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Green Influencers

Three children in green t-shirts smiling for a photo. They hold puppets made from recycled litter and a certificate that reads 'groundbreaker award'.

Over the last three years, we’ve been working to inspire and support young people in Bristol to take action on environmental justice and lead the way as Green Influencers.

More than 6,700 young people from across the UK participated in the Green Influencers scheme, which has come to an end after a successful three years. The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) was one of 36 organisations within the scheme, which supported young people aged 8-14 years to engage in environmental social action.

Through Green Influencers, CSE supported more than 220 children across Bristol. We helped them plan and carry out actions addressing environmental justice issues most important to them.

Young people have contributed the least to climate change yet will likely feel its worst impacts…

Three in every five children are worried about the impact climate change will have on their futures. They’re the least responsible for climate change – they simply haven’t lived as long – but they’re likely to experience the worst impacts of historic emissions. CSE runs several youth empowerment programmes, which support young people in environmental action. We help them build the skills, knowledge, and confidence to participate in the decision-making that impacts their lives, encouraging them to address their concerns in a constructive and empowering way.

Green Influencers

The Green Influencers programme supported 44 ‘Green Mentors’ in 36 organisations across the UK, including our Green Mentor, Kate Elliott-Rudder, here at CSE. The mentors worked with local groups of young people, getting them engaged with environmental issues and helping them to lead the way on social action projects in their communities.

Litter picks, puppets, and protests…

CSE worked with groups of 8–14-year-olds, to connect them to local patches of nature and take environmental action in their playgrounds, schools, youth clubs, scout groups, and neighbourhoods.

Between 2021 and 2023, we worked with more than 220 young people in 12 different venues across Bristol. We focused on positive actions that fostered excitement about nature and protecting the environment, rather than scary climate scenarios or systemic issues. Our positive approach inspired the influencers, getting them excited about environmental activism and motivating them to start their lifelong journeys as climate leaders.

Our Green Influencers chose projects that felt exciting and important to them. They created wildlife areas in their schools and gardens, installing bat boxes, bug hotels, bird feeders, and even building a pond and an orchard!

Others focused on issues to do with waste, organising litter picks, and recycling rubbish into works of art. They also helped influence wider change in their communities: in Lockleaze, our waste warriors started a litter-picking movement in their neighbourhood (check out their video below), and the eco team at City Academy in Easton campaigned to reduce the use of plastics and to have more environmentally friendly vegan options in their school canteen.

Our waste warriors from Lockleaze talking about the litter-picking movement they started in their neighbourhood.

One group, the BS13 Green Influencers at the Heart of BS13 even won a Global Goals Centre Groundbreaker Award for their craftivism project. They created huge litter monster puppets from recycled waste and created anti-litter and fly-tipping videos.

Three children in green t-shirts smiling for a photo. They hold puppets made from recycled litter and a certificate that reads 'groundbreaker award'.
Olly, Erin and Lexi from the BS13 Green Influencers with their Groundbreaker Award.

Beyond environmental education

Our work focused on deprived areas of Bristol, where children are less likely to receive extra-curricular education about topics like environmental justice. One of the Hartcliffe Green Influencers commented

We never learn anything like this in school. In school all we learn about is bullying.

Hartcliffe Green Influencer

By supporting them to take action to care for the environment in their community, we helped students improve their wellbeing and connection to nature. Even students who were initially uninterested, or felt they disliked nature, developed curiosity and enthusiasm for environmental action once they got stuck into hands-on work in local natural spaces.

An adult and two children leaning over a tablet.
Collecting data on bees in Hartcliffe using an app for citizen science.

While the project facilitated learning about issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, and waste, its impact went beyond education. By giving young people the chance to choose topics they care about and design their own projects to advocate for them, the scheme also built influencers’ confidence, agency, and enthusiasm. Students in Hartcliffe spoke about how they had learned to talk about their opinions and debate things they think are important. One student shared:

I enjoyed doing more…. I liked brainstorming, being able to come up with a plan AND execute it.

Hartcliffe Green Influencer

Throughout the project, we also worked with adult leaders in the local groups— teachers, youth workers, community workers and parents. They helped to organise the young influencers and inspire them to continue caring for the environment. Collectively they spent over 200 hours on the project!

The Green Influencers project has been an important part of our Future Generations programme at CSE. This was one of our first opportunities to work with children outside of school, and it’s helped us explore new ways to inspire and support young people in environmental action.

Our Green Mentor, Kate, reflected:

I learned a lot about climate action in deprived parts of Bristol, and how to engage young people in environmental issues. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned through the Green Influencers scheme into our other youth projects, so we can more effectively support young people to become change-makers and environmental leaders.

Kate Elliott-Rudder — CSE’s Green Mentor

What’s next for our Green Influencers?

In place of the Green Influencers scheme, Ernest Cook is launching a new Blue Influencers scheme, focused on connecting young people with their local communities via blue spaces such as rivers, seas, and estuaries.

Here in Bristol, the award-winning BS13 Green Influencers are continuing their campaign to stop littering and fly-tipping in their neighbourhood, supported by the Heart of BS13 and Hartcliffe Club for Young People. You can support their campaign through their crowdfunder.

Green Influencers was funded by UK education charity, Ernest Cook. It was made possible by match-funding from the #iwill Fund, an investment from the National Lottery Community Fund and Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which supports access to high-quality social action opportunities for young people.

Discover the other ways CSE is working to empower future generations of climate leaders …

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