YRE Competition 2016
First place winner
Category: 15-18 years old


A shelter is one of the key instruments for mankind’s survival. We have, however, come from using nature to seek protection in caves to abusing the earth and building indiscriminately disrespecting our home – Earth. Cities and suburbs have been spreading often without rational control or management.  In 2008, for the first time in history, urban population outnumbered rural population. To run their activities, cities require an uninterrupted supply of energy. They consume about 75 percent of global primary energy and emit between 50 and 60 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases. (UN-HABITAT Global Activity Report, 2015)

On the other hand, cities have been suffering the consequences of civilization development: “the concrete and black tar dictatorship”. Actually, an aerial view of most of our cities shows mainly crowded streets, black tar, tiny people as well as dark gravel-ballasted rooftops. In a word, darkness and very few green spots! Yet, there is a new trend that breaks up the monotony of common buildings facades and roofs: green rooftops and facades.

A green roof is made in layers and requires installation of a specific structure on the roof. Closer to the base, the waterproof membrane aims to prevent rainwater from entering the roof and cause leaks or spills. Just above, the layer that will store part of the rainwater will be used by the plants themselves as a reserve. Above is the earth layer which can vary in thickness. Finally, comes the layer plants – and the species may be different for each region. Living roofs or green roofs last longer than conventional ones, reduce energy costs with natural insulation, create peaceful retreats for people and animals, and absorb stormwater, potentially lessening the need for complex and expensive drainage systems.

On a wider scale, green roofs improve air quality and help reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, a condition in which city and suburban developments absorb and retains heat. In fact, these roofs are a good method to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. “We have (energy) savings between 20/25% and 75%”, engineer Paulo Palha defends. “(the green roofs) are systems that will keep the warm in the winter and the cool in the summer” and so it will not be as necessary as it is now to have an air conditioner or a heater at home. Another profit is the low maintenance costs of buildings, thanks to the plants’ absorption capability, making it less necessary to have a good drainage system”.

Average monthly energy demands through the reference roof and green roof. Source:

Furthermore, these green roofs give a new look to a city and have an important role in the comfort of the houses as well. They increase the protection against noise. They can also be a garden and if so, it can increase a person’s mood. By creating more green spaces, the differences from the countryside are blurred, losing its dark side and gaining a new life making it more enjoyable to live in a big city. According to architect Luis Silva, responsible for Urban Planning Department of Civil Engineering Company of the Greater Lisbon area, “Green roofs can be used to reduce heating, allow the creation of a natural habitat, contribute to the filtration of pollutants and carbon dioxide and help insulate the acoustics of a building.” A green coverage can heat up to 60 ° C while the common grass reaches only to 25 ° C, the difference can be reflected in the decrease of air conditioning usage, the energy bill (cost reduction from 20 to 30%) and ecological footprint. The typical roofs are constituted by concrete and asphalt. These two materials irradiate the solar energy in the form of heat and, as the heat is propagated by the surroundings, the house temperature increases.

In contrast, green roofs provide the temperature maintenance because its vegetation will use 80% of the energy it absorbs in the evapo-transpiration (2% in the photosynthesis, 48% is transmitted by the leafs and 30% is transformed in heat, used in the transpiration). This prevents the using of air conditioning or heaters that are malignant for the environment, plus for your wallet. The Green roofs vegetation cover dissipates or consumes that energy by evapotranspiration and by photosynthesis, reducing the heat transferred to the interior. Despite the present disadvantage of their high costs, due to the materials involved and, sometimes, the complexity of installation and/or the existence of skilled labor, architects Luís Silva and Thiago Moretti, of Isay Weinfeld Workshop, they both defend that ” The initial cost may bring aestetic, economic benefits, aesthetics and environmental advantages”.

WasteWater Treatment Plant WWTP of Alcantara. Source:

The implementation of gardens on the roofs of buildings is already relatively popular in the United States, the Scandinavian countries and Germany. Is taking gradually the rest of Europe and Latin America. In Portugal, examples like the new WasteWater Treatment Plant WWTP of Alcantara, The Gulbenkian or the Garden of Olives at the Belem Cultural Centre are already successful projects. More recently the “Natura Towers” were built in Lisbon. These two service buildings have photovoltaic panels and green facades that produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, that’s why they are “totally green”. These towers have a range of 35 m tall grass with integral irrigation and panels about 160 species of plants and flowers and they still have a rainwater storage system for irrigation. The shopping center “Dolce Vita Tejo” also has a green facade, composed of several plants adapted to local conditions in its central square.

Nature Towers Lisbon. Source:

The Faculty of Science, University of Lisbon (FCUL) aims to develop an experimental study, installing an extensive coverage (150 square meters) of green roofs. This project, considered emblematic by its promoters, shows that the Portuguese Universities are willing to contribute to greater sustainability with the development of research projects. For architectural , energetic, environmental and aesthetic reasons, putting a lawn or a garden on top of housing or covering a facade starts to make sense in our country! And… wouldn’t you feel better to watch green instead of the usual grey?

Source of image on top:


Author: Angelina Grom’yak, Maria Cruz, Diogo Marques, Rodrigo Mateus, Pedro Barreira, Bárbara Machado
Escola EB 2,3 Caneças - Lisboa, Portugal


Clean water is the source of our lives

YRE Competition 2016
First place winner
Category: 19-21 years old



The Budovar Canal is the stream that springs in the vicinity of the village of Čortanovci at Mountain Fruška Gora, flows through Eastern Srem, meanders and finally flows into the Danube River, near Stari Banovci. The Canal had a large number of animal and plant species living in the water as well as on the river banks. Yes, you read it correctly: “had”! Today this place is an example of reckless behavior.

Having in mind the fact that feces and wastewaters from nearby settlements are being dumped in the Canal without any purification methods, we can notice that its current state is alarming. Beside the point sources of pollution, the problem also lays in diffuse sources, like run-offs from urban areas (streets, parking places, lawns, gardens etc.).

Research has determined that the quality of Danube water, where the Budovar Canal flows in, falls in the Third category (on a scale where the Second category stands for optimal quality). From time to time on the banks of the Canal, animal waste can be seen with very unpleasant odor, all of which can cause serious consequences to human health.

This problem occurred after years of waste disposal. People were throwing plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and organic waste into the Canal or just leaving them laying around its banks, hoping that the water would carry them away. But now, the amount of waste is so big that water cannot carry it away.

Questioning the local people, I’ve found that the greatest problems occur when the water level rises. Water ejects the solid waste that cannot be dissolved and that is when the human negligence reaches its peak because the waste is spread around the street and no one is responsible for collecting it.

As a member of the association “Think Blue, Think Green” (in Serbian: Misli plavo, misli zeleno), devoted to public education on sustainable development, climate change and green economy, I have a need to raise the awareness in my hometown about importance of finding the solution for this problem and possible consequences if it is not resolved. I have the support for this project from Local Community Office of Stari Banovci which is willing to assist through promoting examples of good practice among citizens, initiating actions for environmental protection and educating the citizens about recycling. Public forum with the members of environmental group was organized in elementary school “Slobodan Savković“, in which children expressed their suggestions about water protection and its multiple benefits in human life. Traveling to school each day, children cross the bridge over the Budovar Canal, and look at the scene that should not be their first memory for nature that surrounds them. As a confirmation that this part of the Canal still has some life in it, are fishermen that can be seen, but much less than before, so let’s save what can be saved.

Also, I am inviting all Eco-Reporters to make the Map of Red Flags of Serbia together, in which we would mark with red flags all polluted areas that have problems with soil, water, and air. The map would be a push towards solving the marked problems and call for everyone to improve the relations between the men and the nature.

The Map of Red Flags of Serbia could be published on the internet, thus being available to all, and after solving the problem, a red flag would be replaced with a green one, and near each one, we will place “before” and “after” photos. In cases where help is provided by environmentally responsible companies, their logo would be placed on the flag as a sign of gratitude. I would not stop on just organizing the actions, but also organize a SOCIAL COMPANY that could provide possibilities for new forms of support in protection systems.

So, let’s alert Serbia with Red Flags!


Author: Andrijana Arsić

Consequences of reckless behavior  

Consequences of reckless behavior


The bridge in Stari Banovci with Budovar flowing underneath  

The bridge in Stari Banovci with Budovar flowing underneath


Fishing in the Canal

Fishing in the Canal

15-18 years old: 1st place winner


Undergoing the global economic crisis, Greece is a country that has been deeply affected on various aspects of daily life especially in urban centers. The cost of living has risen considerably and food products have become more expensive than it used to be. People struggle for a new socioeconomic transformation and experiment with new ideas and creative actions. Community Gardens seem to be the new emerging trend in Greece as they offer not only an economic and ecological renewal of the cities but also a healthy and a mental support to the people that get involved.

Being a member of the radio group of our school, I have participated in radio broadcasts that focus on environment issues. Community gardens and urban agriculture is the focus of our research as they tend to be the unfolding solution for a healthy and profitable urban lifestyle.

It has been observed that mainly people with lower income produce food in modern urban centres, with minimal energy consumption and lower production and transport costs. However, the number of people getting involved seems to rise as more and more want to check what exactly they are eating. When looking at building roofs, shade structures over parking lots and see gardens, we understand that people are trying to obtain the basic organic ingredients for food, to save money and simultaneously they contribute to a personal urbanism to reshape our cities. Urban agriculture is presented as one of a suite of strategies for helping to address both the crisis of obesity/diabetes as well as issues of food access, security and hunger.

After a short investigation in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, we found out that PERKA is currently the largest and most active voluntary urban farming team. It has been founded by citizens whose aim is to 2 grow plants, vegetables and herbs in a farm near the city. The first yard was created in an old abandoned military camp approximately 689.000m2 . The growth is a non-profit job and the foods that are being produced are pure organic. PERKA members not only they try to bring the people closer to nature, but they also try to bring all the people closer to each other. Besides, what is better than creating friendships in a beautiful green environment?

During our radio broadcast on fm100, 6, we interviewed Mr. Vaggelis Matziris, who is the Department Head of parks and gardens in Thessaloniki. He informed us about the very first Urban Vineyard that has been created in the heart of Thessaloniki in association with the wine-maker company “Gerovasileiou” and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. “A yard approximately 2000m2 was planted with a white and red variety of grapes. Now in 2-3 years we are expecting the first wine of the municipality of Thessaloniki. The wine will be given to the market after an auction for charity purposes” said Mr Matziris. The first urban vineyard is open to public, especially for schools which take part in environmental projects.

Part of our research was the interview we had with three postgraduate students MLA Landscape Architecture School of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki: Eleftheria Gavriilidou, Eleni Oureilidou (Architects) and Maria Ritou, (Agriculturist). They were selected by Angelopoulos CGIU Fellowship Programme 2014. The fellowship involved the participation in Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in March 2014 as well asthe sponsorship for the realization of their idea in Greece. The Project is called “Kipos3 : The City as a resource”. It examines how urban Community Gardens can contribute to an urban development, opening a social, economic and ecological renewal of the city with innovative perspectives. Urban agriculture could be developed in the Greek cities, operating not only as food resource introducing the primary sector in the city but also as a generator for socio-economic transformation towards the green economy. It proposes new life – styles and social environments envisioning a new way of living the urban life.

In Thessaloniki urban farms pop up in every imaginable place. The gardens on rooftops, terraces, balconies have become increasingly common. Even some students seem to contribute in this effort since they try to produce herbs and even vegetables in school environments.

We carried out a survey among people who are involved with community gardens. Thirty questionnaires were given to men and women aged 27-70 years. The majority of them enjoy saving money and eating healthy food while, at the same time, they develop strong relationships with neighbours and have the satisfaction of creativity.

Farming in community gardens is getting highly creative and innovative nowadays. It has significant benefits, including organic products, minimized cost, as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Educating urban residents in Greece about agriculture and ecology offers not only material support but also a healthy lifestyle and a feeling of solidarity, creativity and happiness.


By Maria Patreli (16 year-old student)
Coordinator Teacher: Chrysoula Nenou School: Senior High School of Intercultural Education of Evosmos Thessaloniki, Greece 

Dissemination Actions: The results of our research have been disseminated during our radio broadcast on fm100, 6 in May 2014. They have also been announced in the Festival of Environmental Education of Thessaloniki in 2014.

11-14 years old: 1st place winner

Polk County, Strangled- Polk County Middle School

Kudzu is smothering Polk County, North Carolina. The vines grow 12 inches each day; creeping into roads, climbing trees, and suffocating other plants. Locals are finding unusual and productive uses for the invasive species, yet it continues to start wildfires and cloak farm fields (mountain of dead kudzu, right).

Kudzu was brought from clipped, ornamental Asian gardens to ditches and eroded areas of the United States in 1876. From 1935 through the 1950s, Southern farmers planted the foreign vine in an attempt to control erosion. Kudzu took off, spreading throughout the states. The farmers quickly realized their mistake, and they focused on the potential of the fast growing plant for other agricultural uses.

It was discovered that kudzu is high in protein, and has no effect on the color or taste of milk, butterfat or meat when fed to livestock.  Animals and their caretakers haven’t shown signs of allergies, and cows, horses, goats, and rabbits enjoy the vine and do well with it in their diet. In Polk County today, there are many who graze their animals on kudzu. Goats relish it, eating it fast and in large amounts. Citizens often mention the need for more of these animals whenever a conversation turns to kudzu. In Saluda, the highest elevated town in Polk County, kudzu is baled as a hay substitute and sent to droughtstricken areas or where traditional hay is scarce.

Kudzu is a widely available and nutritious food option for livestock. Cows who graze off of kudzu weigh close to the same as cows who graze on grass and are fed wheat supplements. The wheat is what gives them their bulk; however, which isn’t good for their digestive system. Kudzu has more protein than grass by itself, and its cheaper to use as a grazing crop since its so abundant and grows at a quick rate.

According to Patrick McLendon from the Polk County Agriculture Center, which holds farming and gardening classes as well as a farm food store and seasonal markets, many citizens are utilizing the crop in other ways. He describes the Kudzu Lady, who “actually brings products to the farm store, kudzu jelly, kudzu chai tea, hay, baskets and wreaths.” Matthew Wilson from Polk Fresh Foods, an initiative to bring farm products to local markets, described unique and productive uses of kudzu as well, saying “there is even kudzu root tea, kudzu syrup, and of course some folks use it for grazing their poultry and their goats, which is one sure fire way to kill it without using pesticides: by grazing till it won’t produce leaves, because after it can’t produce the leaves that send the nutrients to the roots it’ll die, though it takes a while.” If pesticides are used, other plants could be killed unintentionally as well.

Despite constant use of kudzu, it regenerates too quickly to keep in check. Mr. McLendon informed me that “the AG center is about a third covered in Kudzu,” which is “amazingly hard to get rid of.” Brian Rogers from the Polk County Forest Service said that “if we plant trees, kudzu strangles them.” Chocolate Drop Mountain, a small mountain on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was facing serious mudslide and erosion problems after it was clear cut. Kudzu was planted, but it quickly took over–sections of the roads are now covered.

Kudzu doesn’t stop at ground level. It scales tall trees in order to absorb sunlight with its broad leaves, and in the fall those leaves die and the vines become dry and brittle. Wildfires that occur because of the dead kudzu often engulf the entire forest canopy, and are difficult to put out. Getting kudzu out of tall trees is no easy task. On the ground, kudzu is just as hard to control. The large, woody root can get up to six feet wide and takes time to dig up (root as thick as a thumb, left).

Introducing foreign species to control environmental issues isn’t the only option. Without natural predators, kudzu rampaged across Polk County and beyond. Plants native to the Americas, such as the trumpet creeper; can be planted to control erosion instead of Kudzu. Large scale companies can begin producing kudzu products, and farmers can feed their livestock kudzu full time.  Answers flourish in Polk County, and if advertised and put into large scale practice–kudzu could be controlled.

I plan on submitting this article to the Tryon Daily Bulletin. I’ve chosen this local newspaper because a huge percentage of Polk County has access to and reads it. Teachers submit images from field trips and spirit days to this paper, which are often published. I want people young and old who associate themselves with agriculture in any form to understand the importance of containing kudzu, and I want to inspire them to do something about it.

Author Jeanne Ferran