The German Environmental Award, worth €500,000, is given out annually for achievements supporting environmental protection.
German President Christian Wulff presented the award in Stuttgart Sunday to 81-year-old Joachim Alfred Wünning and his son Joachim Georg Wünning from WS Wärmeprozesstechnik, as well as Jürgen Schmidt at the memo AG company.
“With your innovations, you have not simply improved details, but have set new standards as well,” Wulff said at the award ceremony.
The Wünnings came up with a new technology that could be used in high-temperature processes such as steel manufacturing and creating glass.
Called FLOX (flameless oxidation), it and saves 20 to 50 percent of energy compared with typical combustion procedures in industrial furnaces. This reduces the amount of nitrogen oxides produced, which can contribute to smog formation.
Schmidt's memo AG sells sells ecologically friendly products for the school, home and office.
The products, which include everything from paper to office furniture, have to be made from ecologically sustainable materials by workers being paid a living wage under the standards Schmidt set.
Previous winners of the prize handed out since 1993 include Michael Otto, the head of the Otto Group, which is the world's largest mail order company, and Loki Schmidt, the wife of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. She founded several environmental initiatives before her death in 2010.
Hubert Weinzierl, the chairman of German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), said this year's winners demonstrated the necessity of finding new ways to be energy efficient.
“We have to reduce. We need a culture of frugality, of modesty,” he said.