St. Mary’s Secondary School is an all girls voluntary secondary school in Mallow with over 570 students. They were awarded their Litter & Waste flag in May 2016. Overall they reduced their landfill waste by over 33%, improved recycling and eliminated litter blackspots.
Step 1: Green-Schools Committee
A representative from each English class for all year groups was chosen. Students who were interested in being part of the committee made a presentation to their classmates outlining the reasons why they should be elected to the Green-Schools Committee. An anonymous class vote took place in each English class to decide on the committee members. The committee meet weekly and disseminated any decisions made through announcements, noticeboards and their Facebook page.
Step 2: Environmental Review
St. Mary’s Secondary School completed all of the essential actions for the environmental review. They identified the type of litter and waste present and how it could be recycled in the school. All students and teachers were surveyed in September 2014. Results showed:
- Blackspots were identified in ranking order from worst to least in the canteen, locker areas and outside the school yard
- 84% of the student population felt that waste was a problem in the school
- Post lunch-time was highlighted as a time when litter was particularly bad. Both students and teachers felt that there were not adequate litter bins in the school
- The committee emptied the contents of 3 bins to assess the main types of litter in the school
(a) Plastic bottles; (b) Food cartons; (c) Confectionary wrappers; (d) Paper.
- 65% of the student population were unaware of what is recyclable
- Subject coordinators were interviewed to assess whether they incorporate the topic of litter into their subject content. 60% claimed that they did
- In terms of waste, the school has 3 x 1100 litre paper and plastic recycling bins, 1 x 1100 litres cardboard, 1 x 240 litres glass bin and 2 x 280 litres compost bins.
- The school has mobile phone numbers for families and text messaging is frequently used instead of letters home to pass information on to parents
- The school provides information to staff on a continuously rolling PowerPoint presentation in the staff room.
Step 3: Action Plan
St Mary’s Secondary School set five goals starting out and made separate Action Plans to:
- To reduce school’s landfill waste by 8 lifts (30%) in 8 months
- To increase recycling by 2 lifts (40%) in 8 months.
- To increase cardboard recycling by 1 lift (100%) in 8 months.
- To continually educate the school community on litter and waste
- To keep the school litter free targeting litter blackspots.
They found organising a launch day for the Green-Schools programme was an effective awareness raising tool starting out the programme. One of their most successful actions was encouraging staff to reduce the amount of paper they used.
Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation
Litter is monitored by regularly visiting known litter blackspots. The team reward students who put their litter into the correct bin with a lollipop. If a litter blackspot is identified, the Green-Schools Team inform the Green-Schools coordinator who visits the students who hang out in these areas at lunch reminding them to be responsible and that they know what is recyclable and non-recyclable.
Data is regularly obtained from the waste disposal company and these figures are analysed during meetings. Bins are inspected every evening by Committee members. A rota ensures each committee member is assigned one afternoon to empty the recycling bins from the classrooms into the recycling bins in the corridors and out to the large wheelie bins. While doing this task, the committee members check the recycling bins for non-recyclables such as food, tin foil or cling film and check the general waste bin for recyclable items such as plastic bottles. Non-recyclable items are removed from the recycling bins and recyclable items are removed from the general waste bin. At weekly meetings findings from the previous week are discussed and a plan of action made (eg. poster campaign or an announcement) to target specific items that are being placed in the wrong bins.
Step 5: Curriculum Links
- Greenhouse Effect
- Water bottles display/poster campaign ‘Every Choice has a Consequence’
- Environmental impact of economic activities; environmental pollution at a local, national and global scale, fossil fuels and alternative energy sources
- Acid Rain, Greenhouse Effect, Animals going extinct
- Social Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility
- ‘Healthy Lunch Box’ competition
- Ecology studied
- Water treatment
- Toxic Waste & Nuclear Waste studied.
- Charts/Graphs produced to display figures for litter and waste in St. Mary’s.
- Rang Reiltin (Special Needs Class)
- Projects on ‘The Impact of Litter and Waste on the Environment’ and ‘Water: A Valuable Natural Resource’. The students create posters highlighting and raising awareness about these issues which are displayed on classroom walls.
- Planet/Environment/Pollution(national and global)
- Compost bins outside the home economics kitchen are used by all year groups for dumping raw scraps of fruit/vegetables when cooking.
- Students were asked to write an newspaper article entitled: “Future generations will be furious at our indifference to protecting the environment”
- Students wrote an acrostic poem about RECYCLING.
- Recycling: Art works are created using recycled materials.
Religion & CSPE
- Posters created to encourage students to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Step 6: Informing and Involving
- The school informed the school community using various mediums. For example:
- Waste figures are shared on the Green Schools noticeboard and on the Green Schools Committee Facebook page.
- Announcements over the intercom.
- Notices displayed on the screens in the canteen area, upstairs in the main corridor and in the staff room.
- Posters on the walls in the canteen are used to inform students, staff and visitors to the school how to use the bins correctly
- Posters are displayed on the walls of the school where bins are located to remind students what to put into what bin.
- Information regarding the latest work by the committee is posted in the School newsletter.
- They tweet about all school related activities, including activities conducted by the Green Schools Committee.
- The school email system is used to inform all staff members about Green-Schools related activities.
- They also organised a Day of Action and National Spring Clean in conjunction with Mallow Tidy Towns.
Step 7: Green code
“If we work together as a team, we can make our school green!”
“I believe that the programme is a wonderful experience for any students who get involved in it. In particular, I think that there are many students who are not sporty or not confident enough to get involved in debating clubs or drama clubs. I think the Green Schools programme is wonderful for this type of student – a student who wants to feel involved in the school community but may be a bit shy or insecure. I feel that these students in particular benefit from the programme as it gives them a sense of belonging but also instills a new confidence when they see what difference they can make in the school and that they have something valid to contribute to the whole school community.”