Young people growing up today will have to live with the consequences of climate change and as demonstrated by the global school strikes, if they are given the opportunity, they have the drive and determination to lead societal change. However, British schools are not always addressing this issue with the urgency it requires.
Green Schools Project was founded in 2015, in recognition that the depth of environmental education in schools was not sufficient to address the scale of the climate change challenge. Schools account for around 2% of the country’s total carbon emissions. Eliminating the emissions of one school, a group of schools or even the entire education system will make a small contribution to cutting the UK’s overall carbon emissions. But developing a generation of young people with the knowledge, skills, and experience to help drive the transition to a sustainable society will make a far greater contribution. This is Green Schools Project’s ultimate goal.
Green Schools Project has grown from 3 pilot schools in 2015, to running its programmes in 89 schools around the country. Their early work focused on supporting the development of school eco-teams and providing climate related teacher training. This work evolved into Zero Carbon Schools, a programme providing expert support to individual schools to reduce their carbon emissions and take their first steps towards zero emissions. The programme engages participating schools in efforts to:
Through Zero Carbon Schools, pupils are offered the opportunity to run various projects such as reducing energy usage, encouraging sustainable travel to school, and reducing carbon emissions associated with school food consumption. Beyond this, it delivers teacher training to support teachers to include climate and nature in the curriculum to make their lessons more meaningful. The programme also supports schools to organise events for parents which raise awareness about climate change and what everyone can do to help, developing the school into a community learning hub for how to create a zero-carbon future.
With support from the Badur Foundation, Green Schools Project have trialled a new remote version of the Zero Carbon Schools programme, working with schools around the UK. This lighter-touch version aims to enable schools around the country to reduce their emissions and engage students in environmental projects. Students at schools nationwide will be involved at all stages, calculating the schools’ carbon emissions, working out what the most effective steps would be to reduce them and carrying out activities which support these steps.
The remote Zero Carbon Schools programme aims to be a collaborative project where schools support each other and develop effective ways of working together. Through linking schools together, increasing collaboration and sharing learning on effective emissions reductions projects more widely, Green Schools Project’s aim is that schools across the UK will learn about the feasibility of and practical steps needed to move towards zero carbon emissions. The pilot was used to test the scalability and sustainability of the programme, and following a successful year, the Badur Foundation are supporting Green Schools project with a second year grant to scale up and refine the Zero Carbon Schools programme.