Combatting Food Loss While Improving Street Vendors’ Livelihood: Trane Technologies Debuts Employee-Powered Social Innovation at VERGE22
It all started with a challenge and an idea: to help street vendors reduce the food they lose each day and enhance their quality of life. Now, that spark of a concept has blossomed – into a net-zero cooling cart delivering affordable, sustainable cooling for street vendors, while combatting food spoilage and improving vendors’ livelihood. The cooling cart made its official debut this week at the nation’s premier climate tech event, VERGE22, with groups from all sectors coming together to address and accelerate critical climate change solutions – including more sustainable and resilient global food systems.
“We are working with the brightest minds to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world and enabling humanity to adapt to the changing climate around us,” said Rasha Hasaneen, vice president of innovation, Trane Technologies. “At VERGE22, showcasing the value of including all employees in collaborative ideation and innovation to help solve for some of the world’s most daunting problems was truly a highlight. The power of innovation permeates through every layer of this company, and I can’t wait to see what solution our teams come up with next.”
In 2021, Trane Technologies launched Operation Possible, an employee-powered social innovation program created to tackle some of the world’s most persistent social and environmental challenges – such as the coexistence of food loss and hunger in low-income communities. Harnessing the collective optimism and ingenuity of more than 5,000 Trane Technologies employees across the globe, the cooling cart – the company’s first innovation solution generated by crowd solving – was greenlit for designing and prototyping.
A team from India, China, Vietnam, Belgium and North America took to the streets Kolar, India to understand the challenges faced by food vendors, working to take employee ideas from concept to impact. They learned firsthand that the spoilage of fresh fruits and vegetables due to a lack of cooling not only caused a loss of income for the vendor, but also a measurable percentage of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“These vendors are often the sole provider of income for their families, and every day they lose almost a third of their produce in the harsh climate,” said Zubin Varghese, senior director of innovation, Trane Technologies. “As we listened to their needs, it was clear that nobody had ever invested in their future. Without some sort of intervention, nothing was going to change or improve.”
Leveraging passive cooling technology, and dual-mode film developed by Silicon Valley-based SkyCool Systems, the team constructed the cart’s cooling canopy – requiring no electricity and reducing the temperature beneath by up to 10 degrees Celsius. The canopy can also be retrofitted onto existing carts, minimizing upfront costs for street vendors, and doubles as a cold storage unit at night, helping reduce food spoilage by extending the life of fresh fruits and vegetables by at least 1-2 days.
“We are grateful to collaborate with an organization as diverse as Trane Technologies, who prioritizes addressing socioeconomic challenges millions of individuals are facing around the globe,” said Eli Goldstein, co-founder and CEO, SkyCool Systems. “Through collaborations like this, we are uncovering opportunities for our passive cooling technology that meet the most basic needs of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
“With 25 million street vendors selling fresh produce worldwide, we think this cooling cart can have a real impact for the communities of people who are often forgotten and undervalued in informal economies,” noted Rasha. “Getting this solution to those people will take deep collaboration and partners from local municipalities, NGOs and companies interested in improving human potential. We welcome anyone who wants to join us in extending the reach of this solution.”
About Trane Technologies
Trane Technologies is a global climate innovator. Through our strategic brands Trane® and Thermo King®, and our portfolio of environmentally responsible products and services, we bring efficient and sustainable climate solutions to buildings, homes, and transportation. Learn more at tranetechologies.com.