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Climate Change Seed Grant Winners Announced 2017

Five student teams receive the 2017 Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change Seed Grants!

Yale Center for Business and the Environment, The Yale University Office of Sustainability and Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change Seed Grants!

Five student teams were recently awarded grants as part of a new program providing support for innovative ideas to address critical catalysts and solutions for climate change.

Teams are made up of students from across Yale University, including the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, School of Management, Law School, School of Public Health and Yale College, with projects that have impact across the globe, from New Haven to Ethiopia to Afghanistan to worldwide. 

 “One of the key goals of this initiative is to attract diverse, interdisciplinary teams within undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs,” says Cass Walker, Program Director of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship at CBEY.  “We are quite pleased to have received such a strong, competitive applicant pool with good representation from across the University.”

The winners presented proposals that demonstrated a high potential for impact, high project viability, and overall excellence.  The 2017 recipients include: 

1. AirAware by Franz Hochstrasser (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies) and Matthew Moroney (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies). AirAware is a network of mobile air quality sensors that monitor air pollution for children’s daily activities, for people suffering from respiratory ailments, or for informed citizens that want to do more to protect public health and combat climate change. By raising the awareness of the threat to public health and climate change posed by air pollution, AirAware equips individuals with the detailed block-by-block, room-by-room information, and cues they need to protect their children, and take action to cut emissions across our cities, buildings, and streets.

2. Firoz Academy by co-founders, Wazhma Sadat (Yale Law School), John Calhoun (Yale Law School Alumnus), and Kunal Lunawat (Yale College Alumnus)— and Usman Qadri, Sheila Qasemi, and Yasamin Sharifi (all Yale College). Firoz Academy offers math, English, leadership, computer literacy and programming courses in Afghanistan to empower girls with greater autonomy over their futures, including family planning and reproductive health. They teach skills that prepare students to work in green-sector opportunities and take active, informed roles in public/civic life, creating more climate- resilient and responsible communities.

3. Treehouse Trading by Ariana Day Yuen (Yale School of Management). Treehouse Trading plans to be a forest-based commodities trading company, that sources from smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and create incentives to invest in high-value, non-timber-forest production that preserve “backyard forests” and prevent deforestation.

4. Moo-ve Over Methane (now known as Symbrosia) by Victoria Shirriff, Alexia Akbay, Nicholaus Johnson (all Yale School of Public Health). Moo-ve Over Methane will use aquaponics at Yale’s West Campus operations to grow and harvest red macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis, a methane-reducing supplement for livestock feed, and sell it to local livestock farmers. As part of the aquaponic ecosystem, they also plan to sell farm fish to the surrounding New Haven community and local restaurants. These operations will reduce methane gas emissions, promote local farming cooperatives, avoid overfishing, and promote ethical power hierarchies in the agricultural industry all while functioning as a for-profit enterprise.

5. Solar For Renters: The Renter's PPA by Russell Heller (Yale College) and Cary Krosinsky (Lecturer at Yale College and the School of Management). The Renter's PPA is a financing structure that addresses the “split incentive” barrier for solar adoption in the rental market, to enable renters to access cheap, clean energy and landlords to increase revenue from their properties without any upfront investment. The Renter’s PPA aims to increase the prevalence of distributed solar generation in the US grid, reduce carbon emissions, while also providing cost savings for renters.

A panel of judges comprised of Yale alumni helped select the recipients:

  • Sarah Wilson, Director, Responsible Investment at TIAA, (SOM/F&ES)
  • Tricia Napor, Director of Human Capital at 100 Resilient Cities, (SOM) 
  • Lara Burmeister, Principal Product Manager at P&G, (SOM/F&ES)
  • Michael Oristaglio, Director, Energy Studies at Yale University, (Yale College)
  • Kathryn Wright, Senior Consultant at Meister Consultants Group, Co-Founder of MySunBuddy, (F&ES)

“We are very grateful to the panel of judges for their help determining the winners. To select among so many high-quality submissions was a challenge – support from our alumni was invaluable,” says Melissa Goodall, Associate Director of the Yale Office of Sustainability.”

Winning teams will receive seed funding, space at The Landscape Lab at West Campus, and expert mentorship to advance their projects.