Students in Bulgaria proposed business ideas aligned with circular economy principles

The initiative is part of the GREENT project and an addition to an innovative toolkit for teaching green entrepreneurship to high school students

40 high school students from across Bulgaria who participated in the pilot classroom delivery of the first-of-its-kind on a global scale educational content on green entrepreneurship joined forces in coming up with creative business ideas during an innovation camp organized by JA Bulgaria.

Divided into teams of 5 people, the students were challenged to generate business ideas that fulfill the principles of the circular economy. They were assisted by several JA business mentors – Plamen Penkov, Elena Radeva, Angel Georgiev, Asya Stancheva and Denitsa Sabeva. At the end of the day, the teams presented their ideas in front of a jury composed of experts in the green entrepreneurship field – Danita Zarichinova from Environmental Association “Za Zemiata”, Stoyan Faldzhiyski from Ecosystem Europe Association, Ivaylo Iliev, JA Bulgaria alumni and currently an entrepreneur, and Milan Rashevski from the Association for Natural Materials Construction.

The first prize and compliments from the jury went to a student team which sought to offer new opportunities for household waste recycling by means of an innovative waste bin.

The runner-up team presented an idea for a new type of floor tiling that would first be tested in schools. The tiling absorbs the energy expended by people’s kinetic movement and transforms it into usable electricity.

The third place went to the team which developed a concept for a tablet that would substitute the paper textbooks for all students from 1st to 12th grade. The team justified the idea with detailed calculations about the number of trees that have to be cut to supply the textbooks and suggested a sound financial plan.

“The circular economy is of key significance not only for the competitiveness of the EU, but also for the transition to a new type of business founded upon a genuine respect for nature as the indispensable environment which makes the existence of societies and economies possible. Today’s innovation camp showed that young people are very intuitive in knowing the direction that business ideas in the new economy have to take, but they definitely need a source of systematic knowledge on the topic”, shared Vera Petkantchin, COO of JA Bulgaria and main coordinator of the project.

The innovation camp is an element within the GREENT project initiated by JA Bulgaria and co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union. The mission of the GREENT project is to create innovative educational tools that will support teachers in fostering the “sustainability-conscious entrepreneurial mindset”  of their high school students. Some of the fully completed parts of the project toolkit are: blended learning methodology for green entrepreneurship, green entrepreneurship syllabus, and a teacher’s manual with 36 lesson plans containing ideas for activities that the teachers can use in or out of the classroom.

The depletion of natural resources is a fact and business and economy need a radical transformation in order to ensure a better life for future generations. This transformation is already underway at many places – only in the EU more than 4 million people work in enterprises that belong to the so called circular economy. But for change to happen on a large scale, the fostering of a new environmentally-conscious entrepreneurial mindset of a whole generation is necessary. The green entrepreneurship educational toolkit developed by Junior Achievement responds to that need taking into account the fact that currently educational systems lag behind in offering interactive, modern content related to that topic. The lessons will give teachers and students an opportunity to dive into a myriad of successful and inspiring examples of sustainable businesses that create a net positive effect for the environment and societies. There is also an opportunity for young people to develop their sustainable business ideas in 7 easy steps that take them through the process of entrepreneurial discovery and business modeling for sustainable business.

With the start of the new 2017/2018 school year all interested teachers in Bulgaria will be able to use the available resources for free. Junior Achievement Bulgaria will offer training for those teachers who want to develop their green entrepreneurship teaching skills. The courses are approved by the Ministry of Education and Science and will bring training credits to the teachers who attend them.

The GREENT project will finish with a closing international conference at the end of September 2017 in Sofia. The partnering organizations view this conference only as a further step in their strategy to enlarge green entrepreneurship teaching and they already have a clear plan how to make it accessible for more students in Europe and the world.

[1] That mindset includes all the features of the entrepreneurial mindset (tolerance to risk and uncertainty, ability to accept failure and learn from it, self-directed learning, bias toward action, intentional curiosity and creative confidence), but viewed through the prism of a sustainability mindset characterized by holistic thinking, an environmental and social ethic that respects the value of all living things, responsible consumption, cooperation and teamwork, full-cost accounting, democracy, adherence to the precautionary principle.

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