How eco schools are going green (and why your school should, too)
Thousands of schools across the UK have already taken big steps to become eco schools. There are more than 18,000 schools in England registered with the Eco Schools program.
Here at PlanBee, we're passionate about becoming more eco-friendly, too. That's why we created an entire ESR (Education for Social Responsibility) primary school curriculum.
We believe that teaching children about our changing world and how to preserve and protect our environment is incredibly important.
We all need to ensure that all children are well-informed. We must imbue them with passion to protect the planet, and help them to live happier, healthier, kinder lives.
With that in mind, here's our advice for teachers and leaders looking to join the thousands of eco schools already making a positive impact on the futures of our children:
Get started with these simple eco school ideas
Many schools are already implementing great ideas and policies to become more eco-friendly. Here are some you can use in your school:
Reuse and recycle paper
Schools use A LOT of paper everyday. It can’t be helped.
However, we can change the way we dispose of and use paper to become more eco-friendly.
Providing each class with an easily accessible paper recycling bin will allow the children to think about their waste and what happens to it.
Teaching children to cut out or draw towards the side of a sheet of paper meaning the paper can be used again, can also help teach them to use resources responsibly.
Reduce food waste
Break time snacks and, if you’re feeling more confident, lunch time scrapings produce compostable food waste.
Use this valuable waste to create compost in a communal bin which can be used in a school garden or given to a local allotment. RHS School Gardening have excellent advice about composting at school.
Cut out single-use plastics
Single-use plastics are a big problem for our planet. Eco schools should not only teach children about them, but aim to reduce their use in school, too.
Involve children in investigating how many single-use plastics are used in school (water bottles, straws, disposable cutlery, packaging, wet wipes, plastic bags etc.) This is also a good opportunity to teach learners about products that have hidden plastics e.g. teabags.
Once you’ve assessed their use, challenge your students to come up with alternatives.
Why not invite families and the local community to come to an eco school fair to decorate their own canvas bags for a small charge? This could go towards funding future eco projects.
Staff can help reduce single-use plastics, too. Ask them to consider whether something really needs to be laminated. Are they just doing it out of habit? If a page isn’t going to be used multiple times, could it go without being covered in plastic?
Do you have an area of the school that you could make more wildlife friendly?
Planting some wildflowers or building a bug hotel can allow a plethora of wildlife to inhabit your school's outside spaces. It makes these areas irresistible for curious bug-hunting students!
Kids grow quickly! Is there a way to reduce the waste from uniforms that have been outgrown but are still useable?
Try holding a bring, buy or swap day for clothing that children have grown out of, reducing the costs for parents too! Any leftover clothing can be donated to charity.
Clear up litter
Does your school or a local area have a problem with litter?
With a dedicated group of volunteers, you could organise a litter pick to help clean up the area.
To make a bigger impact, clean and safe litter that you have collected – or other recycled materials – can be used to make a mural or sculpture.
Cross-curricular links for eco schools
Embedding learning about environmental issues throughout the curriculum is a great way to create rich, memorable experiences for the children.
There are many fantastic picture books and stories available to help teach your students about climate change. Books like these can inspire beautiful discussions and writing within the classroom. We’ve created thought-provoking I Speak For The Trees lessons which explore the themes of Dr Suess’s ‘The Lorax’.
Have you got some inspired inventors in your school? Why not have them design a new invention to help with your school’s eco projects?
Create sculptures or murals using recycled materials, or materials that cannot be easily recycled yet in your local area. Help your children learn more about recycling using these Finite Planet lessons.
Create an army of Eco Warriors!
Having a group of eco-warriors or an eco committee will help children become more involved in your school’s journey to becoming an eco school.
Much like a school council, your warriors can meet to discuss new projects or ideas to help your school become more eco-friendly.
Your eco warriors could be responsible for a variety of different roles, including:
- Choosing a whole-school termly focus e.g. reducing waste, recycling, travelling to school
- Creating posters to display good eco-friendly habits
- Taking steps to cut down on wasted energy or water by turning off taps, lights or other unused electronics in their classrooms (they could award points or prizes to the classrooms who are the least wasteful)
- Collecting compost from break time snacks
- Organising litter picks around your school grounds. Why not involve the local community and spread your litter pick to the surrounding areas?
Achieve Eco-Schools status
The Eco Schools Green Flag Award is a great way to get some inspiration, and recognition, for your hard work in becoming an eco school.
They have a simple and easy way to register with topics and resources to help your school on the way to achieving a green flag, which you can display proudly in school and/or to your local community.
The ‘ten topics’ that are recommended by Eco schools overlap with many of the ESR resources PlanBee have created, giving you extra ideas for eco projects to inspire your students.
So that's it - our advice for transforming your school into a mean, green, planet-saving machine! And if you haven't already, take a look at our Education for Social Responsibility curriculum. We truly believe it can help primary schools effectively prepare children for the future in an uncertain world.