Rwandan start-up EarthEnable wins €500,000 in Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017

Sustainable and inexpensive alternative for cement to replace dirt floors improves lives and cuts CO2 emissions

The Rwandan start-up EarthEnable is the winner of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017. During the finale, co-founder Gayatri Datar impressed the international jury with her sustainable alternative for cement to replace dirt floors. As the winner, she receives a cheque of €500,000 to further develop her green innovation. The runner-up prize of €200,000 goes to the biodegradable alternative for plastic by the Danish start-up Pond. This year, the other three finalists were also surprised to each receive €100,000. This brings the total prize pool of one of the biggest sustainability competitions in the world to €1 million.

The earthen floors offered by the Rwandan start-up EarthEnable improve the lives of the world’s poorest people and ensure significant reductions in CO2 emissions, as they eliminate the need for cement floors. More than a billion people still live on sandy floors, which are often a breeding ground for parasites and germs. A cement floor is often the only available alternative, but this is expensive and is not eco-friendly. EarthEnable supplies floors made from local, natural materials, which have been sealed using a plant-based oil. These floors are 75% less expensive, and produce 90% fewer emissions, than cement.

Gayatri Datar (31), co-founder: “Being proclaimed as winner out of 515 entries is unbelievable! This is a really important strategic endorsement for us. With the prize money we plan to scale within Rwanda and likely in three other countries. The prize money gives us the opportunity to test different scaling models to find a viable scale strategy to improve the health and lives of millions of people who are still living on dirt floors.”

Runner-up prize for Pond
Thomas Pedersen (48) of Pond from Denmark has been awarded the runner-up prize of €200,000. His start-up has developed a method to extract bio-resin from agricultural waste. By mixing this bio-resin with natural fibres, such as flax or hemp, completely bio-degradable products can be produced. The bio-resin can be used in existing machines without difficulty, eliminating the need to make additional investments, and offering a complete and sustainable alternative to existing plastic applications, such as diapers, furniture, windmill blades and buttons for clothing.

€100,000 for Dutch, French and other Rwandese finalist
The €100,000 prizes were awarded to the Dutch green start-up LightyearGlowee from France and the Rwandan start-up ARED.

International professional jury
The international jury was chaired this year by Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource, a social enterprise that helps underprivileged people from Africa find work in the digital sector. Samasource is one of the biggest employers in the field of technology in East Africa. Leila Janah: “People often consider “doing good” and “making a profit” to be irreconcilable, but in fact an important path to lasting change can be created where these two meet. All these start-ups are great examples of this. The way in which Gayatri has been able to tackle two major issues at the same time with her start-up EarthEnable is very impressive. Her innovative product improves the health of the world’s poorest people and ensures an enormous reduction in CO2 emissions. As such, she and her team are this year’s deserving winner. I expect to hear a great deal from this start-up in the future.”