For the past several years, I’ve interviewed business leaders from around Greater Boston for the Globe’s Bold Types video series, picking their brains about the challenges they’ve faced and what makes this region a great place to do business. This season, I sought out entrepreneurs who were taking on one of the biggest challenges of our time, and putting sustainability at the forefront of their companies to help combat climate change.
On first glance, these half-dozen subjects may not seem like climate warriors: Some are in banking or building, others are producing faux meat or processing grains for beer. But when you ask them about their big-picture goals the potential climate impact snaps into focus.
Take Andrea Stanley, for example. The cofounder of Valley Malt malthouse and Ground Up Grain flour mill in Holyoke, she supplies local brewers, bakers, and distillers with locally-grown grains from throughout the Northeast. Her work has allowed farmers in the region to plant more grains, creating a tighter and more sustainable supply chain (the value of this was brought home when the war in Ukraine upended global grain markets). Working out of an old paper mill that runs on hydroelectric power, she has the capacity to store and process 1 million pounds of grains a year.
Agriculture is on Charley Cummings’s mind too, only he’s thinking about how to fund it. As the founder of Walden Local Meats, which distributes locally raised meat and dairy throughout the Northeast, Cummings saw the challenges that agricultural entrepreneurs face getting funding for more sustainable endeavors. So he decided to build a bank to help finance them. Walden Mutual is New Hampshire’s first new mutual bank in a century, and it’s now lending to farmers and other agricultural entrepreneurs in New England and New York who are working to build a more sustainable food system.
Nick Falkoff is also a builder — the construction kind. And through his firm, Auburndale Builders, he’s been pushing to help his industry go greener. That involves making buildings that operate more efficiently — the built environment contributes 40 percent of all global carbon emissions, after all — and helping to train the next generation of construction workers. The ultimate goal, he says, is to make high-efficiency construction more available and affordable.
Claire Cheney’s small North Cambridge storefront is also hoping to make a big impact. As the founder of the Curio Spice Co., she’s aiming to disrupt the spice industry, a billion-dollar commodities market dominated by a few global giants. Working with small, mostly female-owned farms from around the world means more money for the growers, and a shorter supply chain with fewer carbon emissions. And for consumers, it means fresher and far tastier spices than you’ll find on most grocery store shelves.
Speaking of supermarkets, it’s become easier than ever to find plant-based meat products. But most faux meats emulate nuggets or ground beef, not the finer steaks, chops, and cutlets you’d find a butcher shop. Tender Food in Somerville is trying to up the ante, and has created a plant-based product that mimics the striated muscle tissue in a sirloin steak or chicken breast. Christophe Chantre is one of the co-founders, and he and his team at Greentown Labs in Somerville are modern-day Rumpelstiltskins, spinning plant proteins into strings that can be designed to replicate meat.
And across town in Somerville, Josh Aviv is trying to solve for range anxiety. The founder of SparkCharge has developed a battery pack and mobile charging network designed to help electric vehicle users access charging whenever and wherever they need it. The company’s app, Currently, is like UberEats for battery power, and it’s about to launch in Greater Boston next year.
They’re just a few of the many Boston-area innovators working to tackle the climate crisis. Here’s to more big and bold ideas in the year ahead.
Bold Types is a newsroom series presented by Cross Insurance. The advertiser had no role in the content or production.
Janelle Nanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.