More than 360 sustainability leaders were on the edge of their seats at The University of Manchester’s stunning Whitworth Hall in November, as author and TV presenter Simon Reeve announced the winners of this year’s Green Gown Awards. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Awards ceremony was the biggest and best yet with 15 winners, 25 highly commended and it also saw the crowning of its 100th winner.
The evening was hosted by adventure-loving presenter Simon Reeve, best known for his unique brand of documentary-making, combining travel and adventure with current affairs, history, wildlife, culture and conservation.
Every year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector. The event is organised and delivered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). Chief Executive Iain Patton said: “The ceremony was an excellent opportunity to celebrate all of those involved within universities and colleges that are working tirelessly to improve our world. Simon Reeve provided a global context to the impact that all of our actions have and illustrated just how important the work happening in universities and colleges is. It was fitting to be hosted by The University of Manchester for our 10th anniversary with such superb sustainable food.”
One of the night’s big winners was Plymouth University, taking home three Awards: Food and Drink, Enterprise, and Courses and Learning. “With our food and drink project, Local. Sustainable. Fresh. we are creating a sustainable food culture that supports local, sustainable and Fairtrade produce and suppliers,” explains Dr Samantha Price, Sustainability Manager at Plymouth University.
She adds: “This project involved taking a holistic look at the catering processes from sourcing through to disposal; increasing community access to fresh and healthy food; working across the city to support Food Plymouth and the Sustainable Food City agenda; and using the cafes as an informal education space.”
Plymouth also won in the inaugural Enterprise category, for the work on its Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE). Through the PDSE, students not only provide supervised NHS treatment to around 16,000 patients, but also go out into the community and work with local schools and voluntary organisations on a range of projects. Dr Price continues: “Dental education and treatment might not be the first thing you think about when the term ‘sustainability’ is mentioned, but a healthy community with a healthy workforce is a more sustainable one.”
It was also a successful night for London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL). UAL won the Technical Innovation for Sustainability category as well as being highly commended in the Sustainability Champion, Courses and Learning, and Enterprise categories and finalists in Social Responsibility, and Research and Development categories. A London College of Fashion representative said: “This national recognition demonstrates our commitment to sustainability as a college. This has spurred us on to take projects further, and gives additional weight when explaining our aims to colleagues.”
UAL’s winning project aimed to reduce energy consumption and improve safety in one of the University’s core areas of student delivery, the garment workshops. Students use industrial irons on a daily basis, but these were typically left on for long periods of the day even when not in use. Conventional timers on the market were not suitable and a bespoke device was created.
The representative adds: “For us, sustainability is all about taking a practical approach and engaging with staff, students, communities and businesses to find relevant solutions which our graduates can use to change industry for the better.”
Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) was awarded the Student Engagement accolade for its work on Met MUnch, a student-led enterprise which produces healthy, nutritious and functional food products and services. It also produces sustainability-focused engagement events and delivers creative training sessions.
“Met MUnch enhances student experience and confidence, whilst building employability skills, by proving them with real scenarios and a real business environment within which to work,” explains Haleh Moravej, Senior Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences, MMU.
She continues: “In doing so, it creates much needed added value for services offered within the University including catering, conferencing, residential services and sport. Met MUnch raises cultural awareness and the citizenship skills of students.”
The University also went on to win the International Winner for Student Engagement at the International Green Gown Awards (IGGA) in Tasmania, Australia. IGGA judges described the project as “a shining example of student engagement covering an ever widening range of activities”.
The University of Strathclyde took home the Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change award, making it the 100th Green Gown Award winner.
The University was congratulated for its ambitious ‘Sustainable Strathclyde’ strategy which includes an aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“I am delighted Strathclyde has won this prestigious award which recognises the significant achievements delivered through our Sustainable Strathclyde Strategy. This award recognises the hard work of the entire university community,” said Dean Drobot, Energy and Environment Manager at the University of Strathclyde.
The Green Gown Awards are an inspiration, not only to the education sector, but to all organisations, showing documented evidence that by working together, a huge impact can be achieved. As Neil Pemberton, Director of Specialist Sales at BT, said: ‘At BT, we use the power of communications to make a better world, so it was an honour for BT to be the headline sponsor of the 10th anniversary year of the Awards. Sustainability is steadily increasing in importance for institutions in terms of their financial and operational performance, and these Awards are testimony to that.’
Next year’s Awards open on 1 May 2015. For more information about the Awards, visit www.greengownawards.org.uk. All of the good practice from this year’s Awards will be added to the bank of 2011-2013 videos and case studies on the Sustainability Exchange (www.sustainabilityexchange.ac.uk) in the new year and disseminated far and wide.
To see the full list of winners and highly commended, visit: www.greengownawards.org.uk