Sustainable ideas for schools

I was recently approached by my children’s school to be the parent representative on the school’s Eco committee. I am not a natural team player so usually give any institutional groups a swerve, but I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to influence a greener, more sustainable way of life within the school. So here I am, a fully-fledged committee person – let’s see how long it lasts.

I was interested to see what initiatives other schools were implementing in this area, so – doing what everyone does these days – I asked Instagram. The response was phenomenal… it actually gave me hope for humanity. The level of involvement, dedication and enthusiasm shown by so many was incredibly heartwarming and I received an enormous number of tips, ideas and recommendations. So many, in fact, and so useful, I thought it worthwhile to type them up into a handy, at-a-glance guide. Here it is.

Worth mentioning that, although I wrote this with schools in mind, these ideas could just as easily be implemented across any institutions – offices, sports centres… general life. I hope you find them as inspiring as I did.


  • Of all the eco ideas, this is the one that excites me the most – TerraCycle ‘recycles the non-recyclable’ – coffee pods, pens, squeezie pouches, toothpaste tubes, crisp packets… the list goes on. Collection bins can be set up around the school for various often-used items, which can then either be taken to the Terracycle collection points as they fill up
  • Costume loan/ swap for all dress up events e.g. World Book Day, Nativity plays, Halloween, Christmas jumpers, school plays, etc
  • Uniform swap/ secondhand sales
  • Switch all school computers/ tablets/ digital devices to the search engine Ecosia. Here’s a handy 50 reasons why you should do this now.
  • Reusable/ fillable pens – it’s often the little things that can make a huge difference (reference straws). If there are 500 children in a school, each using 10 pens a year, that’s a massive 5,000 plastic pens in landfill each year per school. You can find a handy guide to the top 10 refillable pens here
  • No plastic containers/ water bottles/ bags – children to bring in a labelled water bottle to school and no plastic bottles or bags to be given out at school or on school trips
  • Eco toilet roll to be used in all school toilets. Who Gives a Crap is a great option + they donate 50% of all their profits to help build toilets for those in need
  • Switch the school to a renewable energy supplier. Reassuringly, there are many options now available… see this useful article for advice
  • Set up a programme involving the children monitoring paper, water and food waste within the school. Children then get a true understanding of the scale of the waste they/ the school produces and can hopefully come up with solutions to reduce it. Rewards can be given to children for the most innovative solutions/ maximum effort.


  • Establish a kitchen garden with children being put on rota as kitchen garden monitors – sweeping, pruning, planting, general garden care
  • Compost bins for kitchen garden waste, left over lunches + food peelings from the kitchen. If the school is urban/ has no use for compost, the council can collect the food waste. If your district doesn’t have a council food waste collection service, this can be arranged through Veolia
  • Water butts to collect rain water (which can be used by children to water the kitchen garden)
  • Cookery classes using the vegetables grown in the kitchen garden
  • Meat free Mondays
  • Find a local beekeeper to visit the school and educate the children on the importance of bees and how to create bee friendly gardens
  • For city children: visits to farms to see first hand how food is grown and produced
  • Make sure the school’s food provider is the best you can get in terms of well-sourced, sustainably produced fresh food. A stamp from the Soil Association is a very good indicator.


  • Carbon off-setting: calculate carbon emissions generated by specific events (sports days, parties, etc) or calculate carbon generated by air/ car travel in school holidays… arrange for children to plant trees to off-set the emissions. Find a good calculator here. Woodland Trust have a ‘free trees for schools and communities’ scheme that you can apply for here
  • Arrange a car pooling scheme for parents who drive their children to school
  • For city children/ areas where there is a tight catchment area around the school, the school can offer rewards for cycling or walking to school
  • Litter picking – arrange a school excursion to a local park/ beach/ woodland to help clear litter


  • Schools can sign up to the free climate change curriculum from Thought Box Education. Billed as ‘a fully supported climate-crisis curriculum to empower the climate strike generation’
  • There is also the Eco Schools Programme which aims to develop pupils’ skills, raise environmental awareness, improve the school environment and create financial savings for schools as well as a whole host of other benefits
  • Sign up for the Big Schools’ Birdwatch – children get the opportunity to try their hand at being conservation scientists, helping to track the ups and downs of birds across the country