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The Intel Environment Award
Kenneth A. Manaster
The applicants for the Intel Environment Award in 2005 ran from “A” to “Z.” They did so almost literally, representing 26 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe. In between the applications from those two nations were 72 more applications. The total of 74 is the greatest number ever in this category and more than triple the number submitted when the Award was first offered in 2001. The largest batch came from the United States (27), with multiple applications also submitted from India (10), Mexico (4), South Africa (4), Canada (3), Kenya (3), Brazil (2), Italy (2), and Russia (2). Individual submissions came from Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Eritrea, Finland, Georgia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, New Zealand, Nicaragua, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, and Zimbabwe.
More important than any alphabetic or numeric distribution is, of course, the substantive range of the applications. Within the diversity of the 74 applications, a wide spectrum of environmental issues was addressed through a myriad of technological innovations. For example, the judging panel considered a project using genomics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology to reduce pesticide use in agriculture, and also considered a system of combined, basic warning systems and barriers to protect farmers and elephants from each other. The complexity of the development of in-vitro mass production methods for mycorrhizal fungi for use in reclamation of contaminated land and other needs contrasts with creative, yet simpler projects for collection and utilization of rainwater. Methods developed for onsite ferrate synthesis for water disinfection and wastewater treatment seem a world apart from—yet no less important than—a project for the redesign of wood cooking stoves to protect rural villagers’ health and reduce deforestation.
Even when the applications are examined for common themes, rather than in their individual contexts and details, there is an impressive span. Many of them concerned water, including issues of drinking water, sanitation systems, irrigation, ground water, fresh surface water, or the oceans. Some applicants focused their work on biodiversity, especially protection of fish, coral, marine mammals, and elephants. As in past years, applications concerning biodiversity, as well as other subjects, presented leading edge uses of such tools as GPS and GIS technologies, satellite communications, and the Internet. Also, in many different ways, the need for sustainable sources of energy was frequently addressed, whether for transportation, water supply, cooking, manufacture of building materials and other products, or electricity.
In short, the applications for the Intel Environment Award run the gamut of human concerns for environmental quality in the early twenty-first century. That they should do so is not at all surprising in view of expanding knowledge of humanity’s impact on our planet. That the technological solutions represented in these applications should be as creative and innovative as they are also is not surprising given the magnitude of humanity’s need—and the environment’s—for help.
In selecting the Laureates from the applications for the Intel Environment Award, the six member judging panel tried to identify the final five that seemed not only to rank high on the judging rubric provided by the Tech Museum, but also proved to be well beyond the initial concept stage, even if some doubt might remain about whether eventually the technology will become the standard of practice.
CTx GreEn (Community-based Technologies Exchange fostering Green Energy
Partnerships), Kitchener, ON, Canada
CTx GreEn is in the midst of creating an unusual, small-scale, renewable energy system in rural tribal villages in the Ganjam and Gajapati districts of the state of Orissa, India. This area is both impoverished and remote, with 90 percent of the villages not connected to the electricity grid. As a result, basic water supply and sanitation infrastructure are severely lacking. CTx GreEn has embarked on a multi-faceted project for the local production of fuel for use in alleviating some of these problems.
Specifically, the project promotes the production of biodiesel
fuel from vegetable oil using transesterification. Pedal-powered oil seed grinders and biodiesel reactors are distinctive aspects of the project, coupled with hand-powered oil presses. Although there are several similar biodiesel applications under way in other parts of the world, the Orissa project is unique in that it is at the smallest known scale of production (5-20 liters) and is based on a pedal-driven bicycle drive. Biodiesel-fueled pumps will expand daily water pumping capability substantially beyond the present rates at which villagers, mostly women, walk long distances and spend many hours to hand-pump household water each day. Similarly, the application of small-scale, biodiesel-fueled generation sets will allow some electricity production for lighting and other uses.
These features, coupled with reliance on indigenous plant species, allow for continuing local production and use of biodiesel fuel in a sustainable, community-based program. Indeed this GTx GreEn project is affiliated closely with the Rural Health and Environment Program of Gram Vikas, a rural development organization that has been working with poor and marginalized communities of Orissa since 1979. This linkage, of course, offers the hope that success of GTx GreEn’s current project will be readily expanded to many more of the hundreds of small villages served by Gram Vikas in 15 districts of Orissa. The project also received funding support in 2003 from the World Bank Development Marketplace, and CTx GreEn’s president, Mr. Ramani Sankaranarayanan, participated in Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program in 2004.
CTx GreEn emphasizes the training of village-level operating and maintenance personnel, based on the concept of “leaving our shadows” behind for future years. This project also focuses on setting up a baseline of indigenous target species of native plants that can provide biodiesel related feedstock. Additionally, CTx GreEn hopes that byproducts of biodiesel production, such as glycerin, which can be processed into soap and other products, will contribute to small enterprise development in the villages.
The major outcome of this project is that these villages will have access to energy on a continuing basis. With this energy, opportunities will increase for improved water supply, sanitation, and electricity development. Rooted in the communities themselves, without causing further ecological destruction in these areas and with neutral carbon impact, CTx GreEn’s effort in India should leave a long-lasting and beneficial shadow indeed.
This project’s reports to the World Bank Development Marketplace may be found through http://web.worldbank.org.
Envirofit International, Ltd.
Colorado State University, CO, U.S.
Over 50 million two-stroke cycle engines are used in the developing world, particularly in Asia, for personal transportation. These engines produce very high levels of pollutants such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulates. Previous efforts to reduce the impact of pollution from two-stroke engines have focused on replacement with carbureted four-stroke engines, but the latter are relatively costly and increase carbon monoxide emissions even as they reduce particulates.
Envirofit is a non-profit corporation which is disseminating a new technological approach to this problem. The approach was developed by an international team based at Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. It is called the EnviroKit, and the effort to foster its adoption as a retrofit to existing engines is called the International 2-Stroke Project. Envirofit’s effort with partners in the Philippines also goes by the name Clean Air Retrofit Tricycle Support for the project includes local governments as well as the network of unions serving the 1.3 million operators of tricycles (motorcycles with a locally built sidecar).
The EnviroKit uses direct injection technology to dramatically reduce emissions. Although direct injection already is used in products such as advanced outboard engines, significant technology development was needed in order to implement it in a low-cost retrofit for these two-stroke engines.
Direct injection eliminates the cause of high emissions from two-stroke engines, i.e., use of an air/fuel mixture to “scavenge” the engine by flushing out exhaust products from the previous combustion event. Instead, with direct injection exhaust products are flushed from the engine with air. Fuel is injected into the cylinder late enough in the cycle that none is lost through the exhaust ports. The kit has been shown to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 90 percent, particulates by 80 percent, carbon monoxide by 70 percent, and fuel consumption by 30 percent.
Major portions of the EnviroKit are suitable for production in countries where its large-scale use would be beneficial. For example, high volume production in the Philippines is scheduled to commence in late 2005. Envirofit intends to maintain in-country production in each of the countries currently under consideration for expansion. The current $250 cost of the EnviroKit is projected to be recovered in a one-year payback from fuel savings. These energy and cost savings provide a financial incentive for adoption, and widespread usage would contribute to a major, beneficial transformation in air quality in many nations.
More information can be found at www.Envirofit.org.
Enviro Options (Pty.) Ltd.
Kya Sands, South Africa
In many places around the world, the environmental implications of the absence of modern and well-maintained toilet systems are tremendous. Where sanitation facilities are primitive, and even where they are more sophisticated but poorly maintained, pollution of soil and water is a serious consequence. Fractured sewage pipes, septic systems, and pit and vault latrines all contribute to pollution of both surface water and subsurface aquifers, as well as to degradation of urban and rural land surfaces and air quality, and an increase in health risk factors. In lakes and slow moving rivers, nutrients in sewage may produce overgrowth of algal material, making water unsuitable for human uses and inhospitable for fish.
From an interest in prevention of groundwater pollution, and an interest in developing means of treating human waste in situ, the Enviro Loo Dry Sanitation System was developed by Dr. Brian E. La Trobe of Enviro Options. Dr. La Trobe applied bacterial and biological technology to develop a toilet system that uses neither water nor chemicals, can be installed indoors or outdoors, uses little or no supplementary power supply, creates no odors and attracts no flies under normal operating conditions, and even can reduce garbage disposal in landfills and create useful compost and liquid effluent.
The basic operation of the Enviro Loo involves a few steps, based on recognition that separation of liquids and solids eliminates odor and that forced aeration results in the death of pathogens over time when combined with organic material energized by selective enzymes. The steps are as follows.
•Liquid and solid human wastes are separated when they leave the toilet bowl and enter the tank container.
•The liquid drains to the bottom of the tank where it is evaporated with aid of a ventilation system.
•The solid waste falls onto a bed of organic material—garbage—on a drying plate.
•An agitator mechanism breaks up and moves the solid waste down the drying plate to promote aeration and dehydration.
•The forced aeration allows for rapid aerobic decomposition of the solids and evaporation of the liquids, while also creating a negative pressure within the tank to prevent escape of odors.
•Dried waste is periodically removed, with only minimal health safety precautions needed.
This patented device is a sealed system, requiring no electricity for ordinary operation, and relying on radiant heat from the unit’s outside black manhole cover and vent pipe to provide heat for its processes. Design options are available to accommodate different cultural patterns of toilet usage.
Field testing on the Enviro Loo began in 1993, and there are now over 20,000 Enviro Loo units in use in countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Brazil, Greece, El Salvador, and the United States. They are placed in rural schools and clinics, tourist centers, public beaches, national parks, private homes, and even in underground mines. In addition to avoiding many environmental impacts of human waste disposal, the Enviro Loo could offer many people the comfort and dignity of having their own modern toilet for the first time.
Additional information can be found at www.eloo.co.za.
Norman Holy, Better Gear, Yardley, PA, U.S.
A serious environmental side-effect of commercial fishing is the unintentional killing of marine mammals and other species. It is estimated that annually about 250,000 sea mammals die from such encounters with fishing gear. Frequently animals such as porpoises, dolphins, and whales become fatally entangled in gillnets or ropes, and others also subject to by-catch harm include thousands of seabirds, turtles, seals, and otters. The challenge of reducing this loss is complicated by the understandable resistance of commercial fishing interests to adopting new methods and gear that might lower their catches or add substantially to their costs.
Since the late 1980s, Dr. Holy has been committed to solving by-catch problems in commercial fishing. The aim of his research has been to prevent destruction of threatened and endangered marine life through development and testing of innovative fishing gear. He has applied his expertise in chemistry to the invention of novel gillnets and ropes.
Standard, bottom-set gillnets are 100% nylon. In contrast, Dr. Holy has designed gillnets composed of nylon plus fine particles of barium sulfate, with the latter ingredient contributing three properties: increased density, stiffness, and opaque ness. The density increases the reflectivity of the net to echolocation signals and thus allows echolocating porpoises and dolphins to detect the net from a greater distance and thus to avoid it. Stiffness increases the likelihood thatanimals that make contact with the net will bounce away from it and avoid entanglement. Greater opaqueness enables sea mammals to see the net and avoid it; this added visibility also has been found to reduce seabird mortality in the same manner.
Dr. Holy’s redesigned nets have been used in the Bay of Fundy in Canada andin waters off Gloucester, Massachusetts in the United States. Initial indications are that harbor porpoise bycatch has been reduced by 60%, despite this animal’s relatively weak echo signal. Research in Hawaii also suggests the effectiveness of the nets for protecting echolocating bottlenose dolphins. Lower cost considerations also suggest that Dr. Holy’s reflective nets ultimately may be more widely adopted than nets with acoustic alarms, or “pingers.” Hazards to whales are addressed by Dr. Holy’s invention of ropes that are specially designed to be broken by an entangled whale. The critical factor is the breaking strength of the ropes, which ideally must be great enough for effective fishing operations but not so great as to needlessly endanger other animals. While maintaining the standard 3/8 inch diameter of commercial fishing ropes, Dr. Holy has invented a “weak” rope that meets fishing needs—for example, as the top rope of gillnets—at less than half the breaking strength of typical ropes. The new rope, with barium sulfate added to polypropylene, is designed to break at 1,100 pounds of tension. Ordinary ropes in the industry break at over 2,500 pounds, a level which is much more difficult for entangled whales to overcome.
Further information can be found at www.atlanticgillnet.com.
Reef Ball Foundation
Woodstock, GA, U.S.
In tropical regions around the world, coral reefs are in decline as a result of numerous human and environmental pressures. When the reefs are damaged or lost, serious impacts result. Many species of marine life lose their habitats; coastlines lose substantial protection; economic benefits of fishing and tourism are impaired; and plant and animal biodiversity is diminished. The Reef Ball Foundation aims to help preserve and restore coral reefs, and to provide educational programs to enhance awareness of their importance.
At the center of the Foundation’s work is the Reef Ball technology itself, designed and patented by the Foundation’s president, Todd Barber. Reef Balls are artificial reefs principally used to restore damaged coral reefs and other marine habitats, and also used as barrier reefs and breakwaters to protect beaches and as part of oyster recovery projects in bays. Reef Balls, which can be produced in various sizes and thicknesses, are modules that are composed of special concrete aggregate and that mimic the appearance and function of natural coral reefs. Each ball is hollow, with openings and channels to create a living environment for a variety of marine
At the core of the Reef Ball Foundation’s activities is the distribution of Reef Ball molds—through sales, donations, and grants of various types—to a myriad of organizations around the world which then produce the balls for placement where needed. The Foundation encourages community involvement in projects for the production, placement, and monitoring of Reef Balls. The construction process for the balls, including the necessary materials and tools, is suitable for workers and volunteers in both developed and developing countries. Indeed the Foundation has conducted projects in about 50 countries around the world. Some of its recent efforts include projects in shoreline areas of Thailand and Sri Lanka devastated by the December 2004 tsunami. Other projects include efforts by the Boy Scouts of America in Florida, the government of Sarawak in a Malaysian sea turtle sanctuary, Instituto Ecoplan in habitat restoration in Brazil, and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation in the Bahamas.
Additional information is available at www.reefball.org.
There should be no doubt about the quality of the effort, intelligence, and imagination embodied in the applications for the Intel Environment Award. In almost every instance, there is a dominant concern—a specific environmental problem—to which the applicant has devoted itself. The intensity of this focus is impressive and inspiring.
Beyond the specific object of each application, however, there is usually something more. It may be the design of the project so that it involves and builds the community in which it will be applied, through production methods, volunteer efforts, training programs, or other features. It may be secondary economic or environmental benefits of the technology so that, for example, it not only alleviates an air pollution problem but does so in a way that eases energy costs, or it provides sustainable fuel sources while promoting better drinking water or sanitation. Many examples could be cited in which an application expressly focused on specific environmental improvement contributes not only to that goal, but additionally to other environmental, health, economic development, or community needs.
In short, the applications, and particularly the Laureates, for the Intel Environment Award deserve recognition not only for their direct achievements for the betterment of the environment, but also for the critical, collateral benefits they confer on the welfare and dignity of humanity.
Ken Manaster, Chair, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University
Anthony Bettencourt, CEO and President, Verity, Inc.
Dorothy Glancy, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University
Tim Haley, Founding Partner, Redpoint Ventures
Ed Maurer, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, Santa Clara University
Tatsuo Okada, Executive Director, Global Sports Alliance, Japan