The 2019 Year of Green Action

Connecting everybody with nature for its benefit and ours


An idea is born

As a conservation professional, you cannot fail to be aware of the catastrophic decline in habitats and species globally, the threat posed by climate change and the almost daily media messages that time is running out for us to save our planet. Man-made impacts on the environment have compromised or destroyed whole ecosystems and urgent action is needed by everyone to restore biodiversity and safeguard our future.


In response to this, last year the government published its 25 year environment plan - part of the manifesto commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. The plan identifies 10 goals to improve the environment within a generation, including clean air and water, thriving plants and wildlife, and healthy and productive seas.


Chapter 3 of this plan is about ‘Connecting People with the Environment for Health and Well-being’. The plan recognises that people need to feel connected to the natural world in order to value and want to take steps to care for it, and quantifies the benefits to physical and mental health from contact with nature. It is now widely accepted that time spent outside reduces the risk of a number of chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and can counteract stress and depression. One mechanism to improve this engagement with the natural world is the designation of 2019 as a year of action for the environment: “We will make 2019 a year of action for the environment, putting children and young people at its heart. This year of green action will provide a focal point for organisations that run environmental projects, and will encourage wider participation.”  (page 80, 25 Year Environment Plan, January 2018)


The purpose of the year is a call to action, for people from all backgrounds, to join together to play their part in protecting and enhancing our environment. We are achieving this by developing networks and providing a focal point for action. We are leading and supporting a number of events throughout the year which provide opportunities for individuals and organisations to connect with and enhance the natural world. We are championing the goals of the 25 year environment plan, encouraging everyone to engage with and value nature, and recognising achievements while driving further commitments to achieve a better environment for all.


Children and young people are at the heart of the Year of Green Action (YoGA) and Defra has set up a partnership with the youth social action charity, Step Up To Serve. Their environmental campaign - #iwill4nature - is running throughout 2019, encouraging environmental action across society through the voice of 10-20 year olds. The charity has recruited 50 young #iwill ambassadors who speak with passion and conviction about the environmental agenda and challenge us to be bolder in tackling a broad range of environmental issues from single use plastics to climate change.


What’s happening in 2019?

The Government is playing a convening role in YoGA, promoting good practice through case studies, drawing together local and national initiatives and facilitating visits by Ministers and YoGA ambassadors, and media amplification. We have launched a website:  www.yearofgreenaction.org which showcases green action and allows partners to advertise and search for events and volunteering opportunities.

In January, the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, launched YoGA and the Step Up To Serve #iwll4nature campaign at London Zoo

(Credit: Helen Ward)

In February, there was a call to action for businesses during a Parliamentary reception & the first tranche of Year of Green Action ambassadors was announced

(Credit: Helen Ward)


Throughout 2019, we will be attending partner’s events to promote the messages of conservation action and sponsoring YoGA awards to recognise the great achievements of community groups, businesses, students etc in taking action to safeguard our future. We’ll be working closely with other government departments on broader sustainability initiatives like Clean Air Day and Green Great Britain Week, acknowledging that action is needed across the whole of government and wider society to achieve the ambitious goals of the 25 year environment plan.


How will we measure success?

There are a number of indicators of success for this year, and to ensure it becomes the first step in a longer term commitment to changing attitudes to the environment.  We will be tracking our media reach to assess consciousness raising and participation in a broad range of environmental activity, through partner-led events and internal government actions. We will be measuring individual behaviour change and organisational commitments through tracking pledges on our website and at events. We will be reviewing policy influence in other government departments, and seeking feedback from everyone. Through YoGA, we hope to lay foundations for the future and embed the 25 Year Environment Plan across government and wider society to raise our ambition and collectively achieve the aim of a better environment within a generation.


YoGA set out to maintain and support current momentum and interest in the natural world, stimulated by the ‘Blue Planet effect’. Over 14 million people in Britain watched the second series of the Blue Planet, making it the biggest broadcasting event of 2017. But this greater awareness of environmental issues has not always translated into conservation action, and more support is needed to harness this growing national concern. What small steps can people take in their homes, schools and workplaces to make a difference? Through YoGA, we hope to encourage more people to take action to improve the environment, to connect with nature, protect and enhance it. A successful YoGA will stimulate individual and organisational behaviour change over the years to come, and bring everyone together to care for the planet that cares for us.


Helen Ward, Head of Strategic Engagement (25 Year Environment Plan)                [March 2019]