We want to share our world renown environmental expertise with young students in China. The “Green Future” program is an excellent showcase for what our volunteers can do at the grass-roots level.
The “Green Future” program is a Chinese education partnership between UPM, the Changshu Environmental Bureau and Changshu Education Bureau. It aims to provide environmental education to young students, evoke a sense of shared responsibility and instil habits that support sustainability and environmental protection.
“Our goal is to help students develop a sustainable and environmental protection oriented mindset. They can then inspire their families and friends with their proactive actions as they grow up to promote a green future, ” says Jukka Saarelainen, General Manager of the UPM Changshu mill.
Nine years of educating young students
“We want to make sure the school children understand the importance of the environment and are inspired to carry out a green future in their daily lives and share these lessons with their community as well,” explains Gracie Huang, Manager of mill communications at Changshu mill. Gracie has been the “Green Future” program manager for seven years.
There are two parts to the “Green Future” program. One is the environmental protection classes, which take place at local primary schools from March to June every year. Second is the summer camp, usually held in July.
Normally, every school in Changshu has their own class on environmental protection. What makes the “Green Future” program different, is that it uses lesson plans made by UPM volunteers, UPM materials, such as the UPM Forest Life website, as well as providing hands-on experience for the students.
Since the beginning of the program in 2010, more than 250 UPM volunteers have worked in 54 local schools, namely in the cities of Changshu but even in Shanghai and Jiangxi province. The program has received recognition by the Changshu government and local media outlets, such as Changshu Daily, Suzhou News, CSBC and CSTV. It has also been well received by community members themselves, like students, teachers and parents.
Another successful year
This year UPM volunteers visited three primary schools in Changshu and taught lessons on the environmental protection to more than 550 students.
These lessons started out with an introduction to Earth’s water resources and the impact of water scarcity and its negative effects. Volunteers used nearby Suzhou city, which is experiencing a water shortage as an example to stress the importance of protecting and saving water resources in daily life.
After this lesson, volunteers walked through the interactive UPM Forest Life website with students. The site explains scientific techniques and methods that UPM uses to protect forests, and how forest resources are used sustainably.
A day at camp
The content of the program changes every year. “For the summer camps, we want to come up with new ideas that the students can enjoy,” Gracie says.
Sixty-one students and nine teachers from three schools came to the UPM Changshu mill to learn environmental lessons at the ninth UPM “Green Future” summer camp. Students learned from one another at the environmental knowledge contest. They also learned skills for daily tasks, like how to sort garbage. The paper making class was a hands-on experience, where students made their own unique paper from recycled materials. Finally, the day ended with a fashion show, where students presented their outfits made from recyclable materials.
Students’ feedback has been all together positive. They feel that their knowledge about environmental protection, especially about garbage sorting has increased.
“I hope we can have more UPM volunteers share their environmental knowledge with students across China in the future. We want our lessons to inspire them to further educate their communities and contribute to a greener future,” Gracie Huang concludes.
“Green Future” project is part of UPM’s Biofore Share and Care programme. The programme focuses on projects that are relevant to both UPM’s business and responsibility goals. The focus areas are: Reading & Learning, Engaging with communities, Responsible water use and Boosting bioinnovations.