Clean and green: top themes for NewDay Challenge

April 19, 2012 5:43 AM

Keith Brannon

Soap for a cause and eco-friendly Mardi Gras throws were winning ideas in the 2012 NewDay Social Innovation Challenge, an annual contest designed to spur social ventures spearheaded by Tulane students.


Graduate student Anne Rolfes, right, wins $10,000 for Mardi Gras Made in New Orleans, a company that plans to make carnival throws from recycled materials. (Photos by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)


Undergraduate Melanie Barlow makes a winning pitch for SUDZ, a social entrepreneurial venture that won $5,000 in the challenge.

The NewDay Challenge, which is in its third year, helps social innovators develop their ideas in the hopes of winning seed money to get their ventures off the ground.

International Development graduate student Anne Rolfes won $10,000 for Mardi Gras Made in New Orleans. The company plans to make and sell carnival throws out of recycled materials and use the income to support the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental nonprofit Rolfes founded.

Most Mardi Gras krewes buy cheap plastic trinkets and beads that are made in China. Rolfes thinks there’s a great opportunity for parade organizations to spend money locally and use products that won’t harm the environment. “We want to make Mardi Gras throws that are good for people, good for the environment and that won’t hurt when you try to catch them!”

Rolfes hopes to use the prize money to start production in time for next year’s Carnival.  

Undergraduates Melanie Barlow, Alexandra Russell and Winnie Pritchett won $5,000 for SUDZ, a social entrepreneurial venture designed to address public health concerns in disadvantaged populations. The team wants to sell soap to customers in the United States and use the funds to send soap to Haitian refugee camps and rural villages in India. Part of the revenue from each bar will go into a rainy day fund if there’s another natural disaster in New Orleans.

“The NewDay Challenge provides a unique funding opportunity for students, and it’s exciting to see as the program grows that innovative ideas are coming from all across the university,” said Stephanie Barksdale, special assistant for social innovation to Tulane President Scott Cowen.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000