Protect the Planet: Young people working for a greener world

28 Jan 2024

Event celebrates youth social action projects which tackle climate change

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Last November, young people from across the country came together at Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC, to share their passion and commitment to the environment at the Premier League's Protect the Planet event.

Teams from 25 clubs attended the celebration event, where they were able to present their ideas for encouraging sustainability and recycling.

The event, funded by the Premier League and #iwill Fund, is delivered by the Premier League Charitable Fund through the national Premier League Kicks, Premier League Primary Stars and Premier League Inspires programmes.

The Protect the Planet celebration was co-designed by, and was co-delivered with, the Premier League Charitable Fund Protect the Planet Youth Panel, a group of 14 young people aged 11–16 with a passion for environmental sustainability.

Here are some of the stories from the day.

Noah, Manchester United Foundation
Protect the Planet 2023, Noah, Manchester United

"We've been trying to help our local communities understand what we're doing and how we're helping the environment. 

"This is so important because we don't want climate change. Everybody needs to play their part to make sure this planet is healthy for everyone. Somebody sees litter on the ground, the good thing is to pick it up, put it in the trash and make sure all communities are clean and safe.

"The Protect the Planet event has been amazing. There are loads of nice coaches, loads of advice, loads of nice things they've been saying. It's been wonderful. 

"I am proud of the work I have done. I have learnt that litter is not just litter... you can use it again. 

"Being here with all the clubs, that they're playing a big part in helping the community, makes me feel happy. I'll remember this for the rest of my life. It's the greatest impact I've had on the world!"

Tayshan Hayden-Smith, broadcaster, footballer and Grow2Know chief executive
Protect the Planet, Tayshan Hayden-Smith

"This event is really important to me because it's a marriage of both my worlds: the beautiful game that is football which has played a massive part in my life, but also now, as I've got a bit older, understanding a sense of place on the planet.

"Young people have a massive part to play in changing the future. Environmental sustainability events like this are really important in giving young people that voice, that sense of agency but also allowing them to take action in their community.

"As a dad of two, seeing young people taking ownership and committing to that change is really empowering because I was quite passive in this conversation when I was younger. If there were events like this when I was growing up, it would have given me that platform to be able to make that change."

Becky Ogden-Thomson, Year 1 teacher & PE co-ordinator, Healey Primary School, Rochdale
Protect the Planet 2023, Becky Ogden-Thomson, Rochdale

"We've run this project through Premier League Primary Stars and it's lovely that it's not just PE, there's this link to a social action group. They love it. Now that they've all shared the ideas, everybody else wants to come!

"It's opened up that space for other children to try something new. They might not be into sports but we've linked them through sport in a different way. Now we are having those conversations that are really important as they go into adolescence. 

"This has given them a sense of empowerment and confidence. It's been good for them to learn about themselves, what beliefs they have and how to put those opinions forward in the right manner for them to be heard."

Gloria, Protect the Planet Youth Panel, Arsenal in the Community
Protect the Planet 2023, Gloria, Arsenal

"Football has brought us all here. It's really big, 25 clubs coming to Anfield to show how much they care about the planet, to show how much of an impact they have and all the changes they are committed to become more sustainable.

"It's been fun to see the different ideas and how clubs have taken this on.

"The environment is such an important subject. A lot of things that I am used to wasn't a major thing back in the day. It's amazing how things have changed so rapidly.

"A lot of the young people at the Protect the Planet event are much younger than I am and they already know about effects of climate change and what they can do to help."

Zara, Nottingham Forest Community Trust
Protect the Planet 2023, Zara, Nottingham Forest

"We came up with the idea of taking old wooden pallets to make hotels with multiple layers for animals to go inside for the winter. We're using these pallets for a sustainable purpose and we're planning to put them in our school.

"Being a part of this project has been a good learning experience. It's made me realise how much plastic we use and waste. It was shocking to find out how much it actually was. I've stopped buying plastic water bottles from the shops and I'm just using my own.

"Coming to Anfield has been great. When you're walking around and hearing what other people have done, it shows how everyone's different but we're all linked together.

"I'm going to remember this for a long time. The school is very proud. Everyone's helped and no one's judging you for doing it, everyone's proud of you."

Kyle, Burnley FC in the Community
Protect The Planet, Kyle, Burnley

"We've made plant pots from plastic bottles. We cut them and painted them and we've got them for the whole class. 

"There's animals getting injured or harmed by plastic pollution and that will hurt the planet. Turtles get stuck in plastic and fish think that it's a food.

"I enjoyed the Protect the Planet event, especially when everyone came round and were asking questions about our project. It made me really happy seeing how many people care about the environment.

"Please encourage people not to litter and if they see litter, pick it up and recycle it. It could be really harmful."

Abdul, Chelsea FC Foundation
Protect the Planet 2023, Chelsea

"It's a good feeling to be a part of this event. It's a special day. It's really nice to see that other clubs and other people are involved and helping out the environment. It's not just us that wants to help, lots of other people want to as well.

"For our project we used old footballs and plastic bottles to make hanging baskets. 

"I wanted to be involved in this because I want to help out the environment and because climate change isn't good. This is our only planet, there's nowhere else left to live!"

Rishi Jain, Director of Impact, Liverpool FC
Protect the Planet 2023, Rishi Jain, Liverpool

"The football community speaks to each other really well about sustainability. We are competitive on the pitch but off the pitch, we all want to protect the planet, we all want to make the world a better place. There's lots of really good best practice sharing, knowledge sharing and importantly, we're also sharing some of the challenges that we're facing. 

"It really is everyone's responsibility, no matter the size of the club, you can do something. We can all do our bit to protect the planet. We have seen that at the Protect the Planet event with some of the incredible ideas that the young people have come up with.

"At times I was thinking, 'Why haven't we thought of that!' It's great to be learning from young people who have got fresh perspective on how we can make the world more sustainable.

"It's so important that young people are the driving force behind this. It's their future. That's why people like myself and others work in this space, it hopefully creates a better future for young people. But actually it's these individuals who will go on and hopefully lead the world one day and lead us into a more sustainable world."

Launched in August 2022, and designed to reduce the barriers to participation in youth social action, the Protect the Planet Challenge increases young people's knowledge and understanding about environmental sustainability and empowers them to positively influence climate change action in their local communities.

More than 2,400 young people representing more than 90 professional football club community organisations from across England and Wales have taken part in the Challenge to date.

Also in this series

Part 2: 'Protect the Planet has empowered our students'
Part 3: Hayden-Smith - Protect the Planet gives young people a voice
Part 4: Talha's story - Youth Panel gave me the opportunity to do big things

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