10 Quick Steps To Becoming a More Sustainable School

A sustainable school is one which meets the needs of people and the planet now, whilst not compromising the environment or way of life for future generations. Becoming a Sustainable School involves taking a holistic approach, it is not just about reducing your carbon footprint. It is about creating an ethos where a sustainable way of life becomes the new normal and where you are raising green and sustainable citizens for a better future. 

There are plenty of small steps you can take to make your school more sustainable. Here are 10 quick steps to take right now to move your school in the right direction:

1. Switch to a Renewable Energy Supplier

If you cannot install an off-grid power infrastructure and become your own renewable energy supplier, then the next best thing is to switch to a supplier which offers a green energy tariff with 100% renewables. Switching energy supplier is easy and quick and will have a significant impact on your carbon footprint.

 

2.Building Improvements and Buildings Management Systems

Making building improvements such as installing insulation, LED lighting, automated light sensors, can make a significant difference. Repairs to an existing structure, or simple steps like adding blinds in the right places, might make a big difference. Reducing your temperature in a building by 1ºC or similarly operating an hour less per day will save 5-10% on the average heating bill. 

Investing in an energy assessment of your school is a relatively cheap to do, this will provide you with recommendations specifically tailored to your school that could be put in place to cut your consumption and costs. A good assessment report should indicate the costs of any investments and the associated payback period.

 

3. Rainwater harvesting.

This can be useful for maintaining school grounds, water may even be utilised in other ways (such as for flushing toilets) inside the building. Rainwater harvesting and perhaps even grey water systems are key things to consider if you want to find another way to make your school more sustainable. 

4. Switch to Sustainable Procurement For School Meals

We are what we eat. Switching to sustainable procurement for school meals can make a massive difference and in many cases is something that is relatively easy to do. 

Sustainable food is food which has been grown, prepared, packed and delivered in a sustainable way. It should be fresh, local, seasonal and organic. Where possible avoid imported food where there are significant “food miles” attached and is often packed in unnecessary single use plastic. Reducing meat and dairy consumption and increasing plant-based alternatives can help your school eat in a more sustainable way. 

Working with your suppliers to increase the portion of local produce and reducing the frequency of deliveries is key. If you purchase your school food through a buying organisation, check what standards and checks are in place.

5. Waste-Free Procurement

Reducing waste is not just about what leaves the school, but also what you allow to enter it in the first place. When thinking about procurement for paper, stationary, books, uniforms, technology, and all the other things your school needs, always keep waste in mind. Aspire for zero waste, not just on the premises, but throughout supply chains. 

Try to choose suppliers who can offer items which are fully recyclable or compostable and opt for suppliers who deliver without excessive or non-recyclable packaging.

Encourage staff and pupils to make recycling habitual, installing well labelled recycling bins in all classrooms and common areas across the school. Your local waste service provider should be able to advise on the recycling services available in your local area, many are free, some can even provide a small revenue stream to school.


6. Encourage Sustainable Travel To School

You may already have taken some steps to encourage people to car share, walk or cycle to school. You should continue to try to incentivise and make it easier for staff and pupils to do so. 

Encouraging people to cycle to school can be enhanced by running cycling proficiency classes, installing a bike shed on site, or even starting a swap shop where people can repair/ trade secondhand bikes. 


7. Linking Sustainability to the Curriculum

Making sustainability the new normal does not just involve taking steps to cut the carbon footprint and improve the sustainability of the school. 

Ensuring sustainability is fully understood by staff and pupils is an important step. Teachers can help embed behaviours through integrated learning, Positive Planet provides educational resources to support curriculum learning. 

Involving children in your schemes and measuring the successes can be rewarding and demonstrates the collective power of individual actions.


8. Engage with the Local Community and Lead on Transition Issues

If you want your school to be truly sustainable, think beyond the school itself. Your school can lead a positive impact in the wider community and supply chain. 

 

Schools can support on raising awareness and educating parents and members of the community by hosting events, or joining the Positive Planet referral scheme which rewards the school by generating funds towards green initiatives. 

 

Spreading sustainability throughout a community often involves teaching sustainable skills, skill-building workshops in gardening, cooking, DIY, repair, sewing, and other crafts could turn the school into a centre for sustainability and allow it to add even more value.

9. Foster a Nature-Based Learning Environment

A school garden is one great place for pupils and adults alike to get away from screens and out into a wholesome, natural environment. Nature based learning environments and access to nature, are key to creating the sustainable, eco-aware citizens of tomorrow. 

Creating areas within the school grounds (where possible) for wildlife to thrive can promote positive learning, mental and emotional health well-being. Teaching how all life is interconnected, can change the way we think about nature, developing critical thinking and communication. 



10. Global reach

Understanding the impact climate change is having on all regions of the world teaches how we are interconnected and reinforces the importance of the measures the school is putting in place and the positive contribution it is making. Joining together with other schools in your local area on your sustainability targets can drive a greater impact.

Linking your school with a UN certified project can give a greater understanding of the direct contribution you are having a global scale.



These are just some suggestions to make your school more sustainable. But thinking about the ten steps mentioned above could be a great place to start.

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