In addition to hosting the prize ceremonies for LIFE's Best Projects, celebrating LIFE's 20 Years birthday, discussing LIFE's contributions to EU water policy and hearing about the most up to date news on the next LIFE programme, Green Week 2012 also provided a high profile international platform to showcase a range of different LIFE projects.
A keen interest was shown in LIFE by a large part of the 3000 strong audience of Green Week participants. Much of this attention was received by the diversity of LIFE projects that were featured throughout the three days of Green Week events. Several dozen LIFE projects received recognition during Green Week. These included projects in the winning LIFE 20 Years photo and writing competitions, all of this year’s LIFE Nature and LIFE Environment ‘Best’ projects, as well as the LIFE project good practices that were mentioned in the Green Week presentation about LIFE contributions to water policy.
In addition, a number of other LIFE projects participated in the Green Week exhibition. All of the LIFE projects exhibiting at Green Week were active in water-related sectors and the project representatives benefitted from the event’s high EU profile, as well as its excellent networking opportunities.
Talking to LIFEnews during Green Week, Roberta Trovarelli from the LIFE AQUA project explained that, “Our project is focused on improving the water efficiency of agri-food processing industries in Italy and we wanted to come to Green Week to get in touch with other projects in this field of work. We have already made some contacts such as a Swedish farmers’ association who are interested in our project so we could make some useful information exchanges.”
Mauro Bigi from the LIFE AQUA project continues noting that, “Part of our project involves disseminating our results so it would be good if we could use what we learn to help Swedish farmers and food producers become more water efficient. We of course could also learn from them. Another benefit from our being here at Green Week is that we are able to hear from presentations to find out what is happening with the future of LIFE and water legislation. This information will help us align our activities in ways that fits with the types of approaches that can help us continue and build on our water efficiency work.”
Sabrina Luise from LIFE AQUA highlighted the type of messages that their project had been able to disseminate to the Green Week delegates and she said, “We believe that cooperative approaches like ours can encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. This year 2012 has been dedicated by the United Nations as the international year for cooperative enterprises, and since our LIFE project involves working closely with cooperatives in the agri-food sector to assist their competitiveness through improved environmental sustainability, we are contributing to the goals of the UN year.”
LIFE’s Water Research to Market project, a French initiative managed by the Office International de l'Eau, also attracted good levels of interest as described by Silviu Lăcătuşu from the project. “Our Green Week presence has boosted our EU image and allowed us to promote the projects that we are working with in the water sector. We are encouraging people to learn about our approach, and to be open to new ideas like the technologies that we are taking forward through our project. We have had interest from a range of Green Week delegates coming from countries like Spain, Germany, Italy and France.”
“These people are interested in the way that our LIFE project is bringing research results closer to market. We have identified project results that have been produced from different types of research funding and we help the project teams involved to bring these results closer to the market. We have developed a methodology to evaluate the ‘distance’ to the market for different projects. For project ideas that are suitable, we work together with the project teams to then prepare business cases to explain the path that a project has to follow and go through to reach market readiness.”
Highlighting the types of positives outcome emerging from LIFE’s support to this project, Mr Lăcătuşu tells how, “We have good hopes for our projects and for example one of the business cases has been prepared for a Romanian project involved in improving sewage sludge management. This has attracted interest from utility companies and we hope that commercial contracts will be signed by the end of the year for this project.”
LIFE’s role in conserving wetland species and habitats was demonstrated by the Belgian Triple E Pond area M-L LIFE project. Ophélie Eliat-Eliat from the project was eager to draw attention to her project’s good practices that were being developed with help from LIFE through landowner partnership approaches to nature conservation. “Our LIFE project is restoring ponds where Bittern and tree frogs live. These protected species both need different types of pond habitats. The LIFE project is being taken forward by the European Landowners Organisation because we need to involve landowners in the habitat restoration work.”
“This approach has been of interest to people here at Green Week. In fact someone just asked me how we were making our project a success. We think one of our biggest success factors is the way we merge three core objectives. These are education, economy and ecology. We call these the ‘3 Es’ and our partnership contains members from each of the 3Es. We have regular partnership meetings to find ways of balancing the 3Es in all the work that we do in restoring the pond habitats. We find that the landowners have been very willing to get involved and this has been helped by the LIFE project because it provided a reason for them to get involved in managing the ponds. Due to the project, the landowners who were involved at the start have been able to encourage more landowners to participate. We have attracted seven new landowners into the project and this means we can get more people engaged in our 3Es.”
In Finland, wetland wildlife and water environments on farms are a target for the PesticideLife project which was exhibiting at Green week. Aino-Maija Mustalahti from the project was happy with the delegate interest shown in PesticideLife. She had been busy explaining the project’s aim and actions to different people saying, “We are seeking solutions for securing cleaner water systems using integrated pest management (IPM). We have nine demonstration farms in three areas of Finland. Each farm has chosen different types of IPM techniques that they want to test on their farm. These tests include IPM approaches such as crop rotation, different types of tilling, and using hardy or pest resistant crops. Our demonstration farms are also involved in testing new approaches for monitoring pest problems and measuring impacts of IPM techniques on local water systems.”
Irmeli Markkula from PesticideLife emphasised that, “Finland is known as the land of the thousand lakes and so this type of project is very important for Finland. Our LIFE project is feeding into a national action plan for IPM and the results of this project will be useful to help expand IPM approaches throughout Finland. We are using the pilot sites to show farmers the importance of looking after the quality of their raw materials, like water, in order to safeguard the future productivity of their land. We find that farmers understand this and another important factor that we are showing them is that IPM can save them money.”
Information about environmental economics was one of the aspects of the Green Commerce LIFE project that Green Week participants wanted to know more about. Fidel Garcia Meseguer from the project says that, “At Green Week so far we have met a representative from another Spanish authority who is interested in our project. If we were not here at the Green Week exhibition we would not have had a chance to meet this other Spanish authority. They wanted information about our focus on minimising negative environmental impacts from small businesses in the retail sector.”
“We have developed a website which promotes the benefits to small retailers of resource-efficient approaches and we have an online self-assessment tool which looks at a shop’s consumption of water or energy and creation of waste etc. In addition we have advisors who can visit a shop to carry out an environmental audit and help the shop owners improve their environmental performance. Retailers find the service useful because it can help them make cost savings. We have guidance covering a variety of different ways that retailers can save money by making changes to the way they operate and they way they use resources. We can tell them how much money they will save for instance if they make different changes like changing the temperature setting on water systems, or using more daylight energy.”
One of the key project points that Mr Garcia Meseguer wanted to disseminate to Green Week delegates concerned his LIFE project’s certification scheme. “We are introducing a ‘Green Commerce’ label which shops can use to advertise their environmental credentials to customers. We have set minimum standards of environmental performance which shops need to meet and comply with to become credited with the ‘Green Commerce’ label.”
Commercial benefits linked to customer recognition of a company’s environmental credentials were some of the driving forces behind the LIFE Oxatan project, which was exhibiting at Green Week. Joaquin Ferrer Palacios from Oxatan told LIFEnews how, “Our project is demonstrating a new technology for leather tanneries as an alternative to traditional methods which use potentially hazardous agents like chromium salts. The LIFE Oxatan project involves testing the potential of a tanning compound known as oxazolidine which has a lower toxicity and so means the wastewater from tanneries using this product is easier and cheaper to treat.”
She went on to say, “This is the first time that this approach has been tested on a commercial scale. We carried out tests in the laboratory to start with and these proved to be positive so we worked with our partners in the project who are operating real-life tannery situations. We are now using the oxazolidine to produce leather footwear, upholstery and other leather products. Our work includes testing the resistance of the leather and the quality of the leather in these products to compare the overall effectiveness of our new tannery process against conventional approaches. Italy and Spain are very big producers of leather products and we have had interest from a number of companies in these countries who want to know more about how they can use the results of our LIFE project.”
Check out the official Green Week 2012 website for more information about all of the LIFE projects that were profiled during the event.