Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Shashwat Viswanath, the co-founder of GarboCarbo Inc.
Spiffy: Hey Shashwat, thanks for being here today. What challenge is GarboCarbo Inc addressing?
Shashwat: It’s my pleasure, Spiffy! GarboCarbo hopes to tackle the climate crisis that is on track to wreak havoc on the entire planet. Climate change is driven by rising CO2 emissions, and coal-fired power plants are responsible for over 46% of the 40 billion tons of emitted CO2. Thus, at GarboCarbo, we make it our goal to combat climate change at its root: power plants. We aim to integrate a carbon-negative solution into industrial plants to not only slow the increasing emissions but to eliminate them entirely in the coming decades.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Shashwat: When I was a child, I learned that many of the world's greatest tragedies in things like food and water shortages, vanishing communities, and natural disasters stem from climate change. For me, the biggest way to make an impact was to tackle this root problem, and what better way to tackle this issue than at its core: carbon emissions. From the beginning, I wanted to work with Kevin and Pavan on the big problems—they always excited me the most anyways.
Spiffy: How are you and your organization working towards a more equitable world?
Shashwat: The world isn't as equitable as we'd like it to be. What's more inequitable than rising sea levels, prolonged heat waves, drought, and aggressive weather patterns forcing people to move from their homes? Typically, those impacted the most by climate change and excessive air pollution are those of lower socioeconomic status. We're working to prevent this deep inequity from continuing.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent GarboCarbo initiative and its impact on your community.
Shashwat: We've already begun capturing carbon dioxide! Our most recent prototype is capable of capturing approximately 1000 tons of CO2 annually. This prototype confirms the validity of our idea and the correctness of our chemistry. This summer, we are working on scaling this prototype up further to capture carbon dioxide and interface directly with pre-existing power and industrial plant infrastructure.
Spiffy: Wow, more power, pun intended, to you! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Shashwat: We started to develop our idea in 2018 but struggled to find lab space—we sent out hundreds of emails to various scientists and professors to no avail. For over two years, we searched for someone to believe in us and our idea. Eventually, we decided to do it ourselves by creating a rudimentary proof of concept with welding supplies, a CO2 tank, and some chemicals on my apartment balcony. This helped us gain recognition, funds, and the lab space where we work today.
Spiffy: That’s so inspirational. Now, what is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
Shashwat: My former college roommate came from a low socioeconomic background. He was on food stamps, operated almost exclusively off of a partial scholarship, and worked long hours as a handyman while studying in school. Yet, when I asked him why he didn't choose a major for the money, he responded with ‘I know I'll be better off than my parents, and we always seemed to have enough growing up’. He taught me to spend more time enjoying and less time worrying about money.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Shashwat: To the person reading this interview: if you're interested in working with us, reach out! We're always looking for more talent (we're also looking for funding), and we would love to have you on our team. Join us in making tomorrow a better place.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Shashwat—it’s been an honor!
Shashwat Vishwanath is the technical lead at GarboCarbo. He's equipped with several years of lab experience with a specialty in carbon capture and energy storage. Studying chemistry and engineering physics at UIUC, Shashwat is one of the primary driving forces at GarboCarbo. (First published on the Ladderworks website on July 21, 2022.)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.