Schools are in the business of making the future. Our job as educators is to give young people the best possible knowledge, skills, confidence and character to go out and make the world better. And one of the biggest problems that needs to be solved if that better future is going to be a reality is the problem of climate change.
It isn’t like this problem has crept up on us. I remember using Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth to teach students about climate change (and documentary film-making) back in 2006 – before many of our current students were even born. Yet, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that we are causing climate change, the crisis has deepened since then. As a species, we are not doing enough to fix it.
Here at Churchill, we are determined to do what we can to put that right. We have made a start – but we also have a long way to go.
A Greener Site
This week the Churchill Green Team, working with volunteers from Extinction Rebellion, have been hard at work across the Academy planting 105 saplings donated by the Woodland Trust. Over the summer the new broadwalk path down the centre of the Academy site was planted up to develop a sustainable habitat. The Sixth Form have worked hard on developing green spaces around the Sixth Form centre. This vital work is just one part of what we have been doing to help make – and keep – Churchill Academy & Sixth Form “green.”
As part of the site redevelopment, all of our new buildings (and many of the existing ones) have their roofs covered in solar panels. These panels have vastly increased our reliance on renewable energy. The energy generated from our own solar panels has accounted for between 22-35% of our electricity consumption over the last three months. We were also delighted to see that for several (small) periods over the summer, when the sun was at its most powerful and the energy usage was at its lowest, the site was running entirely self-sufficiently for energy.
Internal works two years ago replaced all the Academy’s traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting. These lights uses a fraction of the energy, last longer, and are better to see by. A win-win-win! The Sixth Form have also twice run a “no-power-hour” to see if they can switch off everything possible to get to zero power in the Sixth Form Centre!
Green Team Initiatives
The Green Team have also been busy. This student-led team pioneered reusable “green” coffee cups for Sixth Formers and staff to use at the Sixth Form coffee bar. They have also designed green spaces, including the newly-planted broadwalk down the middle of the school. There are plans to open up vegetable and herb gardens so each house can grown their own produce for use in Food Science and Nutrition, and to install a greenhouse!
Recycling and recyclables
All of our waste is currently processed for recycling, but we plan to make sorting waste more high-profile for our staff and students. We have moved to recycled materials for our take-away cutlery and packaging, and we are committed to reducing the amount of plastic in our catering and our school as a whole. Our caterers, Aspens, also use locally sourced ingredients to reduce food miles and our carbon footprint. The new benches we have ordered and installed at the front of the school and in the Sixth Form area are made from recycled plastic bottles, rather than wood.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been an inspiration to many people around the world for her determined, straight-talking challenge to those in power to take immediate action on the climate crisis. My position on the “school strikes” movement is that education is vital to solving the climate crisis. Those who deny climate change have not been educated well enough to recognise the facts that science can demonstrate. Only through education can we therefore solve the climate crisis. Therefore, rather than going on strike, I have urged Churchill students to use their education, knowledge and skills to help save the planet for future generations.
As a result of just such a conversation, Ellie, Saffron, Ruby and Eve from Year 11 met with John Penrose MP when he came into school recently, to discuss the climate crisis and what could be done about it. Their passionate and eloquent speech certainly impressed our current Member of Parliament, although he was quick to point out the complexity of the global climate problem. There are no easy answers – but we have to do something, and each of us can play our part. The quality of our students’ arguments and ideas gave me hope that we can – and will – save the planet. And they made me think about what we can do at Churchill.
A carbon-neutral school?
One question I have been asking myself recently is “what would it take to become a carbon-neutral school?” Schools are energy-hungry places: we have lots of buildings, lots of people, lots of technology which all use power. We use a lot of paper every day – it’s our stock in trade. Many of our children travel to school on diesel-engined buses. We have a significant carbon footprint. How could we reduce and offset that footprint to minimise our impact? I don’t know all the answers yet. But over the course of this year, as we think about the future of our school intertwined with the future of our children, our society and our planet, I am determined to find some.
If you have any suggestions, or connections or ideas which may help us, please let us know in the comments below!
8 thoughts on “Green Churchill”
I know that one of the local councillors tried very hard get a route from the strawberry line to the school put in and was almost there apart from the refusal of one farmer. This would allow a lot more children to cycle to school safely, both increasing their exercise levels and reducing carbon emissions. My son currently cycles a couple of time a week from Congresbury (since he was in year 7) not an easy decision to let him do it as I know how dangerous the road is that they have to cycle on.
Other suggestions; no disposable cutlery, everyone bringing in their own coffee cups and water bottles. Getting charged less for their coffee if they do. All of these have been implemented where I work to great success. Where ‘one use’ plastic has been almost eliminated.
Great suggestions: thank you!
An excellent blog…it’s so important that children are taught to be aware and to want to care from a young age.We have developed a lot of wasteful, bad habits over the years, we all need to start evaluating what we do and be responsible for improving it. Children learn by example and imitation…we need to be mindful of what they’re seeing.
Well done, Churchill Academy! Leading by example by installing solar panels, planting trees and trying to reduce plastic! This is not learning by hearing or reading, but learning through action. But reading your blog made me ask myself if my good education made me act on climate change, and I had to confess that it did not, not for years and years. I knew since the 1970s from my Open University studies that CO2 was a greenhouse gas and would lead to global warming. But I did nothing!
Yes, education is incredibly important, but it does not seem to be enough. Churchill students have probably been influenced more by the action the school and pupils have taken than by their lessons.
And that is why I personally encourage my grandchildren to take part in the climate strike. Actions sometimes speak louder than words!
This is fantastic news and I am very proud that my son is part of the Churchill community. I am also proud of him for taking part in the Climate Strikes as, although we value education immensely, we recognise that the current attitude to climate change is in large part down to a year of Climate strikes and young people making their voices heard. We knew about this problem and, for whatever reason, weren’t able to act. They have and I will be forever grateful.
Your Green team are amazing and Churchill is such a forward thinking school I can’t wait to see what you get up to next!
Small steps make the difference! If all schools would make such bold steps as you guys are doing our problems would already shrink. I think it is great that you lead by example and show students a different way of living which is less harmful to the environment. Keep up the great job!
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