What is your role at St Nicks?
My role is a Green Mentor which involves working with young people aged 10-14 to help them organise their own environmental projects. I also lead the Ecotherapy Bearing Fruit group but I’ll save talking about that for another time.
In what ways have you been involved in environmental action, especially when you were 10 – 14 years old?
I’ve always loved nature, finding bugs and getting my hands muddy but at that age I would have started to learn a bit more about the environment and how important it is to protect it.
We would often do litter picks when we went on family walks. We would take a bag with us and all collect litter as we went. I loved (and still love!) doing this as it is such a quick and easy way to make an impact in a natural area with the benefit of making it a nicer place for other people to enjoy as well as a better habitat for wildlife.
I also started trying to learn more species. I would ask what type of tree, flower or bird something was and try and keep it in my memory. And I remember starting to have more discussions with friends at school about environmental issues – one of them was about being vegetarian/vegan and how this could be a positive thing for environmental reasons. It wasn’t as common to be veggie as it is now so lots of people were curious about it, which made me do more research that I could share with others.
Who or what has most inspired you to connect with nature and protect the environment?
My parents are definitely big nature lovers so I was taught from a young age to always rescue a worm or spider as an important part of an ecosystem, which needs to be protected just as much as the ‘exciting’ animals like pandas or tigers.
I was also definitely inspired by watching nature documentaries and even being fortunate enough to travel to some places abroad, knowing that I was really lucky to see animals in the wild. However, this also highlighted the fact that getting to see animals in the wild was a luxury and might not always be possible if we didn’t protect the environment now.
Why do you think it’s so important for young people to lead their own project and what kinds of things could they do?
I think it’s incredibly important for young people to be empowered to design their own project at all stages of the process. They will come up with really creative and imaginative ideas and it will give them experience of planning and organising. Young people are the future and we need to give them a voice so they can have a say in how they want that future to look like. The kind of things they could be involved with can be practical activities like tree planting, sowing wildflower seeds, creating wildlife habitats and litter picking, or it could be things like campaigning and petitioning and trying to get others to make more environmentally friendly changes – e.g. local councils, schools or businesses. But as the project is youth led then it is basically whatever the young people want to do that will fulfil the aim!
What does a typical day involve?
There isn’t really a typical day. At the moment there’s often a lot of talking to people who might want to be involved with the project, planning possible sessions, activities for future events and researching other projects as well as inspirational people who have done similar things. When the groups are fully set up and running then we’ll actually be able to start doing our environmental action.
What do you think are the most important environmental issues facing us?
There are so many and often they are interlinked. For example global heating is a major issue which then also impacts a lot on biodiversity and species loss. But ecosystems are also being destroyed by things like agriculture and farming which is to feed the growing population. More people use more resources, especially in the richer parts of the world, and then create more waste which often isn’t recycled. This waste can then often make its way into habitats like the oceans which impacts on the ecosystems there. So they are all linked in some way and all are crucial to try and do something about in whatever way we can. A major problem is that a lot of people don’t see these things as a problem so one of the most important things is raising awareness to get everyone involved.
What’s your favourite way to connect with nature?
Pretty much anything; if I’m out in nature I’m going to be enjoying it! But my favourite thing is just walking, noticing and appreciating things – looking at the detail in a leaf, smelling a flower or watching the shapes of clouds change. When we’re allowed to, I also love swimming outdoors in rivers, lakes and the sea! That’s definitely a great way to feel very connected to nature.
What would you say to somebody who is thinking about getting involved in the Green Influencers project, whether a young person or adult?
Definitely come and get involved! If you are a young person who is passionate about the environment and have ideas for how to look after it then we’d love to hear you. Similarly, if you work at a school or youth group and know a group of young people who would want to be involved then that would be great too. The project aims to be as inclusive and accessible as possible so even if you haven’t had any experience doing something like this before we’d still love you to get involved! Many young people want to do something to help the environment but sometimes it can be daunting knowing where to start. This project can help with that and there are going to be hundreds of other Green Influencers all around the country so young people can also be part of a bigger nationwide project ran by The Ernest Cook Trust.