A few months ago, school pupils in Cumbria penned a new storybook that took on the story of Driggsby, the whale that washed up on a Cumbrian shore in 2014. The young Fin whale was thought to have died due to developmental complications caused by plastic in her mother’s milk. In response, the kids produced Driggsby, a whales tale, an illustrated book while learning all about the issues of plastic pollution and participated in beach cleans along the coast from Allonby to Seascale.

This remarkable work which led to, as well as the book, an exhibition in Tullie House museum where the whale is now housed, was recently recognised at the first Cumbria School Eco awards.

Alongside the Distington Community School Cluster, who helped the kids along, a number of other initiatives were also given the spotlight at the awards.

Some of the initiatives that gained recognition included pushing schools to adopt sustainable packaging, tree planting, the installation of solar panels, establishing eco-councils, beach cleans, and recycling schemes.

There as also one secondary school recognised at the awards. Queen Katherine school impressed with its dedicated eco-hub and budgeted sub-groups delivering projects around waste and transport. They have reduced the amount of meat in school meals and increased the composting of food waste.

All in all, the future looks bright for effective and determined climate activism as these young people continue to grow and develop. The huge efforts across Cumbria demonstrate that the younger generation are desperate to begin making an impact on our planet’s climate for the better and have decided their schools are the best place to make a start.

Young Cumbrians find common purpose

Elsewhere in youth climate action, Cumbria 30, an empowering initiative for 18-25 year olds led by Common Purpose has just come to a close. Our Youth Projects Coordinator Ceri had been mentoring one group of young people as part of the programme as they identified and made efforts to solve a climate issue that was important to them.

Their idea was that young people don’t learn as much as they could about climate change while in secondary school. They proposed that the pressure that builds up during those years around GCSE/A-Level exams pushes the opportunity for extra climate education out of the window. Conversely, primary school aged kids have much wider opportunity to learn about and within nature.

The students came up with a plan which they pitched to Cumbrian leaders including co-chair of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership Angela Jones. They put forward the idea that secondary school pupils could take responsibility for small patches of nature in their school’s urban communities. This involved collaborating with local people to maintain these small patches of greenery, raise beds, plant and otherwise familiarise themselves with the natural world at a time when school demands usually eclipse all other concerns.

The Cumbria 30 initiative was supported by groups like the University of Cumbria, Cumbria Constabulary, Anti-racist Cumbria and the National Trust who all set the scene in a briefing session with the students to inspire them to think big on climate action.

Young people make their mark on CAfS

In the final part of our round up of recent youth climate action, Ceri also met with the Cumbria Youth Council, a group who are involved with the Make Your Mark programme from the British Youth Council.

These young group members pitched ideas to Ceri and described the actions they’d previously taken in the hopes that other young people and schools can take ideas from them.

Among their main concerns was the heavy reliance in school canteens on single use plastics for packaging. Our Youth Projects Coordinator was particularly impressed by the action of one student who, noticing the popularity of a particular drink packaged in plastic bottles at the school canteen, researched and sorced an almost identical replacement stored in more sustainable packaging for the school to adopt.

Another had managed to push for the replacement of plastic cutlery in their school’s eatery. Their wish as a whole was to compile a list of suppliers they could use to help schools inform their choices in regard to sustainability in their canteens.

For more information or to share ideas that can support young people on sustainability, please contact Ceri Holman, Youth Projects Coordinator: [email protected]