Voting for the 2011 Crunchies is underway, and sustainability-enabling tech companies have snagged nominations across the board. The Crunchies gave shout-outs to the sleek Nest learning thermostat, the money-saving platform Airbnb, and the inspiring charity: water. This is in addition to nominees in the "Best Clean Tech Startup" category (we like Array Power in this group).
For your consideration, below are companies chosen by the GreenOrder Tech Team that didn't make the Crunchie list, but we're touting as ones that are poised to spark sustainable innovations in 2012 and beyond.
The quiet revolution of 3-D printing got a whole lot louder in 2011, garnering attention in outlets like The New York Times. 3-D printing has the potential to completely reshape the way we make stuff. Shapeways puts all the revolutionary production power of 3-D printing in the hands of Joe Designer.
Users can print their own models, or purchase the designs of other Shapeways members. So far, most designs are aesthetically-oriented, with plans for jewelry, home décor items, and other gadgets among the most popular. It wouldn't take a big leap, however, for Shapeways to become a driver of sustainable product design.
Instead of chucking out a broken gizmo in your home, imagine being able to quickly download a plan and print a replacement part. Or, what if you could download plans for the latest sustainable innovation for sustainable living and customize it to fit your needs. Designers, start your AutoCAD!
In addition to being smarter about the stuff we make, what if we could live better while owning less stuff altogether? That's the idea at the heart of collaborative consumption. Airbnb uses this model in its platform that allows people to rent out extra rooms to wandering travelers.
Airbnb already made it into the Crunchie nominees for "best location application," but this concept has a lot more to offer. Getaround and RelayRides are two companies bringing collaborative consumption to the transportation industry. Both startups enable owners to rent out their cars by the hour. It's perhaps the first ever win-win-win-win proposition:
- People who need to own a car can reduce their costs while their cars are idle.
- People who need a car every once in a while can rent one out for a small price (rates start at $5/hour, going up to $75/hour for a Tesla Roadster).
- These companies, unlike ZipCar, don't need to maintain an expensive fleet of vehicles.
- We all get to benefit from lower rates of car ownership and fewer idle cars.
Getaround and RelayRides services are currently only available in San Francisco and (for RelayRides) Boston. As they refine this business model, look for a rapid expansion of peer-to-peer car sharing in 2012.
Access to stuff is just the tip of the iceberg of benefits we can get from the crowd. The crowd can also provide us with access to ideas, funds, information, and more. Following in the footsteps of peer-to-peer financing sites like Kickstarter and Prosper, Solar Mosaic is harnessing the power of crowdfunding to provide upfront financing for solar panel installation.
Individuals can purchase a single "piece" of a solar panel for $100. As the energy savings from the solar project add up, investors are repaid. In 2012, Solar Mosaic will explore offering financial products to investors interested in earning a rate of return on their solar investments.
Voting for the Crunchies closes on January 29th. Who will you vote for? Are any of your favorites not on the nominee list?