The Katerva Awards are given annually to excellent sustainability ideas and initiatives in 10 categories. Finalists are announced in September each year. A single winner in each category will be selected by a panel of experts in that category and announced in October each year. A grand prize winner will be selected among category winners and announced as the best new sustainability effort of the year.
Materials & Resources
A truly sustainable world is one that produces not a single grain of waste. This requires efforts at both ends of the waste cycle. Resources must be used hyper-efficiently and materials must be made entirely recyclable. This category covers advancements in man-made materials, resource efficiency, and waste reduction.
Sanergy, 2011 Katerva Awards Materials & Resources Winner
Sanergy, which was founded by MIT alumni, provides low-cost, sustainable, franchised sanitation centers throughout Kenya to address one of the biggest problems in developing economies today—poor and inefficient access to clean and safe sanitation. Sanergy also aims to generate renewable energy by providing clean sanitation services in countries that desperately lack both. Sanitation is both a pressing and solvable challenge in the developing world. There are many issues in less developed economies such as few, costly, unsanitary toilets, poor infrastructure and waste collection difficulties. Sanergy addresses all these issues by not only creating a network of low-cost, sustainable sanitation centers but also providing profitable products through its conversion of human waste into fuel and fertilizer for businesses and households.
Ecovative, runner up
Ecovative has discovered a way to grow a sustainable replacement to Styrofoam and other plastics by using mushroom “roots” to bond together plant byproducts like seed husks into strong bio-composite materials. These materials can compete on performance and cost with petrochemical based materials like Styrofoam, but they’re 100% home compostable. Founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, Ecovative Design is a NY-based company hoping to make styrofoam and plastic obsolete with its eco-friendly, 100% biodegradable and renewable alternative. Ecovative foam is made from mushrooms—nature’s best recyclers.
Genomatica, runner up
Sustainable chemical company Genomatica have developed a GREEN BDO in which living bacteria replace fossil fuels in the production of a common industrial chemical Butanediol (BDO). BDO is traditionally synthesized from acetylene (derived from crude oil or natural gas). Butanediol, or BDO, is a chemical intermediate used in the manufacture of solvents, plastics and fibres. Over $US 3 billion worth of BDO is used each year globally, mainly in the production of consumer products including running shoes and clothing items containing Spandex. Currently, BDO is produced in a similar manner to many other chemicals of the petro-chemical era: in an energy intensive fashion with a range of non-degradable by-products at the end of the process. Genomatica has developed a Bio-BDO which offers significant environmental and financial benefits over conventional BDO. Bio-BDO offers a 70% reduction in C0₂ emissions, and has no by-products. This is achieved due to the fact that Bio-BDO uses natural, renewable inputs in the production process, sourced from feedstocks such as sucrose and dextrose.
Innovation in Aerogels, runner up
A team of researchers led by Dr. Lei Zhai and postdoctoral associate Jianhua Zou at the University of Central Florida have discovered a way to create a larger conductive area in a smaller space through the use of nanotechnology. For those who are looking for ways to increase the amount of storage available for energy generated by solar and wind, this invention could provide an opportunity. The creation, nick-named “Frozen Smoke,” is technically described as “multiwalled carbon nanotube aerogel.” The material belongs to the family of the lightest solids and consists of carbon tubes so small that thousands would fit inside a single strand of human hair.
MIT’s High-Tech Materials, runner up
Inspired by an abalone shell, MIT scientists have found a way to program viruses to construct powerful new batteries, clean hydrogen fuels and record-breaking solar cells. By harnessing and directing the power of natural organisms, MIT’s Biomolecular Materials Group, led by Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, have developed potentially cheap and environmentally benign processes for the production of high-tech materials. In order to achieve exactly the right blend of properties, man-made materials with very specific requirements (e.g. those used for batteries) often rely on rare, expensive or harmful ingredients (like lithium or cobalt) or expensive manufacturing processes (such as those to produce many specialist nanomaterials). Nature, however, frequently constructs elegant and highly effective materials (like sea-shells) from common ingredients at low temperatures and energies. The core idea of the MIT group’s research is to program (or really – “evolve”) nature (viruses) to construct materials we want, rather than sea-shells.