Hayden-Smith: Protect the Planet gives young people a voice

28 Jan 2024
Protect the Planet 2023, Tayshan Hayden-Smith

Broadcaster and campaigner Tayshan Hayden-Smith gives his support to the Premier League's social action sustainability project

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Tayshan Hayden-Smith is a broadcaster, campaigner, footballer and gardener - and he's passionate about the environment.

He was one of the special guests at the Premier League's Protect the Planet celebration in November, which brought together young people together from across the country to present their social action ideas for promoting environmental sustainability and tackling climate change.

Tayshan, CEO of Grow2Know - a charity promoting the therapeutic benefits of gardening to young people, met teams from the 25 clubs who attended the event at Anfield to find out more about their projects and to inspire them to continue with their work in local communities.

Here, Tayshan explains why he wanted to be a part of the event.

"Growing up all I cared about was a ball at my feet. I lived, slept and dreamt football. I didn't care about anything else.

"I never thought I'd be in this space having these conversations. I never thought I would be talking about the environment and sustainability.

"I lived in Ladbroke Grove near Kensington and the Grenfell Tower fire woke me up to where I live, the history, the heritage and culture, the importance of sustainability and how connected everything is.

"A garden or a green space is the common ground where we can connect and build relationships.

"So 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 growing up. If there were events like this when I was younger, it would have given me that platform to be able to make that change.

"It's about making joyful, creative processes to ensure that we make changes for the better. Young people and education are at the heart of that. It's really good that these things came together at the Protect the Planet event.

Protect the Planet 2023, Tayshan Hayden-Smith

"Education is crucial if we're going to make positive change. It's important to learn about why we do things, how we do things, where we do things. It gives people understanding as to why we're going to take steps in certain directions. Education is at the heart of everything we do. 

"It's the young people's future that we're talking about and for them to have a part to play in implementing that, is super important. They're the ones that are going to inspire the change that needs to happen.

"When I was growing up I watched the likes of Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas and when you see footballers do things, you want to do what they're doing. Premier League clubs have the kinds of spaces where people take inspiration from.

"At Liverpool I have seen the community garden which is used to feed players and staff. It's a glimpse into the things that can be done to make this mainstream.

"The Premier League and the clubs can help unlock those doors. The more we see clubs, brands and leading powers steering people into sustainability, making it part of mainstream conversation, the better."

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 1: Young people working for a greener world
Part 2: 'Protect the Planet has empowered our students'
Part 4: Talha's story - Youth Panel gave me the opportunity to do big things

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