Green Schools

Leading the charge to make schools greener is the Green-Schools international environmental education programme and award scheme, run by An Taisce. In Ireland, Green-Schools is operated in partnership with Local Authorities and has been a fully national programme since 2001. Internationally it is known as 'Eco-schools'.

The award part of the scheme comes in the form of a green flag - a now well respected and recognised eco-label. Usually if a school reaches this target, it displays the flag outside the school or in the foyer. To keep the school striving to reduce its environmental impact the green flag award requires renewal every two years.

There are seven steps to Green-School success:

  1. Green School Committee - a dedicated group within the school that oversees the Green-Schools project. Ideally it will involve students, teachers and parents.
  2. Environmental Review - an essential part of any environmental programme, it lays out targets for the school.
  3. Action Plan - it gives achievable goals in a certain timed period.
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation - progress is chartered all the way so that new targets can be set and successes celebrated.
  5. Curriculum work - environmental issues should be integrated into lessons.
  6. Informing and involving - a marketing drive keeps the pupils, teachers and general community informed on progress.
  7. Green Code - this is the school’s commitment to good green habits.

There are 10 key themes, which schools work towards to achieving a Green Flag in each. More details on these can be found by clicking on the relevant heading below:

  1. Litter and Waste
  2. Energy
  3. Water
  4. Travel
  5. Biodiversity
  6. Global Citizenship – Litter & Waste
  7. Global Citizenship – Energy
  8. Global Citizenship – Marine Environment
  9. Global Citizenship – Travel
  10. Global Citizenship - Food & Biodiversity 

Results of the scheme so far

Research in 2001 showed that those schools awarded with green flags, on average, took 45% of their waste away from landfill. A number of those schools were close to achieving no waste at all, with some producing as little as two grams of waste per person per day.

Further analysis carried out in 2005 showed that performance had improved again and on average Green-Schools were diverting over 60% of their waste from landfill. In an amazing achievement, 10% (eight schools) of the seventy-nine sampled were diverting in excess of 90% of their waste from landfill.

Most recently the programme is said to have saved Irish schools €2 million in waste costs per year, which includes: 3.7 million units of electricity; 200 million litres of drinking water; and around 500,000 litres of transport fuel. In total, twelve tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfills in Ireland every school day by schools undertaking the programme.

In 2020 schools diverted 2,500 tonnes of waste from landfill, and saved 592 million litres of water, 4.4 million litres of heating oil and over 29 million units of electricity. Throughout the 2020 academic year students contributed to lowering traffic related emissions by walking, cycling and scooting to school. A total of 4,000 students received cycle training and 1,100 spaces were created for bike and scooter parking. The installation of new vegetable gardens and bird feeders increased students’ knowledge of the importance of biodiversity, and 2,799 native trees were planted by students under the programme. Schools nationwide learned of the hazardous effects of climate change and marine pollution on oceans. Moreover, on completion of the Global Citizenship themes, schools tripled their knowledge about global issues such as food origin and FairTrade, and 79% of schools increased their knowledge on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Green Schools, 2020).

More details on the Green Schools initiative and success stories can be found here.

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