How the Youngest Finalist in the Earthshot Prize Is Prompting Change

Earlier this year, The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced details of the Earthshot Prize, what they're calling "the most prestigious global environment prize in history, designed to incentivise change and help repair our planet over the next ten years."

How the Youngest Finalist in the Earthshot Prize Is Prompting Change

This comes as a surge in environmental awareness has resulted in a mixture of sustainable innovation and incentivization as the new dawn of sustainable development is upon us.

Likewise, there are also some suffering from what is known as climate anxiety, the constant worrying for the future of humanity as a direct result of human-induced emissions.

Nevertheless, though many reports, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, outline the potential of future disasters, these are done with the pretense that nothing changes and only gets worse.

The reality is that change is actually being done. The alternative energy sector is booming, new discoveries of remediation techniques are consistently being uncovered, and some of the world's most notable individuals are calling for change and even creating initiatives such as the Earthshot Prize to encourage sustainable development.

The Decade-Long Competition

The Earthshot Prize "aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change, and inspiring collective action."

The Prize will award five one-million-British pounds per year for the next ten years to individuals who have come up with extraordinary solutions to some of the most prominent environmental problems. The prize money "will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed with the winners." The award ceremony will also take place in different cities throughout the world for the next decade.

Participants from all over the globe can enter into the contest as long as their solution falls under one of the Earthshot Prize's five main categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix Our Climate.

As their website states, many of the key solutions to humanity's environmental problem already exists to a certain extent. The purpose is to highlight these solutions and develop them on a greater/different scale to showcase their potential mainstream use.

2021 Finalist

On October 17th, 2021, the winners of this year's installation will be announced at the Alexandria Palace in London, UK.

Fifteen finalists, three for each category, have already been chosen by the panelist, with one making headlines across the globe with her exceptional design using a common energy source, the sun.

Vinisha Umashankar, a 14-year old girl from India, designed a greener alternative to the ironing cart, a popular sight in the country that roams the streets to iron clothing. Umashankar's design utilizes solar energy to power the carts, a significant change to the charcoal-burning ones in current production.

Considering the estimated 10-million carts that each utilize up to 11 pounds of charcoal per day, that alone equates to roughly 3.3 billion pounds of charcoal used per month. This poses a huge footprint that could be completely diminished with Umashankar's inventive alternative. Further, her ambition and creativity could likely inspire other young children throughout the country to take action and find more sustainable alternatives to everyday items.

According to TIME, Umashankar's project began in 2018 when she discovered that these carts utilize charcoal for power. Her curiosity led her to do some research on the energy source. “That’s when I learned that something as common as an iron can have such dangerous consequences,” she says.

Umashankar's carts have solar panels attached to the roof, allowing for a direct line of energy to be created and sent to the iron. She even attached a battery to the cart to absorb any extra energy and store it for gloomy days or during the night, when the sun isn't available. The article states that in 2019, Umashankar even won a national-level award. Soon after that, the design was patented and prototyped.

Today, Umashankar is hoping that her design can win the Earthshot Prize and eventually be developed on a larger scale to help lower the environmental footprint of these ironing carts. She says that “An innovation’s true potential is understood only when it reaches people.” When it does reach a wider audience, she will be able to get feedback on her design. “A customer’s perspective will help me understand what to change and improve,” Umashankar concludes.

Umashankar's optimism and innovation have led her to begin working on five other projects while she awaits the outcome of the Earthshot Prize. She remains positive about the future of humanity and the planet, going on to say that “[During the pandemic] we worked our way around and figured out alternative methods to get things done." "I believe we can take the same initiative for the future and for our planet.”

The Earthshot Prize has also seen an array of other innovative designs, such as an application where individuals can report environmental violations, the world's first peer-to-peer energy exchange network, and many other highly impressive ventures.

This initiative's ability to highlight these impactful plans will help to encourage their mainstream adoption and even potentially inspire others to create their greener alternatives, ultimately resulting in a future of sustainable development and environmental remediation.


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