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How CSE invests in future generations to tackle the climate emergency

Green Influencers learn about renewable energy with recycling box towns and mini solar circuits
21 April 2023

At the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), we know that we need to invest in our young people and their knowledge about our planet and energy.

CSE has several youth empowerment programmes. These programmes empower children with essential tools to navigate the energy landscape now and as they grow older. Kate Elliott-Rudder, our Green Mentor, is a key part of our Green Influencers project. Here she explains why these programmes are so crucial for the young people we support, the UK, and our planet…

Young people are among the least likely people in the UK to have contributed to the irreversible impacts of climate change – they have limited purchasing power or control over their consumption, and they just haven’t been alive for as long! Yet, young people will face increasingly more constant, costly and severe impacts of climate change over their lifetime.

Luckily, many young people have the drive, ingenuity, agency and enthusiasm to contribute to tackling the climate emergency. Green Influencers harnesses this and makes sustainability fun for all ages. We support 8-14-year-olds to connect with their local patches of nature and take environmental action in their community. Green Mentors, like me, run regular sessions at schools, youth clubs and adventure playgrounds with our plucky young green influencers.

What have our Green Influencers been up to?

As a Green Mentor, I organise activities to get young people engaged and excited, learning about climate change in a fun way. My groups have explored the pollinators around their playgrounds, built bug hotels and bird feeders, hosted litter picks, created works of art out of recycling and more! While many young people might feel like they don’t know much about the environment, don’t care about it or even dislike it (bugs, yuck!), getting hands-on in the local environment quickly leads to curiosity and enthusiasm for protecting our planet.

The Green Influencers have also influenced behaviour change in others. Students with City Academy’s eco team in Easton identified that their canteen ought to be more environmentally friendly to fit the ethos of the school, so they petitioned their canteen staff for less plastic waste and more vegan options. In Hartcliffe, a group of young people saw that plastic waste was a huge issue in their community. They tackled this creatively with craftivism making giant litter puppets, and even won a Global Goals Centre Groundbreaker Award for their work. Over in Lockleaze, some friends started a litter pick in their neighbourhood – watch the video here.

It’s been important to start with fostering excitement for nature and local wildlife – not with ‘boring’ techno-centric issues or scary climate scenarios. By inspiring young people to see the importance and FUN of acting environmentally, CSE is helping young people take their first steps to being lifelong environmental leaders.

The impact of Green Influencers… 

Young people in more deprived parts of Bristol cannot access climate-change-related activities as easily as their peers in other parts of the city. In fact, life skills and topics outside of the standard curriculum can be limited. One of our students in Hartcliffe explained “We never learn anything like this in school. In school all we learn about is bullying.” It’s vital that young people in a variety of circumstances are engaged in climate action to ensure the voices of the future reflect the diversity of the UK population.

Through the Green Influencer project, young Bristolians have learned about pollinators, litter, recycling, and renewable energy. They’ve used their new knowledge in their playgrounds and schools, improving biodiversity and encouraging behaviour change.

The programme aims to equip young people with skills and knowledge they can carry with them as they grow older. One teacher reflected that “The activities have been super engaging and have encouraged students to think carefully and express their own thoughts, which is an important life skill.” A student at City Academy added, “I particularly enjoyed doing more than just learning. Green Influencers was fun and important and it actually made a difference to our future”.

While helping the environment is a primary goal for the Green Influencer programme, so is building confidence, agency and enthusiasm in the young people of our future. Who says learning can’t be fun?

What’s next for the Green Influencers?

The Green Influencers of Hartcliffe, led by Heart of BS13 and Hartcliffe Club for Young People, are preparing for a pollinator-themed street parade in September. The group hope this will inspire others to stop littering and look after our important pollinators. You can join them on 30 September at Hartcliffe City Farm. See you there!’

Other CSE projects that support young people

Bright Green Future

As well as Green Influencers, we have an environmental leadership programme for 16-19 year-olds. This is a 6-month course for young people interested in the environment. As well as learning how to create meaningful change, they’ll also learn essential skills that will help them as they leave school and find a career.

Merton Energy Matters 

And in the London Borough of Merton, CSE is working with multiple schools to develop resources for educators to use in the classroom. These include fun, interactive lessons and activities to teach students about energy, sustainability, fuel poverty and how they can help.

Want to find out more?

Email our communities team to find out how they can help.

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