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Environment, Sustainability and Net-Zero

Page last updated: 05/07/2022

​​​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.



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. 



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:


Essex County Council have welcomed a School Energy Surveyor to the Infrastructure and Delivery team. Chloe is aiming to visit all the maintained schools in Essex and complete energy audits. The aim of the role is to help schools identify opportunities for carbon reduction and improved energy efficiency throughout their buildings. Chloe can help schools obtain, analyse and understand their energy data; allowing them to see the potential energy and cost savings associated with initiatives. Anything from powering down appliances over holidays to bigger projects such as LED lighting and solar PV, for the schools who have the capacity to do so, can be discussed. Contact Chloe through to organise your site visit and begin your decarbonisation journey!

Here are a few examples of the discoveries/changes which can come from an energy survey. The following checks/adjustments are easy and usually free but could be saving you an average of £250 on energy/heating bills!

  • Movement light sensors – Are they set up correctly? E.g., to power off after 10 minutes of non-movement rather than 30 minutes. 
  • Automatic turn off and manual switch on - Is all IT/photocopier/large office equipment set to run efficiently making use of power saving/standby/automatic switch off modes? A single computer left on 24 hours a day costs £45 per year. With turn-off and standby features enabled you could reduce it to £10.
  • Water coolers/heaters – Are they necessary? If switched on 8 hours a day for 5 days a week they use up to 72kWh. If they cannot be scrapped, consider using smart plugs so they are switched on only when needed.
  • Training kitchen staff - Often kitchen energy usage equates to the biggest cost annually, training kitchen staff to only power up when needed can equate to huge savings. The average preheat time for an oven is usually no more than 15 minutes.
  • End of day/term switch off protocols - Unplugging electrical equipment during school holidays can save huge amounts of energy. There has been a lot of success in other schools when unplugging kitchen equipment like fridges.
  • Student involvement - Asking the pupils to think of ways they can reduce energy and raise awareness e.g. designing posters to remind people to switch off any lights or electronics.

There are many organisations supported by ECC which help to plan and measure the success of these quick wins:

2imprezs/Energy Challenge

An international challenge enabling pupils to become the 'owner of the school's energy bill' - children are challenged to campaign, in their own way, for energy savings in their school by doing: surveys & monitoring; understanding how different equipment/lighting uses energy; and leading on changing behaviours. This could also include travel to school behaviours. There are opportunities to network with schools in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany and try a new Virtual reality game with VR glasses. Contact Luciana de Almeida, 2imprezs Project Lead, Essex County Council Energy & Low Carbon team through to get involved!

Energy Sparks

An online school specific energy analysis tool. It collects and analyses smart meter data showing how your school uses energy during the week, on weekends and throughout holidays. It then produces tailored energy savings advice which can be used to engage students. On average schools save 10% on their bills and reduce their output of by 8 tonnes of CO2 within the first year of engagement.   

Better Planet Schools

This is a platform which provides schools with fully equipped modules on energy, nature, biodiversity and waste to integrate into the curriculum. This is a great compliment to Energy Challenge and Energy Sparks, allowing students to truly understand the positive impact of their changes and engagement!

All these programmes can be discussed and initiated during a visit with our School Energy Surveyor.

Salix Funding

Salix Finance Limited provides government allocated funding for public sector energy efficiency and carbon reduction. They are the main funding stream meeting the UKs target to become net-zero by 2050.

As and when the funding is released, ECC submits joint bids for its core and school estate. Currently, there are two schemes which Essex buildings are eligible for, the Low Carbon Skills Fund (LCSF) and Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS). Please see brief descriptions of the programmes below.


This grant provides schools with the funding to create a heat decarbonisation plan. This can cover the costs solar/air source heat pump feasibility and design, heat loss calculations, building surveys and energy analysis. It allows schools to take the first steps towards a low-carbon future; creating a timeline and detailed plan on how to achieve full heat decarbonisation. Completing a LCSF project puts schools in good stead for subsequent PSDS applications. LCSF3 was announced this year. ECC applied for a significant number of schools and core buildings. However, the fund was over-subscribed within a matter of hours and works on a first-come first-serve basis, so ECC were likely unsuccessful. We will continue to apply for future rounds.


This provides funding to schools with heating systems that are at the end of their working lives with imminent need for replacement. PSDS is aimed at taking a 'whole building' approach to heat decarbonisation, combining heat decarbonisation with energy efficiency measures. Our current PSDS projects typically include the replacement of gas/oil boilers with an air source heat pump, a solar PV array to offset the electric needed to power such a pump, insulation and/or LED lighting. In order to apply for the funds ECC need to commit the like-for-like costs of installing a typical gas plant replacement.

There are no released dates for future LCSF projects, but PSDS3B will be released this September. There is no telling whether the funding will expand to allow single projects rather than full decarbonisation programmes but this is possible and ECC is hopeful – Participating in a School Energy Survey ( will be the best way to ensure we have all your schools data to hand if you become eligible for such schemes in the future. 

This funding is available to all maintained schools. Academies would have to access the funding through a separate route.

Local authority-maintained schools can find out more about Salix on the Salix Finance - Maintained Schools and Sixth Form website.  

Academies can find out more about Salix by accessing the Academies section of the Salix Finance website.   

If you would like to know more about the funding available, please contact us at or

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:


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:


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.m 

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, at bronze, silver and gold level, receiving a plaque to mark this. 

The following websites offer information, resources and training:


Water is a huge important part of life and we use it every day. The following websites offer information and 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.