Sustainable Schools & Universities

Creating sustainable schools can achieve great things! It is estimated that school and university facilities produce over ten per cent of national carbon emissions just through their energy use. Due to their footprint and reach, they are likely to have equivalent impacts on land-use, water usage and waste management.  Billions of pounds are also held by these institutions in investments through pension funds and endowments.

These establishments provide accommodation and services for hundreds of thousands of people and own huge buildings central to many cities and towns.  They often characterise a place and offer jobs for a high percentage of a local population.  These places can become hubs where people learn how to make a better future. Sustainable schools can also become shining examples in their use of energy and sustainable practices.

Here you will learn about what you can do as a parent, staff member or student to help initiate change in these important and very visible institutions.

How to improve sustainability

The opportunity to reduce impacts from these organisations is great.  Energy efficiency measures, renewable heating and electricity, could make these places net energy contributors, whilst being hubs for energy storage.  Early adopting sustainable schools and universities have already begun installing solar panels, but sadly a number are still reinstalling aged oil and gas central heating systems. This persists even where there is a great opportunity to install renewable alternatives.

Methods of transport to and from these places can also be greatly improved through encouragement to use two-wheeler vehicles, shared transport schemes and electric cars.  It is also possible for these organisations to greatly improve environmentally friendly practices around food, waste and educational resources.

Funds held by these organisations have often become a target for campaigners, resulting in many divesting pensions and other endowed holdings. However, it should be noted that non-private organisations have their pensions and budgets managed by local councils.

What is holding back progress?

For most organisations, the single biggest barrier to implement new practices is money, with knowledge, time and support for change also being major issues.  Many receive some form of professional support to help them consider sustainability, but with institutional resistance and finance being barriers, they often do not propose bold solutions.  Sustainability has an annual budget which is mostly spent on reporting an institution’s annual impact.

Capital expenditures which reduce the overhead costs of an institution are considered major projects and when they are proposed they are usually dismissed due to tight budget restrictions.   Those managing finances often need to see 1-3 year returns on invested time, money and resources. This approach misses the opportunities over a 10-20 year period represented by very high potential returns from investments such as solar panels or heat pump installation. 

Most do have a school sustainability plan. This is often created to demonstrate that the organisation has given these issues some thought and to ensure they meet mandated requirements.  These plans sometimes are embedded in the strategic thinking of an organisation, but more often than not they are simply a sideline.

On divesting funds, the biggest thing holding organisations back is the difficulty in moving these funds with the time and attention people can invest in making this change.  It is often complex to move pension funds – you can learn more about this on our Divesting Pensions pages.

What can be done to support change?

Informing people of what can be done, alongside the creation of institutional support, are the two biggest ways to enable change.  To do that, a single person or a group of people will need to consider what could be done by the organisation.  

Often the glossy sustainability report is the best place to start, to consider alongside some blue-sky thinking about what is possible. Our pages on Better Homes offer a huge resource in considering building management, whilst our pages on Better Living offer thought-provoking resources on food, fashion and technology. 

In addition, our community site offers support – simply ask a question and someone should come to your aid!

Research your project

The research stage can be incredibly time consuming and therefore it’s often best to go to meet the professional who deals with sustainability at the organisation.  You should consider the scope for changes prior to meeting them and ask for a tour of what’s been done at their site.  Often these individuals are very willing to spare the time to help educate someone from within the organisation who may be willing to help.

You may then be in a position to start talking with other members of the community around the organisation about what they think should be done.  Sometimes you can get support to host a gathering and this could then form the basis of a group to think about sustainability.  

Do have a look out for groups that have already started and don’t be put off by any existing lack of progress. If there is already a group, then your injection of energy and the support from our community could make all the difference!

Find the funding

By this stage you should have realised the scope of the potential changes that could be made, with perhaps some idea of the costs required to implement them.  It can be extremely beneficial to, at this point, consider how to overcome the biggest barrier of all – the money.   

Often what isn’t considered by organisations is the potential to raise money to fund capital improvements. This doesn’t have to entail a charitable fundraising effort. It is possible to create bonds in capital improvement and sell them as investments to stakeholders.

This type of thinking is complex.  Where possible it’s best to tap into demonstration projects which have done similar things.  We are hoping to develop a library of such demonstrations within our community website, so if you do any research, we would love you to please share it!

Meet with the board

When you’ve got all your ducks in a row it’s time to get a meeting with the board of the organisation, or if they don’t respond to you or the group, then to campaign for changes.  Simple commitments are best to frame such a meeting, they offer incredible PR benefits for the organisation and are easy for others to support.  Here are some top potential commitments you could campaign for:

  • Make xx school carbon neutral by 2030 by: –
    • Moving all school consumed electricity to 100% renewable by 2025.
    • Replacing all existing heating systems with renewable alternatives by 2030.
    • Meet 50% of the school’s electricity needs by producing solar energy by 2025.
  • Divest the school’s pension fund entirely away from fossil fuels by 2025.
  • Allow only electric vehicles to park on school premises by 2035.
  • Move all school meals to 100% vegan by 2023.

Of course, there are numerous ways of creating very different types of commitments and we welcome you to share your thoughts and experiences within our community area.

Got ways to improve this page?  Chip in your thoughts into this topic and let’s improve it for everyone!

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Some charities recommended by our community than can help a member of a school make change

RecommendationWebsiteDescription
Action for Conservationhttps://www.actionforconservation.org/schoolsTo bring the magic of nature into young people's lives, inspiring a youth movement committed to conservation and to the earth.
Campaign Against Climate Changehttps://www.campaigncc.org/aboutus/whoweareHelp coordinate action related to climate change
Climate Outreachhttps://climateoutreach.orgSupport organisations and individuals engage with climate change
Extinction Rebellionhttps://rebellion.earth/Extinction Rebellion is a global environmental movement with the stated aim of using nonviolent civil disobedience to compel government action to avoid tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
Friends of the Earthhttps://friendsoftheearth.uk/
Go Fossil Freehttps://gofossilfree.org/divestment/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment/Advice on how to divest
Happy School Baghttp://www.happyschoolbag.co.uk/Happy School Bag is an easy fundraising scheme that helps schools, clubs and other organisations to raise funds through the collection of pre-loved reusable clothing.
Keep Britain Tidyhttps://www.keepbritaintidy.orgKeep Britain Tidy is a UK-based independent environmental charity. The organisation campaigns to reduce litter, improve local places and prevent waste. It also runs Eco Schools, an intitative to improve how schools function.
Possible LTDhttps://www.wearepossible.orgPartner of Better Century: Empower communities to tackle climate change
Students Organising for Sustainabilityhttps://sustainability.nus.org.uk/Educational charity that seeks to get more students leading on and learning about sustainability.
The Wildlife Trustshttps://www.wildlifetrusts.org/The Wildlife Trusts, the trading name of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, is an organisation made up of 46 local Wildlife Trusts in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and Alderney. The Wildlife Trusts, between them, look after around 2,300 nature reserves covering more than 98,000 hectares.
Trees for Citieshttps://www.treesforcities.orgTrees for cities support local communities to engage with nature, a major factor for individual environmental awareness.
WWFhttps://www.wwf.org.uk/World Wildlife Fund

Professional services recommended by our community for investigation into sustainability measures

RecommendationWebsiteDescription
Beond Grouphttps://beondgroup.com
BioRegionalhttps://www.bioregional.comSupport organisations and places become more sustainable
Carbon Footprinthttps://www.carbonfootprint.com/Carbon footprint
Climate Carehttps://climatecare.org/Carbon Offsetting
Climate Stewardshttps://www.climatestewards.org/Carbon Offsetting
EcoActhttps://eco-act.com
Ends Directoryhttps://www.endsdirectory.com/Directory of suppliers to support businesses
Forum for the Futurehttps://www.forumforthefuture.org/Consultancy that supports businesses and governments tackle complex challenges
Greenredeemhttps://www.greenredeem.co.uk/Recycling & Water Reward Scheme for everyday green actions with incentivised recycling
SustainAbilityhttp://sustainability.com/who-we-are/Consultancy that supports businesses to operate more sustainably
Trina Solarhttps://www.trinasolar.com
WORK WILD LIMITEDhttps://workwild.spaceMaximising staff through engagement with nature
RecommendationWebsiteDescription
1 World Solarhttp://www.1worldsolar.co.uk/
AD Heating Ltdhttp://www.adheating.co.uk/
AGMS Independent Energyhttps://www.agmsenergy.com/
Anderson Floor Warming And Renewableshttps://www.andersonfloorwarming.co.uk/
AR POWERhttp://www.arpower.co.uk/
Aran Services Ltdhttps://www.aranservices.co.uk/
Beond Grouphttps://beondgroup.com
Bioheat Energy Limitedhttps://www.bioheat.co.uk/Provide renewable heating systems
Box Powerhttps://www.boxergy.comProvide renewable heating systems
Carbon Trusthttps://www.carbontrust.comSupport people and organisations to reduce carbon
Darren Evanshttp://www.darren-evans.co.uk/Provide sustainability services for work places
Ecolivinghttp://www.ecolivinguk.com/
Ecovolt Environmenthttps://www.ecovoltenvironment.com/
Energie Solutionshttps://www.energiesolutions.co.uk/
Energy Saving Trusthttp://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/about-usImpartial advice to save energy
Energy Solutionshttps://www.energy-solutions.co.uk/about-usManufacturer and supply chain provider
Eternal Energy Systems Ltdhttps://www.eternalenergysystems.co.uk/
GenFIT c/o PV FIT Ltdhttps://www.generationfit.co.uk/
Green Building Storehttps://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/Partner of Better Century: Products and support for energy efficient homes and buildings. Triple glazed windows & doors, MVHR ventilation, airtightness & insulation.
GreenGenUK Limitedhttp://www.greengenuk.com/
Greenscape Energy Ltdhttps://greenscapeenergy.co.uk/
Greenshop Solarhttps://www.greenshopsolar.co.uk/
H2ecO Ltdhttps://h2-eco.com/
Happy Energyhttp://happyenergy.co.uk/
Hero Renewables Ltdhttp://herorenewables.co.uk/
Joju Solarhttps://www.jojusolar.co.uk/
Low Carbon Hubhttps://www.lowcarbonhub.org/Support businesses to install renewable energy systems
Micro-Renewable Solutionshttps://www.microrenewable.co.uk/
MIG Renewable Technologies Ltdhttp://migrenewables.com/
Navitas Sustainable Heating Systems Limitedhttp://www.navitassystems.co.uk/
Northburn Solarhttp://www.northburnsolar.co.uk/
Peak Power Systems Ltdhttps://www.peakpowersystems.co.uk/
Perfect Sense Energyhttps://perfectsenseenergy.com/
Perthshire Biofuelshttps://perthshirebiofuels.co.uk/
Pure Solar Ltd T/A Pure Renewableshttp://purerenewables.co.uk/
PV Renewable Energy LTDhttp://pvrenewables.co.uk/
R-ECO The Renewable Energy Co-operativehttp://www.r-eco.coop/
Robinsons M & Ehttps://www.robinsonsmea.com/Commercial providers
Save Money Cut Carbonhttps://www.savemoneycutcarbon.com/Partner of Better Century: The go-to people for homes and organisations to reduce energy and water bills.
Trina Solarhttps://www.trinasolar.com
Zhyphenhttps://zhyphen.com/Zhyphen Energy Storage Systems can store the free, abundant energy from solar, wind or other renewable energy sources.
RecommendationWebsiteDescription
British Gashttps://www.britishgas.co.uk/business/gas-and-electricity/large-business/renewable-energy-for-business
Bulb Energy Limitedhttps://bulb.co.uk/
Co-op Energyhttps://www.cooperativeenergy.coop/
E.ON Energyhttps://www.eonenergy.com/
Ecotricityhttps://www.ecotricity.co.uk/
Green Network Energy Ltdhttps://greennetworkenergy.co.uk/
Green Star Energyhttps://www.mygreenstarenergy.com/
iSupplyhttps://www.isupplyenergy.co.uk
Pure Planethttps://purepla.net/
SO Energyhttps://www.so.energy/
The People's Power Partnershiphttps://thepeoplespower.co.uk/
Tonik Energyhttps://www.tonikenergy.com/Partner of Better Century
RecommendationWebsiteDescription
Enviromathttps://www.enviromat.co.uk/Supplier of green roof substrate
Green Roofs Directhttp://www.greenroofsdirect.com/Supplier of services to install green walls and roofs
Sedum Supply Ltdhttps://www.sedumsupply.co.uk/UK manufacturer of green roofs - offer consultancy and support.
RecommendationWebsiteLocationDescription
1 World Solarhttp://www.1worldsolar.co.uk/South West
AD Heating Ltdhttp://www.adheating.co.uk/Scotland
AES Ltdhttps://aessolar.co.uk/UK Wide
AGMS Independent Energyhttps://www.agmsenergy.com/Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.
Aissac Electrical & Solarhttps://www.aissac.co.uk/Aberdeenshire
Anderson Floor Warming And Renewableshttps://www.andersonfloorwarming.co.uk/Scotland
AR POWERhttp://www.arpower.co.uk/North East
Aran Services Ltdhttps://www.aranservices.co.uk/East
Beond Grouphttps://beondgroup.comUK Wide
Bradley Refrigerationhttp://www.bradley-refrigeration.com/NorthAir conditioning and renewables supplier
Cambridge Solar Ltdhttps://www.cambridge-solar.co.uk/Cambridge
Chelsfield Solarhttp://www.chelsfieldsolar.co.uk/South EastSolar PV
Darren Evanshttp://www.darren-evans.co.uk/UK WideProvide sustainability services for work places
Eco2Solarhttps://eco2solar.co.uk/UK WideInstallers of Solar PV for Commercial Construction projects
Ecocetera Limitedhttps://www.ecocetera.com/South West, WalesSolar PV, Battery Storage
Ecolivinghttp://www.ecolivinguk.com/Scotland
Ecovolt Environmenthttps://www.ecovoltenvironment.com/South East
Energie Solutionshttps://www.energiesolutions.co.uk/East
Energy Saving Trusthttp://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/about-usUK WideImpartial advice to save energy
Energy Solutionshttps://www.energy-solutions.co.uk/about-usEastManufacturer and supply chain provider
Eternal Energy Systems Ltdhttps://www.eternalenergysystems.co.uk/East
Exeo Energy Ltdhttps://www.exeoenergy.co.uk/Oxfordshire
GenFIT c/o PV FIT Ltdhttps://www.generationfit.co.uk/South
Green Building Storehttps://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/UK WidePartner of Better Century: Products and support for energy efficient homes and buildings. Triple glazed windows & doors, MVHR ventilation, airtightness & insulation.
Green Shop Solarhttps://www.greenshopsolar.co.uk/Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and OxfordshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
GreenGenUK Limitedhttp://www.greengenuk.com/Cornwall
Greenscape Energy Ltdhttps://greenscapeenergy.co.uk/East Anglia
Greenshop Solarhttps://www.greenshopsolar.co.uk/Midlands
H2ecO Ltdhttps://h2-eco.com/South West
Happy Energyhttp://happyenergy.co.uk/Cornwall
Hero Renewables Ltdhttp://herorenewables.co.uk/North West
Joju Solarhttps://www.jojusolar.co.uk/South
Low Carbon Hubhttps://www.lowcarbonhub.org/OxfordshireSupport businesses to install renewable energy systems
Micro-Renewable Solutionshttps://www.microrenewable.co.uk/Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Wiltshire
MIG Renewable Technologies Ltdhttp://migrenewables.com/South West
Mole Energyhttps://www.moleenergy.com/South WestSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Naked Solarhttps://nakedsolar.co.uk/CornwallSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Navitas Solar Installations Ltdhttp://www.navitas-solar.com/SheffieldSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Navitas Sustainable Heating Systems Limitedhttp://www.navitassystems.co.uk/South West
Northburn Solarhttp://www.northburnsolar.co.uk/North
Oxford Solar PVhttp://www.oxfordsolarpv.co.uk/OxfordshirePartner of Better Century: Solar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Peak Power Systems Ltdhttps://www.peakpowersystems.co.uk/North
Perfect Sense Energyhttps://perfectsenseenergy.com/North West
Perthshire Biofuelshttps://perthshirebiofuels.co.uk/Scotland
Public Power Solutionshttps://www.publicpowersolutions.co.ukUK WideSupport local authorities in setting up renewable energy projects
Pure Solar Ltd T/A Pure Renewableshttp://purerenewables.co.uk/North East
PV Renewable Energy LTDhttp://pvrenewables.co.uk/Witham, Danbury and Maldon Essex
R-ECO The Renewable Energy Co-operativehttp://www.r-eco.coop/Oxfordshire
Rudge Energyhttps://rudgeenergy.co.uk/South WestSolar PV, Battery Storage
Save Money Cut Carbonhttps://www.savemoneycutcarbon.com/UK WidePartner of Better Century: The go-to people for homes and organisations to reduce energy and water bills.
Sims Solar Ltdhttp://www.simssolar.co.uk/OxfordshireSolar PV, Battery Storage
So Go Solar Ltdhttps://sogosolar.co.uk/London and South EastSolar PV, Battery Storage
Sol PV Group Ltdhttps://www.solpvgroup.co.uk/UK Wide
Solar Star Power Limitedhttps://solarstarpower.com/MidlandsSolar PV, Battery Storage
Solar UK Ltdhttp://www.solaruk.com/SussexSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
Solar Voltaicshttps://www.solar-voltaics.com/?doing_wp_cron=1576509220.4467060565948486328125SussexSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Solarfithttps://www.solarfit.net/South WalesSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
Solarkinetics Ltdhttps://www.solarkinetics.co.uk/HerefordshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Solarsense UKhttps://www.solarsense-uk.com/UK WideSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging, Heating Systems
Solinvictushttp://solinvictus.co.uk/HertfordshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Solstice Energy Ltdhttp://www.solsticeenergy.co.uk/?LMCL=PDRAIkGloucestershireSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Spirit Energyhttps://www.spiritenergy.co.uk/Berkshire, and SouthSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging, Consultancy
Sunfarming UK Ltdhttp://sunfarming.co.uk/Devon and South WestSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
SunGift Energyhttps://www.sungiftsolar.co.uk/Devon and South WestSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Sunuser Limitedhttp://www.sunuser.co.uk/Leeds and Surrounding AreaSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Sussex Solarhttp://sussexsolar.com/Sussex, Surrey, Kent and HampshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
Synergy Power Ltdhttp://www.synergypowerltd.co.uk/West MidlandsSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
T4 Sustainability Ltdhttp://www.t4sltd.co.uk/DerbyshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
The Good Heat Companyhttp://www.goodheat.co.uk/South DevonSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
The Solar Electrician Ltdhttps://the-solar-electrician.com/Solihull, West MidlandsSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Tonik Energyhttps://www.tonikenergy.com/UK WidePartner of Better Century
Total Renewable Solutionshttp://www.totalrenewablesolutions.com/SomersetSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems
Treadlighterhttps://treadlighter.co.uk/LondonSolar PV, Battery Storage, EV Charging
Trina Solarhttps://www.trinasolar.comUK Wide
UK Alternative Energyhttps://www.ukalternativeenergy.co.uk/LicolnshireSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems, EV Charging
ZLC Energyhttps://zlcenergy.co.uk/CornwallSolar PV, Battery Storage, Heating Systems, EV Charging