Sustainable innovations recognized at the GREEN AWARDS
Audi is not only one of the founding partners of the GREENTECH FESTIVAL, the festival for green technologies and sustainable lifestyles but also sponsor of the GREEN AWARDS, one of the festival’s four core modules, where disruptive ideas and innovations designed to fight climate change are recognized.
“The long-standing partnership with the GREENTECH FESTIVAL underscores the fact that sustainability is high on Audi’s agenda. We are delighted to support the GREEN AWARDS and the sustainable ideas that can play their part in making the world a better place in which to live in the future. We expressly wish to encourage the innovators to keep on working on their ideas,” says Henrik Wenders, Head of Brand AUDI AG.
In a TÜV-verified process, three nominees in each of four categories – Youngster, Start-up, Innovation, Impact – were selected by an independent jury. In the next stage, a final winner was then chosen from the shortlist for each category.
Youngster: Solving the global hunger crisis
Key assessment criteria for the ambitious young people (aged 16 to 25) who are actively striving to achieve sustainability: Can the entry bring about a greener future and have a long-term effect on society, and will it benefit a large section of the population?
Kiara Nirghin was crowned the winner in this category. The 20-year-old South African scientist could make an important contribution to solving the global hunger crisis with her idea. Kiara took orange and avocado peel and developed a polymer that is capable of absorbing and transporting one hundred times its own weight in liquid. It contains no toxic substances and is biodegradable. Agricultural land, in which Kiara‘s polymer is stored, thus virtually becomes a superabsorbent sponge: It allows rainwater to drain away much more slowly, stores water for much longer, and releases it to water the plants over a long period of time, helping them to grow better and survive drought periods more easily.
Innovation: CO₂ is turned into protein
A top invention was also recognized in the Innovation category. It has the potential to change our world forever. The Finnish company Solar Foods developed a method for producing a protein-based powder known as Solein, which uses CO₂ as the main ingredient.
Using bacteria, nitrogen, and (ideally renewable) energy, carbon dioxide is converted into a powder with similar characteristics to wheat flour. The CO₂ for this power-to-food process can be filtered directly out of the ambient air using technology such as that supplied by the Swiss cleantech company Climeworks. Instead of accelerating global warming, the greenhouse gas could thus be used to feed the global population.
Solein is also similar in taste to wheat flour and consists of 50 percent protein, ten percent fat, and 25 percent carbohydrates. Just ten liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of Solein. By contrast, one kilogram of agriculturally grown soya guzzles 2,500 liters of water. Solar Foods wants to start selling the protein-based powder in 2021.
Impact: A search engine operator that plants trees
The German company Ecosia impressed the jury in the Impact category with its contribution toward a greener future. Ecosia operates a search engine and supplies its servers with 100 percent renewable energy from its own solar plants. The sustainable IT pioneers have been supporting the “Turn the desert green” project since 2014 by planting more than 70 million trees in Burkina Faso. Ecosia (available in 47 languages) has now planted trees in 35 different locations worldwide. These trees remove around one kilogram of CO₂ from the atmosphere with every Ecosia search. This is how the company wishes to make its contribution to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions caused by using the Internet and operating servers.
The GREEN ORGANISATION AWARD and Lifetime Achievement Award
The highlight of the evening at the GREEN AWARDS was the presentation of two special prizes: the GREEN ORGANISATION AWARD and Lifetime Achievement Award.
The GREEN ORGANISATION AWARD went to the French luxury fashion company Kering, which has introduced standards such as covering sustainability and animal welfare for its labels – i.a. Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta or Gucci – thereby playing a pioneering role in the fashion industry.
The goosebump moment on this special evening came when the award was presented to British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall for her life’s work. The 86-year-old is a prominent campaigner for animal welfare and environmental protection. Henrik Wenders stressed her achievements in his presentation speech: “She led us into the jungles of Tanzania, and changed our view of the world. She showed us the intimacy of apes, and helped us recognize ourselves.”
In a video message played from the UK, Dr. Jane Goodall reacted rather modestly to it all: “We need to get together to think of a new future, to think of a new relationship with the natural world and the animals with whom we share this planet. The hope for the world lies in all those young people, who are taking part in this Greentech Festival 2020. And then finally, there is the indomitable human spirit, the people who refuse to give up, who tackle things who other people say that’s impossible. And they don’t give up. We can’t fail, we have to get into a different, better world and that is my hope for the future.”