Our Bright Future is Green

The experience of being a teenager or young adult can be confusing and exciting – tumultuous even. Their days are a whirlwind of new passions and knowledge, often setting the course for the rest of their lives. So, our work within the Our Bright Future programme, connecting young people to nature and developing their vital skills and experience for a greener economy, could not have been more vital. From a child’s 11th birthday until they turn 24 years old, they’ve been able to come on a journey with us – and that’s something to celebrate.

As the Our Bright Future project comes to an end, we are looking back on our successes over the last five years. Over 6,000 young people have taken part, with more than 130 working with us longer term to take positive youth-led action for nature. With their help, we’ve improved green spaces for people and wildlife, and given young people the space and voice to act as catalysts for change. And behind the figures lie some truly inspirational stories.

The Young Volunteer programme within Avon Wildlife Trust was a perfect example. Around 85 keen young people came out with us, rain or shine, to gain experience in practical conservation and have a great time out in nature. They have been involved in helping us manage our nature reserves, grow food and wildflowers at Grow Wilder, survey wildlife and so much more.  A favourite memory of mine is the autumnal day in 2019 which saw our team of enthusiastic young naturalists visit the famous Aardman studios and help them clear out a pond in their gardens. We learnt about the important of ponds as habitats and how to safely use tools. It was cold, but we kept warm by working hard! The amazing staff at Aardman rewarded our volunteers with a warm lunch from the canteen and a behind-the-scenes tour of the studios. Meanwhile, in Weston-super-Mare’s Grove Park, over 100 young people helped improve the area by building planters, planting native wildflowers and creating bug hotels. 

Wellbeing is incorporated into all we do. Recent studies by the Prince’s Trust have shown that young people are struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, and one in four questioned said they currently feel unable to cope. Being out in nature has been shown to improve mood, lower levels of stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality. We found that overall young people felt more connected to nature and able to achieve what they wanted to after being involved in this project.

One participant commented, “As a student I think nature’s important because it gives you an escape from all the stress and exams and deadlines...I think that’s really important for students especially, and just anybody, to have that escape to be present and to just feel instead of thinking about all these things …”

Part of a nationwide partnership led by the Wildlife Trusts and funded through The National Lottery Community Fund, this fantastic programme has been nothing short of life-changing for many. It has been great to see young people grow over the course of the Our Bright Future project. We’ve had volunteers who finished their work experience with us, continued to volunteer and now work within the environmental sector. We are passionately committed to sustaining and building on this work, ensuring our young people can continue to be catalysts for change. As well as integrating the youth voice into all areas of the Trust's activity we will continue to develop groups and support them to have their voices heard. That way, our future will remain both bright and green.