From Eco-School Committee to environmental charity

A blog post by Anna Ireland

Anna Ireland
Former Communications Intern

Posted 25/02/2020

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This year we are celebrating our 20th birthday with a series of blogs reflecting on the range of our activites over the last two decades.


It began as it always does: with bins.

The noise in the assembly room swelled as the teacher tried to silence hundreds of eight-year-olds sniggering at the mention of the ‘B’ word.

‘Now, it’s important we understand why we should recycle’ she said, pointing to the green bin to her left. ‘Our planet is a delicate balance of elements and we, as humans, have the power to upset this balance by using too much of what is available to us. Recycling can help us restore that balance.’

Squint and you’d catch sight of a small girl, with huge, blonde curly hair, eyes shining at the back.

My hand was the first to shoot up when we were told about the ‘Eco-Committee,’ a team of pupils that would encourage our school to look after our planet whilst working towards something known as the Eco-Schools ‘Green Flag Award’. I came home to my parents, gushing about the need to urgently organise our bins. Tired from work and the world, they were less enthusiastic.

Making the connection between my home and the wider world was a big concept for a small child, exacerbated by the realisation that the things I did, consumed and played with daily could either destroy or preserve this world around me. I was appointed Eco representative of my class following an impassioned speech about our role as guardians, not owners, of our planet.

We worked on our Eco-Committee to inform fellow students and change their behaviour, understanding that children’s enthusiasm could ripple outward to shift entrenched familial habits. Not only this, feeling that young minds could continue sustainable habits into adulthood.

By giving us individual responsibilities at a young age – attending a meeting, reporting back to class, responding to questions – we began to understand the time, effort and concentration required in fighting for our planet. We were taught the Eco-Schools ‘topics’ on sustainability, biodiversity and litter, before  the power was placed in our hands, respecting and valuing the opinions we presented and gathering our suggested actions. I loved it.

Working towards our Green Flag, we felt a sense of purpose in a collective goal. Despite the macro nature of the issue, we were always encouraged to think micro. How did we think we could get our parents to consider recycling? What changes could we make in school to encourage sustainable eating habits? Slowly, we were learning that the big world around us could change if we moved the needle in our tiny compasses. And, crucially, we had to work together (even if Kim’s mum hated recycling and David’s dad thought climate change was a myth).

As a team, we began to build something special. Arguably, the fire that sparked this small Eco-Committee in Glasgow epitomises the fuel of today’s youth-led environmental movement. I’m certain that some fellow Scottish climate strikers would be Eco-Committee alumni.

This feeling – the burning desire to work with a team to inform and encourage action – has never wavered. Only, as an adult, I channelled it into my work with environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, sharing stories and information about community projects, climate action and behaviour change campaigns.

Encouraging behaviour change is at the heart of what the charity does, but we know that this does not come without people feeling connected to their own environment. I was lucky as a young person to be given the confidence to believe in my ability to protect and influence the environment around me.    

I can directly track the sense of possibility I experienced on our Eco-Committee to where I am now. My passion for the planet was validated by the tools I was given to protect it. It’s a toolkit I will reach for throughout my life.

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