The long days of the summer holidays are drawing to a close, and it’s time to assemble pencil cases, lunch boxes and uniforms, and get ready to see our school friends again. The new school year is nearly here! And if you’re looking to make a few changes to make school a bit more environmentally friendly, here are some things you can try, from the super-simple to larger scale ideas.
1. Choose sustainable transport
Cars are comfortable, but they’re a very inefficient way of transporting a lot of people to one place, and they also produce polluting emissions. Switch to taking the bus or train and you’ll immediately cut the environmental impact of your journey to school… and often the cost too! Public transport doesn’t always work for students though, depending on how good provision is in that area, so another alternative is a car pool – parents work together to take multiple kids together, rather than each taking a child individually. This increases efficiency, and also saves money. Or….
2. Opt to walk or ride a bike to school
Cycling and walking are even more sustainable forms of transport. They produce no emissions (although the creation of a bike will), and they provide a lot of benefits, such as exercise and connection with the outdoors. If you’ve got a safe route to school you can ride by bike, it’s a great way to get there.
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have safe cycle routes, but there’s something you can do about this too. Groups of school children and their families and teachers have petitioned local councils to ask for safe cycling routes, or for routes that have been threatened with removal to remain. Other groups have formed a bicycle bus; where children ride together to school in an official group, with teachers and volunteers guiding them and stopping traffic. Some have even been given control of local traffic lights to make a large group crossing the road safe. We love this!
3. Ditch the plastic sandwich wrap
Fresh lunchtime sandwiches are one of the tastiest parts of the school day, and they don’t need to be wrapped in single-use plastic to keep them fresh. Opt for a beeswax fabric wrap which will do the same job, and can be reused again and again. Or choose a reuseable container.
4. Bring a refillable water bottle
Staying hydrated is good for your brain; when you’ve got a lot of learning to do, a refreshed brain is ready to soak up that knowledge. And water is the best way to stay hydrated, so bring a reusable water bottle to school, and top it up during the day. Your school should have places to top it up; if not, this is definitely something you could request your school to provide!
5. Meat-free days
Cutting down on meat consumption is a great way of reducing environmental impact. For packed lunches, aim to go meat free one or two days a week – there are loads of brilliant ideas for meat-free lunches on the BBC Good Food magazine website. For school dinners, why not ask if it’s possible to go meat-free one (or maybe even two!) days a week.
6. Avoid single-use plastic in stationary
Plastic is hard to avoid in stationary – loads of pens, book covers, and even some pencils, have plastic. If possible, opt for refillable pens and pencils, where when the ink or lead runs out, a new one can be popped in, rather than throwing the whole thing away. Rather than wrapping books in plastic to protect them, use paper like left-over or recycled wrapping paper, or even plain brown paper that can then be decorated.
Another option is to look for biodegradable stationary; pens and pencils made from materials that will break down quickly and safely in the environment, rather than plastic.
And when it comes to notebooks, jotters and journals, find ones made with recycled paper.
7. Second-hand uniform
Choosing second-hand uniform is both a great way of avoiding clothing being simply thrown away and sent to landfill, AND saving money too, as it’s often cheaper. If the school doesn’t already have a second-hand clothing shop, it’s worth raising this with them. Alternatives are getting together with other parents, or looking on a resale website like eBay.
8. Set up a Roots & Shoots group at school
If the school, college, or educational group doesn’t already have one, why not set up a Roots & Shoots group? It’s a great way of getting kids interested in the environment, and empowering them to know their own abilities and strengths, and see that they can make a difference to the world. That’s an important lesson worth knowing!
9. Weekend activities that are great for the environment!
Keep those environmentally friendly habits going right through the weekend with a Roots & Shoots activity. Although they’re designed to be perfect for class and groups within an educational setting, many of them also work brilliantly at home or with friends and family.