Greener schools: what parents can do

As a parent you can help reduce the environmental impact of the school day. Actions you can take include thinking about how your child gets to school and trying to influence school policy through active involvement you have with the school - like being a parent governor.

Getting to school

One of the main areas where you can have an effect is choosing how your child gets to school. Private car travel is a big source of carbon emissions, so finding alternative ways of getting to school will make a difference.

Things you could do include:

  • try to use greener methods of transport – cycling, walking or public transport
  • nominate one day a week (or more) as a walk or cycle to school day
  • suggest that your school supplies pupils with secure cycle sheds and safe routes to school
  • if you have to travel by car, see if you can share with a neighbour or friend

Food and drink at school

Producing, transporting and consuming food is responsible for nearly a third of the impact on climate change. Choices about packed lunches, tuck shops and the canteen can help the environment - and can often have additional benefits for children's health:

  • suggest stocking fresh, locally in season or Fairtrade produce in the tuck shop or canteen
  • suggest, or offer to set up, a school fruit and vegetable garden; this could also provide many learning opportunities and links to the curriculum
  • use a sturdy lunch box and drink bottles you can reuse to cut down on packaging waste
  • visit  'Love food hate waste' for more ideas

Reducing waste at school

There are many opportunities to reduce waste at school. For example, you could encourage the school to:

  • set up recycling bins in the classroom and encourage pupils to recycle
  • reduce the amount of packaged goods in lunchboxes to cut down the amount of waste
  • use both sides of paper to reduce waste
  • set up a scheme to encourage pupils to pass on or sell old text books to other pupils once they've finished with them
  • consider setting up a compost bin at the school to reduce food waste
  • arrange a visit to a local landfill or recycling site so pupils can see what happens to their waste 
  • for ideas on how to recycle different items at school visit 'recyclenow'

Saving energy at school

Saving energy can both save money and help the environment. Suggestions for saving energy in a school could include:

  • encouraging pupils to turn off lights and electronic equipment when they have finished using them
  • switching off computer monitors and printers properly instead of leaving them on standby
  • considering using energy saving light bulbs at the school, or even alternative energy sources for heating, like wind or solar power

Eco-Schools Programme

Environmental charity 'Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful' operate the international Eco-Schools programme in Northern Ireland.

It is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education in over 60 countries globally and is the world’s largest pupil led environmental education programme. Schools follow a simple seven-step framework to achieve the prestigious, internationally recognised Green Flag award.

The Eco-Schools programme provides an ideal way for fostering environmental awareness in the entire school in a way that links many curriculum subjects. Its primary aim is to bring together learning and action for the improvement of the environmental performance of schools and also leads to real financial savings.  

The majority of local councils and many other delivery partners offer invaluable practical support for the programme.

Schools taking part are part of an international programme working towards education for sustainable development and a better quality of life for local and global communities.

Additional information on partners, the programme framework, news and projects can be found on the Eco-Schools website. 

Becoming a school governor

Information on who can be a school governor, what's involved and how you can apply to be one.


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