Education proving its value to the economy and society: From seawater greenhouses to tackling violence against womenWritten by Anjali Dattani
The 14th edition of the prestigious Green Gown Awards Ceremony gathered 87 finalist institutions in 12 different categories for an unforgettable evening on Thursday 8th November. Representing over 1 million students, 172,000 staff and a combined annual turnover of £15 billion, these institutions are proving their value to the economy and society. Organised by the EAUC, the Ceremony was held in the home of iconic locomotives and engineering brilliance, The National Railway Museum in York in conjunction with the University of York and York St John University.
Showing institutions are not bound around a specific theme or size when it comes to exceptional initiatives, winners ranged from Stockport Continuing Education Service to Glasgow Kelvin College to the University of Edinburgh with projects as diverse as health and wellbeing opportunities for individuals in recovery from addiction dependency to food waste behaviour change to sea water greenhouses with global impact.
The Awards saw guests from institutions, companies and organisations across the UK and Ireland come to celebrate the educational initiatives, staff, and students helping address some of the most pressing global challenges. For the second year running, finalists mapped their entry against the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most popular being ‘sustainable cities and communities’, ‘responsible consumption and production’ and ‘quality education’.
To keep everyone in suspense, for the first time ever attendees voted live for the winner of ‘Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year’. Driven by the motto: “Together everybody achieves more!” Keele University triumphed to win this accolade. Commenting on gaining two Awards on the night for Benefitting Society and Next Generation Learning and Skills, University of the Arts London Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Carrington said: "Winning two Green Gown Awards recognises and celebrates the fantastic sustainability work taking place within the UAL community. Our Sustainability Manifesto guides our focus through a holistic set of themes, increasing engagement with sustainability and catalysing progress within and beyond our institution."
University of Edinburgh received the Sustainability Institution of the Year Award for the continuous work to adopt a whole institution approach and become a more socially responsible and sustainable university. Professor Lesley McAra, Assistant Principal Community Relations said: “The efforts of our staff, students and partnership working are essential to deliver the programmes that will ensure we achieve our vision of being a socially responsible and sustainable university. Public recognition provides us with an opportunity to celebrate their enthusiasm and hard work.”
Iain Patton, CEO of the EAUC, co-hosted the ceremony alongside Helen Browning OBE, CEO of the Soil Association. Opening the awards, Iain said: “Tonight’s celebration emphasises the role of education in enabling and empowering young people to tackle the pressing global issues we are all facing. In their commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, universities and colleges across the UK and Ireland are proving that they are leading through their research, enterprise and education for the next generation that we need to provide the solutions.”
Helen Browning OBE, CEO of the Soil Association said: “Inspiring the next generation to take on the challenges of sustainability is an issue at the centre of my personal journey in food, farming and the environment so it’s wonderful to see the all the winners celebrated tonight. Food and how we produce it is at the heart of tackling many environmental challenges today so it’s also great to see the Soil Association accredit the award dinner menu through our Food for Life Served Here award.”
This year’s winners were as varied as ever. The Student Engagement Award went to Glasgow Kelvin College for their White Ribbon campaign to tackle gender violence against women on a global scale empowering staff and students to raise awareness of this societal challenge. Meanwhile, Aston University scooped the Research with Impact Award for their thorough study that has led to the development of cooling and desalination technologies to create seawater greenhouses that are enabling food to be grown sustainably in arid world regions. The Tomorrow’s Employees Award was claimed by University of Wales Trinity Saint David for their innovative approach to ensuring business graduates are equipped with skills and knowledge to become a part of the shaping of business thinking in the world for our next generations. The Campus of the Future Award went to Newcastle University for the building-as-a-lab (BaaL) concept dedicated to innovative and interdisciplinary sustainability research which stands as an exemplar for a lower carbon age. The building features a heating system fed by heat pumps, grid-integrated energy storage, photovoltaic (PV) and PV-thermal arrays.
The winners of Benefitting Society, Student Engagement and Sustainability Institution of the Year now go head to head with other global regional winners for the coveted International Green Gown Awards.