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Green Gown Award 2015 Winners Announced

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With the City of Bristol the 2015 European Green Capital and the Awards being hosted at Brunel’s Old Station, one of the oldest train stations in the world, there was no better place to celebrate these remarkable initiatives.

The 11th Green Gown Awards saw over 320 sustainability leaders join in the celebration of awarding sustainability excellence within tertiary education announcing 16 Winners and 22 Highly Commended, culminating with live video streaming of the International Green Gown Awards crowning a 3 further International Winners.

The evening was hosted by Dr Andrew Garrad (pictured), Chairman of Bristol 2015 European Green Capital. Andrew is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and is an Honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford. “I am delighted that, towards the end of our year as European Green Capital, Bristol hosted the Green Gown Awards. These Awards recognise the important role that academic institutions play in ensuring that young people have a proper understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities presented by sustainability.”

Each year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector and this year was no exception. The Student Engagement Award – supported by the Scottish Funding Council – saw Edinburgh College pick up a win not only in the UK Awards but also in the International Awards. Their project “Edinburgh Community Gardens and Orchards” has built up two thriving community gardens at opposite ends of the city of Edinburgh, and is also in the process of developing four community orchards.

On their achievement, Annette Bruton, Principal and Chief Executive says “When the Community Gardens project began we didn’t necessarily understand how strong an effect it would have on engaging students, in giving them new skills, confidence and an education in sustainability. We are very proud to win this Green Gown Award as it demonstrates how sustainable practices can provide powerful learning experiences.”

The worthy winner of the Leadership Award – which is exclusive to senior strategic leadership at a tertiary education institution and recognises individuals at the most senior level – went to Dr Jane Davidson, University of Wales Trinity St David for establishing the INSPIRE project which delivers educational pathways promoting learning, environmental and social responsibility and meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. “This win is such a prestigious accolade and it acknowledges our commitment to sustainability as one of our core values and most importantly it celebrates the excellent and inspiring work of colleagues and students across the University’s campuses.” Says their Vice-Chancellor, Professor Medwin Hughes DL.

Guests at the prestigious black tie ceremony included university and college representatives from across the UK, joined by leading figures from institutions such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE), Association of Colleges (AoC), Higher Education Academy (HEA) and The Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA) to commend visionary projects which are pushing the sustainable good practice boundaries.

Organised and delivered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), Chief Executive Iain Patton describes the importance of the Green Gown Awards, “Every year the Green Gown Awards rewrite what business as usual looks like for UK universities and colleges.  Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for their hard work. It was wonderful to celebrate their successes in Bristol.”

The evening finale saw the UK Winners from the three international categories: Community Innovation; Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change, and Student Engagement going head-to-head with the winners from Australasia and the French speaking regions including Canada, for the coveted International Green Gown Awards. Winners were announced via live video streaming by two of the Awards’ delivery partners; Pauline Pingusson from Campus Responsables and Iain Patton from the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.

De Montfort University (UK) won the Community Innovation Award with “OASYS South Asia” and their inspiring project providing solar energy opportunities to off-grid rural communities; Université Laval(Canada) was awarded the Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change Award for their community-wide approach and vision of sustainable development and Edinburgh College (UK) won the Student Engagement Award with their thriving community gardens project showing strong commitment, great curriculum links and offering a big impact and outreach.

A snapshot of some of the winning entries include:

The Carbon Reduction Award – supported by SALIX Finance – awarded to Dundee and Angus College for their project “Reducing Carbon CO2 – it’s in our D&A”, saving the planet, saving cash, shrinking the College’s carbon footprint whilst, at the same time, stimulating staff and learners’ imagination in terms of sustainability.

The Community Innovation Award which also scooped the International Award too – supported by InnuScience – awarded to De Montfort University for their project “OASYS South Asia – solar energy providing opportunities to off-grid rural communities”. The inspiring project undertook demonstrations of off-grid options using solar PV-based mini/micro grid systems at four locations in India, providing access to basic lighting and mobile phone charging facilities as well as supporting use of electricity for productive, educational, and social purposes.

Enterprise and Employability – supported by the Higher Education Academy – awarded to The University of Nottingham for their initiative “Enactus Nottingham” where students are given a platform to create social enterprises focused around solving large economic, environmental and social problems.

And the Sustainability Champion Student Award – supported by The Energy Consortium – went to Charlotte Rebekah Instone, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. With judges commenting “Charlotte shows incredible drive and passion for sustainability setting up the sustainability society, an ethical fashion brand and running an amazing number of events all while undertaking her degree! We need to replicate Charlotte!”

The Green Gown Awards 2015 Winners’ Brochure and International Winners’ Brochure incorporating all this year’s Winning, Highly Commended and Finalists’ entries can be found on the Green Gown Awards website.

Editors Choice

2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage

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Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/droidworker

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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