Successfully embedding educational work in municipal climate action

Photo: Ryan Wallace via Unsplash

Kids on the move in the city and district of Osnabrück (DE)!

Children and teens are playing a key role in climate action. We must shape a sustainable and green future for and with them. But how can municipalities reach this target group? This is where Climate Alliance's Green Footprints campaign, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, comes into play. The district and the city of Osnabrück are showing how to successfully carry out the campaign at both the local and regional level.

The city of Osnabrück started the Green Footprints campaign in 2017. Since 2018, the city and district have been carrying out the campaign together – and with great success. Having started with five daycare centres in 2017, they managed to involve a total of 48 educational institutions and 4,857 children by 2022. "The climate crisis concerns us all – whether older or very young, children in particular are affected. That's why we want to involve them as early as possible and provide them with knowledge about sustainability and climate action," comments Anna Kebschull, Municipal Councillor of the District of Osnabrück, on the motivation behind running the Green Footprints campaign. "We are convinced that climate education secures the future. That is why we are all the more happy that our offers are so well received by institutions, children and parents," adds Osnabrück Mayor Katharina Pötter.

Since 2003, Climate Alliance has offered the Green Footprints campaign to municipalities across Europe. Children and teens at participating institutions collect so-called ‘Green Footprints’ with sustainable behaviours such as with car-free trips to school or by eating regional foods. At the end of the year, the collected miles are handed over to the UN Climate Change Secretariat at the Climate Change Conference in an effort to push decision makers towards more concrete and ambitious climate action.

The footprint handover and thus the presentation of local efforts on an international level is a great motivator for the city and district of Osnabrück. The campaign’s simple and flexible implementation as well as the extensive materials Climate Alliance provides to participating municipalities also convinced the Osnabrück region. Another great advantage of the campaign is its potential to get parents involved. "Successful educational work with children only works if the parents are also involved. That's why we introduced parents' evenings," explains Birgit Rademacher, campaign manager for the city of Osnabrück. Verena Borgers from the Osnabrück District’s education team adds, "For us, sustainable development education is a task in which both educational institutions and the family should be involved." The parents evenings are offered jointly by the district and the city. The topics discussed range from the energy transition to dealing with children's fears in the face of the climate crisis. But that's not all: parents evenings and the Green Footprints campaign are embedded in an overall concept for education on climate protection. This also includes further training for educational institutions as well as a puppet theatre that addresses sustainability and climate action in a playful way.

In all these activities, the district and the city cooperate at the administrative level and work is shared. The local authorities have been working together closely since 2012 as part of the ‘master plan region’ programme and have since established corresponding structures. For the Green Footprints campaign, both the city and the district provide the facilities with the materials free of charge. Together, they thoroughly document the campaign results every year and organise a closing party for all participants. With around 200 children, last year's party was a great success!
The close, consistent cooperation with educational institutions participating in the Green Footprints campaign has not only strengthened ties to the city and the district, it has also improved cooperation between institutions. This facilitates lasting involvement of the teachers in the ambitious educational goals of the Osnabrück region.

The joint concept of the district and the city of Osnabrück is a best-practice example of how educational work can successfully advance municipal climate action.

This year as well, the Green Footprints campaign is available as a tool to all interested municipalities across Europe. In 2023, footprints can be collected until the end of October and several thousand children are already participating. Climate Alliance supports onsite implementation of the campaign in participating municipalities and educational institutions with a variety of materials and information as well as via direct consultation.

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