The environment has never been more in need of a helping hand from us. We regularly hear about problems related to climate change, microplastics, poor air quality, biodiversity, sustainability, and so on. As a result, it’s important that we all do our bit to help the environment. Schools, in particular, are in a great position to educate future generations and make sure that good environmental habits are learned and adopted from an early age.
So, ranging from energy efficiency to recycling, here are our top 8 tips to make your school more eco-friendly and sustainable.
- Encourage and enable recycling and composting
Instead, boost recycling by providing appropriate and appealing facilities with clear and concise signage – this is very important to prevent contamination of the different waste streams. Also, providing composting bins in school dining areas will allow this very useful waste to be collected and turned into nutrient-rich compost and, in some cases, even generate electricity to be fed back into the national grid!
- Turn off the lights and fit energy efficient light bulbs
Saving energy used for lighting is one of the easiest things that we can do. Try to maximise the use of natural light as much as possible and turn off lights when they’re not needed. Signage asking people to turn off the lights can act as a useful reminder.
- Go paperless!
The world is becoming ever more digital, with paper now being seen as outdated in many cases. This is good news for the environment but it sometimes needs people to change how they do things. Look into options for creating and using fewer paper-based admin systems at school and think twice before printing or photocopying all those A4 pages, for example. Again, signage around printers and photocopiers can be useful.
- Swap the car for walking or cycling
Leaving the car behind, especially for short journeys, is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. Walking or cycling is very good for your health and can also save you a considerable amount of money.
Schools can easily promote active travel and help to form good, healthy – hopefully lifelong – habits for students. Campaigns to raise awareness and promote walking and cycling often work well, and additional facilities can also be installed. For example, a “walking bus” can be set up for students to walk safely to and from school, and safe and secure bike shelters will encourage students to get on two wheels.
- Ditch plastic water bottles
Recent television programmes and campaigns have raised the issue of waste plastic towards the top of the environmental agenda. In some ways, this isn’t surprising because, again, it is relatively easy for everyone to make a difference to the environment with minimal effort. All it takes is a little bit of planning ahead to stop buying brand-new water bottles that are used once and then recycled, but instead to reuse existing bottles and containers.
According to the waste hierarchy – which shows us a priority order of “reduce, reuse, recycle” as to how we should change our waste habits – reusing plastic is more preferable than recycling it.
- Consider installing a green roof canopy or green roof bike shelter
Green roofs also sometimes called sedum roofs, are an excellent way to enhance the biodiversity around a school, as well as making buildings look much more attractive. They work very well on canopies and bike shelters, too.
To build a green roof, a bed of growing vegetation (sedum plants) is installed on top of the conventional roof surface, which is great for the local ecology and can also help with cooling the building. Streetspace can provide a Wild® sedum roof for larger projects, which is very attractive to bees and butterflies.
- Save recyclables for art projects
While it’s unlikely to make much of a dent in the mountains of waste that need managing, many plastics and other waste streams can be used as alternative materials for art projects. This can help to perform the vital role of educating students about where recyclables come from and where they would otherwise go, and it will also save money on buying traditional materials. Examples of this include works by artists using textiles, plastics and numerous other materials.
Turning things completely around, art can also be used to encourage recycling – for example, by creating a fish-shaped sculpture on a beach for people to put plastic bottles into.
- Get everyone involved with community clean-up days
Community clean-up days are very popular and have taken place across the UK, from Cumbria to Cornwall and Scotland. Involving students in these is a great way to increase awareness and to clearly demonstrate the impact that waste has on our environment.