This International Women’s Day, learn about the winners of the 2020 Women4Climate Tech Challenge and their innovative climate solutions implemented in C40 cities.
The climate crisis disproportionately impacts women, but too often, their voices are not heard due to lack of representation at decision-making levels. Enhancing women’s participation and leadership in climate action is critical to securing a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for us all.
Launched in 2017 by C40 Cities and the L’Oréal Foundation, Women4Climate emphasises the connection between achieving climate justice and gender equality. Through the mentorship programme, workshops, online courses and competitions, C40 contributes to the emergence of the next generation of climate leaders by sharing knowledge and experience, and creating a space where women can thrive.
What is the Women4Climate Tech Challenge?
The Women4Climate Tech Challenge is an international contest open to creative, women-led tech climate solutions in C40 cities, supported by Velux Group. In 2020, the three winners of the Tech Challenge split the $50,000 prize money to pilot their projects in Los Angeles, Lisbon, Stockholm, and Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Technology and data are vital to accelerate sustainable change in cities and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Tech Challenge is designed to promote and implement women-led climate innovation in cities, provide support to accelerate and scale up the winning projects, and help break down barriers women face in start-up creation and venture capital. It has done exactly that, as each of the winners have since gone on to expand their initiatives and achieve exciting results.
Let’s explore the Women4Climate Tech Challenge 2020 winning projects, the women who developed and pioneered them, and the impact of their innovation and entrepreneurship in cities three years on.
Anai Green – Lumiweave
As the climate crisis escalates, global temperatures continue to rise at an alarming pace. In fact, the top five hottest years on record have all been within the last decade, with cities worldwide devastated by heatwaves that put the most vulnerable at risk. This issue in cities is coupled with light pollution at night which disrupts natural patterns of wildlife, creates carbon emissions, disturbs human sleep, and obscures the stars in the night sky.
Anai Green, an industrial and product designer from Israel, developed her innovative climate solution Lumiweave with this dual challenge in mind. Lumiweave is a new outdoor fabric embedded with Apollo Power PV Panels, which benefits residents by providing shade during the day and soft light in the evening. Lumiweave was one of three winning projects in the Women4Climate Tech Challenge 2020, piloted in Tel Aviv-Yafo.
The versatile Lumiweave fabric can be used in a variety of ways – from stand-alone shade umbrellas to larger canopy areas that provide shelter from the sun’s heat.
Anai Green’s Lumiweave project has been a huge success in her home city of Tel-Aviv-Yafo, where the pilot was installed in Atidim Park. The pilot has become emblematic of sustainability innovation in Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Because the energy used for the light is solar generated, Lumiweave is off-grid, meaning it doesn’t affect the wider city infrastructure, create any carbon emissions, or contribute to light pollution. The initial Lumiweave pilot was so transformative that it was also introduced to two other cities in Tel Aviv-Yafo – in community gardens in Ra’anana, and the municipality innovation department of Kfar Sava. The three pilots have created huge demand for Lumiweave throughout Israel and in many cities internationally.
What’s next for Lumiweave?
Anai Green’s Lumiweave solution has been hugely successful. Winning the Tech Challenge generated excellent media coverage which sparked new interest, partnerships and projects. Lumiweave started out as an innovative idea for a product and has now been developed and established as a company in January 2021, with a whole team of talented people behind Green.
There are some exciting new projects underway for Lumiweave. More canopies are set to be introduced in ten separate locations across Tel Aviv-Yafo, including Midron Park. In Italy, future installations include the Ischia promenade, a sustainable park in the Venice region, and the Prato textile museum, Museo del Tessuto. Lumiweave is also in discussion with sites in India, Austria and Brazil, and will continue to expand and benefit more residents in cities worldwide.
Meiling Gao and Vivian Bi – Clarity
Clean air is a fundamental human right, but a huge 99% of the world’s population breathes unsafe, toxic air. This causes widespread illness and shortens lives, often hitting vulnerable and low-income communities the hardest. By measuring air pollution, cities can clean up the air in the worst affected areas, and implement policies to best protect the health of residents.
Meiling Gao and Vivian Bi jointly won the Women4Climate Tech Challenge 2020 with their initiative Clarity, an environmental startup which makes it easier for cities to measure real-time air quality data. Clarity’s small and easy to use Node-S air quality sensors can be placed on busy streets, in school playgrounds, in offices, public buildings, parks and other public spaces to provide the data cities need to make informed decisions about how to protect people’s health.
Clarity air quality monitors were placed indoors and outdoors at five Los Angeles Public Library branches in 2021, to determine whether public buildings can be used to provide shelter from wildfire smoke, just as some sites are cooling centres during heatwaves. The pilot data suggested that even in higher air pollution periods outdoors, the library branches provided generally consistently cleaner air indoors as a result of upgraded heating, ventilation and AC systems and air purifiers.
The data were made public for one year, increasing connections and conversations between different local groups working on air quality data collection, communication, and awareness raising. As part of the pilot and LA’s Green New Deal, air quality training and education was provided to librarians. The pilot also connected LA Public Libraries and the City of LA with the LA Unified School District, as Clarity launched a 200-device network with the school district to make the air safer for children to breathe.
What’s next for Clarity?
Clarity’s solution has expanded since 2020 and been deployed in more than 70 countries worldwide — including London, where C40 Chair and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan invested in the flagship air quality monitoring programme Breathe London.
Breathe London is the largest city-funded air quality sensor network in the world, and will serve as a model for Breathe Global, which will expand this visionary work to C40’s Air Quality Network and the broader network of C40’s nearly 100 member cities.
Clarity is also working locally with community groups, academics and organisations to launch sensor networks to provide air quality data and raise awareness around air quality issues, inform transportation and urban development policies, and protect the health of local communities.
Lorena Gordillo Dagallier – open-seneca
We know air pollution is a global problem. But the scale and complexity of the climate crisis can often be overwhelming. As individuals, it’s difficult to know where to start with climate action, and we may feel we don’t have the power to make significant change. However, as campaign groups and organisations worldwide are demonstrating, people certainly are powerful when they come together for collective, coordinated action.
Lorena Gordillo Dagallier is a multidisciplinary engineer who co-founded the Women4Climate Tech Challenge winning project open-seneca. The initiative is made up of mobile air quality sensor networks and educational workshops, which put people at the centre of solutions to the climate crisis. With small sensors that can be attached to bicycles, motorbikes, scooters, and cars, anyone carrying an open-seneca sensor can easily track pollution levels on the go. The initiative raises awareness about personal exposure to air pollution, while creating pollution maps that can be used by city officials to inform policy and urban development. The project was piloted in both Stockholm and Lisbon.
The open-seneca pilot in Lisbon was run in collaboration with Lisbon City Council and FabLab Lisboa. Over 50 volunteers collected data for 6 months during their daily commutes to create a pollution map of the city, contributing to Lisbon’s largest pollution monitoring system. The results of the pilot were shared at the FICA science festival, engaging with the wider public through talks and workshops.
The excitement around the impacts of the project sparked interest in open-seneca across Portugal, from schools and universities interested in using the sensors for educational activities with students, to co-working spaces interested in encouraging cycling among their members, to other city councils interested in replicating the sensor network in their own cities.
The open-seneca pilot in Stockholm took place over three months and brought together Stockholm City Council, local cycling activists, and students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Two students from a local school also used open-seneca sensors to gather air quality data in the Stockholm metro system for their final year school project, which won the Utställningen Unga Forskare (Young Scientists Exhibition) competition, giving the students a place in the national Swedish team of young scientists to present the project internationally.
What’s next for open-seneca?
Both pilots were invaluable, as they demonstrated the power of resident-driven mobile monitoring and how it can be adapted for cities’ different needs.
Since 2020, open-seneca has deployed sensors with the help of volunteer residents in 10 cities across 4 continents. Its engaging, educational approach has also opened up new collaborations with students and researchers from schools and universities.
Alongside new projects, open-seneca has been working on a new platform where people can use interactive air quality city maps to identify pollution hotspots and brainstorm solutions. open-seneca mobile sensors will soon be made available for individuals interested in measuring their personal exposure to pollution, and becoming champions to drive behavioural change in their communities.
What’s next for Women4Climate?
Each of these incredible women-led projects demonstrate what innovative, creative approaches to the challenges of the climate crisis can achieve. It demonstrates the importance of creating a green future that invests in women and girls.
In just five years, the Women4Climate initiative has mentored more than 400 women from 21 cities across every continent. It has empowered women entrepreneurs at every stage of their careers. It has supported the expansion of their projects in line with C40’s commitment to drive the creation of 50 million good, green jobs, starting with those for women and underrepresented groups. This is the blueprint we need for a green, sustainable and equitable future.
To complement the mentorship programme, Women4Climate offers a free, four-week online course open to all: Developing Skills for Women Leadership in Climate Action.
This article was produced with the support of Velux Group.