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Local students take eco action to reach national awards final

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The Future of Farming group from FCJ, Bunclody

The Future of Farming group from FCJ, Bunclody

The members of Future Fashion from FCJ, Bunclody

The members of Future Fashion from FCJ, Bunclody

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The Future of Farming group from FCJ, Bunclody

Students from schools in County Wexford have made it through to the final of a prestigious national competition.

The students, from Ballindaggin National School, FCJ Secondary School, Bunclody, and Gorey Central School have been announced as finalists in this year's Eco-UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation) sponsored Young Environmentalist Awards.

Six youth projects from across the county have been selected for the final out of almost 500 applicants nationwide.

A spokesperson for the competition said it was a record-breaking number of entries despite the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Eco-UNESCO will announce the overall winner through social media channels and YouTube Live on May 21.

The Young Environmentalist Awards (YEA) recognise young people aged between 10 and 18 who have taken environmental action and created projects that will help solve environmental issues.

The event regularly attracts over 4,000 participants each year and the spokesperson highlighted the fact that although schools are currently closed young people are still continuing with their environmental projects at home.

The Wexford finalists include: Rubbish Recyclers and the Electric Girls (St Colman's National School, Ballindaggin); the Cool Climate Plan (Gorey Central School); and Future of Farming, Thrive to Drive and Future Fashion (FCJ, Bunclody).

The Electric Girls is a group of 5th class students from Ballindaggin National School who are creating awareness about wasting electricity and providing energy efficient tricks.

The students carried out a survey of school friends and their families to gauge what habits people have.

'We are teaching them about energy efficient lightbulbs, how wasteful the standby light is and other clever energy saving tricks for at home and in school,' said a spokesperson for the group.

'Stickers on lights help everyone to remember to flick the switch,' she added.

The group also created a song and activities about energy for younger classes to learn and help them become more aware. They also designated 'light leaders' in the school to ensure lights are turned off when not in use.

Rubbish Recyclers is composed of students Cathal, Roisin, Thomás, Cameron, Alex and Jordan.

Commenting on their entry, they said: 'Our plan is to pick up litter and turn it into useful everyday objects.'

They have a computer game and are in the process of creating a comic. They also made their mascot, Ronan the Recycler, out of recyclable materials.

The Cool Climate Clan is a class-based project focusing on climate change and raising awareness within Gorey Central School and the community about the dangers of climate change.

A spokesperson for the group said: 'We did multiple experiments and projects on this topic. Our class did the greenhouse in a bottle experiment - which was an eye opener - and we wanted to encourage people to recycle and to cut down on their use of single-use plastics.'

The group used facts to help raise awareness and they also utilised visuals in their entry.

'We took all of our ideas and formulated them into easy tips and tricks to cut down on single-use plastics,' said the spokesperson.

'We wanted to demonstrate and present frightening statistics that might make people change their habits around recycling and single-use plastics,' added the spokesperson.

'We wanted to try to make a difference by contacting restaurants and organising park clean-ups as well as promoting keep cups.'

Thrive to Drive, from FCJ, Bunclody, is a group that focused attention on the topic of electric cars.

The group chose the topic because carbon dioxide emissions from cars is one of the main contributors of global warming.

'Our goal is to hopefully educate people enough about electric cars to make them consider switching to a cleaner, more efficient vehicle,' said a spokesperson for the group.

For their project, the students undertook a survey to find out how many people already have electric cars.

They also put up posters in their school and within the community highlighting the benefits of electric cars.

Through their survey, the students discovered that out of 2.7m vehicles nationwide, only .0003 per cent are electric vehicles on the roads.

'We hope that at the end of our project we will have had an impact on people's stereotypical thoughts on electric cars,' said the spokesperson.

The Future Fashion group, from FCJ, Bunclody, picked the fashion industry as their chosen subject matter and its impact on the environment.

The team held weekly meetings, set goals and created deadlines.

They also created surveys and carried out in-school surveys in addition to surveys within the community.

One of the students commented: 'We did a poster campaign where we created posters and hung them up in our school and in local charity shops.'

The students created an Instagram page and made their project interactive.

The Future of Farming group, also from FCJ Secondary School, decided to raise awareness and promote a pilot programme in their area called Blackstairs Farming Futures (BFF).

Its aim is to improve the sustainability of farming in the Blackstairs Mountains and to pay farmers through a results-based payment scheme.

'We hoped to raise awareness for the programme by educating people on the unique heathland habitat present in the Blackstairs,' said one of the students involved with the project.

The students interviewed the project manager of 'BFF', Owen Carton, to get more information about the programme.

Following this, the students used the information they gathered to compile leaflets and present a Powerpoint presentation during an interactive class with other students.

They also handed out leaflets after mass and put leaflets in local businesses in their community.

In order to see the work being done in the Blackstairs themselves, members of the group walked up the mountain and looked at the habitat, taking notes of the plants and animals there.

The director of Eco-UNESCO, Elaine Nevin, expressed delight at the standard of entries this year.

'Young people are still taking eco action and continuing their projects at home, despite the pandemic,' she said.

'In light of this we are holding an ECO Week to celebrate the young people who are enthusiastic about making an environmental difference.'

She also highlighted that Eco Week 2020 will take place between May 18 and 22, and will include a range of environmental workshops, wellbeing activities, talks and challenges for young people, with the announcement of the overall winner being the highlight of the week.

'It will now be a week-long celebration while Covid-19 restrictions are in place,' said Ms Nevin.

The theme of ECO Week 2020 will be food, fitness, fashion and your future.

Enniscorthy Guardian