The Nobel Prize for Sustainability?

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The award for Best Sustainability Idea 2011

In a ceremony last month, Katerva announced the winner of its first annual award for Best Sustainable Idea, a process touted as the “Nobel Prize of Sustainability” by the non-profit organization.

Sanergy, a company providing low-cost sanitation in developing countries, won the award for its work building waste treatment centers in Kenya. Its technology, a $200, locally produced toilet, is designed for 100 uses per day. Toilets are emptied and the human waste taken to a Sanergy processing facility for conversion into biogas for electricity and crop fertilizer for homes and businesses.

The start-up, founded by MIT alumni, will receive $500,000 worth of in-kind consulting and assistance from a group of elite business and sustainability organizations to help bring their technology to the global market.

The Awards Process

Katerva is an international organization focused on identifying the most promising sustainability initiatives across the globe. Its rigorous year-long awards process starts with a global “spotter network” tasked with nominating hundreds of sustainability technologies in 10 categories.

Several panels of experts then evaluate the nominees on their initiative’s marketability, scalability, feasibility, originality, and potential impact. Finalists are chosen in each category, and then compete against each other for the grand prize, chosen by an “award council” of eight global sustainability thought leaders.

Other Clean Tech Finalists

Sanergy was the winner in the Materials & Resources category, but category winners were also recognized in the Behavioral Change, Economy, Energy & Power, Food Security, Human Development, Transportation, Urban Design, Protected Areas, and Gender Equality categories. Several category finalists have pioneered innovative new clean tech and environmental initiatives.

In the Energy & Power category, Barefoot Power was recognized for creating an alternative lighting technology that combines polycrystalline solar panels and LED lights to boost rural electrification and replace kerosene lamps used for lighting in developing countries. Its product has been deployed to low-income families in 15 African and Asian countries.

An invention named the Solarclave was the finalist in the Human Development category. The Solarclave, also invented by MIT students, is a solar-powered device that sterilizes surgical instruments in clinics that do not have reliable access to electricity. The low-cost device uses solar energy to generates high-pressure steam at 121 degrees Celsius in an insulated pressure vessel.

The Nissan Leaf won the Transportation category for being the first zero-emission all-electric vehicle to go into mass production at a price level affordable to a large segment of the population. Nissan was also cited for developing and supplying 240kv home-charging stations.

Finally, New York City’s Freshkills Park was recognized in the Urban Design category. Formerly one of the largest landfills in the world, Freshkills is being converted into a 2,200 acre park featuring wind and biogas energy generation, new ecosystems for wildlife, and recreational facilities.

Looking Ahead

2011 was the first year for the Katerva Awards, but during the ceremony, CEO Terry Waghorn said he has hopes for an even more impressive future, including more nominees and a cash prize for the 2012 winner.


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