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The second stage of the Young Environmentalist Awards Programme is underway and it is time for young people who registered for Ireland’s biggest green awards scheme to submit their eco-action project.
The project submission deadline is 1 March 2019. After that, the ECO-UNESCO internal judging panel will assess all submitted projects and shortlist the candidates who will pitch their ideas in front of a panel of expert external judges.
Below, you will be able to find some useful information on how to carry out your environmental action project.
Step 1. Put a Team Together
The first step to realise your project is putting a team together. What would an ideal team look like? A YEA team should have between 2 and 25 members, who share the same environmental concerns and want to take action to make a real change.
Your team will be made up of people with different backgrounds and skills. Discussing each team member’s interests and skills is a great way to get to know each other and be able to assign members the role that best matches individual skills, which, in turn, will be an asset for developing the project.
Step 2. Select an Environmental Issue
Once the team is formed, it is time to move to the second step, namely selecting the environmental issue you would like to work on. It is important to remember that your submission should be an action project, and so you not only need to research a topic and present your findings, but you will also have to set specific goals and take action! You can find the YEA award categories here.
In order to set real goals, since environemntal issues are very broad, it would be helpful to first select an environmental topic you care about and then think about your personal experience to be able to identify a particular aspect of this environmental topic to be the focus of your project. If you have troubles focusing on a specific part of the topic you want your project to be about, try to think of how a global environmental problem is affecting your local community, or vice versa; explore how a local environmental issue connects with a given sustainable development goal; look for real stories related to the environment and sustainability for inspiration.
Step 3. Research
Research will be an important part of putting a project together, to allow the team to understand the causes and impacts of the issue, but also to see what has already been done about it and what resources you might have available, to finally be able to come up with a creative approach to it. Don't forget to check out the website of environemntal groups and organisations, which usually have an educational resources pages that could contain useful information for you.
Step 4. Create an Action Plan
Once you have a team and a topic, it is time to set an action plan, to help you organise your ideas. When developing your plan, keep in mind the following questions:
- What is your project about and what goals you want achieve?;
- Who is your target audience?;
- What actions are you going to take?;
- Who will be in charge of the different tasks and how long will it take to complete them?; and
- What resources do you need?
What makes a good action plan is setting a few (1 to 3) realistic and specific goals that are achievable considering the time and resources you have available, that can be of interest of a broad audience and that represent a creative approach to an issue.
Step 5. Take Action!
Like stated above, taking action is an essential part of the Young Environmentalist Awards Programme, not only to demonstrate what you have learnt, but also to be empowered and inspire others to take action in the future. If you are unsure of what ‘taking action’ means, these are some ideas: join an existing campaign or create a new one; conduct a survey; create a petition; create a website, a blog, a video, an article; hold a workshop or an event, or simply create educational materials; lobby; organise a challenge, a school fair or a fundraising event; and so on.
There are several kinds of actions, big or small, that can be taken, and you can choose to focus on one of them or mix them together, depending on your team timeline, budget and interests.
Step 6. Raise Awareness
Another important step to carry out your eco-action project is awareness-raising. To inform and educate people about your topic and influence them to positively change their behaviours, you will need to understand your audience, give them clear information and inspire them to act.
A succesful awareness raising campaign will try to leverage on people emotions and involve them in the causes and consequences of the topic you are working on. Secondly, you will need to deliver a message of hope, and make them understand that change is possible. Finally, you need to call for action. To start, you can communicate your message to your community, including, family, friends, school and neighbours. Then you can contact local businesses, newspapers and environmental groups.
Step 7. Reflect
Finally, you will need to reflect on your project, to determine whether you were able to reach the goals you set for the team, what lessons you learnt, what could have been done differently, and how you could keep developing your project in the future.
An important thing to remember is that it is crucial to keep a record of all the work carried out by the team, from how you put your team together to the final reflections, in order to be able to present it in your portfolio by 22nd February.
For more information and useful resources on how to put together your environmental project, you can consult our Programme Manual.
Last November, on the ‘No Time to Waste’ Youth Summit, young people from across Ireland had the opportunity to talk to environment experts and policy makers about the waste issue in the country and some of the conclusions were shocking. Recent statistics show that Ireland had the sixth highest level of municipal waste per person in the EU, with a little less than 600kg of waste per capita each year. Data also show that each Irish household produces, on average, almost €1,000 worth of food waste and that Ireland is one of the top plastic waste producers in Europe, with 61kg per person.
Despite these statistics may look discouraging, they could, in fact, motivate young people to start making a difference immediately.
We talked about the importance of reducing waste several times, but here is some more information on how to make more sustainable choices and produce less waste.
- As far as food is concerned, it would be a good habit for the whole family to make a meal plan and shop only for what is necessary, to avoid food waste. You can make a shopping list to help you buy only what you need and avoid buying what you already have in the house.
- Ditch plastic bags, start using reusable containers to store your food and switch to cotton napkins and washable cloths, as a sustainable alternative to paper towels.
- When it comes to your personal hygiene, try alternative products, such as bamboo toothbrushes or shampoo and body-wash bars, instead of the ones sold in plastic bottles. These items have been gaining a lot of popularity lately, so it will be easier than you think to find them in any shop.
- Give objects a second chance! Instead of discarding broken objects and clothes, try to repair them or create something new with them. This is a great way to get creative too.
- Give objects that you don’t use, unwanted gifts or clothes that don’t fit anymore to charities or someone you know that might use them, instead of throwing them away.
- Start composting. This is much easier than it sounds, and it could be a nice project to carry out with your family.
- Use lunch boxes and bring your drinks in thermos and refillable water bottles. If you do use plastic containers, clean them and recycle them.
- To reduce paper waste, avoid printing handouts and other materials by using projectors or whiteboards. Print double-sided if you need to and use both sides of notebook pages. Write your notes on used papers when possible and it could be a good idea to set up a box where pages with blank sides can go, so that they can be used again.
- Buy notebooks made of recycled paper, recycle any materials you use and be an example for other young people in the school.
ECO-UNESCO is happy to announce two great opportunities to join an organisation that is making a real difference to the lives of young people and the environment. If you have a passion for youth development, are enthusiastic, motivated with project management and event skills then we would love to hear from you.
ECO-UNESCO are currently seeking:
- A full-time Programme Coordinator - Youth Employment. earn more about the opportunity here.
- Tenders from qualified individuals/organisations to prepare and complete an evaluation of the ‘Youth for Sustainable Development Programme’; that is aligned to the Irish Aid Performance Measurement Framework (PMF). Learn more about the opportunity here.
Dear friends of ECO-UNESCO,
We would like to inform you that our office will remain closed from Friday December 21, 2018 to Wednesday January 2, 2019.
We hope you enjoy the Christmas break and we are looking forward to working on new exciting projects with you in the new year.
Christmas holidays are getting closer and for many this is their favourite time of the year.
However, this holiday comes at a high price for our planet. For the past years, Christmas has been associated more and more with an increase in consumerism and pollution.
What can young people do to have a more environmentally friendly Christmas?
Decorations. Avoid plastic decorations and opt for wood, fabrics or clay decorations. A good idea would be to get creative and make your own decorations from discarded materials. As far as lights are concerned, pick LED lights. Did you know that they last up to five times longer than traditional lights and use up to 95% less energy? Finally, it is usually better to use a real tree instead of a PVC one. While fake trees could last forever, researches show that they are discarded after a few years, having a huge impact on the planet. Moreover, real trees too can be re-potted and reuse for up to three years.
Gifts. Exchanging gifts with family and friends is part of the fun. To have the lowest impact possible, buy less and in a responsible way. You can choose gifts made from recycled materials, give battery and plastic free gifts and even re-gift unwanted items. Experiences, such as concerts or sport events, memberships, services instead of material goods or gifts bought from charity organisations can be a great sustainable alternative to traditional gifts. You should also try to avoid unnecessary wrappings, use recycled paper or reuse old boxes, and why not making your own personalised cards from old materials?
Food. Try to avoid waste and reuse any food left-overs. The can become your next day lunch or you can mix them together to create a new recipe. Finally, try to choose organic and local products and reduce meat consumption.
Waste. When you can’t use food again, dispose of it in the right way, by using an organic waste bin or trying to make compost out of it. There are also specialised companies that will collect your Christmas tree to re-pot it or reuse the wood for landscaping. Finally, save any wraps, ribbons and boxes in order to reuse them in the future and always recycle!
Between December 2 and December 14, 2018, COP 24 took place in Katowice, Poland, and it involved almost 30,000 participants, including official Parties, observer states, NGOs, media and more, trying to agree on a “rulebook” for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The launching ceremony was opened by the new COP president, Michał Kurtyka, who stated:
‘I believe it is difficult to imagine a better place than Poland to elaborate a common position for all countries concerning climate policy. In the last thirty years our country reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% while constantly developing its economy at the same time. We invest in new technologies and innovation – for example electromobility.’
COP 24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC is one of the conventions adopted on the occasion of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which entered into force on March 21, 1994, with the goal of preventing any harmful interference of men on the planet climate system. All the countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention, and they meet every year to make sure that provisions adopted by the Convention are effectively implemented.
Several key issues were discussed over the course of the past two weeks. During the first week, two declarations gained the full support of the Parties. The first one, ‘Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration’, is a document on reaching climate protection targets while maintaining economic development and workplaces in the spirit of Solidarity’s heritage. The second one discusses actions towards the development of electromobility – ‘Driving Change Together - Katowice Partnership for E-mobility’.
According to officials, the number of countries supporting these declarations "is an important message that brings hope, and opens opportunities for effective implementation of modern and environmentally friendly technologies".
During the second week of the conference, negotiations on the implementation package of the Paris Agreement were carried out in working groups consisting of two ministers, one from a developed country and the other from a developing country. The second week ended with the approval of the ‘Forests for Climate’ declaration.
Overall, a wide range of issues were discussed and agreed on, including how governments will measure, report on and verify their emissions-cutting efforts. Although a key element was absent from the talks – how countries will step up their targets on cutting emissions – 2020 was established as a deadline for countries to reach such targets. Finally, one of the main lesson learnt from the conference is that, after a few years of stable levels in world’s carbon emissions, they now appear to be rising again. The use of coal and oil continues, and in fact, it drives a big part of the world’s economy. On the other hand, clean energy is developing at a faster pace than expect and at a cheaper price. However, its adoption must be speeded up, in order to be able to cut down emissions and meet the established targets by 2020.
On Saturday 24 November, young people from ECO-UNESCO’s ‘Youth for Sustainable Development’ programme showed their energy and enthusiasm in participating in a dialogue with policy makers and experts on Ireland’s growing waste issue.
You can find more information on what happened during the event here.
During the first part of the morning, Ann-Marie McNally and Gary Gannon (Social Democrats) held a workshop that saw young people coming up with their own policies and figuring out how they would make them into law.
YSD Leader Niall Barrett talked the group through how to take up an environmental action project for our Young Environmentalist Awards 2019. The talk was broadcast live to other young people who are taking part in the programme in Spain.
The experts who joined us talk to us, before kicking off the structured dialogue section of the day. From left to right: Professor Patrick Paul Walsh (UCD), Sabrina Decker (DCU), Les Carberry and Joe Gallagher (from the Sustainable Development Section, DCCAE), and Duncan Stewart (Eco Eye).
The structured dalogue part of the day.
Young participants and experts gave their feedback and shared what they learnt with the rest of the group.
On December 5, we celebrate World Soil Day.
Sometimes, it can be hard to see the impact that our actions have on the planet and soil pollution is a good example of this. Soil pollution is the soil contamination and accumulation of toxic substances that damage plants and animal lives, as well as food production, and is targeted by Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12 and 15.
FAO’s Be the Solution to Soil Pollution campaign for World Soil Day 2018 has the goal to raise awareness and call people to #StopSoilPollution.
Currently, one third of the global soil of the planet is already degraded. However, through small actions and daily behaviours, everybody can do something to stop this phenomenon.
How can young people contribute to stop soil pollution?
Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. Recycle plastic, paper, aluminum and glass every day and choose products obtained from recycled materials. Reduce the use of products that cannot be recycled and your waste. Reuse certain items, such as containers, papers, bags and bottles.
Shop Responsibly. When possible, choose organic food over food treated with pesticides and other chemicals. This will not only benefit the soil, but also your health. Avoid buying products with unnecessary plastic wrappings that cannot be reused and will take a long time to break down. Try to choose items produced through environmentally-friendly industrial processes and biodegradable products, since they will decompose naturally and will not release harmfull chemicals in the soil.
Spread the Word. Talk about this issue with people in your community, your school and friends, and be an example for them of how to stop soil pollution.
Last Friday, November 30, thousands of young people from across Australia decided to skip school as a sign of protest against the Australian government inaction - as they described it - to tackle climate change.
Although Australia committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 26-28% on its 2005 levels by 2030, earlier last week the UN announced that the country is falling behind these goals, which were set under the Paris agreement for emissions. As a matter of fact, according to the emission gap report, Australia has made no progress in its climate policy within the last year.
These young people have received hard criticism from decision-makers, including PM Scott Morrison and Resource Minister Matt Canavan, who said that activism is unnecessary and that students will learn nothing from this experience.
However, these young people are strongly committed to their cause. When asked why they took part in this protest, they said they are worried because they will be the ones suffering the consequences of the decisions that are made by the government today. They have been learning about climate change for a long time and are now asking the government to acknowledge that climate change is a real issue that needs to be tackled with real solutions.
These Australian students are not the only ones demanding for action. Earlier this year, Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old Swedish also skipped school to raise awareness about climate change in her country.
There’s still time for young Irish people to roll up their sleeves and enter Ireland’s favourite green awards scheme, as the deadline to register for the Young Environmentalist Awards 2019 has now been extended to December 21st.
In May of this year, young people from across Ireland had the chance to share their projects at the Young Environmentalist Awards Showcase in the Mansion House and meet other young people like them, who are committed to make a positive change. Now ECO-UNESCO are challenging more young people from Ireland to get their green thinking caps on and rise to this year’s challenge!
The challenge to young people (aged 10-18) in schools, youth and community organisations, is to come up with real solutions to environmental issues such as climate change, waste, and energy.
From taking part, young people become more active in their community, gain personal skills, and even help to tackle some of the most pressing environmental and social global challenges.
“The Young Environmentalist Awards covers a range of environmental issues that present huge challenges that face the whole island such as climate change, biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals.” commented Elaine Nevin, National Director of ECO-UNESCO; “I would like to encourage young people in schools and youth organisations across Ireland to get involved in the awards and look forward to the seeing the ideas, commitment and innovation of Ireland’s young people.”
Interested young people can register their group online on ECO-UNESCO’s website. Once registered, entrants have until the end of February 2019 to complete their project, before entering the heat of the semi-final ECO-Dens in March 2019, where they pitch their project to expert judges for a coveted place in the prestigious final in May.
The Young Environmentalist Awards are funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency with support from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.