Ecological trip across Europe by 5 young volunteers
Awareness and education
6 September 2023
5 backpacker volunteers from The SeaCleaners launch the EYAE project to promote environmental awareness in Europe!
In a bold initiative to promote positive changes in ecological and societal mindsets, five engineering students from Ense3, specializing in Energy, Water and the Environment, have embarked on an inspiring journey across Europe. Pauline, Maëlle, Emma, Laura and Jeanne, all committed to sustainability, have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness among the younger generation of the crucial importance of protecting the environment. Their ambitious project, dubbed “Environmental Youth Awareness in Europe” (EYAE), aims to create a profound environmental awareness among young Europeans.
The five students’ journey began in March with a series of awareness-raising actions in partnership with the “Talent For The Future” association. This first phase of their project took them to several countries, where they worked hand-in-hand with local communities to share their passion for sustainability and encourage positive action.
But the young women’s commitment didn’t stop there. They took it upon themselves to plan and carry out two noteworthy actions in Bulgaria and Greece. Their determination and enthusiasm paid off, as they succeeded in raising awareness among an impressive total of 498 students during their journey.
The first major stop on their journey was the Lycée Français in Varna, Bulgaria. During the week of June 5 to 8, they captivated the attention of 173 students by organizing interactive and informative sessions on current environmental issues. Their creative approach and infectious passion left a lasting impression on the minds of these young people, encouraging them to think more deeply about the impact of their actions on the planet.
The trip continued at the Lycée Franco-Hellénique in Athens, where Pauline, Maëlle, Emma, Laura and Jeanne continued their inspiring mission. During the week of June 19 to 23, they interacted with no fewer than 325 students. Their unwavering commitment demonstrated that environmental protection is a global concern, transcending borders and cultures.
These five young engineers from Ense3 have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to protecting the environment and raising awareness of current environmental and societal challenges among the younger generation. Through their EYAE project, Pauline, Maëlle, Emma, Laura and Jeanne are laying the foundations for a more sustainable and conscious future within European society.
A project full of discoveries: read their story
“We are 5 students aged 23, studying engineering at ENSE3 (École Nationale Supérieure de l’Eau, de l’Énergie et de l’Environnement). We’ve just completed a gap year. From September to March, we were all on placement, and from March to August, we carried out our project, entitled EYAE for Environmental Youth Awareness in Europe.
The project had several objectives: to travel across Europe using soft mobility (without ever taking a plane), to discover slow travel by completing this journey over a long period of almost 5 months, and to raise awareness among French high school students of climate change, biodiversity erosion and ocean plastic pollution.
In the French lycées in Milan, Budapest and Bucharest, we used the Fresque du Climat, the Fresque de la Biodiversité and the Arbre du Climat to raise awareness among 550 pupils from CP to Terminale.
At French high schools in Varna and Athens, we raised awareness of ocean plastic pollution by proudly wearing the colors of The SeaCleaners volunteers. Supervised by Nolwenn Brohan, we were able to adapt the content we proposed to each level, and to each time slot the teachers gave us. In all, we reached over 400 students. In these two high schools, we also organized clean walks (in town and on the coast) to support our message and encourage individual action. This enabled us to collect 84 kilos of waste.”
“Before leaving, our aim was to raise awareness in 7 high schools: in Milan, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest on climate change and the erosion of biodiversity, and in Varna, Thessalonica and Athens on marine plastic pollution. Unfortunately, our contacts with Vienna and Thessaloniki were not successful, but we were able to reach more classes than we expected in some high schools, particularly in Varna, where we reached almost all grades.
As association volunteers, we expected The SeaCleaners to follow up our project. We were in regular contact with Nolwenn Brohan throughout the trip, who regularly asked us for news of the project and the results achieved during the awareness-raising and waste collection activities. This was very encouraging for us, as we felt a real sense of support from the association.
We also wanted to learn about plastic pollution before we left, and this was made possible thanks to the online guides provided by the association. They are very well done and accessible to all volunteers. The same goes for the awareness-raising workshops we were able to use with schoolchildren. They’re suitable for all levels and enable them to learn more about plastic pollution figures, everyday gestures to limit it and the importance of the ocean in a fun way.”
“As we were abroad, we were obviously confronted with certain cultural differences during our actions. Recycling was not carried out in the same way from one country to another, which made sorting waste less natural for us. We also encountered difficulties in contacting city councils in advance of our cleanups, particularly in Athens, to make sure we had authorization to carry out this type of action.
As soon as we started using The SeaCleaners’ tools, we were pleasantly surprised by the level of knowledge already acquired by some of the pupils. The youngest ones even proudly recounted their own actions, such as picking up litter on the beach with their parents. In general, many pupils were aware of the problem of plastic pollution, but said they lacked the means to take action. After discussion with them, certain avenues were explored on an individual basis, or at high school level with the older students. As for the primary school pupils, their reaction was very logical: they wanted to pick up the garbage in their playground at playtime, or they simply said they had to stop using plastic. We were reassured by all these reactions.
Another reaction that struck us was that of the students at the cleanups when they realized the extent of the pollution in their environment. Whether in Varna on the beaches 5 minutes’ walk from their school, or in Athens just around the corner, most of them were shocked by the amount of garbage they collected in such a short space of time, and realized that there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of our habits.
In addition to the students, it was the teachers who amazed us with their commitment to this fight and the values they wanted to inculcate in their students, especially in Athens, where we were able to meet teachers who don’t hesitate to spend time outside of class to talk about or organize outings around this subject, or even set up an ecology club to give them the means to take action. Their conviction gave us hope, because we realized that the subject of plastic pollution was by no means sidelined during students’ schooling.”