Future

Climate and environment literacy

The education sector has a critical role to play in tackling the climate crisis. It can inspire, educate and prepare young people for the ever-changing world. The sector has a unique opportunity to lead by example through schools reducing their own carbon footprint.  

Words:
Charlotte Cameron
Images:
Shutterstock
Climate Environment Literacy
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As part of a global effort to fuel an education revolution, Earth Day advocates for every learner in every school to “receive fully integrated, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component.” We support this drive for climate literacy, and that is why we work to support organisations in the education sector, not only through measuring their carbon emissions, but also helping them to engage their stakeholders and communicate their targets and achievements along the way.  

As part of the Planet Mark Real Estate certification, members are also helping to support climate literacy in schools around the UK through workshops delivered by our partners at the Eden Project 

A wider awareness of sustainability is vital for climate action and mitigation in society. Educational institutions can foster a culture of sustainability among staff, students and other stakeholders by embedding it into the curriculum and day-to-day running of the institution. This can be embedded through all year levels, beginning with understanding our own personal impacts on the planet and society. Incorporating topics of sustainability and climate change at younger levels should empower and inspire students rather than overwhelm or frighten them.  That’s why it’s important to begin embedding climate literacy from an early age. 

Nurseries

Childbase Partnership, an employee-owned childcare company, has been Planet Mark certified for three years. Having pledged to achieve net zero by 2030, Childbase have put together a detailed net zero roadmap to achieve their targets. 

Mark Bird, Health, Safety and Environment Director at Childbase, explains their journey, “We set a net zero by 2030 target in our financial year 2018 to 2019. So, we’re now obviously headlong into that and we’re starting our first big investments of LED lighting across the business – £170,000 worth of lighting this financial year and around half that in the following financial year.” 

For Mark, focusing on sustainability is not only something he wants to do for the sake of his children’s future, but it is also a business imperative that is reaping significant benefits. “Ultimately better, more efficient heating systems and lighting is cheaper, it’s not rocket science. LEDs are cheaper than fluorescent bulbs. So economically, if you just ignored all the environment stuff, it’s just better business regardless. It’s just trying to get through the initial investment phase and to see that kind of logic” 

Mark also shares that there are strong advantages in terms of attracting customers. “As the current group of younger people have children, they’re going to want to put their money where that money’s being invested in not contributing to climate change.” 

One initiative that has had a significant impact on reducing Chidlbase’s emissions is through engaging with their stakeholders to promote sustainable travel. As travel from employees and customers formed a large part of their carbon footprint, Childbase set about providing stakeholders with their own individual carbon footprint of their travel to help them move towards a more sustainable method.  

Secondary schools

Planet Mark member Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ), an international school based in Malaysia, is one example of a school catering for students aged 3-19 that has put sustainability at the forefront of their agenda. Championing sustainability was set as one of their strategic goals, with a specific target of reaching carbon neutral by 2025. The first step towards this was to measure their carbon footprint with Planet Mark while engaging their staff and students in the process. When reviewing their carbon footprint, KTJ identified that its electrical consumption was by far the largest part of their footprint and have set about trying to reduce this.  

One of the impactful initiatives that the school has engaged in is installing solar panels, and in 2020 the school’s 3,000 solar panels generated 1.2 million kilowatts of electricity – enough renewable energy to power nearly 8,700 Malaysian households for a month.  

The education sector also has an exciting opportunity to provide direct training and education for the growing number of jobs in sustainable, forward-thinking industries. This is particularly true for later year levels where the curriculum will need to adapt traditional models to incorporate emerging industries, technologies and systems as a result of climate change.  

Tertiary education

University of Greenwich, a Planet Mark certified university, has set an ambitious climate change agenda and has joined other leading institutions by setting a net zero carbon target by 2030. To further training for new roles and industries emerging out of the climate crisis, they have introduced a new course on climate change, called Climate Change BSc, designed to provide scientific knowledge and a practical skillset around climate mitigation and action.   

Warwickshire College Group is another example of an organisation in the tertiary sector that is not only measuring and reducing their own carbon footprint, but is providing students with necessary skills and training for a world impacted by climate change.  

Assistant Principal Simon Philpott said, “It’s the future and for our students, they have an interest in it. These are 16–18-year-olds that have an interest in sustainability across all of the departments that they are studying… and if we didn’t supply it, if we didn’t offer it to them and teach them about it, we wouldn’t be as attractive.” 

As part of their land-based education, the college is looking at methods to reduce the methane emissions from their cattle, in addition to using sustainable pesticides.  

“There can be some doom and gloom around the subject, but I think for us with young students that are interested in it I think it’s delivering them the skills that they are going to need for that sustainable future.” 

On colleges looking to start on their sustainability journey Simon advised, “Collect your data…. seeing where you are as a college with your current sustainability to change the way you do things as a college and education institute.”  

Tips on getting started

So, what can organisations in the education sector who are motivated to take climate action do to start? Here are some practical first steps that can be taken to reduce carbon emissions: 

– You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so to begin with, start by measuring your carbon footprint to understand the impact your school has on the environment, and areas where carbon emissions can be reduced. 

 – Setting up a sustainability champions team can be one of the most effective initiatives in your sustainability journey. It can help you stay on track with sustainability targets and create a purpose-driven work culture.  

– Switching to LED lights is an effective way of reducing energy and lowering costs.  In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the quality of LED lights that are available. Typically, these LED lights will save you around 90% of energy compared to a halogen lamp. The lifespan of these LED lights are generally 50,000 hours which, in comparison to a halogen lamp is around 1,000-2,000 hours.  

 – According to waste management experts WRAP, food waste in secondary schools accounts for almost a third of waste, by weight. Schools can help reduce food waste by improving education around why tackling food waste is so important, and the role students play in this. One practical solution is to adopt meat-free menus throughout the week as vegetarian or vegan options means less carbon emissions.

– Develop a school recycling policy to tackle waste that details your commitment through defining a vision, values and objectives. This can then provide guidance around initiatives such as package-free lunches, promoting the use of reusable bottles for drinks and encouraging double-sided printing where possible.  

Maximise the use of green space. Not only does it increase biodiversity but studies have shown that green spaces improve the mental development of young children.  

 

As an increasing number of organisations in the education sector look to embrace sustainability, there is no shortage of support available for schools looking to start on their own journey. To find out more information on how your school can measure its carbon footprint, get in touch with us here.