A spark to change the world - Aalto alumnas' startup helps people make climate-positive choices
Nearly a decade ago, energy technology student Amanda Rejström noticed she was thinking about one question more and more often. How much carbon dioxide emissions did her own moving, eating and electricity consumption produce?
The issue kept gnawing at Rejström. These student musings eventually resulted in the birth of Spark Sustainability – a startup that helps people make climate-positive choices.
The other founders include energy technology graduate Anna Eriksson and former business student Felicia Aminoff.
‘We want people to take a positive and curious attitude towards climate action. Enthusiasm and learning can help keep climate actions from feeling forced on top of our other everyday obligations,’ the founders of Spark Sustainability say.
Rejström came up with the name Spark during a yoga session, thinking that it is descriptive of their desire to encourage emission reductions.
Cutting a tonne
The trio’s visions was, from the very beginning, clear. They thought about how they would go about making it a reality for quite some time, however. The decision to establish a company was made because they eventually reasoned that this approach would enable them to accomplish the most.
The numbers reveal how significant an issue they are tackling. The Nordic countries are home to 30 million people who together generate some 225 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
‘If all of us cut our emissions by one tonne a year by changing something in our everyday lives, we would achieve an annual reduction greater than one half of Finland’s current annual emissions. And all this without difficult political decisions or expensive infrastructure investments,’ Amanda Rejström says.
A thousand kilos can be cut from annual CO2 emissions by, for example, going vegan, turning your shopping dial to the minimum or by performing several small actions in your everyday life.
Business model identified
For the first two first years, the trio tested various business models. They studied what got people excited and what companies would want to buy from Spark Sustainability. Finally, they found a workable model: the firm will provide climate consultation, content production, a climate calculator and cooperation on a mobile app.
‘It felt good to hear that our advisers believed in our idea and business model,’ Eriksson says.
A mobile app launched in January provides users with practical tips which help make climate action easy. At the same time, they are provided with information about the emissions impact of their own choices.
‘Some of the tips are connected to services and products with which users can reduce their emissions. The tips also factor in different lifestyles and alternatives are offered accordingly,’ Rejström says.
For example, the app might advertise train tickets to someone who travels a lot by plane and car. Companies pay for the app to advertise their services and products to an interested target group.
Replace your phone less frequently
Testers have received the first version of the mobile app well. Some 4,800 climate actions were performed already in the first nine months, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 100 tonnes.
‘The most popular and perhaps most surprising climate action from the user perspective deals with electronics,’ Aminoff notes.
The app recommends using your phone for six months longer. The manufacture of electronics generates a lot of emissions, so using your devices for as long as possible benefits the Earth as well.
Spark Sustainability’s founders believe that, in five years, performing climate actions will be as accepted a part of everyday life as saving or being punctual.
- Established in 2017.
- Six employees.
- Attracted €250k in backing during a seed funding round last spring.
- Funded by Finnish angel investors and one of Spark Sustainability’s client companies.
- Advised by Tiina Zilliacus, Markus Terho and Jussi Kiviniemi.
- By October 2020, 4 800 climate actions had been performed through the mobile app, helping cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 100 000 kg.