An increasing number of tech companies are working to create products and applications to improve our lives and make a difference in ways both small and large.
While Apeel Sciences works to end hunger on a global scale, Last Call for Food matches hungry college students with discounted end-of-night restaurant meals. Founder and CEO Erin McGeoy, a Santa Barbara High water-polo standout, developed the platform while at George Washington University.
Despite scholarships and working throughout college, she still struggled financially and developed clever ways to access more affordable food. After working on the food-waste team at the World Wildlife Fund, she focused her energy on the intersection of college food insecurity and wasted restaurant food to launch Last Call in 2017.
“The technology we use allows restaurants and other food vendors to share deals they have on surplus food to the Last Call website, and it enables Last Call to communicate these deals to our subscribers,” said McGeoy, who launched on the East Coast but is now actively working in her hometown to bring the service to UCSB and SBCC students. See lastcallforfood.com.
ChowMatch is also counteracting food waste locally. The initiative was launched by the Community Environmental Council (CEC) in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Program and is supported by COVID-19 relief funding. Explained the CEC’s Julia Blanton, “We help build relationships between donors with surplus food and charitable organizations to prevent produce and restaurant-quality prepared food from going to the landfill and instead direct it to those facing hunger throughout the county.” See chowmatch.com.
Wildnote’s mission is to protect natural resources by empowering professionals to accurately collect, efficiently manage, and effectively report on environmental compliance. Making the world a better place is emphasized at every meeting, said founder and CEO Kristen Hazard, who is based in San Luis Obispo. “It’s often the reason employees want to come work for Wildnote, because they feel a calling for their work to have meaning around the environment,” she explained. See wildnoteapp.com.
Heather Hochrein used a grad-school group thesis idea to win third place at UCSB’s New Venture Competition, and then she founded EVmatch, a peer-to-peer network for finding electric-vehicle charging stations. The app directs drivers to privately owned charging stations, allowing apartment dwellers and travelers a flexible way to charge their vehicles. See evmatch.com.
Technology is also an excellent resource for crowdfunding and marketing innovative, eco-minded products. Frustrated with trying to eliminate waste in their everyday lives, Remaker Labs cofounders David Silverander and Sky Gilbar developed Hitch, a full-size reusable water bottle with a removable, barista-approved cup hidden inside. Through funny videos featuring familiar landmarks, Hitch raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter and is still pre-selling through Indiegogo. They plan to deliver in November, just in time for the holidays. See carryhitch.com.
The Final company sports a similar ethos of eliminating single-use products and also used humorous videos of mermaids to market FinalStraw, a reusable straw that folds down to keychain-size. “The idea around the mermaid is this human connection to the ocean, which has a fun fantasy aspect,” said founder Emma Rose Cohen, who was part of the Save the Mermaids activist group as a student at UCSB, dressing in mermaid costumes to encourage the City of Santa Barbara to ban plastic bags. Her Kickstarter campaign raised $1.8 million, and FinalStraw is now available at REI, as well as online, with additional products — FinalFork, FinalSpork, and FinalWipe— available for preorder. See final.co.
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