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Back to School: How Schools Can Be More Eco-Friendly

There’s something exciting about the freshness of the September air when a new school year begins. It’s a great time to think about the future. And in these days of climate change and plastic-filled oceans, it’s vital that teachers, support staff and parent groups play a leading role in helping students learn to care for the environment. Here are some ideas for making your school eco-friendly, and helping to keep the air fresh for future generations.
Turn the school run into a school walk: A few muddy footprints on the school’s reception carpet is much better than the heavy carbon footprint a fleet of cars leaves during drop-offs and pick-ups. Encourage students and their parents to walk or take public transport to school. Join many schools who have recently launched initiatives to encourage walking to school on one or more days. And in the winter, when it’s cold, dark and unsafe, there’s always the school bus.
Play the recycling game: A little healthy competition goes a long way, so set the challenge right now: which class can recycle the most waste? Incidentally, colourful bottle tops can even be used to create upcycled posters and murals with eco-friendly themes. What better way to spread the message that waste is bad for the environment?
Lose the plastic: You don’t need to be a maths teacher to see the problem with disposable plastic food bags. Multiply the 200 or so lunchtimes in every school year by the 8.2 million children in British schools, and you get a lot of plastic clogging up the environment for hundreds of years to come. Lead the charge against single-use plastics by getting a sturdy, reusable lunchbox and encourage your students to do the same.
Call time on littering: From chewing gum under desks to crisp packets on the playing field, litter is not only an eye sore; it also causes air pollution and puts local wildlife at risk. Once upon a time we had the wombles to encourage us not to litter, but nowadays it’s parents and teachers, rather than Uncle Bulgaria, who must carry the message on to the next generation.
Cut out the paper trail: The shift towards paperless classrooms has been a massive boost for the environment, not to mention reducing paper aeroplane related mishaps to almost zero. But working towards eliminating paper from the classroom entirely is still the goal. If you’re disorganised, consider using an app to help your planning, or taking notes on your laptop. And if you do need to print out written materials, use both sides of the paper where possible.
Pull the plug on wasted electricity: Get into the habit of turning off your laptop or computer, rather than putting it into sleep mode, which still drains energy. And unplug things like lamps and phone chargers from the wall when not in use. Encourage your students to take this lesson home by switching off and unplugging PS4s and Xboxes before bed.
Fresh greens inspire young minds: Start your school compost heap now, by encouraging students to donate green waste from their lunchboxes. All those apple cores and banana skins will soon pile up to create a rich compost that’s ideal for growing fresh veg. And teaching pupils about the decomposition process offers a fascinating lesson in the ecological life-cycle. Grow exciting vegetables, such as chillies or pumpkins, and encourage students to volunteer and pitch in. As well as offering yummy rewards, it’ll feed their minds with inspiration for looking after the environment.
Get your students interested in the natural world: Bristol Aquarium offers an immersive experience (don’t worry, you won’t get wet!) through an undersea world where students will encounter some unique and incredible aquatic creatures. They can feed the fish, see how many people it takes to lift a giant squid, and learn how important it is to conserve the environment. Check out our education page for details, and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Got any eco-friendly ideas of your own? Share them with us via our Facebook page, or on Twitter via @BristolAquarium.

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