Bethia Stevenson-Paul and Jess Carter, two Devon based entrepreneurs are working to empower the next generation of environmentalists. Jess Carter, co-founder of Planet & People CIC, tells their story.
We both wanted to do something impactful
In the midst of a career break and after a move back to Devon to start my young family, I was in search of a way to share my passion for the environment. After running several events to connect children to nature, I was keen to kick-start my return to the working world in a meaningful way. I was delighted when I found out that one of my neighbours, Bethia Stevenson-Paul, a geography teacher, also shared the same passion and was at the same stage in her journey – my boy Oliver is just one day older than Bethia’s youngest child! We both wanted to do something impactful to help preserve the planet for future generations and thought by combining our professional expertise we could help inspire our local community to take positive action. Whilst planting apples trees together, we had a wave of inspiration and started to put some ideas together.
This serendipitous meeting of the minds started in 2020. As our ideas for workshops started flowing, the Covid pandemic started. At first deflated, lockdown gave us the perfect opportunity to solidify our ideas in the form of Planet Action Kits – inspiration boxes that could arrive through the letterbox to help children to love the Earth in the hope that one day we would be able to offer these as face to face workshops.
Encouraging young people to think BIG
As the restrictions of the pandemic eased, we started to test our ideas on small groups and in July 2021, Planet & People launched as a Community Interest Company. As our reputation grew, we started to target schools and COP26 saw the first of our Planet Action Workshops, ‘Speak Up’ going live to large groups.
These half day (2 hour) sessions are suitable for up to 100 children and can be adapted for any age. There is a new theme each term and we aim to empower the next generation to create a better future for planet and people. Children are encouraged to love the earth, observe what is going on around them, share it with others and most importantly enjoy the whole process. Activities include making them aware of their surrounding environment and noticing what else is sharing it, whether that might be plant pots or bug houses!
They are also encouraged to think big and imagine what our world might be like in 50 years time. This always throws up some really original and thought provoking ideas. For instance, one girl suggested we could find ways to make everything plant based, even the infrastructure. We encourage young people to explore their imagination and creativity. After all, we need innovative thinkers to guide us through the challenges we are facing in the future.
Schools are currently really overstretched and there’s not yet any provision for environmental education in the primary curriculum so Bethia and I are delighted to be able to bridge the gap and take the pressure off teachers. Our Planet Action Workshops have had an enthusiastic response and by the end of this calendar year we will have reached more than 5,000 students across Devon schools. We’ve been completely booked up this term and are currently taking bookings from schools for the next instalments of our workshops for 2023. They include themes such as “Planet Minded” (an exploration into the benefits of the natural world on our mental wellbeing) and “Hope” (a visioning exercise to think about the future they would like to see).
Encouraging and empowering communities
On the back of the success of the Planet Action Workshops we are now taking it one step further and aiming to support Devon businesses through the introduction of the Devon Planet Action Partnership. We can take the pressure off them by working with their staff to overcome barriers and find solutions to operate in a more environmentally sensitive way. This can be achieved by working together to shift mindsets and gain easy wins to save carbon, time and money.
The funding we have received to date has come from various grants which have been instrumental in properly kick-starting our enterprise by enabling us to provide Planet Action Workshops on a fully-funded basis. Also, earlier this year I was delighted to be one of 15 leaders in Devon to be accepted onto the Devon Social Entrepreneurs Programme led by the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and during the four month Accelerator Learning Programme I have gained valuable expertise which will be very helpful in moving our initiative forward. We do ask all schools to donate what they can afford to our Planet Action Fund which enables us to extend the reach of our engagement.
In the spirit of a regenerative future we intend to maintain a circular model such that the revenue generated from our work with businesses will directly contribute to environmental education in schools and empower a generation that is fit for the future and made up of environmentally aware and responsible citizens ready to support a sustainable and resilient economy.
Encouraging and empowering communities to get involved in the protection of our natural world is paramount and at Planet and People CIC our mission over the coming years is to support as many schools and businesses as possible to help ensure we leave a safe and thriving planet for future generations to enjoy.
If you would like to learn more about what we do, please get in touch www.planetandpeople.co.uk