Last word

Step into spring with a fresh approach to reducing your environmental footprint, says Helen Burge


recently read a ‘green’ article in a magazine delivered to me in a non-recyclable plastic wrapper. I tweeted about it at the time to

encourage the publisher to adopt the green biodegradable wrap used by other magazine distributors. Of course, I have no idea about the cost of what I was suggesting, but I wanted to nudge the publisher towards making the change. At my school, we’ve been making

small ‘green’ changes to our own operations. Our rules are: ‘Respect yourself, Respect others and Respect the environment’. It was because of the last rule that one of our Year 4 pupils pointed out that we shouldn’t have single-use plastic yoghurt pots as part of our school lunch provision. So we’ve trialled buying yoghurt in larger containers and decanting it into pudding bowls. There is an increase in time required for doing this task and there is an increase in waste product of yoghurt, but there is less single-use plastic in the system. There was also an initial reduction in the uptake of yoghurt – which we weren’t predicting! So our deputy head talked about what we were doing in an assembly, and then children understood and yoghurt consumption increased again.

Spilt milk Our free school milk used to be supplied in individual milk cartons. So we asked our supplier to provide it in four-pint bottles instead, and we got cups for the children to drink from. Yes, there are potentially more spillages, but children learn to be careful. Yes, the cups have

58 SPRING 2020 FundEd

to be washed up ready for the next day, but the reduction in our waste has been massive. We are no longer paying for up to 740 cartons a week to be disposed of! And they’re no longer going to landfi ll.

Gone crackers We’ve also tried to reduce our reliance on cling fi lm by using silicone stretch lids and plate stacker rings. This takes up more storage space, but the catering manager is keen to continue to introduce small subtle changes that will make a difference.

Now we’re asking how we can

extend our eco efforts to our successful PTA fundraising events. Summer and Christmas Fairs pose a particular challenge: how do we mass-produce catering for consumption in a short period of time and not use single-use plastic cups or cutlery? Finding volunteers to help run these events is hard enough, without the need for someone to continuously wash-up! This is still a work in progress, but we did avoid crackers for our school Christmas meal, as we identifi ed them as a massive source of single-use plastic and waste.

Greta effect These steps might sound small and insignifi cant but we are trying to make changes in our day-to- day school life to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic and ensure our children are learning to care for our environment. There might be students in your schools who have taken part in the climate protests inspired by Greta Thunberg. Whatever the implications on attendance, when I put my school leader hat to one side, I’ve got to

admire these students for raising

‘We are no longer paying for up to

740 milk cartons a week to be disposed of’

others’ awareness about climate change. So what are you doing in your school? What changes are you making to help reduce your school’s impact on the environment? If your PTA is running events without single-use plastic, please spread the word and tell me how!

Helen Burge is deputy chief operations officer at The Priory Learning Trust and SRMA with Cotswold Beacon Academy Trust. @DeputyCOOatTPLT


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