiling woman with mid-length black hair and a navy blue blouse with small white poker dots on it, standing in front of a blurred brick wall with plants growing up against it behind a metal frame.
Foodprint founder and director Michal Garvey.

Foodprint

Foodprint founder and director Michal Garvey says the idea came to her while studying web development in Sweden.

“Foodprint brings together three things I'm passionate about – food, sustainability and technology. Once I'd completed my course, I was on a plane home to get stared.”

It was launched in Auckland two years ago, and now there are 30 Wellington eateries on the platform (including Nam D, The Lab, Fix & Fogg, Cafe Priva and Yoshi Sushi).

Customers follow eateries as favourites to receive push notifications when they have food available to be rescued, purchase the items at a discount within the app and collect from the eatery before they close.

“Food waste is a problem that doesn't make sense financially, socially or environmentally,” Michal says.

“Currently the hospitality and retail sectors produce about 50,000 tonnes of food waste annually, over 60 percent of which is still edible food. Reducing food waste has been identified as the third most important action to fight the climate crisis.”

Michal hopes Foodprint will contribute to New Zealand meeting the UN Sustainable Development target that calls for all nations to “halve per capita global food waste” by 2030.

Michal encourages people to consider the full lifecycle of items they are purchasing, eat their leftovers, compost inedible food scraps, and to shop with a shopping list.

“Usually what's good for the planet is also good for your wallet and your local community.”

To find out more and download the app, visit Foodprint.

A smiling young woman with long black hair and glasses, wearing a maroon top and grey cardigan, standing in a laneway with grey, purple, and yellow painted buildings.
TasmanIon’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Shalini Divya.

TasmanIon

TasmanIon’s aim is to introduce a new energy storage device that is safer and more sustainable than the batteries currently on the market.

Co-founder and chief technology officer, Shalini Divya, PhD, says her homeland was her motivation for developing the TasmanIon technology.

“Born and raised in India – the fourth-largest energy consumer globally – I am aware of energy poverty, which affects more than 400 million people, limiting their access to food and water, education, and employment and negatively impacting their health and hygiene.

“I am keen on developing this new technology piece and making it available for everyone and not just the elite.”

TasmanIon is based on Shalini’s PhD work on non-aqueous aluminium-ion batteries, with the co-founder being her PhD supervisor, Professor Thomas Nann of Victoria University of Wellington.

“In 2018, I discovered a new cathode material that outperformed most of the other cathodes in aluminium-ion battery literature. TasmanIon’s aim is commercialising aluminium-ion batteries that offer a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to the increasing battery demands.”

Because TasmanIon technology uses electrolytes that are not flammable, Shalini has big ambitions for the batteries.

“Scientists are exploring the universe every day and cannot afford to use a battery that can explode – maybe, TasmanIon batteries will be sent into space in one of the rovers!”

Aotearoa’s eight 2021 Climate Response Accelerator teams will be showcasing their initiatives in a virtual event on Wednesday 22 September 2021. Find out more about the Climate Response Accelerator at creativehq.co.nz.