November 2018 Kate Palmer

Last week thousands of people around the world gathered for 24 hours to create the solutions our cities need to thrive in a changing climate. Amongst them was a group of five from WSP Opus’ Wellington office.

The event was Climathon, an annual hackathon that this year took place in 114 cities in 44 countries simultaneously on 26 and 27 October. Participants were challenged to come up with practical solutions for the city to reduce their emissions, efficiently use resources and ensure Wellington’s food security, all issues that are contributing to, or will be significantly impacted by climate change.

Seiko Kurokawa, WSP Opus Interior Designer, pitched the concept of a reusable takeaway container that could potentially remove single-use containers from the takeaway chain.

The premise is innovative: retailers pay a subscription fee based on bowls used per week, and costs would be competitive with alternatives. It’s an untapped opportunity - retailers and customers both want sustainable options, but they want convenience. We fill that gap. It’s about helping spur a mindshift from single-use, individual consumption to sharing, and fostering reuse as a community. An opportunity to turn a mindless habit into a sustainable action, for every person who eats takeaway food.

Reusabowl, was the overall prize winner at Climathon, receiving a $2,000 prize from Wellington City Council, a further $1,000 provided by the Ministry for the Environment as the waste challenge winner, and took out the digital/finance prize provided by Callaghan Innovation and BNZ.

Seiko says she was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her peers on the challenge.

“What I enjoyed so much was the positive vibe at the event. Eight talented professionals came and joined me and took the idea up to the next level very quickly. I learnt how to strip the idea to the very core value as a team. Under the limited time frame, it was a very effective way to let everybody work to their best potential with shared values. There was a lot of support from the event organiser to make the concept work, and I learnt so much about the practical approach from them too.”

Lucas Earley and Connor Matthews, both Civil Engineers, worked together to present Clean Steps, one of the few teams brave enough to tackle the issue of air transport emissions.

Clean Steps is a mobile app that allows the user to make informed decisions as to what transport provider to choose based on carbon emissions. The app would begin with focus on air transport from Wellington airport, but has the scope to expand to other services such as buses, trains and taxis, and into other regions. Clean Steps took out the air transport challenge winner prize, provided by Greater Wellington Regional Council.

India Eiloart, WSP Opus Environmental Engineer, pitched an idea to provide people with the understanding of how their everyday actions contribute to climate change, good or bad, and to what scale that effect is.
“Many people are really concerned about climate change but wouldn’t know where to begin when figuring out what they can do about it, and how their actions would make an impact to the global issue. We wanted to gamify these impacts in a form that would be as enjoyable as a Tamagotchi, while being as informative as hours of research, in order to help users change habits for the sake of the environment.”

In Happy Earth, you create the world you want to live in. We will create a mobile app game which presents you with choices to make on daily activities - such as the forethought to bring a keep cup to the coffee shop - and will reward you with an equivalent net positive impact to your mini Earth that you are nurturing in the game.

The Happy Earth team was awarded entry into Victoria University’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp, a 3-month intensive pre-accelerator programme designed to further validate the idea.


Image credits: Photo by Elias Rodriguez