We found it only fitting to celebrate Earth Day by celebrating the local startups helping us be environmentally-friendly every day. Check out this impressive list of companies and entrepreneurs making an impact in the Triangle and far beyond with materials, technologies and products that make the world better.
When recycling and healthy living becomes a game, more people engage in it. At least that's what the app company JouleBug
has found in the years since launch. The Raleigh and San Francisco based startup works with universities and communities to create sustainability challenges and engagement among students or residents using a freemium version of the app. Check out this ExitEvent profile
of the company from last summer.
A community compost shuttle, CompostNow
, offers home, office or restaurant delivery of composting bins, regular pick-up of composted material and delivery of soil to be used in home or community gardens. Available today in the Triangle and Asheville, the company is planning expansion to Charlotte, and potentially other markets. A counter on its website says its kept more than 437,000 pounds of organic waste from entering a landfill since launch in 2010. Other startup options for local composting include Tilthy Rich (in Durham) and Food FWD (Triangle-wide).
Smart Metals Recycling
Founded in Durham in 2013 by a Duke University student looking for a better way to recycle electronic waste, Smart Metals Recycling
now operates a facility in Statesville, NC that collects, disassembles and recycles 100 percent of electronic items that come through its doors. It also hosts electronic waste recycling campaigns at schools, businesses and cities and towns through RecycleOn
bioMASON is best known for winning Richard Branson's 2013 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge for its process of growing bricks from sand and bacteria. But the company has made headway since then getting to market its eco-friendly alternative to the 1.2 trillion concrete, asphalt and traditional (and natural resource intense) bricks used in the global construction industry today. And not only are the bricks made in a sustainable way, but the process produces no waste—water is recycled and the bacteria's byproduct is recaptured and turned into natural fertilizer. Here's a recent profile of bioMASON, when it became a NCTA Beacon Award winner in 2014.
Using patent-pending technology licensed from NC State University, Tethis's experiments with biochemicals have led to two products: a polymer that can be used to make super-absorbent, biodegradable diapers and a materials that can be used to remove salts, heavy metals and nuclear material from water. The company has raised more than $1.2 million.
This Raleigh startup is all about reducing waste in the shoe production process all while making comfortable, personalized shoes made for each person's feet. LYF Shoes are assembled on site and embedded with electronics to learn and improve the fit for the person over time. All of the materials can easily be reused in other LYF Shoes, helping to achieve a goal of having the lowest carbon footprint process. The shoes were created by the founder of Gamil Design, a product design firm (and maker of the Impress coffee brewer) recently sold to Seventh Generation.
In partnership with cork and foam manufacturer Nomaco, Durham startup Nugget Comfort
designed and is now producing kid-oriented couches made from pool noodle foam that's recyclable. Founder David Baron
came up with the idea after lamenting the bulkiness of futons, and how often they were disposed of after just a couple years of use. He wanted something comfortable, but lightweight and 100 percent recyclable—he's not there yet, but it remains a goal. Though Nuggets will soon be sold online at Wayfair.com and RoomsToGo.com, first dibs on the couches came through a successful Kickstarter campaign in January. ExitEvent featured the company
after it met its crowdfunding goal within a day.
has a power generation technology that emits no harmful gases into the air, uses little water and is cheaper to operate than traditional power plants. The company eliminates the harmful carbon dioxide emissions typical in the power generation process by capturing the C02 and selling it for industrial uses or permanently sequestering it. Developed by 8 Rivers Capital of Durham, it will be put to the test soon through a partnership with Exelon Corp., Toshiba and CB&I
to build the first zero emissions power plant by 2017.
With Duke Energy in town, most of us have heard of smart grid technology—it gives homeowners the ability to monitor and control energy usage digitally and utilities a better way of tracking use and making sure power is available to all. Enter GridBridge
, a modernized grid company spun out of N.C. State University in 2012. The company is piloting its energy-efficient and affordable energy router, which accounts for renewable energy generation from solar panels or wind turbines and ensures resilience from outages. GridBridge is part of the National Science Foundation-funded and White House-backed Next Generation Power Electronics Institute—the institute's director Dr. Alex Huang
serves as a scientific advisor to the company.
Just relaunched, renamed (from Sustainable Industrial Solutions) and funded, ndustrial
will use sensor technology to monitor energy use in industrial settings. It previously provided corporations software and dashboards to help monitor and reduce energy use, manage waste and make other environmentally friendly facility management decisions. The company's new investor, Bay Grove Capital, hails from Silicon Valley. Here's a WRAL TechWire profile
from last week on the new company.
Though still in the early stages of launching a business, this startup in Groundwork Labs in Durham has a provisional patent for a never-before-used, low energy way of purifying and desalinating water for drinking. The mission of Seachange Technologies
to make clean water available in places where it wasn't available before.
Developed by a serial entrepreneur in Hillsborough N.C., Eno Scientific
is out to help well owners and drillers keep better track of water levels in wells. Using sound wave technology, Eno's products can more safely, efficiently and cost-effectively track the amount of water in wells to help homeowners better manage their water usage. The products are assembled at the company's headquarters and sold all over the world through its online store.
The big idea behind BaseTrace
is to make it easier to monitor the path of industrial fluids in and around power plants and pipes during processes like fracking. The company developed a DNA-based tracer that's added to fluids and then tracked to detect leaks that could have huge environmental impact. Founder Justine Chow Kmiecik
finished the Soar mentorship program this spring and is preparing to raise money.
TRUfish wants to end the practice of mislabeling that's allowing illegally-caught fish to be sold in grocery stores and consumed by people. In a lab at Duke University, the company developed a DNA test to determine the species of a fish and a certification process it hopes to make a standard in the grocery industry.
Seal the Seasons
Seal the Seasons, developed in the social incubator at UNC's Campus Y, has a social mission and an environmental one. The team of UNC students developed a process of flash freezing produce before it goes bad on store shelves or in warehouses and then making the frozen goods available at corner stores and other locations at discounted prices for low income individuals. The company came in first place in the Institute for Emerging Issues' annual Prizes for Innovation in February.
The Produce Box
Founded by a stay-at-home mom who wanted to support local farmers, The Produce Box
is a produce and farm-produced goods delivery service that sources from local farmers and employs stay-at-home moms to deliver the boxes weekly to subscribers in the Triangle and Charlotte. It's all based on a sophisticated software platform that manages orders and payment and communication between all parties involved. The company's goal is to offer the most in-season food to families in a way that provides for farmers and promotes more agriculture within its territories.
is a trailer that's been repurposed as a micro-grocery store carrying fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products from local farms, fresh fish and other canned, jarred and baked goods made locally. Three trailers are now in circulation around the Triangle region, popping up at outdoor markets and other public spaces. The company received an investment from Investors Circle and is developing a strategy to grow beyond the region.
Sales of the solar, pedal, electric-powered vehicle known as the ELF have jumped after Durham's Organic Transit
appeared on CBS News
earlier this year. With a mission to be the most efficient vehicle on the planet, the ELF, but for its $5,500 price tag, shouldn't be a hard sell. It requires no insurance or driver's license and can be driven on a sidewalk or street. It offers exercise when pedaling or convenience when operating on electric or solar power. When used regularly, it can prevent 6 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. The company is funded by Investors Circle and angel investors.
It all started when Walk Your City founder Matt Tomasulo made easy-to-understand wayfinding signs and hung them along the streets of downtown Raleigh. Residents and visitors immediately found it easier to find destinations downtown, and they recognized how much faster it was to walk to those locations (the signs gave time estimates) than drive. He's since provided open source online tools for communities to create their own signs and build campaigns around them. The startup recently received funding from the Knight Foundation to pilot the toolkit in Lexington, KY and San Jose, Calif.—here's the press release.
Only available in Chapel Hill and on campus at UNC today, Buzz Rides
is a taxi service with a dual mission to provide safe rides to students and to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. Inspired by the open-air taxis or "tuk tuks" while studying abroad in India, the founders chose to transport riders only in open-air electric vehicles made in the U.S. Funded by advertising on the vehicles, they're able to offer rides free to students. All students require is the app to place an order.
Based in RTP, this software company has a mission to make it easier for people to ride the bus. TransLoc
calls more than 100 public and private transit organizations clients of its real-time route tracking software for buses and other public transportation. For riders in each of those locales, TransLoc makes it easier than ever to track a bus or plan a route via a smartphone. Coming technology provides even more analytics back to transit agencies to better plan routes and schedules, and even offer on-demand rides to residents to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft and better utilize publicly-owned and funded vehicles.
The nation's oldest network of impact investors is based right here in Durham, and is on the look out for companies making social or environmental impact to serve up as investment opportunities to its 300 angel investors around the nation. Executive Director Bonny Moellenbrock recently sat down with ExitEvent to explain impact investing and Investors Circle's mission for the future. Here's the video:
Helping the environment is the main focus of this Durham angel investment and consulting firm, and five local startups call Acorn Innovestments
an investor. The company was founded by Michael Noel
, son of the founder of cork manufacturer Nomaco and Nomacorp in Zebulon.