Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from edie!

As 2015 draws to a close, the edie team is now off for a well-deserved break until the New Year, but we thought we'd leave you with some festive fun and our own round-up of the past year's big sustainability stories.

… And oh what a year it’s been.

2015 was, in itself, a sustainability success story. It began with record-breaking renewables figures for the UK and surges in clean energy investment; and went on to see a huge array of pledges, initiatives, collaborations and innovations which together proved that the green industrial revolution really has entered the corporate mainstream.

No story would be complete without a happy ending, and the Paris climate conference gave us just that. The signing of the ambitious final deal to keep global warming well below 2C was a resounding victory for French diplomacy.

What more could we have wished for?

GALLERY: Top 10 stories of 2015

As we look forward to another successful year for sustainability, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the great lengths many organisations went to drive a green economy over the past 12 months – not just from within their own operations, but through ground-breaking collaborations and industry-wide commitments.

In the below gallery, we’ve rounded up the top 10 stories that our readers were most keen to read and share throughout the year. Click the links in the descriptions beneath to read the full story for yourself.

1) A closer look at the oil price crash

On 20 June 2014, the price of crude oil stood at $115 a barrel. On 12 January 2015, the price has crashed to $48 a barrel, leading commentators – including Sir Richard Branson – to suggest clean energy will be damaged as suppliers abandon renewables in favour of cheap oil.

Industry analysts responded that oil price fluctuations, at worst, will have a minimal effect on renewables and, at best, could benefit the industry, which is bigger and more resilient than ever before. So, edie took a closer look…

The resulting feature gave a detailed insight of the potential impact of these oil price fluctuations on the renewable energy industry, generating thousands of page views.

2) Selfridges’ bold plastic water bottle pledge

In an unprecedented move, London retailer Selfridges completely banned the sale of single-use plastic water bottles in its shops as part of a campaign to reduce pollution of the oceans.

The department store has stopped more than 400,000 plastic water bottle being sold in its food halls and restaurants each year, with customers now having to refill reusable bottles at in-store drinking fountains.

The announcement turned heads as a clear indication that some businesses, in some instances, are beginning to value planet over profit. 

3) Costa’s ‘zero-energy’ coffee shop

In a move that could revolutionise the way we think about gren building design, coffee shop chain Costa launched a new ‘Eco Pod’ cafe concept, incorporating an array of innovative energy-saving technologies.

The Whitbread-owned company partnered with retail property specialist Hammerson to launch the new store within Wrekin Retail Park in Telford, Shropshire.

The coffee shop, which took just 13 weeks to build, achieves ‘zero-energy’ – whereby the energy produced is equal to or greater than the energy consumed – through passive ventilation and innovative construction techniques which minimise the energy required to heat and cool the building. Wow.

4) Tesla leads the charge into the UK’s energy storage market

Everybody loves Tesla. So the announcement that Elon Musk’s firm was launching it’s own domestic battery energy storage pack sent a surge through edie’s own website analytics! 

The ‘Powerwall’ system stores surplus energy from renewable sources and then releases it when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. “It is very important to smooth out energy generation,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Look out for more stories on this early next year…

5) The new Government shakes up solar subsidies

It’s fair to say that the new Conservative Government, voted in in May, hasn’t been well-received among green groups and sustainability professionals. 

Topping the list of concerns was the proposed changes to the feed-in tariff scheme, which was reviewed as part of a consultation process by DECC.

The Government announced its final decision on new rates for the feed-in tariff just last week, including a 64% cut to the domestic solar tariff.

6) Ikea and Kingfisher prepare for a shake-up of their own

In one of many ‘edie exclusive’s over the year, DIY retailer Kingfisher and flat-pack furniture maker IKEA both indicated a strong desire to move towards the sharing economy and servitisation, as a “natural progression” of their business models.

Speaking to edie at a business summit in Bristol, Kingfisher’s group sustainability director Richard Gillies spoke of offering more skills-based solutions combined with tool rental schemes, while IKEA’s UK sustainability director Joanna Yarrow unveiled details of a new R&D project to trial a behaviour change programme with its customers.

7) Al Gore speaks up about the Tories’ geen policy changes

One standout moment of the year came when former US Vice President Al Gore launched a scathing attack on Britain’s floundering energy and climate policy, demanding “actions rather than words” from Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the crucial climate change conference in Paris in December.

Speaking at an event held by the Green Alliance in London, Gore wielded Barack Obama’s infamous “Yes We Can” slogan to hail the green energy revolution, but criticised Cameron’s regime for slowing the pace of change by scrapping an array of environmental policies.

8) edie holds a record-breaking Sustainability Leaders Awards night

edie’s own highlight of the year came in November, when National Grid, Willmott Dixon and M&S were named among the big winners of our 2015 Sustainablity Leaders Awards, announced at a glittering ceremony in London.

The Grand Connaught Rooms were at full capacity earlier this evening (19 November) for the ninth year of the Awards which celebrate the individuals and organisations that are setting the standard when it comes to doing business better. 

Read the full winners’ report here.

9) Hugh’s War on Waste raises awareness of a critical sustainability issue

Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has gone to war on waste, with a new TV show highlighting the food waste caused by exacting supermarket standards. But the retailers have been quick to tell edie about the steps they’re taking to tackle the problem.

The first episode of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new BBC One series Hugh’s War on Waste, which aired in November, generated a huge overnight spike in traffic for edie; revealing that as much as 40% of farmers’ crops were being rejected by supermarkets because they are not the right shape or colour. So we conducted our own investigation into the matter…

10) The circular economy package is (finally) agreed upon

After controversially scrapping its initial proposals, the European Commission finally launched its much-anticipated circular economy package towards the end of the year.

The new package includes weakened recycling targets, tools to halve food waste by 2030, and measures to promote reparability in the design phase of products.

The plan aims to “close the loop of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy”, so it will be interesting to see how this takes shape next year.

*BONUS*11) World leaders agree a legally-binding climate deal in Paris!

Of course this would be the biggest story of the year! Nobody will forget that Saturday afternoon in Paris when world leaders agreed to adopt an “ambitious and balanced” final deal, including a “legally-binding” agreement to keep global warming “well below 2C”.

After agonising delays, COP21 president Laurent Fabius and his team emerged… Fabius finally brought the gavel down and declared the global climate agreement formally adopted, generating a standing ovation at Le Bourget in north-east Paris.

Read our full round-up of that momentus night here.

More festive fun…

So, that’s all from us for another year. But if you’re still feeling festive and want to keep your sustainability hat on throughout the break…

We’ll be back on 4 January, 2016 and in the meantime, from all of the edie team, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a sustainable and prosperous 2015!

Luke Nicholls, Brad Allen & Matt Mace

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