Since returning from World Environment Day in Italy I have been keeping busy with work and other fun activities, and suddenly I am one of those bloggers who hasn't posted anything for four months!
So here is a quick wrap up from my time at the Expo Milano for WED2015 all the way back in June.
A highlight of my time at World Environment Day was meeting the wonderful Margaret Badore of TreeHugger. She gave me some great insights into the world of an environmental journalist, as well as being super friendly. Of course, being a professional journalist, she was far more prompt than I am in writing about her experiences of World Environment Day and Expo Milano over at TreeHugger. She even featured some of my photos here and here!
It was very exciting to see my work published on the official UNEP website. I will repost my posts on Wonderfully Green so that they don't get lost in the big tangle of the internet once next year's competition rolls around. Here they are:
Although it wasn't quite what I had expected, being part of the UNEP delegation at the Expo was an interesting experience and I feel very fortunate to have been selected as the blog competition winner.
UNEP WED2015 Post 2 of 2 - This post was originally published on the UNEP website, I wrote it in my role as the official blogger for World Environment Day in 2015
The World Environment Day celebrations at the Milan Expo were a journey through sustainability initiatives, from the ultra modern – an electric tesla car – to traditional zero-waste cooking classes.
For UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Yaya Touré and Executive Director Achim Steiner, the day commenced in style with a ride in a Tesla. Their trip to the Expo continued in a Fiat Panda, which had been retrofitted with an electric drivetrain. UNEP powered the vehicles with 100% renewable electricity in order to minimise the environmental impact of the journey. Steiner valued the importance of the Fiat retrofit in providing a second life for an old car, while Touré was a particular fan of the driving capability of the Tesla.
But this wasn’t the only reason Touré said he needs a new car. Touré is passionate about the need to reduce the air pollution resulting from our reliance on fossil fuel cars, having experienced first-hand the health and environmental impacts. Aware of his influence as an example to young people, Touré identified the need to reduce the impact of his car usage. Hopefully Toure’s one action will inspire many others to reconsider the role of fossil fuel transport in their own lives. While purchasing an electric car may not be realistic for many, bringing this issue to the forefront on World Environment Day may encourage people to consider other options such as walking, cycling and public transport.
The World Environment Day opening ceremony emphasised the need for everyday actions like this to work in tandem with policy actions. The main policy outcome from World Environment Day and the Milan Expo is the Charter of Milan. Based around the Expo theme of “feeding the planet, energy for life”, the Charter of Milan identifies and addresses the main issues surrounding sustainable resource use. Steiner and the Italian Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti signed the Charter during the World Environment Day activities, calling on individuals, organisations and governments to take responsibility to ensure the sustainability of food systems in providing for future generations.
The World Environment Day activities were not just policy-related, there was also the opportunity for some practical learning during the sustainable cooking demonstrations and classes. The focus of the program was the reduction of food waste, which currently impacts the adequate provision of food around the world. During the World Environment Day opening ceremony José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the UN FAO, highlighted that around 1/3 of all food produced is wasted. Rich countries waste as much food as is produced in the entire sub-Saharan region.
The cooking classes aimed to educate children on how food can be prepared to ensure minimal wastage. Touré and Steiner participated alongside Italian schoolchildren in the class in Milan, making a traditional Italian dish - ravioli. This dish was selected as leftover vegetables can be used to in the filling. Unfortunately due to practical constraints, the ravioli made during the class was made with zucchini and ricotta rather than leftovers, but the education outcomes for participants remained.
The same activity was undertaken simultaneously in Nairobi, where the UNEP headquarters is located. Children in Nairobi learnt to make samosas, a traditional Kenyan dish, which also can use leftover vegetables for filling. These sessions were facilitated by talented members of the Slow Food movement, a grassroots organisation which aims to encourage interest in the origins and impact of food.
One of the main things I learnt by attending the World Environment Day celebrations was that, as Steiner emphasised, it is not really about just one day on June 5. The real importance of World Environment Day is its role in recognising positive action for the environment which happens every day of the year. It celebrates the importance of every day actions for the environment by people, organisations and governments. Being a professional environmental engineer, it makes me excited to get back to work on Monday and make a difference!
UNEP WED2015 Post 1 of 2 - This post was originally published on the UNEP website, I wrote it in my role as the official blogger for World Environment Day in 2015
Wandering around the World Expo in Milan is a bit like playing “spot the neat sustainability feature”. Some are massive and obvious, like the US Pavilion kitchen garden façade. Some are only revealed when you seek out the sustainability exhibit in the corner, like the photo-catalytic tiles at the New Holland agriculture pavilion. And some are just plain quirky. A highlight of the Expo were the traditional Estonian kiik swings which could generate up to 5 watts of electricity, enough to power a mobile phone!
The sustainability initiatives of the Expo itself echo the aims of World Environment Day – to increase awareness around reducing consumption. The “Towards a Sustainable Expo” provides recognition of sustainable design and practices at the Expo. Among all the countries participating, Mexico and Ireland were identified as leaders in having integrated sustainability into their pavilion design and materials. The program involved the evaluation of participants in the preliminary and definitive design phases of the pavilions, undertaken by the Politecnico di Milano.
This program has successfully improved sustainability outcomes – with 60% of participants installing solar photovoltaic cells, 80% reducing their air-conditioning requirements and 50% installing more than the required amount of green roofing. Given the temporary nature of the Expo, a particular focus was placed on the “second life” or the use of the pavilion after the Expo. Of the 74 program participants, 29 have plans to reuse the entire pavilion after the Expo, with many others planning to reuse part of the pavilion.
Not so obviously promoted were the sustainability features of the Expo more broadly. A chat with the Expo Sustainability Director provided insight into some of the initiatives. The separated waste collection was evidently effective, with clearly labelled bins allowing patrons to easily place their waste in the correct location. Much of the packaging used by caterers was biodegradable or recyclable. Through these initiatives, the Expo is currently diverting 60% of waste from landfill, with a goal to increase it to 70% over the course of the Expo. Organic waste is collected by neat bicycle couriers and composted locally in Milan.
Though pavilions are temporary, the voluntary pavilion sustainability design guidelines encouraged efficient design in order to reduce energy consumption. Most pavilions reduced electricity consumption through the use of LED lighting. Passive designs were also adopted in many pavilions, reducing the requirement for air-conditioning. Notable in this area was the Bahrain Pavilion, which was mostly open to the air but channelled cooling breezes through the space.
Perhaps one of the most secret sustainability initiatives was the water refill stations. Hidden away towards the back of pavilions, they were impossible to locate without consulting a map. But finding one was like an oasis! The taps provided refreshing chilled still and sparkling water, easily removing the need to purchase single-use plastic bottles of water. It’s just a pity we didn’t realise they existed earlier, or I might have avoided heat exhaustion on our first day at the expo.
Last but not least, food! Given the theme of the Expo – “feeding the planet, energy for life”, many stalls had a focus on sustainable food production. This was often (rather deliciously) integrated into the pavilion itself. There were numerous green walls, terrace gardens, innovative growing systems and plain old garden beds located around the Expo. These provide great examples of how food can be produced sustainably and locally. Unfortunately, due to Italian Government regulations, none of the food grown onsite can be sold for consumption due to hygiene and food safety reasons. But this doesn’t stop pavilion staff (and sneaky bloggers) from sampling some of the delicious produce.
The integration of these sustainability features into the Expo meant that it provided an ideal backdrop to the World Environment Day celebrations. Not only did the pavilions exhibit ideas for sustainable food consumption, but also the pavilions and the Expo were in themselves prototypes for sustainable development.
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My name is Kara and I created this blog as a way to document all the lovely aspects of sustainability. You can find out more on my About page.
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