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Sam Patterson overcomes challenges to take first place in Northern Ireland YRE competition

Sam Patterson’s love of the environment started when he was a just a baby, when he would be calmed by the sound of wind moving through the trees. As a toddler he could be found gently stroking snail shells in the garden, and by age four he regularly wondered if trees might have senses we don’t understand. At age seven, the same year he was diagnosed with dyslexia, Sam was speculating if we could freeze exhaust fumes and somehow reuse them, or at least prevent them from polluting the air. When he was nine, Sam was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

And this year, Sam published a piece of environmental journalism that won first place in the Northern Ireland Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) national competition. His Litter Less Campaign article ‘The Natural Respirator’ explores the paradox between humanity’s connection to nature and our tendency to harm it through human activities. 

Read Sam’s winning article here

Sam’s lifelong passion for the environment inspired him to participate in the YRE competition, and personal experience moved him to choose the topic of his article.

“My family were experiencing quite a lot of difficulty at the time as my grandfather was dying of Covid in hospital,” says Sam. “There were a lot of these manmade policies and safety regulations and things for them to deal with. But really I was thinking about how I could help to benefit the environment. The environment feels more straightforward – there’s no catch to looking after it. It’s a flawless thing. That’s why I called it the Natural Respirator. I knew about shortages in the UK and that they were tied to leaving the EU and the secrecy around this. There’s no pride in nature. It’s easier for me to relate to it.”

Sam at age 3 with one of his beloved garden creatures.

Sam at age 3 with one of his beloved garden creatures.

Sam’s mother Rachael says that despite his differences, he has always been enthusiastic about expressing his love of nature. Even though he struggled to read and write when he was younger, Sam has always had a vivid imagination and a strong grasp of language.

“Sam preferred to communicate by drawing and talking, and much of what he drew was to do with the natural environment,” says Rachael. “On discovering his dyslexia he gained the support he needed to allow his love of words to take shape on the page. He was then able to enjoy the text as well as the photos in his many wildlife books. Sam then joined the school's Eco Council and found his place. There he developed confidence in writing about what he loved, often illustrating his ideas. His great passions in life are the environment and art, with writing coming along a little later, but with growing confidence it proves an ever increasing channel for Sam's self-expression.”

Sam drew this illustration of a Blyth’s Hornbill as a birthday present for his mother this year.

Sam drew this illustration of a Blyth’s Hornbill as a birthday present for his mother this year.

Sam joins the ranks of other spirited young environmentalists with autism, including Greta Thunberg and fellow Northern Irishman Dara McAnulty, who channel their particular ways of seeing the world into positive action for the planet. Leadership comes in many forms, and these young activists are using their unique perspectives to change the way people think about the environment.

As for Sam, YRE has given him the opportunity to hone his environmental reporting skills and provided a platform to communicate his message to the world. He hopes that his article can inspire others to reconsider their attitudes and behaviour towards nature.

“I hope it’ll allow them to realise that we need to strengthen our relationship with the environment. To understand that we’re all part of one huge ecosystem, and we’re all interconnected. Distancing ourselves from fully knowing this isn’t good for us… When there’s an increase in knowledge there’s an increase of support, of passion and of a will to change things, I think.”

2020 Travel Retail Awards will raise funds for Litter Less Campaign projects in India

UPDATE: - TFWA has taken the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 TFWA Asia Pacific Conference & Exhibition. Consequently the TRBusiness Travel Retail Awards ceremony will not take place in Singapore on Tuesday 12 May as initially planned, but will be relocated to a venue in London in June. 

The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) has been nominated by our valued partner the Mars Wrigley Foundation to be the beneficiary of funds raised during the 2020 Travel Retail Awards. The third edition of the annual awards ceremony, which is organised by TRBusiness, will be held on the 12th of May at The Conrad Hotel in Singapore.

The funds raised at the Travel Retails Awards will be directed towards the Litter Less Campaign, a joint initiative of FEE and the Mars Wrigley Foundation. The Litter Less Campaign educates children and youth on the issues of litter and pollution and gives them the opportunity to engage their local communities in awareness-raising activities. Since its launch in 2011, the Litter Less Campaign has educated over three million students around the world about the challenges of litter and waste in their communities and empowered them to become leaders driving sustainability and positive behaviour change. Phase IV of the Litter Less Campaign was launched in 2019 and will be implemented in 15 countries through two of FEE’s global education programmes, Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment.

The Travel Retail Awards raise funds through a charity prize raffle of high-value products donated by the event’s sponsors and participants, along with cash donations made throughout the evening. Proceeds raised for the Litter Less Campaign at the May 2020 event will be specifically directed to projects at twelve schools in the region of New Delhi, India. The Litter Less Campaign will engage roughly 6,000 students and reach hundreds of communities in the region, where littering and waste management issues pose a serious challenge.  

As a business that is all about better moments that make the world smile, Mars Wrigley ITR is proud to partner with TRBusiness to raise awareness and funds for the Litter Less Campaign. FEE’s Litter Less projects drive behaviour change around litter and waste prevention. They will create better communities in India with the support from the travel retail community, and we are very excited about the opportunity to drive impact in this way.”

–Gary Clarke, General Manager, Mars Wrigely ITR

FEE is privileged for the funding and for the partnership it has been granted by the Mars Wrigley Foundation since 2011. Litter is a form of pollution that poses an increasing global problem but that can be solved by change in individual behaviour. The Litter Less Campaign is an essential part of our ongoing efforts to educate and change the behaviour of children, youth and adults around the world to reduce the negative impacts of litter. Any additional support that can help us in our pursuit to make schools hubs of positive change will be greatly valued and put to good use. We are grateful to be the designated charity of the Travel Retail Awards and thank the travel retail industry for its generous support and cooperation.”

-Daniel Schaffer, CEO, Foundation for Environmental Education

Funds from the 2020 Travel Retail Awards will benefit Litter Less Campaign projects in India

Funds from the 2020 Travel Retail Awards will benefit Litter Less Campaign projects in India

About the Travel Retail Awards

TRBusiness, retail’s leading provider of duty free and travel retail news, launched the first and only consumer-voted awards dedicated to the travel retail industry in 2018. The game-changing initiative and awards event recognises true ingenuity in travel retailing. It awards airports and products following a judging process, which involves expert research and priceless consumer blogger and video blogger feedback to crown the industry’s trailblazers.

About Foundation for Environmental Education

Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) is the world's largest environmental education organisation with members in 77 countries. Through five ground-breaking programmes, FEE empowers people to take meaningful and purposeful action to help create a more sustainable world.

About the Mars Wrigley Foundation

The Mars Wrigley Foundation partners with organizations around the world to help people and communities flourish. Founded in 1987, the Foundation works to provide oral health education and care, improve lives in mint- and cocoa-growing regions, prevent litter and waste, and create vibrant communities.