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Students from Columbia University Place First in Net Impact’s Inaugural "Drawdown INNOVATE" Challenge

Leaders from around the world develop original ideas to reverse global warming.

Students from Columbia University Place First in Net Impact’s Inaugural "Drawdown INNOVATE" Challenge

Leaders from around the world develop original ideas to reverse global warming.

Published 06-14-18

Submitted by Net Impact

Recently, Net Impact, a global community of students and professionals, announced the student team from Columbia University won the first Drawdown INNOVATE Challenge.

The Drawdown INNOVATE Challenge engages leaders around the world in designing new ways to maximize and promote the top solutions to reverse global warming, as presented by scientist Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown. With toolkits and videos from Net Impact, program participants brainstormed innovative solutions and then tested and refined their idea to tackle climate change. Teams with the most tangible and promising ideas were invited to an accelerator program in the SF Bay Area, where innovation consultancy IXL helped the teams improve their ideas through workshops on customer testing, startup strategies, and more. 

“Drawdown Innovate has a completely different approach to tackling climate change which makes people to better understand how to intervene in climate change in their respective communities" - Eric Mbotiji, Bamenda Professional Chapter

Team Soil Sink, led by Jenna Lewein, Matthew Akins, and Merlyn Mathew of Columbia University, was awarded the top prize for their proposal of encouraging and compensating farmers for practicing regenerative agriculture. In regenerative agriculture, farmers use a series of techniques (e.g. crop rotation) that increase soil quality, biodiversity, and ecosystem health. This gives their farms the ability to act as “carbon sinks.” This process, known as carbon sequestration, can sink almost 88,000 tons of C02 per 400-acre farm, the equivalent of planting 2.25 million trees.

The two other finalists, Team Eat Fresh (Sophia Dossin, Kailun Yin, and Sean Fallon from Washington University in St. Louis) and Team Left Owners (Eliska Skarolkova, Paula Chamorro, and Felipe Cuellar from Savannah College of Art and Design) presented solutions on tackling global warming via reducing food waste. Team Eat Fresh designed a subscription-based food box program where food nearing its sell-by date is bought from grocery stores at a discount and then sold in smaller quantities to college students. Team Left Owners designed a service to reduce the amount of food restaurants throw away by giving customers the option to compost their leftovers, turn them into biogas, or store them to eat later at a partner restaurant.

The finalists and winner of the inaugural Drawdown INNOVATE Challenge were determined by an esteemed panel of judges from Net Impact’s board and program partners including Dave Stangis, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer at Campbell Soup Company; Stuart Hart, Program Director at The Sustainable INNOVATE MBA Program, University of Vermont; Carol Cone, CEO at Carol Cone ON PURPOSE; Laura Asiala, Vice President of Public Affairs at PYXERA GLOBAL; and Interface.

About Interface
Many thanks for Interface, our program partner, for helping to make this action possible. Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, began its sustainability journey almost 25 years ago, in 1994, with Mission Zero. With this goal, Interface resolved to completely eliminate its environmental footprint by the year 2020. As of 2016, Interface runs on 87% renewable energy globally, has brought greenhouse gas emissions intensity down by 95% and has decreased its carbon footprint by about 60% since 1996. Interface’s newest sustainability mission, Climate Take Back, aims to lead business and society to reverse global warming through four key areas. One of the strategies for Climate Take Back, called “Love Carbon,” is directly aligned with Project Drawdown. “Love Carbon,” asks that we stop seeing carbon as the enemy and instead use it as a resource.

About Net Impact
Net Impact is a global community of students and professionals who aspire to be effective drivers of social and environmental change. Our programs—delivered from our headquarters in Oakland, CA, as well as globally through our 375+ chapters—connect our members to the skills, experiences and people that will allow them to have the greatest impact. With over 100,000 members, Net Impact takes on social challenges, protects the environment, invents new products and orients business toward the greater good. In short, we help our members turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.

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Net Impact

Net Impact

Net Impact is a global nonprofit inspiring a new generation to use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. We empower student and professional leaders to act locally through our vibrant chapter network and connect globally online and through our flagship conference. By 2020, we will mobilize a million new leaders to drive positive change in the workplace and the world. For more information, please visit

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