Sustainability takes forever – that’s the point
It’s time teachers on the front line made sustainability a British value
Words: Sarah Wordlaw
Climate change is affecting our world for the worse. The planet is warming up fast – faster than at any other time scientists know about from their studies of Earth’s history. Because of human actions, we are living in a warmer and wetter world which means there are more extreme weather conditions.
The extreme weather on the equator is causing animals and humans to migrate towards the poles. If we don’t take immediate action to reduce our carbon emissions, there could be over a billion climate refugees.
There is one fundamental truth about climate change: those that did the least to create it are in general the most affected by it. The link between poverty and climate change is often overlooked.
By 2050 we could lose 50% of all species: our children could grow up in a world without some of the beautiful species we have known. Climate change is a real crisis, impacting people all around the world today. It negatively impacts our health, and that of our children.
Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. In the 21st century, it means our capacity for the earth and human civilisation to coexist. Sustainability should be at the heart of everything we do.
If we don’t all adjust our choices, the world will be a much different place, and those who will be most affected will be children today. It is imperative we teach young people how to be sustainable and look after the planet, so the next generation can do a better job than we have.
So, what can we do in schools? If every school became 1% more efficient, this would have a huge impact nationally. Becoming more sustainable is not just about making a few small lifestyle changes. While this will help, true sustainability comes from cultural change.
Schools have a golden opportunity as they are the heart of most communities. By leading the way in adopting good sustainability practices, it will influence the community it serves to also become more sustainable. This is why sustainability should be made a British value.
Reducing carbon emissions
As teachers we all know the power of getting children involved and enthusiastic for change. Ensure sustainability on the curriculum is being taught to a high standard and get children involved in projects both in school and out in the local community.
Some fabulous ideas from schools around the country are getting pupils to monitor energy use and read energy meters in the school, reporting back to the school community. Recycled art projects are a great way to engage and involve children and local communities.
Walk/Cycle to school projects
Encouraging, praising and supporting children and staff to walk or cycle to school is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Making sure there are safe bike racks available. Living Streets offer badges and projects to encourage this, found at: livingstreets.org.uk/walk-to-school
Furthermore, if you’re going on a school trip, discuss with the children the best way to get to where you’re going using the least amount of carbon.
Save pennies reducing carbon
Better insulation and efficient heating and lighting both reduces carbon emissions but also saves pennies! Some local authorities have offered loans to invest in saving energy and reducing bills.
Sustainability is becoming higher on our local authorities’ agendas too – did you know that their school’s carbon emissions are measured? Get in touch with your local authority and see what they can offer you!
Sourcing local food reduces freight emissions, supports your local community and improves children’s awareness of where food comes from. Also, minimising food waste is imperative – think about how you could compost any leftover food from your school kitchen.
If you contact your local authority they may be able to provide compost bins for your school, free of charge. Everyone can be involved – teachers and children alike – adding items such as tea bags, coffee granules, fruit and vegetable cuttings from the school kitchen. You could even add leaves, grass trimmings and plant cuttings to your compost heap!
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Recycling schemes in schools can reduce money spent by the school on waste disposal and help to improve the environment. Paper is the main form of waste created by schools, making up at least a quarter of all its rubbish.
Make sure each classroom has a paper recycling bin, clearly labelled. Involve children in the process, holding assemblies and getting children to make posters (on recycled paper!) about recycling to display around your school environment.
As teachers we have a real chance to make a difference, by fostering a new generation of young people who care about the world around them and want to make a difference. Let’s work together to reduce our carbon emissions and save our planet. Let’s make sustainability a British value!
Here are three great books which teach the idea of sustainability:
- The Problem of the Hot World
by Pam Bonsper
Water and food have run out. A beautiful story book about environmental changes through the eyes of some lovable animals.
- One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
by Mirana Paul
An inspirational true story demonstrating how one person’s actions really can make a difference to the world we live in.
by Jean Davies Okimoto, Illustrated by Jeremiah Trammel
Polar bear Winston’s ice is melting and his home is being destroyed. A fabulous story of one bear’s battle to save his home.