Hey guys! Today this blog is a little different, and written by our guest writer Mirela aka UrbanMeisters! We’ve been participating in a Paris vs London GREEN OFF: a friendly duel to see which city has a stronger start-up culture in the sustainable space. My top five were selected over on UrbanMeisters, and now you can read the Paris response below! Enjoy and let’s hand over to Mirela…
Bonjour dear readers,
Here we are… finally! The bell is ringing and round 2 is live! After a deeply impressive Top 5 from London here, it is now Paris’ turn to proudly present its Green startup and entrepreneur superheros as picked up by yours truly – UrbanMeisters.
I must say Francesca aka Ethical Unicorn put the bar sky-scraper high. She cleverly mixed start-ups and entrepreneurs from diverse fields and industries to show the creative fuel of the UK capital. To win our Parisian hearts she even integrated the BLANC eco-friendly dry cleaning project which was founded by a Frenchman in London… such a clever move 😉
So after days of trembling and head smoking, please read & discover in the article my personal hand-picked selection of Paris based green startups. Which city will win and be the top of creativity and green? Read on and judge yourself.
So who is behind UrbanMeisters?
My name is Mirela and I am the founder of UrbanMeisters. I launched UrbanMeisters during the COP21 in Paris in December 2015.
Before being a “Greenie”, I was what you could call a “Corp”, having a prestigious corporate job at one of world’s top companies other people would kill for, a fancy title, a hard-working team and an Air France Platinum Frequent Flyer Card.
During my corp-life I travelled a lot to Asia. Every time after my business trips I was so happy to come home to Paris, my green oasis where I was protected from pollution. Unfortunately I discovered that I could not have been more wrong. Pollution was present in Paris as well as it was in any other city around the world. It was not somebody else’s problem, it was my problem. So I felt it was time to punch pollution right in its ugly face & start living a greener healthier life. And stop these doomsday scenarios that were doing more harm than good. Rather than whimpering or waiting, it was time to smile and start UrbanMeisters.
What is UrbanMeisters?
The name says is all:
- “Urban” = men and women living in a city.
- “Meister” = is German for “master” (a wink to the country I grew up in) and stands for all of us mastering the hazards of urban living.
The two words – UrbanMeisters – put together perfectly express our mission and ambition: Empower men and women through the latest Green products and tested DIY ideas to master their urban life, stay healthy & happy. For this we collaborate with ‘Meisters’ from all relevant facets of urban lifestyle like Food, Fashion, Health, Fitness, Parenting, Work… to make green living easy. We aim to help you chose the best set of solutions to combat all types of pollution, classic ones like air, but also new ones like Smartphone radiation.
Top 5 Paris Green Start-ups
Honestly, it was super difficult to reduce our selection to 5 start-ups. On top, to be true to the values of UrbanMeistes we asked our readers to help us pick the tops as we are a U+Me platform. So here we go:
1. Plume labs- The Must-Have for any Urban
The first Paris start-up is actually not a newbie in London. But let me tell you a little more about this really innovative project & every day facilitator- a must-have app for every urban:
Plume Labs is a technology company that helps consumers control their exposure to air pollution. In the heart of the start-up is the Plumelabs report, a free mobile application that predicts live air quality in over 200 cities world-wide. This is also how I discovered this start-up. As I am an urban runner in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, I was searching for a solution that would help me understand when it was smart to run in the polluted urban air.
Why is this project a game changer?
It is fighting again the environmental enemy number 1. About 90% of European urbans are exposed to air pollution levels that are harmful (Source) and Paris and London are sad champions of this list as the alarming levels of air pollution:
- London’s Oxford Street broke the limit for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles linked to respiratory and heart problems, a thousand times in 2015.
- Paris was even holding the title of city with the highest level of particulate matter for a day in 2015.
In 2016 we are no better off with both cities showing high pollution peaks in January and March of this year in both cities:
But air pollution is tricky. There are no rules, all you may have heard about air pollution that is better in the winter or in the morning hours is WRONG! Air pollution can change within a couple of hours only.
Now the amazing thing is that PlumeLabs makes out of this disadvantage an advantage. I met the founder Romain LACOMBE during COP21 where he explained that his ambition is to make the air we breathe “transparent”: As air pollution levels can vary widely during a day, Plumelabs indicates and forecasts the air pollution level so that urbanites can avoid excessive exposure at peak times and significantly decrease the health risks.
Is it easy to use?
The app has been tested by me now for over 8 months now. It is super easy to use as it translates the available information on air pollutants into concrete and tailor-made lifestyle recommendations, e.g. when Mom and Dads should go out and play with their kids, when to go running, … .
Also it is the only one that allows you to compare the air pollution almost all over the world which makes it an every day companion if you are in Paris, London, Los Angeles or New Delhi.
But Romain and the Plume Labs team are not stopping there. They were part of a one of a kind action in London beginning of this year:
The Pigeon Air Patrol that you may have seen in the Social Media. Pigeons carrying tiny backpack air pollution monitors to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone n London, the main gases behind harmful urban air pollution. The idea behind is a bigger project in collaboration with researchers at Imperial College London and similar actions with humans will follow in 2016 to complete the data.
For me the most beautiful aspect is that we gain back control over the environment. We are no simple victims any more but can stay ahead of pollution. And we see that cooperation between Paris and London is to the benefit of all of us 🙂
2. Wair Fulard: The Promissing Newcomer
But sometimes even with the PlumeLabs app you need to go out even when pollution is high. For this there is a new product category of wearable technology: ‘smart’ clothes.
WAIR is one of them and even though they are only a newcomer we liked to cover them as they are a promising project. On the one hand Wair is a usual accessory expressing your urban style just as any scarf. But this scarf can do more: it has an integrated filtering system that allows you to filter the air your breath and protect your from air pollution when outdoors. The scarf is linked to the application BE AWAIR that give you a measurement of the air pollution surrounding you.
The first collection is coming soon, so sign-up to their newsletter to be posted here.
3. GLOWEE: The Most Disrupting!
From the air the next start-ups brings us to the sea. You will understand right away why Parisian Glowee made it into the Top 5… which has been nominated by one of our loyal readers. It is definitely the one having the biggest disruptive potential of all Top 5.
The bio-tech start-up Glowee believes in the power of the sea and transforms this power into light. They are developing a new raw material that is a living lighting energy. No electricity is needed while emitting very few CO2 and light pollution. The founder Sandra Rey started this project as a university project. She was soon joined by other passionate inventors and together they made it after successful crowdfunding campaigns happened.
The breakthrough new raw material is based on Bioluminescence. This is a chemical reaction enabling living organisms to produce light naturally. The suprising thing is that over 90% of marine organisms are bioluminescent, like algae, jellyfishes, … . (No we are not in a freaky Universal Pictures movie aiming to win the next Oscar. This is reality, a light coming directly from nature.)
Glowee uses the genetic coding for Bioluminescence from bacteria living in symbiosis with squids. They are inserted into common bacteria which are both non-toxic and non-pathogenic. Once they have engineered and grown these bacteria, they are encapsulated into a transparent shell, alongside a medium composed of the nutrients they need to live and make light. One can say a living light bulb. Cool, right? Renewable energy at its best.
Why is this project a game changer?
Overall increasing the share of renewable energy coupled with energy efficiency are the key priorities to keep the average rise in global temperatures below 1.5°C and limit climate change.
Also, artificial lightening accounts for example for 5% of the global greenhouse emissions. New bio-technologies like Glowee take the right and promising direction to reduce this pollution type.
Is it easy to use?
The project is still in it early stages, but it has already signed some renown clients like Ben & Jerry’s. There is definitely a lot of bureaucratic burden for the founder Sandra and her team as her innovation changes the whole steps of buying, using and discharging your light bulb. Already for this courage and perseverance she deserves to be in the Parisian superstars.
However, when the project gets rolled out on a larger scale, no massive infrastructures will be needed. Moreover, its light is cold which means that all the energy generated is used in the light production process. While it will not totally replace regular lightening as it is less bright, it is perfect for urban lightening of moments, shops, … limiting the effect of light pollution and visual pollution.
We spend quite some time looking into how sustainable fashion is and it is true that while quite some progress has been done along the value chain, the point of sale stays a to-do where not a lot of progress has been made. I hope that projects like this will help to reduce the electricity use of retail all over the world.
Talking about fashion, let’s switch over to the following Top 5 members.
4. EKYOG – The Longest Success Story
EKYOG has been voted by several of our readers and I also personally would have put it in the Top 5 as this brand shows that green start-up develop into sustainable businesses and successes and not just end up as little around-the-corner initiatives. EKYOG has been founded in 2004 and has developed itself to the number 1 sustainable French fashion brand.
Why is this project a game changer?
Fashion is considered to be the 3rd largest Industry in the world, 2nd most polluting Industry after Oil, 2nd largest polluter of clean water after Food.
Also it is an industry where the diverse steps for making one single garment (from growing raw materials, dyeing, stitching, packing etc) is split across in several countries throughout the globe, as we explained in our article here. So to bring you your one latest fashion must-have top the raw material could have from India, dyeing in Bangladesh, manufacturing in China, till you order it online in Europe. This global scattering of processes makes the fashion industry particularly lacking in transparency, control and there is a lot of transport (with its bad air pollution) going on… So fashion is bad throughout its whole manufacturing process.
Ekyog is trying to tackle all issues of conventional fashion – their pieces are designed with an eco-design approach, textiles are carefully selected and are sustainable ones like organic cotton, eco-friendly processes are followed like the dyeing is natural and the wastewater is treated. And the company goes a step further and even takes care that the retail is sustainable, e.g. hangers, gift boxes, posters and leaflets are FSC certified which means they come from responsibly managed forests.
With their mix of high quality classic pieces, multi-purpose clothes and limited edition cooperation like the one with the Glamours Green girl Rebecca Leffler (who we covered here), they keep a good mix of pieces to be worn for a long time, yet trend-forward styles.
UrbanMeisters readers know how obsessed we with proving that eco fashion is not ugly, annoying, so-2013, but vibrant, fresh and totally up-to-date.
What impresses me is that despite the fact that EKYOG is a financially healthy project, they keep the importance of green education and transform not only the teams working for the brand, but also their suppliers into Greenies and Sustainable professionals.
5. HYLLA PENDERIE PARTAGEE – Sharing Champion
On of our key sustainable mantras is certainly Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. So as an alternative to brands like Ekyog there is certainly concepts that increase the times how often a fashion piece is worn and thus reduce waste. Organic waste is waste after all… .
Hylla Penderie Partagee has been founded with this mission. This project has been nominated by Paola, one of our readers who herself is a passionate and talented green entrepreneur and founder of La Manufacture Onirique, a DIY workshop atelier and boutique in where you can live and experience sustainable living as well as the Parisian green & hip scene.
What I liked when Paolo’s proposed Hylla Penderie Partagee for the Top 5 was that it represents what fashion is all about: fun, experimentation, sharing, expressing ones own personality and craziness. Imagine if one would tell you “You must wear this second hand old grey and washed out pullover to save the dying polar bears.” While you may end up with a bad conscience you will not seriously and profoundly turn into a Greenie hip fashionista.
Hylla Penderie Partagee shows how you can keep all the fun part and be sustainable. With a monthly fee you can rent as many outfits you want to experiment with & new trending styles you wish to sport.
At the same time you keep your wardrobe with the eternal classic must have pieces and the investment pieces you really worked for and you really wanted. Also the whole renting thing allows you to try new styles or pieces before actually investing in them. The Hylla Penderie Partagee team carefully selects the pieces to guarantee quality, coolness and originality.
The team started off in cooperation with La Recyclerie we talked about on UrbanMeisters before (here) and is now rolling out the concept in their own boutique.
SO, WHO WINS? LONDON OR PARIS?
If you have not yet read the London Top 5, read them here. Francesca and I truly enjoyed this friendly face-off between London and Paris to find out which city has the greener and hipper style. It is up to you to judge which city is the winner, please feel free to leave your comments below or write us a note here.
As far as I am concerned both cities win and this is what I learned:
- Are you French? Are your British? No, I am an Urban! Exchanging with Fran was a deep delight and I realised how close our lives, as a Greenie and Entrepreneur are in London and in Paris. We have the same advantages, the same freedom, the same opportunities, but share also the same hazards of urban life like pollution, stress, over-crowding, …There should be more exchange between the cities to help and learn from each other or simply inspire and support each other.
- Smart entrepreneurs take success stories from one city to another. These exchanges are already done in the entrepreneur scene. See Fran and me. See Ludovic Blanc who brought a French concept to London. See clever Romain who has a project running with Imperial College London. See also Hylla Pendule Partagée who brought a success story from Germany and Netherlands to Paris. We invite other entrepreneurs to follow these examples.
- The green start-up scene is an extremely cooperative and respectful crowd. Not only during this research, but since the beginning of UrbanMeistes I have been overwhelmed by the helpfulness I have been experiencing. I guess we green entrepreneurs have understood that only if we cooperate we can make it happen. Greenpeace has reported that traces of pollutants used in textile producing countries like India were found in the liver of polar bears! Yes after all our eco-systems are connected and so we need to work together to change this world.
- The change has started. Not only is this green start-up scene amazingly creative and courageous, the dynamism is addictive and contagious.
We hope with London and Paris Top 5 green start ups we could blaze you with green passion as well.