Green Week highlights need to use planet's resources more sustainably
The eighth edition of Green Week, the EU's biggest annual environmental event, which was held in Brussels from 3-6 June, drew more than 3,000 delegates to debate the latest developments and actions to protect the environment.
This year’s theme, ‘Only One Earth – Don’t Waste It’, examined how we can change our lifestyles and use the planet's scarce resources in a more sustainable way. There was a special focus on four areas – resources and waste management; sustainable consumption and production; nature and biodiversity; and climate change.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas highlighted the link between our lifestyles and environmental problems. "Our current patterns of consumption are unsustainable and are the root of environmental problems such as climate change," he said.
Mr Dimas warned about the consequences of inaction. "Things are going to get a lot worse if we don't change our ways," he remarked.
One crucial aspect he highlighted was the gap between words and actions. "Over 70% of Europeans say they are prepared to pay more for green products, yet only 17% of people actually buy these products when given a choice," he continued. He called for "inspiration and imagination" to solve the complex environmental problems facing the world.
Throughout the event, speakers from politics, business and non-governmental organisations drew attention to the opportunities that exist in finding green solutions. Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted the role of individuals: "Each one of us as individuals can make a difference and make a contribution to the solution," she said. "We can be the change we want to see."
Several sessions were devoted to how business can become greener, with speakers from large companies outlining the actions they were already taking and the opportunities that exist for the future. "We are aware of the consequences of climate change and the very real effects it has on the natural resources available," explained Chris Van Steenbergen, European President of Cadbury plc. "As a company, we can contribute to doing the right thing by using less energy, using more renewable energy, using less water and producing less packaging."
Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of the California-based not-for-profit organisation Global Footprint Network underlined the call for change towards a more sustainable use of resources. "It takes a year and three months to regenerate what humanity uses in one year," he said. "If everybody lived European lifestyles across the world, it would take two and a half planets, leaving nothing for other species."
In addition to conference discussions, Green Week hosted side events including several environmental award ceremonies, such as the biennial European Business Awards for the Environment, which were presented by Commissioner Dimas. These awards recognise 'the best of the best' eco-innovative companies which have already won prizes at the national level. Eleven companies from seven Member States were nominated out of 125 entries received, with one winner chosen from each of four categories.
Green Week also showcased environmental projects and technologies from around the EU.
Ocean tale wins schools film prize
At an award ceremony during Green Week, pupils from Ridgeway School, Plymouth (UK), received a European prize for their short film highlighting the dangers of climate change for the world’s oceans.
The winning film, entitled Our Coast, our Sea, OUR PLANET! features animated sea creatures telling of the changes that are happening in the oceans due to climate change and explaining what individuals can do to help the situation.
The team was up against winners of national competitions in France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. The entries from Greece and Italy received commendations from the judges.
EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Joe Borg presented the winning team with their prize – €5,000-worth of educational tools. "Your efforts give me real hope. We can all do our bit to save our beautiful but fragile marine eco-systems," he told the finalists. "This competition has proved that young people care about the environment."
Twelve-year-olds Merryn Louise Hunt and Katie Holmes, from the winning team, said they had wanted to speak out about climate change and show people how they can help prevent it.
Round-the-world yachtsman Mike Golding was a member of the competition jury. He praised the quality of entries and highlighted the seriousness of climate change. "Things on the oceans are changing fast. There are more icebergs on the water as ice sheets melt faster, and extreme weather events happen more often," he said. "We need to do something fast."
The competition started with a script-writing contest that drew entries from 53 classes from the participating countries, and involved more than 1,000 students in total. Eight national winners were selected to go on to make the short films featured in the final.
The competition was organised by EUR-OCEANS, an EU-funded network aimed at informing the public about the work of marine scientists. All of the films can be seen at EUR-OCEANS.