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Environment, Sustainability and Net-Zero

Page last updated: 07/02/2024

​​​​​​​​The international Eco-Schools programme provides a framework for learning about sustainable development issues and embedding sustainable practices into everyday school life. To help your school achieve accreditation through the Eco-Schools programme, take a look at the topics below for guidance on where you can gain more information and support within Essex.

The Let's Talk Trash festival is back for a second year! Last year, over 300 secondary school students from the Plume Academy in Maldon joined the pilot event. The event aims to shift behaviour change around anti littering and educate young people on actions which we can take to protect our environment. This year's event will be open to all secondary schools across the county and held at Braxted Park Estate on Wednesday 17 July. Register your school's interest today. Applications for this year's event will close on 31 March.  You can also find out more about last year's event by visiting the Essex Climate Action Commission web page.

 

Climate Action

Essex County Council partnered up with the Design Council to create a new platform, where young people in Essex can come together and take action on climate. The platform will enable students across the county to learn from the approaches taken by students from other schools and coordinate joint action.

The idea came from the young Co-Chair of the Essex Climate Action Commission, Prajwal, who identified the need for a platform in Essex. The platform would enable young people to collaborate and engage in climate action. 

There is an online survey where the information gathered will be used to help develop this platform. 

There are useful resources for schools on Climate Action:

Planet Earth Games

Planet Earth Games is an annual sustainable sports event now open to schools in Essex. 

It's a chance for schools to engage in climate action, connect to nature, support wellbeing and enjoy some friendly competition along the way. Planet Earth Games has developed its award-winning programme after years of working in the education sector alongside Youth Sport Trust, Active Partnerships, School Games and Association of Colleges. It helps support the transition to carbon zero, pupil willbeing and develop young leaders. Schools who take part will have access to:

  • Year-round challenges

  • Leaderboard participation

  • Inspiration box of sustainable items

  • Weekly "What's On" email

  • Ability to create own Planet Earth Games challenges

To enter, greate a profile on the Planet Earth Games​ website, create a team and enter the "Primary and Secondary Schools Competition". Take part by entering challenges, create your own challenges, score points and climb the leaderboards. The annual winners will be declared at the conclusion of Earth Day on Monday 22 April 2024. 


Waste

In Essex, there are about 1.5 million residents and 635,000 households (2020). Each household generates around 1 tonne of waste and recycyling paper every year. People get rid of waste at the kerbside or recycling centres. 55% is recycling and 45% is general rubbish.

 

Reduce Reuse Recycle

We should all try to follow the 'waste hierarchy'. The best environmental opions are reducing and reusing waste. Landfill is the last resort. In reality, reducing and reusing waste is the least common option. They are difficult to track though. 

Recycling is great, but there's more we can do to stop creating waste in the first place.

The waste heirarchy is:

Prevent Waste
Reduce Waste
Repair or Reuse Items
Recycle Items
Energy Recovery (e.g. Incineration)
Waste Disposal (e.g. Landfill)


Schools getting involved and reducing waste

There is so much schools can do to help pupils learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle. The easiest way is often to lead by example. It may even help save your school some money. There are lots of resources you can use:

Waste and recycling collection at your school

It may be worth finding out if it's possible to arrange a recycling collection for your school. A good place to start is to contact your local council in Essex for advice. 

 

Biodiversity

The air you breathe and the food you eat all rely on biodiversity. Biodiversity is the sum of all living things and the places they live on our planet. It is all around us and it includes animals, birds, plants, and insects. It also includes places like woodlands, fields, ponds and gardens. Even a 'wasteland' can be important for wildlife. Biodiversity is about the range of different living things and systems in an area. The more plants, insects and animals there are in an area the greater the biodiversity ansd the healthier the ecosystem. An ecosystem is a group of living things that live together in a stable community. Biodiversity is important for our environment and for us to live healthy lives.

There are many ways your school can help look after our biodiversity. You can:

  • create a wildlife garden

  • create a gardening club

  • take part in Forest School

  • recycle.

  • walk and cycle to school

  • organise a wildlife trail that explores the school grounds or at a nearby site

  • build bird and bat boxes

  • create a poster to put up in your school to inform people about wildlife and how you can look after it

For more information and resources visit the following websites:

The National Education Nature Park​ has now been launched, and this project aims to involve all schools across the country in increasing biodiversity in the UK. 

Defined as a vast, virtual park, it will exist on the grounds of schools across the country. Schools will be encouraged to create environmental projects such as planting a wildlife garden or creating a pond to encourage biodiversity. 


Energy

Essex County Council have a team of School Energy Surveyors who are visiting all maintained schools completing energy audits. They aim to help schools identify opportunities for carbon reduction and improved energy efficiency throughout their school.

Often a fresh perspective can help site managers, cleaners, kitchen staff, teachers and business managers understand opportunities to reduce their energy usage. The team will also share best practice between schools – enabling everyone to benefit from each other's expertise – helping all schools on their path to becoming a zero-carbon site. 

The team can help schools obtain, analyse and understand their energy data; allowing them to see the potential energy and cost savings associated with suggested initiatives.

The team will also document all heating and hot water equipment, assessing suitability for grant funded upgrades – putting opportunities “on the shelf" for future funding applications – such as the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Contact schoolenergyteam@essex.gov.uk to book a school energy survey with the team.​

More information on Energy can be found here​. 


Global Perspectives

Young people need to be taught the skills, values, attitudes and knowledge that will allow them to participate in a truly global society. Topics such as global warming, migration, the arms trade and the Fairtrade movement should all be understood. Young people need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities in this world and how their decisions can make life difficult or east for others in different parts of the world.  

The British Council Schools Online has information on bringing the world into your classroom, and information on encouraging students to develop as global citizens. 

 

Healthy Living

The current generation of children are the first predicted in history to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Children spend a vast amount of time at school, so need to be schooled in a healthy environment to promote their own health and wellbeing. The state of our health is not only related to our diet, but a healthy child also has a higher chance of long-term physical wellbeing. A good sense of physical wellbeing can give a child confidence, general happiness and a positive outlook on life.

Find more information and resources on the following websites:

Litter

Many Eco-Schools choose to tackle litter in their school as one of their first priorities following their Environmental Review. It is a highly visible issue and one that is easily understood by all ages. A litter-free school is very noticable and can enhance the school image in the local community. Find more resources on the following websites:

School Grounds

The way school grounds are developed, used and managed can have a significant impact on pupils' attitudes and behaviour towards school, each other, the wider environment and society. Pupils can spend as much as 25% of their time on school grounds so it's important that the experiences they have are the best and as positive as they can be. The following websites provide useful resources:

Travel

Essex County Council's Sustainable Travel Planning Team can help schools improve the transport options available to their pupils, parents and staff - making journeys to and from school greener, cleaner, healthier, safer and above all more enjoyable.

Schools can be provided with the free framework and tools to develop a School Travel Plan, a living document aiming to achieve all this, owned by the whole school community, and able to evolve and improve as the school changes. 

The Sustainable Travel Planning Team are available to advise, support and assist, providing examples of what's worked well at other similar schools. 

​Schools are also rewarded for their achievements by earning national accreditations, receiving a certificate to mark this.  

The following websites offer information, resources and training:

For more information, email travel.planteam@essex.gov.uk​


Water

Water is a huge important part of life and we use it every day. See below for some resources:

Extra Resources

  • Essex Learning Outside the Classroom Providers​ - groups and individuals from across Essex that offer programmes of environmental education to schools. Members offer a wide range of services delivered at their own centres and sites and through outreach and school based work.​​ 

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