WORKING TOGETHER FOR A ZERO POLLUTION FUTURE
We are in the home straight of what has been yet another uplifting edition of EU Green Week. Today was the day to reflect on some of the week’s key learnings during the closing session of the high-level virtual conference.
EU Green Week 2021 has engaged thousands of actors from all over Europe and beyond in both real-life and virtual events, and on social media. We began with an opening event in Lahti, Finland, followed by the four-day conference, and alongside all this excitement an unprecedented number of partner events around Europe and beyond – almost 600.
People of all ages and from dozens of countries have shown how important tackling pollution is to them. Over 5 300 of you registered for the virtual conference alone, and an estimated 80 000 of you attended partner events. These events spanned 44 countries, and most were organised in Spain, Belgium, France and Italy. Partner events will continue for the next couple of weeks so check out what’s still to come, or scroll down for today’s highlights.
Quotes of the day
“This year’s EU Green Week shone a spotlight on pollution – an issue that affects all Europeans. Thanks to the active participation of citizens and stakeholders, in the dozens of inspiring and thought-provoking sessions that took place this week, we were able to discuss how we can all work together to make our ambition for a zero pollution, toxic-free environment a reality.”
Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries
“Local and regional governments are responsible for delivering 70% of EU policies, 70% of climate mitigation measures and up to 90% of climate adaptation measures. The Zero Pollution Action Plan is essential to save lives and create a more sustainable future. Its Platform will help translate European goals into local and regional realities, as regions and cities are in a better position to assess the effectiveness of measures and the fulfilment of goals. To be a success, this will need to be an open and inclusive process, mobilising citizens, SMEs, businesses, social movements, and research institutions. Exploring synergies and ensuring territorial cohesion is essential.”
Vasco Alves Cordeiro, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions
EU Green Week Virtual Conference – Day 4
At today’s closing session, attendees had the chance to tune into a conversation between Frans Timmermans (Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal), and Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries). Both highlighted how the zero pollution ambition is a key component of the European Green Deal and a major driver in the green transition. But the main message to take away is the importance of collective action and grassroots initiatives, as shown by the wide participation throughout this week. Caring about the planet, and taking action is not only for specialists, but for everybody.
At the closing session, the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform was also launched by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions. Find out more about the aims of the platform in our dedicated news release.
Throughout the morning, participants were also able to tune into session 12.1 to learn about the Green City Accord, a movement of European mayors committed to making their cities cleaner and healthier. Session 12.2 explored the world of sustainable investment and other green trends in the emerging ‘impact investment’ arena. The final parallel session (12.3) focused on the relationship between outdoor air pollution and cancer, and looked at what people can do to protect themselves.
TODAY AROUND EUROPE
Hackathon… cracking the zero-pollution code
A band of around 50 brave students and budding young entrepreneurs were tasked with delivering creative ideas for tackling pressing pollution challenges in Europe and beyond during the Gen-E Fights Zero Pollution Hackathon, a three-day partner event organised by Junior Achievement (JA) Europe and JA Lithuania.
During this final day of EU Green Week, the competing teams pitched their innovative solutions to prevent pollution and help rebuild the balance of rivers, lakes and seas in Europe to an international panel of judges who selected the best proposals.
First place in the 2021 Junior Achievement Hackathon was awarded to team CIPEN from Cyprus, who developed a pen made from cigarette butts – one of the most polluting single-use products on our beaches, especially the Mediterranean. In a unanimous decision, the judges praised the innovative thinking and outstanding concept in a true circular economy and zero-pollution spirit.
Second place went to team WATURA from Switzerland. Their idea addressed single-use plastic bottles using algae waste regularly harvested by the communes along Lake Zurich. Bio-degradable bottles using algae would degrade within a few weeks of use.
Third place was given to team LUFFA from Estonia, who developed a plant-based dishwashing sponge which replaces plastic-based sponge materials commonly used today. This could, for example, help to reduce micro-plastic pollution in the Baltic Sea.
A big congratulations to all the junior achievers taking part in the hackathon! Your enthusiasm is an inspiration to everyone.
Courtesy: JA Europe
Second-Hand Counts... in the zero-pollution challenge
Huge amounts of chemicals and raw materials are needed to make textiles, which are often manufactured in developing countries. The energy and effort going into this production should be better understood and appreciated.
“Once produced, clothes should therefore be worn for as long as possible,” explained the team from HUMANA behind the EU Green Week partner session today, ‘Towards zero-pollution: second-hand counts!’
The event delved into the European second-hand clothing sector through online presentations and group discussions covering different topics and participating countries.
BEWARE Project… natural solutions for water
In another partner event today, Padova University in Italy explored a raft of nature-based solutions for sustainable water management and reducing urban pollution through the lens of the BEWARE project in the Altovicentino.
Nature has filtered and stored water for millennia. We can mimic this ability much better to improve water quality, and reduce soil, water and air pollution. Participants were taken on a virtual tour of northern Italian communities to see seven pilot nature-based solutions (rain gardens, retention basins, infiltration trenches) in action.
Courtesy: Francesco Bettella, Videoloop S.r.l
VEG GAP… how the (city) garden grows
Staying in Italy, the Municipality of Milan teamed up with colleagues from Bologna and Madrid to present a seminar called ‘Vegetation for better air quality and healthy cities’, to better explain the role of climate strategies in urban planning.
The partner event used the EU LIFE project VEG GAP as a benchmark for urban vegetation. Participants heard about the local Air Plans for Milan and Madrid, and experts discussed the current understanding of observed effects of vegetation on VEG GAP pilot cities.
Courtesy: VEG GAP (LIFE project)
#Greenfluencers… from awareness comes action
Awareness first. Action follows. EPEKA Association hosted its ‘#Greenfluencers: How to produce less (plastic) waste?’ event as proof of the matter. The event targeted families and youngsters, helping them forge good recycling habits to reduce waste in general but especially plastic waste.
To get the message across, various tests and challenges were organised so participants could see first-hand how to raise their (recycling) game. A take-home leaflet contained the lessons learned from the day and some tips to tackle plastic waste.
Courtesy: Ljubljana Tourism
Biking through Mali… a healthy taste of nature
The Research Educational Centre (REC) in Serbia came up with a neat way to promote healthy living but also the importance of protecting natural habitats in its Biking through Mali event today. The cycle tour passed through one of Serbia’s 42 Important Bird Areas, but not before taking participants along a track bordering a local landfill.
This detour and accompanying talk were built into the itinerary to stress the fact that pollution has consequences for protected areas, noted the organisers. Discussion further developed on the importance of environmental protection in general, and bikers were given promotional material to remember their experience.
Courtesy: Mali Vrsacki Rit, Research-Educational Centre
Mediterranean Solutions… the zero-pollution transition
This is our final featured EU Green partner event, hosted by the Interreg Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community project, MedBioLitter, and led by ETC-UMA, together with contributors such as MedCities and Plan Bleu.
The interactive workshop, ‘Mediterranean Solutions Towards Zero-Pollution Impacts on Biodiversity and Health’, explored not only how marine litter is affecting the planet’s fragile ecosystems, biodiversity and health, but also how existing policy frameworks are responding to the environmental and societal challenges.
Key international, regional and community-level players in the fight against marine pollution in the Mediterranean discussed both feasible and transferable solutions and tools to successfully achieve Europe’s zero-pollution transition.
Courtesy: Ignasi Mateo (SCP/RAC) / Act4Litter project and M. Cebolla / Arxiu PNDE
EU Green Week has run its course this year, so check out the week’s key conclusions and takeaways.
We are happy to remind our community that tomorrow is the annual World Environment Day, clearly a good moment in the words of the UN to “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.”
We hope everyone enjoyed this edition of EU Green Week, and that you have taken on board some tools and ideas to help us all achieve the goal of Zero Pollution for healthier people and planet.