Children at one of England’s oldest independent schools are following the lead of the world’s teenage environmental campaigners by helping to develop a new sustainability plan for their school.
Students from Durham School have been working on ideas around sustainability and environmental protection after becoming increasingly aware of and interested in the worldwide movement encouraging everyone to play their part in saving the planet.
A recent visit to the school by global environmental campaigner and communicator Robin Clegg fuelled their passion for putting the planet first, and reinforced their belief that committing to making changes in our everyday lives can make a big difference.
Robin has spent the past 15 years working with organisations including the World Wildlife Fund and The Ocean Race, raising awareness of the threats to the environment and bio-diversity.
He said: “It’s essential that people who’ve experienced conservation efforts and been to some of these places impart their experiences and knowledge to the next generation.
“They are our future leaders, who we need to educate and make aware of what the problems are. We need to inspire them to be part of the solution.
“Bringing that wonder and excitement of being in an amazing environment like the rain forest or a coral reef – being able to bring that back and share it… it’s not necessarily about inspiring them to do what I do, but more helping them to see that by being responsible human beings, they can make a difference.”
Year 7 pupil, Emilia Stanford, valued Robin’s visit. She said: “I really enjoyed hearing about his story. It has given me some ideas about what I’d like to do to help the environment when I’m older and leave school.”
Max Bell-Winward, also from year 7, added: “It made me realise that even the small changes we make at our school to be more sustainable can make a real difference.”
During the development of the sustainability plan, which will feed into a new school-wide environmental policy, ideas from the pupils have looked at many areas of school life, resulting in a wide variety of proposals around food, energy, transport, recycling, waste and tree-planting – as well as encouraging of using local produce and suppliers wherever possible.
Dr Christine Scott-Warburton, Head of Geography at Durham School, commented: “The pupil-led plan has come about from the pupils’ conversations in geography lessons as we cover sustainability concepts.
“They have become increasingly aware of the need to embed more sustainable practices into their ways of living and have become more and more vocal with their requests to ‘do something’.
“The youth movement through Greta Thunberg and her ‘school strikes for climate’ has mobilised their thinking on how we absolutely must change our habits and live more resourcefully to not cause lasting damage to our planet.”
The pupils have also been given the opportunity to discuss their ideas with Victoria Ashfield and Mandy Ross from the Durham City Council Environmental Committee which has helped shaped their thinking.