Top tips to reduce carbon in schools

Top tips to reduce carbon in schools – Making the future better

At Energy Renewables we’re dedicated to cutting back the nation’s CO2 emissions by every route we possibly can. It’s important for adults, of course, but it matters even more to the children who are at school right now. It’s their future at stake here, and our children are only too aware of the climate crisis we’re already suffering. It must be so worrying for them.

The fight to slow climate change isn’t about saving the planet. Our beautiful planet will be perfectly fine however dramatically we manage to change its climate. The battle against a warming climate is about the future of our children, and their children, and theirs, as well as every living being we share the Earth with.

Bearing all this in mind, it seems appropriate to focus on reducing the amount of CO2 that the country’s schools themselves emit. Here are our top tips about reducing CO2, making school travel sustainable, and developing a global dimension in our schools. Many thanks to the brilliant Sustainability in Schools report for the inspiration.

34 tips to reduce school carbon emissions

Many of our school buildings are old. Some are in poor repair. At the moment schools are responsible for about 2% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions and it’s rising. The cost of school energy is predicted to shoot up to a frightening total of £652m before long. The average annual cost of energy per school is £27,000 at the moment but it’s common to see large secondary schools paying more than eighty grand a year for power.

Looking on the bright side, an average secondary school could save as much as 20% – a fifth – on their energy bills by replacing old and inefficient heating, lighting and cooling systems with CO2-efficient alternatives. So how can schools cut their CO2 emissions quickly and efficiently? And what might a low emissions school look like?

A low emissions school is a school that:

  1. Is fitted with the latest renewable technologies
  2. Has the technology to export unused extra energy to the national grid, generating money via feed-in tariffs and renewable heating incentives
  3. Encourages active travel by foot and by bike, putting an end to the current ‘school run’ nightmare
  4. Promotes public transport over private cars
  5. Recycles or composts as much of its waste as possible
  6. Reaches out, potentially acting as a hub for community recycling schemes
  7. Tasks staff members with actively monitoring energy use to prevent waste
  8. Always makes sustainable buying choices
  9. Actively empowers pupils to act on climate change in school and at home
  10. Has a special committee dedicated to cutting back CO2 emissions
  11. Places CO2 lowering at the heart of every decision and every policy
  12. Has climate friendly governors and leadership teams focused on reducing CO2
  13. Genuinely understands the excellent business case for carbon reduction, including the significant savings that can be achieved
  14. Recognises the different roles of staff in cutting back emissions
  15. Knows that positive change doesn’t depend on everyone acting, and understands that one person can make a difference
  16. Can persuade everyone involved in the school to act in a co-ordinated way
  17. Empowers individuals to become climate leaders
  18. Makes sure those involved in carbon reduction projects have the information, training and networking opportunities they need
  19. Links climate change action with the curriculum
  20. Builds momentum through pupil leadership
  21. Lets head teachers visibly support action to reduce CO2 emissions
  22. Reviews progress in SLT meetings
  23. Provides support and status to people running projects at school
  24. Lets pupils drive change
  25. Celebrates climate successes with pupils
  26. Supports CO2-led projects and events like inter-class room competitions and ‘lights off’ days
  27. Allows teachers to be climate change role models
  28. Brings bursars, business managers and others who oversee school budgets into the fold, liaising with Governors as well as playing a key role in communications with Local Authorities
  29. Involves Sustainability Managers, Building Managers, Facilities Managers, Caretakers and ICT Technicians, encouraging them to become experts in managing heating, lighting and other energy-heavy systems
  30. Makes sure suppliers are on the same wavelength
  31. Makes certain school Governors have the right kind of influence on SLT priorities and budgets
  32. Discusses sustainability as a matter of course in Governors meetings
  33. Involves catering and cleaning staff
  34. Inspires parents, families and the wider community to take action

21 tips for making school travel sustainable

School travel could also stand some serious improvement. Sustainability in a school travel context means children, staff and everyone else involved in the school walks or cycles, or at the very least uses public transport instead of private cars. But there’s much more to sustainable travel than simply getting to and from school.

Sustainable travel for schools means:

  1. Making parents and pupils aware of the benefits of active travel so they support it wholeheartedly
  2. Reducing emissions by adopting as many active ways to travel as possible
  3. Encouraging pupils and parents to think creatively about how to travel to a new school
  4. Helping people pin down sustainable ways to travel
  5. Recommending appropriate walking and cycling routes from the start
  6. Providing information to help parents and pupils choose whether to walk, cycle or use public transport
  7. Finding ways to involve pupils who can’t walk, cycle or use public transport
  8. Campaigning to create park and stride schemes, where parents drop kids off away from the school and let them walk the rest of the way
  9. Inspiring pupils to encourage their parents to take part
  10. Supporting car sharing
  11. Improving pupil behaviour on school buses, getting senior pupils to monitor, spot and report antisocial behaviour on public transport. This is important since bad behaviour is a considerable barrier to bus operators
  12. Asking bus firms to change their services, routes and timetables so more pupils can travel to and from school that way
  13. Working with local authorities to identify safer routes and improvement to roads
  14. Involving pupils, parents and carers in identifying the most popular routes
  15. Dealing with safety concerns
  16. Cutting emissions on school business journeys, whether it’s journeys made by the school minibus or school trips and travelling to meetings
  17. Training staff who dive school minibuses in ‘smarter driving’, which has a dramatic effect on emissions as well as fuel costs
  18. Providing secure cycle storage
  19. Setting up ‘walking bus’ schemes, where a group of kids from the same area walks to school together
  20. Involving pupils in sustainable travel and promoting it actively
  21. Arranging safety training for cyclists and walkers

17 ways to help develop a global dimension in schools

Our daily decisions have an impact on us, our surroundings, the UK, and also the rest of the world. It’s no good fighting climate change in isolation, so how can we help schools develop a global outlook as regards CO2 emissions and sustainability?

Here’s how we can create a global outlook in schools:

  1. Create a vision for your school to share with everyone, from staff to pupils
  2. Designate a staff member to develop a formal global dimension
  3. Consider every subject’s contribution
  4. Celebrate every success, however small
  5. Know what impact your school’s buying habits have on other nations
  6. Focus on fair trade, ethical banking, green energy, local sourcing, waste disposal and more to ensure everything has the lightest possible impact on the climate
  7. Involve parents, governors and the wider community
  8. Harness global teaching resources to deliver the curriculum – you can explore to find collateral with a global dimension
  9. Source support from external organisations and individuals
  10. Hold talks and events around the global nature of the challenges we all face
  11. Check out what UNICEF and the UN are doing
  12. Twin your school with a school in a different country, with a different culture
  13. Twin your school with another in the UK for inspirational comparing, contrasting, and collaboration
  14. Ensure ‘global’ doesn’t mean ‘a long way away’ – we’re all global
  15. Focus professional development and reflection towards a global outlook
  16. Support teachers in understanding their own perceptions and biases
  17. Promote optimism!

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