Page 6 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 6

Eco-aware initiatives
transform school life & attitudes
The devastating impact of waste plastics in the oceans, and the widespread popularity of one-use plastic drinks bottles, has received much publicity of late. But St Mary’s School, Essex, has been keeping well ahead of the curve, as Sarah Wilding, the school’s Eco Co-ordinator, reports.
 All schools have a responsibility to create a sense of stewardship, not only to the young people
in their care, but also to the wider community. We can see
it as a way of future-proo ng. At St Mary’s Colchester we have completely embraced environmentalism and sustainability and these are integral to our school ethos, from our School Development Plan through to delivery of the curriculum.
We set out on our Eco journey
at St Mary’s in a very small
way: the school caretaker and I gathered together any used or unwanted materials lying around the school that we knew could
be recycled; I would take some home with me and he would load up the school mini-bus with the rest and take it to Colchester’s recycling facility. How things have changed!
Having begun simply by recycling a few used plastic bottles and the odd cardboard box, in September 2007 I decided to carry out an audit of what we were doing
and where we could go with our eco-friendly initiatives in school. I brought together a very small Eco Team – the caretaker and
I were joined by a few willing student volunteers drafted in from St Mary’s School Council – and together we formulated an Eco Action Plan.
Staff and students at the school committed to recycle as many materials as possible and initiatives were put in place to ‘reduce or re-use’, including:
• recycling all packaging and reusing it for art projects
• making good use of the local Freecycle in order to obtain items for School use, such as water butts and plants and seeds for the School Gardening
Club as well as offering items the school no longer needs
• collecting and donating bras for Breast Cancer
• being part of the organisation Virtual Skip
• uniform recycling for cash to re-invest in Eco Projects
• considering environmentally sound options, such as timed lighting and installation of photovoltaic solar panels, when carrying out refurbishment at the School
When getting these initiatives off the ground, we found the structure of the Eco Schools organisation extremely helpful. Established by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy,
this is the largest educational programme in the world, engaging millions of children in 67 countries and inspiring them to consider the environment and how they can help to safeguard it for future generations. Eco Schools representatives visited
us to assess us for their Bronze Award and we passed with  ying colours. We quickly progressed to Silver - in record time, apparently - and went on to receive our  rst Green Flag in July 2008.
This success encouraged interest in eco initiatives at St Mary’s
to grow and with it grew our Eco Team. Our students were keen to volunteer to help dig the school’s garden and pick our own produce, to collect pens,
coffee pods and even bras for recycling. Even to collect litter on the school  eld and count bugs for our annual biodiversity study. Our students were getting the message that every one of us can make a difference; no matter how small your contribution, it all counts.
With a new Year 7 cohort
joining every September, it was important to keep up the eco momentum. This is perhaps
the hardest part, but the eco message has become so ingrained in the St Mary’s psyche that
the older students take it upon themselves to pass the baton to their younger friends. It is no coincidence that the Eco Schools Green Flag award has to be re-applied for every two years – every new generation of students must show the same level of commitment as the last.
Joining the Eco Schools programme gave us a lot of support and training as well as
a wealth of online resources, which have allowed us to refresh our approach on a regular basis. Any school looking to become involved in eco initiatives would be well advised to become a part of it.
Many schools think that they need to have their roofs plastered with solar panels and mini Eden projects in their school grounds
– I call it Eco ‘Bling’ – and  nd the whole concept of becoming
a more sustainable community
   6 Independent Schools Magazine
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