Sarah’s 24hr Climate-KIC Climathon

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At 4pm on 27th October 2016 I was sitting in a room of strangers at iCentrum in Birmingham. We were there as part of the Climate-KIC’s Climathon, a 24-hour international global climate change challenge. The Climathon took place in 59 cities, over 6 continents, working with over 100 partners around the globe, and involving over 1400 applicants! Over 10,000 tweets were sent out over the 24-hour period.

The Birmingham contingent was very small, and included an MBE (for services to sustainable energy), two PhD Researchers (Public and Community Health/Climate Physics), an Innovative Product Support Service Project Manager (Photonics), a Software Test Analyst, and, of course, a Solutions For the Planet Programme Coordinator!

We were tasked by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Academic Health Sciences Network with solving climate change challenges in a way that improves public health, and over the course of the evening we had talks from them, as well as Siobhan Hill of Greenhill Sustainability Ltd and Geoff Ramm, Marketing Speaker. We brainstormed ideas, got into teams and set to work putting our ideas together in the form of a business plan that we would have to pitch at the end of the 24 hours – it was a more intense version of a Big Ideas Day!

At 6:30am the smoothie bike arrived and we used pedal power to make breakfast smoothies, before heading out onto the streets of Birmingham to do our market research with the morning commuters. Later that morning we got some pitch coaching from Paul Adams, Head of Education at Virgin Start-Up, to prepare us for the pitch itself, in front of a panel of 4 judges.

Our team came up with NewLeaf – Urban Social Planning, which looked at dealing with food insecurity, healthy eating, and urban heat islands by utilising roofs and unused groundspace for growing plants.

It was a fantastic experience, I met some interesting people, and it gave me a better understanding of the challenge and opportunity we give our teams on a Big Ideas Day and beyond. Already looking forward to Climathon 2017!

Big Ideas Day Showcase: Corpus Christi

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In November S4TP welcomed a new school as Corpus Christi Catholic College joined the Yorkshire programme. Their Big Ideas Day was a huge success with 120 year 9 students participating in an action-packed Tuesday. S4TP staff were really impressed with the students’ existing knowledge of sustainability problems and this was reflected in a lot of environmentally-focused Big Ideas.
We had solar powered water filters, carbon-neutral trams and food banks fuelled by supermarket waste.  One group who really impressed S4TP dreamt up a floatation device to prevent cars being lost and damaged during flash flooding. The airbag-style device was designed to be triggered by a sensor in the car’s wheel arch once flood waters reached a critical level.
All teams gave brilliant presentations and S4TP were really impressed by the passion of these young people to solve many of our more challenging sustainability problems. Yorkshire mentors are now enjoying supporting these teams to develop their amazing ideas. A particularly impressive venture is an app-based game centred on changing perceptions around diversity and inequality issues. Look out for these guys in the future!

Tis the season to be wasteful?

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For many around the world ‘tis the season to be jolly’! It’s the time of year to wrap up warmer, wrap up gifts for loved ones, and wrap up a year of hard work with roast dinners, stuffing and mince pies. All in time for new year’s resolutions to become healthier, have a more balanced lifestyle, and perhaps, live more sustainably?

Recycling advisors from WRAP estimate that in the UK the amount of wrapping paper thrown away would stretch to the moon! Combined with roughly one billion cards and enough tin foil to cover…wait for it… London, Leeds, Birmingham, Solihull, Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester, Dublin, Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool, Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Wolverhampton AND Bradford! You might think ‘that’s a lot of rubbish!’

Rather than wait for the new year to arrive to implement any resolutions, there’s a few tips we can all follow now. Even though we can’t control the weather and make this festive season white with snow, we can make it our greenest.

Unwrapping gifts makes this time of year extra special. When giving physical gifts, we can all choose more sustainable options and reduce our waste by either using a reusable box, or using wrapping paper from recycled materials, or even something homemade!

When it comes to disposing of the wrapping, apart from the shiny metallic and glittery varieties, all paper, is recyclable. If in doubt, do the ‘scrunch test’ – if you can scrunch the paper with your hands and its stays in a ball then it can be recycled!

So, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to give a gift and/or unwrap one this year, follow the tips above and you can be contributing to a solution for the planet.

Two-thirds of plastic land-filled or incinerated!

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New research published by food retailer The Co-operative Group (Co-op) shows that ‘for every recycling bin that homeowners fill, the equivalent of another two will go to landfill or incineration.’

According to the report Tipping Point, of the 1.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created annually, only half a million tonnes is being re-used and recycled.

Co-op claim the problem stems from ‘consumer’s lack of knowledge of what packaging should/can be recycled to local authorities lacking the facilities to deal with it.’

59% of consumers are unsure about recycling plastic tubs, pots and trays according to research carried out by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). WRAP work with businesses, communities and individuals to work towards achieving a circular economy by reducing waste, making sustainable products and efficient resource use.

‘We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource. What is needed is a co-ordinated response to the problem. This should start with retailers and major brands listening to recyclers and developing packaging that is better for recycling’ says Co-op environment manager, Iain Ferguson.

Solutions to lead the way

Leading the way and urging other retailers to follow suit, Co-op aim to have 80% of all its packaging recyclable by 2020. Packaging such as their plastic trays for used for meat, poultry and fish will now be made from just one plastic.

Being the first UK retailer to make this change, Lee Marshall Chief Executive of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) praised Co-op: ‘Having more consistent packaging makes it easier for local authorities to put in place the systems to collect it and to communicate with their residents. The sort of ambition being shown by the Co-op is great to see and we hope it acts as catalyst for the whole industry.’

Solutions for the Planet underway

Co-op aren’t the only ones with ambition. Meanwhile, here at Solutions for the Planet, our 2016/17 programme is already underway. This year will see thousands more ambitious students across England receive support from mentors coming from Brammer, Buck & Hickman, IGEM, SGN and Tarmac. Working together in schools to implement and catalyse positive change, they haven’t waited for a tipping point. Instead, they’re taking matters into their own hands, getting on with improving their lives, their communities and striving to make the world a better place, one big idea at a time.

Hydro-lock, SBSJ Catholic College, Bradford

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Standing on the left with this team that made it to the 2016 competition final is their local MP Naz Shah. Hydro-lock want to address the problem of drought and water wastage in agriculture. Their Big Idea was to enrich soil with the chemical contained within nappies to increase its water storage capacity. This innovative solution was thought of on their Big Ideas Day and the team worked tirelessly for the next three months to develop their idea for the 2015/16 S4TP competition.

Hydro-lock worked with their science teacher (previously a chemist) to discover the active chemical within nappy fillings was called sodium polyacrylate.  They then contacted BASF who produce the chemical to find out more about it and its safety.

To learn more about how Hydro-Lock used STEM skills and strong team work successfully to develop their idea, click here.



Work Experience with Tarmac!

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In collaboration with the Careers and Enterprise Company we are working to support 12 new work experience placements, here is the report from one student.
‘I’ve just finished my first term studying A-Levels and during the October half term, I squeezed in a 3 day work placement with Tarmac thanks to Jen Baughan at S4TP and Wendy Moyle at Tarmac. I spent my 3 days working in the Shared Services Centre, within the Procure to Pay teams, which was great as I am keen to start a career in the finance sector after Sixth Form.
On the first day, I started the morning off at the very start of the process, organising and separating the post into different piles; statements, invoices, overdue payments, and letters. I then worked with the Expenses and Credit Team where I made sure VAT and the value of what was being claimed coincided with the value on receipts and bank statements.
I then worked with the Processing Team where I had a mini tutorial of the invoice system SAP, and with my new found knowledge, I could follow up queries by inputting order and reference numbers. One of the challenging tasks involved resolving invoice problems. I had to investigate why some information on an invoice, such as quantity and prices, didn’t match up with the order. My inquisitive nature got a real buzz from this task!
My favourite part of the experience was on my last day, when I was working with the Accounts Payable Team. I had to reconcile vendor statements and provide payment details to suppliers which meant using the SAP system again. By the end of the placement I was entrusted to send email responses to customers and answer telephone calls by those chasing up their invoice payments.
Over the course of the 3 days not only have I met some lovely people and learnt tonnes about the different Procure to Pay functions but I have managed to enhance my skills sets, such as customer service, problem solving, interrogating financial information, following procedures and IT. This experience will further enhance my CV and hopefully my future employability.
Thank you to Wendy and the Procure 2 Pay Team at Tarmac!’
By Marissa Chauhan

Launching our Impact Report

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Solutions for the Planet has had another exciting year of growth and development in 2015 – 16. We launched Solutions for the Planet in the South East, increased our income by more than a third (39%) and had the privilege of working with 3,210 young people from 24 schools and over 70 employees from our 5 partner companies. To find out more about the incredible successes, inspirational Big Ideas and progress made, click here.

Before the Flood

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Coinciding with the COP22, the UN climate talks calling on world leaders to put together action plans to fight climate change, National Geographic broadcasted their most popular video to date, ‘Before the Flood’. Starring U.N Messenger of Peace, environmental activist and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  The documentary showcased the impacts of climate change, how they are being felt globally and charts Leonardo DiCaprio’s journey as he travels the world to meet politicians, scientists, activists and people young and old, all in all painting a picture that is both terrifying and hopeful.

It aired on YouTube for free viewing, and drew in global viewings of over 30 million. At the end of the film, simple calls to action were shown, calling on viewers to become informed consumers when using their purchasing power, and voting for leaders that support the fight against climate change and the problems it causes. Solutions for the Planet’s West Midlands Programme Coordinator Sarah Milburn felt that the film helped to deliver a message ‘initiating in young people’s minds that their actions have consequences and what the wider implications of their individual actions are.’

A message that strongly resounds in Solutions for the Planet’s actions.

Students on our programme are working together to develop solutions to 21st century problems such as climate change. Getting involved with our programme empowers young people, with the support of business mentors and their schools, to bring their Big Ideas to life in their community and beyond.

The struggle against climate change involves us all and its defeat is something we all have a stake in. Films like Before the Flood show that there is growing consensus amongst the global population and the countless positive actions occurring, fighting to turn the tide. As American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, ‘a new consciousness is developing that sees the earth as a single organism and recognises that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.’ We are Solutions for the Planet.


Big Ideas Bridging the Skills Gap

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A House of Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy produced a report in July 2016, the first in three years to raise ‘serious concerns about the quality of careers information, advice and guidance in schools’. MPs say that not enough students are leaving education with the tools to help them consider their future career options.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants state that 8/10 British school-leavers ‘lacked essential business skills’ such as numeracy.

Solutions for the Planet is working to reverse this trend alongside business partners; Tarmac, SGN, Brammer Buck and Hickman, Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, and community partners the Careers and Enterprise Company, Local Enterprise Partnerships, schools and the thousands of students brimming with Big Ideas. Growing in self-confidence, empowerment and aspiration, business mentors help students develop their ideas into achievable business plans that can be kick-started. Students mentored on our programme acquire knowledge, see new pathways ahead, and develop tools that will equip them with the necessary science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skill-set to address some of our 21st century sustainability challenges.

Back to school with S4TP 2016/17

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It’s that time of the year again – back to school for pupils and teachers! Before those groans and post-summer blues set in, good news – it’s also the start of another new programme cycle for Solutions for the Planet. Which means back to the drawing boards for more big ideas!

We’re thrilled to be expanding our programmes in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and the South East. Currently we have 14 schools signed up across our regions, supported by our partners Tarmac, Brammer, Buck and Hickman, the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) and SGN. Over the next twelve months we also hope to develop partnerships in new regions across the UK, so please get in touch if you’re a school or business keen to get involved.

To find out more about the impact of last year’s programme, please download our Impact Report.  We’d also like to introduce new members of the team: Jessica Mitchell, Razali Samsudin and Sarah Milburn who have joined Solutions for the Planet as Programme Coordinators and will be leading the delivery of the programme in Yorkshire, the South East and West Midlands respectively with support from Jen, recently appointed as CEO, and the Board.  You can read more about the team in the About Us section of our website.

It looks to be an exciting year ahead bringing together new perspectives and of course more of those fantastic Big Ideas!