Sustainability into Schools

Three Principles for Bringing Sustainability into Schools

As schools are critical in shaping the next generation, it’s essential to bring sustainability into their culture, operations, and curriculum. Here are three principles for bringing sustainability into schools.

1. Focus: Deliver Impact that Makes Sense

Sustainability often encompasses various interconnected areas, defined through the lens of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Schools play a vital role in delivering the SDGs through their decisions in running the school and developing young people.

A successful sustainability strategy should consider which SDGs the school can deliver for its key stakeholders, including students, parents, and the school community. Schools can conduct a ‘materiality’ exercise to assess and prioritise issues that are most important to their stakeholders and the school’s longevity. Examples of key issues for schools could include:

  • Student health and wellbeing
  • Reducing food waste
  • Improving energy and water efficiency
  • Reviewing supplier partnerships for ethical and sustainable practices
  • Educating students on production practices.

Embedding sustainability into school culture, education, extra-curricular activities, and values development can help children understand the SDGs and their local and global context.

2. Approach Sustainability Holistically and Think in ‘Systems’

Sustainability solutions need to be considered in the context of interconnected systems. If a school wants to deliver change in one area, it should think about this issue as part of an interrelated system. For instance, Jamie Oliver’s Healthy School Dinners campaign in the UK initially failed to revolutionise school food, as it did not consider other factors like the school tuck shop selling sugary sweets and fast-food advertising visible to kids outside school gates. Now, Oliver focuses on delivering change in schools more broadly through a healthy schools rating system, encompassing everything inside the school gates.

3. Embrace Critical Thinking and Creativity

Children’s curiosity and honesty are crucial for addressing sustainability challenges. A curious, critical engagement with the world around them is essential for understanding complex, embedded challenges. Educating children on how things are made, from their food to their clothing, can help them engage with the world and understand their individual, community, and global contexts.

The reality of developing solutions to sustainability challenges is messy and imperfect, with compromises and trade-offs. The more schools set an example of trialling, testing, learning, and adapting, the more they positively influence the values of tomorrow’s leaders. Allowing children to embrace and practice their creativity will be a key skill for their own sustainable development.

Benchmark Your School Uniforms with the E.A.R.T.H School Uniform Sustainability Scorecard

Are you keen on bringing sustainability into schools? Start by taking our E.A.R.T.H School Uniform Sustainability Scorecard. By answering 20 quick-fire questions about your school’s uniform, you will discover how your school scores in 5 key areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the E.A.R.T.H School Uniform Sustainability Scorecard?

It’s an assessment tool that helps schools benchmark the sustainability of their school uniforms, providing insights into their performance in 5 key areas.

How do I get started with the E.A.R.T.H School Uniform Sustainability Scorecard?

Visit and answer 20 quick-fire questions about your school’s uniform.