Cereplast, a company that uses corn, tapioca, potatoes and algae to produce compostable plastic resins, launched the “Make Your Mark” contest earlier this year to find a new symbol that will help consumers to identify products and packaging made from bioplastics. The company’s products are used worldwide as alternatives to petroleum-based plastics in such industries as packaging, automotive and cosmetics.

Howard learned of “Make Your Mark” from fine arts instructor Leslie Friesen.

“It’s pretty awesome that she won,” Friesen said, “I’m thrilled for her.”

Friesen said that she often gets notices about competitions but doesn’t always forward them to her students.

“This one seemed worthy.”

Howard agreed.

“I wanted to enter this competition because of the cause attached to it,” Howard said. “Being passionate about sustainability, I was excited to have the chance to be a part of something will hopefully play a big role in reducing our dependency on petroleum-based products. And as a college student, the prize money was an attraction, as well.”

Howard received $25,000 from Cereplast on April 21 at a gala event in Los Angeles.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based company patterned its contest after a 1970 competition that produced the recycling symbol. Cereplast received more than 1,500 designs. Public online voting narrowed the field to 200, and a panel of judges, including the creator of the recycling symbol, selected the top three.

Howard was the only student among the finalists.

“For my design I wanted to convey the idea that something strong and structural like plastic could come from a plant source,” Howard said. “I chose the hexagon to symbolize the plastic element, and the leaves symbolize the plant source. In pairing them together, I wanted to convey that it’s possible for two seemingly opposite elements (nature and technology) to be connected.”

“Her design has substance and mass to it,” Friesen said, noting that it will work well being stamped into bioplastic. “She did a really nice, simple mark that is going to work effectively.”

Howard has a degree in sociology from UofL and plans to graduate in spring 2012 with a second degree in fine arts. She said she wants to continue to design and “hopefully use design to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

“This will help tremendously. Aside from the money, this is giving me exposure which is priceless. I am also happy that this will give the bioplastic industry exposure, as well.”