This feature is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on April 16, 2018.
Electricity generation is four times more expensive in the Caribbean than in the United States, and four of the world’s 10 largest generators of garbage per capita are in the Eastern Caribbean. So it is increasingly critical that the region use waste productively or repurpose it into fuel.
In the Eastern Caribbean States, for example, the heavy reliance on oil for generating electricity means that island nations like St. Vincent must spend up to 20% of GDP to keep the lights on.
From bacterial micro-organisms that produce renewable energy
Determined to reverse “the [negative] way humans are changing the Earth,” Shavez Walters plans to make a difference. His ideas for an energy solution include a biodigester designed to produce methane/carbon dioxide biogas. The concept sparked the victory of his five-person team, BioCore, in 2017’s final GreenTech Bootcamp pitch competition, held last fall in Arnos Vale on his home island of St. Vincent.
“It’s like a mechanical stomach,” says the 19-year-old St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College student, who is studying environmental science and geography. “It’s fed with organic material, which is broken down by bacterial micro-organisms to produce renewable energy. Any other material is mainly used as fertilizer.”
Walters became a green entrepreneur by chance. “I had left my geography textbook behind after class so we had to come all the way back to school where a teacher saw us and invited us to the GreenTech information-gathering session.”
A month ago, he was more focused on college life and basketball, but Walters now wants to build a green energy enterprise. “My group members would like to undergo the acceleration program which I see as an excellent chance to grow and learn.”
To repurposing waste as a construction material
By contrast, Walters’ compatriot, second-prize winner Zendini Bibby, is fighting back against the scourge of debris from 2017’s hurricanes by repurposing waste as construction material. Her plan has the potential to both reduce the amount of agricultural land being used for landfills in St. Vincent and boost youth employment.
“Our aim is to reduce the current influx of waste going to landfills as well as watersheds while reducing the current carbon emission,” she says. “Our project aims to reduce non-biodegradable plastic and the current influx of waste.”
An elementary school teacher who studied environmental and natural resource management, Zendini finds inspiration in the home her mother built more than 20 years ago: “The house was constructed with a mix of new and recycled materials. I further delved into the topic at school, always with a concern for identifying cost-effective solutions to problems that hinder environmental sustainability.”
Committed to further developing Eco Construction Solutions with her six-person team, the 26-year-old is “working on making our business a viable option by participating in the accelerator program as well as working to secure funding.”
The World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Program in the Caribbean (EPIC) through the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) has administered the GreenTech Bootcamp series since 2016, awarding the top ideas with cash prizes and three tiers of acceleration: ideation, validation, and revenue generation. The entrepreneurs are provided with technical and business development assistance in 17 specialized business education workshops and eight prerecorded mentorship sessions. Developed by CCIC, all workshops and sessions have been facilitated by certified professionals.