One day in August 2018 saw Swedish student Greta Thunberg begin her school strike for the climate outside the Swedish Parliament. That one strike started a movement that has since spread far and wide, sparking the set up of more youth climate action groups all over the world, including the UK Student Climate Network, well-known for school climate strikes, the National Union of Students’ climate charity SOS-UK and their youth-led campaign Teach the Future.
The “Greta effect” has seen hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren join these groups, calling for the government to take active steps to tackle climate change and pushing for systemic, social change “to develop a sustainable form of living that puts people above profit” to “ensure a liveable future for all”.
Focusing on sustainable education
As part of this, Teach the Future specifically are calling for educational system reform to place more importance on the climate crisis, as they argue the focus is too often on passing exams and securing well-paid work instead of preparing younger generations for the future they face, and encouraging them to choose work that does good over a well-paid salary.
They also point out that in order to “deliver the transition to a low carbon economy” the focus needs to be on adapting curriculum across both traditional and vocational pathways to prepare and provide students with skills needed for a net-zero future.
17 year old Joe Brindle, a founding member of Teach the Future, says:
“It’s people with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge who are becoming fossil-fuel chief executives and they are the ones who are causing the most destruction to our world,”
“And therefore that kind of shows that education is not succeeding and that our education is broken because education should be creating better people not worse.”
“[Most people Brindle’s age] want to understand more about climate change and what’s behind it, the issues of justice… and the politics behind it”.
Whilst schools are for the most part sympathetic, Joe highlights that they’re constrained by the demands of a high-stakes exam system, with teachers who often don’t have enough knowledge about climate change, on top of limited budgetary freedom to tackle these issues themselves.
Schools achieving net-zero targets
Another ask from Teach the Future is that “All new state-funded educational buildings should be net-zero from 2022; all existing state-funded educational buildings net-zero by 2030”.
Utility bills take up a large enough portion of a school’s budget especially as energy costs continue to rise – for example, my local, small village primary school spent upwards of £26k on their utility bills over a 12 month period between 2018-19 alone.
Whilst net-zero is the target the UK is working towards, and that Teach the Future want to bring forward, for now schools must take action to reduce what they can now. By optimising their energy efficiency with retrofit solutions and putting more efficient practices in place when using these resources, a massive reduction in their running costs, usage and carbon consumption can be achieved.
Taking steps to reduce schools’ carbon emissions
One big change schools can make towards net-zero is by investing in cleaner energy. Generating clean energy from Solar PV helps reduce demand from the electricity grid, which in turn reduces the amount of greenhouse gas produced through conventional coal or gas-fired power stations. It also can have significant impacts on a schools’ energy bills.
At SaveMoneyCutCarbon, we provide a complete end-to-end design, project management and installation services and where budget proves a problem, public schools can access interest-free funding through Salix Finance, whilst private schools can utilise our capital-free solution.
There are also many retrofit solutions that schools can implement to reduce their energy consumption and subsequent impact on the climate, such as:
- LED and Smart Lighting can be fitted in all areas in and around your school, especially in areas like classrooms, corridors and offices where lighting is required for extended periods.
- Eco Hand Dryers installed in washrooms can reduce annual costs by up to 97%, improve hygiene and reduce the wastage that comes with using paper towels.
- Smart radiator controls are a simple and effective way to control heating, and are proven to save up to 30% on heating bills by heating each room only when it’s needed.
- Water-saving taps and toilets can drastically reduce the amount of water you use, reducing your bills, but also conserving this resource.
Find out more about how your school can reduce its energy and water consumption through our dedicated Learn&Save hub for schools.
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