To celebrate this year’s Earth Day theme Investing in Our Planet we’re sharing the stories of 4 inspiring creators whose projects are mobilizing individuals, communities, and governments to make concrete investments in the sustainability of our planet.
Different systems for garbage collection and management exist all over countries in the European Union (EU). Although most deposit return systems can handle a 90% return rate on recyclables and reusables, the average recycling rate in the EU is only about 64% for packaging waste. Even more shocking is the World Wildlife Foundation’s estimate that only 9% of total recycled matter is properly processed, meaning that materials are not downcycled.
Mikkel Lønow created Wasteless as a solution to bridge the gap between what’s actually recycled, and what can be recycled. Wasteless is an app built with Unity that simply uses your phone’s camera to scan any recyclable item. The app uses AI to automatically recognize the item and tell you exactly how to dispose of each component.
Lønow and his team have created a tool for consumers and local governments that prevents contamination and ultimately helps to optimize waste streams. Lønow is focused on making the app’s data collection and deep learning more robust. “What we’re building out now is a set of national fallback guidelines, which give us a foundation for sorting procedures, and from there, local governments can overrule the base settings and customize according to their city’s procedures.”
Wasteless is currently being designed with Bornholm in mind, an island with the goal of being completely waste free by 2032. “This is a really ambitious goal and they need sophisticated technology to make this happen. We’re building our app so that places like Bornholm can reach their targets…” The team is also experimenting with new and scalable deposit return and reuse systems that they hope to reveal soon.
Anyone interested in having their country and local region added to the app can reach out to Lønow and team. Please join the beta on the Wasteless website to help the team collect more data.
Gazooky Studios recently launched Muster, a meta playground for team learning and development. Muster replaces traditional carbon intensive company offsites with richly immersive multiplayer experiences that foster team building without the environmental footprint.
The project was created after CEO of Muster, Tim Lambert, calculated that his 2019 company travel to Poland added up to an equivalent of 1,431,000 lbs of CO2. This trip sparked a question for Lambert: could there be a better way for clients to access learning and development services but still meet sustainability targets?
Rosemary Kay, CEO of Gazooky Studios, believes that Muster has the potential to make a massive difference. “Our platform has an emissions calculator which displays the total amount of avoided CO2 for a given event. Team members simply input their location and the platform does the rest. The immediate data visualization of avoided emissions can spark an interesting and positive conversation among team members, who can see the benefit of choosing a remote learning and development platform before the fun has even begun. Companies can also use this data in their ESG reporting. Shifting an entire workforce to this sort of model would have a huge impact on both a company’s bottom line and their ability to reduce GHG emissions.”
Muster uses Unity to build their 3D environments and avatars, and Kay shared the benefits of using such a “plug and play” tool for development. “Our 3D avatars and environments are what allow us to design such engaging games, which in turn drives our core value.”
PlantMe is the flagship game from Greenback, a New Zealand-based tech company making games that support climate action. PlantMe teaches plant enthusiasts and novices alike how to grow a backyard garden successfully, and why gardening is impactful for our planet.
“Backyard gardens have a big impact on state emissions and they can help to future proof the climate crisis” says Fliss Roberts, CEO of Greenback. “PlantMe is a Made With Unity app that acts like an expert gardener in your pocket.” The PlantMe team believes that restoring biodiversity to our planet needs to happen at the individual level, so they have created a simple app that helps people do just that: plant gardens that will grow in their climate, according to the season. “Our core belief which propels the entire design of our app is that if everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot.”
A 2017 study assessed the capacity of urban household gardens to reduce overall state emissions. The data showed that backyard or rooftop gardens could address nearly 8% of the GHG Reduction goal for all of California in 2020. “If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot! When you grow a garden, you don’t have sad fridge vegetables that get wasted. You don’t purchase the majority of your produce from a store that you drive to and from; you don’t waste water on your lawn because you’ve got a thriving garden instead.”
Sonya Neutzert is the Creator behind The Dance of the Grid, an auditory AR app that allows people using public transit to conceptualize grid flexibility. Users will be able to add energy generation points and storage points to a mobile app, creating a flow of power that fluctuates and adjusts to demand. A playful interface will allow the user to create a sound sequence for each energy type. The combined sounds will form a shifting, dynamic soundscape that illustrates the user’s hypothetical energy grid, allowing the user to “play” the map like an instrument. Ultimately, the app will allow public transit users to listen to the soundscape shifting as they travel.
Neutzert’s motivation for taking on the challenge of conceptualizing energy grids is centered on reducing climate anxiety. “I feel like having fun and interesting access to new information is important. There are lots of people who want to help our planet and who want to learn more about solutions to climate change, but the problem feels so big, abstract, and terrifying. I like the idea of breaking down big complex chunks of information into digestible pieces. I think the ability to say ‘here’s how things already work, and here’s what’s happening in your area’ is impactful. I think that Dance of the Grid can reduce existential dread.”
More than anything, Earth Day is a time to take stock of the work still to be done for the sustainability of our planet. Unity’s sustainability team is working diligently to measure and reduce our operational GHG emissions and set a Science Based Target; we’re forging partnerships with academic institutions and organizations like Playing for the Planet Alliance who mobilize the gaming industry to take concrete action on climate change; and we’re building communities of practice for our employees, our network of partners, and sustainability creators. This month, we celebrate a big step in our sustainability journey with the publication of Unity’s first Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report.
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