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Smart, sustainable and savvy: Highland pupils working for a greener future

Inverlochy P7s Filip, Wiktor and Amira are the brains behind Bike from the Dead, just one of the school's new sustainable business projects.
Inverlochy P7s Filip, Wiktor and Amira are the brains behind Bike from the Dead, just one of the school's new sustainable business projects.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a business turning old bike parts into home goods, stop.

A team of P7s at Inverlochy Primary has already cornered the market.

Bike from the Dead is just one of the fledgeling businesses spawned by head teacher Kirsty Clark’s pupils. Inverlochy Primary is taking part in a sustainability exercise called the Circular Community Challenge.

Organised by Young Enterprise Scotland, the challenge requires pupils to create “circular businesses,” in which everything has value and nothing goes to waste.

In addition to a crash course in entrepreneurial skills – public speaking, idea generation, sales – the pupils are also researching the problems that climate change is causing in their communities.

From finding new uses for discarded camping supplies to making furniture from wooden pallets, Inverlochy pupils are learning that sustainable business can be difficult, but it’s worthwhile.

‘The most impressive school I’ve ever been in’

Mrs Clark has noticed a new passion for sustainability in her students. And after a visit to Inverlochy, YE’s project manager Richard Cormack Corrigan learned that age is just a number.

“There’s very little between the pupils at this school and adult entrepreneurs. They were pitching to me Dragon’s Den style, and they were some of the best pitches that I’ve ever seen.”

Richard Cormack Corrigan, left, listens to a sales pitch from Amira, Filip, and Wiktor. Supplied by Highland Council

“I go into lots of schools, but I would say it was the most impressive school I’ve ever been in. It was emotional how incredibly involved the children have gotten in the project.”

The Circular Community Challenge

YE Scotland and Wildland Limited worked together to design the challenge. Its goal is to introduce pupils to the basics of entrepreneurship by incorporating sustainable business practices.

Mr Corrigan said that a resurgence of green thinking this year has gotten more young children interested in protecting their future.

“Following COP26, we know that young people are conscious of the importance of looking after the planet and they are becoming ever more aware of their own individual impacts relating to climate change.”

One team is converting old wooden pallets into furniture.

The “Bike from the Dead” team has used old inner tubes, bike chains and other scraps from a nearby shop to make key rings, pot holders and more.

Another team is cleaning up abandoned tents from nearby Glen Nevis and turning them into clothing.

‘Committed’ to transforming the world

Mrs Clark said that she has already noticed a change in attitude at her school in the few weeks since the challenge began.

“You know a project is motivating when children are working on it in their own free time and making contact with their teachers to tell them about it.

“A lot of reflections from the children have recognised that being ‘circular’ is difficult. They’ve commented that maybe that is why lots of companies still don’t operate in circular ways.

“They’ve stuck with it though and are committed to transforming how we do things.”

Nothing wasted

Pupils said that they came to their ideas in different ways. Ella, 7, brainstormed ideas with her group and voted on their favourite.

While Cooper, 8, and his group focused on local problems such as untidy campsites.

Phoebe, 10, spoke for many of her classmates in saying that recent world events are motivating her to be more sustainable.

“We wanted to take part because COP26 made us think about climate change and ways that we could help make the world a better place.”

Inverlochy Primary pupils Hamish and Isla prepare to present their circular challenge. Supplied by Highland Council

Sylwester is invested in the circular economy because it follows the example that nature set out for us.

“Circular products are good for the environment because they use a similar cycle to the nature cycle and they do not end up in landfill.”

Lewis, 5, chimed in with a reminder that landfills are harmful to animals. While Lara said that working for a sustainable future is a team effort.

“Everyone should be trying to help the world and we all just wanted to do our bit.”

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