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The 2020 Call For Code Global Challenge by IBM India is calling on developers across the globe to find technological solutions to halt and reverse the impact of climate change. To extend support for the initiative, Nature inFocus is publishing a series of Climate Change stories from around the country.

The current pandemic has made us all realise how reliant we are on technology. As we all learn to manoeuvre and adapt our professional, personal and social lives within the confines of our homes, we find technology coming to our aid – when we need the right information, in sourcing essential supplies, coordinating community action, and staying connected with our extended families. But even outside these four walls, entrepreneurs and organisations are working on using the right technological tools to solve some of the world's most pressing issues. 

Increasingly, technology is being leveraged to address the climate crisis that we all experience in various ways. 2019 was the seventh-warmest year in India since 1901, and the country witnessed unprecedented floods across its various states. There is no debating that the time to act on the climate crisis is now.

To encourage technological innovation for some of the world's most pressing issues, IBM has launched Call For Code, a challenge for developers across the globe. The Call For Code submission portal opened on March 20th, and the contest will remain open till July 31st, 2020. The Global Challenge is accepting ideas under two tracks – COVID-19 and Climate Change, with relevant subcategories for each. The Global Challenge winners will be announced in October 2020. Winners will be awarded $200,000, receive open source support from The Linux Foundation, and will get a chance to meet mentors and investors. Above all, the winners will see their solutions deployed through Code and Response, exemplifying how good tech can make a difference.

To extend our support for the initiative, we are featuring some organisations and entrepreneurs who are already working towards implementing climate change solutions. Whether it is making clean energy more affordable, providing appropriate solutions for waste management, raising awareness about issues like food waste or repurposing waste into useful materials, technology has been at the forefront of these actions and innovations. Just like them, if you are interested in exploring the intersection of climate change and technology and coming up with real-world solutions to mitigate or reverse the effects of the crisis, IBM’s Call For Code challenge is for you. Participate in this global challenge and share your vision for a better future. For more information, visit Call For Code.

Graviky Labs

Paint the air clean

Staying indoors has definitely made us all more aware of the world around us. Have you also noticed clearer skies and cleaner air? What if this could be a permanent fixture in our lives, and not just the outcome of a pandemic? At least, that is what startups like Graviky Labs are working towards.

Founded in 2016, the startup is finding ways to upcycle carbon-rich emissions and converting it into products like ink/coating, rubber and construction materials. Graviky has developed a proprietary recycling technique to turn zero-value carbon emissions into high-value materials which are now being used by various industries. The technology can handle emissions from different grades of carbon, such as industrial and automotive-based emissions. The first upcycled line of products that they have come up with is called AIR-INK; a grade of inks and coatings that have been used by artists and printing, packaging and fashion industries across the globe, to create awareness about the environment.

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AIR-INK is now used by artists as well as printing, packaging and fashion industries across the globe, to create awareness about the environment. Photograph courtesy Graviky Labs
The solutions for environmental issues have various aspects to them – technology, social, economic and people's habits. Innovation happens at the crossroads of these aspects. If you are passionate about a facet of the environment, go deep into it. Look at the work being done in similar fields, and somewhere in your moments of epiphany, you will find the right dots to connect.

– Anirudh Sharma, Founder – Graviky Labs 

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A finished mural produced using AIR-INK. Garviky uses a proprietary recycling technique to turn zero-value carbon emissions into upcycled products like AIR-INK. Photograph courtesy Graviky Labs

So far, Graviky has produced more than 20,000 litres of ink, contributing to 700 tonnes of carbon offsets or reduction in emissions. TIME Magazine recognised Graviky as the Invention of the year for Environmental Innovation in 2019, and the startup is also the winner of MIT Solve 2020 Cohort. The technology is now being licensed to various rubber, plastic and construction material industries.

For more information, click here.

Fourth Partner Energy

Making solar energy feasible

Across 23 states, 1800+ plants, and 370 MW of energy capacity, Fourth Partner Energy provides end-to-end solar power solutions. Fourth Partner works not only with large corporates like Coca Cola, Schneider, Tata Consultancy Services, Nestle, Walmart, and McDonald's but also with educational institutions, providing evaluation, planning, design, construction and maintenance solutions for solar panelling. Recently, they joined hands with the electric vehicle manufacturer, Lithium Urban Technologies, to set up solar-powered charging hubs for their vehicles. 

The Smart Calculator page on the Fourth Partner website enables people to envision the impact of adding solar panels to their roof space, showing how important it is to switch to a sustainable energy source. Fourth Partner was recently awarded the Rooftop Project Developer Of the Year – Commercial, by the India Rooftop Solar Congress and the Best Green Business Award at Asia's Renewable Energy Excellence Awards, 2019.

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"Fourth Partner works not only with large corporates but also with educational institutions, providing evaluation, planning, design, construction and maintenance solutions for solar panelling." Pictured is the 500 kW rooftop solar plant at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. Photograph courtesy Fourth Partner Energy
Technology will have a big impact on how people adopt clean energy alternatives. We have a proprietary technology solution in the form of a remote monitoring and grid synchronisation platform. This enables us to track the generation, output and performance of solar plants across the country, identifying problems and malfunctions in real-time. This is definitely a game-changer. We have also worked across villages in India, bringing solar power to all the ICICI ATMs in rural areas. That is how we are going to be able to have a cost savings impact. Fourth Partner honestly believes that cost savings will be the driver for energy transition in India. Sustainability and climate action will have to piggyback on it. Once you deliver affordable options, and then people realise that this form of energy is also cleaner and greener – it is a win-win right there.

– Nithya Balakrishnan, Policy & MarCom – Fourth Partner Energy

For more information, click here.

Banka BioLoo

Leading India's toilet revolution

In 2012, we did a national launch of bio-digester toilets in villages in Odisha. It was a big hit, and people started thinking about human waste management after this. I learnt so much working on this project. It really opened my eyes to the issue of open defecation. I met rural women who were begging for toilets, and I thought to myself, is this something that people should be asking for, to begin with? That is when I started focusing on the rural areas and talking about these issues in larger platforms. The first challenge was to provide toilets, and now our focus is on treating and disposing the waste effectively. The thing is, these problems require appropriate technological solutions, but they are also issues that need community involvement. It has to be a balance.

– Namita Banka, Founder & MD – Banka BioLoo

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Banka BioLoo works with the Indian Railways, providing maintenance solutions for their Controlled Discharge Toilet Systems (CDTS). Photograph courtesy Banka BioLoo

Addressing the issue of open defecation and providing solutions for human waste management, Banka BioLoo was first established in 2008 to promote green product alternatives. In 2009, founder Namita Banka met an employee of the Indian Railways who informed her about the ‘Green Toilets’ that the Railways had installed. This fact changed Namita's path forever, and she began working with the Railways, providing maintenance solutions for their Controlled Discharge Toilet Systems (CDTS).

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A Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) produces disposal-safe sludge or converts it into a produce of nutritive value for agriculture and soil enhancement. Photograph courtesy Banka BioLoo

Today, Banka BioLoo not only manufactures and services eco-friendly Bio-Digester Toilets; the company has also set up Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTP) in Warangal, Telangana and Rajam, Andhra Pradesh. The treated sludge is made either safe for disposal or converted to a product of nutritive value for agriculture and soil enrichment. Their Droplet initiative is manufacturing toilets (water closets) that use much less water for flushing, compared to traditional systems. Namita Banka is the recipient of the Women Transforming India Award, 2018 and Banka BioLoo was also recognised by the Sankalp Awards in Healthcare, Water and Sanitation in 2013 among other national and international awards.

For more information, click here.

Saahas Zero Waste

No room for waste

Established in 2013, Saahas Zero Waste (SZW) is an offshoot of the NGO Saahas founded by Wilma Rodrigues. With extensive experience in waste management, SZW provides end-to-end solutions for bulk waste generators such as corporates, educational institutions and residential complexes in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Goa. Through decentralised waste management solutions, SZW ensures maximum resource recovery and minimum amount of waste going to landfills.

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Saahas Zero Waste provides end-to-end solutions for bulk waste generators such as corporates, educational institutions and residential complexes in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Goa. Photograph courtesy Saahas Zero Waste

The organisation has set up a one-of-its kind materials recovery facility in Bangalore that has the capacity to handle 16 metric tons of dry waste, every day. SZW promotes onsite composting or biogas for management of wet waste and also works with biogas operators for wet waste conversion from smaller units. They assist producers and brand owners with collection, channelisation and processing of both plastic waste and e-waste. Between April 2019 and March 2020, SZW diverted more than 10,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste from open areas and oceans through its Extended Producer Responsibility program. To close the loop on waste, SZW works with partners to recycle and upcycle various waste streams into products such as recycled stationery, roofing sheets, clothing, chipboards, upcycled textile waste products etc. The organisation won the Swachh Best Practice Award in 2018 by the Swachh Bharat Mission and Waislitz Global Citizen Award in 2017, among several other accolades.

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The Saahas Zero Waste recovery facility in Bangalore handles 16 metric tonnes of dry waste everyday. Photograph courtesy Saahas Zero Waste
A zero-waste world can be a reality only as a result of accountability. Accountability from governments, companies/brands and most importantly from ourselves. There is so much that we can do in our individual capacities – compost, buy less, use less plastic, reduce take-outs, use sustainable menstrual products, ask questions about waste and circularity to the brands that we love, are just some examples.

– Annie Philip, Lead – Compliance and Regulatory Policy – Saahas Zero Waste

For more information, click here.

No Food Waste

Eradicating food waste with technology

Did you know that about a third of the food produced globally goes to waste? In India, a major contributor to food waste are large events like weddings or public gatherings. The leftover food from such events is often dumped in landfills. This is also a waste of all the resources that went into growing and preparing the food. But organisations like No Food Waste are ensuring that this food gets redistributed among people who need it the most. 'Feed People. Not Landfills' is their motto. When informed about excess food at an event, the No Food Waste team reaches the location, inspects the food for quality, and redistributes it at their predetermined 'hunger hotspots' – locations that include slums, orphanages, and nursing homes. The initiative started in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, with the first distribution involving a single volunteer carrying surplus food from an event in two large shopper bags, transporting it in a bus. Today, they have dedicated transportation vehicles and vessels, and the mission has spread across cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Salem, and Tirunelveli, to name a few. They have also developed the No Food Waste App to simplify the food recovery process.

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So far, No Food Waste has managed to salvage over 400 tonnes of food, feeding more than two million people. Photograph courtesy No Food Waste
When it comes to stopping food waste, it is a collective effort. Both volunteers and donors depend on reliable information, so food is recovered and distributed quickly. Our No Food Waste App was created to address this problem. When we launch a chapter in a new city, it’s easy for us to identify food sources – wedding halls and event centres. But to identify hunger hotspots, we rely on people in the city. They can mark these places using our app. Additionally, if there is enough food for about 10-20 people, they can find the nearest spot, and make the delivery themselves. In these difficult times of the coronavirus lockdown, the information gathered on hunger hotspots is aiding volunteers with food distribution. In Coimbatore we are working with the City Municipal Corporation and delivering food prepared in a centralised kitchen. Reliable information makes all the difference. We are currently working on updating the app, and a new version will be released next month.

– Balaji Narayanaswamy, Team member – No Food Waste

So far they have managed to salvage over 400 tonnes of food, feeding more than two million people. No Food Waste has received the Swachh Bharat Award for 'Best Innovative Practices' and the Commonwealth Youth Award, 2019, for the Asia Region. 

For more information, click here.

Rudra Environmental Solutions 

Fueling a better future  

Entrepreneurs who are working at the intersection of technology and the environment must understand that this is a growing sector, and we need more people in this space. This is a tough space to be in, but it is also very satisfying to know that our work will have a positive impact on our environment. What is really important is to be passionate about what you do. Because your passion and your goal will keep you going through the dark times, and believe us, there are many of those in this journey. 

– Dr Medha Tadpatrikar, Director – Rudra Environmental Solutions

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Rudra Environment Solutions, founded by Shirish Phadtare and Dr Medha Tadpatrikar, uses the process of Thermo Catalytic Depolymerisation (TCD) to break down plastic into poly fuel that can be used in furnaces, kerosene stoves and as fuel for generators. Photograph courtesy Rudra Environmental Solutions

When founders Shirish Phadtare and Dr Medha Tadpatrikar visited a wildlife sanctuary in 2009, they were told about a deer that was found dead with a lot of plastic content in its stomach. Shocked to learn that discarded plastic was responsible for this, the couple turned to their own kitchen to find ways to address plastic waste. They involved their pressure cooker for the initial set of experiments, and realised that plastic could be broken down to a poly fuel using the process of Thermo Catalytic Depolymerisation (TCD). Today, Rudra, along with Keshav Sita Memorial Foundation Trust, Pune, collects about 20-25 metric tonnes of discarded plastic waste, which is then processed in their facility in the city. The resulting fuel can be used in furnaces, kerosene stoves and as fuel for generators. The organisation also works with 52 villages around Pune city, providing the residents with fuel for their cooking needs. The residue generated after the depolymerisation of plastic can be used as material for building roads. The released gases are repurposed to generate energy for the depolymerisation itself. Learning about their methods, people have shipped plastic waste to them from other states as well. Rudra is the winner of the Excellence in Recycling Award, 2017 and has been featured by Discovery India.

For more information, click here.

GEM Enviro Management Pvt Ltd

Giving new life to packaging waste

While many businesses are interested in employing effective waste management measures, they often find the task daunting. What if someone could step in and help you through the process? Meet GEM Enviro Management. The organisation assists corporates in fulfilling their Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements, which mandates that producer companies effectively treat and dispose of post-consumer waste. GEM aids in the collection of pre and post-consumer packaging waste, which is then segregated and recycled. The treated waste is turned into products like T-shirts, bags, stationery and blankets, giving waste a new life. In collaboration with Ganesha Ecosphere, a PET recycling company, GEM converts packaging material to fibres that are then used in manufacturing these products. The company has also set up more than 100 Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) across different states in India. These machines make the collection of used PET bottles more efficient, reducing litter. The collected bottles are crushed within the machines and sent to the recycling facilities.

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Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) make the collection of used PET bottles more efficient; the bottles are crushed in-situ and later sent to recycling facilities. Photograph courtesy GEM Enviro Management Pvt Ltd
GEM Enviro Management endeavours to optimise the use of technology in the waste management sector in India. We believe that increased use of technology can bring several positive changes in this sector. Also, it will lead to improved work conditions for the people associated with waste collection. We developed the Reverse Vending Machines in-house, and we have also created mobile apps for the efficient collection of plastic bottle waste. We have seen an increase in waste collection because of these resources. This is the kind of impact that we are talking about.

– Sachin Sharma, Director – GEM Enviro Management Pvt Ltd

In 2019 alone, they have processed 100,000 tonnes of plastic waste. The organisation also works with municipal corporations to train waste collectors on the importance of segregation, for which they have been recognised by government agencies. 

For more information, click here.