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Meet the young people fighting to make the planet a better place

From turning bread into beer, to conservation in Ecuador - we catch up with four ICS volunteers on the environmental work they are carrying out beyond their placements. 

Temperatures are getting warmer, sea levels are getting higher and news headlines are looking bleaker. There is no doubt that as young people, we will have to live with the damage caused by previous generations.  

However, we can make our voices heard. Active citizens are not known for sitting around and doing nothing about it. This month, we speak to four volunteers who have taken that extra step to make a positive difference for our planet – and why they think it’s important.  

Man at protest holding sign saying: The climate is changing, why aren't we?
© Shutterstock
What have you been doing to tackle climate change?

Turning bread into beer to tackle food waste 

After carrying out her placement with Raleigh International in Tanzania, Naomi, 23, decided to combine her passion for challenging food waste and climate change with her desire for work experience in the job market. So, for her Action at Home she has been volunteering three times a week at the charity Toast Ale, where she helps with marketing and PR.  

girl standing in a farm using machinery and smiling at the camera
© Naomi Darling
Naomi carried out her placement in Tanzania

“Toast Ale is a social enterprise that makes beer using fresh surplus bread that would have been thrown away. The other great thing about it is they also give surplus back to food waste charities, so it all goes to a good cause,” Naomi explains. 

In the UK 44% of bread is never eaten, which is why Toast Ale targeted this household staple as an innovative way to reduce food waste. 

“I’ve always felt strongly about food waste and have been brought up to always finish everything on my plate."
ICS volunteer

“I’ve always felt strongly about food waste and have been brought up to always finish everything on my plate. Volunteering in Tanzania, there was a focus on everything being sustainable and we encouraged people to think about waste and other green issues,” she said.

Creating ethical fashion brands 

Carla, 24, was volunteering in Cambodia when she was inspired create her very own sustainable fashion brand from scratch, in order to allow people to continue enjoying fashion in a more sustainable way.  

Arctic Sun Apparel is the online shop where all clothing items are made from Fairtrade, recycled materials to ensure the fashion industry takes a more sustainable turn.  

photograph showing mans torso wearing a long sleeved top with an Arctic Apparel logo
All items from Arctic Sun Apparel are made using 100% organic cotton

“Many people aren’t aware of what they’re buying and don’t realise the impact on the planet the fast-fashion industry has. There’s not enough information, so Arctic Sun Apparel a solution for people to be more earth-conscious who can swap out certain things they used to for more organic and environmentally friendly products,” said Carla.  

So, what is it that keeps Carla inspired?  

“We don’t know how the things we’re buying, and consuming are going to affect the future. We’re not sacrificing anything by consuming more responsibly. We just need to change our mindset.” 

Raising awareness through film screenings, photography and social media 

four people stood inside at an event looking at the camera
© Emma Lewins
Emma and her team for the Uprising program

Following her placement in Zambia, Emma, 25, came across the Uprising program on the ICS Facebook page. Having always been passionate about the environment, she signed up to the Environmental Leadership program, a year-long program where you upskill yourself, lean more about environment and what you can do to make a change. 

“I’ve learnt a lot since being on the program. We are going to produce a social action campaign about the environment. I’m really interested in the human rights aspect of climate change and how it’s going to affect people. When people think of climate change, many often think of polar bears or ice caps, but they don’t think of how it will affect people.” 

Trailer for Disruption, the film telling the story of the broken political process in tackling climate change

Emma and her team mates have launched a social media campaign, called Displaced, and have partnered with the Environmental Justice Foundation who have provided their photo exhibition of people who have been displaced from climate change.  

And it doesn’t stop there.

"We hope people will be empowered to have a say about our planet and other species.” 
ICS volunteer

Emma is organizing an event in Brixton, London, where there will be a documentary screening of Disrupted, discussion and participatory art project. 

“We’ll have postcards and people will draw or write on messages about what they learnt during the evening, which we will then put on social media and send to councilors. After the film and discussion, we’ll hope they will be empowered to have a say about our planet and other species.” 

Rainforest conservation in Ecuador 

Following his ICS placement in Tanzania, Euan, 22, did not want to end his volunteering and found a placement with Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange. He is currently spending a year in Ecuador working on an environmental conservation project on a 100-hectare protected area of forest on the coastal region. 

boy stood in front of a high view with a lake behind him
© Euan Russell
Euan, 22, is spending a year volunteering in Ecuador

Every day at work is different and there is a lot to do to maintain to local environment, where Euan and the other volunteers carry out a whole range of activities including feeding animals on the farm, tending to the plants and vegetables and repairing any damage to the site. 

“It’s easy to be passionate about the environment, given everything that’s happening in the world. I can’t think of many things that will affect every person in the world, regardless of sex, race, or anything else. It’s something that nobody can avoid so hopefully as many people in my generation as possible will have the same passion,” Euan explains.  

girl sat outdoors under a tree smiling at the camera
© Ella Kane
Ella will be taking part in the next global general strike.

What can you do?

Every year, ICS marks International Youth Day (IYD) with a series of global events that empower young people to be active citizens on the issues that they care about.

This year, ICS volunteers have decided to focus on climate action – recognising that young people play an important role in taking urgent action to tackle climate change and build a sustainable world for everyone.

If you're ready to take climate action, join our International Youth Day Climate Action Events

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ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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