On September 18th, National Geographic celebrated the winners of their Chasing Genius campaigns, which encouraged innovators around the world to submit their creative ideas for how they'd like to change the world. All of the four projects chosen could have lasting and powerful impact on local communities, and most of them contain some element of sustainability-minded production. One project in particular, AlgiKnit, is attracting attention for its proposed solutions to fast fashion and commercial farming that pollutes the land and air.
AlgiKnit is a textile created from kelp, a natural resilient resource grown in the ocean without need of fertilizer or fresh water. Their goal is to bring "sustainable bio-based textile alternatives" into fashion, for both footwear and apparel. The product won in the "sustainable planet" category for its close-loop farming cycle that ebbed and flowed with the kelp's natural growth. This creates a far lower carbon footprint than cotton or polyester, which all require an enormous amount of intervention to produce.
The creator of AlgiKnit, Asta Skocir, is an associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the material was developed by a biomaterials research group in NYC, according to Fast Company. She's been awarded $25,000 to continue her research, as well as the National geographic platform to spread the message about AlgiKnit and its potential to change how we approach clothing sustainability.
Other winners also included nods to sustainability, like designer Richard Trimble solar-powered device that grinds millet and can be used by people in the sub-Sahara to produce food. He took home the "global hunger" award, as his machine drastically reduces the amount of time it takes for folks to produce food on a daily basis in a way that utilizes sun energy instead of burning expensive fossil fuels.
John Monnat won the "people's choice" award for his work with his team Cheruvu, a startup helps farmers in India increase their annual yield through data science. Shifting climates have caused many Indian farmers to lose their crops in recent years, bringing an enormous increase in death by suicide to the country. The final prize went to Kevin White, founder of the nonprofit Global Vision 2020, who has produced a simple kit that can create usable glasses for both the near and far-sighted in places without much access to healthcare.
With perhaps the exception of White's, all these projects incorporate a view of the future that acknowledges the need for real solutions to environmental issues. With innovators like these, there is real hope for even more practical solutions to save the planet.