This past weekend, the Earthshot Prize announced its first five winners at the Alexandria Palace in London, UK.
The Earthshot Prize is a prestigious award funded by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to encourage and highlight modern solutions to combat climate change. There are five main prize categories: Fix Our Climate, Build A Waste-Free World, Revive Our Oceans, Clean Our Air, and Protect and Restore Nature. Each category has one winner that receives the £1million prize, a global network of support for their invention, and an Earthshot medal.
This year's prize was the first of 10 to span the 2020s to help catapult sustainable development and exemplify that any individual has the potential to prompt change.
Below are the five winners of the 2021 Earthshot Prize.
Takachar - Clean Our Air - India
Takachar, a start-up founded by Kevin Kung and Vidyut Mohan, utilizes an oxygen-lean torrefaction to convert waste biomass into fuel and fertilizer. Takachar's technology is inexpensive to build and portable, allowing for its use virtually anywhere.
What sets Takachar's invention apart is its small size, which allows the conversion process to be done on-site. With the more traditional approach of converting biomass, the product must be transported to extensive facilities to accommodate the conversion process, leaving an array of discrepancies that can cause carbon debt.
In many cases, leftover biomass is burned on a large scale, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions. Takachar's invention will not only combat these emissions by preventing the waste from being burned, but it will utilize the biomass to create fuel for a truly beneficial and promising outcome.
The company estimates the biomass from agriculture equates to a $10 billion market globally.
The Republic of Costa Rica - Protect and Restore Nature - Costa Rica
Forests remain a critical factor for a healthy environment due to their ability to sequester carbon, produce oxygen, provide shade, and be home to millions of creatures.
Recognizing this, The Costa Rican Ministry of Environment created a monetary incentive program in the 1990s to encourage local community members to plant trees and restore local threatened habitats.
Since the program's inception, it has helped double the size of the Costa Rican rainforests and increased eco-tourism, resulting in an added $4 billion to the economy.
The Costa Rican Government hopes its success story inspires other communities around the globe to restore forests to aid in a thriving planet.
Coral Vita - Revive Our Oceans - The Bahamas
According to the Earthshot Prize website, "Ocean warming and acidification are set to destroy over 90% of reefs by 2050, a death sentence for the quarter of marine life who need them to survive. It will be a disaster, too, for the billion human lives dependent on the benefits reefs provide."
Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern recently launched Coral Vita to help combat ocean acidification and ecosystem degradation from climate change. The company restores reefs via coral farming, the process of collecting coral fragments and propagating them on- and until they are mature enough to be replanted in the ocean. Using a specific technique called micro-fragmentation, Coral Vita grows coral 50x faster than it would naturally, so it restores ecosystems at an impressive rate.
With other coral farms around the globe, what sets Coral Vita apart is its farm, set up on land rather than in the ocean, allowing it to raise a diverse array of coral at a faster and more extensive scale.
The City of Milan - Build a Waste-Free World – Italy
The City of Milan won this category with its concept of limiting food waste while simultaneously limiting global emissions. Earthshotprize.org explains, "The global food system generates between 25-30% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions suffer from food insecurity."
To combat food waste within the community, the City of Milan set up waste hubs in 2019 that collect leftover food from major waste contributors, such as grocery stores, and donate it to local NGOs. The NGOs then disperse the food throughout the city to those in need.
Just two years after launch, the program has expanded to three food hubs around the city that save roughly 300,000 lbs. of food annually - the equivalent of about 260,000 meals. Though simple in concept, Milan is the first major city in the world to implement this waste recovery initiative and has graciously created detailed blueprints for other cities to use.
Enapter - Fix Our Climate - Italy/Germany/Thailand
Co-founded by Vaitea Cowan, Enapter created the anion exchange membrane (AEM) Electrolyser to convert renewable energy into hydrogen gas, an emission-free fuel. It is stackable, small, and, like solar panels, can cluster together to adapt to large fuel needs.
The process works by utilizing renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Enapter's technology works faster than traditional electrolyzers, allowing more production than many competitors.
The company currently manufactures its product in Italy; however, it plans to erect a mass-production site in Germany.
The Earthshot Prize is a shining example of utilizing a powerful platform for good. Thanks to this competition, individuals from around the globe are given the opportunity to highlight their products and share their passions for climate change remediation.
We can expect next year's participants to bring more impressive initiatives to the table to encourage growth and awareness for a future filled with sustainable development.