Seven ways to improve your school's environmental footprint

Want to reduce your school’s environmental impact and set a good example for your students? There are lots of ways your school can show how much it cares about the future of its students through positive environmental actions, big and small.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Teach your students about recycling

Educating kids on how to recycle and the importance of getting it right can have big knock-on effects. You could be creating little waste warriors who will take that knowledge into adulthood as well as their homes, passing on what they’ve learned at school to their families. Planet Ark has developed curriculum-aligned lesson plans with Cool Australia (from early learning through to Year 10) to help educators bring these important topics into the classroom.

Take a look at our lesson plans and resources, including activities, games, arts and crafts guides and more. And put National Recycling Week (8–14 November 2021) in your calendar so you don’t miss it!

2. Switch to renewable energy

Imagine turning your school into a clean energy power station! A rooftop solar installation could power your school through the day and create a new revenue stream during the school holidays by selling clean energy to your community. Our partner, Planet Ark Power, is helping schools make the transition to renewable energy with rooftop solar. 

Learn about other schools who have made the switch and apply for a free energy analysis to get started. 

3. Set up recycling collection points 

While used printer cartridges and old mobile phones are technically recyclable, they can’t be put in kerbside recycling bins because Australia lacks the infrastructure to recycle them. Thankfully, special recycling programs have been created to make sure they don’t end up in landfill. Your school can make sure the valuable materials in these products are given new life by becoming a recycling collection point, reducing your school’s waste and providing families with an easy drop-off point for their e-waste (when COVID-19 restrictions ease).

Learn more about how your school can get free recycling boxes for used printer cartridges through Cartridges 4 Planet Ark and old mobile phones through MobileMuster.

4. Use recycled copy paper

Making the switch to Australian-made copy paper that is made with at least 50% recycled content is a great way to reduce your school’s carbon footprint. It also helps divert paper waste from landfill, supports local recycling industries, provides more green jobs and saves virgin resources by keeping materials in circulation for as long as possible. Learn more about the benefits of switching to Australian-made recycled paper

Planet Ark Paper Unwrapped is now available to schools for purchase. It ticks all of your environmental boxes! Planet Ark has reduced the product’s packaging by removing the ream wrappers, which means there is less waste. It’s also made from 100% recycled paper and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Learn more and find stockists for Planet Ark Paper Unwrapped

5. Get your hands dirty on Schools Tree Day

Whether you’re planting trees or seedlings on your school grounds or in your community, providing education on nature care or just spending time in nature, Schools Tree Day (Friday, 30 July 2021) is a great way to teach children about the many benefits of trees and why it’s so important to care for our natural environment.

Do you have an environmental project in mind? Your school can apply for a grant through The Seedling Bank to support the project. Applications for grants can be made when registering your Schools Tree Day event.

6. Start a compost or veggie patch

Did you know food waste releases methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon? By starting a compost at your school, you can save those food scraps from going to landfill and turn it into a science lesson! If you have some free space, why not start a veggie patch or a little garden? The students at Mater Dei Catholic Primary School (pictured above) even started their own environmental club called ‘BUGS’.

Learn more about food waste and how to start a compost.

7. Use less plastic in your canteen

With an estimated 40% of all plastic being single use, there is certainly an opportunity for us all to use less plastic. How many single-use plastic items are used in your canteen? Using paper bags instead of plastic bags, encouraging reusable cutlery and bottles, and recycling soft plastics through REDcycle are some ways your school can reduce its plastic footprint.

If you’re looking for a sustainable alternative to plastic and plastic-lined food contact products like cling wrap and greaseproof paper, Planet Ark has endorsed a natural paper packaging product called Rollo Wrap. It is completely free of ‘chemicals of concern’, such as PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances), that are often found in plastic-lined paper products. Rollo Wrap can be used as an environmentally responsible alternative to plastic-lined paper products in a range of applications such as sandwich wraps and bakery items. It’s also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, recyclable (with minimal food and grease contamination) and compostable!

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