FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All

Green Entrepreneurs Europe (GEE)

Packing from mushrooms? Pasta from seaweed?

FSC is part of an exciting project, all about changing the way we produce, transport and consume to make it sustainable. The GEE project takes inspiration from cycles in the natural world and applies it to the economy, developing a circular, rather than a linear economy.

In nature all waste is recycled (no landfill sites, no plastics clogging up our oceans) and provides food for other organisms. All life is powered by renewable energy (sunlight). This isn’t just a fanciful idea- major companies such as Ford and GlaxoSmithKline, who supported this project are currently using this model and it is being encouraged by the European Union.

As a sustainable environmental education charity this project is ideally placed for FSC to be involved with.

We are working in partnership with organisations in Latvia, Spain, Bulgaria and Romania particularly with schools, to help young people design their own green/ circular product as part of an EU Erasmus+ funded project. In the UK, the project was piloted with secondary schools in Essex and London. Students started by discussing the problem: our economy is based on fossil fuels; a non-renewable resource that pollutes our planet and will eventually run out. They discovered natural cycles during an immersive, practical field trip (lessons from nature), challenged their ideas and researched existing green business, developed their own green business idea and presented their ideas in front of a panel of invited guests.

One highlight of the project was the Lessons from Nature day. One student said: “I enjoyed being able to interact around the forest and being able to turn things from the forest into an idea for a product”. The teachers enjoyed it to: “The kids loved [getting outside] and I think it really helped them understand the underlying concepts behind the GEE course much better”.

GEE 1 GEE 2 GEE 3

Another highlight was when students designed their own green products and presented their inspirational ideas to an invited panel of entrepreneurs and business guests, who gave them feedback on their green business plans during our Coffee House Challenge event.

GEE (1)

The motto from the GEE project is a positive one. It’s not about ‘doing less bad’, but ‘doing good’. For example, it’s ok to get new clothes, but you could rent them instead of buying them, as offered by one company. Returned jeans are shredded and turned into new jeans rather than ending up in landfill. Plastics is a topical issue and many of the students’ ideas were about reducing or reusing plastics.

There are some great examples of the circular economy in action. One UK company sends customers concentrated sachets of cleaning product through the post. Users put this in the container provided and top up with tap water. This container can be reused for years, saving tonnes of plastic cleaning bottles. Other examples include a company using a plant naturally occurring in UK waters- kelp- and creating pasta type products from it and an alternative to polystyrene made from mushrooms. The circular economy is all about extending the use-fulness of products, so they become part of a cycle rather than being thrown away at the end of the line. It’s about a change in design process, a change in thinking.

You can become part of the circular economy by taking small steps: compost all your food waste; buy local, or grow your own; buy products without packaging, or look our for compostable packaging (e.g. corn-starch plastic); re-sell old items or give away for free on the internet; wear clothes made from biodegradable fabrics (bamboo, wool, hemp) etc

For further information on the project, visit: www.geelearning.eu.

The project is designed to be self-led by teachers or group leaders. Resources will be available on the website from August 2018. FSC Epping Forest and FSC London are offering a one-day ‘Lessons from Nature’ course to compliment the project. Email: [email protected] for more details.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018