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On February 20th, 2020, seniors Olivia Corriere and Zach Walker found themselves on a stage holding a check for $10,000. It all came out of an innovative idea to allow individuals to offset their carbon footprint created from various purchases, by presenting them with suggested donation figures that would make up for the carbon created by investing in projects reducing carbon. The idea, titled Mother Earth Ventures capitalizes on the fact that many people want to reduce their impact on the earth and uses nudge theory to get people to actually follow through with that.

The idea came together in a month’s time. Olivia and Zach knew each other previously from being co-chairs of UNC’s organization, RESPC that works on various projects related to renewable energy. This, along with their coursework, gave them a solid understanding of the need to decarbonize the economy and how market-based solutions can be a major contributor to this. Though the concept came fairly naturally, they described that they were challenged by understanding and predicting the business aspects of the project such as how popular and effective it would be and how to actually access the financial infrastructure necessary to make the program function.

Will Clayton, COS of Strata Solar, the award donor, says that “Strata is uniquely positioned to see many exciting opportunities in the electricity generation sector.” This company has worked closely with UNC’s Institute of Environment and Dr. Gangi in putting on the Clean Tech Summit each year. Part of the reason they hold the competition is that they are “on the cutting edge of clean energy generation” so innovative ideas that come out of it help to further the industry in environmentally and economically beneficial ways.

Though only an idea at first, winning the award gave them the confidence and motivation to consider pursuing implementation of Mother Ventures. They have been in collaboration with other experts to help launch the program. As with many things, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has broken up the progress and there are hesitancies about the buy-in for the program with the economy in the state that it currently is. Nonetheless, Olivia and Zach have proven to be innovative thinkers in the clean tech space and will accomplish great things post-graduation where they plan to work in the renewable energy industry. Strata Solar is looking forward to what next year brings for this award.

Written by:

Claire Bradley

Clean Tech Summit Intern, Spring 2020