From fashion to climate education

Volunteer Hannah Riley

Hannah Riley shares how she went from sustainability in fashion to empowering young people through climate education. 

I’m a Masters student studying the MA Fashion Futures course at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. This course critically explores sustainability and whilst fashion and climate change might seem incongruous, they are inextricably linked. 

The fashion industry contributes around 8-10% of global emissions and consumes more energy than the aviation and the shipping industry combined! Climate change is just one of the innumerable environmental, geological and humanitarian issues and injustices that the fashion industry contributes to and is built on. 

I wanted to volunteer because I am passionate about educating all, but especially children and young people on the impact that human-induced climate change has had and continues to have on our planet and people. I also want to ensure that they understand and feel empowered by the knowledge that making changes in their family and friends’ lives can have a big impact towards reducing global carbon emissions.

Educating young people

I volunteered as a facilitator for Climate Ed, a charity that offers free education to children about carbon science, carbon literacy and climate action. Climate change isn’t part of the primary National Curriculum. A recent YouGov survey showed that 75% of teachers felt they hadn’t received adequate training. Climate Ed has developed its resources and links with volunteers to fill the gap. 

Climate Ed wanted and needed to spread their messaging and education further, to more young people. They have well over a hundred volunteers who help fulfil this crucial mission who work in schools and facilitate a number of sessions. The charity is volunteer led, so the more volunteers, the more students they can teach.

I love working with children and young people, having done so personally and professionally for many years. I believe they can bring such a valuable insight and alternative perspective to conversations surrounding sustainability and climate, which adults often omit. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to teach young people more about climate change and to understand how they think and engage with these concepts. 

The thing which inspires children is the presence of a real person, sharing why they care about climate change and what we can do. I was able to educate over 30 students aged 10-11 years about human-induced climate change and carbon emissions, increasing their carbon and climate literacy. 

My own learning journey

My knowledge and understanding of the climate has strengthened as a result of volunteering for a climate organisation. Although I was already extremely conscious of my impact, I am far from perfect. I try to take action on climate change where I can, but volunteering definitely reiterated the importance that small changes can make and I feel even more conscious of my choices now. 

It was also wonderful to feel part of a community, creating positive change, especially as the narrative around climate change can be so demoralising. I really enjoyed my experience. It was delightful watching the students learn, understand and feel empowered to take positive action.

I felt a renewed sense of hope that these young people broadly feel that they can challenge the status quo in society and are equipped with knowledge and a sense of empowerment to facilitate conversations and confront the challenges we face and will face in the future. 

I would say that if you’re thinking about volunteering for a climate organisation, don’t be afraid if don’t know enough about climate change or the science behind it. When I volunteered, my own knowledge strengthened, not just the students in my sessions! You don’t need to be an expert in climate or science to volunteer at a climate organisation. You just need the desire to make a change and willingness to take action.