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Three steps to reduce your school’s environmental footprint

Appreciating nature

Three steps to reduce your school’s environmental footprint

Whether it is stumbling across a documentary about the sheer amount of plastic in our oceans, or wondering why you are suddenly sipping your gin and tonic through a metal straw, it is hard to avoid the issue of recycling these days.

As a teacher, this can bring a horrifying realisation: there are over 30,000 schools in the UK, just think of the amount of paper, card, plastic and food waste ebbing its way through our own school on a daily basis. And it is even more horrifying when you consider that some of these schools do not have any recycling schemes in place to deal with this tidal wave of rubbish.

We can do our bit at home, sometimes having a separate bin for three or four items of recyclable waste, but how can we ensure that we are doing our bit in schools when so often there are not the facilities to do so, or when it simply falls outside of our remit as classroom teachers?

Here are some changes that we can all make in order to ease our collective conscience about the state of the planet:

1. Have conversations with colleagues

It is only by raising awareness of the issue of waste recycling in schools that we can begin to alter the way that senior leaders and governors deal with waste in their own schools. As teachers, we cannot contact the local council ourselves. But we can draw attention to where recycling opportunities are being missed in our own environments, and we can alert leaders to fantastic recycling schemes both locally and nationally.

2. Have conversations with students

Our students are the next generation to be tasked with looking after our planet. It is an unfortunate fact that the generations before them do not seem to have done enough to tackle the damage caused to Earth by humans. However, by sharing information about sustainable living with our students, we can help to shape their understanding of the world and emphasise the importance of their role in helping the planet to continue its move towards becoming more eco-friendly.

3. Keep an eye out for recycling schemes

A quick search on Google throws up an abundance of websites and schemes where you can recycle pens, whiteboard markers and printer cartridges free of charge. One such scheme that is particularly useful for schools to consider is run by This fabulous initiative aims to tackle the number of whiteboard markers, which unfortunately cannot be recycled by most council depots, being disposed of in a landfill.

The scheme allows schools to recycle their used whiteboard pens back in return for small payments, either to the school or to a designated charity. Another great resource is which runs competitions for eco-schools to win expensive equipment in return for their printer cartridges. By becoming more involved with recycling schemes such as these, schools can simultaneously reduce the amount of unnecessary waste going to landfill and reap rewards for their school.

Ultimately, we should feel guilty about the amount of waste that is being churned out of our schools into landfills. We should feel ashamed for not having acted sooner. But it is not guilt or shame that should be driving us to make these changes, it should be a love for what the planet has provided us with and a desire to see it made greener for generations to come.  

Laura Tsabet is lead practitioner of teaching and learning at a school in Bournemouth. She tweets @lauratsabet

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