"We bet that we can achieve the Government's climate protection target at our schools within seven months, instead of the seven-year period the Government has set for itself". This was the bet put to the Federal Minister of Environment in Germany by the members of BUNDjugend, the youth branch of the Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation. A bet the Minister accepted with pleasure.
Between May and November 1999, the pupils aimed to save 10 million kg of carbon dioxide, i.e. 10% of the total emissions of their schools. They planned to reach their goal by turning down the heating, airing buildings for short intervals rather than continuously, using energy-saving light bulbs and reducing water consumption.
Some schools went further by developing activities in the transport sector and in waste separation and avoidance. Some pupils even installed solar panels, laid out school gardens and covered school buildings with greenery. Younger pupils encouraged their families and friends to get involved in climate protection. The older pupils focused on technical approaches.
The Federal Environmental Agency acted as judge and reviewed the results from 20 schools selected at random. Using these results to project those from the 192 participating schools, it determined that the challenger, BUNDjugend, and the 135,000 pupils involved had indeed won the bet. As a result, the German Government, as promised, invited the winner to a big party in Bonn on 17 September 1999. The BUNDjugend initiative can act as a model for future activities involving environmental awareness and education in schools.