Vaughan Campbell and his Good Bones distillery have taken out the inaugural Innovate Whanganui competition.
Five judges and 50 guests filled the function room at Frank Bar on Thursday night to hear the top seven's final pitches.
The Dragon's Den-style competition, a partnership between Whanganui and Partners and The Factory in Palmerston North, began with 60 initial submissions in April.
During his five minute speech, Campbell outlined his plan of how a Friday night drink could help the environment.
He intends to create Whanganui's first "sustainable, locally sourced eco-distillery".
A primary ingredient for his vodka will be surplus baked goods otherwise destined for landfill.
"I will produce a premium craft vodka with an emphasis on recycling, a bottle return programme, and a wax seal so there's no single-use plastic.
"The plan is to become certified carbon neutral.
"At the moment, we don't have any eco-friendly options at the bottle store. I will change that."
The methane created by rotting food was 84 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide, Campbell said.
The judges for the final were Anti-Flamme developer Paul Jeffrey, Local and Loyal New Zealand founder Paula Fore, Toha NZ director Sharon Bryant, Westpac Area Business Development Manager Maori - Iwi Kemp Dryden, and AWA Private Equity director Andra Lazarescu.
An award-winning distiller with 13 years' experience, Campbell said the Good Bones moniker was a reference to an event that turned his life upside down a year and a half ago - he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
"This huge life event showed me that my life goals are worth pursuing sooner rather than later.
He wanted to leave a legacy that his children would be proud of, and consequently leave a better environment for their children as well.
Other finalists on Thursday included Sarah Stephens and Sam Duncan (Impact dog food), Ben Blain (the WellStream app), Mike Petersen (Ecowears), Tim Richardson and Brad Kirkland (Ecohousing Limited) and Stephen Tier (Wandaclean).
Lauren Peat's bariatric coaching initiative was awarded an advertising prize valued at $1000.
Addressing the finalists, Kemp Dryden said deciding on a winner had been very difficult, "to say the least".
The Factory's Innovate initiative had been running for 10 years, and it was the first time in its history that there hadn't been a unanimous decision on a victor.
"You didn't make it easy, and rightfully so," Dryden said.
"There can only be one winner, but you're all winners in our eyes.
"Please continue to strive, because we'd all love to see your businesses to their potential and to where your aspiration is."
Campbell told the Chronicle that winning the $10,000 cash prize was an absolute surprise.
"I'm completely blown away," Campbell said.
"It's going to be a massive help in getting things out there in the next couple of months.
"I can't thank Whanganui and Partners, The Factory, and my mentors enough. They've turned my tiny little idea into a full-fledged business model."
Campbell said he wanted to get the distillery up and running as soon as possible, and with the help of medication, his cancer diagnosis was now under control.
"Tomorrow I'll have a rest, then it's back into planning and back on the horse."
Whanganui and Partners strategic lead for business, Tim Easton, said there would be another Innovate competition in 2022.