Wege Foundation Grant Propels West Michigan-Based Student Design Competition Toward Broader Global Impact

$444,000 grant awarded to Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design to extend Wege Prize competition for four years

2016 competition concludes May 14 – open to the public

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design has been awarded a $444,000 grant from the Wege Foundation to continue running the Wege Prize student design competition for the next four years. Open to any undergraduate student in the world, the international competition challenges transdisciplinary teams of five to design a product, service, or business model that can function within and facilitate a paradigm shift toward a circular economy, an economic model in which resources and capital are regenerative.

Through the lens of the circular economy, past Wege Prize participants have developed compelling solutions to formidable social and environmental issues such as the rising costs and environmental impact of mass food production, the harmful buildup of low-density polyurethane plastics in nature, and barriers to accessing renewable energy. Such challenges are known as “wicked” problems due to their systemic complexity and resistance to solution.

Wege Foundation CEO Mark Van Putten says Wege Prize offers a unique opportunity for students to integrate their own knowledge and perspective with that of students working in other fields and institutions to produce a meaningful impact on the world.

“Students are conscious of the environmental and economic crises facing their generation,” Van Putten says. “Wege Prize is an experience that empowers learners to collaborate in the pursuit of sustainable global development.”

Wege Prize began in 2014 as a regional competition but grew quickly, expanding to an international scale for the ongoing 2016 competition, which has drawn participation from students in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Costa Rica in addition to the United States. International students from China, Nigeria, and Kenya who are studying abroad in the U.S. are also participating.
KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design will continue to conduct Wege Prize annually through 2020 with the support of the Wege Foundation. Organizers aim to expand the scope of the competition’s growing impact over the course of the four-year grant, engaging an increasingly diverse group of international participants while continuing to nurture the cogency and viability of teams’ solutions.

“Wege Prize 2015 was our debut as a national competition, and this year it has become a worldwide endeavor,” says KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “With this grant, we will continue to inspire innovation for transformative change in the years to come.”

The Wege Prize 2016 Awards will take place Saturday, May 14, 2016 from 9:30am – 2:30pm inside KCAD’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building (17 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503), where the five finalist teams in this year’s competition will present their solutions in full to a judging panel of leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability. The competition’s top award of $15,000 will be given to the winning team, with awards of $10,000 and $5,000 going to the second and third-place teams, respectively.

The Wege Prize 2016 Awards are free and open to the public. RSVP by visiting wegeprize2016.eventbrite.com.

The event will also be streamed live online at wegeprize.org starting at10 a.m. May 14.

For more information on the Wege Prize 2016 finalist teams, click here.


About Wege Prize:
Wege Prize, a West Michigan-born concept developed by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) 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:

The Wege Foundation focuses on local good works in the Grand Rapids metropolitan region that enhance the lives of the people and preserve the health of the environment. The five pillars of the Foundation’s mission are, in rank order: Education, Environment, Arts and Culture, Health Care, and Human Services. 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.


The Case for Justice at the Ends of the Pipeline

Crystal Lameman
Intergovernmental Affairs Spokeswoman for the
indigenous Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, April 21, 2016 / 4 – 5 pm
Aquinas College Performing Arts Center
Followed by a reception

Throughout the Great Lakes region, oil flows via pipelines and railroads from Canada to destinations throughout the American Midwest. This April, Crystal Lameman is coming to Grand Rapids to shed light on the devastating environmental and human impacts of tar sands mining at one source in Alberta, Canada. Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, will speak about her Nation’s legal fight to defend their homelands against the over-development of thousands of fossil fuel extraction sites. Join us and learn about how our demand for these resources is destroying the ecosystems that have sustained indigenous families for thousands of years and threatening our collective future.

Lameman is the Intergovernmental Affairs and Industry Relations Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager for the Nation.

RSVP by April 11, 2016 to aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

Click here to view the full press release

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See below for a video of the Aquinas College lecture. This video of the entire lecture is also close captioned.

Click below for a video of the interview for West Michigan Week (WGVU public television) with Crystal Lameman and Rachel Hood, Executive Director of West Michigan Environmental Action Council.


The Grand Rapids Art Museum is holding its 6th annual children’s art contest sponsored by The Wege Foundation and inspired by the late environmental artist Mark Heckman. Partnering with his writer friend Mark Newman, Heckman created colorful drawings to illustrate their book for children titled Sooper Yooper. Peter M. Wege, who died in 2014, and Heckman collaborated on several projects, including the art work Heckman did for Wege’s book ECONOMICOLOGY.

The picture here is from Sooper Yooper and the man reading the newspaper is none other than Peter Wege himself.

GRAM encourages teachers and parents to submit their students’ and children’s art work any time the museum is open through April 30.

Winners in each age class will be honored in an awards ceremony Saturday, May 14, 2016, from noon to 1 p.m. in GRAM’s Cook auditorium. For more details, please click on the link below.



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Six years ago 14 students entered the sixth grade at Grand Rapids Public School’s City High Middle to attend the brand new Center for Economicology, CFE. This innovative environmental school was started by the late Peter Wege with a curriculum based on his philosophy of balancing the needs of the economy with those of the ecology. This year those initial CFE students will graduate from Grand Rapids Public School, City High Middle, that U.S. News just named the number-one public high school in Michigan, 83rd in the nation.

The same year Wege launched the Center for Economicology, he also funded the incorporation of the International Baccalaureate program into the City High Middle School curriculum, another reason the Economicology School was ranked the top performing school in the state.

What The Wege Foundation is especially proud of in this announcement is that this public school has a culturally diverse population with forty percent of their students on free or reduced lunch programs. For the majority of the other top-ranked public schools, only zero-to-ten percent of their students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

In keeping with their economicology philosophy, the graduating class has decided they will do a “Zero Carbon Green Graduation” meaning they will wear recycled gowns and mortar boards in a rainbow of whatever colored caps and gowns they can find along with other sustainable attributes.

You can find the story in the link below.



Read more about the Center for Economicology – click here


Wege Prize 2015 – Results

For Immediate Release
Elena Tislerics
Coordinator, Wege Prize
Chief Communications Officer, Kendall College of Art and Design

$30,000 awarded in wicked problem solving competition

Winners of Wege Prize 2015 announced; 2016 international competition launched

1st place team Western Sustainers earns $15,000 for designing agricultural system that
upcycles waste and acts in symbiosis with the surrounding community

Grand Rapids, Mich. March 31, 2015 – Assembling in-person for the first time since forming teams in January, undergraduate competitors from the three transdisciplinary finalist teams in Wege Prize 2015 presented their solutions to the wicked problem of creating a circular economy. The winners were named on March 28 at the second annual Wege Prize Awards, where the teams presented their innovative solutions to five internationally-known judges, as well as public and online audiences.

This year’s competition again challenged teams of five to revolutionize the world’s linear economic models into ones which are regenerative by designing a product, service, or business model that could function within and help create a circular economy – a model in which resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or the flow of revenue. Now in its second year, Wege Prize was held on a national level, and teams were again required to represent at least two different academic institutions and at least three different academic disciplines.


wmu  1st place – $15,000
Team name:
Western Sustainers

Cara Givens, Biomedical Sciences, Western Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences
Elijah Lowry, Geography, Western Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences
Kelsey Pitschel, Mechanical Engineering, Western Michigan University College of Engineering
Max Hornick, Public Relations, Western Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences
Ramon Roberts-Perazza, Civil Engineering, Western Michigan University College of Engineering

Solution: Local Loop Farm – This agricultural system is designed to act in symbiosis with its surrounding community, utilizing hot composting, hydroponics, and other innovative technologies to produce fresh, healthy, local, and affordable ­fish and vegetables while upcycling waste and eliminating many of the negative impacts associated with existing food production and consumption.

“Impressive research and analysis by this team, and in speaking with them afterward we were excited to hear that plans are underway to implement their project.” – Judge Ellen Satterlee


2nd2nd place – $10,000
Team name: Pixelation

Alexandra Vasquez Dheming, Production Design, Savannah College of Art and Design
Karla Ronaszegi, Industrial Design, Savannah College of Art and Design
Lynae Brooks, Architecture, Savannah College of Art and Design
Ryan Parrish, Industrial Design, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
Taina Fuzaro Bercho, Industrial Design, Savannah College of Art and Design

Solution: No Waste Delivery (NOW) – this food delivery service is designed to change the food consumption and purchasing norms of the urban office worker by reducing packaging waste, food waste, and delivery service fuel emissions.

“We really appreciated the research that Pixelation did in terms of what solutions already exist, both in the US and abroad, and that they attempted to establish circular flows of resources where existing food delivery services hadn’t.” – Judge Gretchen Hooker


3rd3rd place – $5,000
Team name:
The Originals

Christa Iscoa, Architecture, Savannah College of Art and Design
John Worthley, Energy Engineering, Penn State University
Laryssa Tertuliano, Industrial Design, Savannah College of Art and Design
Marina Busato, Industrial Design, Savannah College of Art and Design
Philip Han, Collaborative Design, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University

Solution: Organikos – this service, which combines an energy efficient in-home composting appliance with a user experience-driven web platform, is designed to remove the barriers that make composting difficult and inaccessible.

What impressed us the most about The Original’s solution was that it didn’t attempt to do everything on it’s own, but rather identified possible collaborations with existing services that could help it succeed. That kind of systemic thinking is exactly what students should be engaging in.” – Judge Nathan Shedroff

Evaluating each team on factors such as research, innovation, and feasibility, judge Colin Webster remarked, “We were all impressed by the enormous amount of time, energy, and research the teams put into their projects, but Western Sustainers’ depth of research and systemic understanding of the solution they’d designed was what ultimately set them apart,” said Colin Webster, Wege Prize judge and Education Programme Manager with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based organization that’s a global leader in circular economic thought, education, and development. “In all the teams, there was a real willingness to collaborate and engage with very complex concepts and ideas, and most importantly, each showed a desire to improve their solutions beyond this competition and to continue to refine their understanding of the circular economy.”

Colin Webster
– Education Programme Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Michael Werner – Green Chemistry and Restricted Substances Manager, Apple Inc.
Gretchen Hooker – Biomimicry Specialist, Biomimicry Institute
Nathan Shedroff – Program Chair, MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts
Ellen Satterlee – CEO, Wege Foundation

Wege Prize 2016 Goes International, Starts Now

All five judges will return for Wege Prize 2016, which is moving to an international level. Next year’s competition will be open to undergraduate students anywhere in the world. Those interested in participating are encouraged to begin networking and connecting with possible mentors and teammates now. More information about Wege Prize 2016 will be revealed in the coming weeks on wegeprize.org.

“We want to thank our esteemed judges and all of the brave, bold, and passionate students who rose to this year’s challenge, and we look forward to the new connections, collaborations, and ideas that will emerge as we transition to an international level,” said Wege Prize organizer Gayle DeBruyn. “The sooner students begin making connections, finding mentors, and brainstorming possible solutions, the better, because Wege Prize 2016 starts right now.”

About Wege Prize:

Wege Prize, a West Michigan-born concept and collaboration between Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and 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:

The Wege Foundation focuses on local good works that enhance the lives of the people and preserve the health of the environment. The five branches of our Mission are, in rank order: Education, Environment, Arts and Culture, Health Care, and Human Services. For more information, please visit wegefoundation.com.

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 develops the talent of individuals into a force for intellectual growth, individual creativity, and community engagement. For more information, please visit kcad.edu.


WMU student team wins national Wege sustainability prize

by Cheryl Roland

Click here to read article  on WMU’s website

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A team of five Western Michigan University students has won the 2015 Wege Prize, besting teams from around the nation in the eyes of an international panel of judges whose task was to assess the teams’ ability to use design principles to tackle sustainability problems.

The WMU team captured first place and a $15,000 award March 28 in an event the Grand Rapids-based Wege Foundation calls a “gathering of the brightest collegiate minds in America to solve a truly wicked problem.” The second annual transdisciplinary design contest asked teams of five to work collaboratively across institutional and disciplinary boundaries to create a circular economy—a tightly looped, restorative economic cycle where resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or the loss of revenue.

WMU’s team competed under the name Western Sustainers.

The WMU team

  • Max Hornick, public relations major from Kalamazoo.
  • Ramon Roberts-Perazza, a civil engineering major from Detroit.
  • Kelsey Pitschel, a mechanical engineering major from Hartland.
  • Elijah Lowry, a geography and environmental and sustainability studies major from Dearborn.
  • Cara Givens, a biomedical science major from Detroit.

The WMU team designed The Local Loop Farm, an agricultural system that exists symbiotically with the surrounding community, using complementary systems to increase economic, environmental and biological effectiveness. Building on research done by WMU’s Office of Sustainability, the team used current technology for its design, including hydroponic grow beds, fish cultivation and hot composting. The increased efficiencies achieved allow for the production of fresh, healthy fish and vegetables that are affordable to the community and eliminate many of the negative effects associated with current food production and consumption.

The Western Sustainers were advised by two recent WMU grads Kyle Simpson from Novi andCarlos Daniels from Detroit, as well as Josh Shultz, who is the permaculture coordinator in the Office of Sustainability. The WMU team’s design presentation can be viewed atwegeprize.org/western-sustainers.

About the competition

The 2015 competition featured 13 teams of five students, representing a total of 12 different colleges and universities and 45 academic disciplines. Five international sustainability and design professionals returned as judges. In addition to WMU, participating colleges and universities included: Alma College, George Washington University, University of California Berkeley, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University (four teams), Kendall School of Art and Design, Hope College, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Savannah College of Art and Design and Pennsylvania State University.

Second place went to a team from Kendall and Savannah College. Third place was awarded to a team made up of students from Savannah College, Kendall and Penn State.

Judges for the competition were:

  • Colin Webster, education programme manager for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Endinburgh, United Kingdom.
  • Gretchen Hooker, biomimicry specialist with Kalamazoo’s Biomimicry Institute.
  • Nathan Shedroff, program chair for MBA programs at the California College of Arts.
  • Ellen Satterlee, executive director of the Wege Foundation.
  • Michael Werner, green chemistry and restricted substances manger for Apple.

The Wege Foundation focuses on local good works that enhance the lives of people and preserve the health of the environment. The five branches of its mission are education, environment, arts and culture, health care and human services.

For more information, visit wegefoundation.com.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.

Pictured above:
Front row: Elijah Lowry, Max Hornick, Kelsey Pitschel, Carlos Daniels. Back row: Kyle Simpson, Ramon Roberts-Perazza, Josh Shultz.


Louie Schwartzberg, an internationally recognized time-lapse photographer of nature, doesn’t like the fact that the average age of visitors to national parks is 57. No wonder, since Schwartzberg’s mission is nothing less than “the future of the planet.” And if it’s to be protected, he needs young people to do it. Louie’s plan of attack is to meet the next generations where they live. On their cell phones.

Click here for links to the app

So Schwartzberg has created a free phone app called “Moving Art” loaded with his spelling-binding photography—time lapses that become video. Bees pollinating flowers. Bats eating cactus flowers. Monarchs gathering in Mexico. All free with a click on the app. Scwartzberg told a full-house crowd at the March Wege Lecture in Meijer Gardens, “We protect what we love.” And the stunning visuals his cameras have captured on film are intended “to make you fall in love” with Mother Nature. His “Moving Art” app is how he hopes young people will “fall in love” with the planet they need to take care of.

For 35 years this Wege speaker has kept his cameras running 24/7 year around. And out of all those gazillion photographs, he has twelve hours of films. The films he featured at Meijer Gardens were about “The Hidden Beauty of Pollination.” As his audience sat mesmerized by the images of bees scattering pollen dust, Schwartzberg told them that “pollination is the source of life…we wouldn’t be here without flowers…one-third of the food we eat depends on them.”

Louie Schwartzberg’s inspiring presentation is exactly why the late Peter Wege set up these talks at his friend Fred Meijer’s botanical gardens. The Wege Foundation’s original logo asks the question, “Is the Planet Worth Saving?” Louie Schwartzberg is devoting his professional life to helping the world, especially young people, answer with a collective, “Yes!”


Architect and founder of Architecture 2030 to talk about developing architecture districts that serve as a business model for urban sustainability

The Wege Foundation will host the 19th Wege Speaker Series on Thursday,  April 23 at 4pm at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center. It is the first speaker series event since the passing of Wege Foundation founder Peter Wege in 2014.

At this year’s event, the key speaker is Edward Mazria, founder and head of Architecture 2030, an organization designed to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crises. His talk is titled, “The Road to Zero.”

“Peter Wege’s decades-long leadership in promoting green buildings makes Mr. Mazria the perfect choice to deliver the 2015 Wege Lecture and to inspire Grand Rapids to continue Mr. Wege’s Economicology legacy,” said Ellen Satterlee, CEO of the Wege Foundation. Mazria will powerfully illustrate a core principle of Economicology, that creating a healthy environment generates a prosperous economy.

Mazria is an internationally recognized architect, author, researcher, and educator. Over the past decade, his seminal research of the built environment has redefined the role of architecture, planning, design and building in reshaping our world to create access to no cost/low cost renewable energy.

Of particular interest in Grand Rapids are 2030 Districts, an initiative of Architecture 2030. These unique private/public partnerships bring property owners and managers together with local governments, businesses and community stakeholders to provide a business model for urban sustainability. Established in Seattle, 2030 districts in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Denver, Stamford, San Francisco, and Dallas comprise over 180 million square feet of real estate. New 2030 Districts are currently forming in cities across the U.S. and Canada.

Joining Mazria will be Vincent Martinez, Director of Research and Operations, Architecture 2030.

Partners for the 19th Wege Speaker Series event include:

  • Institute for Energy Innovation
  • West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
  • US Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter
  • AIA Grand Rapids
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council
  • West Michigan Environmental Leadership Network
  • City of Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability
  • GRPS City High-Middle School
  • GRPS Center for Economicology

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. Registration is required at www.aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

Edward Mazria BIO:

Portrait of Ed Mazria, Architecture2030

Edward Mazria, FAIA, Hon. FRAIC
Founder and CEO, Architecture 2030

Edward Mazria is an internationally recognized architect, author, researcher, and educator. Over the past decade, his seminal research into the sustainability, resilience, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions of the built environment has redefined the role of architecture, planning, design, and building, in reshaping our world. He is the founder of Architecture 2030, a think tank developing real-world solutions for 21st century problems.

Mazria issued the 2030 Challenge, and recently introduced the 2030 Palette, a revolutionary new platform that puts the principles behind low-carbon/zero carbon and resilient built environments at the fingertips of architects, planners, and designers worldwide. This past year he issued the Roadmap to Zero Emissions at the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calling zero emissions in the built environment by 2050; and the 2050 Imperative that has been adopted by professional organizations representing over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries worldwide. And recently, he developed The Urban Climate Initiative, a framework of incremental actions that governments can put in place to ensure carbon neutral built environments by the year 2050.

Mr. Mazria’s awards include AIA Design Awards, American Planning Association Award, Department of Energy Awards, American Solar Energy Society Pioneer Award, Equinox Award, National Conservation Achievement Award, Mumford Award from Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, inaugural Hanley Award, Distinguished Career Award from Pratt Institute, Zia Award from the University of New Mexico, Game Changers Award from Metropolis Magazine, 2011 Purpose Prize, and the 2015 Kemper Award from the American Institute of Architects. He is a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council, Honorary Fellow of the RAIC, and received an Honorary Doctor of Architecture degree from Illinois Institute of Technology.

Wege Talk at Meijer Gardens Will Entertain and Educate

The personal friendship between Peter Wege and Fred Meijer resulted in many good works for West Michigan, including Meijer Gardens as Peter was one of the earliest benefactors. The picture here shows the two friends standing in a field that is now the home of Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

One of Peter’s and The Wege Foundation’s gifts to the Gardens was an endowment fund to bring in nationally recognized environmentalists to deliver the Wege Lecture. This year on Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. videographer Louie Schwartzberg will share footage from his prize-winning film—narrated by Meryl Streep—Wings of Life. Schwartzberg’s high-definition, time-lapse films of Mother Nature at work, including Fred and Lena Meijer’s beloved and popular butterflies, are not only breathtaking, but also inspirational.

Louie Schwartzberg shares what’s behind these films he’s been producing for thirty years. “Beauty is nature’s tool for survival—you protect what you love. I hope my films inspire and open hearts. If I can move enough people on an emotional level, I hope we can achieve the shift in consciousness we need to sustain and celebrate life.”

He sounds a lot like Fred Meijer and Peter Wege talking about their shared vision for educating people about the need to care for and protect the natural world we live in—and the only one we have. David Hooker, President of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, said since the Gardens opened twenty years ago this coming April, the Wege Lectures have been a great attraction for members and visitors. “In addition to the sculpture Fred loved and the horticulture Lena loved, our mission is also to support the environment and the arts. The Wege Lectures have been about all of those things.”