Reduce carbon footprint at school

Climate Change and schools

Saving energy saves money. Current school energy costs are estimated to increase. The average school could save up to 20% off its energy bills through replacement of heating, lighting and cooling equipment.

We know from our recent youth climate change summit, that many local young people hold strong concerns about climate change. Current projections indicate that the impact of climate change will grow over the course of this century and it is they and their children, rather than present day adults, who will face the most significant impacts.

The World Wildlife Fund has developed resources to support schools education around Climate Change.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the schools are divided into four main sources:

  • Energy use in school buildings
  • Pupil and staff travel to and from school, and other journeys undertaken on school business
  • Emissions produced by companies that supply goods and services to schools, for example, a school food provider
  • Emissions from waste produced by schools.

What would we like for our schools?

We want to encourage schools in Richmond upon Thames to have a low carbon footprint. That means they are using renewable technologies that export surplus energy to the national grid and generate funding through feed-in tariffs and renewable heat incentives. 

We want our school children and staff travelling to school to walk or travel by bike, facilitated through improved active travel infrastructure and through increasing parental, pupil and school staff awareness of the benefits of active travel.

We want our schools to recycle or compost more of their waste.  We want each school to allocate an individual member of staff to be responsible for monitoring energy use to ensure money and carbon are not wasted.  We want our schools to consider sustainable procurement choices as a first choice option.

We also want all our school pupils to be empowered to act on climate change, both within the school by reducing emissions and in their home environment.

How to decrease the carbon footprint

Review your school travel plan

A School Travel Plan (STP) sets out how a school intends to increase levels of walking, cycling and use of public transport for the journey to and from school. It is developed through a partnership involving the school, the Council, TfL and the community, and is based on consultation and engagement with teachers, parents and carers, pupils, governors/boards and other local people.

The STP is developed online using TfL's STARS (Sustainable Travel: Active, Responsible and Safe) platform. STP progress and initiatives for individual Richmond schools can be viewed on the STARS website.

As part of this, you could consider:

Sign our Idling Pledge

Drivers who refuse to turn off their idling engines will now be fined £80. We are asking schools and residents to sign the pledge.

Sign our Idling Pledge

Try to stop producing waste in the first place!

  • Work with students to carry out a school waste audit on how much waste is produced, then classify the types of different waste and identify waste ‘hot spots’ within the school
  • Develop an action plan to tackle your school waste. Track your progress with regular measuring and monitoring

Reduce your school’s food and packaging waste

  • Incorporate composting into science lessons or eco/gardening clubs
  • Arrange a food waste collection through your waste services provider
  • Encourage waste-free lunches by cutting down on food packaging, single-use and disposable items
  • Get free online tools and guidance from WRAP by signing-up to tackle waste and share good practice.
  • Encourage healthy eating in the school by recommending no crisps, sweets or fizzy drinks days.
  • Avoid using plastic cups, cutlery and plates at school as recycling these is difficult. Use china cups and reusable cutlery in staff rooms and in refreshment and eating areas

Review your school food and catering services

Food waste production can be reduced by as much as 20% in many schools, often with little or no capital investment. There are many steps we can take, both small and large, that can have a positive and significant effect on the sustainability of the school food system. Many of these will also have a positive effect on school budgets, as in many cases efficiency and sustainability can be pursued at the same time.

Use your building systems property to save energy

  • Simply knowing how to manage heating or lighting controls can slash energy wastage, save money and reduce emissions. The Carbon Trust can advise you on simple building management techniques to help you save energy
  • Start with the basics, for example; switching off lights and electrical equipment when not in use. Many schools have groups of eco-champions, who check at the end of each day for equipment or lights that have been left on, switch them off and place penalties (for example; a red-card) on the staff responsible

Share information with pupils and school staff

  • Encourage and reward ideas and activities which will reduce energy use
  • Teachers can bring energy information into lesson plans, most obviously within science or maths lessons. Engaging pupils with meter readings, energy management statistics and comparisons of numerical data helps them not only to improve numeracy skills but also to develop their own understanding of energy and how it is used, an understanding which can go on to influence longer term behaviour both at school and in the home
  • Many school energy schemes have been devised and are managed by pupils themselves, making the most of their enthusiasm and creativity

Upgrade heating controls

  • Reducing the temperature in a building by 1ºC will save 5-10% of the heating bill
  • Operating the heating systems for an hour less each day will save a similar amount
  • Modern heating controls are accurate, tamper-proof and have the facility for 7-day programming – the heating can be set to operate at different times of day for each day of the week.
  • Visit The Carbon Trust for further information

Use energy efficient lighting

  • Lighting accounts for around half of the electricity used in a typical school. Lighting controls are often very economical. In areas which are infrequently used, install lighting sensors. View Energy Saving Trust website for more details
  • Failed lamps can be replaced with energy efficient lamps, which last longer, at minimal cost
  • In many cases, 38mm diameter fluorescent tubes can be replaced with 26mm versions which use 8-10% less electricity. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) use 80% less than tungsten bulbs and last much longer.

Install smart metering

  • Smart metering provides information about how much energy is used and when it is used, helping you to understand energy use and how it can be saved
  • Automated meters can take readings at specified intervals, providing information on patterns of use, and levels of demand (for example; equipment left running) when buildings are unoccupied. The data they provide can also be used for teaching and learning
  • Further details on Energy Saving Trust website

Manage ICT (Information and Communications Technology) loads

The use of ICT in schools is growing rapidly. ICT equipment not only uses electricity directly, but often places further demands on electricity needed for lighting and cooling. The electricity used by ICT can be significantly reduced by selecting energy efficient equipment and enabling power management features. Rooms with interactive white boards should be set up to allow users to quickly and conveniently manage blinds and lighting. 

Draught strip windows and doors

Eliminating unwanted draughts is one of the most effective ways of saving money and improving comfort. Depending on the time of year, the gap between a door or window and its frame can vary by 3mm. On a standard door this is a hole equivalent to a house-brick. Draught stripping solves this problem.
Further information is available on Energy Saving Trust website.

Renewable energy

  • Small scale renewable energy systems are pollution-free and will help to reduce energy bills. They can also generate interest in energy efficiency amongst pupils and provide a valuable teaching resource
  • Renewable energy systems that can be appropriate to schools include wind turbines, biomass, solar heat and power and heat pumps. Information on renewable energy systems is available from the Carbon Trust

Understand your bill and how much energy is used in school

  • Energy use in school buildings is very much under the control of the individual school. Every school should know how much electricity it uses, alongside other fuels for heating and hot water. Understanding energy bills is the first step – are they accurate and based on actual meter readings? Is energy up or down compared to the previous year? Many schools will also be able to use their Display Energy Certificate [see further here], produced annually, to compare their energy use to national averages and to see how energy use has changed from the previous year.
  • The amount you pay for electricity may depend on when you use it, and not just how much you use. Using off peak (night time) electricity through timers and reducing peak demand can save significant amounts of money
  • When you receive a bill, check it to make sure the cost relates to the consumption and that it is correctly related to the tariff. Check consumption to see if it seems reasonable for the time of year, the severity of the weather or the consumption of water related to the number of people
  • Think about having an energy audit.

Water economy

  • Water is a scarce resource and costs are rising rapidly. A school that is equipped with water conservation devices may use less than half the amount of water used in other schools.
  • Installations such as cistern dams, urinal controllers, flow restrictors and self-closing taps save water and money. They are all proven, simple to apply and economic. 
  • See different ways to save water

Buy energy efficient and sustainable consumer goods

Schools can already routinely purchase many products and services, including:

  • Recycled paper and stationery products
  • Cleaning products with reduced environmental impacts
  • Office machinery which is energy efficient (look for the Energy Star label) kitchen equipment which is energy efficient (look for the A-G energy rating) vehicles which are fuel efficient (denoted by an A-M rating)
  • Water efficiency equipment

Don’t buy unless you need to – does anyone have a spare?

Before going ahead with a purchase:

  • Check whether someone else can spare or loan you the item you need. Don’t just look within your own school – can specialist equipment be shared between schools (for example, equipment for field trips)?
  • Hold a stationery amnesty – collecting in unused pens, staplers, highlighters and other supplies from classroom cupboards and desks, to restock the main stationery cupboard. Think about other commonly-used materials and supplies that may have been mis-stored and lost (cutlery, IT accessories, books) – is there scope for regular amnesties or scavenger hunts?

Improve your buying power and work collaboratively

Group together with other local schools in your area to get better purchasing deals. Many local authorities have set up consortia arrangements to help schools achieve good deals. Schools working together can benefit from:

  • Increased purchasing power and more sustainable goods and services when they are requested
  • Improved collective ability to source goods and services – some companies see individual schools as too small to bother with
  • Experience and understanding of sustainable development issues – a consortium enables all schools in it to benefit from the shared specialist knowledge of individuals.

Updated: 14 October 2020