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2012 Ashden awards announced

National Trust Wales region takes gold for 41 per cent energy savings achieved in two years

Last week saw the announcement of the 2012 winners of the Ashden Awards, with the National Trust scooping the UK Gold Award and £20,000 of prize money. The Trust has used its properties in Wales to pilot energy reduction initiatives, and the region reduced its annual energy costs by £280,000 per year. Such figures are particularly impressive when considering the sensitive, often listed, historical status of these buildings.

National Trust: PVs situated at ground level to preserve the integrity of sensitive buildings

National Trust: PVs situated at ground level to preserve the integrity of sensitive buildings

Speaking about the National Trust win, Keith Jones who works with the Trust’s Welsh stock said quite simply, ‘If we can, you can’. He noted that the organisation had rejected the notion of green champions and worked tirelessly to ‘hardwire’ sustainability into what people do. Approximately three quarters of the energy reductions resulted from draughtproofing, beefing up insulation and use of an easy access online monitoring system. Staff involvement was key to its success.

Prior to the awards, Footprint attended last week’s Ashden Conference 2012 at the Royal Geographical Society.All awards nominees reiterated the focus of this year’s Awards on behavioural and cultural change. Ashden Conference chair, Jonathon Porritt, founder director of Forum for the Future, underlined the growing significance of behavioural change for policy makers, calling for a stable policy context, transparent financial investment and overall clarity of policy – an ambitious wishlist that caused a ripple of amusement through what was a very diverse audience.

Conference chair: Jonathon Porritt of Forum for the Future

Conference chair: Jonathon Porritt of Forum for the Future

Also worth a mention is Parity Projects, a domestic retrofit consultancy that works with homeowners to develop bespoke energy savings action plans and then project manages renovations for clients. Parity’s Russell Smith argued that top down intervention could only do so much; ‘every home is unique’, therefore no one size fits all.

Parity Projects: Adding external insulation to a solid wall

Parity Projects: Adding external insulation to a solid wall

The guest speakers at the Ashden conference were Joanna Yarrow, of Beyond Green and Holly Knight, Head of Sustainability at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA).  Both used their own experience to demonstrate how imperative it is to mainstream sustainability, in both everyday lifestyles and national events.

The shortlist for the International Awards demonstrated how grassroots projects with strong leadership can make a huge impact in the developing world. The International Gold award went to The Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) based in South India. This microfinance organisation provides affordable loans and consultation to families in rural areas to invest in their own renewable energy systems.

Ashden finalists exhibit at the Royal Geographical Society

Ashden finalists exhibit at the Royal Geographical Society

Another standous from the international shortlist included Barefoot Power, a social enterprise providing entrepreneurial opportunities selling solar powered lighting products in rural communities in Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Americas. Fellow finalist Tri Mumpuni, Executive Director of Indonesia-based non-for-profit People-Centred Economic and Business Institute (IBEKA), gave an excellent presentation on the struggles and successes of developing on and off-grid hydropower for remote communities. Over 60 hydro schemes have been installed so far, saving 7,400 tonnes of carbon a year.

The Ashden Conference’s second chair, Richenda Van Leeuwen - Executive Director of Energy and Climate (Energy Access) at the United Nations Foundation - praised the Ashden finalists as true advocates for Rio+20. With 1.3 billion people in the developing world still without access to safe energy, the international finalists are exemplar energy access practitioners in line with the UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative.

City of Ghent: Cycling is the new normal

City of Ghent: Cycling is the new normal

New to the Awards this year was the Eurostar-sponsored Sustainable Travel Award to recognise achievements in delivering sustainable travel through technology, innovation and behaviour change. The City of Ghent and Liftshare.com, the UK’s largest car share network, are the first winners of the accolade. The Flemish city’s used extensive promotion and replanned infrastructure to make cycling safer and more attractive, whilst Liftshare created an online community that boasts 2 million trips shared every month saving 100,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

Liftshare.com (UK) users save money by car sharing

Liftshare.com (UK) users save money by car sharing

The full list of winners of the 2012 Ashden Awards is available here. Read about the 2011 and 2010 winners on Footprint.

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