The Challenge of the Eco-challenge

July 19, 2011 By Aminda

Innovators are called to participate in a series of environmental challenges. The challenge, sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), offers rewards of up to $15,000.

The inaugural challenges are focused on stopping nitrogen pollution in waterways. Currently more than 50% of fertilizer applied to commercial crops in the U.S. is not absorbed by the plants and is instead lost to water and air. Excess agricultural nitrogen (one of the main components of fertilizer) creates dead zones, places where fish cannot survive, in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay.

The nonprofit EDF has a history of collaborating with businesses and other organizations to demonstrate that good environmental strategy is good business strategy.  

Organizers can only hope these challenges will be good strategy and yield a higher percentage of potential solutions than challenge hosted to aid with clean up last year’s oil spill in Gulf of Mexico.

According to a review of BP reports by the Guardian UK, some 123,000 people responded from more than 100 countries submitted ideas for clean up. Sadly, after being reviewed by a panel of technical experts, few of those ideas were ever heard of again. Most participants providing suggestions to plug the well or stop the spill had any expertise or means of testing their ideas, except perhaps in their backyard.

Of those thousands of ideas, a few hundred were given a more detailed and about 30 were actually used to contain or clean up the spill, to varying degrees of success.


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