Northern Ireland pupils lead the green revolution
When asking people what their environmental concerns are, most highlight "litter", or "dog fouling". But global environmental issues are also impacting at a local level.
Recent research from Planet Earth Herald shows the most significant global environmental issues we face include population, climate change and loss of biodiversity, pollution and over-fishing.
The good news is that our young people are playing their part in protecting our natural and built environment. Our 340,000 enthusiastic pupils and teachers from across Northern Ireland are taking local action through the Eco-Schools programme.
Downpatrick Nursery was the first school in the world to receive an Eco-Schools Green Flag as a mark of excellence in environmental education and Northern Ireland was the first country in the world to get every school involved.
This phenomenal success has resulted in the Foundation for Environmental Education, which runs the programme globally, selecting Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to host a three-day conference this weekend, bringing together programme leaders from 60 countries to see how we can make an even bigger difference.
In Northern Ireland, we have several exemplary schools that now send no waste to landfill, others have reduced their energy bill by £6,000 annually and some schools have witnessed a 45% drop in littering behaviour.
It is the heady mix of enthusiastic teachers and excited pupils studying real-life issues that makes the Eco-Schools programme so successful.
Our students are not satisfied with only leading change at school.
Children are acting as change agents; using their knowledge and skills to influence the attitudes and behaviours of their parents and their community.
Through the Eco-Schools programme children are involved in environmental issues that relate to their immediate environment and they will not only learn and retain the information, they will also internalise the values associated with caring for the environment and impart the advice to others.
If we want a better place to live, we all need to step up to the mark.
- Dr Ian Humphreys is chief executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful (www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org)