Ecology: these entrepreneurs who invent for the good of…

If environmental issues are the concern of all humanity, they are of particular concern to women. And although no overall statistics are currently available, extensive surveys conducted in recent years in the United States, France, northern Europe and Switzerland clearly show this. In our country, for example, an OFS study published in 2020 establishes that 65% of respondents “see it as a very important or rather important problem”. Against 56% of men.

These concerns obviously have repercussions on daily life. Examples? Of the Swiss women surveyed, 76% declare that they now take energy consumption into account before acquiring small electrical appliances (69% for men) and, when it comes to shopping, 46% of them give “always or most of the time” the preference for organic products. An indicator that rises to 40% among men.

That said, if this female sensitivity to green issues induces more and more adaptations of lifestyle – choice of sustainable and if possible local goods, carpooling, reduction of food waste, energy and water consumption, composting, reduction or even cessation of the purchase of meat… –, it is also reflected in actions with a broader scope.

In fact, eager for changes by which the good of the planet and its inhabitants prevails over all other considerations, thousands of scientists, economists, computer scientists, professors, politicians, engineers, technicians, etc. launched projects around the world. Each on their own scale, in their specific field, they have thus become actively involved, becoming essential agents of the green revolution. Spotlight on some of these formidable personalities who prove Aragon right. Because yes, the woman is the future of the man!

Garvita Gulhati (India): an anti-water waste app

When she discovered in 2015 that 14 million liters of drinking water not consumed in restaurants are thrown down the drain each year in India, Garvita Gulhati’s blood only turns. This is all the more so as the drought has once again struck the state of Karnataka, where she lives. Neither one nor two, the 15-year-old decides to act. And quick. Armed with her desire to do well, a little candid, the girl begins by touring the restaurants of her city, Bangalore, to try to convince the tenants to only fill the glasses halfway, even if it means refilling their customers on request. Alas… she refuses after refusal. Tenacious, she changes her tune.

The bosses don’t want to play the game? She’s going to attack the customers!

This is how she imagines the application Why Waste? (Why waste?), which allows you to measure your daily consumption of drinking water. From 2017, the success of this app was such that the federation of restaurateurs (500,000 establishments) got involved… and realized that the “glass half full” system indeed allows substantial savings. That is 10 million liters of drinking water in 5 years. Like what drip, it does not look like much, but it works.

Fanny Coustaline and Caroline Dommen (Geneva): happenings on urban vegetable gardens or vermicomposting

An agricultural engineer specializing in the trade of agricultural products and short supply chains, Fanny Coustaline actively campaigns to support sustainable consumption and promote waste reduction. As a result, with her friend Caroline Dommen, herself a lawyer specializing in sustainable development and very interested in the fair and circular economy, she founded the non-profit association Les Défricheuses, based in the canton of Geneva. Their goal? Help as many people as possible see life green. And to achieve this, they put their heart, enthusiasm and time into it.

To their credit many demonstrations, interventions or happenings open to all in the field of local food, urban vegetable gardens, waste reduction or compost – and in particular vermicomposting of which they are both specialists and guides . As well as the establishment of a grain library (a free and open system for exchanging seeds) and actions to promote eco-responsible actions on a daily basis.


Ibtissem Guefrachi (France): antibiotics from the plant world

Passionate about biology since her childhood, Ibtissem Guefrachi, 39, had to fight hard to find her way – especially because of her gender. Nevertheless, this determined and relentless Tunisian, who now lives in France, is now internationally recognized for her work on biodiversity and the development of bioresources in arid zones. And above all, for her research on antibiotics from the plant world, which constitutes a promising avenue in the fight against multi-resistant bacteria, “a global health emergency”, she insists.

In its future projects: the foundation of a laboratory on the interaction between plants and microbes, with the aim of reducing the use of nitrogenous fertilizers, which would have positive effects on climate change and water pollution.

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Pauline Lançon (France): a project to help salt producers become more independent

Winner of the 2019 UN Gender and Climate Solutions Prize, Frenchwoman Pauline Lançon has put her enthusiasm and know-how at the service of women and the environment in Guinea-Bissau. Mandated by the Guérande association Univers-sel, she has in fact set up a project to help salt producers to become more autonomous while having a sustainable management of resources. Pretty bla-bla? Concrete.

In fact, Guinean women who practiced salt farming in the traditional way heated a mixture of salty earth and water on a fire. A time-consuming and especially wood-intensive process that is harmful to health because of the fumes released.

Now, thanks to the techniques that Pauline taught them, there is no longer any need to make a fire – all they have to do is place the brine on tarpaulins so that the evaporation takes place naturally under the effect of the sun and the wind. Result: savings in wood and time, less strenuous work, improved sanitary conditions. The icing on the cake: no longer needing to help their mother, the children can go back to school.

Lucy Hughes (Great Britain): fish waste to make bioplastic

Although very useful, plastic is nonetheless an ecological scourge – especially when it ends up in nature. In an attempt to solve this problem and create an ersatz that would have the same practical qualities but would be biodegradable, countless researches have been undertaken. Some have succeeded. Thus that of Lucy Hughes, a 25-year-old Briton today at the head of the start-up Marina Tex.

Her story begins in 2019. Still a student of product design at the University of Sussex and very involved in ecological issues, she has a genius idea while passing in front of the remains of fish piled up in front of a fishery: what if we used this waste? to make a bioplastic out of it? Hundreds of tests and experiments later, she obtains a flexible and resistant material, which can be used as packaging or food protection and takes between 4 and 6 weeks to decompose in a compost. To date, on its hot coals, it is still awaiting health authorizations (and some financial aid, etc.) but hopes to be able to launch production soon. To be continued, then.

Amandine Lefevre (France): parking slabs made of oyster waste

Will Amandine Lefevre revolutionize the road? As an engineer in the Franche-Comté start-up specializing in soil permeability Purple Alternative Surface, she works there, in any case. And for now, the projects launched by this young company have undeniable potential. Take the Conchy l’Innov parking slabs, for example. Designed from oyster waste that oyster producers don’t know what to do with, this coating has the particularity of being permeable. Pierced with joints and equipped with storage cells, the plates allow rainwater to infiltrate gently into the ground – and therefore to overcome a double problem posed by bitumen: soil degradation and risks. of flooding.

A few days ago, Conchy l’Innov parking spaces were installed on an experimental basis (for now!) near the Marennes-Oléron oyster basin. From there to say that it is ecological to eat oysters…


Diana Yousef (USA): dry toilets 2.0

A biochemist by vocation and an entrepreneur committed to protecting the environment by passion, Dr. Diana Yousef is particularly concerned about issues related to water. For once, after having launched several companies with ecological aims, she founded Change: WATER Labs in 2018 in the United States. It is in this context that it revisited the concept of dry toilets and developed the iThrone, a revolutionary small portable and compact cube since, thanks to an inexpensive composite polymer membrane, the total water content of human waste evaporates.

No need to flush, therefore, which drastically reduces the volume of wasted water and solves some of the problems of evacuation and sewers.

What about odors or “solids”? As Diana Yousef explains, the iThrone has a biobattery. Fueled by manure, it converts waste into energy, which is then used to ventilate the toilets. As for the emptying, it is done monthly, this throne 2.0 being designed to treat the excrement of 5 to 10 people for about thirty days.

Majd Mashharawi (Palestine): solar kits and ecological bricks

For young Palestinian engineer Majd Mashharawi, things are simple: “One woman with income, education and knowledge can go further than 100 men together.” She proved it. Her story begins in Gaza, in 2014. Walking in her neighborhood devastated by bombardments, she wonders how to rebuild these destroyed houses, while her country is in shortage of concrete.

Suddenly, an illumination. To replace the sand and gravel that Israel no longer delivers, it will focus on a local and inexpensive component, coal ash. Thus was born the ecological brick Green Cake. Many tests in support, this material which has already been used to build a wall of 1000 blocks works as well as ordinary concrete while costing 25% less in production. The only unknown: its durability. But that’s not all. Determined to improve the daily lives of the inhabitants of Gaza, who have known for years and on a daily basis what black out means, Majd Mashharawi created the start-up SunBox in 2018. His idea: to provide access to electricity by providing, among other things, off-grid solar kits at an affordable price. A utopia? His project has already enabled hundreds of families to no longer have to live in the dark…


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