INNOVATION, best practice and sustainability were the focus of attention at the annual Shetland Environmental Awards, held at the Shetland Museum on Wednesday.
The 10 winners for 2008 were: the Scottish Killer Whale Research Project; Shetland Nature Festival; Unst Regeneration Growers Enterprise Ltd; North Roe Primary School; Westshore, Waas; Shetland Community Bike Project; Skeld Community Garden – Grindibrek; Bridges Project; Papa Stour History Group; and Martin Heubeck.
Organised by Shetland Amenity Trust, this year’s awards were again sponsored by a range of environmental organisations including the SIC, Sepa, SNH, the RSPB, VisitShetland, the Association of Shetland Community Councils and Shetland Civic Society, reflecting good practice of partnership working.
Groups, individuals and businesses are encouraged each year to apply for an award for environmental projects ranging from recycling, conservation of the built heritage, environmental awareness, litter prevention, sustainable designs, habitat creation, heritage and environmental improvement.
Brian Gregson, chairman of Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Environment Group which judges the awards, said: “Now in its 20th year this award has a proud history of public recognition and acknowledgment of more than 150 projects that have demonstrated sustainability, innovation and best practice. Each one of these projects has contributed to Shetland’s rich and diverse environment – an environment we all cherish and value.
“The 10 projects highlighted here today have shown outstanding commitment to our environment in one way or another. We have before us a diverse collection of projects undertaken by school bairns, architects, individuals, social enterprises, charities, employment organisations, research institutes and history groups.
“All ages and social groups are represented, making the Shetland Environmental Awards a truly inclusive event and one which now commands the support and collaboration of all of Shetland’s major environmental agencies.
“I would like to pass on my sincere congratulations to all the winners of this year’s awards; I hope they enjoy today’s event and are proud of their achievements.”
Amenity trust environment project officer Mick Clifton said: “The recipients of these awards have made a positive contribution to Shetland’s diverse and unique environment which the community of Shetland acknowledge. The judging panel congratulate all of this year’s winners.” This year saw the 10 successful projects presented with a personalised framed certificate made in Shetland by Frank Brown from reclaimed pitch pine and reclaimed plate glass, reflecting the true nature of the awards.
The awards ceremony 12-page booklet was also printed in Shetland on recycled paper, as too were the awards posters.
The Scottish Killer Whale Research Project
The project is undertaking valuable research to gain a better understanding of the life of killer whales in Shetland waters and has raised the awareness of the animals to a local, national and international audience.
The project team have spent a large amount of time studying these formidable hunters, including feeding habits, distribution, family groups, hunting patterns, audio recordings, interaction with other killer whale groupings and building an identity data base.
The team has also invested in the co-operation of many local agencies, individuals and fishermen including the SIC ferry services, SNH, the crew of the Adenia, Shetland Biological Recording Centre, the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews and others.
Over the period of the research, the public of Shetland were kept up to date with developments and actively encouraged to become involved with a number of land based Whale watching events.
Shetland Nature Festival
Over an eight-day period in July, the festival showcased Shetland’s natural heritage to an audience of thousands including school bairns, the general public, visitors and tourists.
Through formal guided tours, walks, talks, radio and newspaper features, whale watches, education workshops, family fun days, wildlife sketching and photography events and other nature related activities, the festival organisers’ aim was to celebrate Shetland’s nature – from geology to climate and plants to puffins. The festival featured a series of events held quite literally across the length of Shetland, from Fair Isle to Muckle Flugga.
The festival was judged to be a huge success which raised the profile of Shetland’s internationally important wildlife and habitats to an extremely wide audience.
Unst Regeneration Growers Enterprise Ltd
The business has combined imaginative local, chemical free, food production with a very strong environmental ethos, resulting in a highly valued fruit and vegetable provider to the isles.
By creating raised beds and planting areas on an unused piece of land in Unst and using over 30 reclaimed and recycled materials, pallets, seaweed, horse manure and hard labour, URGE has transformed a “no production” field into a prolific vegetable and fruit growing oasis.
This year over 52 varieties of fruit and vegetables were produced, supplying local shops, individuals, cafes, restaurants and farmers markets with an abundance of fresh, locally grown produce – all with minimal food miles.
North Roe Primary School
Pupils at the school undertook a project which interprets the biodiversity of North Roe through a number of interpretation boards, located within their playground.
Through an after-school club, pupils drew and painted a wide variety of what can be found in the area. From this, artwork was produced and mounted on large boards which were displayed throughout the school area.
The result is a very informative collection of biodiversity interpretation boards, including Shetland dialect names, which are accessible to the wider public serving to increase awareness of the flora and fauna of North Roe.
The design of Westshore, Waas, by Richard Gibson Architects, included incorporating part of an old croft house in to a new build home.
The old part of the croft house now serves as a sheltered courtyard and utility space. The new part of Westshore has the same footprint, but has been turned 90 degrees to benefit from the early and late sun. This also provides a higher degree of shelter around the house, as well as maximising the unrestricted view of Leravoe.
Westshore includes many features to maximise solar gain and ambient heat as well as heat recovery systems to reduce energy consumption. New building materials were kept to a minimum by re-using the old croft house to its maximum potential.
Shetland Community Bike Project
Over 2,000 pushbikes have been recycled by the bike project. In addition to the high recycling and waste minimisation credentials, the project has also been involved in initiatives to reduce dependency on private vehicle use and to encourage bike usage. This has included attendance at local shows, bike repair workshops, public awareness activities and assistance in the production of transport policies with outside agencies.
The project also provides waged placements for clients, who gain valuable employment and life skills. The bike project enjoys an exceedingly high success rate with many clients gaining onward employment.
Skeld Community Garden – Grindibrek
A group of residents from Skeld have transformed a piece of non-descript land into a small community garden, enjoyed and valued by all.
The development has relied on many people donating plants, trees and shrubs to the community garden with local firms also donating planters, timber and other garden furniture. A fund-raising raffle was also undertaken by the community to purchase a mower, benches, seeds and compost.
More developments are planned for 2009 including the provision of signage, made by nursery bairns, more garden furniture, bird tables, plants etc.
The community garden was judged to have had the wider support of the community and involved the community at every stage of development.
The Bridges Project provides voluntary placements for young people aged 15-19 who are not employed or in education.
Over the last two years, the project has been undertaking sustained environmental work at Aith which has included tree planting, the creation of a willow tunnel, path clearing and maintaining benches and other features of a public woodland, a community garden and the local church garden.
Over this period, students have committed to voluntary environmental work which has provided positive outcomes to Aith and to the students involved.
Papa Stour History Group
This unique heritage related project involved the partial rebuilding of the 13th century log timber stofa, believed to be that mentioned in Shetland’s oldest surviving document dated 1299, on its original site at Biggins, Papa Stour.
The project used the natural resources of local stone and prepared timber shipped from Norway as occurred in the medieval period when Shetland was part of the kingdom of Norway.
Apart from the commendable environmental credentials of the project, other benefits included the contributing and sharing of skills, the exchange of knowledge and oral history, the rekindling and sharing of a common cultural heritage, and a wider appreciation of that heritage and its origins across the North Sea.
The work that Mr Heubeck has undertaken over the last 30 years on seabirds around Shetland is internationally renowned and respected.
His work has contributed to our understanding of climate change, our awareness of the marine environment and the seabirds that rely upon it for survival.
Through dogged determination and ceaseless dedication Mr Heubeck has gathered world class data about the breeding seabirds of Shetland, coordinated the Beached Bird Surveys, raised the awareness locally and internationally of Shetland’s sea birds and much more. He also serves as Chairman of the Shetland Bird Club and has produced dozens of newsletters for the club during this time.