For young people, the environment and being eco-friendly is very important, both for their personal benefit and the benefit of future generations. Over the last few months, Team V, a project run by volunteering charity Vinspired, has been campaigning to get young people to take steps to become more environmentally friendly, while encouraging others to do the same. Yet, if this change is to truly work, it must involve educating students on the importance of climate change to their future, and getting schools and other educational institutions to lead by example in cutting their own emissions.
One thing that People & Planet, a charity that empowers students to become more eco-friendly, is doing is to get as many schools to commit to reducing emissions by 34% by 2020. Including that, and many other promises, their Green Education Declaration is a pledge for educational institutions to make to reduce their own emissions and, in turn, educate young people about climate change.
Aside from the commitment of schools and colleges, this also encourages others to think about their personal emissions and how they could be reduced. On a wider scale, there is a responsibility for a school, college or university to encourage parents and the community to, in a sense, “follow the leader” and recognise that it’s not just benefiting them but more importantly, their children as well.
Since its launch in 2008, the Green Education Declaration has been signed by the Vice-Chancellors of thirty-eight universities across the UK and has also had much support from student bodies. Furthermore, as a result People & Planet’s urge to get educational institutions signed up, I hope that it may also lead to more opportunities for students to put that knowledge to use, in the form of green jobs. The green job economy is growing, and not just in the UK. If we educate young people now, this could be a real opportunity for us in the future.
So, the next step is to get schools and colleges to sign up to this pledge. Despite sounding easy, from my own personal experience, the difficulty is that many schools and colleges have people they have to consult before making such decisions. If only they had planets to consult, then we would be in business!
On a more serious note, the Declaration will come over to head teachers and principals more effectively if students are to push its cause. Often, student democracy such as youth councils and student councils can have more of an effect on staff than if it came from a colleague. Perhaps this is down to the fact that we will be the ones living in the world that some of these staff help to pollute.
The Green Education Declaration is a way for educational institutions to equip young people with the skills and awareness that are needed to tackle a problem like climate change. Leading by example is just the start. Alongside this needs to be a curriculum that supports a more environmentally friendly future for adults and young people alike.
The Green Education Declaration is a great start however. So, I call on young people of the UK. Go and secure your green future and nag your principals and headmasters until they sign.
If you are a school, college or university and would like more information on the Green Education Declaration, please visit the People & Planet website and if you are interested and want to commit, please sign it. The following link is where you can find all that information and more on what you can do as an educational institution to get involved in being a greener place to study.
Backbench Minister for Education