Background - 06.12.2021 - 00:00 

“Yes to less” – how the world can be improved

"Climate change", "transformation", "circular economy" – buzzwords which drove TEDxHSG 2021. Under the motto "Yes to less" eleven talks presented exciting approaches to reduce our ecological footprint worldwide.

6 December 2021. Beat Karrer, CEO and founder of FluidSolids, kicked things off. In a "circular economy," he said, it is central that waste be reintegrated into the production cycle. With his vision of recycling waste as raw materials for new products, his company is now one of the pioneers of the circular economy. FluidSolids produces an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based products such as plastic. The biocomposites are used, for example, to make biodegradable disposable forks. His business idea, considered "crazy" by Karrer's friends at the outset, now has support from politicians and corporate strategists.

"Let's dive together"

Julia Bodin, an environmental engineer at the Future of Waste, took a trip to the world's oceans in her talk. "Imagine standing in front of the ocean...", then a feeling of floating, surrounded by water, each breath bringing peace and tranquility. Beautiful fish and coral moving along with the waves – and suddenly, "A plastic bag, a plastic fork...a plastic sea." Every year, eight million tons of trash end up in the oceans, turtles get caught in nets, and birds die because they mistake their food for plastic. Julia Bodin and her team are engaging in dialogue with companies to create a culture of change, against pollution, but also waste of resources. What is needed, she says, is a vision for the future and a willingness to change toward a circular economy, with "open mind, open heart, open will."

"Helping local businesses"

Transforming an entire industry takes pioneers like Dr. Etienne Jeoffroy. He is CEO and co-founder of FenX. Together with his uncle, he developed an insulating material to winterize his grandmother's house. Fireproof, inexpensive and sustainable, his product should shape the way houses are built in the future. In Switzerland, only 1.5 percent of insulation materials are recycled, consisting of a mixture of metal, wood, plastic, stone, glass, cork and concrete. Jeoffroy's team aims to launch a sustainable insulation material produced from readily available mineral waste and low-value natural materials starting in 2022. Limiting the use of different bricks will allow insulating material to be reused, the young entrepreneur explained. At the same time, thanks to the use of local material sources, local companies are supported and transportation costs/emissions are minimized.

Promoting quality over quantity

A "start small" approach was also recommended by Dr. Tom Robinson, Head of Foresights and Trends at SBB. He was fascinated by transportation and logistics from an early age. He spent 15 years of his life in Alaska, fishing on the Bering Sea. He remembers: 5000 tons of salmon were caught within 10 minutes by more than 200 vessels with pilots as "spoters". An expensive operation that consumed a lot of gasoline and capital every year. Quantity maximization was not a sustainable solution. Unregulated fishing with hundreds of nets exceeds the reproductive capacity of salmon. Therefore, he said, incentives need to be put in place to support local fishermen and promote quality over quantity. He would like to see similar moves for the mobility sector in Switzerland – away from traffic congestion, daily package deliveries and an explosion of e-commerce trade.


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