Green is the new Black: Estonia, as the coordinator of NB8, leading the way towards a more sustainable future.

On the 21st of November, the journey to bring together young people from 8️ countries to develop green ideas as part of international cooperation, reached its hybrid destination. With more than 300 registrations across the Baltic countries and Scandinavia, 24 teams were formed to tackle some of the burning problems our dear planet is facing. From locally produced oat milk to reducing single-use plastic and making peatlands cool again, teams who gathered online and in Kai Kunstikeskus really had a spark in their eye and a motivation to work towards a greener future.

The idea to unite young people and students across several countries and give them a platform to make their ideas heard emerged when FridaysForFuture - an international movement of school students who skip classes, mainly on Fridays, to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political and economical leaders, to limit climate disaster, and for the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewable energy - got started. According to Kristi Klaas, the deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Environment, worries about the climate had brought young people to the streets, but the Ministry wishes to find ways to actively involve young people in finding solutions.

“We want young people to actually be able to do something to slow down climate change, and during the international idea creation day, we invite them to discover and propose innovative solutions of their own in cooperation with the environmental and climate experts of the Nordic and Baltic states. We support green innovation, due to new ideas and solutions being needed to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its effects. The more environmentally conscious and knowledgeable about climate young people are, the more they are able to contribute to the changes needed for society.”

The idea was also packed up by the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, who strongly believes that the young people are the ones who will lead the way in new solutions in many areas so as to leave behind a liveable home planet for future generations.

“Achieving climate neutrality requires effort from every country and every person. Certainly, young people should be involved in the search for solutions, seeing as they are most concerned about climate change and it is their future that will be shaped by our decisions made today.”

As the cleantech sector in the EU is growing at a rapid pace the need for organizing respective ideations and hackathons plays a crucial role in order to first validate the potential of these ideas and then with the support of the local startup ecosystem, help them get to the market as fast as possible. According to the CEO of Cleantech ForEst, everybody is doing something in the CleanTech sector today: “We have hackathons, accelerators, incubators, and investors concentrating on the sector. In order to really understand the potential and compare the new upcoming ideas with existing/competing ones, a certain set of competence is crucially needed. I think this where Cleantech ForEst and Garage48 come to the picture.”

And so, the Empowering Youth: Green together ideation day was born in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of Estonia and Cleatech ForEst, and the search for sparkly-eyed humans who wanted to make a tremendous difference, and who had a strong will to change and save the fate of our beloved planet begun. As the times require a different approach for organizing events, we decided to go hybrid- have as many teams join us at Kai Art Center as’s safe and have the rest of the teams join us online.

During the short period of time, we saw young people coming together from different countries and forming international teams. Our long-time mentor and moderator Mayri Tiido pointed out, that during the day she saw a spark in their eyes and an utmost motivation to find solutions to the topics that really matter. Our co-founder and mentor Jüri Kaljundi also said that the participants were all driven by the same mission: “This event actually shows what people really care about. They’re not just doing it to create a business and earn money, they’ve come together to show their enthusiasm and concern to solve actual problems our planet is facing.”

The competition was tough, so big applause for the winning teams chosen by the jury. And remember, the real winners are the teams that keep working on their ideas and are alive and kicking a year from now! If you didn’t get an award here, prove the jury wrong by working hard and showing them that you have what it takes to skyrocket your idea.

WINNERS of 1000€ prize money and a fast-track to TOP 50 of the Prototron Junior Program: Team RE-PEAT- Peatlands are very important ecosystems for our climate and ecological stability, yet there is a great lack of awareness about this topic. To tackle this, RE-PEAT created “Re-Imagining Nature in the Classroom”, an exciting educational pilot program aimed at 7-11-years old in schools, to teach young children about peatlands and their vital role for our planet. We are a youth-led collective pushing for a peatland’s paradigm shift.

1st RUNNER UP’s and receiver of the 750€ prize money and fast-track to Negavatt TOP 15 Competition: Team ÖkoMotion - Tesla for bikes and scooters. Alternative and budget-friendly day-to-day safe vehicle for the in-city commute. The solution offers safer and more efficient batteries in their products.

2nd RUNNER UP’s and receiver of the 750€ prize money: Team Gudrā Taras Sistēma - A beverage package deposit machine, placed in the most convenient places for the user. GTS plans to set up a network of these machines in resident places, so that users could throw beverage packages right next to usual trash bins and receive the same reward, instead of bringing them to grocery stores.

Special Prize “Access to TOP 14 of Cleantech ForEst Beamline Beta pre-accelerator program”: Team Nanowind - We at Nanowind have patent-pending graphene-based material that uses energy from the sun to break down dangerous greenhouse gases. We use plastic waste to produce this material which after our proprietary treatment can be spray-coated on city buildings.

The winners of 500€ prize money and a place in the TOP 10 in no particular order are:

Team Soloma - Producing bottles from hay.

Team DeWaste Solutions - Harnessing data is the future of sustainability-driven solid waste management. Let’s turn waste into insights!

Team Sustainable fashion brand that supports local artists - A platform for artists to post their upcycled/painted work in and to connect with buyers, also physical stores globally where the artist can bring their work in for sale.

Team Material transformation - At the moment, the industry is producing plastic containers but when products in those containers end up in stores, they are thrown away. This service will collect those plastic containers and put them back into circulation.

Team PowerFlow - Redox flow batteries, a new technology to improve lithium-ion and other energy-storing solutions.

Team KnowbeforeHoe - a platform where you can match restaurants and farmers. Restaurants would give their precise orders of what products they need on any given day and the farmers can then harvest it while knowing it is already sold.

Team Taaraco - an app that will connect people who have bottles that need to be recycled with people who can take them to recycle and earn money by doing it. It’s as easy as ABC: Add your listing, schedule a time, hand over the bottles, and confirm the transaction. Save time, Earn money, Go Green. Make Your Bottles Our Business: 

Teams and ideas that didn't make it to the "podium": 

Team Upcycling of Textile Materials -
The idea behind our project is to reduce the amount of textile that is wasted away by reinventing objects. Only 15% of post-consumer textile is properly managed. TextileHub provides a physical place where individuals can learn to craft by recycling. We will acquire textile from NGOs as well as from individuals, and create a community of crafters. It’s a connection point and facilitator for sustainable and ethical crafting. 

Team Spara - Carbon offsetting oneself and investing in a sustainable future currently has a high barrier of entry, making it inaccessible for many. Spara provides a way to carbon offset you and help you invest in a greener future by setting aside a percentage of every purchase you make on a special savings account.

Team Eimu - EIMU provides plant-based drink from local produce, which is sustainable, healthy, delicious, and is not full of allergens.

Team BinFree - A service that offers pickup services for deposit packages and glass recyclables and through rewarding mechanisms initiates a spillover of environmental behaviors.

Team Giving a second life to spent coffee grounds - When coffee grounds are dumped into landfills they create methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Methane is known to be more harmful than carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas that causes global warming. We aim to collect these grounds from everyone from independent cafés, major coffee chains, and commercial offices, to gyms, public-sector facilities, and work offices to start with a soil nourisher product. 

Team Public Greenhouses - A project of integrating green zones with plants, paths, and benches in buildings. An ecosystem in your office!

Team UnKnot - A project-based service that provides consultations and training to implement circular economy to the textile industry.

Team Green Credit system - A transactional system that places itself at not an innovation in sustainability but in feasibility. A unified green credit system that incentivizes each and every link of the cycle making it a sustainable and self-sufficient entity and making circular economy viable options for businesses to reduce non-renewable energy dependency and also consumers to recycle more and make sustainable choices.

Team Treep - An app that encourages people to plant trees to fight against deforestation, and to reduce CO2 emissions. The app also provides educational facts about the benefits that trees provide.

Team Viridius - An app that analyses users' everyday activities and ecological footprint. After that, it creates a personal program towards reaching a more sustainable lifestyle. Users get a weekly task, which they can modify, skip or postpone according to their needs. The idea is to not promote competition between users but rather guide them to do it for themselves and for the environment.

Team Flip the Switch - The idea is to influence the subconscious into incorporating sustainable behavior into daily lives.

Team Plastic Currency - Plastic Currency team faced the problem of not reusing plastic waste and came up with the idea to create or increase taxes for plastic production and waste. Make a plastic bank, which would pay regular people to collect plastic and bring it to a plastic bank. Thus, increasing the overall motivation of plastic collection and reuse. The plastic bank would pay for every kg of plastic and would be available to everyone all around the world, especially in places of high plastic usage and waste. After the plastic arrives at the plastic bank, it would be recycled and used for future packaging/products.

Team No-Food-waste system - The idea is to offer an online and offline place for consumers to buy surplus food in a cheap version. No-Food-waste system is all about reducing waste.

Time to show gratitude and appreciation to people who helped to make this event into a reality

Thank you to our jury members - Mari Hanikat and Jüri Kaljundi from Garage48, Erki Ani from Cleantech ForEst, Anni Raie from Environmental Investment Agency, Jana Budkovskaja from Prototron, Janika Laht from the Ministry of Environment, and Kaja Tael from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thank you mentors for leading the teams in the right way, offering your help to perfect their pitches or just sharing your knowledge to make their ideas better - Mayri Tiido, Grete Riim, Joosep Henrik Sild, Karl Pärtel, Merit Valdsalu, Anneli Ohvril, Erlend Sild, Martin Raadik, Sander Jahilo, Gerardo Garcia Diaz, Jüri Kaljundi, Aino-Silvia Tali, Merilin Lukk, Triin Preem, Birgit Aru, Indrek Kelder, Mari-Ann Meigo Fonseca, Maria Rahamägi, Andri Jagomägi, Kristiina Martin, and Sigrid Ojavee.

And last but not least, thank you to the organizing team from Garage48 - Merit, Mari, Joao, Anna, Iti, and Siim! Thank you Raido and MindMedia team! Thank you team Cleantech ForEst - Erki, Kadri, Triin, and Karl! Thank you to the Ministry of Environment - Kertu, Krista, Agnes, Janika, and Kati-Liis!

This event also was a great place to announce some pretty big thing - Garage48 Green Manifesto! What does this mean? We agree with scientists that the loss of biodiversity and climate breakdown are 2 of the most serious issues facing humanity. Garage48 promises to do our part, to save the world and act now, not some random time in the future. 

You can rewatch and relive:

This event was organized together with the Ministry of the Environment, Cleantech ForEst, and with the support of NB8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government Office of Estonia, the Ministry of Education and Research, The Education and Youth Authority, and Center for Environmental Investments.

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