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Meet the teen activists fighting the war against plastic pollution

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Meet the teen activists fighting the war against plastic pollution

In January 2020, a free period product scheme was launched in state schools and colleges in England to tackle period poverty. For the first time ever, the Mooncup menstrual cup and reusable pads are now also available free of charge alongside disposable pads and tampons. To date, over 60% of schools have still not signed up to the scheme, even though it is free!
You have instigated a lot of change through your school campaigns, do you have any tips for kids, parents/guardians, and teachers for getting through to the schools and convincing them not only to engage in the free period product scheme, but to make sure they offer reusable products too?

Student voice is something that is really powerful, and I think that the most potent change in schools comes from young people. Especially with an initiative such as the free period product scheme, which directly affects and benefits young people, having the students demand the change is definitely the most powerful way to engage with schools. It also means that proper behavioural change will take place, and shows that pupils are engaging with the initiative – it’s not just something that is being forced upon them.


In order to get the school’s buy in for going plastic clever, you need grown-up allies. Have you got any tips for finding the right people for this in your school?

Think about what action you want to see taken at your school, and work from there. When we were working with our school to help them reduce their plastic usage, we knew that we wanted to see less plastic being sold in the school canteen – so, we arranged to speak to our school’s business manager, who had the potential to make a difference on this issue.

Now, this can be a bit daunting and sometimes hard to arrange, so you could also consider speaking to your form tutor, or another teacher that you speak to on a regular occasion, to help you find who to speak to. Otherwise, you could go straight to the top and write a letter or email to your headteacher! The key thing to remember is that even though it might seem a bit scary to speak to or arrange to meet with your teachers, they work in a school for a reason – to support young people! You’ll often find that your teachers are happy to see students taking initiative and making a positive difference for what they’re passionate about.


From your campaigns, how would you rate kids’ environmental awareness versus parents’?

I think that there’s a high level of awareness in all generations – after all, campaigning to protect the environment is far from a modern concept! But, I think that awareness is particularly high at the moment due to the tool that we pretty much all have at our finger tips – social media. Particularly for people in my generation, the rise in social media has helped to raise awareness on environmental issues, and the more people that are aware and shouting about something, the more it spreads.

But, one of the distinguishing factors between generations with regards to environmental issues is the urgency shown by younger people. With such short deadlines to prevent catastrophic consequences of unmitigated climate change, and with millions of tonnes of plastic entering the oceans every year, my generation widely see that these are not times to just sit back and twiddle our thumbs while we wait for those in power to do something about it. We see that our futures will be directly impacted by the actions we take now – or, rather, the lack of them – and that really drives the rise in the number of young people making their voices heard on environmental issues that we see in current times.

From your own personal experience and the work you have been doing, are there any thoughts you would like to share with parents about raising an environmentally-conscious child? Or a child raising an eco-minded grown-up??

Education is so important. Read books and watch films together about the environment, take long walks in a local park and see how many species of bird you can spot – if you don’t grow up understanding and appreciating the natural world, how can you be expected to care about protecting it?

Also, don’t feel like you have to take extreme steps, such as going completely plastic free, in order to make a difference at home! Feeling the pressure to go from one extreme to the other can end up making you do nothing at all, and it’s definitely more beneficial to start small and make manageable changes to be more eco-friendly. Work together, discuss ideas (young people have some of the most creative ones, so listen to them!) and build up from there.


Other than the schools themselves offering plastic free period products, do you have any tips for small steps individuals can take to create change in their school?

  1. Start by raising awareness; put up posters, or do an assembly. In order to encourage people to make a change, they need to understand why and what you’re passionate about!
  2. Get support! Whether it’s from teachers or fellow students, having other people supporting you on your mission helps you to make a bigger change – it also means you’re not on your own. Getting your school eco-council involved is a great place to start.
  3. Have a clear focus in mind of what you want to achieve. You can start small, but having a goal to work towards gives you a focus to help you take the first steps to making a difference, and is something to pitch to any teachers/decision makers you want to get involved.

If you could say one thing to convince kids, parents, teachers, and their schools to go plastic clever, what would it be?

Ultimately, we’re all a part of the plastic pollution problem, through our daily lives and habits, so we all have an important part to play in clearing it up. And we all need to do our bit to address this issue urgently, even if it’s just by taking small steps to make a difference. The most important thing is not doing something huge to help the planet – it’s about doing something now.


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