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Educators can deliver sustainability through ‘whole-school’ approach

School leaders can improve environmental outcomes in a range of areas by adopting a whole-school approach to sustainability.

A new Footprint Intelligence report in partnership with leading school caterer Chartwells found that schools in both the state and independent sectors can unlock opportunities and efficiencies by better connecting their work in areas such as energy, water, waste, packaging and menu development.

Crucially, it found that education is the glue that binds these topics together. Experts interviewed for the report stressed that consistency between how sustainability is taught in schools and then applied in practice is key to getting buy-in to a whole-school approach.

The report, which is available as a free download, features sustainability tips for school stakeholders across all the focus areas. These include conducting an energy audit to understand usage hotspots; finding innovative ways to capture and reuse grey or rain water; clearly labelling bins to ensure students and staff know where to dispose of waste; communicating the importance of minimising single-use packaging to key stakeholders like parents; finding ways to incorporate more vegetables, pulses and wholegrains into menus; and giving pupils agency over sustainability measures by creating green or eco-teams.

It also explores how schools can overcome challenges to adopting a whole-school approach such as a lack of skills, budgetary pressures and competing priorities.

Featuring insight from headteachers, teachers, sustainability leads, local authorities and third party experts, the report is designed to help schools get to grip with their environmental impact ahead of new government reporting requirements. The Department for Education wants to see state schools report their greenhouse gas emissions by 2024 and introduce climate action plans by 2025.

“Schools have a fundamental role to play in educating and inspiring future generations about sustainability,” said Olivia Pratt, head of nutrition and sustainability at Chartwells. “However, in trying to achieve this, schools face a vast and complex world of interconnected challenges, which they must learn to navigate quickly if they are to meet upcoming policy requirements.”