Last year, the Government published its 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP), honouring a commitment to leave the natural environment in a better state than we inherited it. The plan calls on all branches of government and civil society to deliver its ambition, which requires collaboration on a scale never seen before in environmental policy-making.
Chapter 3 of the 25YEP includes a pledge to make 2019 a year of action for the environment. This initiative is aimed at both raising awareness and turning it into practical action – encouraging more people to participate in environmental projects and make informed choices about their consumer behaviours. The year has 3 key themes – connect, protect and enhance – and starts from the simple premise that spending more time in the natural world fosters a desire to take steps to protect and enhance it.
Ways to engage
The Year of Green Action (YoGA) is the main public communications vehicle for the 25YEP.
We know from recent Ipsos Mori polls that the environment is – for the first time – considered by the public to be one of the top 3 priorities for government. And we have an opportunity, through YoGA engagement, to offer ways for everyone to take positive action in response to the challenges we all face.
A small team at Defra is working through partners and using the YoGA website and hashtag to promote actions that encourage engagement with wildlife and conserve the natural world. As well as showcasing great ‘green’ action from stakeholders across the country, we’re developing a series of ‘Top tips for greener living’ for the YoGA website and showing how they contribute to the delivery of the 25 YEP.
We’ve partnered with the youth social action charity, Step Up To Serve, on their #iwill4nature campaign; and their #iwill ambassadors, alongside our own YoGA ambassadors, have been powerful advocates for pro-environmental action.
We’ve also attended a wide range of public events throughout the year, including the Army’s Ten Tors event on Dartmoor, the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Way, Carnaby Street’s Bees Needs Week, Bristol’s Festival of Nature, and so on. These have given us the opportunity to talk directly to the public about the actions they can take in their homes, gardens, workplaces and schools to contribute to 25 YEP ambitions for thriving plants and wildlife, clean and plentiful water, and tackling climate change.
We’ve been collecting pledges for behaviour change, with a target of 5,000 for the year. The pledges have been wide-ranging, from using less plastic to going vegan or setting up a community litter picking group. We collected 2,000 on our pledge tree at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, where our Year of Green Action garden showcased simple steps that anyone could take in their garden or window box to improve the environment – composting, water conservation, pollinator planting, creating homes for wildlife – and we came away with a silver medal, too!
What civil servants can do
The Civil Service community also has a part to play in delivering the 25 YEP. To mark YoGA, we attended Civil Service Live events in Exeter, Newcastle, Manchester and London, to gather pledges from individual civil servants, encourage the use of dedicated volunteering days to take green action, and raise awareness of the 25 YEP across government.
Building on this cross-government engagement, we have established a network of green champions to promote YoGA in their departments, which will extend beyond 2019 to support cross-government delivery of the 25 YEP.
To play your part in the YoGA, please visit our website to make a personal pledge, use the hashtag, #YearofGreenAction, keep an eye out for YoGA promotion in your department, and let us know how you are using your volunteering days to ‘go green in ’19!’