EN DE
EN DE

On March 12, aware_ participated in this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas with a sanctuary event themed Sustainable Zeitgeist

Together with german.innovation, aware_ participated in this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. aware_ held a sanctuary event on March 12. Themed Sustainable Zeitgeist, participants connected with each other, redefined their consciousness and stimulated this process by bringing together the right people and enriching networking with pioneering conversations. 

„SXSW’s mission is to help creative people achieve their goals. The event is known for its conferences and festivals that celebrate the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture. Sustainability and the exchange of innovative pioneers in this field should not be missing. We were pleased to facilitate exchange and knowledge transfer with our sanctuary event and to gather inspiring minds, creatives, brands and start-ups“, says Kim N. Fischer, Co-founder of aware_. 

sanctuary

The sanctuary event was held at the Wax Myrtle’s Club – Innovation Bridge Europe House; an evening full of real encounters and an exciting exchange on the topic of Sustainable Zeitgeist. Attendants met a diverse community, a cross-industry and inspiring international network, exchanged ideas and knowledge in the context of sustainability and interacted in a circle of like-minded people.

„In 2006, the first wave of greentech fundings happened. Since then, there has been a real change among investors and people who are trading billions and trillions of dollars of capital for this energy transition to happen. And it must happen to fight autocratic dictators around the world who rely on venture.“, says Jonathan Shieber, Editor, Venture Partner at The FootPrint Coalition.

In the panel talk, Jonathan Shieber, a Venture Partner and Editor with The Footprint Coalition, talked about sustainable investment trends, technology transfers and collaborations between US and European companies. The FootPrint Coalition, founded by Robert Downey Jr, is a coalition of investors, donors, and storytellers committed to spreading the word about technologies to restore the planet. 
Austin Simms, Co-founder of Dayrize, believes that commerce and sustainability are linked, and business needs to be a major catalyst for addressing climate change. After 20+ years spent working in senior positions at major corporations like Nike, Philips and Brooks Running, Austin had a desire to use his skills to address climate change. In his panel talk, he spoke about the importance of putting the power in consumers hands to make real change. With Dayrize he wants to make impact assessment transparent for business and consumers.  

“Big companies all have sustainability claims. Every single CEO has sustainability in their top three priorities. There is a genuine desire and I think information is the gap between consumers and businesses: If they do not have the information, they cannot act. And we are here to bring that level of transparency. Our job is to provide the path for businesses to improve and to tell them how they can improve”, says Austin Simms, Co-founder of Dayrize.

Accompanied by drinks and a flying dinner, the event summit in exchange and networking – bringing like-minded people together on their way to a sustainable transformation. 

sanctuary

SXSW runs until March 20. Here are some interesting panel talks on the topics of renewable energy and fossil fuel alternatives, sustainable practices, coastal relocation, plant-based foods, and forward-focused green startups you will not want to miss: 

Dream Team: Corporates & Startups in ClimateTech 
March 14, 11:30am 

In this panel talk, industry leaders discuss the powerful collaboration between global energy companies and startups that is advancing low carbon energy solutions. 

Alternative Proteins can be the “Clean Energy” of Food 
March 15, 10am 

An impact-focused group of innovators explain how alternative proteins can catapult progress on climate change, reduce pandemic risk, and sustainably feed 10 billion people by 2050all while capturing consumer fascination with novel food technology.  

Decarbonizing Blockchain Technology 
March 16, 11:30am 

This panel will explore viable blockchain sustainability use cases, including supply chain efficiencies, renewable energy certification, utilizing NFTs to inspire people to commit to individual climate action, how to decarbonize the blockchain space, and how incentivization structures of blockchain can change wealth distribution to align with preserving natural spaces and common resources. 

About SXSW 
SXSW was founded in Austin, Texas in 1987 and has since become one of the most important meeting places for creatives from all over the world. In 1986, a small group of people in Austin, Texas began a series of long discussions about the future of entertainment and media. Local creatives and music makers, they said, were as talented as anywhere in the world, but were severely limited by a lack of publicity outside of Austin. The solution that was discussed was an event that would bring the outside world to Austin to see it up close. But for a local event to bring the world to Austin, it had to have value everywhere. Finally, in October 1986, the first SXSW was announced. The first event, held in March 1987, swelled the expected 150 opening day registrations to 700. As hoped, Austin’s charm won over attendees, and SXSW grew into a self-sustaining event. The event has changed in many ways since 1987, but at its core, SXSW remains a vehicle for creatives to advance their careers by bringing people together from around the world to meet, learn and share ideas. 
Held annually in March, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an event for professionals from around the world, offering lectures, music and comedy shows, film screenings, exhibits, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. Dedicated to helping creative people achieve their goals, the event is known for its conferences and festivals that celebrate the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture. 

– by Marie Klimczak

SXSW is an event that celebrates the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture, bringing together professionals from around the world 

For a long time now, sustainability, environmental protection and climate change have no longer been niche topics. The environment is becoming a mainstream issue, the new criterion for good and bad, right and wrong, the lowest common denominator for an entire generation – everyone is affected, everyone must take a stand. And a change is taking place: Environmental awareness is turning from an individual lifestyle into a social movement, sustainability is turning from a consumer trend into an economic factor, the climate crisis is becoming the basis of a new global identity, because an ecological catastrophe is inevitably also an economic one and therefore a social catastrophe. Supported by a growing sense of environmental awareness and responsibility among people, a new ethic of action has developed over the years based on the pillars of economy, ecology, and ethics, which now influences our entire everyday lives. 

So far so good, but some companies still instrumentalize sustainability as a marketing tool without any real consequences. Yet, sustainable corporate management is a dynamic, ever-evolving process that requires a convincing basis, but above all intrinsic motivation. What is missing is a sustainable zeitgeist, not a trend. 

Together with german.innovation, aware_ is participating in this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. aware_ will be present with a Sanctuary Event. Themed Sustainable Zeitgeist, participants will connect with each other, redefine their consciousness and stimulate this process by bringing together the right people and enriching networking with pioneering conversations. 

Held annually in March, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an event for professionals from around the world, offering lectures, music and comedy shows, film screenings, exhibits, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. Dedicated to helping creative people achieve their goals, the event is known for its conferences and festivals that celebrate the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture. 

SXSW was founded in Austin, Texas in 1987 and has since become one of the most important meeting places for creatives from all over the world. In 1986, a small group of people in Austin, Texas began a series of long discussions about the future of entertainment and media. Local creatives and music makers, they said, were as talented as anywhere in the world, but were severely limited by a lack of publicity outside of Austin. The solution that was discussed was an event that would bring the outside world to Austin to see it up close. But for a local event to bring the world to Austin, it had to have value everywhere. Finally, in October 1986, the first SXSW was announced. The first event, held in March 1987, swelled the expected 150 opening day registrations to 700. As hoped, Austin’s charm won over attendees, and SXSW grew into a self-sustaining event. The event has changed in many ways since 1987, but at its core, SXSW remains a vehicle for creatives to advance their careers by bringing people together from around the world to meet, learn and share ideas. 

event

SXSW EDU 
As part of SXSW, SXSW EDU is internationally known as a gathering place for creative professionals and extends SXSW’s support for the art of engagement to society’s educators. The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival promotes innovation and learning in the education industry, bringing together learners, practitioners, entrepreneurs and visionaries to share their groundbreaking stories, tackle complex problems and find new paths to the future. From Arts & Storytelling to Business & Investment, attendees will participate in four days of engaging sessions, in-depth workshops, compelling learning experiences, mentoring, film screenings, forward-thinking competitions, an exhibition, networking opportunities and much more. 

SXSW conference 
The SXSW Conference offers the global community of digital creatives the opportunity to learn about innovative ideas, discover new interests, and network with other professionals who share a similar desire for forward-thinking experiences. With a variety of topics including climate change, design, and even start-ups, the SXSW conference focuses on the most important breakthroughs in technology, film, culture, and music. 

SXSW exhibitions 
The SXSW exhibitions connect people from around the world and bring together a wide range of forward-thinking exhibitors – from promising start-ups to established industry leaders. SXSW’s world-class exhibitions highlight the connections and intersections between the converging creative and tech industries and bring attendees together with some of the world’s most innovative companies. 

Each year, SXSW also recognizes the most innovative, creative and inspiring individuals and companies in their respective fields. 

event

To keep the event fun, the SXSW festivals additionally offer a unique opportunity to explore the world of film, music and comedy with parties, awards ceremonies, screenings and showcases. 

For more information about aware_’s participation at SXSW 2022 you can register here. 

by Marie Klimczak

Between hype and criticism aware_ takes a close look at NFTs and examines their sustainability

Hardly any other topic is currently being discussed as much as crypto, bitcoin & co. Now another one has joined them: Non-fungible Tokens, or NFTs for short. Since their introduction in 2014, NFTs have become increasingly popular: as a way to buy and sell digital artworks and other digital assets. As a result, an incredible $174 million has been spent on NFTs since November 2017 (Forbes). Brands and celebrities are embracing the trend as they see this as a new way to connect with their fans. The most hyped area is NBA Top Shot, a place to collect non-fungible tokenized NBA moments in the form of digital cards. Some of these cards have already sold for millions of dollars. In another example, Co-Founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted a link to a tokenized version of his first ever tweet, writing “just setting up my twttr.” The NFT has already been auctioned off for up to $2.5 million (Investopedia). 

However, NFTs are also repeatedly criticized – especially because of their high energy consumption. aware_ has taken a close look at the new digital art form and examined its sustainability.

To understand the hype around NFTs, we should first look at what NFTs are: NFTs are non-fungible tokens that are unique and cannot be replaced by anything else. While a digital file can be copied an unlimited number of times, NFTs are designed to transfer ownership of a work only once. Compare this to collecting physical art: anyone can buy a print by a famous artist, but only one person can own the original. Ownership is managed by the unique ID and metadata, which cannot be replicated by any other token. The creator of the NFT may intend to make each NFT completely unique, or they may make several thousand replicas, for example for an event. This information is all public. So, an NFT can also be like a trading card, of which there are 50 or hundreds of numbered copies of the same work.

From digital art like GIFs, collectibles, music, or videos to real-world items like car sales contracts, tickets, tokenized invoices, legal documents, or signatures, NFTs can be anything digital. Moreover, NFTs can function like any other speculative asset, where you buy them and hope that their value will one day rise so you can sell them for a profit. 

Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, but its blockchain also supports such NFTs, which store additional information that changes the way it works. The difference with Bitcoin is that Ethereum is not a pure cryptocurrency, but also a platform for creating, managing and executing decentralized programs, such as crowdfunding or online voting. There are several marketplaces where NFTs can be bought and sold such as OpenSea, Rarible, Nifty Gateway and many more. Unlike cryptocurrencies, NFTs cannot be traded or exchanged for an equivalent value. This distinguishes them from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and can therefore be used as a medium for commercial transactions. In addition, content creators can sell their work anywhere and have access to a global market. They can also retain ownership of their own work and receive royalties directly for resale (The Verge; ethereum.org; Investopedia; Forbes; Haus von Eden).

digital

Like any technological advancement, NFTs, as an evolution of the relatively simple concept of cryptocurrencies, bring some notable advantages: The most obvious benefit is market efficiency. By converting a physical asset into a digital one, processes are streamlined, transactions are simplified, intermediaries are eliminated, and new markets are created. NFTs, which represent digital or physical artworks on a blockchain, eliminate the need for middlemen and allow artists to connect directly with their audience. They are also ideal for identity management: smart contracts enable the addition of detailed attributes, such as the owner’s identity, rich metadata, or secure file associations. The ability of non-fungible tokens to immutably prove digital ownership is an important advance for an increasingly digital world. The trustless security promised by the blockchain could be applied to the ownership or exchange of almost any asset (Investopedia; Decrypt).

Despite increasing popularity, this promising new technology is also facing constant criticism. Because NFTs use the same blockchain technology as some power-hungry cryptocurrencies, they also consume a lot of energy to maintain their qualities of decentralization and security. NFTs are largely issued on so-called Proof-of-Work (PoW) networks, of which Ethereum is the largest. This mechanism is used to store large amounts of data and verify that transactions are legitimate. It is this PoW mechanism that leads to the incredibly high energy consumption of the Ethereum network. In addition, the devices consume a lot of electricity and generate significant amounts of heat, resulting in CO2 emissions. The electricity used to mine Bitcoins is often generated using fossil fuels. Add to this the incredible masses of e-waste generated by millions of server computers worldwide, which are replaced on average every 18 to 24 months (The Verge; ethereum.org; Haus von Eden; monopol; Binantrader).

digital

But the first solutions for sustainable blockchain technology are emerging, albeit tentatively: Alternative mechanisms such as Proof-of-Stake (PoS) are much simpler regarding computational power and therefore much less harmful to the climate in terms of energy consumption and carbon footprint. These methods are already used by several blockchains that also support NFTs – such as Polygon, Snark.art, and Tezos. Ethereum is also currently undergoing a series of upgrades known as Eth2. These are designed to eliminate computational power as a security mechanism and reduce Ethereum’s carbon footprint by about 99.95%, making it more energy efficient than many existing industries. 
Many processes associated with NFTs also use renewable energy sources or unused electricity in remote locations. Movements that advocate for more attention to green technologies and the development of sustainable NFT systems or investing in lesser known blockchain technologies that focus on sustainability from the start are other approaches. The conservation organization WWF, for example, wants to use the hype around NFTs to raise awareness about the plight of endangered species. In the process, the WWF is selling the works of ten artists who deal with endangered species; the proceeds of the Non-Fungible Animals campaign will benefit WWF projects to protect endangered species months (ethereum.org; Haus von Eden; Utopia).

digital

It remains to be said: As things stand today, NFTs are only CO2-neutral if they are used in the right context, for a sustainable purpose, generated with renewable energies or subsequently compensated. It is to be hoped that new technologies like those presented before will experience the same enthusiasm as the hype surrounding NFTs in general.

by Marie Klimczak

aware_ dives into the environmental repercussions of Bitcoin and explores the rise of eco-friendly cryptocurrencies.

The release of the first cryptocurrency brought with it widespread intrigue. Up until 2009, the year which saw the release of Bitcoin – which many investors argue was the first cryptocurrency – traditional banks ruled the world of finance. Although Hashcash – one of the most successful pre-bitcoin digital currencies – had its moment in the 1990s, the last 10 years have seen the financial and technology markets become saturated in cryptocurrencies. But what lies behind cryptocurrencies initial success? Tired of traditional, centralised, closely monitored methods of banking, consumers and investors have become attracted to the decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies. One of the conditions required for the qualification of a cryptocurrency is, “the system does not require a central authority; its state is maintained through distributed consensus” (Jan Lansky). In 2009, mining – “the process through which new Bitcoins are created and transactions are recorded and verified on the blockchain” (Forbes) – begins. The first Bitcoin are traded in 2010 when, in exchange for two pizzas, someone sells 10,000 Bitcoin. According to a Forbes article back in 2017, if the buyer had kept the 10,000 Bitcoin until 2017, it would have been worth more than $100 million (Forbes). Sounding too good to be true? We think so too. Despite initial suggestions that mining and trading cryptocurrencies promised to become the environmental antidote to banking, research suggests that mining Bitcoin has catastrophic implications on the planet. Monitoring of Bitcoin energy consumption reported that one single Bitcoin transaction uses 2277.13 kWh, the equivalent of an average US household’s energy consumption over 78 days (Digiconomist).

“In 2020, the bitcoin network consumed a reported 131.80 TWh of power to execute the algorithms that power its “mining” operations. This is equivalent of the power consumed by Argentina.” (WeForum) 

Despite damning statistics, by 2020, Bitcoin seemed to be unstoppable. In January of that year, after adding #bitcoin to his Twitter bio (WeForum), Elon Musk sent the value of Bitcoin soaring, raising the value by $5,000 within the hour. Subsequently, Tesla introduced the option to purchase their cars using Bitcoin, only to reverse that decision of May 2020 after widespread environmental concerns. Consequently, the value of bitcoin sank from $64,829 to $30,000. The volatile nature of bitcoin allowed for a new way of thinking: eco-friendly cryptocurrencies. The last few years have seen the emergence of cryptocurrencies which continue to embrace decentralised systems, whilst prioritising the wellbeing of our planet. The defining difference between bitcoin and eco-friendly cryptocurrencies? Bitcoin depends on a “Proof of Work” system (which requires vast calculations, and therefore processing power), whilst crypto’s which employ “Proof of Storage” systems employ block-lattice, a technology that doesn’t require mining. (Leaf Score)

aware_ presents 5 eco-friendly cryptocurrencies on a mission to make a difference:

Solar Coin

Solar Coin does exactly what it says on the tin. This leading example for eco-friendly cryptocurrencies distributes coin as a reward for the creation of solar energy. Their aim since 2014 has been to incentivise the production of solar energy by reducing the cost of the production of electricity through its reward scheme.  

“Our goal and 40-year mission since 2014 is to incentivize solar electricity production by rewarding the generators to reduce the cost of electricity production. 
Solar energy is now produced at below US$12/MWh on some parts of the planet, and the cost keeps dropping.” – Solar Coin

Nano  

Nano is a digital, no-fee currency, making it available to anyone with access to a computer. Nano, unlike Bitcoin, does not rely on mining or printing to operate. Prioritising fluidity between countries, Nano provides a seamless transaction for both local and international payments at no fee to the user.

“Just like the cash in your pocket, choosing to transact with nano ensures that 100% of the value is transferred directly to the recipient.” – Nano

Gridcoin  

Gridcoin is a blockchain currency that capitalises on sleeping computer power to “to carry out scientific research through the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC)” (LeafScore). Founded in 2013, Gridcoin employs a Proof-of-Stake algorithm: a class of mechanisms used by some eco-friendly cryptocurrencies that work to avoid the computing costs necessary for proof-of-work, which is used by Blockchain. 

“Gridcoin is an open-source cryptocurrency (Ticker: GRC) that rewards volunteer computing for science through the BOINC platform. BOINC is an open source platform for volunteer computing that lets individuals use their computers & phones to help science research.” – Gridcoin 

eco-friendly cryptocurrencies

Chia   

Chia is the decentralised cryptocurrency bringing hard drives back into fashion. Using a proof-of-space system, the “farming” process necessary to lend currency employs the humble hard drive, reducing e-waste and re-using a secure form of storage. It appears to be working, Chia “uses 0.16% of the annual energy consumption of Bitcoin”. 

“Chia is the most decentralized blockchain ever with approximately 350,000 nodes employing the first new Nakamoto Consensus since 2009. The Chialisp on chain programming environment is fully featured while being far more auditable, and secure.” – Chia 

Iota   

Bitcoin is renowned for its instability. Iota – blockchain, mining free – is the cryptocurrency prioritising stability and sustainable financial investment. Whilst it has not reached the heady heights of some of its competitor’s success, Iota prides itself on its scalability, low resource requirements, zero-fee and fast transactions.

“IOTA is the first distributed ledger built for the “Internet of Everything” – a network for exchanging value and data between humans and machines.” – Iota 

– by Eliza Edwards

In July 2021 Jeff Bezos spent 5.5 billion dollars on a 10-minute getaway to space. The hefty price tag of his galactic mini-break was enough to save 37.5 million people from starvation (Global Citizen). Such headlines beg the question: are recent advancements in technology working to save the future of our planet, or is the world – and its neighbours – turning into one big playground? Progress in technology and sustainability can appear both at odds and in harmony with one another. On the one hand, explorations in technology allow for efficiency, whilst on the other, the luxury of immediacy and accelerated consumption are proven to be detrimental. The jury’s out on whether inhabiting mars could be beneficial but could the development of everyday eco-friendly tech products on a smaller scale make an accumulative difference?

aware_ presents 10 eco-friendly tech products you should know about.  

1_ Sony Digital Paper  

Every year the world produces 300 million tons of paper (Record Nations). Out of the 17 billion trees cut down every year, 60% are used to generate paper (Capital Solutions). That’s a lot of trees. To counterbalance these figures, Sony has developed a digital paper system, users can read and annotate documents, without compromising the sensation of writing on paper. Using wifi or bluetooth documents can be wirelessly shared. 

 

2_Fairphone  

Approximately 100 million phones are discarded every year. In 2014 it was reported that Apple had generated up to 40,000 tons of e-waste, enough steel to lay 100 miles of railway track. Research demonstrates that mobile phones have become the “fastest-growing form of electronic waste” (SidmartinBio). To combat these increasing levels of waste Fairphone, which launched in 2013, have developed “the world’s most repairable phone”. Advocating for a fairer industry for the manufacturing of tech products, the Amsterdam-based company prioritises responsible material sourcing, employee welfare and have developed a phone-specific recycling program.  

tech products
Courtesy of Fairphone

3_ BigBlue Solar Charger 

The BigBlue solar charger enables you to charge 3 devices simultaneously on the go. Unlike the other models available, the BigBlue solar charger is able to charge your device in variable weather conditions. Even through cloud, the panel will continue to provide consistent charge to your devices. 

 

4_ Rocean Water System

The United Nations reports that over 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute, the equivalent of fuelling 25 million cars for an entire year. Rocean, the New Delhi founded water filtration company, are on a mission to remove 1 billion bottles from circulation in the next five years. Rocean has developed a single device – suitable for any kitchen countertop – that filters, flavours and carbonates water.   

 

5_ VanMoof  

VanMoof is the Amsterdam-based start-up changing the face of e-bikes. With a sleek, streamlined design – a welcome change for the standard e-bike design available on the market – VanMoof celebrates Holland’s heritage bicycle culture with state-of-the-art technology. The bikes can reach up to 25 km/h, are custom-tuned for the ultimate riding experience and have integrated anti-theft technology.   

tech products
Courtesy of VanMoof

6_ Philips Hue Smart Lighting  

Forget to turn off the lights? The Philips Hue smart lighting system enables you to control the lighting in your home with just one click on your phone. Easy to install – there’s no need to rewire your home – their range of lights, sensors and switches allows you to control your electricity usage from the comfort of your own sofa.   

 

7_ Digital Dressing in DRESSX 

Every year 92 million tonnes of textile waste is generated by the fashion industry. DRESSX is a digital clothing company on a mission to show consumers that virtual clothing could provide a solution to the planet’s critical habit of overconsumption. Customers can purchase a digital outfit from the website and place the outfit on any given photograph of themselves. Although specifically targeted at influencers, with advancements in wearable technology DRESSX believes this could be a universal solution for the future of the apparel industry.  

 

8_ Vitamix FoodCycler  

The Vitamix FoodCycler is the food recycler for every kitchen. Complete with a carbon filter lid that eliminates odours, the bin can be filled with everything from meat bones to vegetable peel after every meal. After the press of a button, the FoodCycler breaks down the food waste to create a fertiliser that can be distributed over your garden soil. Worried about space? The Vitamix FoodCycler just requires a power outlet and one cubic meter of space. 

tech products
Courtesy of Exky®

9_ Exky Smart Indoor Garden  

Recent lockdowns have had city dwellers pining over their own private garden. The EXKY Smart indoor garden invites you to grow herbs and vegetables all year round. The garden’s LED GROW LIGHT allows plants to grow three times faster than in a standard garden. Going on holiday? The EXKY garden has an integrated watering system that can last up to three weeks.  

10_ Kindle Paperwhite  

COP26 last year lay great focus on issues of deforestation, could this range of “booky” tech products be the answer? Kindle – the leading e-book developed by Amazon – provide a sustainable solution for those invested in the protection of our forests. Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite boasts a waterproof design, integrated audiobook technology and, when used for an hour a day, has a battery that can last up to 3 weeks.  


– By Eliza Edwards