Teaching young people to care about the environment is a good way to help them take an interest in their own development.
At Anderida Adolescent Care, which provides residential care to troubled young people, staff and young people are thinking more carefully about the environmental impact of their actions since a range of recycling and energy saving initiatives were introduced.
Implementing a green policy at the organisation’s offices and units in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Pevensey and Hastings has been the responsibility of project worker Stephanie Lewis, who also stood as a candidate for the Green Party in May’s local elections.
For Lewis, it was a perfect opportunity to combine a specialist career path with her personal ethical beliefs. In the past year, she has embraced the challenge of making the organisation a more environmentally friendly place to live and work.
“When I arrived two years ago there weren’t any specific green policies in place,” she says. “There’s always been a recycling scheme at the company but none of the young people seemed to notice it.”
Lewis began by completing a “green risk assessment” of Anderida’s residential and commercial premises to evaluate what changes could be made. “Once I had looked at issues such as where we were sourcing goods from and who our energy supplier was, I wrote up a green policy for everyone to follow,” she says.
From the outset, Lewis was determined each unit should aim to adopt the new policies at the same time. “I tried to do it all at once but we gave every unit a date by which they had to bring in the changes,” she explains.
Among the key changes introduced by Lewis are recycling and compost bins for each unit, energy-saving light bulbs throughout Anderida’s premises, and water-saving Hippo Bags in all toilet cisterns. Cleaning products were swapped for environmentally friendly brands, and staff were encouraged to buy Fairtrade products, such as tea and coffee, for communal kitchens and meetings. Internal memos and other communications are also now printed double-sided to save paper.
Lewis says another major change has been a switch to a 100% renewable electricity supplier. “We weren’t able to change our gas supply but we now get our power from green supplier Ecotricity, which is a much more sustainable source,” she says.
On the whole, Lewis says she encountered minimal resistance to the environmental initiatives she wanted to implement. “There were one or two staff members who questioned what I was doing because they didn’t see how it would make a difference,” she says.
Perhaps the crucial element to the success of Lewis’s green policies has been her attempts to involve the young people in Anderida’s care. “That was my main objective really,” Lewis says. “As a Green Party candidate, I would speak to a lot of older people who didn’t seem keen on change. But I tell the young people that they can make a difference.”
Lewis says that at first she had to cajole the young people to use her compost and recycling bins. As an added incentive, anyone using the new facilities was rewarded under the organisation’s points scheme, which identifies specific areas where young people need to develop.
“We introduced a recycling element into the scheme under the heading of ethical living,” says Lewis. “So if they recycle food waste produced while they are cooking, or they remember to switch off their bedroom light, then they get a reward point.”
Lewis cites one of her proudest moments as learning that one of the young people in her care had decided to abandon his regular shop at Asda in favour of local produce.
“It’s not easy for young people to buy local, particularly when they only have a set amount of money each week to do their shopping with,” she says. “But this young person now goes to a local fish market and then buys his eggs and vegetables from the local enterprise centre in Eastbourne.”
Seventeen-year-old Alan Price is another Anderida resident clearly benefiting from taking part in Lewis’s green scheme. “The main thing I do when I am cooking is put a lot of my vegetable waste in the compost bin,” Price says. “I also put things like my Coke cans in the recycling. Before, we would have just put them in the dustbin.”
He says that making these small changes makes him feel better about himself as he knows the environment is benefiting from his actions. “If people could all do things like this then it would be better for the environment,” he says.
With Lewis’s help, Price has even written to his local MP suggesting energy-saving ideas, to which he was pleased to receive two written replies. “I felt there was an achievement in that,” he says. “A year ago I wasn’t 100% sure about what could be recycled. But now I know more about it.”
● Carry out a green audit of your organisation to assess what changes can be made.
● Set a realistic deadline for green policies to be implemented.
● Encourage participation from young people through reward schemes.
● Counter any resistance by explaining the environmental benefits green policies will bring.
This article appeared in the 10 January issue under the headline “Recycling rewards”