On the eve of International Mother Earth Day, the winner of the Environmental Prize of Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum and Dana Gedvila Fund (EUR 5,000) was announced. This year, the committee elected researcher and inventor Prof. Dr. Tatjana Paulauskienė as the winner of the Prize. She was nominated by the Faculty of Marine Technology and Natural Sciences of Klaipėda University.
The Prize is awarded to Paulauskienė for the development of innovative and environmentally friendly technologies for cleaning oil pollutants from water, as well as for ecological education of the public, and for achievements and leadership in the field of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Paulauskienė is a professor and senior researcher at Klaipėda University and the founder and CEO of the university’s start-up/spin-off company Inobiostar, established in 2020. The fast-growing company provides ecological research and experimental development services, helps find and implement unconventional and environmentally friendly solutions, commercialises developed products, and offers consulting services. Inobiostar, together with Klaipėda University, is developing deep tech innovations in the field of blue growth to counteract the effects of oil spills at sea.
According to Paulauskienė, the Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas in the world. “It is quite enclosed, the water renews very slowly – around 3% per year – so all the pollution is accumulated and stays for a long time. Furthermore, the Baltic Sea is a fairly busy shipping area, with oil and petroleum products being one of the main cargoes transported. We also have a number of oil terminals where spills can occur. In such an environmentally sensitive region, only environmentally friendly solutions should be used,” says the researcher. According to Paulauskienė, oil is one of the most widespread pollutants in the oceans. “Around 3 million tonnes of oil pollute our oceans every year. During an oil spill, all local businesses, including sailing, fishing, and tourism, as well as industries that rely on fresh seawater, are shut down and cannot resume their activities until the water is cleaned. We believe that innovations with exceptional features will have a positive impact on society and will significantly contribute to the recovery of local business,” says Paulauskienė.
According to the researcher, the President Valdas Adamkus Prize is very important for protecting and restoring the natural environment and ensuring the sustainability of resources. “I feel elated and happy to be the winner of this Prize. I am very proud of myself and my team and the work we do to ensure a sustainable future. We have been actively working on green and blue growth innovations for the past few years, and we are delighted to have been recognised outside Lithuania as well – we have just received a grant from the Horizon Europe’s Women TechEU programme. Both of these awards will make a significant contribution to the implementation of the innovations being developed. I believe that with joint efforts we will create a clean and safe environment, and in 20 years’ time the Baltic Sea will be healthy, connecting regions and ensuring the well-being of people,” says Paulauskienė.
The award ceremony will take place on 5 June, the World Environment Day. The Prize to Paulauskienė is planned to be presented by President Valdas Adamkus.
The founders of the Prize and the committee are pleased that the environmental awareness of the Lithuanian society is growing and that activities beneficial to the environment are being more and more widely taken into consideration. This year, 18 nominations were received in all four categories: for social activities, policy decisions (at municipal level), scientific achievements, and initiatives in business. A total of 16 individuals were nominated.
Special attention from the committee and the founders of the Prize for outstanding achievements was given to Algirdas Reipas, Head of the Alytus Regional Waste Management Centre, Rūta Baškytė, a long-standing Director of the State Service for Protected Areas, Tauragė city municipality, which has set ambitious goals to become an environmentally neutral city by 2030, as well as Alina Andronova (Klaipedian Initiative for Democracy and the Environment) and Žymantas Morkvėnas (Baltic Environmentalal Forum), who always have strong support from the public and NGOs and who work for environmental protection.
The winner of the Prize was elected by a committee made up of professionals from different fields: Prof. Birutė Galdikas (distinguished Lithuanian Canadian anthropologist and ecologist, VMU Honorary Doctor), Dr. Nerijus Jurkonis (Director of VMU Botanical Garden and teacher at VMU Department of Environmental Sciences), Dr. Visvaldas Varžinskas (Director of KTU Centre for Packaging Innovations and Research), Donatas Puslys (journalist and Head of Media and Democracy Programme at Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis), member of the European Commission Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries), and Arūnas Antanaitis (Head of the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum).
Nominal President’s Prize – to give meaning to and encourage environmental solutions
Gabrielius Gedvila, who lives in the USA, a long-time friend of Valdas Adamkus and head of his election headquarters when Adamkus ran for the Board of Trustees of the Sanitary District of Chicago in 1968, is convinced that environmental protection was, is and will remain a global problem that requires special attention; therefore, in order to give meaning and attention to achievements in environmental protection in Lithuania as well as to honour the memory of his late wife, he set up a 100,000 dollar fund, which will be allocated for the President Valdas Adamkus – his friend, a well-known environmentalist and the President of the country – Prize.
The Prize of the Presidential Library and Dana Gedvila Fund has been awarded since 2021 for laudable and noteworthy achievements and efforts to protect and restore the natural environment in Lithuania and its neighboring countries, and to ensure the sustainability of resources. The Prize will continue to welcome submissions of research and inventions, civic activities, individuals and organizations that draw attention to nature protection and encourage action, as well as political decisions or business initiatives that encourage a more sustainable development and a cleaner future by inventing or adopting the most advanced solutions.
In 2021, Mindaugas Survila, the director of the documentary film Sengirė, was the first winner of the renewed President Valdas Adamkus Prize. In 2022, the second winner of the Prize was Giedrius Bučas – the founder of the social initiative “Kūrybos kampas 360°” (Creative Corner 360°), change leader, social activist, social entrepreneur, and initiator of the sustainable hike around the country “Už švarią Lietuvą!” (For a Clean Lithuania!) in 2020.