How I helped create a low-carbon school

By Julia Hawkins, Ashden PR and Digital Media Manager

By Gill Harper, Business Manager, St columb Minor

Five years ago I knew very little about climate change. I certainly had no idea how I might incorporate energy saving into our school, or any notion of how to involve school children in reducing our carbon footprint.

All that changed in 2006. While studying for a BA Hons degree in School Business Management I had a ‘eureka’ moment. One of the units focused on the environment, including how to reduce CO2 emissions, and introduce Education Sustainable Development (ESD) in our schools. I was immediately hooked.

I was so intrigued that I based my dissertation on how to become an Eco-School, and in 2007, with the support of the British Council on its work-shadowing Comenius project, I spent a week visiting schools in Slovenia that had achieved the National Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

These schools were ahead of the game on lots of aspects of sustainability – particularly recycling, though less so on saving energy – at that time they had limited renewable energy systems installed in Slovenia and no plans to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at their schools. I was particularly struck by one school which had worked with a local company to make beautiful dishes made from recycled glass. Some of the dishes had been sold to raise funds for the school, while others were on display. The art work was stunning!

When I returned to the UK I wrote an action plan for my own school, St Columb Minor Academy, a large primary academy based in the heart of St Columb Minor village, near Newquay in Cornwall. I set out ways in which our school of 480 pupils could become more sustainable. This included looking at energy, waste and developing global links with schools in other countries to share learning on climate change.

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This is an extract of an article for the TES by Gill Harper, business manager at St Columb Minor Academy in Cornwall, which won an Ashden School Award in 2010 for its work to build an energy-saving culture in the school. She is now a mentor for Ashden's LESS CO2 sustainable schools programme.