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Meet the Planet’s Caretakers and Their Earth-Saving Innovations

A humanely-sourced smartphone, tree-planting drones, and more.

Each year, GOOD celebrates 100 people from around the globe who are improving our world in creative and innovative ways—advocates, inventors, educators, creatives, business leaders and more who are speaking up, building things, campaigning for change, and ultimately refusing to accept the status quo.

In this section, meet 13 problem-solvers who are monitoring, preserving, and restoring our planet and its precious resources.


Four Innovators Changing the Food Industry

Emeryville

Matthew Dillon, director of Clif Bar’s Seed Matters initiative, is waging a David-vs.-Goliath battle against the agrochemical-infested seed industry by lobbying for organic-friendly legislation and funding organic plant-breeding research.

London

Saasha Celestial-One sees wasted food as the result of an inefficient market. Her OLIO app launches this spring across the United Kingdom, connecting neighbors and businesses looking to buy, sell, or share surplus food.

Utrecht

Former TED Prize Director Amy Novogratz co-founded Dutch investment fund Aqua-Spark to support environmentally friendly aquacultural food systems. Investments include natural fishmeal alternatives, internet-connected fish-feeding, and sustainable fish-farming in Mozambique.

Lima

Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s restaurants Malabar and Ámaz celebrate Amazonian ingredients sourced from indigenous farmers and fishermen. Recently, Schiaffino took his gastronomic advocacy further, bringing together experts to map the Amazonian food-supply chain.

Lizette Kriel Plugs Into Green Energy

Johannesburg

Lizette Kriel’s company Freedom Won converts gas-powered vehicles to electric and sells lithium-ion battery units. Due to frequent rolling blackouts, stable electricity is lacking in South Africa, and the batteries offer a smart way to supplement dicey power or, when paired with solar panels, go completely off-grid. Or if you’re looking to convert a 4x4 game vehicle, truck, riverboat, even a mini bus—Kriel’s team has you covered.

Kevin France’s AirBnB for Water

Denver

When Kevin France first pitched his idea for SWIIM—software to allow farmers, ranchers, municipalities, businesses, and conservation groups to lease and transfer unused water rights in real time—prospective investors laughed. Five years later, the platform is preparing to launch throughout California and is drawing interest from drought-stricken nations around the world.

Edwin Kaduki Brings Solar Power to the People

Nairobi

As head of technology at solar power supplier M-KOPA, Edwin Kaduki develops systems that allow low-income customers across East Africa to access clean energy through a simple pay-as-you-go scheme that’s cheaper than burning kerosene. Since its commercial launch in 2012, the company has connected more than 280,000 homes in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to solar power, adding over 500 new homes a day.

Dr. Achala Abeysinghe is a Climate Change Crusader

Edinburgh

As principal researcher of the Climate Change Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, Dr. Achala Abeysinghe studies legal issues in international climate change negotiations. The Sri Lankan native also represented the U.N.’s Least Developed Countries Group at last year’s COP21 meeting in Paris, advocating for equity in climate change issues for the world’s 48 most vulnerable countries.

Sean DeWitt Restocks Africa’s Greenery

Washington, D.C.

Sean DeWitt, director of the World Resources Institute’s Global Restoration Initiative, is the lead partner for one of the quieter revolutions that emerged from last December’s U.N. Climate Change Conference. The $1.6 billion African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative plans by 2030 to restore 100 million hectares of forest across Africa, which suffers deforestation at twice the rate of any other continent.

Lian Pin Koh Spies On Tropical Environments

Adelaide

Since Singaporean ecologist Lian Pin Koh and Dutch biologist Serge Wich visited Indonesia in 2012 to field test their prototype of a low-cost, unmanned aerial vehicle, the duo’s nonprofit, Conservation Drones, has grown into a global community that supports UAV-aided conservation in tropical developing nations. Koh and his team hope to continue adapting new technologies for the environmental surveillance sector, while raising awareness of the effects of land-use conflicts and modern-day threats to the ecosystem and wildlife—and hopefully turning that research into actionable information for policymakers.

Lauren Fletcher’s Green-Thumb Drones

Oxford

To counter industrial-scale deforestation, BioCarbon Engineering CEO Lauren Fletcher’s team has an industrial solution: unmanned aerial vehicles that map topography and autonomously plant seed pods at 10 times the rate and 15 percent the cost of traditional reforestation methods. The company starts planting trials this year in Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Anna Cummins Gives the Boot to Microbeads

Santa Monica

When Cummins founded marine research nonprofit 5 Gyres with her husband in 2009, she wanted to study the five subtropical gyres—rotating vortexes of ocean currents—where plastic pollution concentrates. Five years and 17 research expeditions later, Cummins’s team published the first-ever global estimate of oceanic plastic pollution: 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. Armed with hard data, 5 Gyres spent last year pushing a measure to ban environmentally hazardous microbeads. Used in cosmetic and health care products, the tiny plastic beads end up in rivers and oceans. The U.S. Senate approved the measure last December.

Bas van Abel’s Phone is the Fairest of Them All

Utrecht

Bas van Abel had a simple idea: tech products that prioritize ethics. The Dutch designer launched Fairphone in 2011, keen on developing a smartphone with a sustainable life cycle that was manufactured in fair working conditions. The company’s second model, which ships this spring, is built with minerals from conflict-free mines in the Congo and Fair Trade gold. It’s assembled at a facility in Suzhou, China, where Fairphone is advocating for better worker representation and funding employee welfare proposals. Fairphone 2 is also modular, allowing customers to extend product life by replacing a broken screen or dead battery rather than the whole hog.

Features

The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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The Planet