Full video coverage: 2011 Yorkshire Post Environment Awards

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THE region’s dazzling green credentials shone brighter than ever at the Yorkshire Post’s third annual Environment Awards.

The innovative environmental work of businesses, social enterprises, individuals and schools alike was celebrated at a ceremony at The Queens hotel in Leeds, hosted for the third year running by Julia Bradbury of BBC TV’s Countryfile.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman was the evening’s keynote speaker, and she paid tribute to the astonishing range of schemes being undertaken up and down Yorkshire which are slowly transforming the region from the UK’s biggest polluter into its leading area for innovative green projects.

Arla Foods, the Leeds-based dairy giant, scooped the coveted award for Best Environmental Business for its work reducing carbon emissions throughout its operations.

Other award winners included Matt Jukes, the head of Associated British Ports, who has done so much to bring wind turbine manufacturing opportunities to the port of Hull; the Forest of Bradford, a project which has recruited an army of volunteers to plant more than 400,000 native trees and shrubs; and GWE Biogas, a green energy firm started by two innovative farmers in Driffield which now operates one of the country’s leading food waste recycling plants.

Yorkshire Post editor Peter Charlton paid tribute to the “extraordinary achievement” of each entrant in what was a record-breaking year for the awards, with 127 applicants vying for prizes in 10 categories.

“The entries were not only the strongest to date, but the most we have ever had – proof that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in this region,”

Mr Charlton said.“Yorkshire is at the forefront of the new generation of green industry. We can proudly say that we are world leaders – that is the message I would like to go out tonight.”

That message was typified by the recognition of Mr Jukes as the Yorkshire Post’s 2011 Green Champion, the first figure from industry to collect the prestigious award following previous winners from the fields of academia and public service.

Earlier this year Associated British Ports beat off strong competition from several other east coast locations to convince technology giant Siemens to choose the port of Hull as the best place for its planned new wind turbine manufacturing plant. More firms, and thousands of jobs, are expected to follow.

Keynote speaker Mrs Spelman told the audience how impressed she was with the evidence of major environmental progress she had witnessed during a day-long visit to Yorkshire.

“I heard someone describe Yorkshire as a real centre for innovation in environmental technology, and I think that’s true,” she said.

“One of the advantages you have here in Yorkshire is the spirit and willingness of innovation – maybe that’s to do with Yorkshire’s proud heritage of having industries that have always innovated.”

She also spoke of her pleasure at witnessing first-hand the grandeur of the Yorkshire countryside following a trip to the North York Moors.

“I will go away with the beautiful site of the Howardian Hills in my mind,” she said. “It will remind me why it is you call this place ‘God’s own county’.”

Jack Blanchard