One of the most important activities that we as an organisation commit to is spreading climate change awareness among the younger generations, this is fundamental in order to improve their understanding of an issue that will have major impacts on their lives in the future, and for which, in order to tackle it, they will need appropriate tools and competences.
GEAI organised three different Climate Action Days sessions with transition year students attending Lough Allen College in Drumkeeran to give them food for thought on the main environmental problems that are afflicting our planet. The achieved results proved to be incredibly noteworthy, with a warm participation by the class that put forward many new and interesting ideas.
The main goal of these sessions, other than encouraging the local youth to reflect on climate change, was inspire their practical thinking and let them suggest concrete solutions to do something themselves, firstly as individuals, then as a school, and, lastly, as Irish citizens living in County Leitrim.
The first session took place on April 19th facilitated by our CEO Aedín McLoughlin and consisted of an overview on climate change to give the students a context that would help them thinking about possible solutions. The following two sessions were structured in a more interactive format, since teenagers were asked to actively participate in the activities offered to them.
Particularly successful was the quiz organised on transportation, which saw the enthusiastic participation of the class, with students guessing the answers, discussing them with their classmates and learning pros and cons of sustainable means of transport. For example, did you know that electric car batteries are 95% recyclable, but we still do not have the technology to achieve that goal?
After the active interest that pupils demonstrated during our second session, we decided to leave the matter more in their hands by organising a world café in which they could come up with and discuss ideas by themselves. A world café is an informal method that allows participants to discuss topics of various nature while sitting in small table groups. Discussions are usually held in multiple rounds that last for a determined number of minutes after which participants are supposed to move to the next table, and hence topic. In our final session on May 9th we set up 4 tables, one for each of the topics mentioned above, and subsequently divided the pupils into small groups, one for each selected theme.
With one of our volunteers sitting at each of the tables as facilitator, the groups were asked to answer to three main questions related to the topic of each table, namely fast fashion, vegetarianism, plastic waste and sustainable means of transport: ‘What can I do? What can my school do? What can my county do?’. By writing their suggestions on post-its and sticking it under the column of the respective question they were answering, students were encouraged to discuss solutions among each other, coming up with new ideas and propositions.
For example, in order to tackle fast fashion, they came up with suggestions as various as swapping clothes among friends and knitting their own jumpers, incentivise the recycling of past students’ uniforms in their school and, finally, ask the County Council to make a larger number of charity shops and clothes banks available to citizens.
Ideas such as bringing your own bag to shops, buy in bulk and loosely, and, if possible, also buy refills for shampoo and laundry detergent were among the most discussed options that students could individually carry out for dealing with plastic waste. More broadly, according to them the school could start allowing homemade meals to be brought for lunch and provide students with reusable bottles and lunch boxes. As for the County, actions such as switching to public bins with separate sections for recyclable and general waste and banning plastic bags in shops could be helpful to reduce plastic use.
Regarding sustainable transportation, the class unanimously thought that people should carpool and cycle more, especially to school. For this reason, the school should implement the number of available bike racks and provide students with bike locks. On a similar note, the Council should increase the number of safe footpaths and cycling paths, while at the same time organising better the already existing local transportation system.
The sessions at every table were timed to last only from 5 to 7 minutes, so that groups could have the chance to rotate by moving on to the next table, and consequently express their ideas on every proposed topic. Once each group had completed the tour of all four tables, the conclusions and propositions they came up with during the meetings were summed up and discussed together with the rest of the class.
Following the debates and reflections that issued from these Climate Action Days, it can only be concluded that, while it has been a challenging experience due to the complexity of the treated topics, judging by the interest of the students the result is certainly positive and successful. A result that we will try to achieve again in our future Climate Action Days, and that we will especially try to improve!