For every big, ugly, scary challenge in sustainability, there’s a brilliant person dreaming up a new solution. Mountains of unwanted scrap fabric? There’s a website — and a blockchain — for that. Corporate rules that require a throw-away mindset? Somebody’s on top of it. Streets that are fine-tuned for cars rather than people? It can be fixed — with data.

Every year, the Grist 50 highlights emerging leaders who are working toward a more sustainable and equitable future. These five technologists are tinkering away at the fixes that will solve big problems:

  1. As the national director of the Right to Repair campaign, Nathan Proctor seeks to give consumers better options for fixing their busted tech, rather than simply throwing it all in a landfill.
  2. Combining sensors and analytics, Tara Pham’s startup, Numina, can tell cities exactly who uses their streets and how — providing granular data for pedestrian-friendly planning.
  3. Chemist Tony Bova is cooking up a way to use waste products from the paper industry to make a new kind of bioplastic that degrades after use.
  4. At Sunrun, engineer Audrey Lee worked on figuring out how to remap the grid to create a virtual power plant of networked car batteries, home solar panels, and other distributed sources.
  5. Stephanie Benedetto’s blockchain-enabled startup, Queen of Raw, matches fabric buyers and sellers to redirect some $120 billion worth of excess textiles — generated by the apparel industry every year — away from landfills and toward reuse.

There are 45 other folks doing great work on our list! Read about all of them on the 2020 Grist 50.