Sustainia 2014

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Sustainia is a Danish innovation platform based in Copenhagen enabling companies, NGOs, foundations, designers and entrepreneurs to come together, collaborate, support and work with a tangible approach to sustainability. The work of Sustainia equips decision makers, CEOs and citizens with the solutions, arguments, visions, facts and networks needed to accelerate sustainable transformation in different sectors, industries and our everyday life.

The Sustainia Awards were held at the Royal Danish Theatre presenting 100 of the most innovative solutions to tackle the numerous problem we’re currently facing. Each project presented needs to be readily available, have the potential to scale up and impact society on the triple bottom line of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. Each project is part of one of 10 categories representing key sectors in our society to provide investors, business leaders, politicians, and consumers in-depth insight into the projects and technologies within their fields- buildings, food, fashion, transportation, IT, education, energy, health, cities and resources. The night was brilliantly presented by John Elkington, an all time idol author of many books on my bookshelf, and environmental guru Ida Auken.



The audience included entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, architects, designers, politicians, investors and businessmen sharing the common dream of a possible future away from an oil driven economy and closer to a sustainable living. I was personally incredibly excited to see a multitude of young, proactive and incredibly innovative individuals tirelessly working to create a new understanding of economy, culture and society built upon a brand new set of values.





The best of the best was selected by a jury of 21 international experts and presented to the international audience..and could DI miss this unique event?

Obviously not, I jumped on an overnight bus from Berlin to Copenhagen to personally attended the event and report it back to DI readers. With this article I hope to inspire, inform, accelerate or initiate new ideas as well as secretly craving to see one day a project from one of you on this platform!



Newlight technology is a dream for a sustainable future. This technology allows to turns toxic CO2 into polymer (plastic). This means carbon-negative plastic, instead of introducing toxic particles into the atmosphere this technology actually prevents them from entering it.

The fundamental chemical reaction was known for decades but the relationship between final product and catalyst needed was always too low, on a range of 1:1. Mark Herrema and his team hit the hallelujah moment couple of year ago when, while using a new biocatalyst, they hit a 1:9 relationship.

This new results rendered the whole process viable and appealing from a financial and environmental point. Since then they started producing plastic from CO2, 4 pilot products in 2013, more than 80 this year! Can’t wait to see the figures for 2015!

What you can do. Start informing yourself about new products made using this technology. And, If you too dearest DI reader are a product designer with amazing ideas, why not using your creativity to help the number of products produced from this incredible technology climbing to 200,300,400.

I’m waiting for a DI inspired product in 2015…


I:CO deals with fashion, garment, and the waste they represent once the next child-labour-intensive H&M campaign invites you to buy more clothes that will eventually pile up in your wardrobe. What this company does is simply applying the well proven PET bottle recycling system existent in most nordic european country to fashion.

As a customer you bring your unused garment to a collection point, you drop it off, you get a voucher and can spend your money either in the same shop or other partner shop. The collected items are then reintroduced in the system following different criteria.

What you can do. First of all you can collect all the unused garments in your wardrobe. Get on the website and find a store near you able to collect your ‘waste’. Move your lovely ass off the chair and earn some money!

Then, if you also are a genius fashion designer and have a great upcycling idea, there is a 5000 Euro award up for grabs for you!




Fairphone won the 2014 Sustainia Community Award. I’d be surprised if you still haven’t come across this exciting project. This dutch start up is putting back in the agenda social and environmental values in the electronic sector.

Opening up the supply chain of their newly designed smartphone they are able to ensure they only use conflict free minerals, they improve working conditions of their manufacturing labor and they asses the full life cycle of their product down to the recycling and disposal of every component of the phone.

What you can do. Bloody buy your own Fairphone! The phone itself is as beautiful as the iPhone in your pocket without the guilt of buying into sweatshop-intensive Apple products. Fairphone runs on a Android OS, has a 8 MegaPixel camera, DualSIM ideal for travellers and a 4.3inches touchscreen display.


Connect4climate is trying to connect young people, entrepreneurs, designers, filmmakers, innovators, engineers, developers, family members etc..they basically trying to connect all the people that cares about changing the current, highly dangerous, situation. Max Edkins gave an inspiring speech on the power of a networked community of young, creative people willing to make the change present tense.

What you can do. Connect with all their platforms. Follow up their challenges, news, awards, competitions and campaigns to increase the social pressure for a future we will all benefit from. If you too, as I suspect, are a creative you can start creating content for different causes. There is so much from a communication standpoint that we can all do to mobilise entire communities.





And this year’s Sustainia winner is..drum roll..Wecyclers!

Wecyclers offers low-income communities in developing countries the opportunity to earn a living and capture value from waste while cleaning up their neighbourhoods. Through incentive-based recycling, MIT graduate Olubukula Adebayo and her partner managed to create a network of people on bikes daily tackling the burden of waste, door to door.

What you can do. There is a whole bunch of ways to help them grow bigger and more efficient both actively helping them on the ground if you live in the region or remotely. If none of the above apply to you, an old good share will do to raise awareness of the project.





The whole ceremony was filled with a series of unexpected act ranging from LED costumes dancers, unconventional Danish rap, recycled bottle band playing gangnam style (first time in my life I almost accepted the idiotic nature of the song itself) and the truly inspirational poetry by Sara Kay. No space for sad doomsday scenarios, the night was a powerful expression of will for change, a change that is both enjoyable and satisfying.



The night concluded with a speech by EU Commissioner Connie Hedergaard. The speech was a remark of all the great work done so far by this incredible community of entrepreneurs as well as drawing attention to all the work yet to be done. A truly charismatic figure daily fighting political hostility on a global level, she stressed how Denmark is the factual example of how a green economy is not only ethically and morally advisable but also financially convenient, since 1990 Denmark reduced its CO2 emission by 28% growing its economy by 30%.


Unfortunately Denmark is one of the few exceptions in the international landscape, elsewhere outdated political system are still preventing the needed radical chance. This is why, in Erik Rasmussen’s words, “we are now witnessing a silent revolutions” that sees a bottom up movement of people, entrepreneurs and inventors taking it on themselves to change the current situation having lost hopes in oil-corrupted government. These projects are concrete, functional and viable realities springing up everywhere, from slums to high-tech neighbourhood.

In them we hope, to hit the most critical deadline of human history.


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About the author

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This post is written by Mattia, Designer & Writer & Maker trying to make the web a bit more human. Founder of Who Said That, he is responsible for TAH live reportage from design conferences, festivals & exhibitions around the world.