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With all the global climate strikes that have been happening over the last few weeks, it feels like the perfect time to speak up about a sensitive and related issue.

First, I’d like to acknowledge the incredible mobilization of nearly 7 million young people and supporters at over 3,000 events around the world, taking to the streets and clearly calling for action against the climate crisis we’re all presently in.

My son and I, other Natural Pod team members, their families and our communities took part in the local climate strikes. One of the things that struck all of us was how peaceful the demonstrations were with a real feeling of togetherness. That’s a wonderful thing for young people to experience, and probably was a first for the majority of them. It strengthens their sense of self and their self-confidence knowing that even a small action on their part can have a big impact. We need to encourage brave steps like these in our students so they can become the empathic leaders that are so needed to drive us out of this crisis and into a healthy future.

The other aspect of the climate strikes that certainly should be acknowledged is that all these events were organized beautifully and efficiently by young people, most of them too young to even vote! Regardless of your views around the climate strikes you have to concede that that is an impressive accomplishment, something I think that as a community of adults in the education field we should all be really proud of.

It’s too early to know what, if any, effects these demonstrations will have on the powers that be, but I am clear that now students know they really can do something, they’re going to keep on doing something until they’re heard and meaningful action is taken.

Which leads me to the sensitive issue I mentioned.

As a purpose-driven, environmentally responsible company working in education, we often struggle with the conflicting values that show up in this space. When organizations are trying to improve any aspect within education it’s generally with the purpose of improving the future prospects of their students – though this is where we feel some of the conflict starts.

The main aim of all learning furniture providers’ should be to improve the learning experience and outcomes for students so they can succeed in their future. But the conversation coming out of the recent strikes is it’s not going to be much of a future to succeed in if the planet keeps heating up and there are immediate climate problems to deal with.

Here’s the paradox. Most schools worldwide, and we are talking thousands upon thousands of schools, are full of non-sustainably-made furniture: much of which contains lead paint, is unrecyclable and will most likely end up in landfills, and the vast majority of new school furniture keeps being produced this way. This is a large disconnect. It’s not healthy for people, it’s not healthy for the planet, and it’s sending a conflicting message to students who are learning more and more about sustainability and the environment. In addition to this, as we all know, there is much evidence showing that in order for children to thrive it is advantageous for them to be outside in nature as much as possible. Therefore it’s deeply disheartening and concerning to frequently witness school decision-makers not choosing natural, healthy, internal learning environments as well – the very places where students actually spend the majority of their time.

Anyone in the education field, including product providers, should be considering the whole child. That means creating environments and products that are healthy, beautiful, sustainable and support students in achieving the best learning outcomes for them. This is what my team and I strive for every day. I know this is on-going work, and change is complicated, but I urge school decision-makers to take on board the messages directly from the recent climate strikes and begin making sustainable choices that positively instigate change. Choices that will impact all areas of students’ lives; their education, their environments, and their futures.

By Bridgitte Alomes. Founder and CEO of Natural Pod – Originally posted on LinkedIn