International sustainability competition highlights today’s best ideas

GRAND RAPIDS–For a world reeling from hunger, climate impacts, food waste and inequity, five student teams have stepped forward with expert-reviewed, innovative solutions to global challenges as part of Wege Prize 2023.

These groundbreaking ideas are nurtured by Wege Prize, established in 2013 and organized by Kendall College of Art and Design’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with support from the Wege Foundation. The annual competition ignites game-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college/university students worldwide to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries to redesign how economies work. This year’s 60-plus team entries hail from five continents.

The five final competitors, vying for $65,000 in total cash prizes, present their ideas to a public audience in Grand Rapids at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 19, at Kendall College of Art and Design and streaming live online at

The finalists are:

– Agri ThinkTank: Hailing from Rwanda, students from three institutions devise a tech solution to boost collection of agricultural waste for community composting.

– Banana Leather: A way to make plant-based leather from mainly banana crop waste results from teamwork in Yale University’s business and environmental management programs.

– Cellucoat: Students from four countries at University of Calgary innovate with a biodegradable, antimicrobial replacement for plastic packaging—and pollution.

– Green Poultry Farm: Addressing environmental impacts of poultry farming, students from Mozambique—in four unique majors—use anaerobic digestion to create usable waste streams.

– UnwasteWater: From four U.S. and European universities, this team tasks microbes to convert wastewater into raw materials for use in industrial and commercial products, closing the circle between the production and disposal of pharmaceutical chemicals.

“These teams demonstrate the power of collaboration and design thinking to address the world’s most critical issues, and they confront these wicked problems over nine months in four distinct phases guided by direct feedback from 20 expert judges,” says Gayle DeBruyn, a KCAD professor who is also leader of Wege Prize.

With input of expert judges, each finalist team turned their informal proposals into robust and feasible solutions, including employing research, market analysis, and real-world prototyping to advance their plans.

Event details and registration may be found at
Visit for more details.

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