Learning about nature conservation and environmental issues has a profound effect on young people’s health and wellbeing, a new report reveals.
Our Bright Future worked with over 128,000 young people across 31 different projects running from 2016 to 2021, helping them develop skills and experience to become the environmental leaders of the future.
Inspiring young people to make positive difference to environment
As the seven-year project draws to a close, a groundbreaking report published today reveals that young people were consistently more confident, skilled, happier, and better able to find work after participating in the programme and spending time in nature. 95% of participants felt their confidence had improved, 86% said taking part improved their mental health, and 81% felt confident they could make a positive difference to the environment.
The report comes on the heels of mounting evidence that young people in the UK are struggling with their mental health. Research carried out earlier this year by Place2Be and the National Association of Headteachers revealed that mental health problems among pupils had increased between September 2021 and February 2022, including low self-esteem (86%), depression (76%) and constant feelings of anger (68%).
New generation of green leaders needed
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This report proves just how important it is to give young people practical experience to learn about nature, climate, and wider environmental issues. Our natural world is the bedrock of our society, but it is under serious pressure. We need to foster a new generation of green leaders to find solutions to the biggest environmental challenges of our time.
“The success of Our Bright Future shows what can be achieved when people and organisations work together.”
Programme helps 9,000 students to gain qualifications in environmental studies
The report reveals that Our Bright Future has enabled almost 9,000 young people to gain qualifications, over 1,600 to enter apprenticeships, and more than 200 young entrepreneurs to start a business or social enterprise. The project also had an impact on career ambitions, with 40% of alumni surveyed stating that participation in Our Bright Future influenced them to pursue an environmental career.
Overall, almost two thirds (65%) of participants surveyed said that taking part in Our Bright Future had considerably increased their appreciation of the natural world, with 63% saying that their belief that they can make a difference to their local environment had similarly increased.
Huge appetite among young people to work towards better future
Dr Mya-Rose ‘Birdgirl’ Craig, Wildlife Trusts ambassador and founder of Black2Nature, said: “The findings laid out in the Our Bright Future report cement what so many of us know already: that access to nature has a profound effect not only on young people’s environmental awareness but also on their physical and mental wellbeing. It’s so encouraging to see that thousands of young people have been empowered to act for nature and their communities – all while building confidence and skills to help them reach their goals. I hope others recognise that there is a huge appetite amongst young people to work towards a better future for us all.”
Our Bright Future has provided huge benefits for nature and communities, improving over 3,000 community spaces, and creating over 350 nature-rich areas for people and wildlife across the UK.