By Simon Brammer, Ashden UK Programme Manager
The Eden Project was an appropriate place for the final teaching session of our LESSCO2 South West Schools Programme yesterday. After all, it used to be a deserted clay pit that left in its wake not only an environmental disaster but an economic one, when the closing of the pit took with it many a local job. But thanks to Eden, the area has reinvented itself. And like our schools participating in LESSCO2, who were also presented with certificates of achievement, there is real sense of pride and excitement about future potential.
Like the Eden Project's founder Tim Smit, our schools are recognising – with a little help from us – that their low-carbon journey isn’t just about reducing their impact on the environment, but a whole wealth of other benefits, such as empowering students to take responsibility; making lessons more engaging; creating new skills and understanding; reaching out to local communities; developing links all over the world – in short, being the change they would like others in their community to see.
Take for example some of the Devonshire secondary schools in the programme, which are equipping their students to be the new green entrepreneurs of the future. By incorporating renewable energy and energy efficiency into the curriculum and then finding students practical ways for them to test out their new skills, for example carrying out energy efficiency audits, they are providing many of the solutions that the school needs.
How empowering. I wish my science lessons had been as engaging.
Or take a primary school in Cornwall which, through its work to become more energy efficient, is helping its pupils help their families to understand energy efficiency. So they are also seeing reduced fuel bills, something that’s sorely needed in these hard times, particularly in this economically deprived part of the country.
With the help of passionate mentors Gill Harper from St Column Minor School and Keith Webbers from Oakhampton College, both previous Ashden Award winners, the schools have achieved amazing things.
Some are simple, such as covering a swimming pool and turning the pump off at night, which is saving thousands of pounds a year. Others are more complex. For example, one school has installed solar panels on its roof and is now using the payments it receives for energy generation to fund its ITC programme. Another is implementing monitoring systems so it can see exactly how much it’s saving, then deciding what to spend the saved money on.
The Eden Project’s Business Manager who came to talk to us about what our schools could learn from local businesses perhaps summed it up best: “I came here thinking they these guys could learn much from businesses who have already embarked on their low-carbon journeys, but you know what, you are way ahead of many of those businesses and you could teach them a thing or two. I’m rather bowled over by what you have achieved in such a short period of time.”
Like a ‘new Eden’, schools that are embracing a low-carbon approach are preparing their pupils for a bright (yet low-carbon) and vibrant future.