To succeed with sustainability, new ideas are always needed. And true innovation doesn’t just occur at the corporate level.
Today at the Walmart corporate offices in Bentonville, Ark., some of the latest big green ideas got the spotlight in the finals of the Better Living Business Plan Challenge, during which two teams of business students competed for seed money to make their plans a reality.
The winning team, Bennett Graham, Layton Hill, Caroline Hackett, Lydia Abebe and Molly Tyeryar from the University of Virginia, was chosen to win $20,000 to invest in their idea, an inexpensive, point-of-use water filter. Allan Alday, Dylan Fiesel and Evan Sangaline, the runners-up from the University of California, Davis, received $10,000 for their plan, a crowd-sourcing website for nonprofit organizations to gain better visibility and more funding. Both teams presented to a panel of four Walmart executives from a variety of fields.
Submissions were required to have a measurable positive environmental benefit. Other ideas included these from the other six semifinalists, who competed on Thursday at Northwest Arkansas Community College, also in Bentonville.
- A model for accessible quality primary education in Ghana – Colorado State University
- A fresh prepared meal service for under-resourced communities – Northwestern University
- A faster, cheaper water impurity detection system – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- An online interactive textile library for emerging fashion designers to find environmental and socially responsible fabrics – University of California, Santa Barbara
- A low-cost, user-friendly compartment bag test for water quality – University of North Carolina
- A method of using enzymes to decontaminate toxic soil and groundwater – University of Missouri
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students James Davis and Nathan Pankowsky received third-place honors during Thursday’s semifinals and won $5,000.
The Better Living Business Plan Challenge isn’t the only competition of its kind – Walmart Canada just finished a similar one in February, and Sam’s Club will conduct one in partnership with Students in Free Enterprise in May. This is the fifth year for today’s contest, which, like the others, is a fun, high-energy reminder that when it comes to sustainability, creative thinking can come from anyone.