Encouraging creativity and entrepreneurship related to sustainability has been a priority at D. Francisco Manuel de Melo Elementary School in Amadora over the past few years. The establishment of education was the big winner of the second edition of the Escola Energy UP Award, promoted by the Galp Foundation and Galp Solar with the support of Quercus, the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), the Energy Agency (ADENE), the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology (DGEG) and the Directorate-General for Education (DGE).
The aim of the competition is to reward schools involved in the development of projects in the areas of more efficient energy consumption and sustainable mobility, and prizes were awarded in three categories: 1st Cycle Schools; 2nd and 3rd Cycle Schools; and Secondary and Vocational Education. The students from the Amadora school took home the top prize due to the successive initiatives promoted within the scope of the “INOV D. Innovate your School, innovate Portugal” campaign. In addition to promoting the creation of solutions designed to deal with complex issues related to energy, the institution called on students to build functional prototypes, such as solar ovens and solar-powered cars.
The small car covered in solar panels came into existence in 2005, explained those in charge of the project, and has evolved along the lines of the technological development behind this energy solution. The goal, says the school, “has always been to stir up intelligence, to work with students, challenging them to act”. This academic year´s mission consisted of creating a fictitious company operating in 2050, which would have to be totally sustainable in terms of energy use, but which would also need to sell green products with no negative impact on the environment. In addition to the trophy, the winning school also won the prize for the installation of solar panels up to 20,000 euros.
In the opinion of Alfonso Sevilla, CEO of Galp Solar, the 120-plus schools that participated in the two editions of the Escola Energy UP Award competed “with innovative and creative projects” that can help “hurry us along the road to energy transition”. “Solving today's energy-related problems, in addition to preparing for the challenges of the future” is, he says, one of the goals of this Galp Solar social investment initiative to speed up the energy transition process.
RAISING AWARENESS FOR SUSTAINABILITY
“As the old saying goes, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”. Indeed, the promotion of awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of taking care of the environment and changing behaviour has proven to be effective in the last two decades - recycling numbers have increased, environmental literacy is on the rise and younger members of society are undertaking to act as agents of transformation with their families. “The Ministry of Education has made a commitment to prioritising environmental education [in the school curriculum]”, guaranteed Ana Luísa Santos, from DGE. Susana Corvelo, from ADENE, believes that “schools are major drivers of what the future of the planet entails” and, as such, regards initiatives like this as having “significant value” for children.
Diogo Sousa, executive director of the Galp Foundation, has no doubt that the ideas put forward in the two editions “are making a difference” in local communities and recalled the path the company has taken with regard to innovation. “We made the decision, not long ago, to install solar panels at service stations”, he exemplifies.
Nuno Lacasta, president of APA, took the opportunity to warn the dozens of students attending the ceremony. “If we continue as we are doing today, with seven billion people on the planet, we won´t have any air to breathe or cars to drive, and that means we have to change our lives,” he said. For this reason, he asks youngsters to convince their parents to “change” their behaviour.