Serious game of saving the planet


From a green version of Snakes and Ladders to Climate Change chocolate, TY students are coming up with winning ideas to promote sustainable energy

THE TRANSITION Year boys of St Benildus College in Stillorgan, south Co Dublin, are devising a twist on the old Snakes and Ladders classic board game – and they aim to enter it in the National Student Enterprise Awards.

The boys are taking part in Sustainable Energy Ireland’s One Good Idea competition, organised in association with, which will see schools across the country create a campaign to tackle climate change and promote energy efficiency. The winners will be judged at a national final in May 2012.

“We wanted to raise awareness of climate change and individual carbon footprints, but didn’t want to be preachy,” says Paul Beirne (15). “It’s a campaign led by young people, and we wanted it to be fun. So we’re creating a board game along the lines of snakes and ladders, but with a few twists. People climb trees rather than ladders, and slide down emissions rather than snakes, while the aim is to go from square 100 down to one, the lowest carbon footprint level.” The board, made of recycled materials, is packed with little nuggets of information. Land on one square: you use energy saving lightbulbs – climb up 10 squares. Land on another square: you took the car to work – slide down two squares.

Maire Costello, now a sixth year student at Loreto School Balbriggan, north Co Dublin, was part of the winning One Good Idea team in 2008. For their project, they created three marketing campaigns. First, they visited their local primary school to deliver an energy-saving workshop using worksheets with information on endangered animals, with word searches and pictures to colour, as well as writing a song about global warming which was performed in the school hall. Then, they ran a coffee morning for adults where they distributed simple laminated tip cards on how to be more energy efficient.

IT WAS THE third aspect of the campaign that was most challenging, says Maire. “The hardest part was probably getting our own peers interested in the topic of energy saving. We got their attention by selling Climate Change chocolate products in the school. The manufacturers offset any carbon emissions involved in making and distributing the product, and are also involved in a range of environmental initiatives.”

The students are enthusiastic, but can small steps such as turning the lights off when you leave a room make any difference whatsoever? “We did come across some people – especially those our own age – who were a little cynical,” Maire admits. “We’d point out that even leaving appliances on standby requires an enormous amount of energy from multiple power stations, and turning them off really is such a simple step.” Paul agrees. “If many groups contribute one good idea, it might spark off more ideas, and this small idea can become a big initiative. It might even prompt a radical change in the way schools use energy.”

His group has one more task before they finish off their board game: they intend to approach their principal with a proposal that the entire school will agree not to use electricity for one hour each week.

This year’s competition will incorporate SEI’s Life Through a Lens photography competition, which challenged students to capture pictures on an environmental theme, and Aoife Cannon, Education Executive with SEI, believes this will offer schools a greater opportunity to be creative: “We are very excited about the next phase of good ideas to come from our talented students. The pilot scheme in 2008 was incredibly successful and the calibre of ideas from students far exceeded our expectations.”

Siobhan Hebron, an 18-year-old student in Moyne Community School, Co Longford, took part in the competition two years ago. Her group created a project on food miles, looking at the relative carbon footprints of everyday items from tea to bananas and Bisto gravy. “You can’t grow tea in Ireland, but you can buy Irish vegetables or Irish rashers, instead of rashers imported from Canada,” she says. “People can reduce their environmental impact if they buy Irish food.”

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