The £200,00 prize fund redefines what environmental and social responsibility should look like.
'Sustainable' is an appealing yet complicated word. Since its definition is not officially regulated, any business or organization can describe its product or service as sustainable without being held accountable. This has resulted in a great deal of greenwashing, making things out to be more eco-friendly than they are.
At the same time, however, there are many wonderful organizations that model sustainability at its finest, working to develop systems that meet present-day needs without compromising the abilities of future generations to support themselves. This is good, except that it fails to address the problem of damage already done. For instance, a sustainable food production system could operate on degraded land, but that doesn't mean the land will ever be improved or brought back to a biologically diverse state.
Enter the concept of regeneration, which some experts are hoping will replace sustainability as the buzzword of the future. Regeneration is sustainability taken a step further. Regenerative systems strive not only to do no harm, but also to improve their social, environmental, and economic contexts. In other words, they leave behind a better world.
Seeking out individuals and projects that are doing regenerative work worldwide is the priority of the Lush Spring Prize, a joint effort between Lush Cosmetics and Ethical Consumer, a UK-based non-profit that researches how consumer power can generate positive impact for society and the environment. The Spring Prize, which was founded in 2016, handed out its first awards last year. Now, a not-so-short shortlist of 53 nominees has been released for this year, revealing a host of amazing and inspiring regenerative projects taking place around the world.
There are four categories within the Spring Prize. These are listed below, each with several examples of nominees within that category, to give a sense of what kind of work is happening.
INTENTIONAL PROJECTS are up to a year old. These are newly formed groups that are just starting out. Four prizes worth £10,000 each are awarded to help them establish a base and develop a strategy. Two examples of nominees:
- The Compost Company in the Netherlands is a response to waste management problems. The group created a weekly organic waste pickup service and converts it into compost, which is then used to fertilize local community gardens. Even more interesting is that the Compost Company employs mainly refugees in an effort to help them integrate into Dutch society.
- Farm 2 Plate Malaysia teaches people how to use the produce available for purchase at farmers' markets. It offers cooking demos, workshops for kids and adults, and operates an organic farm. (This is one of those missing links that we often write about on TreeHugger, that so many problems could be solved by cooking more from scratch.)
YOUNG PROJECTS are between 1 and 5 years old. These have a proven track record but need funding for further expansion. There are three prizes worth £20,000 each.
- Ecosystem Restoration Camps aim to restore degraded land while training people in ecosystem restoration. Camps are built on the degraded land to house trainees, who then learn how to regenerate the soil. The first camp has been built in Spain; so far the focus is on reforestation and de-compacting the soil.
- Uryadi's Village, based in Ethiopia, has found a surprising connection between degraded land and a high orphan rate. The idea is that poor agriculture conditions result in food scarcity, which makes parents more likely to abandon their newborns. A permaculture training center serves as a home to orphans and a local adoption program.
ESTABLISHED PROJECTS have been operating for 5 or more years and proven success. Funds from the two £25,000 prizes will go toward spreading the word to inspire more involvement in regenerative work.
- Center for Justice & Human Rights in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua is leading the charge in securing land rights for native populations. It has responded to attacks from armed settlers by training native women in bio-intensive farming methods that will allow them to farm more closely to home.
- The Dalia Association was founded in the belief that Palestine should control its own development: "Palestinians receive one of the highest rates of international aid, leading to the deterioration of a strong civil society." The Association helps to guide communities to identify problems and enact solutions.
INFLUENCE AWARDS will give £25,000 each to two groups that are campaigning and lobbying at a governmental level. "This prize is aimed at supporting those who are changing the context in which we are all working; who are helping to build and strengthen the regenerative movement."
- Amrita Bhoomi Peasant Agroecology Centre addresses the monumental environmental crises facing Indian farmers. With low groundwater, contaminated soil, lost biodiversity, and high suicide rates among indebted farmers, there is a desperate need to train farmers in more regenerative practices.
- European Coordination Via Campesina fights for the right to be a peasant in Europe. The main goal is to "promote agroecology as a peasant way of life, with a strong social component and practical knowledge exchange." It pushes for new legal frameworks that recognize peasantry and food sovereignty.
These are just a handful of the many impressive nominees for the Spring Prize this year. Stay tuned for more information once the award winners are announced mid-May. You can learn more about regenerative practices in this background paper.