Starbucks’ community fridge funding and Spain’s ‘living port’: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and business leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: British Ministers take up Skidmore’s recommendation for a solar revolution

The UK’s Conservative Government has been extremely supportive of offshore wind and nuclear as options for phasing out coal and unabated gas in electricity generation, but has been criticised for failing to also recognise the benefits of onshore renewables including solar and wind.

In a far cry from Liz Truss’s rhetoric (she described solar as ‘paraphernalia’), the current administration has this week accepted a key energy recommendation from Chris Skidmore MP’s Net-Zero Review – that the nation should set a target to grow its solar generation capacity fivefold by 2035 to reach 70MW.

To plot a pathway to delivering this new goal, Ministers will convene a new taskforce. They are also consulting on ways to get more solar fitted on rooftops of homes, businesses and car parks, to reduce energy costs and allay concerns around solar on farmland.

Responding to this announcement, trade body Solar Energy UK’s chief executive Chris Hewett said it was “strongly welcomed”.

“In particular, the new body needs to address the need for major improvements in network capacity and management, support for skills and training so the workforce can grow in line with demand for the technologies and ensure finance and markets are available for solar to be accessible to all businesses and individuals,” he added.

RESOURCES: UK’s community fridge network bags funding boost from Starbucks Foundation

The UK now hosts more than 300 community fridges – places where individuals and businesses can take or claim surplus food. The network is coordinated by Hubbub and has received major support from the Co-op to expand to more locations, providing a food waste solution that also delivers community benefits.

This week, Hubbub confirmed a £350,000 funding commitment from the Starbucks Foundation to host ‘food hubs’ at 50 of the fridges. Through food hubs, local residents can learn tips and tricks for growing their own fruit and veg, plus cooking and storing food to improve nutrition and cut waste. Food hubs also serve as community spaces for meals, snacks and activities.

Community fridge groups will need to apply for a share of the funding, which has been raised through the 5p charge applied to Starbucks drinks sold in single-use cups in the UK.

Hubbub’s head of food “We’ve always believed that a community fridge is more than just a fridge and the new food hub funding shows how they are evolving. From the trial last year, it’s clear there’s an appetite from people to know more about their food and how to get the most out of it. The generous ongoing support of Starbucks and Co-op will give visitors the opportunity to do just that, with the added bonus of saving money and doing their bit for the environment.”

MOBILITY: Northumberland County Council plans solar and charging points for car park

The UK Government is consulting on alternations to permitted development rights that would make solar installations on roofs and canopies easier. This was one of several new consultations launched on Thursday (30 March) as part of a bumper day of green policy paperwork from Westminster.

Getting ahead of the curve is Northumberland County Council, which has this week appointed UK Power Networks Services to design and deliver a £3m upgrade to its main staff car park in Morpeth.

The upgrade will see 120 new electric vehicle (EV) charging points installed, with some of their energy needs met by a new 800kW solar array. When generation conditions are favourable but charging point use is low, solar electricity will be stored in a new battery storage array.

The Council’s leader Glen Sanderson, who also oversees its climate work, said: “We are a huge employer in the region and finding ways to sustain our energy usage is high on our list of priorities. I’m pleased to have UK Power Networks Services on board to help us begin to future-proof our estate and help us in our mission to make Northumberland a carbon-neutral county by 2030.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Living Ports Project completed in Spain

Concrete contributes to 8% of global emissions, more than double the share attributable to aviation. But what if concrete could be a carbon store rather than a source? And what if concrete structures could help conserve and restore biodiversity?

This is the vision being put into action at the Port of Vigo, Spain. The Port has this week officially opened a new ‘Living Port Project’, showcasing what it described as the next generation of port infrastructure. The Port has worked with a consortium of academics, materials suppliers and firms operating at its site to develop and install new ‘living’ sea walls that encourage biodiversity to thrive due to their shape and texture.

An underwater observatory has also been delivered, enabling members of the public to see nature at the port up close. The walls and observatory have been designed using ECOncrete, an innovative material that sequesters more CO2 than it emits across its lifecycle.

ECOncrete’s chief executive and co-founder Dr Ido Stella said: “[The Living Ports Project] has been a real team effort.  Talented and committed people, from different disciplines, have worked together towards a common net positive goal of setting a new standard for responsible and accountable marine construction .”

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: edie Awards winners crowned at glittering ceremony in London

Congratulations to all our winners!

We know that sustainability leaders are often working so tirelessly to change the world that they neglect to take pause and recognise their hard work and the extent of their impact.

On Thursday night (30 March), the edie team hosted our 16th annual awards ceremony in London, recognizing bold and brilliant leadership. 24 winners were chosen from a shortlist of almost 200 finalists, including our new Sustainability Leader of the Year, Bukky Bird of Barratt Developments; our Business Leader of the Year, Anna Lungley of Dentsu International; and our Rising Sustainability Star, Sophie Taylor of ClimatePartner.

In a a surprise announcement on the day, Rachel Kyte, co-chair of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI), was revealed as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

You can view a full list of winners here and click here to read about their work in more detail in a free-to-download report. Huge congratulations once again to all winners and all shortlisted entrants.

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