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With its innovative battery technology and long range per charge, The Chevrolet Bolt EV is as practical as it is groundbreaking. And with its affordable price, it truly is the first EV for everyone.

That coveted “a-ha moment” doesn’t always happen right away – or at all.

Developing an idea often happens through months — sometimes years — of hard work, trial and error, and many false starts.

The act of creating can also lead to some destruction, too. In other words: waste. Whether it’s the crumpled up paper in your trashcan or a layer of wood shavings on your floor, trash is inevitable. However, there’s always a way to avoid wasting raw materials and cut down on harmful pollutants entering the environment. Chevrolet made it happen when designing the all-electric Bolt EV — all they had to do was do away with the gas tank and use innovative technologies like long-lasting batteries and an on-demand regen button.

What they got was a car that can go up to 383 km on one charge and actually regenerate power on demand through the pull of a paddle on the steering wheel.

These four inventors, business leaders and environmental advocates found ways to solve the issues they originally set out to fix without creating a whole new problem in the process. Discover how their innovative ideas are helping to make lives easier – and the world better.

Dennon Oosterman, CEO, ReDeTec (Toronto)

Problem: How do you recycle an unrecyclable material?

ReDeTec was at the forefront of 3D printing before we thought such a thing was possible, and its founders realized the challenges in using atypical materials while also keeping the environment safe.

“Before anyone knew what 3D printers could [do], we had two of them in our lab,” said CEO Dennon Oosterman. “We were working on a lot of design projects and 3D printing makes it easy to click ‘print.’ Soon, we realized that we were clicking ‘print’ on too many projects that were going straight into the garbage. Every time we clicked ‘print,’ it cost money and wasted plastic. So we decided to invent a way to recycle filament for 3D printers."

Unlike paper, 3D printing plastics cannot be recycled, meaning anything that’s thrown away in a lab is tossed into a landfill.

“We failed utterly at everything,” said Oosterman. “Our early projects taught us how not to do it, but through trial and error, we were eventually steered in the right direction.”

ReDeTec’s integrated grinder turns plastic waste from failed projects or discontinued prototypes back into useable material in any color for free.

Soon, the word about 3D printing began to spread, along with demand for ReDeTec’s unique printer, making them the go-to for click-happy engineers who want to keep the world free of trash. Now, with orders for their printer hitting the half-million mark, they are the first and only 3D printing company in the world that recycles their plastic.

Gimmy Chu, CEO of Nanoleaf (Toronto)

Problem: How do you make people want to go green?

Gimmy Chu thinks light bulbs are boring. Seriously, when was the last time you were moved in any particular way by a light bulb? Not only are they uninteresting, but they’re also outdated. The light bulbs we use now look a lot like the light bulbs from the nineteenth century: impressive, but uninspiring. The problem with light bulbs doesn’t just lie in their appearance, but also the way they burn. This is what Nanoleaf is trying to change.

“There’s no use in creating green products if people aren’t interested,” Chu says. “Going green shouldn’t be a compromise.”

Chu, along with his Toronto-based company, specializes in delivering environmentally-conscious lighting products without sacrificing comfort or style.

Chu’s “aha!” moment came to him during lunch.

“I went to this place for lunch, but part of me was turned off because it was promoted as vegan — which is how I think a lot of people feel when they’re tasked with going green – like you’re being forced into it.” However, Chu’s lunch ended up being amazing, and that’s when it struck him: Whatever you make, make sure it’s awesome. Chu didn’t want people to feel short-changed when sacrificing their comfort for the environment’s sake, so he decided to make light bulbs that people would actually want to buy.

The Nanoleaf Aurora is a modular smart lighting panel that fits together like Lego and can be installed in any pattern you want. Your smartphone controls the color and intensity and only uses two watts of power, which – when compared to the 60 watts of a typical bulb — is pretty impressive. The best part? They can theoretically shine for 30,000 hours. That’s 23 years.

Dr. Gavin Armstrong, CEO, Lucky Iron Fish (Ontario)

Problem: How do you get iron into the hands of the people who need it most?

How much iron are you getting these days? About 10 milligrams? Five? Would you even be able to point out where your iron comes from? Here’s a scary stat that may make you think about your iron intake: 3.5 billion people worldwide are suffering from iron deficiency anemia, which increases the risk of illness in women and children.

Gavin Armstrong sought out a way to get iron into the hands (and mouths) of people who require it in a way that’s easy, cost-efficient and safe. The solution? A block of iron that anemic locals and villagers could drop into their cooking pots which releases the vitamin into their food and raises its levels in their blood.

“When we started out, we first used an iron disc,” says Armstrong. “Though this was found to be scientifically effective, no one who [was] participating in early trials wanted to use it. It was like asking them to put garbage in their cooking pot.” Frustrated by the lack of interest and cooperation, Armstrong turned to Cambodian mythology to get people interested.

“After some research, we discovered the fish is considered a symbol of luck in Cambodia. Once we modified the shape of the iron [piece] to that of a fish and added an inscription meaning ‘Lucky,’ everyone we presented the Fish to [in Cambodia] was eager to try it.” After introducing the new fish shape, the compliance rate rose to 94 percent, leading Gavin and his team to expand to 66 countries worldwide.

Now, Lucky Iron Fish has made strategic partnerships in Latin America, East Africa and India, and sells their fish across North America and Europe as well. They’ve also implemented a popular “Buy One, Give One” in which every fish bought puts another one in pots around the world.

Paul Sim, CEO of Solar Pool Technologies (Saskatchewan)

Problem: How do you keep a pool clean without wasting electricity?

I bet you never gave a second thought to the way pools affect the environment. Try to wrap your mind around this: Did you know that running swimming pool cleaning system can release a crazy amount of c02 into the environment?

The typical route most take to clean their pool doesn’t actually solve the real problem – keeping debris from falling in and decaying on the bottom of the pool. The Solar-Breeze revolutionizes the pool cleaning process by stopping debris in its tracks. Think of it as a sun-powered Roomba that lives on the surface of your pool. Using a Solar Breeze in place of a typical pool cleaning system drastically reduces the amount of emissions that result from the electricity needed to power said system.

If your first thought is: “Yeah, but how many people own a pool?” think about this: There are more than 16 million pools worldwide that all need to be cleaned. Getting these pools off the energy grid and reducing the amount of emissions they create is essential.

Paul Sim, CEO of Solar Pool Technologies, has high hopes for his product and the way pool-owners use it.

“Our ultimate goal is to offer a combination of products that work in conjunction with the Solar-Breeze and allow pool owners to take their swimming pools completely off-grid,” he says. Not only does the Solar-Breeze help the environment outside the pool, but it also makes the water cleaner inside the pool — all without electricity or chemicals.

Besides, pool owners should only be worried about one thing: Finding the best inflatable. And pee. Okay, two things.

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