We've just returned home from an adventurous, invigorating trip to Silicon Valley for a very unique tech conference. Lesbians Who Tech Summits have been going on for 5 years, and the goal is to get more queer women and underrepresented groups into tech, have their voices heard, and to create a community for all these powerful minds. It's no secret that the tech industry is historically white, male, and unwelcoming to women. LWT is working to change that in the most empowering way possible.
We were both lucky enough to win scholarships to attend the Summit, held in the historic Castro District of San Francisco - fitting for a conference with goals to empower the LGBTQ community. The days were filled with rapid fire talks on all sorts of tech topics - from blockchain, to cybersecurity, to social justice, to AI, to augmented reality. Conversations on politics were unavoidable, and many leaders lent their time and knowledge to the summit. Some of the keynotes included Megan Smith, 3rd CTO to US President Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer of Uber, and even Canadian gems Tegan and Sara Quin. We did notice a lack of cleantech talks so hey, maybe next year we can hit the stage!
Left Column, top to bottom: Land's End at sunset; Kara Swisher of Recode; Rachel Renock of Wethos on sexual harassment and startups; our CTO Nicole at Land's End. Centre: Castro Theatre sign, the main stage for the Summit. Right Column, top to bottom: our CEO Lauren Smith posing at a fitting sign; arm wrestling semi-finals; famous seals at Pier 39; Tegan & Sara speaking about their activism and foundation.
Throughout the days there were laughs, tears, knowing nods, roaring applause, and even an arm wrestling competition (we didn't win). The experience was invaluable - we met many inspiring folks and entrepreneurs that we will be sure to stay in touch with. Having a conference like this is not only incredible for connections, but it really creates a community where folks can share similar experiences and learn from one another on both a personal and professional level. There are LWT Chapters all over the world, and we'll be starting one in the Kitchener-Waterloo region soon!
This past Thursday, we had the opportunity to speak on a Local Water Matters panel, hosted by the Guelph Greens, home of Green Party of Ontario leader, Mike Schreiner. Residents, friends, and concerned citizens gathered to discuss local water problems and to present solutions and actions to resolve these issues.
The evening opened with a gracious, indigenous water ceremony, recognizing the land we were on and the importance of water. We were able to hear from eco-travelling student entrepreneur, Emily DeSousa, Wellington Water Watchers executive director, Arlene Slocombe, and Concerned Residents Coalition president, Doug Tripp. We learned about Emily's efforts to travel sustainably and protect oceans, Arlene's work to conserve local water and what we can do to help, and Doug's coalition to prevent Hidden Quarry's development. There was a great turn out to this event, and we were thrilled to be invited to share knowledge of the microfibre problem and what we are doing to solve it. It really is inspiring to hear about the great work that is going on all around us!
As an action item at this event, we launched our proposal for MER, a Microfibre Emission Rating, that will report on microfibre emissions for various appliances and clothing items. Similar to the EnerGuide rating system, MER ratings can help consumers understand how many microfibres are being released when they wash their clothes, and help hold businesses responsible for their emissions. We hope that this rating will help encourage businesses to adopt microfibre mitigation measures, as well as increase transparency on this issue.
To develop this rating system, we are asking our governments for support. We also launched a petition for this rating system at the event last week. Let us know if you'd like to add your name, or find us at these upcoming events in Kitchener and Guelph to sign it in person. An online version is available here. Help us enforce microfibre emission ratings for transparency on this problem, to encourage microfibre mitigation technologies, and to help save everyone from eating their dirty laundry.
Today is International Day of Women In Science. As an all female company working in science, we understand the importance of recognizing women working in spaces that are "non-traditional" or where there is unequal representation. We've both often been the only female in these environments, but we haven't let that deter or stop us from travelling this path. There is a lot to be said here, but we thought we'd keep it short and share some science-forward images from our day to day - in hopes these neat images might be inspiring or at very least interesting to other women considering science! When I first started using microscopes, I always found it so fascinating how different things could look up close, peering into another world.
We talk a lot about microplastics and the microfibre problem - but what do they look like anyway? We took some time in the lab last week to snap up close photos of microfibres to share with you. We used our lab microscope and a digital camera attachment. It was super easy and they turned out great! In the higher magnification photos, you can see the colour of the fibres.
I think they look a like little worms or bacteria - which seems fitting as I wouldn't want those in my water either!
Have a look and let us know what you think they look like, or what you would want to see up close images of!
Nicole's also been working on some really exciting developments to better show you what we're doing. Stay tuned to see what that is!
The lab team has been working hard to improve capture rates and ensure our material choices are top of the line. In our latest test runs, we've found capture rates up to 100%! That means we are capturing ALL the microfibres released in your laundry, We are thrilled with this result and determined to get as close to this as possible in our pilot testings.
We are on track to have our first prototypes produced in the coming months. That means we are one step closer to testing our products in the 'real world' outside of our lab set up - and one step closer to getting PolyGone products into YOUR hands!
Last night, we joined six other amazing environmentally-minded start-ups to compete for the Jack Rosen Memorial Award. We heard a lot of amazing ideas from University of Waterloo Faculty of Environment students. From peer-to-peer solar energy providers in India, to sustainable peat farming for poultry bedding alternatives, to local investment services for small sustainable food businesses, and, of course, our own solution to microfibre pollution.. We are thrilled that our friends at Mossmore took home first place for their novel approach to peat farming! PolyGone Technologies secured second place, and couldn't be happier. Who knows, maybe there's some collaboration down the road!