Four Colombian students were named the winners of the Biodesign Challenge for “Best Vegan Wool”, a prize endorsed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Stella McCartney, and Stray Dog Capital.
The award ceremony was held during the third edition of the Biodesign Challenge at the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, in New York City.
The students Ana Laura Andrade, Iván Caballero, Moises Hernández, and Manuel Ortiz, under the direction of Giovanna Danies and Luz Alba Gallo, and the collaboration of Carolina Obregón and Johann Osma, professors and researchers from the Universidad de los Andes, received the PETA Award which includes a visit to Stella McCartney’s headquarters in London.
The award-winning project is called WOOCOA and consists of vegan wool made of hemp and coconut fibers. For PETA Director of Corporate Affairs Anne Brainard, the product is an “eco-friendly, biofabricated material that will satisfy consumers”.
According to Plant Based News, WOOCOA team member Manuel Ortiz said that they worked with 114 plant fibers found in Colombian artisanal crafts in order to develop their product. The coconut fiber used to create the vegan wool, would have been an “agricultural waste product”, so the product can be eco-friendly solution to stop animal cruelty.
Ortiz also noted how the manufacturing of WOOCOA could help Colombian communities, especially by creating more job opportunities that can diminish the environmental impact from the textile industry. Since the vegan wool is made from hemp, this can be grown as a substitute for illegal crops on areas that were hurt by the struggle with the rebel group FARC, so in a way this was an opportunity for this group of students to offer an alternative towards a more peaceful nation.