• Shani Kotecha

Cleantech in North America. The green innovation driving down emissions and waste

The USA is close to being officially out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Breaking news: VP Pence claims that the US reduced their carbon emissions more than any countries that remained -- and he’s right. The US’ eco-friendliness comes down to three things: fracking, natural gas, and more importantly, innovation.


That innovation isn’t making the news. Between the reporting of sweltering summers, the ongoing drought, and the engineered landscapes triggering wildfires…


Surprise, surprise. Reporters want to focus on the negative.


You know what American innovators need to break through that bad news swarm? Public relations. (Well, yes. Of course we’d say that. But it’s true).


So, we’re throwing our hat into this ring. Here’s Mind Meld PR’s roundup of the news you need to know about America’s thriving green tech scene. Enjoy some good news for a change!



Driving down emissions with electric vehicles



Plug-in vehicles are truly becoming all the rage. California wants to ban the sale of gas-powered cars statewide by 2035. New Jersey has announced that 330,000 electric vehicles will be registered by 2025, bumping up to 2 million by 2035. Oregonians can receive a $5,000 rebate on the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle.


With the listed incentives and regulation coming into play, it’s no surprise that the number of plug-in vehicles sales in the US has jumped from under 17,000 to more than 300,000 over the past decade.The majority of those vehicle sales? Tesla.


As the only electric vehicles that can cover more than 300 miles on a single charge, Tesla has outflanked the plug-in vehicle market. At Tesla’s Battery Day event in September, Elon Musk announced new prices and developments to the vehicles, putting them even further ahead of competitors.


New “tabless” batteries will allow them to lower the cost of their vehicles, making them more powerful, increase range, and bring the cost down to gasoline-powered cars. A new model will be released in 2021 costing more than the current offerings -- but counteracting this is Musk’s goal to produce a more affordable $25,000 EV.


For those looking for something hardier, Robert Bollinger is in the midst of raising a cool $50 million for Bollinger Motors, a Hummer-like electric vehicle. With 1,000 customers pitching in $1,000 to get the vehicle into production, Bollinger is now making the crucial decision of whether to take stock public.


The inspiration for the only Class 3 electric trucks in the world came from wanting to combine Tesla’s electric power with the need for a serious truck with four-wheel drive. Now they’re hoping to register what they think is a unique new battery pack design -- because of the adaptable design, the battery packs can be modified to fit different sizes and energy capacities. With the vehicle price starting at $125,000, expectations are high.



Wildfires spark innovation in forest monitoring and reforestation tech


The Californian wildfires have burned over 2 million acres this year, a horrifying stat compared to the 118,000 acres that burned last year. Most strategies to control the fires are reactive and quite low-tech. But there’s been a shift in the innovation around firefighting methods.


Traditionally, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on combing through vegetation and forest for potential fire tinder, hunting down dying trees, dry bushes, and overhanging limbs. It’s a lengthy process that takes years -- and between inspections, the fire risk goes up.


Satellite-based forestry analytics startup Overstory has the technology to obtain the same data, faster and more effectively. Combining satellite images of forest with data such as rainfall, temperature and even insect infestations, allow the greentech startup to access insights that were near impossible to obtain.


Forests can be scanned on a daily basis if needs be, allowing utilities to clear high-risk areas and manage vegetation more efficiently. Their latest seed round brought in $1.7m has brought them closer to their goal of monitoring all natural resources on Earth in real time.



While Overstory is working on preventing wildfires, Drone Seed is working on repopulating the forests after wildfires have run through. As the only FAA-approved company in the US to use drones for this purpose, the startup is currently working with forest managers to identify areas for planting.


The drones work 6 times faster than a human tree-planter, and propagate over 40 acres in a single day. Though they can’t prevent wildfires from happening, the quick replanting means avoiding reforestation debt, and stopping invasive species from taking over while nursery trees grow up -- both of which are helpful in preventing future wildfires.



Reduce, reuse, recycle: the sustainable alternatives to plastic and paper


When it comes to reducing non-recyclable waste, there are two options: finding sustainable alternatives, or cutting it out altogether. Eight US states have already banned plastic bags, some replacing them with paper or reusable bags for a fee.


But grocery-related plastics don’t end there. Fruits and vegetables are often encased in as much as 5 straw worth of plastic per piece. With a little help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation though, startup Apeel Sciences has launched ‘plastic-free cucumbers’ at Walmart, with more products to follow.


Using fruit and plants’ waxy natural coating (known as cutin) as inspiration, Apeel developed a plant-based coating that keeps produce fresh far longer than plastic. Their latest round of funding earlier this year will allow Apeel to expand on a global scale, keeping them on track with their goal of stopping 20 million pieces of fruit from going to waste.

The packaging revolution doesn’t end there. Anheuser-Busch, the largest brewery in the world, wants customers to carry on enjoying a frosty beer at the end of the day -- with a little less guilt.


A new range of low-carbon cans will bring the American brewer closer to its goal of reducing emissions across it’s value chain by 25% by 2025. Working with Canadian-based Elysis, the partnership will employ hydroelectricity to create an “infinitely recyclable” beer can that is responsibly produced out of low-carbon aluminum.


As plastic and aluminium slowly decline in popularity, so does paper. The initial pandemic panic had the public stockpiling toilet paper, which while humorous at the time, contributes to the 1 million acres of forest that are decimated each year. And that’s only in Canada.


Toilet paper accounts for 15% of deforestation, 437 billion gallons of water a year, and costs Americans $6 billion annually. As forests are being flushed away, celebs have started pooling investments for a sustainable alternative: bamboo.


As toilet paper demand rocketed in 2020, so did sales for Cloud Paper, as the sustainable toilet paper startup reported a 800% increase in signups. With another $3 million in funding, the company shifted its focus from B2B sales to delivering to households. The 4-person strong team is now looking to expand as demand grows.



Eat your way green. The plant-based alternatives reducing emissions


Burgers make up $81.6 billion of the American fast food industry, almost 50%. As the number of vegetarians and vegans is on the rise, companies are quickly investing in plant-based products to keep fans loyal. Food production is a big contributor of emissions, and meat (beef in particular) is one of the biggest offenders.


McDonald’s and Burger King generate the majority of this revenue, so vegans were delighted when plant-based burgers entered the scene. While McDonald’s is still testing the waters, Burger King has fully committed to plant-based burgers, recently introducing the Impossible Burger into the Canadian fast food scene.



Plant-based Impossible Foods’ booming sales now position it as one of the fastest growing brands, leading the growth of the plant-based foods industry. A new round of funding will support the development of new plant-based products including pork, milk, steak and more.


And there’s something for all ages -- while you’re enjoying a full-sized vegan burger, why not treat your kids to the recently launched Disney-themed plant-based treats?


Though Kellogg’s is most well known for their breakfast foods, the company is now shedding on a spotlight on their environmentally-friendly efforts. Partnering with four different brands, they’re putting out everything from veggie dogs to chorizo crumble.


The future of cleantech coverage? You.

It’s clear that there’s no shortage of innovation in the cleantech space, but there’s definitely not enough in the headlines. To get positive, sustainability efforts to stand out in the news is a surprising challenge.


Are you a cleantech company with exciting news to share? Get in touch with a tech PR agency to get your environmental efforts heard.

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