Part I: Product Innovators
Between our winning sports teams, revitalizing neighborhoods, and thriving food and arts communities, Cleveland is clearly on an upswing. Another key to this revitalization is creating a sustainable economy that benefits all. A growing number of Cleveland businesses are leading the way in this transformation by:
- Creating innovative products that advance the global sustainability movement;
- Providing a service that helps Cleveland residents and businesses become more sustainable; and
- Institutionalizing sustainability into their operations.
This Sustainable Cleveland blog, focused on Product Innovators, is the first entry in a three-part series exploring sustainable business in Cleveland. So who exactly are some of these entrepreneurs?
Established in the Greater Buckeye neighborhood as a product of the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen’s food business incubator, UJIMA re-fresh offers nutritious fresh pressed juices made from locally grown, organic ingredients. Initially motivated by the fight to eliminate food deserts, UJIMA re-fresh “was birthed in frustration, but persists in power and vision towards a more sustainable neighborhood.” In 2017, the juicery is leading an ioby campaign to organize educational pop-up events that will promote healthy eating and community fellowship in the Buckeye neighborhood.
Tunnel Vision Hoops
Tunnel Vision Hoops is greenhouse design, manufacturing, and installation company that first formed at a Sustainable Cleveland Summit. They were first motivated by the demand to extend the growing season for the Central Roots Farm CSA and the need to move away from monoculture commodity-based production in order to feed the ever-growing world population. Tunnel Vision Hoops has grown from offering one greenhouse structure to a variety of DIY kit packages and supplies for farmers and growers.
redhouse studio doesn’t offer products and services provided by the typical architecture firm. Founded in 2014 by Kent State University adjunct professor Christopher Maurer, redhouse studio offers sustainable landscape plans and biofiltration systems that specifically utilize mycelium (a network of filaments comprised by the vegetative part of fungus) to filter harmful bacteria and chemicals in stormwater and wastewater runoff, or dangerous materials found at brownfield sites. This process is actualized in each MycoHouse, a community garden and mushroom-growing farmhouse that features a bioremediation swale and mycofiltration chamber. With a growing concern for climate change refugees, redhouse studio also offers MycoShelters—inflatable disaster relief shelters. redhouse studio is working to revolutionize the building industry to greatly lower its carbon footprint, and creating some pretty cool mycelium art along the way. Locally, Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and College of Architecture and Environmental Design launched design/REbuild, a program to strategically reuse and reclaim vacant and abandoned homes at low-cost.
Energy Focus, Inc.
Headquartered in Solon, Ohio, Energy Focus designs, tests, and validates energy efficient LED lighting products and solutions. The company’s clientele spans much further than Solon, with national, state and local U.S. government agencies, as well as Fortune 500 companies. Bolstering Northeast Ohio’s economy, Energy Focus has helped Northeast Ohio schools, hospitals, parking garages, and other public and private facilities save money while improving their carbon footprint.
Innovative design company LorkTech is the creator of BluBoard, a wireless digital display that only uses power when updated. The device, which is on the verge of going public, is weather-resistant, visible in sunlight, and can be updated remotely from devices including phones, laptops, or tablets. This technology can reduce the need for costly printed material or expensive, energy-draining LCD screens.
LEEDCo and Icebreaker Windpower, Inc.
And of course, there’s Cleveland’s continued innovation in developing offshore wind technology in the Great Lakes. The Icebreaker project, which received a $40 million grant in 2016, will generate 20.7 megawatts of clean energy and make Northeast Ohio a national leader in offshore wind. The project has many partners, including KeyBank, a national leader in clean energy financing.
Cleveland-based startup Road Wise was pushed into high gear when founder and former competitive cyclist and runner John Kulbis, had an “aha” moment while painting a home interior. Kulbis leaned against a freshly painted wall and a single stripe of white paint on his arm led to the invention of Safety Skin. The reflective spread is applied to skin before or during activity to increase the visibility of runners, cyclists, and pedestrians. Safety Skin, which is made in Cleveland “from concept to reality,” is driven by the need for safe sustainable transportation.
Rustbelt Reclamation transforms salvaged goods and reclaimed wood into finished installations and furniture. Many of their goods are sourced from materials with a long history in Cleveland, before being repurposed and installed throughout Cleveland and beyond. In their words, “Rustbelt Reclamation endeavors to capitalize on the past success of the region to fuel its resurgence.”
Reusable water bottle brand Retap was founded by three Danish entrepreneurs who were concerned about the mass quantity of plastic bottles accumulating in the oceans. So why would we include a Danish company on our list? They have two offices in the world and they chose Cleveland for their North American headquarters. Rumor has it that they were inspired by our turn-around from the burning of the Cuyahoga River, which helped inspire the Clean Water Act. That’s no mistake on the lake!
Through support of entrepreneurs, local development of exportable products, and welcoming companies with a positive world-wide presence, Cleveland is developing a sustainable economy. By no means exhaustive, this list highlights businesses that are contributing to Cleveland’s economy and while demonstrating our shared progress towards a sustainable future.
If you know of another innovative sustainable product developed in Cleveland, share it here on the Sustainable Cleveland webpage.
*The City of Cleveland does not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services offered by the businesses featured in this blog post. Therefore, mention of commercial products or services on the Sustainable Cleveland website, sustainablecleveland.org, cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. These businesses were featured as examples of Cleveland’s growing sustainable economy.
Picture Credit (top to bottom, left to right): Sustainable Cleveland, Tunnel Vision Hoops, redhouse studio, Energy Focus, Inc., BluBoard, LEEDCo, Safety Skin, Rustbelt Reclamation, Retap