Sustainability Awards - Sustainability - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

2017 Sustainability Awards

The University of Canterbury Sustainability Office rewards those departments and people around campus that are making the effort to make this University more sustainable.

Nominees are judged against the following criteria: scope/reach (eg is this a small portion of the UC community, is it UC wide, does it reach beyond the University?), innovation, challenge (how easy or hard was this to implement?) and the overall sustainability credentials of the project. Judges included a new criterion for deliverability - has this already been implemented or is it still at concept stage?

If you know someone at UC who is doing great work for sustainability, why not nominate them for a Sustainability Award?

Download the nomination form here or complete an online nomination form here.

Nominations will be assessed by an independent panel made up of representatives from Christchurch City Council, Ara Institute of Technology and the UCSA.

Awards will be presented at a ceremony in September by Prof. Wendy Lawson (PVC Science), Alex Hanlon (Director, Learning Resources) and Emily Barker (Vice President, UCSA).

This year the Supreme Winner will win a trip to gorgeous Hokitika, via a breathtaking rail journey through Arthur's Pass on the TranzAlpine. Accommodation, food and awesome activities are all up for grabs in this package trip.

Check out last year's winners below:

In 2016 we received twice as many nominations as there were prizes. The judges were very impressed by all of the nominations, and by the wide variety of projects being undertaken at UC with a sustainability focus. Thank you to all of the people who sent in nominations for their colleagues and friends, and to all of the nominees who are doing such magnificent work.

The winners were:

Supreme Award
Alex Yip, Iman Hashemizadeh, Vladmir Golovko
for the Synthetic Leaf Project

From left to right: Vladimir Golovko, Iman Hashemizadeh and Alex Yip

If climate change is the issue of our time, we need a multiplicity of approaches to tackle it. The divestment campaign – affecting economic structures by altering investment patterns – is one strong approach, as is engagement at the highest international political levels, as we have seen. Technological approaches are also going to be crucial. Our judges were quite gobsmacked by this team from Chemical and Process Engineering and Chemistry, who have developed a synthetic leaf that not only captures C02 but can convert it into fuel.

Above: Alex Yip speaks for the team, after receiving the Supreme Award from UCSA President James Addington (seated)

The UC research team led by Dr. Alex Yip believes chemical processes that capture and convert waste CO2 into useful chemicals are viable pathways to cut CO2 emissions. Since 2014, the project team has been learning from nature and successfully using photosynthesis in natural green leaves as the blueprint to develop a “sunlight-driven” process to utilise/consume CO2. Alex Yip’s team applied chemical engineering and chemistry principles to successfully replicate the key structures in natural leaves that are responsible for light-harvesting and photosynthesis using titanium dioxide (TiO2), a proven photocatalyst for CO2 reduction. The new bio-mimicked functional material will allow light-harvesting from visible sunlight and will significantly improve the efficiency of CO2 capture and usage. They have already acquired experimental data to prove that the UC-developed novel material has extrinsic excitation behaviour that allows co-production of methane and C2 hydrocarbon from CO2 and biomass-derived ethanol simultaneously under visible light. This unprecedented photocatalytic conversion achieved using the bio-mimicked material will lead the research in sustainable chemistry and engineering to a new horizon.

Fairtrade Diamond
UC Procurement
for the Fair Trade Accreditation business case

Paula Masters accepts the Fairtrade Diamond Award on behalf of UC Procurement, with Bronwyn Rice (centre) and Shelley Ranson. Johnny Duncan, UCSA Student Executive member for Sustainability, on the right.

In 2013 we introduced the Fairtrade Diamond category into the awards. This was basically because there was one nomination that needed an award, and we didn’t already have enough categories! In 2016 this special award has been reprised to acknowledge outstanding efforts towards creating a more socially and environmentally just world through promotion of fair trade. It was obvious that UC Procurement, who have worked so hard over the last couple of years to develop a business case for Fair Trade Accreditation of UC (with Katie Nimmo from the Sustainability Office) should be the recipients of this award. We also want to make a special mention of Fran Harlick who did the number crunching. Gathering a substantial amount of purchasing data and feeding this into a robust business case is always a massive undertaking. But also generating the political will to take this forward to the Senior Management Team and have them endorse it is a very tough thing to do, not to mention then carrying it through University Council to adopt as university policy. Yet this is what UC Procurement have done, and it is worthy of huge celebration. Their work has meant that fair trade is now the default purchasing option for all university departments, and the other requirements of accreditation will be met. This follows on from the decisions made years ago by the UCSA, of course, to only sell fair trade coffee through its cafes. Universities are supposed to be the critics and conscience of society, and it is right that we take a strong position on these matters. When we achieve fair trade accreditation that will send a very strong signal out into the community about what we stand for, and we honour the team at Procurement for everything they have done to make this possible.

Gold (Staff)
Eric Pawson and Simon Kingham
for GEOG 309 Community Service

Professor Simon Kingham accepts the Gold Award for staff on behalf of Professor Eric Pawson and himself.

Since 2008 Eric Pawson and Simon Kingham have been running courses in Geography that have exemplified the extraordinary outcomes possible for students and community through taking a service learning approach. They have ushered hundreds of students through GEOG 309 and 402, working with community partners to deliver work which usually has a sustainability focus. The results inform community knowledge (eg a sequence of projects undertaken over some years in the residential red zone with the Avon-Otākaro Network), assessing the social and economic impact of community initiatives (eg the time bank and farmers’ market for Project Lyttelton), exploring options for future community development (eg an edible school walking route for Project Lyttelton), assessing more effective ways to undertake community work (eg land assessment and educational outreach for Trees for Canterbury) and building resources for future community use (eg sound and image community archive for Peterborough Village Inc). In all they have worked to establish a community network of around thirty partner organisations. These courses have become exemplars within the University for the power of service learning and the judges were astounded when considering how their work has influenced their students’ approach to sustainability issues, how it has assisted community organisations in essential ways, how they have helped redefine the University’s connection with the wider community and how these courses have allowed for a new way to think about what meaningful tertiary education can look like.

Gold (Student)
George Moon
for the Eco Club Network

George and Simon
Gold Award winners: Professor Simon Kingham with George Moon

Herding cats has never been a simple task, and requires magician-like mastery. George Moon is that magician and, with some great helpers to be sure, has created something that others have never quite managed. He saw the opportunity to bring the eco-related student clubs together and operate as more of a collective, sharing resources and utilising their resources to best effect. Even getting this many clubs together in the same room is a significant achievement. However, George has gone beyond this and managed to establish some shared agreements, established a social media presence in a crowded clubs scene, and developed the idea of a Sustain-a-ball event which hopefully will come off in 2017. Collaboration is a hallmark of sustainability approaches, and consensus amongst different groupings is never a straightforward task – as we can see at the international level. George’s leadership for sustainability on campus will certainly have its effect beyond the campus, and his ability to bring people together around a common cause is demonstrated by the fact that he is one of only two people to ever have been nominated by two different people (Bronwyn, operating internationally, is the other). The Eco Club Network he has been instrumental in developing is a testament to his commitment and abilities in organising, and the judges were really excited to see this NZ-first created here at UC.

Silver (local) (Staff)
Rachel Collins
for the Furniture Project

Rachael Collins talking with Iman Hashemizadeh

The judges also noted that making change at the very local level is incredibly important. The competition this year was especially tough, but the judges couldn’t overlook the tremendous efforts of Rachel Collins in overhauling the way the University looks at furniture. That is, 4,000 cubic metres of furniture or 170 container loads, to be precise. This was the amount of furniture being stored by the University post-earthquakes. Rachel worked tirelessly to secure SMT approval for a furniture policy, which ensures reuse of existing stock before buying new. The preferred suppliers for new furniture even have their own incredible sustainability stories. Rachel’s brilliance at marshalling all the requisite forces around this project have made an astonishing long-term impact on reducing waste.

Silver (global) (Staff)
Bronwyn Hayward
for International Climate Change Efforts

Above: Professor Bronwyn Hayward

It is extraordinary to note that some people here are tackling the biggest issues at the highest international level, and Bronwyn is one of these people. This year Bronwyn was honoured by being selected as one of 78 world experts to participate in the scoping meeting of the Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 ºC above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. She was selected from a total of 589 world expert nominations that were received from 85 countries and 39 observer organizations. The panel is charged with developing the terms of reference and scientific work plan and presenting them as recommendations to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Executive. The judges were rightly dazzled by this incredible achievement which may lead to substantial and much needed change in approaches to climate change – surely the issue of our time.

Silver (Student)
Daniel Bishop
for the Log Cabin Project

Above: Daniel Bishop

Sometimes we need to look to the past to learn what a truly sustainable alternative to a current problem might be. Daniel’s role in a multi-stakeholder project to design and build a log cabin is a great example of this, and the judges were impressed by the concept generally but also the deftness with which Daniel has obviously played his part. He led consultation with Ngati Rangi in Ohakune, Council and log home builders, modelled thermal performance, undertook an economic analysis of log building business, and worked over the summer to peel the logs and build the house. His role in this project was therefore pivotal and inspirational.

Long Service Volunteer Award
Tracey Tarrant
for Okeover Community Garden service

Jane Ash (left), community garden coordinator, with Tracey Tarrant

The University of Canterbury has a long tradition of encouraging volunteering in the community. But what about when the community wants to volunteer at the University? That’s exactly what has happened here. Tracey Tarrant has been volunteering at the University’s Okeover Community Garden for many years. She started by coming with a group of other people, and then discovered after a while that it was easier to come direct on the bus all the way from her home in Sumner. Gaining in confidence, Tracey has been able to seek and find employment working in a garden centre and has become phenomenally more independent. As her nominator said: “Everyone has something to contribute to the garden group and through this act, can be supported and nourished toward self-empowerment.” This award comes with our heartfelt thanks to Tracey for everything she has contributed to the garden over the years.

Nominations were received for the following people and projects:

Alex Yip Synthetic Leaf Project
Brad Ash IT Recycling Service
Bronwyn Hayward International Climate Change Efforts for sustainability : Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change
Catherine Woods Admin Plus
Daniel Bishop Log Cabin Project
Eric Pawson and Simon Kingham GEOG 309 Community Service
Fossil Free UC Fossil Free UC
George Moon Eco Club Network
HR Development Team UC Temporary Vacancies (UCTV) system 
Pariya Tork UC Bio Fun
Rachel Collins Furniture Project
Simon White Toner Take Back 
Susan Krumdiek Climate Action: Ideas Beyond Targets
Tracey Tarrant Community Garden Long Term Volunteer
UC Procurement Fair Trade Accreditation


View past awards here.

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