Empowering young people for a greener future

November 25, 2020

In November, we invited the young people involved in our Green Futures project to take over our social media channels and blog, to talk about what’s important to them about climate and the environment.

In the face of a challenging world, children and young people are using their energy, passion and ideas to change the communities they live in, and the world around them for the better. It is up to us to do whatever we can to support and empower them.

Through our Green Futures programme we’re inspiring more young people to do something positive for the environment, empowering them to make their voices heard, and helping them to get jobs that make a difference.

Here’s what our Green Futures managers have to say about the programme and the talented young people who are part of it.

What is the Green Futures programme?

Green Futures is all about empowering young people aged 11-24 to learn about and protect nature and the environment. It is funded through the National Lottery Community Fund and is one of 31 projects which together form Our Bright Future, a UK-wide movement helping young people step up and take what is rightfully theirs: a healthy planet, a thriving economy and a brighter future.

We work in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the Field Studies Council at Malham Tarn and various school, youth and community groups.

What does it do?

We have four main projects that connect young people with the environment.

Through Eco Schools we support schools to become more eco-friendly whilst Green Guardians is an outdoor project that brings young people into the Dales who might not previously have had the opportunity to do so.

Young Rangers is a project where groups of young people meet once a month to do conservation tasks. It’s in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority – and then we have our Dales and Fells Trainees scheme. Here, young people work full time for an employer in the environmental sector and receive a decent training budget so they can get the qualifications and experience needed to get into environmental work.

We also have a Youth Forum which brings together young people from all four projects to discuss environmental issues. In a normal year (unlike this one!) they will also plan a residential weekend for other young people.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced throughout the course of the project?

The sheer breadth of geographical area we work in. Young people come from far away as Leeds across to Bowness on Windermere in Cumbria so being so spread out can make it difficult to bring everyone together! In a way it’s a positive thing as we provide young people with opportunities to meet other young people from very differing backgrounds.

What have been the successes?

It’s fair to say the project has surpassed our expectations. To date we have worked with 4,864 young people and they have delivered 770 environmental improvements. We have given grant funding to 34 projects and each of those are run by young people themselves. 16 young people have completed their college apprenticeships and more than 90 per cent of those who have finished their placements have gone onto further employment or further education.

We try to put young people at the heart of what we do. We have a young person on our steering group, a panel of young people decided which projects should receive grant funding and as a result of Green Futures, YDMT appointed its first young trustee.

One of the keys to our successful approach is meeting young people where they are at. We appreciate everyone is different and has their own story to tell so we try to be flexible to meet everyone’s needs.

Is there something that’s happened during the programme you have been most surprised at?

It is the fact that the young people have taken the lead and seeing how well their peers react to that. Our staff may be well used to running workshops and sessions, but we learnt very early on that young people will really get on board if a young person is doing it. Everyone feels more empowered as a result and the staff feel really inspired by them.

What is your best memory of Green Futures?

The Youth Summit residentials up at Malham Tarn. For the past three years our young people have planned and run them for other young people to attend. There’s a huge range of things that happen from making hedgehog homes to upcycling clothing. It’s always a great weekend where the participants go home having learnt and laughed lots. The staff go home exhausted but it’s worth it! The thing that sticks most in my mind though is when the young people played sardines one evening and the howls of laughter that ensued!

What are the plans for the project’s future?

We are busy applying for funding to keep all the good work of Green Futures going and enable more young people to explore and have their say on environmental issues.  In addition to continuing our existing projects, we hope to create more localised youth forums and ways of working with young people longer term. This will help young people create further positive environmental change in their communities, create a better world for us all and engage young people on a longer-term basis.