Environmentalism and Innovation at Sierra Nevada Competition
By Debra Atlas
June 27, 2012
CHICO, CALIFORNIA — California has long had a reputation for moving environmentalism forward while fostering innovation. This was more than apparent at the first annual Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge, held at the Sierra Nevada Brewery last week.
The range of products presented was a kaleidoscope of innovation, creativity and ingenuity. Companies ranged from a start-up that produces top quality gluten-free rice beer to an organic lavender ranch committed to biodiversity and sustainability. Innovations included a technology that converts piston-based engines to cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 60%, a colorful line of electric stand-up cycles\ for personal and police patrol use, and a revolutionary, award-winning toilet that could save millions of dollars and gallons of water.
42 finalists, some of them established businesses and many more of them start-ups, delivered six-minute presentations detailing how their innovative product or service would change an industry, the environment, or people’s lives in some meaningful way. All of them were vying for the “Most Innovative Product of the Year” award, which included two sustainability-related categories: CleanTech and Environmental and Sustainable Agriculture and Food.
The event also featured a number of stellar speakers. Victor Hwang, venture capitalist, entrepreneur and author of The Rainforest: Secret to Building Silicon Valley started the morning off with words of wisdom for innovators. He stressed that unplanned events and factors are critical to fostering start-ups, and to innovation in general.
Other keynote speakers included the successful entrepreneur Chris Friedland, founder of Build.com and FaucetDirect.com and Pamela Temple, co-founder of the successful APlaceforMom.com, an online resource that helps families find assisted living, Alzheimer’s memory care, and nursing homes.
The competition was open exclusively to entrepreneurs and businesses located outside San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Leaving out the largest California metropolises gave small-town companies the chance to shine. The products pitched during the challenge ranged from fantastical to super-useful.
The Eggasus, for example, is an egg-shaped electric car that produces zero emissions. This eye-catching vehicle – which looks like something from a Ray Bradbury story – is designed as inexpensive personal transportation and as a potential rolling billboard for enterprising companies.
Safe Path Products, which took second place winner in the Manufacturing & High Tech category, is a product for that helps seniors and people with disabilities. It is made from a blend of recycled plastics that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, and the BigHorn composite ramp is ADA compliant for safety and wheelchair access.
Many of the finalists also showcased their products. These included gamechanging products such as muvichip by Flixchip – a credit-card sized card with a USB port and a thumbnail-sized magnetic chip that has the potential to replace DVD’s and will stream a movie to up to four devices simultaneously. These small, colorful, collectable cards use significantly less plastic, thus reducing the amount of waste films generate and making movies more portable.
This exciting competition was, for many of these small innovative businesses, their first public appearance. And some lucky few took home the top honors. Each category was judged by a panel of industry experts, top educators, venture capitalists, and media representatives. The emcee for the event was Dr. Richard Hubbard, author, speaker and project advisor at the College of Business at California State University, Chico.
The top winners of the day were Nuritas, a software technology company that allows for the quick scanning of genomes to discover natural nutrients in foods , and Spaario, a company that reinvented binoculars as eyewear. Nuritas won both First Place in the Sustainable Food & Agriculture category and Second Place in the Top New Product in the Northstate category. Spaario was awarded First Place for both the Manufacturing & High Tech category and Top New Product.
You’ll be reading about many more of the remarkably innovative products and companies that participated in this exciting event here at Sierra Club Green Home over the coming weeks. We salute all those who participated, and look forward to hearing more about them!
For related articles, see:
Sustainable Brands Save the Environment with Creativity
Polymer Lawn Care Saves Water – A Ton!
Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.
© 2012 SCGH, LLC.