The climate emergency is gathering pace, and it’s clear the world needs widespread change – every corner of society has to get involved, and every part of our daily lives will be affected. That’s why we’re backing the Green Challenge, a Europe-wide competition to reward the very best sustainability projects and start-ups.

First prize is €500,000, and competition entry is free and open until the end of April. So, how might the competition winners transform daily life here in the UK?

Our experts have been taking a closer look at the country’s most forward-thinking green tech projects. They’ve seen signs of a future powered by new ways of creating and saving energy, alongside smarter recycling and a sharing economy.

It can feel like fighting climate change is all about dramatic steps like never flying again – but smaller changes in the way we do everyday things will have a huge impact too.

Some of the ideas we’ve uncovered are based on exciting new technology. But many are simply harnessing people’s passion for sharing experiences, avoiding waste and coming together to solve our problems and challenges.

Your journey to work

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular – and while the distance they can travel between charges is growing, drivers still need to know how far they can go before topping up. So we’re intrigued by new software that uses artificial intelligence and live data to reveal exactly how many more miles an electric vehicle has left, taking some of the stress out of a daily commute.

Of course, cycling is an even greener transport option, reducing congestion at the same time. So how could the sharing economy get more of us pedalling? A new online marketplace is letting bike owners rent their ride out for hours, days or weeks – great news for part-time cyclists and anyone who wants to give it a try before buying their own wheels.  

The sustainable office

The building you work in could be transformed by new sustainable innovation – from ’eco bricks’ made almost entirely from demolition and construction waste through to biodegradable plant-based insulation materials.

Expect more renewable energy to be powering your computer or coffee machine. Innovations we’ve uncovered include improvements to solar panels and new sources of energy such as giant offshore kites. 

Greener eating: recycled eggshells and wonky vegetables

How might you enjoy a greener dinner? Our research found start-up supermarkets taking on the big brands by selling locally made, sustainable goods – at a price that makes sense for everyone. Another way of keeping things local is through new food clubs, that help people team up with their friends and neighbours to buy local, sustainable food at cheaper prices. There’s also the companies tackling food waste by delivering the odd-shaped vegetables other retailers throw away.

Finally, what will happen to your leftovers? One start-up is aiming to put the UK’s annual 80,000 tonnes of waste eggshells to good use – turning them into a material for use in everything from cosmetics to construction. There are even plans for door-to-door cooking oil collection.

Rewarding radical solutions

Ashden Programme Officer Aditi Gaddam says: “There’s so much great innovation out there – but we know that even the best ideas need support and opportunities to grow.

“What’s more, our climate emergency means we can’t afford to wait, as every passing year makes it much harder to limit the impact of global warming. We need powerful new solutions to go from the drawing board to the real world as fast as they can.

“That’s why the Green Challenge is so important – it’s all about supercharging the best ideas for maximum impact, so they can reach as many people as possible.”  

The challenge has a €1,000,000 prize fund, and entries close on 1 May. The winner – and four runners up – will be announced in October.