Top 10 Tips for a Greener School

Schools are a brilliant place to start inspiring your wider community to become more sustainable and eco-conscious. By empowering young people to find their voice, they’ll learn how to become effective change-makers. With increased public awareness about global environmental issues, switching to more sustainable solutions will enable your school to stand out from the crowd, while hopefully saving money and creating an impressive, inspirational legacy.

By sharing your passions, knowledge and creative ideas for positive action, it’s possible to substantially lower your school’s carbon footprint – check out the World Wildlife Fund’s carbon calculator and aim to have quantifiable targets so you can measure your progress. Follow our top ten tips to switch to more sustainable alternatives. Change can be child’s play and by embedding issues like the climate emergency into their learning, your students will grasp citizenship skills too. 

  1. Learn the five R’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. To begin your journey towards zero waste and reduce the amount that gets sent to landfill, and therefore improved energy efficiency and reduced impact on the environment, focus on minimising consumption. Say no to junk mail, single-use straws, takeaway coffee cups and carrier bags, bring your own reusable alternatives instead. If students choose to refill their reusable drinks bottles at water fountains rather than buy water in single-use plastic bottles, you’ll drastically cut you’re your plastic footprint. When you can, repurpose or repair something rather than replacing with brand new. Where possible, recycle as much as you can – offer plenty of recycling options in multiple locations around your school site and design engaging signage so it’s easy for students to know where to dispose of any plastic, glass, cans or paper once it can no longer be reused. Remember, even Kapes uniforms are recyclable! 
  2. Start an eco club – encourage your friends, peers, teachers and parents to join your mission. Focus on one aspect to begin with, for example, eliminating single-use plastic drinks bottles or plastic cutlery. Find creative ways to share your message and design colourful posters for the noticeboards or hold an assembly to introduce the problem and your call to action. Sign up to the Foundation for Environmental Education’s Eco Schools programme. 
  3. Be circular – Most children grow quickly so we hope that parents will return products to us to either be resold or recycled where appropriate. This creates a more circular economy with significantly less waste. Alternatively, your school might like to launch a second-hand shop on-site so each garment gets used by more children. 
  4. Wear green – your uniforms are most likely made from virgin synthetic fibres and a small portion of conventional cotton, the manufacture of which has a large carbon impact. We use 100% organic cotton, recycled polyester, regenerated nylon, recycled ocean plastics and environmentally-friendly dyes, making Kapes school uniforms the most sustainable in the world.
  5. Save resources and money – arrange an audit to find out how much energy your school uses. Assess electricity and water usage and count any solar panels for example. Once you have a baseline, you can implement fun ways to encourage students to switch off taps, lights, computers and printers when not in use. You can switch to a green tariff or renewable energy supplier. When existing light bulbs need replacing, choose LED lights or install motion sensors so lights go off automatically when a classroom or corridor is empty. Improving the energy-efficiency of the school’s air conditioning system will reduce your carbon footprint and energy bill too. Try to go paperless – even though paper is recyclable, only print out documents when absolutely necessary and avoid excessive laminating as this can’t be recycled. 
  6. The green mile – transport is responsible for 23% of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Organise a school survey to find out how many people travel to and from school by car, public transport, bike or on foot. More active travel results in a healthier population so for families who live nearby, perhaps introduce a walking bus system to ensure children walk together safely with adult chaperones at the front and back of a ‘crocodile’ that follows a set route. Encourage a car share system, give priority parking to electric cars and bicycles. Not only will these simple measures reduce traffic congestion, it will decrease air pollution in the vicinity of the school.
  7. Promote traceability – do you know where your uniforms were made? Who made them? Or what impact this potentially had on the planet? Take responsibility for finding out and champion those that make the things you buy in a sustainable way. It’s only by doing so that children will grow up with more of a connection to the planet and become eco-conscious consumers themselves. At Kapes, we work to ensure complete transparency along our entire supply chain from raw materials to manufacture. The manufacturers we work with hold a selection of the relevant certifications from organisations including GOTs, Oeko-Tex, Sedex, Global Recycling Standard, FSC and Fairtrade, and can prove their guarantee to fair wages and excellent working conditions for their employees. 
  8. Hungry for change? According to the FAO (the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization), an estimated one third of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste and if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after USA and China. It takes energy to grow, transport, cook and dispose of every ingredient. Clever meal planning and preparation can help to reduce the amount of food your school waste. Start by weighing the food waste thrown away after one lunch service and collaborate with the canteen staff to develop ways to change this. Perhaps leftovers could be donated to a local food charity. Waste not, want not. Also, ask any vending machine suppliers to source snacks in recyclable packaging and drinks in aluminium cans which are more easily recycled than plastic bottles. 
  9. Seeds of change – reduce your school’s food miles by growing fruit, vegetables and herbs on-site to reduce the carbon impact of the food used by the school and inspire pupils to eat healthy, organic food. Create a compost heap or a worm farm in the school field to recycle the nutrients in food scraps that can’t be reused and use this to replenish any raised beds. Use a water butt to collect any rainwater during the winter season and use this to irrigate plants and green spaces around the school grounds. 
  10. Spread the word – share your successes with your school network of students, parents and staff as well as the local community. Contact local news outlets with stories of your achievements, take great photos to share on social media and your school’s efforts will have ripple effects far beyond the school gates.