Aspen Institute announces winners of Energy and Environment awards

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By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

The prestigious Aspen Institute, which hosts leadership summits attended by the globe’s most influential and powerful men and women, has announced the winners of its third Energy and Environment Awards.

The competition recognizes those who are making concrete strides in creating, using and communicating solutions for the world’s energy and environmental problems, the institute said.

Energy and the environment have been key topics at the last two Aspen Institute conclaves, which occur every two years, said Bill Dirks, awards chairman this year.

“They wanted to do something about it as a group, so the idea emerged to begin the Energy and Environment awards,” Dirks said. The awards are aimed at better addressing the challenges of moving away from a hydrocarbon-based economy.

The institute reaches out to those in its networks “to search the world for nominees that people feel are doing groundbreaking and very important work” in the award categories, Dirks said.

“We take independent nominations from around the world, and there is an independent panel of judges,” Dirks said.

The corporate innovation award went to Amyris Biotechnologies, a California company focused on combining science and innovative business models to address global environmental problems. They use an “industrial synthetic biology platform” to create alternatives for petroleum-based products, according to their website.

Currently, Amyris is working in Brazil to create energy derived from sugarcane that will eventually provide fuel to area companies.

In the government category, the institute awarded the prize to the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Blue Green Alliance won the award in the non-governmental category. The alliance is an organization bringing labor unions and environmental organizations together to expand and improve jobs in the “green economy,” as well as working for a cleaner environment.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban – known as an “ecological architect” — won the visual art and design award. Ban, the recipient of numerous accolades for his work, has used recycled cardboard tubes to quickly create buildings that could house disaster victims.

The “Individual Thought Leadership” award was given to Stanford University biology professor Gretchen Daily of the university’s Center for Conservation Biology.

Awards will be presented during the Aspen Institute Environmental Forum next week. Explorers and researchers are among the forum participants who will gather to discuss everything from climate change to technological innovations.

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