How to have a planet positive summer!
Every day there are so many ways we can all play our part in looking after our amazing world. That was the inspiration behind my new picture book, Stella and the Seagull, illustrated by Izzy Burton, because I want everyone to realise just how much power they have in their everyday lives to make effective change, through big and small actions. In Stella and the Seagull we see Stella affect change by talking to all the shopkeepers in her town and writing to a local company, when she’s inspired to take action after her seagull friend falls ill from eating plastic from the sea. She inspires her community to make really positive changes.
This year it’s even more important we all make sure the Government knows how much we all care about our planet and those affected by it, as the UK is hosting COP26, where leaders from around the world will come together in Glasgow to discuss and agree on actions each country will take to address the climate crisis. A lot of decisions will be made before the conference itself, so this summer is the perfect time for activity, ensuring all governments see how much we care and that we expect them to take action on our behalf.
So here are a few simple ideas and activities which families and schools can take part in to help children get their voices heard and to have a positive impact this summer and beyond.
- Promise to the Planet
Encourage children to take part in the #PromiseToThePlanet initiative – by gathering leaves and writing their #PromiseToThePlanet on them; the message they most want world leaders to hear. Schools can join in creating a ‘Tree of Promises’ to form part of a virtual forest of promises to the planet that will take root across the UK and send a clear message to world leaders on 9th November during the COP26 Conference. Find out how you can get involved at https://www.scouts.org.uk/about-us/help-others/promise-to-the-planet/
- Read and talk about climate change
One of the most powerful things we can all do is to talk about climate change. Encourage your children to get together with their friends (or siblings, or grandparents) to give their own climate change workshop (with a little help from WWF)https://www.wwf.org.uk/get-involved/schools/cop26. Or get them reading some of the many amazing picture books on the subject out there such as Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and Zoe Persico, How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear by Dr Jess French and Angela Keoghan, or the timeless The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. And for 8-12 year olds Climate Action, which gives the science, some solutions and inspiration in the form of what other young people are doing already. (Full disclosure; that last one is also one of mine!)
- Become citizen scientists!
We can all really help organisations to get a clear picture on the impact of climate change on biodiversity, simply by counting the wildlife in the garden and elsewhere. Sign up to a citizen scientist project to provide vital information, allowing organisations to focus their work where it is most needed. This summer there are lots of projects; from counting butterflies in the big butterfly count, to helping the woodland trust monitor the effects of climate change, monitoring your shoreline, doing a 24 hour bioblitz, or monitoring bats, there is something for everyone!
- Living life on the veg!
Get your children involved in making your BBQ as earth friendly as possible, by getting them to cut up all the vegetables, and even make their own vegan burgers too! You can also help them to make the hummus and mayonnaise to cut down on plastic use. (They are both super simple to make, and you can use the aquafaba from the tinned chickpeas that you will use for the hummus, to make the mayonnaise!) Instead of using disposable cutlery and plates, get the children to hand around the real crockery and explain to guests how much plastic they are saving for our landfills.
- Party for the planet
It’s really easy to have a low impact children’s party so why not make birthdays this summer into a green occasion? Children can make their own reusable bunting (instead of balloons which can hurt wildlife and hang around for a long time), or bake low carbon footprint cupcakes – using less energy to cook than a cake, and using oil instead of butter. Ditch the meat and go with a veggie menu and make popcorn for everyone.
- There is no such place as away
We all know landfills are overflowing around the world, so what can we do about it? The most important thing we can all do is have a look at what we are throwing away. Get your children to help by emptying your landfill bin onto your lawn or onto a covered surface and getting them to write down the contents on a big board or piece of paper. Ask them what is taking up the most space in your landfill bin and if they have any ideas of how to reduce them? Check what your local council will recycle, and put the waste into two different categories; what can be recycled, and what cannot be recycled? Write down ideas for how those items could be avoided or reduced; it could make a HUGE difference to what you are sending to landfill.
- Be like Stella
And finally if your children like to write, get them to share their ideas about climate change. Write to your local MP and tell them about all of the things you are doing about climate change, ask them about their policies, or thank them if they’re particularly good on this issue. Or you could write to a company whose products the children love but who they feel could do better for the planet and get them to include their ideas!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
Georgina Stevens is a sustainability writer, advisor and campaigner. She is a big believer that each of us has the power to make seismic change in our world, and she organises the Be The Change events to help plant seeds of inspiration in this direction. Her favourite things are walking with her dogs, forest-bathing and planting things with her son, Rafael.
Stella and the Seagull by Georgina Stevens, illustrated by Izzy Burton is published by Oxford Children’s Books.