Video examining the life cycle of soap claims top prize in the EPA’s The Story of Your Stuff 2020 competition

September 28, 2020

A video that creatively examines the environmental life cycle of soap has won this year’s Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ‘The Story of Your Stuff’ competition. The project, entered by Caoimhe Higgins and Katherine Mooney from St Andrew’s College in Booterstown, Dublin, looks at the history of soap manufacture, the effect of soap and its plastic packaging on the environment, and highlights natural and locally made bars of soap as an alternative for consumers to consider. Ms Higgins and Ms Mooney have won the top prize of €500, along with €500 for the school.

Launch The Story of Your Stuff 2020, UCD Earth Institute – Professor Emma Teeling, Deputy Director, UCD Earth Institute, Aldiana Hoxha,Tomi Ayibiowu and Shurooq Azam from Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School (2019 winners – The Story of Your Stuff), Dr. Jonathan Derham, Programme Manager, Environmental Protection Agency

The winner of the competition was announced (10.06.20) via the competition Instagram account, @storyofyourstuff, as COVID-19 restrictions put paid to the plan for a finale showcase event at UCD’s O’Brien Centre for Science, which had partnered with the EPA on the competition for a second year in 2020. Now in its fourth year, the competition brings together curiosity, creativity and science. It aims to get young people thinking about sustainability, climate action and environmental protection, using resources such as the EPA’s Ireland’s Environment site (www.IrelandsEnvironment.ie), and to spread the word among their friends, families and communities. This year’s competition received more than 120 entries from schools across the country. Entrants were tasked with highlighting the environmental impact of an everyday item or activity by creatively telling its story through a visual medium. This year’s competition entrants explored a wide range of objects and activities, from batteries, nail varnish and tyres, to phones, fake flowers and footballs. The other four shortlisted entries, which will receive gift token prizes, are: ‘The Story of Plastic’, by first year students from Rice College, Ennis, Co Clare; ‘The Story of Plastic Bottles’, by Jakub Varhola and Liam Dixon of Bremore Educate Together Secondary School, Balbriggan, Co Dublin; ‘The Story of Lipstick’, Paula Umama Agada, Nimra Nawaz and Rhea Ann Thomas of Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School, Dublin 15, and ‘The Story of Plastic Bottles’ by Sara O’Beirne from Mohill Community College, Mohill, Co Leitrim.

2019 Winners of the Story of Your Stuff – Shurooq Azam, Aldiana Hoxha and Tomi Ayibiowu (missing from picture Kar Cong Leong) – Launch of 2020 competition at UCD Earth Institute.

This year, a new ‘Climate Topic Prize’ was also awarded to the entry that best addressed key climate considerations, such as carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions or climate action. It was won by Lana Mitchell from Coolmine Community School, Clonsilla, Dublin 15, for her entry, which examined the life cycle and environmental impact of paper. Ms Mitchel has won a special tour of the Cool Planet Experience at the Powerscourt House & Gardens, Wicklow for her and her classmates (to be used after the lifting of the Government measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19). Commenting, Dr Jonathan Derham of the EPA, and chair of the judging panel, said: “The EPA was delighted to see ‘The Story of You Stuff 2020’ competition attract such a strong calibre of entries from across the country, covering a wide range of topics. The submission and judging of entries took place prior to the escalation of public health measures in light of COVID-19. Soap and handwashing are essential parts of our everyday lives, now more than ever, and the winning entry is timely in this regard. While all soap products that ensure good hand hygiene are to be encouraged, the winning video asks viewers to consider more environmentally friendly soaps, that are made locally and with more natural materials, and which use less plastic packaging – these alternatives, where available, can act to reduce any negative environmental impact.” “I would like to thank all the students who entered. The ingenuity and quality of the entries received made arriving at the shortlist of five a very challenging but rewarding process for the judging panel.” He added: “I would also like to encourage anyone interested in protecting Ireland’s environment to have a look at the EPA’s Ireland’s Environment web resource which provides a wealth of Ireland-specific information on issues such as air quality; climate action; waste management practices; Ireland’s nature and biodiversity; our environment and wellbeing; water resources; a sustainable economy and our land and soil.”

Colette Ryan, EPA lead for the competition, added: “We know that Ireland’s young people are concerned for the future of our environment and are keen to find ways to live more sustainably, and this has shone through in this year’s competition entries. We are reassured by their interest in a more sustainable world and are confident that they will grow into discerning consumers, environmentalists and decision-makers and will positively influence their peers, friends and families along the way. “We would also like to thank the teachers who promote environmental sustainability in their classrooms and who worked with their students to put together some really fantastic entries for this year’s competition. Teachers play a huge role in making The Story of Your Stuff competition the success that it is, and we are hugely grateful to them.” This year’s competition ambassador, World Champion and Olympic hurdler, Derval O’Rourke was also involved in the judging process. Ms O’Rourke said: “I feel lucky to have been the ambassador of this year’s ‘The Story of Your Stuff’ competition, and I found being part of the judging process an eye-opening experience. While I’m aware of the objects I use on a daily basis, I often don’t know their full story. Being part of this competition has made me more aware and mindful of the impact of our daily consumption habits, and the simple changes we can make to lead more sustainable lives. Moreover, the interest and effort of every entrant has left me feeling buoyed and reassured for the future of our environment.”

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