When Wyatt Miller and Wilson Morse graduate from college in the spring of 2022, they want to help fight climate change by creating software that allows employers to encourage their employees to bring sustainable technology into their homes. I decided to.
Their vision was based on the idea that only a handful of companies would offer their current and future employees green benefits such as heat pumps and solar panels. Those companies, they believed, were not properly embracing sustainable technologies or building relationships with providers.
Miller and Morse argue that so-called green benefits are a powerful recruitment tool, especially for young workers who want to join the fight against climate change, and are more likely than their older colleagues to experience its impacts. recognizing.
The result was Green Bean, a Pittsburgh-based startup that is currently talking to potential customers and green technology providers who might partner with it.
Earlier this year, the partnership and six other startups received a boost from the City of Pittsburgh and were selected to participate in this year’s PGH Lab. The PGH Lab is his six-month program that gives recipients the opportunity to pilot their products and services and test concepts. We got feedback from city leaders while working with the Pittsburgh government. The winner was selected from among 17 applicants.
Other winners focused on sustainability and environmental improvement include AirViz, a manufacturer of low-cost air monitors. Ecotone Renewables, which helps businesses and individuals reduce food waste, and Roto Software, a platform that allows users to post alerts when free or additional food is available to the public.
Ecotone CEO and co-founder Dylan Lew said he believes the company was selected for the city’s award for the past five years of working with large businesses, non-profits and individuals in the region. rice field. That track record has “built trust” among local stakeholders, including the city of Pittsburgh, he said.
The goal next year is to increase market share in Pennsylvania by building partnerships between farmers and restaurants. By 2033, we aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by using digestive systems to convert food waste into fertilizer.
Alaa Mohamed, Senior Civic Innovation Specialist who helps run the PGH Lab, said: “When it comes to innovation, departments don’t know what they don’t know.”
For example, one of last year’s winners developed software for cyclists that automatically notified the city’s 311 system when bike lanes were dangerous so they could plan an alternate route. bottom. The idea appealed to the Mobility Infrastructure department. “Wow, this is something we don’t have,” said Mohamed, the rep said.
A similar perception that the city has no environmental protection program for current and future employees helped select Green Bean as one of this year’s winners, she said.
That application ticked many boxes on the city’s priority list, including sustainability and the possibility of pursuing the goal of providing green benefits through human resources. So it’s not necessarily the work that’s already been done.This is really cool, so let’s try it,” she said.
AirViz’s selection as one of this year’s winners reflects a desire to detect, understand, and improve Pittsburgh’s air quality. Pittsburgh has been adversely affected by the city’s long history of coal and steel production.
A 2015 spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University, AirViz uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to turn local air sensors into smart devices that can identify air quality issues that might otherwise go undetected. Chief Executive Officer Ian Magazine then said:
Over 100 sensors have already been deployed in the Pittsburgh area, capable of detecting particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides. All of this can be detrimental to human health, especially if exacerbated by temperature inversions in the region that trap air pollution at lower atmospheric levels.
AirViz’s sensors are now installed in and around city buildings. “The city wants its employees to be able to breathe the healthiest air,” he said to Magazine.
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Mark Dixon, an independent activist who uses sensors from AirViz and another provider, Purple Air, to monitor local air quality, said the AirViz device could detect pollutants such as ethylene and propylene emitted from industrial facilities. has helped monitor volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a class of This includes a major new Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County, approximately 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. VOCs combine with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, or smog. It is associated with asthma, lung and respiratory infections, and cardiovascular problems.
“The main benefit they provided was the ability to monitor early total VOCs,” says Dixon. “This was just what I needed before deploying monitors around the shell, as a fair amount of shell contamination occurs as VOCs.”
According to Magazine, the sensors will give authorities more than just data. “We don’t just identify problems, we give decision makers the tools to solve them,” he said. “We provide automated digital tools and high-resolution data to deliver robust, hyperlocal air quality analysis to manage current and evolving air pollution and climate change challenges. It provides predictive analytics that reveal what will happen and prescriptive analytics that tell when, where and how to intervene at the micro and macro levels.”
Startups such as AirViz and Green Bean, through selection by the PGH lab, will be advertised on the city’s website and will have access to municipal contacts, such as other cities, who may be looking for those services, so that the city can You can get knowledge about how it works. An outsider, Mohammed said.
“You get this inside view of the bureaucracy and the intricacies of how the city operates,” she said. “You can’t develop a product that works well for your municipality until you’re in the program.”
Recognizing its unique role in the ecosystem of incubators and accelerators for early-stage businesses in Pittsburgh, the City retained the PGH Labs program after a previous review on whether it should continue. She said it led to the decision to
“What’s unique about this program is that it’s inside the government,” she said. “The question then became, what is the role of local governments in supporting an innovative ecosystem? That has guided the process of growing this program.”
Despite the decision to continue the PGH Lab, the city has initiated commercial relationships with just four of the 44 winners since the program began in 2016.
“Sometimes we decide to pay for this service after the pilot is over. We need to think about them as we go,” she said. “The goal is to learn from this and use the lessons learned to serve the population. This is a laboratory. We create room for success and failure, not the final judge. ”
For Green Bean, participating in the PGH lab represents an opportunity to test a new concept that Miller and Morse hope to roll out to large companies across the country.
They hope that working with the City of Pittsburgh will help them understand how effective their software is at driving employee engagement and the extent to which it will lead to decarbonization at the residential scale. I hope it will be useful for you.
Their research shows that green perks are an effective way to recruit, engage, and retain employees, just as health and fitness perks, such as gym membership discounts, are incentives. is suggested.
“The most meaningful way to promote behavioral change related to sustainability is to pay some degree of premium for making any change,” said 23-year-old Morse. Financial incentives or mechanisms to reduce the cost of these upgrades. ”
He argued that the growth of remote work, fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic, has increased their chances of success. With more homes becoming de facto branches of corporate offices and more employers wanting to make green improvements to their homes as part of future climate disclosures, Morse said. says.
Employers who want to attract and retain young talent will increasingly recognize that green benefits are an effective way to do so.
“Our generation seems to really care about the impact employees have on the environment,” he said. “Fundamentally, for these companies, it’s not just lip service, it’s also an opportunity to promote sustainability in the lives of their employees, not just internally.”