Lily Freeston shares the progress of The Environment Now as Heather Wildsmith and Lydia Allen deliver Thinkspriation events around the country this week.
The Environment Now is an exciting programme that funds 17-24 year olds to bring their ideas around energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, to life. It’s funded by O2 and the Big Lottery Fund through the Our Bright Future programme, and managed by the National Youth Agency. Successful applicants get a whopping £10,000 to develop their idea over 10 months, as well as top notch mentorship, work experience and insight days with industry professionals. All in all, it’s a pretty cool programme.
It all kicked off last year. After launching the £10,000 environmental challenge, we started our tour around the country, delivering Thinkspiration sessions in universities, colleges and youth clubs, to get young people inspired, motivated, and ready to get their applications in. The sessions were a chance for participants to share ideas and get digital: we brought along some of the latest tech, including the Raspberry Pi, VR headsets, microbits and more.
When applications opened on 1 November 2016, innovative ideas came flying in from across the UK. We selected the ones with the most potential, and invited them along to a pre-pitch workshop, during which we helped them get ready for their most important day yet: pitch day. Pitch day came around quickly: each project presented their idea to The Environment Now team, as well as employees from O2 and National Youth Agency. Nine exceptional projects were granted funding!
This incredible journey brings us to launch day, which took place at O2’s hub in London’s coolest quarter, Shoreditch, on 12 March. Launch day was the best bit so far! All nine successful applicants and their teams got to meet, mingle and get prepared for the exciting ten-month journey ahead. We set up six stations, each covering a different area, including budgeting, communications and the not-so-fun but all-the-same important things like legal details and project reporting. We covered it all, and the new project leaders left equipped with the information they needed and the confidence to get started.
It was also a fantastic chance to hear even more about their ideas. We chatted to Lettus Grow, who are a team of engineers creating a soil-free, automated way of gardening. Their uber-cool product lets you grow your own salad, all year round, in your own kitchen! We also caught up with Elliott Lancaster, who is developing an app with which community residents can report recycling issues, and Victoria Russell, whose fun virtual reality game educates people about what not to flush down the loo.
We came away super inspired, and raring to see the projects blossom. Over the coming months, we’ll be travelling around the country to visit project leaders and see their ideas in action. They will take part in insight days and will also run their own inspiration sessions for the next generation of The Environment Now applicants. Finally, when they reach the end of their journey with us, we’ll be hosting celebration events and a showcase of all their hard work!
There’s a lot of experimenting, developing and making to fit in the next ten months, but by the end each project leader and their team will have made our planet that bit better, and together, we’ll have made a real difference.
To find out more about The Environment Now programme, or to get involved, head over to