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Contributions to sustainability recognised at inaugural UNESCO Biosphere Awards

Monday, 8 October 2018

Contributions towards the Island’s sustainability were recognised at the first UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man Awards, held today (Monday).

Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, presented awards for Education and Public Awareness, Energy, Environment and Economic Sustainability.

Contributions to sustainability recognised at inaugural  UNESCO Biosphere Awards

The Isle of Man is the only entire nation Biosphere under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.

The Minister told the awards ceremony at Legislative Buildings:

‘At the heart of our Biosphere accreditation is sustainability of all the things we hold dear on the Isle of Man.

‘Our Biosphere status reflects the fact that our outstanding natural environment is interwoven with our durable and stable economy, our incredibly strong sense of community and with the rich culture and heritage that have shaped us as a nation over generations.

‘UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme celebrates just that – our human empathy with, enjoyment of and care for our immediate environment.’

He said:

‘All of us here today have two things in common – our love of this wonderful Island and a desire to ensure its long term success and sustainability.

‘These awards demonstrate that we can work together to achieve this under the umbrella of our unique Biosphere status.’

Announcing the awards, the Minister said:

We are delighted that in their first year, the awards attracted 30 entries, making our judges’ task very difficult indeed.’

Awards went to:

Education and public awareness: Knockaloe Beg Farm

Qualified teachers John and Fiona Anderson put education at their heart of their 200-acre operation and host ‘open farm’ days, school visits and birthday parties, passing on their passion for the environment, agriculture and community and how they work together in our Biosphere.

Energy: the Western Civic Amenity Site

Among many environmental initiatives, the site has installed money-saving solar power and solar thermal heating systems, low energy lighting throughout the site, including floodlighting, and electric vehicles. It also has a portable solar system for use at community events.

Environment: Beach Buddies

The charity, founded 11 ago by Bill Dale BEM, cleans marine litter from beaches Island wide thanks to its 10,000 volunteers and works to change attitudes, delivering education messages to the entire community, including schools. Beach Buddies has received international recognition and media coverage.

Economic sustainability: Flo the Coffee Van

Annabel and Stuart Gentry have grown their four year old outdoor catering business, based in a restored 1968 Citroen HY van, supporting local producers and suppliers, minimising waste and avoiding any plastics, collaborating with local artisans, supporting charities, ensuring a sustainability theme to their first outdoor festival, held in August 2018, and even operating a cycling team.

The winners received unique awards: hand-crafted in local larch wood by a skilled member of staff at the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture’s sawmill, Dave Newsham.

Pupils from Dhoon Primary School – which held an innovative ‘Bright Futures’ conference this year to consider environmental challenges – made a video of the event.

A thought-provoking film of a dance performed by Queen Elizabeth II High School students on Peel beach, highlighting the threat to the environment posed by single-use plastics, was screened.

The awards also featured an interview with Adam Henson, presenter of BBC1’s Countryside programme and a guest at the recent Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival, in which he praised UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man, saying:

‘It is wonderful to be able to connect productivity and lives with heritage and conservation.’

The event was chaired by Dr Ken Milne, the Isle of Man Government’s Director of Energy Policy, who praised all the entrants and thanked his fellow judges: Chris Allen, President of the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce; Dr Richard Selman, acting Ecosystem Policy Team Manager at the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture; Jo Callister, Advisory Teacher for the Manx Curriculum at the Department of Education, Sport and Culture; Dr Richard Bujko, Strategy and Business Development Manager at Manx Utilities, and George Fincher from the Manx Energy Advice Centre

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