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Nikwax grant sends environmental film maker to Iceland

In May of this year, I was able to travel with Risan Media to Iceland with the support of a Nikwax Environmental Grant.

I wanted to travel to Iceland to document parallel scientific research around climate change, renewable energy production and outdoor recreation on glaciers. I had been communicating with Dr. Tomas Johannesson from the Icelandic office of meteorology and I coordinated my trip in May of this year around the annual spring mass balance research by the Icelandic Meteorological Office and Glaciological Society on the Mýrdalsjökull volcanic glacier ice cap.

The trip was incredible and I was able to film throughout the country and was afforded a very special opportunity to interview Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland.

Before heading to Iceland, I also garnered the support of Bergans of Norway, Fitwell, Swany, Sierra Designs, PraNa, Giro, Voile, Mountainsmith and Seagate from the US. I was fortunate enough to gain a sponsorship with SNO Glacier water, the only nitrate free glacier and high in oxygen water from Iceland. I was also able to establish partnerships with some supportive Icelandic companies such as Icelandair, Geysir, Hotel Laxnes, the Blue Lagoon, Einstök, Heydalur, Hotel Hraunsnef, Hotel Isafjordur, Bergmenn Mountain Guides, Húsabakki, Hestar and West Tours.

I flew from Denver to Reykjavik, picked up my car rental and headed off to film at the Blue Lagoon geothermal springs. I enjoyed the mineral waters and filmed there and along the southwest coast.

The next day I visited the Hellisheidi geothermal plant for a tour and interview regarding the process and capacity of geothermal energy production there, and was amazed that they are able to heat Reykjavik by piping the hot water to the city.

Next up I met with the team of scientists from the Glaciological Society and Meteorological Office. I loaded up the super jeeps on 38” wheels and headed south along the coast. There, the ocean meets farmland with sheep and horses, tall cliffs and waterfalls. We headed up a gravel road north towards the ice cap with three vehicles. Once on snow, the team would deflate the immense tires so that we would have traction as we climbed the almost 1500 meter ice cap that covers the Katla volcano.

The team broke into three groups and began conducting research at different locations. The vehicle I was in traversed bumpy snowdrifts following the GPS to the research location that they have visited annually. The team began drilling ice cores into the flat, snow-covered ice cap and carefully measured the cylinders of snow and firn in length and mass in order to calculate density.

I had a great time filming on the ice cap and it was suggested that I join a scientist the following day on the neighboring Eyjafjallajökull outlet glacier. The research that day consisted of steam drilling into the ice for ablation poles that are used to calculate glacier ablation/melting and ice velocity. I enjoyed hiking on the ice with crampons and have previously done some steam drilling on the Gulkana glacier in Alaska with a team from UAF, so the technique was familiar.

Hot springs in Iceland
One of Iceland’s fantastic natural hot springs

I then drove North mostly along the coastline and travelled along the winding roads of the West Fjords to Heydalur. The historic guesthouse has many horses, a stocked trout pond on the stream that meets the fjord, natural hot springs and an indoor greenhouse.

Then I headed to the historic town of Isafjordur, which is situated below steep snow-covered peaks. I was able to interview and enjoy a sea kayaking session with the talented sea kayak guide, Halldór Sveinbjörnsson, in the waters of the inlet there.

The following day I arrived at Husabakki near Dalvik and settled in at the hostel to prepare for a day of split boarding from sea to summit with Bergmenn Mountain Guides. We had a group of 8 or so with two guides and skinned up spring corn snow on peaks rising from the ocean outside Akureyri. It was a bit cloudy but the snow was good and thrilling to ride straight down towards the ocean.

Todd and Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Todd meets with Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

My last day in Iceland allowed for filming throughout Reykavik and a visit to the presidential residence, Bessastaðir, for an interview with Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The President is very intelligent and kind and responded to my questions in great length. I asked him of his youth growing up in Isafjordur, where I had just been. Most of our conversation was focused on his perspectives and initiatives on climate change impacts in Iceland and the Arctic. He discussed his cooperative initiatives between countries of the Arctic and the Himalayan region with these issues. He also elaborated on the concept of the Himalaya as the Third Pole in regards to the volume of ice that, with climate change, is impacting the livelihoods of billions of people.

The President established the first Arctic Circle Conference in 2013, which was attended by 1,200 delegates from over 40 countries. He suggested I attend and I registered with Risan Media to attend the conference. It looks like I will have an opportunity to lead a presentation and to show a Risan Media Iceland video at the conference as well!

The support from Nikwax enabled me to have diverse experiences in Iceland and to document further material for The Risan Film Project. You can find further information on the projects at

To find out more information about Nikwax Environmental Grants and to apply, visit


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Nikwax Launches Environmental Grants Programme

Nikwax today launched a grants programme to support environmental projects across the UK.

The programme, which will see six grants totalling £3,000 being awarded every year, is designed to support small groups and organisations in their environmental ambitions.

Over the past two years, Nikwax has supported several groups.

An outstanding example is Tchad Solaire, an NGO which builds solar cookers to enable Sudanese refugees in Chad  to use the sun to cook for their families.  Nikwax has developed a special waterproofing product to protect the cookers and make them last longer.  A small Nikwax investment, providing free technology and product, has helped literally tens of thousands of families.

Another project closer to home is with a primary school in East Sussex.  Nikwax helped to fund an outdoor classroom for the children to learn about the environment.  The classroom doubles as a hide to watch and learn about local wildlife.

More recently, Nikwax awarded a small grant to a local nursery school.  The school in Five Ashes currently has no garden.  They plan to use the money to create a sensory garden for the children to enjoy and learn about the outside world from an early age.  Nikwax donated £500 and work on the garden will soon be underway.

Erica Greenwood, Chairperson of the Five Ashes Pre-School management committee, said: “Five Ashes Pre-School are really grateful to Nikwax for the grant to create our sensory garden. We’re looking forward to using the garden to help the children in learning about the environment, including looking at native insects and wildlife, and growing flowers and vegetables. Once created it will be an invaluable resource, which we hope will inspire the children to take an interest in nature and the preservation of the natural environment that surrounds them.”

This new environmental grants programme will enable Nikwax to support more projects across the UK.

Speaking about the programme, Nikwax founder, Nick Brown said, “The environment is very important to us at Nikwax.  We work hard to reduce our impact and we would like to support other groups and individuals in doing their bit too.  That’s why we are launching this new small grants programme to help other groups get their environmental projects off the ground.  We are very much looking forward to receiving more applications. Our aim is to raise awareness, and, if possible, offer both our expertise and cash. We will be flexible financially if we are presented with brilliant proposals like Tchad Solaire ”

Anyone can apply for a grant.  Applicants will be asked about the environmental credentials of their proposed project.  The grants panel will meet on a monthly basis.

For more information or to apply visit the Nikwax Small Grants page or contact