Blackwater community schools is a co-educational secondary school based in Lismore, Co. Waterford with over 750 students. There were awarded the Litter and Waste flag in 2020. They reduced their waste to landfill by 25%, eliminated litter blackspots and raised awareness within the school community.
Step 1: Green-Schools Committee
The Green-Schools committee was formed after a Green-Schools open day and students from most year groups joined on a voluntary basis. Posts like Chairperson and Secretary were advertised, and students then interviewed for them. The committee meet on a weekly basis and information is circulated via the notice board, intercom, school app, social media, and the TY Green-Schools module.
Step 2: Environmental Review
Blackwater Community School completed all essential actions as well as the recommended actions for their environmental review. They identified different types of litter and waste found around the school. Teacher and student surveys, office staff interviews, contact with the bin company and observations from around the school were carried out. The main findings have shown:
- Litter blackspots were identified and mapped
- The most common types or waste identified were:
- plastic bottles; 2. paper bags; 3. tin foil
- 25,000 sheets of photocopy paper used each week.
- Not enough bins on corridors.
- Recycling bins are not close enough to the general waste bins.
- The school has never been visited by the litter warden.
- Most students unaware of what is acceptable waste for the recycling bin.
- Overall, the school didn’t have a major litter problem and the canteen was relatively clean after each break.
- Teacher awareness was good overall and staffroom bins were used correctly. However, wastepaper and unnecessary printing were a huge problem in the staffroom, near staff computers and in the computer room.
Step 3: Action Plan
Blackwater Community School made a 2-year action plan and successfully implemented the following actions:
- Reduced landfill waste by 25%.
- Provision of well labelled recycling and food waste bins around the school.
- Ensured there was a recycling bin and waste bin in each room.
- Eliminated disposable plastic drinking bottles and installed a water fountain in the school.
- Reduced the amount of photocopying paper used.
- Increased awareness of electronic waste by hosting a battery and e-waste collection day.
- Contacted Waterford City and County Council to obtain a compost bin, litter pickers, gloves, and hi-vis jackets.
Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation
A litter picking rota was set up to monitor litter around the school. Litter is monitored by weekly litter picks and visiting litter blackspots. Photographs are taken and compared regularly to monitor changes in the amount of litter over time. Students are informed and the process is evaluated on a regular basis. Single-use plastic bottles are discouraged, and reusable bottles are encouraged.
The general waste bins are checked regularly to ensure that only items that cannot be recycled or composted are put in these bins. Regular contact with the bin company has been maintained so that the waste output from the school can be monitored on a regular basis. The caretaker regularly gives feedback on the waste situation. Office staff have been monitoring paper usage in an effort to reduce the amount of photocopy paper being used by the school.
Step 5: Curriculum Links
- Urban geography – Issues of waste disposal as urban areas grow
- Landfill vs incinerators
- Economic Geography – disagreements that occur in industry, case study: Ringaskiddy incinerator debate
- Human Geography – environmental issues are studied with a specific focus on waste disposal
- The methods of landfill disposal with a particular focus on what is happening in Cork and Dublin
- Urban problems in both developed and developing world explored
- The causes and effects of waste disposal in the developing world examined with the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil used as a case study
- Carbon cycle
- Water cycle
- Nitrogen cycle
- Conservation of Waste and Waste Management
- Nutrient recycling
- Farm waste disposal
- Take a stand (for the environment)
- The Environment
- Influences and decisions and how they affect the individual and the environment
- Reducing waste in the kitchen
- Food sustainability
- Pollution, waste, and recycling
- Consumer responsibility to the environment
- Die Umwelt (The Environment)
TY Community Care: Green-Schools module
- Assess school environment and identify problem areas, take on responsibility for litter and waste issues in the school
- Meet with local Tidy Towns to gain a better understanding of their role in the local environment
- Guest speaker and visit the town with the Tidy Towns group
- Regular litter picks
- Peer teaching, student survey and investigative work
Step 6: Informing and Involving
The Green-Schools committee informed the school and wider community by:
- Regularly updating the Green-Schools notice board
- Through social media like the school’s Facebook account
- Announcements are made on the school intercom system
- An open day is held in September each year where the chairperson of the Green-Schools committee gives a presentation to students
- Transition year students participate in a 6-week rotating module based on the current theme
- Teachers have opted into a single-use plastic bottle free zone for their classroom
- Presentation on reducing photocopy paper usage for teachers
- Parents are informed directly via the school app
- The local newspaper The Dungarvan Leader publish Green-Schools activities and tips on behalf of the school
- Regular meetings with the Tidy Towns committee at school and in the community
- They also organised a Day of Action and Action Week including a litter pick, single–use plastic ban, no printing or photocopying for the day, clothes collection, building a bug hotel and planting a herb garden
- Guest speakers from Tidy Towns and the Environmental Officer visited the school to give talks
Step 7: Green code
“Be Green, Keep Blackwater Community School clean.”
“Nearly all staff have come on board fully, there has been an unbelievably positive response form the school community. We have had a huge amount of positive responses and it has definitely changed the atmosphere regarding litter and waste in the school. Management have been extremely supportive. Our link with Lismore Tidy Towns has worked very well and they have been in our school regularly and we have met them in the community also. We have completed the Neat streets programme and have participated in the YRE competition for 2 years running. We have also completed a big clean up in conjunction with An Taisce. Ella Ryan from Waterford County Council has been invaluable in here advice and support. Timetabling for green school’s module worked brilliantly and ensured work was consistent and the feedback from students in this module has been very positive. A large number of teaching staff were allocated to this committee and their drive and enthusiasm has served us well. The grants from An Taisce really helped bring projects to light.
Overall Green Schools has brought a change in mindset to all of our school.”