A young girl weighing and recording the weight of cardboard in a blue recycling bin

3Rs Activities at Home: Recycling Audit

Are you a Super Recycler? Recycling is great, but can you reduce and reuse more of your waste?

Build a Bug Hotel

3Rs Activities at Home: Building a bug hotel

In week 6’s half term worksheet, learn how to build a bug-friendly hotel using garden waste!

Young girl sitting in a doorway with her hands over her face

Eco-anxiety

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The countdown shown above is the amount of time we have left before we hit climate breakdown, according to leading research into climate change and deep adaptation. The question is:

How do we help young people who feel paralysed with fear about their future?

We have created this page with the links to organisations and resources with the aim to help teachers and parents understand eco-anxiety and help young people cope with the existential threats posed by our modern way of life.



Eco-Anxiety and Young People 


You may have heard the term “Eco-anxiety” used recently, especially in relation to young people worried about the state of the world and worried that their future will be made much worse by climate change and environmental destruction. Listen to the podcasts below and watch the 2018 TED talk (right) from Greta Thunberg about her struggle with mental health and activism against climate change.


Immediate Help



If you are worried about the safety of a child in Devon and want to speak to someone, or if you are a child worried about your own safety, please contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or email mashsecure@devon.gov.uk and give as much information as you can.

If a child is at immediate risk contact the police on 999.

If you are a professional, you should make a MASH contact (previously a MASH enquiry). Please see the guidance on making a MASH contact.


Image of teenagers looking worried

Humans are pre-programmed to become anxious when they identify a threat. This has helped us for millennia, in producing adrenaline that helps us run fast to escape from dangerous predators like lions and tigers or freezing to hide from danger.

Young people are not immune to anxiety, in fact they may be at higher risk of exposure to threats via social media, which can also magnify their appearance through the echo chamber effect.

Unfortunately, environmental destruction and climate change are not short term problems that can be resolved quickly by running away or hiding. Waiting them out won’t work to resolve our eco-anxiety either – we have to change our own behaviours and influence change within our society to resolve them. We have to find individual ways to cope with these existential threats.

Young people feel more exposed to these issues as they have more of their lives ahead of them than older people. They know their own lives will be impacted by resource issues and climate change. This makes young people massive stakeholders in the future and more vulnerable to eco-anxiety.

Here is a playlist we think you might find useful when talking about eco-anxiety with young people:

The Solutions

The pathway from a stressed and anxious child to a calm and happy one will take time and patience, no matter what has caused the anxiety. But children are resilient creatures, so given the right help and reassurance and provided parents, teachers and other professionals work together then they should be able to navigate their path to recovery. Children may not be able to explain what is making them anxious, or it may be a combination of worries that have triggered anxious behaviour. Below are the stages to help children recover from stress and anxiety.

Young children may not realise that they are feeling anxious or know what is causing it. Look out for the following signs:

  • irritability, being tearful or clingy
  • having problems sleeping
  • waking in the night
  • wetting the bed (especially if they were previously dry)
  • having bad dreams

Older children may show different symptoms:

  • lacking confidence to try new things or seeming unable to face simple, everyday challenges
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • having problems with sleeping or eating
  • becoming angry for no apparent reason
  • having a lot of negative thoughts, or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen
  • starting to avoid everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or going to school

There may be a simple explanation for anxiety and it may be easy to resolve the problem, for example worrying about appearing in a school play or worried about changing seat in the classroom. The important thing is to reassure them and explain that you understand.

It may be a good idea to explain what lies behind their body’s response to their worrying about something. There are some lovely videos on Youtube that may help (see our Eco-anxiety playlist on Youtube).

Anxiety about climate change and the plastic pollution problem can feel overwhelming, but there are ways to help alleviate those feelings of helplessness. Many children are turning to activism to help them feel less anxious about the future.

Greta Thunberg is a great example. She was paralysed by Eco-anxiety, but found her voice on the world stage by striking from school every Friday. You don’t have to become an internationally recognised activist to make a difference – see our Local Action pages some ideas of ways to help in your local community.

If the child or teen becomes increasingly unwell due to anxiety then it is time to ask for professional help. The organisations listed on the right hand side of the page here will be able to offer support and guidance. Young people should never feel that they are alone in mental health issues and asking for help is the first step to getting well again.

Further Reading & Resources

Devon County Council Logo

Devon County Council has a dedicated group of people looking after children and families. From social workers to family liaison officers they can help with problems related to many aspects of family life. Access help by talking to someone on the family support helpline: 0345 155 1013

If you are worried about the safety of a child in Devon and want to speak to someone, or if you are a child worried about your own safety, please contact our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or email mashsecure@devon.gov.uk and give as much information as you can.

If a child is at immediate risk contact the police on 999.

If you are a professional, you should make a MASH contact (previously a MASH enquiry). Please see the guidance on making a MASH contact.



This is the place to gain access for advice and support for children and young adults with mental health issues in the county of Devon. They provide help for children and young people experiencing problems with emotional or psychological wellbeing or mental health.



Young Minds are a charity leading the fight for a future where all young minds are supported and empowered, whatever the challenges. They are trying to make sure young people get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s difficulties.



We empower young people to turn their eco-anxiety into agency, and work with leaders across business and education to drive intergenerational solutions.



A brilliant website dedicated to Eco-anxiety in young people, with links to news and resources to help cope with the world in light of the climate and biodiversity emergency facing us all.



Open Minds is a Devon based organisation that provides tools for young people and their families to deal with anxiety, anger and enhances positive wellbeing through mindfulness workshops and personalised care.



The Children’s Society is a charity that works with children and young people who feel scared, unloved and unable to cope step by step, for as long as it takes.

We listen. We support. We act.

There are no simple answers so we work with others to tackle complex problems. Only together can we make a difference to the lives of children now and in the future.



Childline is a free, private and confidential service where young people can talk about anything.

Teachers

Picture of hands joined around a globe

Shared Responsibility

This set of resources will help teach children about taking a shared responsibility for the world, by introducing the concept Tragedy of the Commons to engage young people in the choices made by communities in managing shared resources.

Tragedy of the Commons

“What is common to the greatest number gets the least amount of care.” Aristotle

Imagine an open area of land, without fences, hedges or boundaries across it where cattle and sheep can graze freely. This common land is not owned by anyone, but everyone can use it to raise animals that feed themselves, their families and to sell at market. The land can support up to ten cattle on it at once, otherwise it becomes overgrazed, as the growth of the grass cannot keep up with the grazing. Imagine three farmers, Paula, Manuel and Victoria. They each have two cattle, who graze freely on the common ground. One day Manuel decides to buy another five cattle. He can now graze them for free, but there is less grass for the cattle of Paula and Victoria. The next week Victoria decides to invest in five cattle as well. Suddenly there is not enough grass for any of the cattle to graze freely.

Picture of hands joined around a globe


3 cattle in a field with trees behind

Carrying Capacity

The land can only support a certain number of animals; this number is called the Carrying Capacity. If there are too many animals the pasture will be overgrazed, as the grass won’t grow back quickly enough after it has been eaten. This means if all the farmers had too many animals than the land could support then no one would benefit as the pastureland would be overgrazed. All of the animals would suffer as they would not have enough grass to eat. This situation is called the Tragedy of the Commons.

Other Examples

This story can be used to describe other situations too. Examples of the Tragedy of the Commons include littering, pollution by fossil fuel burning, deforestation, overfishing, and many other environmental problems where scarce resources must be managed sustainably.

A classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons is in waste management. As a population grows it becomes more difficult to deal with the waste that is produced by human activity. Individuals keep their own homes clean and tidy, throwing waste away, but larger areas, like towns, are messier, as a few people litter or leave rubbish outside their homes. You may have noticed this in your own town.

Picture of lots of plastic litter along a beach
Picture of chimneys with yellow coloured smoke emerging
Environmental Challenges

When we think about the world as a whole, waste is out of control, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, causing global warming and climate change. Toxic waste pollutes rivers and lakes, plastic pollution spreads across the oceans. Water and air are like the common grazing ground in the story, not owned by anyone, but affected by everyone. Everyone seems to think that pollution is not their problem, as they think they are doing enough in their own country, keeping their own rivers and countryside clean. However, the pollution from seven billion people is spreading across the oceans and into the air and will eventually cause us all harm.

What should we do about these environmental challenges?

Solutions to the Tragedy of the Commons

Many of the environmental challenges that we face as a species do have quite easy answers. We can change the way we behave – like stop burning fossil fuels for energy, or not flying so much. Once we are aware of the problems, we can work towards solutions. The main way to deal with these problems is through teaching people about them and then talking to each other and agreeing not to act in ways that hurt us in the future. Watch the TED talk by Erik Thulin (in our playlist here) about solving overfishing for a real-life example of solving a Tragedy of the Commons.

Working cooperatively, so that no one person, company or country takes advantage of the “commons” is a great way to solve the problem. Imagine again our farmers in the first example. They can talk to each other and agree not to have more than a certain number of animals, a total lower than the carrying capacity of the land. Everyone could continue to gain from the common grazing land, and it won’t become degraded and unusable. These solutions work for overfishing too. Another solution may be to keep a reserve of land back from grazing, or to rotate among other areas of grazing.

Can you think of some solutions to littering in the countryside or plastic pollution in the oceans?

Can you think of ways to make people/countries do this?


Smniling waste collection team from West Devon emptying food waste caddies into a waste collection vehicle

Careers Advice

Working in waste is not just about emptying people’s bins. There are many different types of job available in this vitally important (and often ignored) part of our society.

The importance of the waste industry has been highlighted during the Coronavirus pandemic, as all waste sector employees are considered as keyworkers!

Listed below you can find out a bit more about different parts of the Waste Industry and consider whether you would want to work in these jobs.


Close up of whiteboard with coloured whiteboard pens and board rubber

Waste Starters

Starter Activities and 5 minute fillers

Use our lesson starters at the start of each school day as children enter the classroom to register, or as an intro to a waste or sustainability topic lesson, or just as a five minute filler when you have a few moments. Download our Powerpoint and instructions for the full package. Crossword Waste starters.pptx Starter activities & 5 minute fillers.pdf

Close up of whiteboard with coloured whiteboard pens and board rubber

Snakes and Ladders

The well-known traditional Snakes and Ladders game with an ‘eco’ twist! Download the board and use it with cards on either a 3Rs or compost theme. Use the game as a 5 minute filler with a class, during wet play, with an after-school or breakfast club, or with your Eco Team. Snakes and Ladders game board 3Rs Snakes and Ladders – Teachers instructions 3Rs Ladders cards 3Rs Snakes cards Composting Snakes and Ladders – Teachers instructions Composting Snakes cards Composting Ladders cards