Opinion: Can the youth information sector go green?

26 February 2020

Eurodesk is a European youth information network that promotes European awareness and opportunities to go abroad. Can we really be green? Well, it’s our social responsibility and priority for the years to come. At the last Network Meeting in Bergen in September 2019, our network fostered the ambition to work towards a “Green Eurodesk” in the light of our 30th anniversary.

 

The first step in this process is to understand and measure our collective impact on the planet. Eurodesk organises over 10.000 events, 3.500 training courses and produces over 600.000 publications per year. We also answer over 350.000 enquiries online and have a huge amount of data stored and exchanged by our 1100 local multipliers’ and national coordinators. What’s our carbon footprint? It might be hard to measure for the whole network, but it is clearly significant, and we can definitely reduce it collectively.

 

Like many other organisations, Eurodesk is taking measures to be greener. We cannot be blind on the effects of climate change and deaf to the call for action sent by so many young people. We have made the choice to opt for eco-publications, virtual meetings and training courses, to avoid the use of plastic at events and so on. But this is not enough. Our next step is to adopt a comprehensive green strategy for our network.

 

Eurodesk supports a broad approach, we are therefore partnering with the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency (ERYICA) on a joint publication aimed to provide guidelines to the youth information sector. It will contain proposals on adopting a green strategy related to the way we manage our services (reducing waste, organising greener events, etc.) and at the same time look at our role as youth information providers – informing and empowering young people as ‘green citizens’.

 

As promoters of youth mobility opportunities, Eurodesk is following policy debates on greening EU programmes. When we look at the huge benefits of Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps on its beneficiaries and their communities, our wish is to increase their access for as many young people as possible. Of course, there are solutions to improve their overall carbon footprint. DiscoverEU is a good example of an initiative promoting a greener way of discovering Europe, as most travellers use the train. In 2020, both Erasmus+ and the Corps are offering extra funding to beneficiaries opting for lower carbon emission means of transport. For that, it is important to inform and support applicants in applying greener standards and defining compensation measures in their projects.

 

Beyond financial incentives and thematic priorities, it is important to look at the macro level. If we take Erasmus students, is the monthly grant provided enough for them to make green consumer choices? Is the grant provided to an organiser of a youth exchange sufficient for them to opt for local biologic producers? The same applies with the level of the grant allocated to transport. These are bigger choices to be made by decision-makers between quality and quantity, as this cannot be put on the shoulders of participants only, especially if we want to ensure that the programmes are open to all.

 

EU institutions have all started consultations on this topic. Eurodesk recently contributed to the Stakeholders’ Forum organised by the European Commission and in a Parliament hearing on an upcoming opinion on “Effective Measures to ‘Green’ the Erasmus+, Creative Europe and European Solidarity Corps Programmes”. We believe that EU institutions should make sure to mainstream sustainable development goals when designing the future EU programmes (2021-2027 generation) and adopt a holistic approach by combining measures that are both inclusive and green.

 

This debate is also part of a broader reflection on our choices as European citizens and consumers. The EU has put climate change on top of its political agenda with the European Green Deal, disclosed last December 2019 by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The Deal has an ultimate goal: make Europe become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This will require in-depth reforms, starting by stopping subsidising fossil fuels. European citizens have many ways to push for action, through citizens’ initiatives, strike movements and civil society organisations.

 

Every one of us, decision-maker, youth worker and citizen has a role to play. Eurodesk and ERYICA will take their responsibilities and release their joint publication on Greening of youth information services on the World Environment Day, 5th June. I’m sure young people will keep us accountable for its implementation!

 

Audrey Frith,
Director of Eurodesk

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