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Sustainability in Schools

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Robert Gould

Partner at Barker | Award-Winning Integrated Property Consultants

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The Department for Education (DfE) developed a Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy back in 2022 with the vision of the United Kingdom becoming the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030. Studies have shown that schools and universities represent 36% of total UK public sector building emissions, and over the last few years, many educational institutions have been focusing on creating a more environmentally friendly place for children and young people to learn. 


Sustainability is more than just a buzzword, it’s crucial to help tackle climate change and create a greener world for future generations. Making a few changes across your estate can be more impactful than you might think and now is the time to evaluate your sustainability initiatives. Below, we have explored the importance of sustainability in schools and discussed some practical strategies to improve sustainability efforts. 


The Importance of Sustainability in Schools 


Sustainability in schools involves more than just improving energy efficiency. It’s about incorporating eco-friendly practices into everyday operations and the overall culture of your educational institution. Not only can this provide immediate cost-saving benefits, but it also creates a sense of responsibility and awareness among staff and students. By prioritising sustainability, you can look after the environment while creating a healthier learning space and providing a more enriching educational experience.


With sustainable practices, you can significantly reduce your estate’s carbon footprint, helping to mitigate climate change. By actively lowering your energy consumption and reducing resources, you can also benefit from financial savings. Not to mention, creating a sustainable learning environment can impact the physical and mental well-being of both staff and students. Green spaces and eco-friendly initiatives provide healthier surroundings, which can improve learning and promote overall wellness. From an educational perspective, focusing on sustainability can teach students about the importance of environmental preservation and the steps they can take to make a difference. 


How to Improve Sustainability in Schools 


Improving sustainability requires a comprehensive approach that includes assessing your current situation and putting a plan in place to reduce carbon emissions. Typically, there are three main areas where schools can implement change; sustainable energy procurement, reducing energy consumption and generating renewable energy. However, there are some other options to consider too. 


Reduce Energy Consumption


Reducing energy consumption is one of the most effective ways to improve sustainability in schools. With the help of things such as energy-efficient lighting like LED bulbs and smart thermostats to regulate heating and cooling, schools can ensure energy isn’t being wasted. Regular energy audits are also very beneficial, as they identify inefficiencies and opportunities to reduce energy usage. Focusing on energy consumption can effectively reduce environmental impact and also demonstrate to students the importance of energy conservation. 

Generate Renewable Energy


Generating renewable energy on-site can have a huge impact on your school’s carbon footprint and monthly energy costs. Installing solar panels is a popular option, enabling you to use solar energy which is a much more sustainable and cost-effective source. In large enough areas, wind turbines can also be used to generate energy, further reducing the need for fossil fuels. These renewable energy projects can be integrated into climate education, offering hands-on learning experiences in subjects like science. 


Minimise the Use of Resources


Minimising resource use is a key component of sustainability in schools. Simple steps like reducing paper consumption can make a big difference to the environment, while also improving operational efficiency. Water conservation measures are also straightforward to implement and can promote sustainability across your estate. Many schools are now encouraging students to share items like textbooks too, preventing the need for new resources. By focusing on resource management, you can save money and teach students about responsible resource use. 


Improve Waste Management


Effective waste management is essential for reducing environmental impact and educating students about waste reduction. Implementing recycling solutions for paper, plastic, glass and metal can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Additionally, setting up compost bins for organic waste like food scraps can help manage waste sustainably and provide compost for on-site gardening projects. Encouraging staff and students to use refillable water bottles, for instance, can also prevent reliance on single-use plastics, promoting sustainability throughout the school. Your waste management efforts can instil lifelong habits of sustainability. 




Promote Sustainable Initiatives


Promoting sustainable initiatives involves getting the entire school involved in your efforts to reduce environmental impact. Common initiatives include carpooling and walk-to-school or bike-to-school programmes, which can prevent traffic congestion and emissions. Organising green challenges, like energy-saving competitions, can also motivate staff and students to adopt more sustainable practices. To ensure initiatives are as effective as possible, it can be useful to involve parents and consider how changes can be made beyond the school gates. 


Create Green Spaces


Creating green spaces on school grounds is a great way to improve sustainability and support local biodiversity. These spaces can be used for educating students about nature and ecosystems, whether it’s through planting flowers or growing vegetables, and they provide an opportunity for hands-on learning. Having an alternative to traditional indoor classrooms offers several benefits for mental well-being too and outdoor learning can boost general mood. Green spaces will make the overall estate more sustainable and ecologically friendly. 


Developing a School Sustainability Strategy 


When attempting to improve sustainability in your school, it’s important to have a detailed action plan. Developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy can help you achieve long-term success and ensure your environmental initiatives remain on track. It’s important to understand your current position, identify areas for improvement, set realistic and achievable goals, create a structure for delivery, and measure the effectiveness of projects. 


A professional sustainability strategy offers several benefits, providing a clear roadmap and ensuring all efforts are systematically planned, implemented and monitored. It can also help you get stakeholders on board with your plans, improving project outcomes. Ideally, a sustainability strategy should remain flexible and responsive to new challenges and opportunities too, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your efforts.  


Improving Sustainability in Your School 


Ultimately, sustainability isn’t something schools can overlook anymore and it’s important to make some changes that can reduce your environmental impact. By prioritising sustainability efforts, you can significantly improve your carbon footprint, save costs, educate students and provide healthier learning environments. A comprehensive approach to sustainability can help create a greener world for future generations. 


At Barker, we can develop and implement a sustainability strategy that helps you achieve your environmental goals. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do and our in-house specialists will use the Barker Energy360™ process to support your sustainability transformation. Whether you need a full energy audit of your estate or assistance bidding for funding, we can provide the comprehensive support you need. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today to discuss improving sustainability in schools in more detail. 


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