• Bringing a smart sustainability idea to life

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    Bringing a smart sustainability idea to life

    A school in Reading, Berkshire, is using the £500 prize money won in the 3M Smart Earth Challenge to create living walls made from plants grown in upcycled plastic bottles.

    • Smart Earth winning team

      Year 6 pupils Libby, Kelsey and Viviana from Shinfield St Mary’s Church of England Junior School designed the winning entry in 3M’s new sustainability poster competition for schools and the prize money will be used to bring their concept to life.

      The idea behind their winning poster, Upcycled Plant Pots, stemmed from research into the number of plastic bottles that are used, but not recycled, in the UK every day - a staggering 16 million.

      As a way of upcycling these, the girls came up with the idea of turning them into plant pots and using these to build walls of growing plants at their school.

      A total of 32 entries were received for the UK pilot of the 3M Smart Earth Challenge, from schools close to the Bracknell and Loughborough sites in the UK, with the posters representing a wide selection of sustainability-related topics and innovative ideas. These were judged by members of the EMEA Sustainability team against criteria based around the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, including concepts such as using less materials, recycling or repurposing existing materials, and reducing waste.

      All the pupils from Shinfield St Mary’s who entered the competition, along with the school’s head of ecology and sustainability, Matt Knight, were invited to attend a virtual presentation ceremony hosted by 3M Reputation Communications manager for the North Europe Region, Ros Smith, and Application Engineering manager, Sarah Chapman.

      After giving the youngsters a brief introduction to 3M, Ros and Sarah shared positive feedback from the judges on all the entries. These included poster ideas for recycling food for energy; creating a ‘pink noise’ machine to stop birds from flying into buildings; creating an eco rain house; and building a play area out of recycled materials.

      Speaking about the winning entry, Sarah said: “The judges really liked this practical idea that can easily be implemented in school as a collaborative project. The project is also a great fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of recycling and repurposing existing materials and enhancing the natural environment. Congratulations Libby, Kelsey and Viviana.”

      Ros added: “A big thank you goes to everyone who took part in our competition. Shinfield St Mary’s has a big focus on the environment and this was evident in the high standard of the entries. There were so many brilliant ideas that it was hard for the judges to choose just one winner.”

      Matt Knight said that the children really loved receiving the feedback and that they appreciated the time the judges took to appraise every entry.

      He said: “The 3M Smart Earth Challenge is a fantastic way to engage children in sustainability and environmental issues. It helped our pupils to really stop and think about the resources we consume within our school and how we could reduce our carbon footprint. They came up with some really fantastic ideas and conducted some brilliant research to support them.

      “We look forward to constructing our first living walls and are really proud of what all the children achieved.”