Recognising those working for a greener future.
Innovative future projects and sustainability pioneers are honoured at the Green Awards – the grand finale of the Greentech Festival 2020.
Greentech Festival, Kiara Nirghin, Solar Foods, Ecosia GmbH, Kering - Les Gens, Johanna Lohr, CC BY-SA 4.0
21 September, 2020
They’re called the Green Awards, sponsored by Audi, which recognise disruptive ideas and innovations designed to fight climate change
They’re called the Green Awards, sponsored by Audi, which recognise disruptive ideas and innovations designed to fight climate change. They are one of the four core modules of the Greentech Festival which was founded by Audi along with Nico Rosberg, sustainability entrepreneur and former Formula One world champion.
“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,” says Henrik Wenders, senior vice president of Audi.
Three nominees in each of four categories – Youngster, Start-up, Innovation, Impact – were selected by an independent jury before a final winner was chosen from the shortlist for each category.
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 making 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 super-absorbent 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.
A top invention was also recognised in the Innovation category with 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, 10 percent fat, and 25 percent carbohydrates. Just 10 litres of water are needed to produce one kilogram of Solein. By contrast, one kilogram of agriculturally grown soya needs 2500 litres of water. Solar Foods wants to start selling the protein-based powder in 2021.
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 has now planted trees in 22 different locations worldwide – the trees remove around one kilogram of CO₂ from the atmosphere with every Ecosia search. This is how Ecosia (available in 47 languages) makes its contribution to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions caused by using the Internet and operating servers.
Solar Foods developed a method for producing a protein-based powder which uses CO₂ as the main ingredient
“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"
Dr Jane Goodall
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 former went to the French luxury fashion company Kering, which has taken a pioneering role on the fashion industry by introducing new standards covering sustainability, animal welfare, and the protection of underage models for its labels – Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Gucci, and Saint Laurent.
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, who achieved overnight fame in the 1960s when she became the first researcher to sit among a group of wild chimpanzees, 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 recognise ourselves. And she changed what we might expect from a young woman with an idea.”
In a video message played from the UK, Dr Jane Goodall reacted rather modestly to it all by saying:
“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. Our indomitable spirit. the animals’ indomitable spirit. We can’t fail, we have to get into a different, better world and that is my hope for the future.”
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