NO VICTORY WITHOUT OPTIMISM

*Above photo: Christiana Figueres, the moving force behind the Paris Climate agreement, delivers the 2019 Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan. 

Christiana Figueres, the woman recognized worldwide as the “architect” of the Paris Climate Agreement, gave this year’s Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan March 14. What this enthusiastic Costa Rican calls her own “stubborn optimism” enabled her to bring leaders of 196 countries together for the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. The outcome was the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

Disappointed as Figueres is that President Trump has announced the United States’ intent to pull out of the Paris Agreement, this dynamic leader remains hopeful. “Climate change must be approached with a positive attitude,” she told the full house audience in the Michigan League’s auditorium.

This daughter of a former Costa Rica president supported her optimism by noting that while China often gets blamed for its air pollution, the fact is the Chinese government has already exceeded its promised Paris Agreement goal. And India, with the world’s second highest population, has committed to having all electric vehicles within three to five years.

Figueres noted that the patent office is a good place to look at the future. And new patents applications are coming in for innovations related to electric and solar energy, not fossil fuels. As for America’s expensive electric Tesla cars, the 2019 Wege Lecturer said the company “is on the right track.” But the need is to build more affordable electric automobiles.

She offered five easy things all Americans can do to fight climate change. Cut back on eating beef. Buy local foods that don’t require fossil fuel to transport. Sell any high-carbon stocks you own and use the proceeds to buy into renewable-energy companies. “For heaven’s sake VOTE!” And support the student strike that happened the next day on the Michigan campus as they did around the world to support global carbon neutrality.

Friday March 15 young students in some 100 countries around the globe left their classrooms in a common march to save their futures from the disastrous consequences of climate change. These protesters on the Diag at the University of Michigan were some of the 300-plus people who joined the Ann Arbor protest.

The speaker with the bullhorn in this photograph from the protest on the Diag against climate change confirms the youthfulness of this global movement on March 15. It was started by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. One of their signs reads: Why Go To Class When The World Is Burning?

– All Photos Credited to: Dave Brenner

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & CLIMATE LEADER MUSTAFA SANTIAGO ALI TO PRESENT AT ANNUAL WEGE SPEAKER SERIES

The Senior Vice President for the Hip Hop Caucus will address environmental justice issues on Thursday, April 11, 2019

Grand Rapids, Michigan – February 21, 2019 – The Wege Foundation (www.wegefoundation.org) will host the 23rd Wege Speaker Series (www.wegespeakerseries.com) on Thursday, April 11 at 4pm at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

This year’s speaker is Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus and former leader at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He will present about how to elevate environmental justice issues and strengthen environmental justice policies, programs and initiatives.

“This lecture will focus on a new 21st century paradigm,” said Dr. Ali. “It’s one that embraces community power by honoring the transformative abilities of culture to build bridges, by educating in non-traditional ways and by creating authentic collaborative partnerships that support our most vulnerable communities as they move from surviving to thriving.”

“Ali is one of America’s environmental justice leaders and currently focuses on using the arts in addressing pressing issues such as climate change,” said Mark Van Putten, President of The Wege Foundation.

Dr. Ali has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, VICE, and Democracy NOW, as well as being featured and cited in over 250 news publications including GQ, New Republic, Ebony, The Guardian, The Root, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. He has worked in over 500 communities both domestically and internationally, as well as been a guest lecturer at over 100 colleges and universities including Howard, Harvard, Yale, George Washington, Georgetown and Spelman.

Prior to joining the Hip Hop Caucus, Ali worked 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He began working on Social Justice issues at the age of 16 and joined the EPA as a student, becoming a founding member of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). Currently he is a board member of the National Wildlife Federation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists, TREE and Climate Hawks Vote.

Partners for the 23rd Wege Speaker Series event include:

  • All of the Above Hip Hop Academy
  • Aquinas College
  • City of Grand Rapids
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Grand Rapids Urban League
  • Latina Network of West Michigan
  • LINC UP
  • NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch
  • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council

The Aquinas College Performing Arts Center is located at 1703 Robinson Road S.E. in Grand Rapids. The public is invited and the event is free. Limited seating, please register soon at aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

About Aquinas College
Aquinas College is a Catholic liberal arts college founded in 1886 by the Dominican Sisters-Grand Rapids. The wooded, 117-acre campus is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With 1,900 students and more than 60 academic programs, Aquinas College is an inclusive educational community that emphasizes career preparation, leadership, service to others and lifelong learning. Learn more at aquinas.edu

About the Wege Foundation
Founded in 1967 by Peter M. Wege, The Wege Foundation focuses on enhancing the lives of the people and preserving the health of the environment in West Michigan. The Wege Foundation’s Five Pillars, or areas of interest, are: education, environment, arts & culture, health care, and human services. For more information, go to wegefoundation.org

Wege Prize 2018 Winners

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design has announced the winners of Wege Prize 2018, the fifth iteration of the annual design competition challenging teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries and redesign the way economies work.

Participating teams—each composed of five students representing different academic institutions and majors of study—were challenged to collaboratively design and propose a product, service, business, non-profit organization, or other solution to a “wicked problem” of their choosing. Specifically, teams pursued solutions that could function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economy, a rapidly-emerging economic model that focuses on system-wide innovation and aims to be restorative and regenerative by design.

The five finalist teams in Wege Prize 2018 presented their solutions to a judging panel of leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation and Awards Event, held on May 18 at KCAD in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Teams’ solutions were evaluated on factors such as depth of research, technological and financial feasibility, alignment with circular economic principles, and potential for successful real-world implementation.
Winners:

1st Place – $15,000
Team name: Circular Tourism Mexico

 Emiliano Iturriaga (left) of Circular Tourism Mexico representing his team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation and Awards Event

Emiliano Iturriaga (left) of Circular Tourism Mexico representing his team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation and Awards Event

Emiliano Iturriaga – Engineering in Sustainable Development (Social Innovation), Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education School of Engineering

Diego Espinoza Siliceo – Engineering in Sustainable Development, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education School of Engineering

Irene Heras de Hoyos – Graphic Communication Design, Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico City

Eduardo Maass Rueda – Actuarial Sciences/Financial Management, Autonomous Institute of Technology of Mexico

Sebastián Muñoz Amezcua – Industrial Design, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education School of Design

Solution: Circular Tourism Mexico proposed Rutopia, an online platform that facilitates the transition to a fair, sustainable, and circular tourism system for indigenous communities in Mexico. The platform connects indigenous-run community tourism initiatives directly to their target audiences and offers them the tools they need to overcome obstacles that prevent them from competing in the ecotourism marketplace. At the same time, it ensures travelers will be able to enjoy genuine experiences while benefitting both indigenous communities and the environment.

 Circular Tourism Mexico solution excerpt

Circular Tourism Mexico solution excerpt

Moving forward, the team plans to use their prize money to finish building out their online platform and begin real-world testing in collaboration with the indigenous communities with which they’ve been working throughout the course of Wege Prize 2018.

“We really appreciated the social and cultural elements being integral to Circular Tourism Mexico’s solution; they weren’t just add-ons,” says judge Nathan Shedroff, an associate professor at California College of the Arts and founder of the school’s ground-breaking MBA in Design Strategy program. “Their co-op model is particularly well-suited to solve the problems they identified, because they’re truly involving locals in co-design and co-building, which honors culture and keeps money local. The judges see this as a solution that can revitalize communities that are struggling, and we really appreciate that.”


2nd Place – $10,000
Team name: Sabon Sake

 Audrey S-Darko of Sabon Sake representing her team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation and Awards Event

Audrey S-Darko of Sabon Sake representing her team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation and Awards Event

Opunabo Eli – Management Information Systems, Ashesi University

Audrey Marigold S-Darko – Business Administration, Ashesi University

Sasha Ofori – Computer Science, Ashesi University

Kelvin Degbotse – Computer Science, Ashesi University

Emmanuel Asamoah – Administration (Marketing Option), University of Ghana

Solution: Sabon Sake proposed the use of biotechnology and web-based technology to transform bagasse, the main waste byproduct of sugarcane farming, into bio-compost fertilizer, increasing accessibility to the larger sugarcane market for rural farmers in Ghana’s Volta Region and helping them achieve greater yields, reduce crop losses and ultimately, overcome poverty. The team has designed a composting system that uses liquid bio-inoculants and vermicomposting to extract maximum value from the bagasse while negating the harmful environmental impacts of burning it, the method by which it is currently disposed.

 Sabon Sake solution excerpt

Sabon Sake solution excerpt

The team plans to spend the next year building on their existing prototype by continuing to work with sugarcane farmers in Ghana to begin implementing their system throughout the Volta Region, and from there, will pursue translating the system to other crops as well.

“The judges were deeply impressed with the enthusiasm, honesty, and passion with which Sabon Sake approaches its project. It was great to see their idea evolve in response to our feedback, resulting in a solution that thoughtfully and effectively addresses a very unsustainable practice in the burning of bagasse,” says judge Michael Werner, environmental program manager and lead for safer chemistry at Google. “They had a strong prototype, a clear implementation plan, and most importantly, clear thoughts on how to scale their process up. That took a local issue and created a solution that can grow beyond that.”


3rd Place – $5,000
Team name: Booming Babies

 Melissa Mazzeo (left) of Booming Babies representing her team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation  and Awards Event

Melissa Mazzeo (left) of Booming Babies representing her team at the Wege Prize 2018 Final Presentation  and Awards Event

Jatin Batra – Business Administration/Public Policy, Yale University/Princeton University

Cyndi Chen – Business Administration, Yale University

Melissa Mazzeo – Business Administration, Yale University

Daniel Moccia-Field – Business Administration/Environmental Management, Yale University

Christopher Chen – Computer Science, Michigan State University

Solution: Booming Babies proposed an online secondhand children’s clothing subscription service that builds a community of dedicated users while scaling adoption with mobile technology and RFID tagging. The team’s solution also plans to upcycle clothing that has reached the end of its life cycle through aggregation and remanufacturing by partnering with fabric dissolving/melting firms to create new fabric durable enough for extended use and soft enough for babies to wear comfortably.

 Booming Babies solution excerpt

Booming Babies solution excerpt

Following their success in Wege Prize 2018, the team plans to launch their business, Hand Me Up, which offers subscribers seasonal packages of second children’s clothing specific to the child’s age, physical size, and gender. They will launch the business in cooperation with Merry Go Rounds, a children’s consignment boutique in Massachusetts.

“The judges loved this idea. You don’t need to be a parent to understand the value of this kind of service, where you always have a steady supply of clothes at the size you need without breaking the bank,” said judge Colin Webster, who works to spread the idea of the circular economy as an education content manager with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “The team’s understanding of the circular economy really impressed us, not just in their business model, but in the ways in which they proposed to use emerging remanufacturing technologies as well.”

The other two finalist teams—CarpeJur and Greener Haven—were each honored with a $1,000 Finalist Award.

CarpeJur, composed of students from American University of Armenia, Armenian National Agrarian University, and Yerevan State Medical University of Armenia, proposed a closed-loop aquaculture system wherein freshwater fish are raised for human consumption while the system’s natural byproducts are upcycled to create additional value. Algae raised alongside the fish act as a biofilter, cleaning the water so that it can be recirculated into the system. Oil extracted from the algae is used in the production of biodiesel fuel, while the algae are used to create animal feed and the organic “sludge” left over becomes natural fertilizer.

 CarpeJur solution excerpt

CarpeJur solution excerpt

Greener Haven, composed of students from Yale University’s School of Architecture, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and School of Management, proposed to resolve the information asymmetries of the residential housing construction market to connect those who need building materials with those who have materials to sell. The team developed a mobile/web platform combining geolocation and image hosting services to enable crowd-sourced aggregation and sharing of data on materials newly harvested from demolished structures. The platform also provides educational tools to guide users on how to harvest these materials from the waste stream and unlock their potential for reuse.

 Greener Haven solution excerpt

Greener Haven solution excerpt

“As in previous years, the invigorating ideas, global perspectives, and passionate optimism that this year’s teams have brought to Wege Prize have been both remarkable and inspiring,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “It is my hope that all of our participants will translate their experiences in this competition into forward momentum. I challenge them to build on their existing ideas and to always stay curious about what lies ahead.”

The five finalist teams were chosen out of an original field of 17 teams representing 63 unique academic disciplines and 36 different academic institutions from 12 countries around the world. Over the course of seven months, teams developed their ideas from a one-page proposal into a multifaceted design solution informed by their own research, ideation, and experimentation as well as direct feedback from the judges, culminating in the final presentations on May 18.

Thanks to the continuing financial support of The Wege Foundation, Wege Prize 2019 will again be open to any undergraduate or graduate student in the world and will be focused on developing a circular economy.

Team registration will open in August 2018, but interested faculty, students and professionals are encouraged to begin now by signing up for the Wege Prize mailing list, following Wege Prize on Facebook, and connecting on the Wege Prize Facebook Group.

More details about Wege Prize 2019 will be revealed in the coming weeks on wegeprize.org.

Thank you for your attendance!

Thank you again for another successful speaker series event. We were very happy with the appreciation for Dr. Lanham and the positive feedback we have received about his presentation. It is because of patrons like you that we are able to continue our work for nature, the environment and “Economicology”, the idea that a prosperous economy depends on a health ecology.

Dr. J. Drew Lanham is an ornithologist, conservationist and distinguished professor at Clemson University. He delivered an engaging presentation filled with personal antidotes, analysis and guidance about issues related to the environment, social justice and bringing nature into the urban experience.

We encourage you to visit our website: www.wegespeakerseries.com. We will soon have additional updates and resources of this and previous speaker series events. Please check back soon.

Because of our partnership with the city of Grand Rapids and Aquinas College, we are proud to share Dr. Lanham’s presentation online. Please see link below.

Thank you again. We look forward to next year!

About Dr. Lanham and Clemson University: http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/faculty_staff/profiles/lanhamj

Order Dr. Lanham’s book, The Home Place, from Milkweed Editions: https://milkweed.org/book/the-home-place

Partners

City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids Audubon Club
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Grand Rapids Urban League
Latina Network of West Michigan
LINC UP
NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
West Michigan Latino Community Coalition

ON BEING A RARE BIRD: ESTEEMED SCIENTIST DR. DREW LANHAM TO PRESENT AT ANNUAL WEGE SPEAKER SERIES

The distinguished professor at Clemson University will address issues related to the environment, social justice and bringing nature into the urban experience on Thursday, April 12, 2018

Grand Rapids, Michigan – February 22, 2018 – The Wege Foundation will host the 22nd Wege Speaker Series on Thursday, April 12 at 4pm at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

This year’s speaker is Dr. J. Drew Lanham, ornithologist, conservationist and distinguished professor at Clemson University. Dr. Lanham is a widely published scientist, author and poet with work appearing in numerous academic and literary journals. His latest book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, is currently available from Milkweed Editions. Dr. Lanham is also a member of the National Audubon Society and Audubon South Carolina boards, along with several other environmental organizations. His research at Clemson University focuses on songbird ecology.

In Dr. Lanham’s book, The Home Place, he relates his love of nature and the world around him as a child growing up in Edgefield County, South Carolina. As his passion for the environment takes flight, Lanham asks what it means to be “the rare bird, the oddity”—to find joy and freedom in the same land his ancestors were tied to by forced labor, and then to be a black man in a profoundly white profession.

“Birds and people need the same air, same water, same soil,” said Dr. Lanham. “When we agree on that fact, then conservation becomes the inclusive and intensely caring, loving, selfless thing that it is meant to be.”

Lanham’s presentation will provide insights into assuring equitable access to nature and outdoors experiences. “Dr. Lanham’s work directly relates to The Wege Foundation’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Mark Van Putten, President and CEO of The Wege Foundation. “It is our hope that all individuals and families, no matter their background or economic status, can enjoy the benefits of nature and the environment.”

Partners for the 22nd Wege Speaker Series event include:

  • Aquinas College
  • City of Grand Rapids
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Grand Rapids Urban League
  • Latina Network of West Michigan
  • LINC UP
  • Michigan Audubon
  • NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch
  • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council
  • West Michigan Latino Community Coalition

The Aquinas College Performing Arts Center is located at 1703 Robinson Road S.E. in Grand Rapids. The public is invited and the event is free. A book signing will follow. Limited seating; register at aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

 

More information at wegespeakerseries.com

Earth is Running Out of Time

“My profession is traveling around to bum people out.” So began the University of Michigan’s Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability given recently by Bill McKibben, described by the Boston Globe as “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” McKibben’s news is grim. “We are running out of options” to protect the planet—and humanity itself—from the crisis of global warming. McKibben compared the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere every day to the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs exploding. As to the planet’s increasing temperature, some parts of Pakistan and Iran have reached 129 degrees in the last two years, the highest reliably recorded temperatures in the planet’s history and too hot to sustain life. The war and humanitarian crisis in Syria are directly connected to drought and raging fires like California’s recent catastrophe have become common news events.

McKibben pointed out that the frequency and impacts of hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean and southern U.S. were exacerbated because climate change has heated the oceans. Warmer ocean water absorbs more heat that in turn raises the intensity of storms creating hurricanes. And the amount of carbon deposited in the oceans from burning fossil fuels has increased the water’s acidity destroying coral reefs and threatening all marine life.

“This is the biggest problem we have ever faced,” McKibben told the overflow audience in Hill Auditorium. A commitment is needed similar to that we had to marshal in World War II to defeat Hitler, McKibben asserted. And the deniers of climate change have continuously been proved wrong. “We won that debate long ago.” Instead of wasting time defending what science has already definitively documented, he said, “It’s now time to fight.”

After the “bumming out,” Bill McKibben offered hope in the world’s first global, grassroots climate-change movement, called 350.org, now active in 81 countries. In China alone 350.org volunteers have staged over 200 demonstrations against fossil fuel. The number 350 is the upper limit in parts per million of the concentration of CO2 safe for the atmosphere. It’s now over 407 parts/million and rising. Bill McKibben called on his Michigan audience to take specific actions to combat climate change, including divesting any fossil fuel stocks they own and he specifically called for divestment by the University of Michigan’s endowment portfolio. He also called for shutting down Enbridge’s risky Line 5 pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac and encouraged audience members to join a petition drive calling for its closure.

The annual Peter M. Wege lecture at the University of Michigan has featured in the past leaders such as the Dalai Lama, former Costa Rica President José Figueres, Achem Steiner, Larry Brilliant, Bill Ford and former Vice President Al Gore.

Pictured above: From the left, Diana Wege, Bill McKibben, speaker for the 16th Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan, Jonathan and Marissa Wege. McKibben, former writer for the New Yorker, called his speech on the climate-change crisis, “Down to The Wire: A Hot Fight in a Hot World.”

Wearing shirts that read, “Michigan and the Climate Crisis,” in late October these four University of Michigan students were among the organizers of week-long events on campus confronting the global crisis of a warming planet. From the left, Ben Iuliano, Kristen Sanchez, Iris Rivera, Zachary Hajian-Forooshani.

Here is a video of the lecture

Green Team Teens Dig In to Heal Their Watersheds

In 2009 Calvin College faculty members Gail Heffner and Dave Warners launched Plaster Creek Stewards after learning that Plaster Creek (named for the plaster mill set up in 1840 to use the creek’s gypsum) is the most contaminated creek in West Michigan. Plaster Creek Stewards is a collaboration of Calvin faculty and students working with local schools, congregations, and community partners to restore health and beauty to the Plaster Creek watershed.

In the summer of 2012 Heffner and Warners added a new Plaster Creek Stewards initiative to involve local high school students in watershed restoration. The Green Team students learn about watershed ecology, develop job skills, and help install and maintain rain gardens. The Green Team soon doubled in size when Trout Unlimited sponsored another group of teenagers living in the Rogue River watershed to work with them.

Now a diverse group—the Plaster Creek urban students and the Rogue River suburban and rural students—bonded in a shared mission to improve the environments where they live. These new friends can be heard singing as they work and sharing lunch together sitting in trees!

The 16 Green Team students are addressing the problem of excess storm water that flows into local creeks after heavy rains. So much of the land that once absorbed the rain has been paved over that now storm water flows over streets, parking lots, and sidewalks. That runoff carries pollutants like gasoline and herbicides into the storm sewers where it drains directly into Plaster Creek, Rogue River and eventually into the Grand River and Lake Michigan.

Green Team members learn how to install green infrastructure such as rain gardens and bioswales that capture storm water where it falls. Here the Green Team is creating a rain garden by digging out the land between the sidewalk and street and planting native Michigan plants whose long roots will capture the polluted runoff water before it reaches the creek. After planting the curb is cut so that storm water can flow naturally into the rain garden. This short colorful video tells the whole story.

While cleaning up two West Michigan watersheds is one obvious objective, another goal is to encourage Green Team members to consider college after they graduate. The high school Green Team students work in the field alongside college student mentors and they have classroom sessions at the college, all helping to de-mystify the college experience. This exposure to higher education has inspired this diverse group of teenagers to go on to college after high school.

 

Wege Prize Winners Announced 2017

Global Student Design Competition Focused on the Circular Economy Names Winners of $30,000 in Prizes

Winning teams announced in Wege Prize 2017; 2018 competition launched

Collaborative team from Brown University, University of Michigan wins $15,000 top prize with solution to transform organic waste into  animal feed and agricultural fertilizer;  plans real-world prototype with Texas-based microbrewery

Grand Rapids, Mich. May 19, 2017  Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design has announced the winners of Wege Prize 2017, the fourth iteration of the annual design competition challenging transdisciplinary teams of college/university students from around the world to rethink and redesign the way economies work.
The five finalist teams in Wege Prize 2017 presented their solutions to a judging panel of leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability at the 2017 Wege Prize Awards, held on May 19 at KCAD. The teams’ solutions were evaluated on factors such as depth of research, technological and financial feasibility, alignment with circular economic principles, and potential for impact.
 
Winners:
1st Place – $15,000 
Team name: Kulisha
Maya Faulstich-Hon – Environmental Science, Brown University (Undergraduate) 
Eric Katz – Business, University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Undergraduate)
Jon Luthy – Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering(Undergraduate)
Katie Matton – Computer Science, University of Michigan College of Engineering (Undergraduate)
Viraj Sikand – Environmental Science, Brown University (Undergraduate)
Solution:
 Kulisha developed a solution focused on working with food and beverage processing plants to convert their organic waste products into an insect-based protein that can be used in animal feeds and as an agricultural fertilizer. Their system integrates a type of insect called the black soldier fly into food and beverage plants to decrease disposal costs while creating additional value from waste that would otherwise be discarded.The team has already secured a relationship with an Austin, Texas-based microbrewery, where they’ll soon begin testing a prototype of their system in an on-site facility.
“This solution is a genuine contender to solve two problems: eliminating a major food waste problem while providing a viable alternative to the current method of depleting fish stocks to generate the protein used in animal feed,’ said judge Colin Webster, an education programme manager with UK-based nonprofit The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “It was clear to the judges that a tremendous amount of effort has been put into the development of this solution. It’s on the cusp of being trialed in a major way, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.”

2nd Place – $10,000
Team name: 
SOMOS
Enrique Andrade – Industrial Design, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University(Undergraduate)
Taylor Axdorff – Industrial Design, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University(Undergraduate)
Ian Culver – Collaborative Design, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University(Undergraduate)
José Sanabria Vindell – Renewable Energy Engineering, Autonomous University of Nicaragua Faculty of Science and Engineering (Undergraduate)
Alex Santiago Ramírez Cárdenas – Environmental Engineering, Autonomous University of Nicaragua Faculty of Science and Engineering (Undergraduate)

Solution:
 SOMOS developed a solution focused on helping small coffee farmers operating in Nicaragua’s Miraflor Natural Reserve halt the negative environmental impact of their production process while also taking advantage of the waste byproducts of that process to produce other raw materials which can be exported for additional revenue.
The team’s solution was informed by extensive localized research and observation. Team members from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University travelled to Nicaragua on several occasions to interview key stakeholders in Miraflor’s coffee production industry alongside their Nicaraguan teammates.
“SOMOS was succinct in both their presentation and the way they addressed our questions, and that allowed the strengths of their solution to come to the surfaces,” said judge Christopher Carter, an educator and nationally known sculptor who’s also a Next-Gen Board Member of The Wege Foundation. “What really impressed us most was the team’s on-the-ground approach; they went to the source of the problem and were deeply inspired by what they encountered. This solution could be adopted by other mountainous coffee farming regions, and that’s a great story.”

3rd Place – $5,000
Team name: 
Cheruvu

Nikhitha Rao Cheeti – Public Policy, University of Michigan Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy(Graduate) 
Aniket Deshmukh – Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering (Graduate)
Shamitha Keerthi – Resource Ecology Management, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (Graduate)
Samhita Shiledar  – Chemical Engineering/Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan College of Engineering/School of Natural Resources and Environment (Graduate)
Kavya Vayyasi – Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (Graduate)
Solution: Using their home country of India as a case study, Cheruvu developed a solution focused on the creation of a sustainable enterprise that employs crop science, machine learning, and crowd analytics to help farmers in India increase crop yields, mitigate risk, and improve their economic standing by providing them with access to high-resolution data on best agricultural practices, soil nutrients, climate, and satellite imagery.

Like SOMOS, the members of Cheruvu developed their project largely through on-site interaction with those most affected by the problem they were trying to solve. The team, composed of five students originally from India who are currently pursuing their graduate studies at the University of Michigan, conducted extensive interviews with farmers in India who are struggling to maintain profitability, as well as other key stakeholders.

“We were really struck by the depth of the ground fieldwork undertaken by Cheruvu. The team was able to prototype their solution in a real-world context, and we were touched by how much they cared about helping small farmers compete in what is an increasingly complex and evolving industry,” said judge Gretchen Hooker, a biomimicry specialist with the Biomimicry Institute. “Moving forward we’re interested to see how their solution can help farmers reduce their dependence and chemical fertilizers and encourage them to adopt a circular model that prioritizes the ongoing health of the soil.”

The other two finalist teams—EcoReturns and Remade in China—were each honored with a $1,000 Finalist Award for earning a place in the final stage of the competition.
EcoReturns, which included undergraduate and graduate students from the University of British Columbia, Yale University, and Lund University, focused on rethinking seafood production in ways that directly address the impact on marine ecosystems while promoting community involvement and consumer engagement. The team presented an investment model that enables individual and institutional investors to support marine ecosystem restoration and the adoption of sustainable, small-scale management practices in British Columbia’s fisheries while obtaining both ecological and financial returns.
Remade in China, an all-graduate student team representing Parthenope University of Naples, Beijing Normal University, and Delft University of Technology, presented a solution focused on the development of a modeling tool that can help urban environments develop food, energy, and water systems that unite policy and technology to meet consumer needs while maximizing both the value of resources and the systems’ ability to recover and reuse them. 
Previous competitions were open exclusively to undergraduate students, but for 2017 Wege Prize was open to both undergraduate and graduate students worldwide. Teams were asked to create a solution to the following “wicked” problem: How can we create a circular economy? Each team – composed of five students and representing different academic institutions and majors of study – had to leverage its transdisciplinary makeup to collaboratively design and propose a product, service, business, non-profit organization, or other solution that could function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economy.

Unlike our current linear model, in which we take, make, and dispose, a circular economic model is restorative by design and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. Using a systemic approach, teams had to not only design a compelling and innovative solution, but consider its economics and viability within natural, social, and financial systems as well.
“All of the finalist teams in Wege Prize 2017 have displayed an extraordinary amount of courage, dedication, and compassion for the future of our world, and for that we thank them,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “I challenge all of our finalists to use their experiences in this competition to continue moving forward, to expand on their existing ideas and to remain fearless in building the future.”
The five finalist teams were chosen out of an original field of 25 teams representing 38 different academic institutions from 17 countries around the world. Over the course of seven months, teams developed their ideas from a one-page proposal into a multifaceted design solution informed by their own research, ideation, and experimentation as well as direct feedback from the judges, culminating in the final presentations on May 19.
“With the inclusion of graduate students for the first time in this year’s competition, we were thrilled to see an increase in participation and geographical reach as well as many teams combining undergraduate and graduate students,” said Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD Sustainability Officer, Collaborative Design program chair and Wege Prize organizer. “As the competition grows, so too does the commitment of the teams and the strength and cogency of their ideas. As we congratulate this year’s winners, we also look forward to the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”
 
Thanks to the continuing support of The Wege Foundation, Wege Prize 2018 will be open to any undergraduate or graduate student in the world and will again be focused on the circular economy. 
 

Team registration will open in August 2017, but those interested in participating are encouraged to begin building their teams and brainstorming ideas now by connecting with other potential participants on the Wege Prize Facebook Group. Educators and other professionals who are interested in contributing their expertise are encouraged to contact wicked@wegeprize.org for more information.

Details about Wege Prize 2018 will be revealed in the coming weeks on wegeprize.org. 

About Wege Prize:
Wege Prize, a West Michigan-born concept developed by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’ (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of The Wege Foundation, is a collaborative design competition that gives teams of college students the chance to work across disciplines, use design thinking principles, and contend for $30,000 in total cash prizes, all while helping to show the world what the future of problem solving looks like. The challenge is to design a product, service, or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model. To learn more, go to wegeprize.org. 
 
About The Wege Foundation:
Planting seeds that develop leaders in economicology, health, education, and arts, and enhance the lives of people in West Michigan and around the world. For more information, please visit wegefoundation.org.

About KCAD:
Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is committed to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation, and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history, and art education; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit kcad.edu.

Wege Family Tours Blandford Nature Center

*Pictured above from the left, Laura Wege, Blandford Nature Center President Jason Meyer, Blandford Development Director Corey Turner, Wege Foundation staff member Katy Furtado, Patrick Goodwillie, Diana Wege, Wege Foundation staff member Jody Price at the Nature Center’s new visitors center named for Blandford’s founder Mary Jane Dockeray.

 

In April 2017, Patrick Goodwillie, Diana Wege, and Laura Wege, three members of the Wege family, and Jody Price and Katy Furtado, Wege Foundation staff members toured Blandford Nature Center. They were among the first to visit the new the Mary Jane Dockeray Visitor Center named for the Nature Center’s founder. And they saw the original visitor’s building renamed for their father and grandfather.

This partnership between Blandford and The Wege Foundation began in 2009 when the 143-acre Nature Center lost Kent County support and became a 501 C-3 non-profit funded by private donations. The first giver when the taxpayers could no longer keep it going was The Wege Foundation. Peter Wege made a five-year commitment to fund Blandford from 2009 until 2014.

Blandford’s President/CEO Jason Meyer summarized the significance of that first gift. “Simply put, Blandford Nature Center may not even exist today had The Wege Foundation not stepped in to support us through our transition to nonprofit management.

“Our nature center, and the thousands of people we reach with our mission each year, are thankful for The Wege Foundation’s generous support. We are proud to call our fully-renovated former facility the Peter M. Wege Environmental Education Center.”

Jody Price, Katy Furtado, Diana Wege, Laura Wege, Jason Meyer, and Patrick Goodwillie on the nature trail at Blandford Nature Center.

The Wege family also celebrated The Wege Foundation’s role in the recent real-estate transaction that doubled the Nature Center’s property when the Land Conservancy of West Michigan took over the 121-acre former Highlands Golf Course adjacent to the Center. The Wege Foundation, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Ken and Judy Betz family, and the Cook Foundation made the lead gifts to buy the property.

Adding the former golf course’s 121 acres to Blandford’s gives the Nature Center 264 acres of permanently preserved green space inside the city limits open to the public. Consistent with The Wege Foundation’s original environmental focus, instead of the proposed development of the century-old golf course into homes and condos, the land is being converted back to its natural state rich with wetlands and wildlife habitats.