By Brad Smith | Dec 14, 2020
Los Angeles, California
Product design, engineering, and prototyping
Silva and Giraldo say they launched the company to provide product development and engineering consulting for any company interested in manufacturing sustainable products. The company uses the lotus blossom as a metaphor for sustainability because the plant grows out of mud, prospers with air and sunshine, and then blossoms in a beautiful geometric shape before the process repeats itself.
Silva and Giraldo cite a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum that human consumption is dramatically increasing globally with dire consequences for water, energy, and land use. U.S. consumers, who spend $16 trillion annually on manufactured products, are buying less responsibly than they did five years ago, the forum said. An example is the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced in the last 70 years, with half that in the last 13 years, the report said.
"By 2030, we will have more plastic in the oceans than fish," says Giraldo. He and Silva believe that a growing number of consumers, especially Millennials and those of Generation Z, see the ramifications of irresponsible consumerism and are willing to spend more for products with a sustainable future.
Giraldo and Silva, chemical engineering graduates and friends at the University of Florida, founded Lotus Elevated at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), where the pair had been working before starting their company. The incubator is located at the La Kretz Innovation Campus in the Arts District in downtown LA.
"We helped startups integrate sustainability in their design from the product's inception," says Giraldo. "We helped them understand what is the design process for a physical product and select the materials and select the processes to manufacture this and meet customer demands and future demands without taking shortcuts or without generating more waste that they could actually take responsibility of."
Inspired by their experience at LACI, the two formed Lotus Elevated. One of the first products they helped develop is a reusable and recyclable container for cannabis, called the Tin Canna. "We saw an opportunity to provide material that is 100 percent recyclable," Giraldo says, especially because of the growing number of states that allow cannabis.
Silva points to a couple of other products Lotus Elevated worked on -- dinnerware called Repurpose made from plant-based material and the Clevr Mobility electric scooter with three wheels. Repurpose dinnerware is sold at a wide range of stores. The Clevr scooters are designed to reduce pollution and targeted for senior citizens.
Lotus Elevated doesn't manufacture the products, but it helps clients get into production. "We focus on concept design, industrial design, and then engineering and the prototyping," Giraldo says. "We produce our own custom parts and we help companies do the set up from a proven prototype to manufacturing. We help them partner up with manufacturing in the United States."
Challenges: "The biggest challenge we face now is pretty much 'greenwashing,'" says Giraldo of the practice of companies falsely labeling products as environmentally friendly. "They just want to put a little sustainable label on their product."
Opportunities: "The main opportunity goes hand in hand with the challenges," Silva says. "Consumers are aware right now of the existential crisis we are facing. They are demanding more sustainable options. We know that people like the Millennials and Generation Z are willing to pay more for sustainable products. So there is a market for these and they are not just demanded, they are expecting these from the brands they use. They're also willing to call brands out when they don't think the brands are doing enough. They write reviews, post on social media. We think consumers are the biggest driver of this and the biggest opportunity that companies have to change to a more sustainable model."
Needs: "What we need now are leaders," Giraldo says. "The current industry leaders need to change their model. There is an opportunity, a growing demand. Search for a long-term mission and not the short term profit. Now is the time to include the environment as a major stakeholder in your company. This not only will give you new customers but you will stay relevant. For new companies and new entrepreneurs that want to make a change, there is now an opportunity to reach a new market to be relevant in. We need people who understand that the possible has already been done and what we need to create now is to have security for the future that we can give to our kids, to our resources, to our water, to our air. We need the commitment of customers to create products that go the whole nine yards and not just the shortcuts and call it sustainable."