80 STUDENTS from secondary schools across Ireland were represented at Neat Streets Conference 2020 at Croke Park on Wednesday 22nd January. Among the attendees were students and teachers hailing from Dublin, Cork, Meath, Galway, Offaly, Clare, Tipperary, and Wicklow. An Taisce’s Neat Streets programme, sponsored by the Mars-Wrigley Foundation, aims to inspire young people to take environmental action in their School & Local community. The conference is an important stage of the Programme that enables students from various participating schools to discuss how best to tackle the issues of litter and waste and provides a forum for schools to share action plan ideas and experiences. Teacher and student groups are facilitated separately for much of the event to provide separate and focused platforms for each group to learn independently from An Taisce and their peers.
Neat Streets Programme Officer, Stephen O’ Reilly, opened the Neat Streets Conference 2020 posing the question “Can we really make a difference?” He encouraged “You are far more powerful than you believe. Act Accordingly. Our everyday actions do make a difference. The size of an individual’s carbon footprint is mind-boggling. The micro dictates the macro. Don’t forget that governments and corporations exist to serve us. So if you think about it, we are the ones with the power. Enough people have to be on the same page to activate this power. That is where all of you come in! Home is where the heart is and we have to have a sense of pride and respect for our home. The Conference today is a starting point and puts you the students in the driver’s seat – it is your initiative and your energy that can spark a change in behaviours and help create a green ethos in your school/community and move us closer to a more sustainable world!”
Some key items on the agenda included:
- How to Implement the Neat Streets Programme
- General Attitudes to Littering
- Litter/Waste & The Individual
- Live Agree/Disagree Student Walking Debate
- How to Launch an Anti-Litter & Waste Campaign
- Students Designing a Plan to Tackle Litter & Waste in School, in the Community, and Giving Input on How to Engage People
Neat Streets was excited to have St Anne’s Community College, Killaloe, and Newpark Comprehensive School, Blackrock, return to Neat Streets and present to the new student recruits on the Programme. Both schools have successfully completed the Neat Streets Programme in 2019 and 2014 respectively. Students gave very confident presentations demonstrating to their peers the actions they have taken in their schools highlighting their challenges as well as their successes. Students from St. Anne’s talked through how they implemented the Neat Streets Programme using the Green-Schools 7 steps. Students from Newpark discussed their ‘Plastic Out of the Park’ Campaign and single-use plastic ban they have introduced in their school.
St. Anne’s Community College, Killaloe, Co. Clare who completed the Neat Streets Programme in year 2018/19 said “Neat Streets set us on our way and put us in a position to achieve our first green flag through a thought provoking, fun and supportive journey. Neat Streets encouraged collaborative teamwork within the Green-Schools Committee to empower our students to look after their environment #TogetherWeCanMakeADifference
Cathy Baxter, Manager, Green-Schools said: “The Neat Streets Programme has been such a success and a catalyst for change in many secondary schools, who then go on to achieve green flag status. It’s inspiring to see these committed students taking action in their schools!”
Michael John O’ Mahony, Director, An Taisce Education Unit said: “The Neat Streets Programme has proven that when we work with young people to provide solutions on litter and associated issues, they are always able to develop and deliver innovative and creative solutions to be shared, adapted and adopted by others and to be scaled up to operate on the scale of a large town. This peer to peer learning and the wider Neat Streets network makes the Programme far more than the sum of its parts.”
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