How can excess hair from beauty salons be used to clean oil spills? How do you convince six- to twelve-year-old children in China to conserve water? Projects adopting these two questions, among another several hundred others, are currently flowing in like, well, water–the kids are responding to a challenge called "Designing Water's Future".
The program is a part of this year's Aspen Design Challenge, which is a six-continent race to solve the global water crisis. The initiative grew out of discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. More than 450 students around the world have submitted entries, representing 45 universities. The design challenge was launched in August 2008 to encourage responsible water use, to provide access to fresh water to those in need, and to otherwise educate. "The idea…is that creative design can change the way people think and behave, and that young people are an essential source for precisely the design thinking we need," explains Richard Grefé, AIGA's executive director.
Winners will be invited to share their ideas with environmental specialists at the Aspen Environment Forum in March 2009. Selected finalists will also present their projects at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next November. The winning team will receive a $10,000 INDEX: | AIGA Aspen Design Challenge Prize to implement its solution.
The jury includes experts in design and environmental policy, as well as those in economics and development. Other partners include Circle of Blue, a fresh water interest group that is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, design and innovation firm Collins, and INDEX:, the Copenhagen–based global nonprofit that draws attention to design that improves lives.