Contributions towards the Island’s sustainability were recognised at the first UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man Awards, held this month.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, presented awards for Education and Public Awareness, Energy, Environment and Economic Sustainability.
The Minister told the ceremony: ‘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.
The couple said: ‘We run our business with care and respect for the wonderful environment we have been given to live in and try to let other people know how valuable our landscape is.
‘We have hundreds of people through the farm each year, whether visiting the Island and staying with us, coming to our Open Farm sessions, on school groups or for a birthday party.
‘We have lots of written messages around the farm, in our leaflets, in our guests' bedrooms, or on signs.
‘Whenever we are showing guests round the farm, or chatting to those staying with us, we share ideas about looking after our Island, as well as minimising the negative effects we can have on our planet.
‘We get quite excited about plastics, slow grown, outdoor reared meat, recycling (or reducing…), local produce, green energy, planting trees, building community, getting children outdoors and protecting the poor around the world by our shopping choices.
‘We see ourselves as stewards of this ‘Gem of God’s earth’ and we need to look after our planet, the only one that we have. Children seem to catch on very quickly to the need to nurture, enjoy and protect our Island, while we adults take a little longer.
‘Winning this award recognises what we are doing and helps our visitors to see what a priority this is to us, and so helps us to carry on improving.’
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.
Manager Mike Rose said: ‘The Western Civic Amenity Site started its green energy initiative because it was the best thing to do to keep the Island beautiful, and to show that green energy works.
‘Being a Community Partner of UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man was an added bonus, as now we are connected with like-minded organisations, who also care about our Island.
‘To be an inaugural winner of the Biosphere Energy award is absolutely amazing, especially to win over such other great projects and to be associated with the other worthy winners at these very first awards.’
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.
Bill said:'FIM Capital Beach Buddies has had an amazing 18 months, and we have been very fortunate to win a number of awards during that time, but the Environment Award given to us by UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man has to be rated top of the tree.
'When it’s taken into account that this award was given by Government as a reflection of its support for what we are doing, then there is no better endorsement on the Isle of Man.
'Beach Buddies goes from strength to strength, and volunteer numbers continue to grow. More importantly, there is, without any doubt, an increased awareness about litter disposal and waste management generally among the public, and if we have had anything to do with that then we are delighted.'
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 supporting a cycling team.
Annabel said: ‘We are honoured our small business has received the economic sustainability award, recognising we have always used local, sourced local and supported artisan business like ourselves - from producers to growers to suppliers.
‘Money spent at Flo's counter has always been reinvested back into the Island in some way to support bands, charities, events and fellow artisans.
‘It is also lovely to see that we have been recognised for using our real mugs and compostable, eco-friendly consumables from day one of trading.
‘With this award brings the positive knowledge that consumers are changing what they require from an outside caterer. And that customers will seek out the Taste-accredited food vendors who, like us, partner UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man.’
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 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.