Over a hundred people gathered in a building that isn’t even officially open yet to celebrate their actions on climate and environment in the last year. The event was the Green Impact Awards 2012 of Manchester Metropolitan University, where 67 teams that had taken part received recognition for their efforts.
It’s easy to sneer (1) at these sorts of things – there’s usually too many speeches, cringe-worthy jokes and a general fug of smug. Fortunately this was not the case today. Phil “Go Compere!” Korbel (2) of “Cooler Projects” opened proceedings by cycling in on a Brompton foldable bike. He hopped off, mentioned the sponsors (his two young daughters) and welcomed everyone. This was followed Vice-Chancellor of the university Prof John Brooks then made an appearance by the magic of DVD. He was followed by Michael O’Doherty (Manchester City Council) talking about domestic retrofit in (Greater) Manchester, Mary Heaney, director of services at MMU who pointed out that there’d only been 15 teams two years ago, 30 last year and, this year 67 [with 48 completing]. She made the observation that “green buildings can turn brown very quickly if there’s no green behaviour.”
John Hindley, Head of Environmental Sustainability, then rattled through 70 slides in (slightly more than) 5 minutes. The first section of these included a shout out to Green Impact co-ordinators Robert Croll and Laura Williams. The rest gave a history since 2008 of MMU’s progress – from 91st in the People and Planet league table to 17th last year, (the next one is published 29 May) with a Sustainable Investment Board set up and still meeting, Fair Trade Accreditation, the largest Green Roof in the City and so on.
Professor Ruth Ashford, Dean of the MMU Business School then gave a presentation on Green Cultural Change at the university. She stated that MMU are now Green Leaders in the Higher Education sector, and that a research area/centre at MMU’s Business School is under way. She also emphasised the “need to ensure all our students are ahead of the game and have a competitive advantage in this area.” (3)
Somewhere amidst all that (I’d had a glass of wine before going in) Robert and Laura had an opportunity to thank everyone who’d taken part.
Next up, a very good film about the whys and hows of the Green Impacts scheme, complete with a blooper reel and “guilty pleasures” clips. It was made by Jerome Arab and Matthew Stanners (4) and we will post it on the MCFly website as soon as it’s up on youtube.
Then the awards ceremony itself, with “work in progress”, “bronze awards” silver awards” and the Gold Award – awarded this year to Environmental Science Services Team. They’d managed 670 points, with 164 tasks completed. They proudly took delivery of the “gold bin” (a recycling bin that’s been spray-painted, in case you were wondering how to bypass security and get in there and pinch the thing for melting-down purposes!)
Then some gold awards for the MMU labs (Dental, physiology etc)
Yet more awards – “Environmental Hero” “Best Communications Awards”, Best Energy Saving Award, Waste and Recycling Award and the Special Recognition Award, dished out by Steve Connor of Creative Concern.
Phil “the incomperable” Korbel then closed the event with some risky business. Rather than make his own final observations, as per the plan, he threw it open to the audience. This could have gone Badly Wrong, but it didn’t. There were four comments. Here’s what we scribbled down –
“It’s inspirational to have so many teams… we can created a sustainability revolution.” (From one of the people in charge of “MetMUnch” – see youtube here, you can follow them on twitter here.)
“We [in the Labs] have been doing stuff for years – the big challenge was recording what we’ve been doing for years. It’s good to be getting acknowledgement for what we’ve been doing.”
“Wonderful to see how much it’s moved forward in the last few years.” (This from someone who was present at the creation a few years ago, when the MMU management was marginally less effusive about the green agenda than it is now).
“Please expand it to the students next year!”
The event ended with a delicious buffet by the MetMUnch bunch, and opportunities for chatting and schmoozing. The corrosively cynical malcontents who questioned the localness of the strawberries made a bit of an, um, faux pas. They were from Lincolnshire. (5)
(1) So we are reliably informed. It’s just not something we do here at MCFly towers.
(2) Looong-ago graduate of the poly that became MMU. (Rumour has it that the law courses were taught by Blackstone himself.)
(3) Indeed, and if ever MCFly needs to illustrate the switch from a Keynesian Welfare State to a Schumpeterian Competition State, that quote will do nicely.
(4) It was made by two young film-makers. “Young upcoming film maker Jerome Arab from Zimbabwe, currently based in Manchester, is working on another docu-film based on struggles faced by young creative people in the UK and a feature film based on his personal life as a performer.
“Assistant director Matthew Stanners is another film-maker based in Manchester. Originally from Denmark, he studied at MMU and graduated with a BA in contemporary art and MA in media arts.”
(5) We didn’t ask if they were from a heated greenhouse… We will.
Awards ceremonies like these always risk an element of self-congratulation. (But then, if you start doing good stuff, how else are you going to continue, and draw other people in, without an element of self-congratulation).
There was no acknowledgement (it would have spoiled the mood) that the actions being taken now are the “low-hanging fruit” – the things that are easy-ish to change and save money you money quickly. Driving towards the very ambitious targets beyond 2020 will – in all probability – cost serious moolah and be very disruptive (not in a good way).
The actions taken all exist within the context of “ecological modernisation” – see MCFly 3 for a bluffer’s guide to this concept.
MCFly was invited to have a stall at the event. We know the organisers and the compere of the event socially, so slagging them off would have been slightly awkward. The food was bloody lovely. All these factors may have dulled our critical faculties and been the reason we didn’t get the thumb screws out and interview Mary Heaney about Birley Fields. Or quiz the procurement people about the precise provenance of the strawberries. C- for the investigative journo, eh?