Best Innovative and Pioneering Sustainable Designs | German Sustainability Award 2021



On the 2nd of December 2021, 25 winners were selected to achieve the German Sustainability Award for Innovative and Pioneering Design. The event also celebrated prominent personalities who are committed to sustainability and eco activism, and these individuals achieved the Honorary award. From bikes to water bottles, we will share a bit about each of the winners and their innovative ideas here.


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On the 2nd of December 2021, in Düsseldorf, 81 finalists were narrowed down to 25 winners of the 14th German Sustainability Award for Innovative and Pioneering Design. This setting is the most visited annual communication platform on the topic of sustainable development. The event attracts over 1000 applicants each year. The winners were selected by an expert jury, who reviewed various designers, start-ups, companies, and students who are considered to be pioneering in the world of sustainable design solutions. 


The event also celebrated prominent personalities who are committed to sustainability and eco activism. These guests achieved the Honorary award. This year, climatologist Prof. Hans Joachim Schelinhuber, British actress and activist Lily Cole and the #sicherheim campaign all achieved the Honorary award. Musicians Joss Stone, Chris de Burgh and Billie Eilish also achieved an Honorary award. The #sicherheim campaign, for example, won a special award in addition to the Honorary award. This campaign, initiated by Natalia Wörner, Tom Daske, Marc Lepetit, and others, works to raise awareness about domestic violence against women.


“Sustainable design has perhaps the greatest leverage for transformation. The designers play a decisive role in deciding on materials, production, logistics and recycling - and above all they enable us consumers to make our own contributions.” Stefan Schulze-Hausmann, Organiser, German Sustainability Award


Though most of the winners of the German Sustainability Award for Innovative and Pioneering Design have solutions already on the market, 4 winners fell into the ‘Visions’ category for ideas submitted before they entered the market. From bikes to water bottles, we share the winners we have been the most inspired by. We encourage you to check out all who achieved the German Sustainability Award for Innovative and Pioneering Design. For more information, the full list of winners and details about them, click here.



Alstom won the award for the ‘Coradia iLint fuel cell train’; a new and innovative electrical train. It is powered by electrical energy sourced from a hydrogen fuel cell, therefore solving the issue of diesel-powered trains damaging the environment with CO2. Although hydrogen technology is not new, this is the first passenger train in the world of its kind. It is likely to inspire a new era of sustainability in the train sector. Because it doesn’t depend on overhead lines, the ‘Coradia iLint fuel cell train’ is powered by electrical energy generated on board, in a fuel cell. If drawn from renewable sources, this electricity can be very green. The electrical energy is stored in lithium-ion batteries that drive the train. Emission-free train journeys are no longer a distant dream thanks to the ‘Coradia iLint fuel cell train’.



Design for Human Nature won the award for their digitized vending machine ‘tegut...teo’. Designed to fill the space of a traditional supermarket where there is no room for such, this a 50m² staff-less pop-up vending machine has everything consumers need. It is also open 24/7. Not only this, but the building itself is made from sustainable materials – the construction is 95% wood, and the roof is biodiverse and green. It encourages walking and cycling, being easy to pop into, and it sells mostly organic food. When it comes to payment, this vending machine is entirely cashless. With no staff around, self-checkout registers are in place, and there is also a payment app that can be used. This digitized vending machine is an accessible and modern shop with social responsibility. It can be set up in 3 short hours and is friendly and inviting to the neighbourhood.



The DiFold bottles add another inventive twist to the reusable water bottle. DiFold won the German Sustainability Award for their foldable origami bottle. When faced with the issue of space, DiFold thought of a great alternative to regular reusable bottles, which can create unnecessary clutter when empty. Inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding, origami, this bottle folds down flat to make transporting and carrying this bottle easy. Through folding the bottle away, it loses about 80% of its volume. Not only this, but the material used to make the bottle is completely recyclable, free from BPA, and dishwasher safe! The bio-based TPC the bottle is made from can withstand thousands of uses and folds.  



Urwahn won the award for their e-bike ‘Top Dog’, made with 3-D printed steel. Steel is known to have a much better CO2 balance than other materials, such as aluminium. It is also able to be 100% recycled later in its life, and it is easy to repair. The e-bike has a GPS system and LED light – it is both modern and prepared for city life. ‘Top Dog’ is functional and aesthetically pleasing. The brand not only uses sustainable materials, but also ensures fair payment for its employees – they insist that this is equally as important as climate protection. In order to entirely rule out the issue of overproduction, this forward-thinking brand produces their e-bikes exclusively to order, which means no production waste. With elegance and sustainability foregrounded, it is clear to see why Urwahn became a winner of this award. 



Vello won the German Sustainability Award for their folding bike. The bike is sturdy and secure, but can also be folded up within seconds, allowing users to travel easily with it on public transport. This means that more than one sustainable mode of transport can be used in a journey, without hassle. It is also made from reusable materials. The Vello bike can be purchased with or without an electric motor, but without, it stands at just 10kg. It is only about 3kg more with the addition of such a motor. This electric motor is seen as revolutionary. It can be easily replaced as it is located at the rear of the bike in a hub, and it uses Pedelec drive with energy recovery, which is KERS technology. This bike is both practical and sustainable.


+  Words: 

Emma Dahl
Luxiders Magazine