I wonder if you’ve been made to feel a bit uncomfortable lately by a sense that you may have to do your bit to save the planet. Only a few weeks ago, very few of us had ever heard of Extinction Rebellion. Now, you can’t look at the news without seeing another story about the need to change the way we live.
I was cycling through London to the train station a few weeks ago and was frustrated that a couple of thousand protesters had taken over Waterloo Bridge and no traffic could get through. Except, I happened to notice that a few cheeky cyclists were chancing their arms and being welcomed through by the people. I quickly joined them and claimed eco-warrior status as I did so.
I was relieved to get my train but confess to having felt a bit unsettled when the following morning I heard Emma Thompson speaking very convincingly on behalf of the people on the bridge in regard to the urgent need to reverse some of the trends we are currently seeing. For example, the total global insect population is dropping by 2.5% a year, with a potentially devastating impact on the food chain. That is scary.
Spending so much of my life working with schools set me to thinking what they could do about the threat to our environment. I was shocked to learn that 25% of morning rush hour (ie the slowest and smokiest) traffic is down to the school drop-off. And yet, there’s a lot we can do to reduce this. Encouraging the use of the school bus, is one clearly-not-so-obvious (or it would have been adopted much more widely) example: one 49-seater coach is, using average numbers per school run journey, equivalent to 31 cars. So, if parents can’t walk with their children or encourage them to cycle, they should see if there’s a bus service. If they are worried about keeping their children safe, they should be reassured by the latest tech. For instance, CoachHire.com, probably the biggest manager of school transport in the country, gives parents an app that shows them whether their child got on the bus, using the swipe-on/off system, and where the bus is located at any particular moment. Their technology allows them to select the right vehicle for the right journey, meaning that vehicles with exactly the correct capacity for the journey are used, minimising harm to the environment and reducing congestion. It goes without saying these days, that their drivers are vetted to the highest standards.
Schools are amongst the biggest institutional users of electricity, and lighting accounts for more than 50% of that. Walk around a typical school and you still find flickering strip lights, particularly disturbing to children with certain types of ADD, and other conditions such as epilepsy. Lights are left on in unused classrooms, dining rooms are over-lit, creating far too bright an environment and using excessive power. And yet….there are solutions out there. eLightgroup.com, for example, are transitioning schools to LED lighting for a fixed monthly fee, with no requirement for capital investment, whereby the savings unlocked are typically double the fee, thus unlocking free cash from the old lights. They have a sophisticated method for surveying and redesigning the lighting to ensure that an optimised lighting solution is created. Schools are seeing enormous savings, the equivalent of the cost of two teachers on average, and their children are witnessing plummeting carbon emissions via the monitors installed in the school reception areas.
Think of school uniform production and you might get worried that sweat shops are somehow involved. It ain’t necessarily so. Shopkeepeasy.com offers schools a platform on which to run their online shops, involving the children in designing items while educating them about the environment and where products come from, as well as the world of enterprise. They also help school source environmentally-friendly material. For example, their eco range contains polyester made from non-biodegradable plastic bottles which would otherwise end up in landfill.
So maybe we can’t all cycle everywhere. That is only for the totally committed, like yours truly. But there are other ways that we can make sensible and easy decisions that make a considerable impact on the environment around us. If school pupils are the leaders of this awakening movement, then schools themselves should seize the chance to do everything they can to adopt new behaviours to protect the futures of those they serve.