A Review on Sustainability Issues - March 2017

What is the ISLE Journal?

The objective of the ISLEJournal is to offer the possibility to Professors, Researchers and any active persons in Sustainable Development field including students, to communicate their views or opinions or share their scientific or non-scientific research on this concept.

The articles/papers are validated by a specialist reviewing committee, members of the I.S.L.E Association created in June 2012 following the success of an Erasmus Networks project (2010-2013) entitled “Innovation in the teaching of Sustainable development in Life Sciences in Europe”

The Journal is structured according to the level of study and the nature of the activity. Proposals are centralized and then evaluated (depending on language and topic) according to the following criteria:

- Study level (BSc/MSc/PhD)

- Posters, Reports, traditional publications

For more information or to send a paper/article for review, please send an email to the address below.

Paper N° 1 : University of Forestry, Sofia, Bulgaria

Innovative e-Guide in Construction Workplace Health and Safety (e-Guide CWH&S), No. 2013-1-BG1-LEO05-08722

The University of Forestry is a project partner on the project e-Guide CWH&S. The project is financed by the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme, subprogramme Leonardo da Vinci.

The e-Guide CWH&S project tackles identified problems and gaps in the VET systems of 6 European countries by developing an interactive multilingual e-learning tool on health and safety signs and signals in Construction Industry.

The project transfers and adapts training methods, results and outcomes, including training materials using modern teaching methods and tools for effective lifelong learning. The latter include e-learning interactive multilingual modules, simulation games, interactive multiple choice test modules.

The aim of the project is to develop an innovative, attractive and useful training tool for acquiring key competencies in health and safety signs and signals in the field of Construction Industry.

The project objectives are:

  • To transfer and adapt industry-specific VET training methods and tools;
  • To train VET students, trainers/tutors and SME staff in health and safety signs and signals in construction industry;
  • To raise awareness of the essential importance of health and safety signs and signals in construction industry and the related sectors.

The e-Guide CWH&S project will be implemented by a consortium of 7 organizations from Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Malta, Northern Ireland (UK) and Spain selected on the grounds of their experience in VET and market expertise. All project partners have been involved in vocational training, development of methodological guidance and counselling focused on the identified target sector and issues.

Project tangible results include:

  • an interactive multilingual e-learning tool in health and safety signs and signals in Construction Industry and related sectors - development of a hosting website and software platform of the e-learning tool;
  • methodology for the purposes of e-learning in construction workplace health and safety.

The intangible results include:

  • achieved novelty of the training tools and methods in VET;
  • increased attractiveness of the VET systems and practices in the partner countries;
  • achieved European perspective;
  • acquisition of new skills and key competencies of the target groups developed towards the new job requirements in Construction Iindustry;
  • raised awareness of target groups and stakeholders in occupational health and safety at the workplace.

The project directly addresses the needs of VET students, VET trainers, company managers and workers in the construction sector. From a long-term perspective the project results are addressed to VET decision-makers for specific training for the system of safety and health in Construction Industry, public and private VET providers and self-employed people in construction and the related industries.

About the author: Dr Nidal Shaban, Horticultural Science, University of Forestry, Sofia

Paper N° 2 : University of Malta

The Carob Tree: a neglected tree with a huge potential sustainable use

The carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), also commonly known as St John's-bread, can now be considered as a neglected and underused crop. Although this tree has spread or has been introduced to a number of countries its use has now been quite reduced when compared to other crops. Neglected and underused crops are domesticated plant species that have been used for centuries or even millennia for their food, fibre, fodder, oil or medicinal properties, but have been reduced in importance over time owing to particular supply and use constraints.

Ceratonia siliqua is native to the Middle East and the ancient Greeks recognised its value and disseminated it to Greece and Italy. The Arabs also valued the carob tree and they were responsible for its dissemination along the North African coast and north into Spain and Portugal. In more recent times it was also introduced and cultivated to other regions where the climate is similar to that of the Mediterranean, such as California, Mexico, and Argentina by Spaniards, and even to certain regions of Australia by Mediterranean emigrants.

The common name for the carob tree is the Arabic language is (خروب‎) kharrūb. The local names of carob in other countries: Spanish: algarrobo, caroba; French: caroubier, caroube; Portuguese: alfarrobeira; Catalan: garrofa and Sicilian: carrubba could in some way be said to be derived from the Arabic name kharrūb. This is a further indication that the Arabs spread this tree though the southern Mediterranean region and up through the Iberian Peninsula.

The carob tree is a flowering evergreen tree belonging to the pea family, Fabaceae. It grows well in warm climates, and tolerates hot and humid coastal areas. Thus as a xerophyte (drought-resistant) species, the carob tree is well adapted to the ecological conditions of the Mediterranean region.

(See photos below)

Fig. 1: Young carob trees

Fig. 2: A mature carob tree

The carob tree can grow in excess of 10mtr and its crown is usually broad and semi-spherical. However in exposed windy environment the tree will remain low to the ground as if it is hugging the ground so it protects itself from the wind.

Fig. 3: Carob trees in exposed windy environments where the trees grow close to the grown to protect themselves from the harsh conditions

Fig. 4: The trunk of a young Fig. 5: The trunk of a mature carob tree

carob tree

Its trunk is thick with a brown rough bark and sturdy branches and when the tree matures the trunk can become quite thick. The evergreen leaves of carobs are compound leaves. That is the leaf blade is divided into a number of leaf structures called leaflets.

Fig. 6: One leaf of a carob tree is made up of a number of leaflets

Most carob trees are dioeciously, that is the male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. In rare cases some varieties of carob trees are hermaphrodites, that is, trees possess both male and female flowers. The carob tree blossoms in autumn around late September to October and flowers are pollinated both by wind and insects. To attract insect the flowers of the carob emanates a very strong smell. Although attractive to insect this odour is unpleasant to humans and it is not advisable to take shade under a carob tree that is in blossom.

Fig. 7: The female flower of the carob tree

Fig. 8: The male flower of the carob tree

The pods that develop from the pollinated flowers reach maturity in around August of the following year; hence pods need around ten months to mature.

Fig 9: Immature pods

Fig 10: Mature pods of carob

The pods that develop can be of various shapes, such as straight, elongated, curved and compressed. Each particular variety of carob trees can produce its particular pod shape. The mature pods are reddish brown in colour, with a wrinkled surface and have a leathery texture. The pulp of the pods consists of the outer leathery layer (called the pericarp) and the softer inner region (called the mesocarp). Seeds are found in the pods and are numerous and very hard.

Fig 11 straight pods

Fig 12 Curved pods

Fig 13 Compressed pods

The cultivation of the carob tree does not make a particular demand on the soil nutrients. In fact this is a legume species and legumes form structures called root nodules on their roots. These structures harbour symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria which produce the much need nitrogen for the plant. The carob tree grows well in a number of soils and is known to tolerate salinity and high lime. In fact its presence is known to improve soil fertility. Thus it cultivation is a very sustainable since it only needs organic fertiliser in its first years of plantation and once the tree is establish it does not need any artificial fertilisers. This tree would be ideal for the revival of abandoned fields or part-time farmers since it does not need a high amount of labour hours to maintain.

The pods are the fruit of this tree which are also known as carob. The dried and hard carobs are also called St. John's Bread because, according to tradition of some Christians, St. John the Baptist subsisted on them in the wilderness.

The carob pods have been a utilised as a source of food for both man and as fodder for farmed animals. Also the pods have been used as a source of folklore medicine and nowadays as alternative medicine. When roasted, the pods can be chewed as they are quite sweet, about half of the weight of pods is made up of sweet sugars. The pods can be processed to a cocoa-like flour which is added to cold or heated milk for drinking. The crushed pods can also be combined with wheat flour in making bread or pancakes. The flour produced by beating the seeded pods is high in fibre and can be utilized in breakfast foods. The finer flour is also used in the confectionary industry, especially for cakes and cookies.

Carob is now being utilised as a substitute for cocoa in chocolate. Cocoa which is extracted from cocoa beans can have a lot of side effects. Cocoa which is similar to coffee both have been implicated in certain health issues. Some diseases and health problems, including heart disease, allergies, diabetes, stomach disturbances, and depression, can be exacerbated by these substances. Carob flour has a similar chocolate-like flavour but without the health risks, additives, or contamination that comes with the production of chocolate. In a number of Mediterranean countries the carob pod is also used to make carob syrup which can have a beneficial effect for coughs and sour throat.

The seeds in the pods make up 10% to 20% of the weight of the pods and are also used in the food and cosmetic industry. The seeds contain a gum known as "Tragasol", which is extracted and used as a natural additive with many food products. Among some of its uses are ice cream, baby foods and pet foods. In ice cream the gum has been shown to slow the rate of melt-down and improves its storage properties. Other food uses are its inclusion soft cheeses, sausage products such as salami, bakery products, pie fillings, powdered desserts, sauces and salad creams, and dairy products. Roasted seeds have also been used as a substitute to coffee or added to coffee to balance the side effects of coffee.


At present, the carob tree is mainly grown and cultivated in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy. In the remaining Mediterranean countries the carob is mainly maintain as a native tree, which mainly grows wild, and in some cases it has been included in some re-forestation programs. Overall the carob tree has a great potential if the general market and the food industry recognise its promising potential. The cultivation of this tree would result in a sustainable agriculture practice due to its low inputs of fertilisers and sprays. In addition, its use as an ornamental species for xerogardening (gardening with low amounts of irrigation) would also be a benefit in area with water supply problems..


I. Batlle, J. Tous: Carob Tree (Ceratonia siliqua L.), Promoting the Conservation and Use of Underutilized and Neglected Crops. 17, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, International Plant Genetics Resources Institute, Rome (1997).

About the author: Adrian Bugeja Douglas is currently employed at the Institute of Earth Systems, Division of Rural Sciences and Food Systems. He has a research interest in honey and Mediterranean plants and trees.

Paper N° 3 : University of Teramo, Italy / I.S.L.E project

Good Practices for Sustainable Development in Higher Education Institutions

Higher Education Institutions among all educational structures are vested with significant responsibility in implementing the concept of Sustainable Development, in order to incorporate this concept within their activities (teaching, research, activities) and to extend the concept of Sustainable Development in the society and business world.

One of the results of the EU-funded I.S.L.E Erasmus Network project from 2010-2013 (Innovation in the teaching of Sustainable Development in Life Sciences in Europe) was the identification of Good Practices regarding Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education Institutions (HESD). The topic was analysed in a broader sense, on the one hand considering the characterisation of the political and institutional framework, and on the other describing formal and informal learning experiences in Higher Education Institutions. In the opinion of the authors, maximising the effectiveness of HESD requires all these elements to be taken into account.

36 Good Practices were analysed and presented in systematic forms that have been categorized according to the following three topics related to the implementation of Sustainable Development (SD) education:

- Policies: Good Practices that concern the creation of the institutional framework for HESD at National or Regional Authorities level with the objective of facilitating and strengthening education for SD;

- Institutional activities: Good Practices that concern the management and other non- teaching activities of the Higher Education institutions directed to SD;

- Teaching: Good Practices concerning formal learning at different levels: integration of SD in disciplinary lessons; modules about SD definition and concepts; holistic teaching in relation to Sustainable Development activities; promotion of a SD mindset; improving the framework for teaching SD;

- Practical experiences: Good Practices concerning non-formal and in-formal learning, extracurricular activities and practices that involves HE students or is promoted by HE institutions, often in relation with civil society.

The Good Practices represent a wide range of situations concerning different European countries, institutions, typologies of the initiatives, geographical levels of implementation. However in this diversity some characterizing aspects emerge: the holistic and interdisciplinary approaches to ESD, the attention in achieving tangible results, the involvement of local communities and the bottom-up approaches, the importance of partnerships and networking, capacity building, the innovative aspects of the initiatives, and the attention in building a framework favorable to Sustainable Development.

The Good Practices were selected from a wider range of case studies, emerging from a “State of the Art” analysis in the field of Sustainable Development in the University Studies of Life Sciences in Europe, also carried out within the I.S.L.E project, and from the research of the project partners. The selection was carried out in accordance with the criteria of transferability, pertinence, capacity building, user friendless, innovation, networking capacity and interdisciplinarity.

The full presentation of the research methodology and of the case studies is available in the publication “Sustainable Development in Higher Education in Europe. Good Practices Compendium” downloadable at the following address http://www.isle-project.eu/

About the Author: Dr Emilio Chiodo
Faculty of Bioscience and technologies for food, agriculture and environment, University of Teramo

Poster N° 1 : Harper Adams University

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