Young Environmentalist Awards: Focus on the Sustainable Development Goals

Published by Carolin Cordes on


June 6th, 2018

Earlier this month, hundreds of students, teachers and young people gathered in Dublin’s Mansion House to celebrate ECO-UNESCO’s annual Young Environmentalist Awards.

The awards ceremony, now in its 19th year, brought together 80 finalists out of a total of 318 projects registered from all across Ireland.

Among the finalist were students tackling problems from bees at risk of extinction to palm oil’s rainforest destruction, unsustainable fashion, and plastic pollution.

This year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) featured prominently for the first time throughout a range of diverse projects.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 global goals agreed by the UN in 2015 and focus on creating a greener, fairer and more equal world by 2030.


ECO-UNESCO - ‘Education’s Lacking Let’s Get Cracking’. Photo: Conor Ó Mearain

ECO-UNESCO – ‘Education’s Lacking Let’s Get Cracking’. Photo: Conor Ó Mearain


Many projects at this year’s event demonstrated a solid grasp of the SDGs, integrating them in to their research and demonstrating how local environmental issues connect to the global challenges within the goals.

Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, TD, who attended the event, commended the creativity and passion demonstrated by the young people in the room.

One such project was ‘Education’s Lacking, Let’s Get Cracking’ by a group of young people from ECO-UNESCO’s Youth for Sustainable Development programme.

The project sought to raise awareness of the SDGs through a social media campaign and surveys which revealed a lack of awareness of the global goals among the general public.

They also held a demonstration demanding better education for sustainable development in schools. The project won the newly introduced ‘SDG Award’.

The role of schools in reimagining a sustainable future was also highlighted by the project 17 Goals. 1 School. And Minecraft developed by students at Presentation College in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Here, a diverse team of student ‘builders’ from right across the student body re-designed their school using the online game Minecraft. They recommended 100 changes to their school inspired by the goals and a vision for a better future for all.

The pioneering pupils also considered their connections to the wider world by checking whether the school has sustainable and fair supply chains in all its used products.

The school won the special award for Most Innovative Project and even shared their findings with Government bodies. You can find their YouTube video, blog, project news and much more online.

A more playful take on the SDGs was presented by another handful of creative minds from ECO-UNESCO’s Youth for Sustainable Development Programme in Dublin.

The pupils created the board game Eco-Poly, inspired by the SDGs. The game, made entirely from recycled materials, is based on Monopoly but incorporates learning and action on the seventeen Global Goals.


Ecopoly, ECO-UNESCO’s Youth for Sustainable Development Programme in Dublin. Photo by Carolin Cordes


Finally, pupils from Mary Immaculate Secondary School in Clare explored the potential of eco-community development in their project Developing a Sustainable Economy for our Community.

The teenage girls helped local people to visualise an eco-community in their hometown of Lisdoonvarna, drawing inspiration from visits to the Eco-Village in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.

Their research led them to create the ‘Place of Possibilities’ consisting of models which featured four shop fronts of a bakery, an ecotourism office, a food-coop and a community bank. The girls aim to recreate these in their local community.


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Carolin Cordes

Carolin is an activist, anthropologist, and volunteer for Young Friends of the Earth.