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The Co-op Eco Conference – It’s What We do

We were thrilled to be part of Co-op Academies Eco Conferences for both Primary and Secondary Schools at Co-op HQ in Manchester last week. The building itself is an eco triumph – it is one of the most sustainable┬álarge buildings in Europe, powered by a┬ábiodiesel plant using rapeseed oil and the structure makes use of natural resources: solar, natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and waste heat recycling! It was a very inspiring place to be; especially when host to hundreds of students from schools across the North West.

It was a joy to listen to the presentations from each of the schools attending. The students shared their eco passions, challenges and successes from their work through the Eco Schools programme and how they are encouraging their school and local communities to look after nature. We were really encouraged by their motivation to make a difference and these are some of our favourite highlights from their presentations:

“Despite being young we have big dreams for the future,” Eco warriors from Co-op Academy Friarswood shared, “People don’t realise the damage they’re doing and we want to change that.” And change they are making with bird feeders, bug hotels, a community herb garden and recycling points across school.

At Co-op Academy Parkland they are producing art work from litter found around the school grounds and creating skipping ropes from plastic bags. Real SCRAPtastic action! “We are really driven to make a difference and help heal our planet.”

And Co-op Academy Manchester told us about their living wall, that as well as providing a green space to “bring nature to us” in the urban surrounds; improving air quality and reducing temperatures it also “contributes to our positive mental health and well being. Our moods are improved when we are immersed in green environments.”

We also heard from the RHS team and their plan to create a National Education Eco Park in schools across the UK. Saving the planet takes teamwork and it’s great to know schools are supported in so many ways – watch out for the launch of their programme of activities in September. Keep Britain Tidy shared a presentation about the Eco Schools Programme leaving everyone inspired to take little steps to change the world.

When it was our turn we talked about our own challenges when sharing information about waste and recycling. All schools attending came from different councils around the North West and each council has different policies for waste – and in particular disposing of tetrapaks! There are blue, grey, green and black recycling bins – some you can put juice cartons in, some you can’t. It’s very frustrating for individuals and why we all need to work together with our community, businesses, shops and government to make change.

But when fairandfunky come to disposing of rubbish we say “Don’t throw it away, make something!” And we did. Everyone at both conferences made a wallet from a juice carton, and as well as discussing waste and recycling, we also talked about the power of the consumer and the positive citizen action you can take when you shop. And with all the good initiatives from the Co-op: Fairtrade, organic, recycling, local produce and more; your local Co-op supermarket is a good place to start!

Our workshops aim to kickstart conversations around climate change and sustainability. They don’t hold the answers but raise the questions. We are all connected, people and planet. What we do, what we wear, where we shop, what we buy, how we travel, and what we do with our waste all has an impact. It’s up to us to make the right choices to have a positive impact. And these young people, with the support of their teachers and academy communities, are certainly doing their bit. Little steps, change the world.

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