Monday 20 – Monday 27 May was a significant week for the Eton community because it was Environment Week 2024. It was a great opportunity to showcase the incredible environmental work that goes on in the Environmental Action Group (E@E) and the Environment Society, alongside celebrating with some special Environment-themed events.

Beginning on the evening of Monday 20 May, the STEM centre hosted two groups of eager Eton environmentalists, and even some parents, for a ‘Climate Fresk’ and ‘Biodiversity Collage’. If you haven’t yet heard of a ‘Climate Fresk’, you should know that it is an interactive workshop in which you work through a series of problems to establish causal relationships amongst environmental factors.It is great fun and highly educative too – I would certainly recommend checking it out! What made this Climate Fresk particularly special was the fact that it was led by some of the boys themselves. This was possible because these boys had previously attended two of the sessions and so were qualified to be ‘facilitators’ for the program.

The Biodiversity Collage was a very similar exercise though it focused on, as one might have expected, biodiversity – examining how interactions between humans and the natural world have affected the biodiversity of animal life. Whilst there were some depressing revelations, there is not cause to lose hope – as was shown by the suggestions on how to mitigate biodiversity loss and help save species from extinction.

One of the standout features of the night was the vegan dinner (as all EnvironmentSociety meals are) – which, though many boys were hesitant to eat at first, took their tastebuds by surprise – a feat for which much kudos must go to the Bekynton team.

The following day, Eton hosted Westminster School and St. Joseph’s School at its second annual Model COP. Drawing on the concept of Model UN, Model COP seeks to emulate the process of COP at a secondary school level, to foster a greater sense of environmental awareness. Similar to the format of an actual COP, Eton’s Model COP comprised of a Blue Zone and a Green Zone. For the former, all the students gathered in Jafar Hall for a keynote interview with Dr Mandeep Rai, hosted by Charles Perry OE (Chairman of the OEEES). This interview explored Dr Rai’s work concerning environmental matters and her experiences with COP to help give some further context to the students in the room. This was swiftly followed by a transition to an open debate wherein students spoke on behalf of their designated countries in response to certain prompts chosen beforehand by the keynote speaker.

The quality of debate was very high, and it was extremely encouraging to have students of such a great variety of ages show a strong interest in environmental politics, with every student raising their hand to indicate their interest in attending an actual COP when older.

Upon ending the discussions, all the students moved towards the Green Zone (located in the Bekynton Marquee). Here, there was the opportunity to meet industry professionals – to learn more about how their roles relates to the environment – and, also, to network with other eager environmental students from different schools. There was a great range of professionals in the Green Zone, ranging from more local ones such as the Vice-Provost and Bekynton to larger national corporations such as Sodexo and Grundon. Overall, the Model COP was “thoroughly enjoyable and incredibly enriching” according to attendee Jimmy B.

Later that very day, the Head Master kindly hosted boys involved for the Head Master’s Environment Drinks. The event acted as the perfect opportunity for the handover of roles, as the 2024 – 2025 team takes over from the 2023 – 2024 team; there were several heartfelt speeches from the outgoing team and a wonderful address from the Head Master, with many thanks given to Ms Herbommez and Ms Hicks  (alongside many others) who make much of the environmental work that goes on around the School possible.

On Wednesday, the Environment Society and VocSoc collaborated to deliver a webinar about sustainable fashion careers with a wide-ranging panel of leaders in the field. This ties in nicely with the College’s own inaugural Environment Week Thrift Store. Before the commencement of Environment Week, many boys had donated their old clothes to what was to be Eton’s first-ever Thrift Store. This Thrift Store was held in the STEM Centre and was open multiple times throughout the week. The prices were incredibly tempting – they were capped at £5! Additionally, the selection of clothing was vast drawing in lots of customers throughout the week. Not only did the store support the recycling of clothes, but all funds raised were donated to the Soil Association. The Thrift Store was highly successful, it managed to raise over £600 for the charity, and left many shoppers happy with their haul!

Finally, Thursday evening saw over 30 visitors for a Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) panel event. BBOWT is one of the charities that the College has been supporting for several years; it is our local branch of the Wildlife Trust. They seek to protect wildlife and nature reserves to maintain the landscapes and biodiversity that we love. Boasting over 25,000 members, it was an honour to host one of their regular events at Eton, even having a boy on their panel. The evening started with a walk through Luxmoore’s Garden, admiring the nature whilst having discussions with people from all sorts of different professions. Upon reaching the Bekynton Marquee, dinner was served, and a panel took their seats at the front of the room.

The panel was chaired by Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, and gave many insightful answers to questions about the challenges and opportunities faced by the next generation as pertains to the environment, before fielding questions from the audience. The discussion was very engaging, and many fascinating points were raised, the College eagerly hopes to host similar such events in the future – further cementing our connection with the charities we support.

All in all, Environment Week was thoroughly busy and fruitful, with many activities taking place for all to enjoy. Hopefully some of the events may have inspired a greater interest in the environment.

E@E Wildlife Photography Competition 2024

– Harmony –

Winner: Tom A

Runner-Up: Kate Highy

Highly Commended: Giacomo A

Highly Commended: Gary MacMillan