Sustainable innovations recognized at the GREEN AWARDS

At the GREEN AWARDS, the grand finale of the GREENTECH FESTIVAL 2020, innovative future projects and sustainability pioneers were honored.

09/18/2020 Text: Bernd Zerelles Photo: Greentech Festival / Kiara Nirghin / Solar Foods / Ecosia GmbH / Kering - Les Gens / Johanna Lohr, CC BY-SA 4.0 Reading Time: 6 min

Audi is not only one of the founding partners of the GREENTECH FESTIVAL, the festival for green technologies and sustainable lifestyles cofounded by Nico Rosberg, sustainability entrepreneur and former Formula One world champion. Audi is 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, senior vice president of Audi.

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.

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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.

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Winner of the Youngster category: Kiara Nirghin from South Africa.
Winner of the Youngster category: Kiara Nirghin from South Africa.

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.

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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 has now planted trees in 22 different locations worldwide. These trees remove around one kilogram of CO₂ from the atmosphere with every Ecosia search. This is how Ecosia (available in 47 languages) wishes to make its contribution to offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions caused by using the Internet and operating servers.

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Start-up: Live pitch with live vote

The winner in the Start-up category was announced at the GREEN AWARDS ceremony as part of a live vote. The following entries competed in the live pitch:

  • City to Sea, a nonprofit organization that connects people searching for drinking water with thousands of refill stations throughout the UK via the free Refill app.
  • Live Love Recycle, an app that enables the citizens of Beirut (Lebanon) to order an e-bike service to collect and recycle their garbage, rather than it ending up in landfill sites like Beirut’s regular garbage.
  • Swisspod Technologies, Switzerland’s first hyperloop start-up, founded by two multi-award-winning engineers with the aim of turning the vision of an energy-efficient and affordable hyperloop solution into reality.

    You can find the results of the live vote here.

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 covering sustainability, animal welfare, and the protection of underage models for its labels – Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Gucci, and Saint Laurent – thereby playing a pioneering role in the fashion industry.

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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 recognize 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: “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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Dr. Jane Goodall was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Jane Goodall was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Taking responsibility for sustainability

Audi’s commitment to the GREENTECH FESTIVAL underscores the fact that the subject of sustainability plays a key role on the Audi agenda. Audi has set itself the ambitious aim of being carbon-neutral across the entire company by 2050. To this end, the company has set challenging interim targets and launched sustainability projects. By 2025, Audi wants to cut the carbon footprint of its fleet by around 30 percent. Among other things, the marque is increasingly switching to electric mobility to achieve this. All Audi sites are also set to become carbon-neutral by the same date. Audi Brussels has been leading the way since 2018 and is the company’s first certified carbon-neutral site.

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