The United Nations can be fraught with political showmanship and infighting, but at a historic showing of solidarity in September 2015, member countries adopted a 17 point platform to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. With clear guidelines and targets, the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals have become guiding principles for member countries to define their own roadmap for achieving a more sustainable planet by the year 2030. But beyond government and non-profit organizations, how can individual designers participate in this global effort to move towards a more sustainable future? For the past 16 years, the Danish non-profit INDEX: Design to Improve Life, have been recognizing and supporting design innovations that pave the path towards a more sustainable future. Through education programs, investment and a bi-annual awards program that is not only the world’s first sustainable design prize but also the largest monetary design prize, INDEX is a call to action to the design world.
HRH The Crown Princess of Denmark gives out the INDEX: Award to Russian designer Vitalik Buterin and his CEO at The Ethereum Foundation Ming Chan from Schweizerland. To the right host for the ceremony Alice Tumler, Austria.
On September 1st, finalists, jury members and HRH the Crown Princess of Denmark gathered to unveil the winners of the 2017 Index: Award. The winning project from each of the five categories of Body, Home, Play & Learning, Work and Community is awarded €100,000 to support the further development of their proposed concepts. This year’s winners were selected from a pool of over 1,400 nominations from 85 countries making 2017 the award program’s most geographically diverse.
Notable past winners include the Ocean Clean-Up Array concept that proposed to leverage natural ocean currents to cleanup the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2015), open-source, programmable micro-computer Raspberry Pi (2013), Fenugreen Fresh Paper that keeps produce fresher for longer (2013), Elemental Monterrey co-designed housing units (2011), the micro loan system Kiva (2009), the market disrupting electric sportscar the Tesla Roadster (2007) and the low-cost, water-filtering LifeStraw (2005).
The 2017 INDEX: Award winners represent innovators from the United States, India, UK, Rwanda and Canada and show how global partnerships and a connected community can truly strengthen our efforts to build a more sustainable future. Zipline, the winner of the Body Category, is a drone-delivery service and offers a potential model for future partnerships between industry and government. Designed by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur in collaboration with the Rwandan government, Zipline drops blood not bombs, delivering blood and medical supplies to patients in remote areas.
What3Words, winner of the Home Category, creates a universal digital address system that allows the over 4 billion people living in informal communities to have an address. By mapping the globe in 3×3 meter squares, What3Words uses a simple combination of three words to identify geographies. Dropping a pin in the future could be as simple as “Cat Tuxedo Lamp,” instead of latitude and longitude coordinates. The UK company was founded by a musician and is currently available in 14 languages.
Paperfuge, winner of the Play & Learning Category, is the newest innovation from the inventor of the Foldscope. Manu Prakash, in his continuing research to develop frugal STEM tools to give everyone access to science, has found inspiration from the physics behind the whirlygig, a millenia-old toy, Prakash transforms paper and string into a 20-cent centrifuge for diagnosing everything from malaria to HIV and tuberculosis. At the INDEX: Award ceremony, Prakash demonstrated the simplicity of his life-changing invention by separating out plasma from a prick of his own blood on stage.
We’ve written about the winner of the Work Category, Connecticut-based GreenWave’s vision for sustainable, 3D ocean farms that can provide food for people, an ecosystem for ocean life and a zero-energy natural solution for restoring acidic waters. Their unique, floating vertical farms allow farmers to harvest things like kelp and oysters while filtering out toxins from surrounding waters. Greenwave was also the recipient of the 2015 Buckminster Fuller Prize.
And this year’s Community Category winner is the open-source platform Ethereum that allows developers to build apps using tools of the decentralized web. The Ethereum foundation has created tools to help build a more transparent, open and decentralized web and has potential to disrupt everything from banking to food supply chain transparency.