March 26, 2008 Ecologically-Engineered Plastic Bag Wins $5,000 Degenkolb Sustainability Challenge San Francisco, CA

Degenkolb Engineers wrote a check today for $5,000 to Bay Localize, a San Francisco Bay Area non-profit designated by the winner of the 2008 “Sustainability Challenge,” an environmentally friendly design competition.

This year’s award went to a self-employed structural engineer Kate Stillwell for designing a handbag and hat made from recycled plastic bags. She made both items by fusing together 16 plastic bags to create a sheet of stiffer plastic, then molding the fused bags into useful shapes that she finished with a zipper and handle. Stillwell’s design provides a second use for plastic bags, a product often criticized by environmental groups.

Degenkolb’s competition awards the prize money to a non-profit of the winner’s choosing. “We challenged people to reuse plastic bags creatively and reduce the demand for new ones. Among the entries we received, we were most impressed by Stillwell’s thoughtful and creative design,” said Degenkolb Engineers CEO Chris Poland.

Stillwell chose to direct the prize to Bay Localize, an Oakland-based non-profit dedicated to ecological sustainability, after her engineering firm collaborated with the organization on a sustainability study. She was inspired by Bay Localize’s purpose. “I think their work has the potential to make a big impact,” she said. “In my own life, I try to do little things to make a difference, but the most important decision I’ve made is buying a house within walking distance to everything I do.”

Last year, Degenkolb Engineers established a sustainability committee within its organization to help direct “green” operations within its practice and to develop sustainable projects for its clients. “We are committed to being a valuable asset to the communities where we work, and to the people that we serve,” said Poland.