An increasing number of schools are giving higher priority to environmental education and the development of an ethics of sustainability.
This is in line with what children and young people want. A recent survey on the mental health of children and young people reported problems that respondents were concerned about. Among the most reported concerns was climate change. Show your pupils that, as a school, you share their commitment to green causes and work to become a greener school.
April 22nd is earth day. This is the perfect opportunity to see what your school is already doing to protect the planet and think about what else you can do.
10 ways to be a greener school
- Promote a culture of recycling
A one-time lesson on what it means to “reduce, reuse and recycle” is simply not enough! Pupils need to be immersed in a culture of recycling so that it becomes second nature to think about the impact our daily decisions have on the environment.
Does your school buy recycled products, such as paper? Does your school recycle as much waste as possible? This includes paper, plastic, batteries and food waste. Are there enough recycling bins around the school and are pupils fully aware of what can be recycled?
- Teaching about the environment, climate change and the carbon footprint
Do you deal with environmental education through your PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) curriculum and citizenship? Are you able to use the broader curriculum, such as science, geography, art and English to teach environmental issues? Once students have a good understanding of the issues, they will be in a better position to make decisions and take actions that have a positive impact on our environment.
An eco-club is a fantastic way to directly engage students in environmental issues and help them understand that they can make a real difference for the planet. The activities in which the pupils involved can participate include: the initiation of eco-habits in daily school life; fundraising for environmental charities; leading assemblies on environmental issues; run an ecological stall at a school fair; and contribute information to the school website.
- Adopt greener procurement methods
This is where 42% of the carbon emissions of the school sector come from Supplying – the purchasing decisions that a school makes. This is nearly 1% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.
Your school can focus on its operations in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is equally important to consider the school’s supply chain. Carbon emissions monitoring breaks down the “carbon cost” of each item, so you can report (and use the data to guide decision making) about carbon emissions in the supply chain.
Gardening, forestry school activities, outdoor after-school clubs, school trips and outdoor lessons where possible help pupils connect with – and enhance – the natural surroundings. Think of the “green” areas that can be created in the schoolyard. You can also try bringing a little more outdoor space indoors by bringing plants to classrooms and hallways.
A big part of being an eco-school is about reducing energy consumption. Staff and students can be reminded to turn off lights and appliances when not in use via posters. When looking to upgrade your appliances, look for the most energy efficient ones to cut your electricity and water costs. It may also be worth considering switching to LED bulbs as a more energy efficient lighting solution.
- Encourage to cut down on single-use plastics
Do staff and pupils drink drinks in plastic bottles? All members of the school community can be encouraged to drink from refillable bottles and to use lunch boxes, rather than plastic / sandwich bags.
- Encourage walking to school
Does your school or local community have programs to encourage pupils to walk to school? Are there facilities in the school to support children or young people who come by bicycle or scooter? Schools may consider how to work with parents / carers to make walking or cycling to school a more favorable option.
- Support garment recycling
Many families really appreciate schools that offer pre-loved school uniform items. Pupils often grow up so fast and items of clothing (school clothing or otherwise) can be resold at a very reasonable price to raise some money for school funds. Likewise, pre-loved garments could be collected at a garment recycling station, which doesn’t have to take up much space. The clothes can then be donated to a local charity.
- Communicate with the wider school community
Extend support, advice and information on environmental issues, sustainability and the steps we can all take to care for our planet, to the wider community. Involving families in “green” initiatives, which could also be presented as challenges or competitions. Schools could also dedicate a section of their website and newsletters to ‘best green tips’.
So, you may not be able to turn the whole school around by Earth Day on the 22ndnd April, but why not use this day as the perfect excuse to participate in greener practices? Start small, then let your wider school community know what you’re doing. All schools can lead by example when it comes to saving the planet!
10 ways to become a greener school this Earth Day
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