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Brief Published: 8 Jul 2019

How Biodesign Can Promote Eco-Friendly Habits

Universidad de Los Andes

The 2019 Biodesign Challenge (sponsored by Turkish denim manufacturer Orta and British fashion designer Stella McCartney) tasked design students and professors with developing innovative materials for our sustainable future.

Working in cross-industry teams, participants leveraged natural substances to engineer solutions to social problems. The winners, from Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes, created a power-free refrigeration system that enables vaccines or other volatile materials to be easily transported to remote regions. It relies on a protein isolated from a specific bacteria.

The runner up, from San Francisco science workshop Nest Makerspace, explored how alternative materials – like mushroom-based leathers and plastic derived from kombucha cultures – could form the building blocks of an eco-friendly children’s play kit.

With 72% of UK Gen Z consumers saying they’d prefer to spend more on sustainable products (GreenMatch, 2018), sustainability’s commercial relevance will increase alongside this generation’s spending power. This will give easy-to-install innovations like the Enzer washing machine filter – which prevents microplastics from entering the waterways – mass appeal. 

Enzer received Orta’s Bioinspired Textile Prize, and was devised by a team from Melbourne’s RMIT University to offer consumers a low-effort way of making their daily routine more eco-friendly. The filtration system can be retrofitted to pre-existing machines. 

Another noteworthy innovation, winning the Stella McCartney prize for Sustainable Fashion, came from a team at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology, who engineered a biodegradable fur substitute from flax and milkweed. With luxury fashion brands phasing out animal furs (see Materials for Vegan-Friendly Lifestyles for more), such products have great potential.

The Biodesign Challenge concluded with a New York summit on June 22, where the winning teams showcased their designs. To find out how cross-industry inspiration will become crucial to encouraging the adoption of environmentally sound habits, see our Macro Trend Towards Our Sustainable Future.