Environmental Startup Culture

So, I’m not sure if most of you know this about me. I’ll go ahead and assume that you don’t, but for the second half of my undergraduate years here at UIUC, I have lived in a co-op house just off campus. This house is a part of an organization called “COUCH” which stands for Community of Urbana-Champaign Cooperative Housing. This is a part of a community of houses that provides affordable living and a unique community to young people in the CU area. 

Here I have met a wide range of people with varying interests and passions. Of course as one of the community’s main focuses is sustainable living, some people have a passion for the environment. A couple people have even partnered with different startup forming events that UIUC has to offer, like iVenture and 54.io, to build startups with the goal of alleviating environmental issues facing CU and the community at large. 

In this post, I will provide a brief overview of the environmental based startup culture on campus as well as mention a couple specific startups that I am familiar with (although there are several more that I do not mention). 

The first organization that I would like to bring attention to is Rising Sprouts. This company was started by a group of members of my house. Their goal is to provide surplus foods from local farms to food deserts near CU. Food deserts are an area where it is difficult to buy quality and affordable fresh produce. According to a new “food desert finder” launched by the USDA, there are two locations in CU consisting of 2,000 people that don’t have access to healthy foods. Rising Sprouts is partnering with the Eastern Illinois Food Bank in order to help distribute the food they collect to people who need it.

The second organization that I want to spotlight is a recently established startup called Karma Trade which was founded by a freshman engineering student at UIUC. She aims to alleviate the environmental stressors associated with fast fashion by providing a personalized clothing swap subscription for a low monthly rate. This can help reduce the approximately 68 pounds of textile waste that the average American produces annually.  

Organizations like Rising Sprouts and Karma Trade are 21st century routes for imparting change. Society, especially in a university environment, can be fast paced. Often the mindset and lifestyles that are born out of this environment may not have environmental stewardship in mind. However, with the right mindset this can be a successful way for people that want to see a more immediate impact to make a difference. I’d encourage people who are interested to check out these events and find like-minded people in our community to work together to solve problems you are passionate about. 


Written by Noah Simon



A thesis on food deserts and the relationship between consumption and behavior regarding fresh produce. https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/45590/Rhiannon_Jerch.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  

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