A team of Global Business and Digital Arts students developed Virtuous Waste, an alternative to plastic packaging made of seaweed that they pitched before a panel of industry experts and social entrepreneurs on June 19 in Toronto. Their winning solution will receive $25,000 in funding for implementation during a 12-month incubation period. Virtuous Waste was selected from over 60 different teams from across Canada who competed in the challenge.
The World Vision Social Innovation Challenge had students answer the question "How might we find value in waste?" focusing on the waste problem in the Filipino Island of Iloilo. The Philippines is ranked as the third worst plastic polluter in the world.
The Virtuous Waste team, comprised of Sylvia Bogdanowicz, Amirah Mahomed, Cindy Le, Kristen Fajardo, and Laura Kraehling developed a proactive solution focused on eliminating plastic permanently but didn't force residents to change their habits. Their research indicated that residents buy single-use plastic sachets for their toiletries and due to lack of proper waste management infrastructure, throw their garbage into the nearby river. They landed on using seaweed in their solution as it is water-soluble, edible, grows abundantly in the Philippines, and has nutrients that restore biodiversity. Their solution has the potential to help the environment and the economy by partnering with local seaweed farmers.
"Being raised in a Filipino household, I have always heard about the struggles of growing up in a place where environmental issues are so visible. I'm happy and thankful to hopefully make a positive change in these affected communities, and one day, around the world," said Fajardo.
Knowing that it will take more than fancy packaging to solve this, "we also need a significant change in our culture around waste, and I believe that our team can make a positive difference in making that change." said Mahomed.
The Virtuous Waste team described how the Global Business and Digital Arts program supported them, and their excitement to partner with World Vision. "In our classes, we've all learned a lot about social change and how to design solutions with purpose... We're really happy to be working on a project with an organization that gives students like us a platform to share innovative ideas for social good. As GBDA students, we're fortunate enough to be exposed to such a wide array of skills. Our classes push us to learn about business, marketing, research, design and more. Especially our project classes like GBDA 302 - Global Media Project, force us to apply those skills in a real context and combine everything we learn to develop, strong creative solutions."
"I couldn't be any prouder of these five Global Business and Digital Arts students, they showed true grit over the last few months, worked tirelessly on this despite busy internships to get to the final pitch event in Toronto last night. An amazing project will now see the light of day. Congratulations Amirah, Cindy, Sylvia, Kris and Laura you made us all very proud," said Professor Karin Schmidlin, Lecturer, User Experience Research and Design at the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business.