Worldwide efforts are made to increase the number of female-led start-ups in investment portfolios and funding competitions. The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is proud of its incredible female winners, finalists and nominees. Here are five examples of inspiring women who are working towards a greener planet. 

Fundamentally change the energy sector
Sofie Allert (Sweden) is cofounder and CEO of the Swedish Algae Factory (SAF), a Gothenburg clean tech start-up that produces clean biofuel from using algae-based wastewater treatment systems. The algae have a high lipid content making it usable for fuel production. SAF addresses the critical global question of how we can maximize the efficiency of our energy systems and is focused on fundamentally changing the sector. Sofie’s dream is that the algae biofuel will be sold on tap in the near future and that by 2030 the company will be Europe’s largest supplier of biofuel from algae. Sofie was a top 25 nominee in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2016.

Impact the global plastics market
Just 5% of plastic waste is effectively recycled. The rest is left to break down, harming ecosystems and consuming space and resources. Stanford PhD graduate Molly Morse (USA) is convinced that making an eco-friendly alternative is the only way to stop the world's plastic pollution crisis. Her clean tech start-up Mango Materials produces affordable biodegradable plastics from methane, a greenhouse gas, which naturally degrades back to methane, making it a closed loop, cradle-to-cradle solution. Molly’s innovation impressed the jury and she was declared winner of the 2012 edition. Currently, Mango Materials is targeting markets where the end of life isn't recycling. Their first application is a biodegradable alternative for micro beads that are found in face washes and don't break down when entering the waterways.

Tackle poverty and pollution at the same time
Trang Tran (Vietnam), founder and CEO of social enterprise Fargreen, experienced the negative effects of rice straw burning first hand when growing up. She was inspired to use Vietnam’s challenges as input for a sustainable business model. Fargreen has been able to tackle two major world problems — poverty and pollution — simultaneously with one solid business plan focused on using agricultural waste to produce mushrooms. Trang submitted her business plan in 2014, made it to the final and as a runner-up got rewarded with 200,000 euro. By 2021, Fargreen plans to replicate in neighbouring countries like Thailand, the Philippines and India, where it will integrate smallholder rice farmers into its value chain.

Revolutionise the construction and building industry
Bricks are used in over 80 per cent of global construction. To produce bricks they need to be fired, which creates 800 million tons of carbon emissions worldwide on a yearly basis. For a contest about growing bricks instead of firing them, Ginger Dosier (USA) was inspired by the way coral reefs grow in the ocean. Her proposal won and she established BioMASON. The sustainable start-up creates an easy, scalable process where bricks can basically be home grown, revolutionising the building and construction industry. With the clever use of technology, bacteria and microorganisms, BioMASON aims to reduce the need for fossil fuels in the construction industry by offering an economically viable and biological-based alternative. She impressed our jury and was announced the winner of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2013.

Transform Africa's waste into wealth
Lorna Rutto (Kenya) is a passionate entrepreneur with a vision to have a green Africa free from poverty. Her social enterprise EcoPost addresses the triple challenge that most developing countries face: urban waste management (plastic pollution), chronic youth unemployment, and deforestation and climate change. EcoPost uses 100% recycled plastics to make aesthetic, durable and environmentally friendly plastic lumber for use in applications ranging from fencing to landscaping. Rutto demonstrates how it is possible to create a viable and sustainable business in Africa, whilst at the same time positively impacting local communities and the environment. Her start-up was a top 25 nominee in the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2015.