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The 2023 Prize For the Environment Contestants

For any other sustainability nerds out there, you may be familiar with the St Andrews 2023 Prize for the Environment. For the rest, this is an extremely generous grant given by the University to the most creative and innovative sustainable development projects this year. This is not a prize awarded to students, but instead to any organisation or group to achieve sustainability in their community. The prize is £100,000, which can be used to further implement and improve their projects.

The final vote on the winner is coming up on the 21 November, and the University has announced the three finalists: Alianza Ceibo, BleagLee, and Circular Ocean. These projects span the Upper Amazon Rainforest, Cameroon's waste crisis, and Portugal's fishing industry, providing a diverse range of environmental projects for the panel to vote on.

Alianza Ceibo stands as a non-profit alliance led by four Indigenous nationalities — Ai’ Kofán, Siekopai, Siona, and Waorani — in the Upper Amazon region of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. Alianza Ceibo is the only one of the finalists that isn’t a traditional company or organisation. It is completely grassroots and made up of an alliance between indigenous groups in the region that are committed to keeping their ecosystem safe. Already they have worked to detect illegal activity in the rainforests through integrating monitors and mapping devices in the forests, and are currently protecting 600,000 hectares of forest land. Beyond that, they have integrated programs that include introducing safe water systems to homes, supporting women and gender equality in their communities, and taking up legal battles for their community.

BleagLee is a company fighting the use of waste-burning in Cameroon by making economic use of waste. Through the use of AI, Bleaglee connects waste owners to waste collectors that transport the waste to various recycling centres so that both parties share the revenue. This creates an economic incentive to recycle instead of burning waste or disposing of it irresponsibly. BleagLee has also introduced clean energy as an alternative to disposing of harmful waste and has set up the manufacturing of changing waste into biofuel and selling it to companies as a clean energy alternative.

Circular Ocean is an organisation dedicated to reducing marine pollution and litter, specifically targeting the disposal of fishing nets. It is based in Peniche, Portugal, and works with coastal fisheries that typically use single-use plastic nets for fishing. Circular Ocean promotes the switch to recycling plastic nets and has introduced factories that are transforming these nets into an industrial polyamide alternative to plastic that can be used in manufacturing and textiles.

All three contestants competing for the prize have exceptionally fascinating projects with a strong emphasis on community impact. Sustainability can oftentimes feel so vague and large-scale that it is difficult to zero in on which challenges need the most attention. The finalists noted that winning the prize will allow them to scale up their impact and get international recognition along with new market opportunities. The panel did an excellent job selecting a diverse group of contestants who are working on specific goals in helping their ecosystem and their community. The finalists will present their projects to the panel on Tuesday, 21 November when the winner will be announced.

Image by Wikicommons

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