Category: Awards & contests

Vinyl Sustainability Council recognizes Lakeland Polymers

Read the full story at Recycling Today.

The Washington-based Vinyl Sustainability Council (VSC), a business council advancing sustainability in the vinyl industry, has presented its 2021 Recycling Award to Lakeland Polymers, a plastics recycler in Boonton, New Jersey. The company was recognized for its Flex-Tech Gas Hose Recycling Program.

Illinois EPA and University of Illinois introduce online curriculum focusing on energy

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) have again partnered to create a new online science curriculum unit for fifth and sixth grade educators: How does a bulb light? The unit helps students explore energy, electricity use, and power sources and how they relate to climate change. The Illinois EPA’s Annual Poster, Poetry, and Prose Contest theme “Get Energized About Slowing Down Climate Change!” will follow the new curriculum.

Educators, parents, and caregivers are asked to introduce these topics using the newly developed free, online curriculum. The unit is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Following the unit, students are asked to create posters or written works for the Poster, Poetry, and Prose Contest related to the theme’s focus. Entries must be submitted to the Illinois EPA by February 1, 2022. Additional information on the contest can be found om IEPA’s website.

“Educators and students have faced numerous challenges as they have adapted to hybrid, remote, and in-classroom learning. It is our hope these virtual opportunities allow students to continue to grow their knowledge of the environment and the importance of protecting it,” said Illinois EPA Director John Kim. “This year’s unit is especially relevant to current events related to climate change, and we are excited to see it translated to pieces of art and written work for the upcoming Contest.”

“How does a bulb light?” will help students investigate the everyday phenomenon of an electric light turning on. Students will observe two strings of LED lights turn on, one being powered by battery and the other by plugging into a wall outlet. Students will record their observations and “wonderings,” which will drive the flow of the unit as students plan and carry out their own investigations to answer their questions. This will include investigating electricity production and delivery, when and how to conserve, and recent and future changes in the energy system, including changes in transportation energy demands. The curriculum is available online to teachers and parents on the Environmental Pathways website

Illinois EPA is proud to again partner with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Office of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education to expand the Environmental Pathways curriculum. Earlier units developed through this partnership include Where does my food go?” and Why is the pond green?.

Information about all of Illinois EPA’s environmental education programs can be found here or by contacting Kristi Morris, Environmental Education Coordinator for the Illinois EPA by email at

She reclaims toxic waste dumps, and she just won a major landscape architecture award

Read the full story from NPR.

Landscape architecture has never quite gotten the adulation of capital-A architecture, but perhaps a new prize can help change that — especially since it’s being given to an innovative designer who’s been respectfully referred to as “the toxic beauty queen of brownfield remediation.”

The inaugural winner of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize is Julie Bargmann, a professor at the University of Virginia and founder of a studio called D.I.R.T – Dump It Right There. The award, announced today by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, is intended to confer the status of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, as well as a similar purse — $100,000 for the winner.

Environmental Justice Video Challenge for Students

Phase one deadline: Apr 1, 2022 by 11:59 PM EST
Informational webinar: Dec 6, 2021, noon ESTRegister here
For more information


Many communities face greater environmental exposures and public health risks due to a history of inequitable environmental policies and access to the decision-making process. Environmental justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. 

EPA and partners have launched the Environmental Justice (EJ) Video Challenge for Students to enhance communities’ capacity to address environmental and public health inequities. The goals of the challenge are to: 

  1. Inspire students at accredited colleges and universities in the United States and its territories to work directly with communities in the identification and characterization of EJ challenges using data and publicly available tools, and
  2. Help communities (including residents and other stakeholders) address EJ challenges and/or vulnerabilities to environmental and public health hazards using data and publicly available tools. 


  • Open to undergraduate and graduate students (18 years and older as well as international students under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 102(2)(F)) enrolled in accredited institutions of higher education (including community colleges) across the United States and its territories.
  • At least one (1) faculty advisor is required to serve as a mentor to teams participating in the Challenge.
  • Only teams who submitted videos in Phase 1 are eligible to participate in Phase 2 of the Challenge.
  • There must be at least one (1) team member from Phase 1 who participates as a team member in Phase 2 of the Challenge. This is to help with continuity in cases where students graduate prior to Phase 2 completion.

The Challenge

This EJ Video Challenge for Students is structured in two separate phases, each with their own timelines.

Phase 1

The goal of Phase 1 is for students to create a video to demonstrate innovative approaches to identify and characterize an EJ issue(s) in a select community using data and publicly available tools. Students will submit a video that meets requirements outlined in the Video Submission Requirements – Phase 1 section below.

Students are strongly encouraged to work in teams and identify and collaborate with community organizations that may bring important understanding and perspective to the EJ challenge(s) the community is facing.

Check out EJ Video Challenge: Tools and Data Resources for ideas to get started. Students are welcome to use other data and publicly available tools that are not already listed.

Phase 2

In Phase 2, students will develop a video to display how they used data and publicly available tools to identify strategies and opportunities to address an identified EJ issue(s) and worked with a community-based organization(s) to inform strategies for intervention and/or facilitated effective community engagement and advocacy on the EJ issues. Details on the specific requirements and prizes for Phase 2 will be shared at a later date.

KEEN Footwear awarded Good Housekeeping 2021 Sustainability Innovation Award for PFC free, Detox The Planet initiative

Read the company news release.

KEEN, Inc. (KEEN), the footwear brand on a mission to make outside inclusive and accessible to all, today announced that Good Housekeeping awarded the brand the Good Housekeeping 2021 Sustainability Innovation Award for its Detox the Planet initiative that keeps perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) out of its footwear.

Purdue team wins marine energy student competition

A student team from Purdue University led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering David Warsinger won first place in the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition, a contest sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The team was comprised of students from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, environmental and ecological engineering, and the Krannert School of Management.

The design competition asked students to create a project that utilized marine energy technologies in a real-world setting. Purdue’s team created a system that uses wave energy to power a batch reverse osmosis system, creating fresh water out of seawater by using the sea’s own waves as a renewable energy source.

“This system would be ideal for remote developing island states,” said Warsinger. “They get a sustainable source of clean water, and don’t have to rely on generators that are expensive and contribute to climate change.”

The award was announced in April by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the virtual 2021 International Conference on Ocean Energy. The team presented their solution at the closing plenary session.

The students recently published their research in Desalination.

ISWS researcher contributes to award-winning Chicago Regional Climate Action Planning Partnership

Read the full story from the Illinois State Water Survey.

Illinois State Water Survey climate researcher Ashish Sharma contributed his expertise on climate change and its impacts on urban communities and associated solutions to the recently released Climate Action Plan for the Chicago Region. Last week the collaborative group behind the plan, which includes non-profits, universities, Argonne National Laboratory, and municipalities, received a 2021 Climate Leadership Award from the Climate Registry and Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks announce the EcoCAR EV Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Motors and MathWorks today announced the launch of the EcoCAR EV Challenge, the latest DOE-sponsored Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) series. The program, which will kick-off in fall of 2022, is now accepting applications from universities with ABET-accredited engineering programs.

EcoCAR is a premier collegiate automotive competition aimed at developing a highly skilled clean mobility workforce that reflects the diversity of our nation, by providing hands-on experience designing and building next generation mobility solutions to meet the decarbonization needs of the automotive industry.

“The EcoCAR EV Challenge provides the ultimate training ground for future engineers and business leaders to work on some of the toughest technical challenges facing the automotive industry,” said Kristen Wahl, director of the AVTC program at Argonne National Laboratory.  She added, “Students not only gain an unparalleled experiential learning experience, but also highly coveted jobs with top employers. EcoCAR also enables multidisciplinary collaboration across a university and serves as a catalyst for automotive-related curriculum and R&D.”

Up to 14 North American teams will be selected to participate, with four years to design and engineer a next generation battery electric vehicle that utilizes automation and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity to implement energy efficient and customer-appealing features. The competition will also challenge teams to apply innovative solutions to address equity and electrification challenges in the future of mobility and implement advanced powertrain, charging, and thermal systems to use grid electricity intelligently.

Teams will follow a real-world vehicle development process to meet rigorous technical milestones throughout the program and will compete head-to-head with other teams in annual competition finals, with the series culminating in the summer of 2026.

“EcoCAR provides the resources to transform a university’s engineering school to be on the cutting edge of engineering education”, said Wahl. “The challenges EcoCAR students will face and learn to overcome will ultimately contribute to their future as leaders in the automotive industry.”  

For more background about the EcoCAR EV Challenge, please visit

About EcoCAR EV Challenge:

EcoCAR EV Challenge is a premier collegiate automotive engineering competition that will challenge up to 14 North American universities to engineer a next-generation battery electric vehicle with connected and automated features to meet energy efficiency targets and customer needs for a personal consumer market application. The four-year program will reflect industry-best practices with expanded focus on model-based design, vehicle connectivity, and automated controls development. EcoCAR will include a major focus on equity in mobility and DE&I in STEM to help foster clean energy mobility solutions and opportunities for all.

Managed by Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy and co-headline sponsored by General Motors and MathWorks, this government and industry partnership will build the clean energy workforce of the future by enabling the next generation of engineers and business leaders to help solve our nation’s toughest mobility challenges.

Contact: Kimberly DeClark, EcoCAR, (202) 441-0096

Announcing the winners of the 2021 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards

The global news media consortium Covering Climate Now has announced the winners of the first annual Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards. The 12 winners, including print reporters and photojournalists, digital, television and radio journalists, as well as podcasters and commentators, were selected from nearly 600 entries submitted from 38 countries.

This exemplary work, along with interviews with the winners, the judges, and leaders in climate change is featured in a fast-paced and compelling video special that provides a snapshot of the global climate emergency. The streaming program, which can be watched here anytime, is hosted by NBC News’ Al Roker and Savannah Sellers.

Covering Climate Now, whose hundreds of partner outlets reach a combined audience of 2 billion people, launched these awards in collaboration with Columbia Journalism Review. The awards celebrate work that sets a standard of excellence for journalists everywhere to emulate as newsrooms increase their coverage of the climate story. Winners were chosen by a jury of distinguished judges including leading journalists from newsrooms around the world.

Mark Hertsgaard, the executive director of Covering Climate Now and environment correspondent for The Nation, said, “Powerful storytelling, science-based reporting, and cultural sensitivity are at the heart of this collection of extraordinary journalism. Entries were submitted from every continent except Antarctica, demonstrating that the media’s climate silence has unmistakably ended as journalists rise to the challenge of telling the defining story of our time.”

Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review, said, “Our goal in starting Covering Climate Now was to cultivate more and better journalism on climate change. These winners are leading the way, showing us all how to cover a story that is increasingly shaping the future.”

These inaugural Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards also honor Rahma Diaa, a freelance reporter based in Egypt, with the Emerging Journalist award, established to recognize the path-breaking contributions that young journalists are making to climate coverage. Ms. Diaa has reported on a wide range of intersectional climate stories that affect her community, such as the health impacts of increased use of coal in Egypt, water scarcity in Iraq, and women working on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

The streaming special is co-hosted by Al Roker, NBC News TODAY show weather and feature anchor and co-host of the 3rd Hour of TODAY, and Savannah Sellers, correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, co-anchor of NBC News NOW and co-host of NBC News’ Stay Tuned program. It premiered on NBC News NOW on Friday, October 8 at 11 PM ET. The program is also streaming on the websites of Covering Climate Now,  Columbia Journalism ReviewThe NationThe Guardian, and Now This.

Organized by journalists, for journalists, Covering Climate Now is a non-profit, non-partisan consortium of more than 400 news outlets working to improve coverage of the climate story. Its partner outlets represent 57 countries and include some of the biggest names in news — The Guardian, NBC News, CBS News, Bloomberg, Agence-France Presse, Reuters, Nature, Scientific American, Al Jazeera, VICE World News, NowThis, The Times of India, and El Pais — as well as local and independent news organizations from around the world.

The Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards are made possible by the generous support of the Michaux Family Foundation, Wayne Crookes, Bob and Sandra Taylor, and a founding grant from the Schumann Media Center.



Alaska Natives on the Front Line — Coffee & Quaq
By Alice Qannik Glenn and Jenna Kunze

This podcast provided a rare, insider’s look at the impact of climate change on the Indigenous community of Utqiagvik, Alaska. Through intimate conversations with residents, the journalists drew listeners into a culture unfamiliar to many, revealing the precariousness of tundra existence as the planet warms and the resilience and resourcefulness needed to adapt and survive.

Drilled Season 3: The Mad Men — Critical Frequency
By Amy Westervelt

This series dug into the deep historical roots of the fossil fuel industry’s long record of using disinformation to deny climate change. With excellent use of audio clips, this revealing series investigates how Big Oil’s public relations machine—which dates back more than a century to John D. Rockefeller—provided a road map that oil corporations, as well as the tobacco industry, followed to mislead the public for decades.


The Road to Change: America’s Climate Crisis — CNN
By Bill Weir, Jim Murphy, Jessica Small, Julian QuinonesEvelio Contreras, and Davide Cannaviccio 

This program took viewers on an epic road trip across America, introducing people whose lives have been dramatically and often irrevocably transformed by the climate crisis. From wealthy homeowners in Miami spending fortunes to future-proof their homes against rising sea levels, to Iowa’s beleaguered farmers battling unpredictable weather, Weir treated all the people he met, whatever their views, with respect and compassion while dispelling myths and avoiding cliches about the impacts of climate change.

Special Coverage, Series, or Issue

The Great Climate Migration: A Warming Planet and a Shifting Population — ProPublica
By Abrahm LustgartenAl ShawMeridith KohutLucas Waldron, and Sergey Ponomarev 

Breathtaking in its ambition and scope, this series pulled together familiar threads about the impact of climate change on migration with a renewed sense of urgency, on a truly global canvas. Painstaking data journalism combined with absorbing storytelling explained what we are seeing today, and what the world might look like tomorrow, with visuals that were impossible to ignore.


Bangladesh’s Hidden Climate Costs — The New Humanitarian
By Zakir Hossain Chowdhury 

This series of photographs combined stunning portraits of people confronting rising sea levels with photographs capturing desperate efforts to hold back water, and aerial images that powerfully documented a community’s climate vulnerability. It provided a compelling visual narrative of the Sisyphean task people faced in the aftermath of a cyclone that washed out protective embankments and triggered recurring high tides.

Heart of Fire — AFP
By Josh Edelson 

Edelson’s photo series documented many angles of a devastating story in northern California. From the start of a raging fire, when orange skies blanketed San Francisco, to the moments when fire was actively overtaking homes and livelihoods, to the human toll of complete destruction—striking images captured the overwhelming size of the inferno and its emotional impact on both firefighters and the displaced.


The Media Isn’t Ready to Cover Climate Apartheid — The Nation
By Michelle Garcia 

Observing the media’s tendency in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on the experiences of mostly white and relatively affluent communities while ignoring the inequalities faced by poorer groups and communities of colors, Garcia questioned the media’s preparedness to use a more inclusive lens as it covers the climate crisis.  This commentary was seen as a needed corrective and a call to action for journalists to do better.


The Sound of Icebergs Melting: My Journey into the Antarctic — The Guardian
By Jonathan Watts 

Using evocative multimedia elements to transport readers to the Antarctic, this piece took readers on a sensory journey to the frontline of the climate emergency.  Watt’s storytelling reveals both ominous evidence of glacial melt as well as hopeful signs that concerted action can make a difference.

Breaking News

Jake Spring’s Breaking News Coverage on Brazil’s Environment — Reuters
By Jake Spring 

This package of stories about deforestation in Brazil revealed how the government of President Jair Bolsonaro used the pretext of COVID-19 safety measures to undermine inspection policies intended to protect the rainforest.  Spring’s tenacious coverage is evidence of a reporter who deeply understands his beat, and stays on its cutting edge.

Investigative Journalism

Who Killed the Supergrid? Trump Appointees Short-Circuited Grid Modernization to Help the Coal Industry — InvestigateWest and The Atlantic
By Peter Fairley 

This meticulous story revealed the Trump administration’s deliberate effort to bury a federally funded study that provided evidence that a connected super grid would accelerate the growth of wind and solar energy. The story made the abstraction of the nation’s  power grid interesting, and Fairley’s explosive disclosures also led to regulatory change.


How Climate Change Is Ushering in a New Pandemic Era — Rolling Stone
By Jeff Goodell 

This story cleverly used pandemic diseases as a strong hook for a fascinating, detailed story that explained how climate change is driving habitat destruction and species migration, leading to a new wave of pandemics. Goodell employed cinematic techniques, zooming in close for a visceral description of a mosquito bite, before pulling back for interviews with key scientists and then wider still for an historical overview of diseases such as dengue fever and Zika virus.

Emerging Journalist

Rahma Diaa — Work published in: One World, ARIJ, Climate Tracker, Aleyada, Scientific American Arabic

Diaa has produced a body of fine journalism in a region where climate reporting is especially challenging, particularly for women. Diaa has reported a wide range of intersectional climate change stories that impact her community, such as the health impacts of the increased use of coal in Egypt, water scarcity in Iraq, and women at work on the front lines of climate change.

Sustainability Awards 2021 winners revealed

Read the full story at Packaging Europe.

This year’s overall winner was NEXTLOOPP, with its ground-breaking project that aims to create a circular economy for food-grade polypropylene. Winners in the other categories included CMCHelloFreshwatttronSearious BusinessMibelleHuhtamaki and McDonald’s, and Nestlé. Meanwhile, the recipient of our Readers’ Award was Procter and Gamble’s reuse and refill system.

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