<strong>Mission 360: a successful environmental education project</strong>

Mission 360: a successful environmental education project

Mission 360 is an educational project to raise environmental awareness, launched by Biond as part of its commitment to social responsibility. This year will be the fifth edition of the mission, featuring Quico the alien squirrel. It is aiming to extend to 30,000 children and around 350 schools

The goal of the Mission 360 initiative is to teach children about the importance of preserving natural resources and guaranteeing a sustainable future for the planet. It’s an educational project to raise environmental awareness, launched by BIOND, The Bioindustry and Paper Industry Association {Associação das Bioindústrias e da Indústria Papeleira}, targeting pre-school and primary school children and also involving their teachers and families.

This year will be its fifth edition – which will once again feature Quico the alien squirrel – which aims to reach 30,000 children and around 350 schools, according to Ana Fernandes, the environmental officer at Biond who has been in charge of coordinating the “Mission 360 – Our role is to defend the Planet” environmental awareness project since 2021.

The project revolves around the extra-terrestrial squirrel hero’s quest to travel to Earth to help children fend off the lies the terrible Dr. Tulha tells adults so he can destroy the planet using the Linear Economy. Quico’s mission to defend the circular economy involves preventing Dr. Tulha from completely destroying the planet. In order to achieve this, our squirrel hero from outer space has to teach kids all about the circular economy and the role played by the paper bioindustry.

Since its launch in 2018, the Mission 360 project has expanded its educational “universe”. It started off with seven municipal councils involved, and with 6900 schoolchildren and 100 teachers. By the 2022 edition this had extended to 33 councils, with 22,400 children and 530 teachers taking part. Ana Fernandes says “If we include indirect contacts – teachers other than those whose classes are enrolled in the initiative – we have a total of over 1530 teachers across all the schools taking part.”

The Association believes that embracing this mission has become part of its essence, and allows it to better publicise its ecological credentials to the general public. According to the project coordinator, “People, the environment and the future of the planet are entrenched in the DNA of Biond and of the sector it represents.”

Quico’s universe this year

The following municipal councils are included in the 5th edition of this project: Alenquer, Amadora, Aveiro, Bombarral, Bragança, Cadaval, Caldas da Rainha, Cascais, Constância, Faro, Figueira da Foz, Gondomar, Lisboa, Lourinhã, Lousada, Mafra, Marco de Canaveses, Óbidos, Paredes, Peniche, Porto, Porto de Mós, Póvoa de Varzim, Setúbal, Portimão, Silves, Torres Novas, Torres Vedras, Viana do Castelo, Vila Franca de Xira, Vila Nova de Gaia and Vila Velha de Ródão.

Ana Fernandes emphasises that the target number of approximately 350 schools and 30,000 children to be directly involved in mission activities will be higher than for the previous edition.

This one will include activities with schoolchildren and teachers and outreach to the community at large. The aim is to have face-to-face sessions complemented by virtual media. 

In addition to the usual supporting materials (for example, the teachers’ kit), new contents and new tools will be produced, including an overhauled website, a new animated film and an online game.

A seed which has been sown

Ana Fernandes, Coordenadora da Missão 360

“The chief impact of this educational mission is, undoubtedly – backed up by science and in a language appropriate for the target audience – that we are changing the less positive views of many children, parents and teachers with regard to our activity.

Using a forest metaphor: Mission 360 is a seed that we sow and if it is properly cared for over the years – with valid arguments and good practices and good examples – it will be helping to nurture and grow a (perfectly fair) goodwill towards forest-based bioindustries.

By passing on the message that what we do is: plant trees, manage the forest sustainably, and transform renewable raw material into innovative, sustainable and recyclable bioproducts, we are demonstrating that what we do helps to build a sustainable future, preserve nature and the environment, decarbonise and reinvent the future. A sign that we’re reaching a turning point is the recent introduction of expressions such as ‘green racism’ and ‘environmental xenophobia’ in answer to those who baselessly criticise certain forest species.”

How the young people “green” channel came about

Biond launched a pilot project aimed at a young and very young audience, within a school context, in 2018. The process of training teachers in Biond’s areas of expertise, encouraging visits to its factories and forests, is also included in the activities to be incorporated. Before officially rolling the project out to the school community, there was a lot of preparatory work done with the Association’s partners: from the Directorate-General for Education (DGE), which approved all the contents and was involved from the outset; to the municipal councils and the Ministry for the Environment. Work was also undertaken in tandem with this to develop materials and contents. The partners were involved in validating and approving these materials and contents and in conducting surveys of the teaching community. The project was launched among the school community in September 2018.

Ana Fernandes says that “Our Mission 360 is clearly forging a path towards the goals initially set, and it’s generally being very well embraced and appreciated by the educational community within the participating schools.”

    There were some interesting developments in the previous edition. One such change was the two training sessions in collaboration with the DGE, aimed at teachers of all years geared towards offering a deeper and broader knowledge on the subject of the Forest, the Industry, Products and the Circular Economy, dovetailing with the educational resources which enable teachers to build closer links to the subjects and provide examples of the good circular economy practices implemented in Portugal. There were also “Mission 360 Conversations”: 4 sessions with guest speakers from associated companies presenting subjects pertaining to the paper industry which relate directly to the project. This edition also featured the return of in-person activities, with some of the participating schools allowed to visit these companies’ Biodiversity Stations.

    The 5th edition will see Circular Economy lessons physically returning to schools, protocols established with the project’s partners and relations strengthened between the schools and all the companies in the Biond association.

    Ana Fernandes Profile

    An Environmental Technician ahead of the mission

    Ana Fernandes gained her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Aveiro in 2006. A year later she completed her 2nd cycle master’s degree (Bologna Process) in Environmental Engineering focusing on Atmospheric Pollution at the same university. She joined an internship in 2008 at Celbi, in the management systems department, supporting many and varied activities in the area of Safety, while she completed her Health and Safety Advanced Technician course. She has been working as an environmental officer since May 2009 at Biond – The Bioindustry and Paper Industry Association {Associação das Bioindústrias e da Indústria Papeleira}, with duties in areas pertaining to environmental policy, energy and climate change, focusing on issues relating to climate change and energy policies, monitoring their evolution as well as all the corresponding impacts of these guidelines on the sector’s activity. She is also responsible for processing statistical data (main environmental and production indicator). Since BIOND is a certified training body, she also manages and coordinates the Association’s educational activity, and has headed up the “Mission 360 – Our role is to defend the Planet” environmental awareness project since 2021.

    Ana Fernandes

    Ana Fernandes