The Cleantech Open finals were last weekend, and there were a wide array of really interesting companies among the finalists. Water purification, solar power, energy efficiency, green building materials – all the usual suspects were represented. And they were all cool companies doing great things. But there were two companies that were a little outside the mainstream, showing that there are all kinds of sectors for green entrepreneurs to address.
EarthClean is the maker of TetraKO, which is a new fire suppression technology. Yes, fire suppression, as in firemen putting out house fires and grass fires and the like. TetraKO is a cornstarch based powder that firemen mix with water. It makes the water sticky (but not so sticky that it won’t spray), so that it adheres to the burning surfaces and knocks out the fire (hence the KO) significantly faster than plain water. How is this green? Putting out the fire more quickly means less smoke, less water usage, and less damage to buildings, which means less making of new stuff to replace damaged stuff. In addition, being cornstarch based, TetraKO is biodegradable and plant and animal safe, unlike the additives in use today.
Bellwether Materials doesn’t fight fires, but it fights cold, by selling home insulation materials. Bellwether’s insulation isn’t some sort of advanced high technology material though; quite the opposite in fact…it’s made from sheep’s wool. When sheep are sheared for the wool that goes into your sweater, there is a rough, dense layer that won’t work for sweaters and that sheep farmers currently send to landfill. Bellwether takes this layer, forms it into mats and sells it as home insulation. Oregon Shepherds does the same thing, but as a blow-in insulation. Sheep’s wool, courtesy of a few thousand years of evolution, is a great insulator and it also resists moisture, mold and vermin. Plus, sheep are always growing more of it. Talk about renewable. By using sheep for their material, Bellwether and Oregon Shepherds are getting back to baaa-sics.
The lesson for budding green entrepreneurs: you don’t need to focus on the areas where the buzz is. Solar power and the like are great, but there are myriad ways to help the environment, and probably good business opportunities in all of them.