Green Student Challenge winners have an app for that

2/27/2013

An idea for an app that replaces paper flyers and lets shoppers do custom searches for products on sustainability and health criteria won the second annual Walmart Green Student Challenge on Tuesday.

The app, called EcoSense, would consumers browse for deals just as they would on a print flyer, except with a few twists.

Shoppers would be able to choose products based on sustainability credentials or whether products meet individual health needs. For instance, a person with gluten sensitivities or who is allergic to peanuts could filter out products that don’t meet those criteria.

The app would be location based so consumers would be able to find products at stores closest to them.

The EcoSense app was the brainchild of three University of Toronto students, Adam Wang, Michael Zhang and Andrew Girgis.

They students noted that their app would provide useful metrics supermarket retailers could analyze to make decisions about product promotion and selection.

The trio beat out four other university teams, all of whom presented their sustainability ideas on Tuesday in Toronto before a panel of CEOs, including Walmart Canada president Shelley Broader.

As winners of the challenge, Wang, Zhang and Girgis won $25,000 for themselves and $25,000 for their school from Walmart. Overall, Walmart handed out $100,000 in prize money to students entered in the competition.

Some 160 teams of students from across the country entered the Green Student Challenge, with five teams making it to the finals.

Second place went to a team from the University of Victoria who proposed a recycling program in China in which wooden chopsticks would be collected and turned into furniture.

The third place team, from the Université Sainte-Anne in Pointe-de-l’Eglise, N.S., came up with a novel system for collecting rainwater to supply company toilets, thereby reducing energy bills and water consumption.

Fourth place went to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. A team of students from that school is developing a zero-emission lawn-care business.

The fifth-place prize was given to a Carleton University team from Ottawa who proposed the development of a machine that could turn organic waste from schools and hospitals into compost inside of 24 hours.

“These five incredible teams represent the best and brightest in the country,” Broader noted.

In addition to Walmart’s Broader, the judging panel was comprised of Dianne Craig, CEO of Ford Canada; Chris O’Neill, managing director of Google Canada; Claude Mongeau, CEO of CN; Ana Dominguez, president and general manager of SC Johnson Canada; and Tom Heintzman, president of Bullfrog Power.

The Green Student Challenge was broadcast live online (greenstudentchallenge.ca).

Last year’s Green Student Challenge was won by a team from the University of Waterloo. Arthur Yip, Jake Yeung, and Alan Thai came up with an idea to create an integrated energy hub at distribution centres.

The hub would have integrated solar rooftop panels, and be connected to the smart electricity grid to provide grid balancing and auxiliary services. After the win, Walmart invited the team to visit the company’s warehouse in Balzac, Alta., to investigate whether the idea could be successfully implemented there.

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