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By Richard Doran Sherlock

As part of the Global Leadership and Innovation Summit taking place on October 20-21 in Toronto, Rethink Sustainability is proud to host the Innovators’ Den. This is a unique opportunity for new technologies and start-ups focusing on issues such as sustainability, corporate social responsibility and alternative energy to engage with investors proactively looking to develop environmentally focused businesses. The four entrepreneurs which will be highlighted at the Innovators’ Den specialize in everything from enhancing the green building design process to biodegradable packaging. They each will be speaking at the Summit on Oct 21st but here is an inside scoop on their game changing ideas:

TekPak Solutions

One of the key waste management issues outlined in the Government of Ontario’s Waste Reduction Strategy in 2013 is the efficient disposal of packaging materials, to demonstrate proper stewardship in the wake of dwindling landfill capacity and viable sites. TekPak Solutions have developed a solution in the form of their Omnidegradable polymer based packaging. Unlike conventional plastics which can remain in the environment indefinitely, TekPak’s technological innovations have a stable shelf-life but break down quickly when exposed to microbes in anaerobic landfills or oceans. The demand for TekPak’s products is now so high that company President Robert Pocius has identified that the company requires direct funding in order to expand training, equipment and facilities.

Solar Ear

Hearing impairments, especially in children, can be highly debilitating in developing countries as they can restrict access to education and employment. Children with hearing impairments in less developed countries face a highly uncertain future since there are often technological, educational or social barriers restricting care and support. In addition, when hearing aids are available, the prohibitive expense of batteries often prevents their use. Howard Weinstein’s Solar Ear wireless hearing aid technology is a radically forward thinking solution to this problem – a digital rechargeable hearing aid and solar battery charger which is significantly more cost effective than other devices. Solar Ear has also developed a smartphone application to screen children for hearing impairments. Solar Ear is driven by those with hearing difficulties in 43 countries effectively creating a sustainable employment and ensuring the transfer of skills and technology. The World Technology Network named Weinstein the 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year for his innovative work.

Solaris Geothermal

One of the most pressing issues in the move towards a post-carbon economy is the requirement to derive energy from renewable sources distinct from fossil-fuels. Solar energy has long been regarded as a clean renewable energy source, but its reliability is compromised by several factors, not least of which is the fact that power can only be generated during the day. Bruce Gray, CEO of Solaris, has found a viable solution to this issue, while also considering the high initial investment required for solar and thermal installation. The SunPump combines the best of solar and geothermal energy, using solar during daylight hours and a geothermal heat pump when sunlight is not readily available, ensuring a consistent energy supply. Gray’s company has also developed a financial model which increases the accessibility of the technology to homeowners and the construction sector. Ready to Rocket – the business recognition program for British Columbia’s tech sector – named Solaris as one of its 2014 Cleantech Emerging Rockets.

RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists

A key component of sustainability is the maximization of energy efficiency in all forms of usage. For architects, engineers and the broader construction sector, the quick pace of the industry limits their ability to fully analyse the efficiency of completed projects before commencing new ventures. The 2030 Compass developed by RWDI allows experts in the construction and design fields to quickly and easily assess energy performance and multiple other parameters. The software is a fully customizable web-based interface, which facilitates tracking and comparison of data in fields such as the total annual energy use of a building. Firms will be better positioned to identify and adapt best practices by comparing accurate and up to date information, thereby reducing costs in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of the completed project.