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The growing sustainable ethos in schools

Behaviour change will go hand in hand with a low carbon future - and it’s important to catch people early. Schools are playing their role, and finding that a range of partners are happy to step in to lend a helping hand. The enthusiasm of youth is a great thing to nurture - and there certainly seems to be demand to get involved in with green initiatives. For example, a primary school in Ibrox, Glasgow, is to add an ‘eco squad’ to its existing ‘eco committee’ due to popular demand.

Scaled green awards have sprung up to acknowledge schools doing their bit, from recycling and composting to growing their own fruit and vegetables. Everyone likes a certificate to add to the learning and class camaraderie - like this primary school posing for the papers in Plymouth. Elsewhere, nominated ‘Climate Cops Academies’ are spending a special day using technology like thermal imaging to learn about energy efficiency in school and at home. Few would suggest a prescriptive curriculum where energy and climate change was inserted at any possible point, but where energy options can feature in a smooth and practical way that doesn’t detract from learning, it’s a good way to normalise the changes that kids will see as they grow up, and perhaps even inspire the green pioneers of the future.

There is potential beyond a nice photo opportunity in the local media. It’s very important that partners involved in a schools work come equipped with the latest verified facts and figures and minimise the pushing of corporate agendas. And perhaps its sustainable changes to the fabric of schools themselves that will have an even more significant impact. The Glasgow school mentioned above won a national competition to replace their archaic coal heating with a new energy efficient system, and further energy efficiency measures; pupils’ good deeds in the community impressing judges sufficiently to bring a big material benefit to the school for years to come.

The huge potential of schools to use renewables has yet to be fully captured - but campaigners are looking to change this. The 10:10’s Solar Schools scheme to help schools crowd-fund their solar panels has featured on the blog before and Friends of the Earth is considering a provision of solar PV on school buildings. The Run on Sun campaign aims to break down barriers that stop schools from taking advantage of solar power, including the fact schools cannot get loans to install panels, while running a competition for the winning school to get a PV system installed for free.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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