Start-up EarthEnable took top prize of €500,000 in the Dutch Post Code Lottery Green Challenge this week for their alternative to dirt or cement flooring. 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. But EarthEnable floors can be cleaned and washed like cement or similar solid surface floors.
The earthen floors offered by the Rwanda-based 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.
Gayatri Datar, the 31-year-old co-founder of EarthEnable, said, "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."
The sustainable floor company has already replaced floors for more than 8,000 Rwandans in more than 300 villages. Part of their corporate model is "changing floors, changing lives" and with that commitment also comes a commitment to providing jobs. Their website says, "EarthEnable is committed to creating a long-term solution in Rwanda, which means training Rwandans to do the work. As part of EarthEnable’s model, we train local Rwandans as masons to learn exactly how to create and install an earthen floor. Then, the masons are able to go out and become income-generating entrepreneurs utilizing their new skills. We also hire and train for many other full-time positions including helpers for the masons, chemists, managers, administrative staff, and student interns."
About the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge
To contribute to a greener world, the Dutch Postcode Lottery has organised the annual Postcode Lottery Green Challenge since 2007. It is one of the largest annual international competitions in the field of sustainability innovation. Each participant must submit a detailed business plan to the preliminary jury, who will establish whether the idea is viable. The best business plan that fights climate change wins €500,000. The runner-up receives €200,000. Winners from previous editions have successfully developed their innovative products thanks to the publicity and network of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge.