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Entrepreneurial Innovation: Leading the Way to True Circularity

Women crossing her arms with flowers in the background
Women crossing her arms with flowers in the background
Headshot - Kayla Isabelle

Kayla Isabelle

CEO, Startup Canada

Climate change and resource misuse are arguably the largest collective challenges we all face; solutions will need to be aggressive, thoughtful, and scalable in order to make a truly significant impact.


As large organizations face roadblocks on their journey to sustainability due to internal red tape and hierarchies, small businesses have an advantage – their ability to move quickly and act boldly. As we strive for an increasingly circular economy, Canada’s entrepreneurs will be forging the path.

Water security

As of today, the demand for clean water is projected to grow by 30 percent over the next 30 years. Fortunately, many startups across the country are contributing to Canada’s role as a global-leader in this space:

Based in Toronto, RainStick is a unique recirculating system that saves 80 percent on water and 80 percent on energy while still feeling like a high-pressure shower. The company is currently on a mission to save 10 trillion litres of water by 2030.

Birch Bark Coffee, founded by Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, is a social enterprise helping to educate consumers about the water crisis in First Nations communities across the country. For every 100 bags of coffee sold in retail stores (and 50 bags sold online), the venture equips one home with a certified water purification unit, free of charge.

Forest line and lake and mountains in the back

Food waste

Each year, 58 percent (35.5 million tonnes) of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. The good news? Experts believe about a third of this can be rescued, and Canada’s SMEs are forging the way:

Based in Halifax, Earthli is a producer of sustainably grown, zero-waste, hemp-based superfoods. Canadian-grown hemp, unlike other common protein products, doesn’t require pesticides, absorbs CO2 as it grows, thrives on minimal water, and grows tightly – decreasing total land use.

Founded by Scott McKenzie, Yukon Organics supplies a curated selection of organic foods, transported with the lowest possible footprint, which cannot be grown in the Yukon. With the product being sold in bulk, customers have the option of sharing their order with others in the community – helping to improve food accessibility and reduce food waste in the region. The venture’s proprietary sharing feature is a global first.

Out of Langley, British Columbia, CubicFarms offers a number of solutions to food waste and improving our food systems, including their automated vertical farming machines. The machine offers commercial-scale produce farming anywhere in the world, 12 months a year.

Lettuce in rows

Striving for circularity

Circular economies – an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and promoting the continuous use of resources – are often seen as far-fetched and unattainable. Through their innovative solutions, a number of Canadian startups are already practicing circular models:

5.7 billion plastic amenity bottles (think the small shampoo bottles found in hotels) are sent to landfills across North America every year due to their small size, low quality grade of plastic, and soap contamination. Based in Kitchener, EarthSuds is on a mission to replace all single-use plastic bathroom products with their zero-waste shower tablets.

Based on Vancouver Island, Nyoka Design Labs is attempting to solve the problem of over one billion plastic glow-sticks being sent to landfill each year. The Nyoka Light Wand, powered by bioluminescent algae, is not only reusable and non-toxic, it also heals the earth where it biodegrades.

Textile production contributes more to climate change than international shipping and aviation combined. Nudnik produces kidswear exclusively from pre-consumer textile waste that would otherwise pollute the planet. Beyond this, all garments are made from fully compostable, 100 percent organic cotton and are shipped in zero-waste packaging.

As the world searches for solutions to the ongoing climate crisis, we should look to innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems for answers. Balancing sustainability, circularity, and profit is possible in today’s business landscape – and Canadian startups are proving just that.

Recycling bag and old clothes

Kayla Isabelle is the Chief Executive Officer of Startup Canada, the national rallying community supporting and giving a voice to Canada’s 3.5 million entrepreneurs. Kayla has dedicated her career to supporting entrepreneurs, both in Canada and internationally. Kayla is an award-winning strategic communications consultant and change management facilitator and is passionate about leveraging the power of storytelling in the entrepreneurial community.

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