From our Eco Council (Year 7-13)
In Senior School and Sixth Form, the St Mary’s Environment Action Group (EAG) empowers girls to be leaders of sustainability and biodiversity in our community.
What we do
The EAG is made up of representatives from Years 7-13. We are committed to the continuous improvement of our environmental performance. We believe that we can make a difference, not only by improving our school’s physical environment, but also by educating our community about the importance of sustainable development.
The motto of our EAG is ‘Think Global, Act Local’.
This year we have seen a huge uptake in membership from Years 7-13 which is fantastic news. In response to this, we aimed to run whole school initiatives and age-specific ones.
We meet three times a half term and Sixth Form students lead the meetings. We are very lucky to have our Operations Manager, Greg Ball, attend meetings, as he is able to answer questions and thoughts from girls in real-time. He also takes suggestions within his remit (e.g. the plastic used for ‘grab ‘n’ go’ lunches) and resolves them in record time!
Whole school initiatives
This year we held many assemblies about the environment, which kept our Mary Ward value of ‘seeing good in all creation’ at the forefront of our community. These involved issues like fast fashion and textile pollution.
We always aim to inspire positivity when talking about challenging topics.
Ms Avery brings our attention to encouraging news stories, and Mrs Dodworth reflects on the ability of each person to create a harmonious and green world around us. After each assembly, we share follow-up videos for pupils to watch and discuss in form times. In this manner, we aimed to raise awareness and space for the girls to share their thoughts and opinions.
We were very fortunate to have a guest speaker, Professor Chris Rapley, a climate scientist from UCL. He had lunch with Sixth Form students, during which they were able to ask him many questions, before he addressed our Senior School and then the Junior School.
His talk was profoundly inspiring as he discussed the importance of ‘finding your voice’ in the fight against climate change.
Our most popular initiative was a vintage fashion sale, whereby students brought in a piece of clothing they no longer wore and gained a token. This token could be exchanged for a new piece of clothing, which meant girls could engage in ‘sustainable shopping’. The success of this initiative means that we will be running it twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer, from now on.
We also took part in the Big Climate Fightback launched by the Woodland Trust. We eagerly wished to pledge our commitment to fighting climate change by planting trees. The ultimate goal of the Woodland Trust is to plant a tree for every person in the country by 2025.
St Mary’s pledged four trees: at the Senior School, Wetenhall Cottage, Mary Ward House and the Junior School. The trees are native British broadleaf trees such as oak, birch, goat willow or hawthorn.
Last year, a group of enterprising Year 7 students started a recycling campaign for Walkers crisp packets which quickly became a whole school initiative as boxes were placed in every form room. This has led to an ongoing whole school recycling project which shows how easy sustainability is once the groundwork has been set up.
Eco Club for Key Stage 3
The EAG decided to run a creative eco club for KS3 during lunchtimes, as a great way to help the younger girls make friends beyond their form groups. The club was run with the Design and Technology department. The girls designed bird boxes made to National Trust specifications, and were in the process of constructing them when lockdown postponed our project. This will resume as soon as we are back in the building!
Remote EAG - #stillStMarys
Despite the challenges of remote teaching and the lockdown, the EAG remains active as we are #stillStMarys! Our first aim to spread positivity.
Firstly, at a time of such uncertainty and sadness there is some positive news - all this change has also led to some unexpected consequences. As industries, transport networks and businesses have closed down, it has brought a sudden drop in carbon emissions.
For example, compared with this time last year, levels of pollution in New York have reduced by nearly 50% because of measures to contain the virus. We are sending out positive news stories every week to the community as a way of keeping the environment in our thoughts.
Secondly, as a group we are collecting and sending out tips and fun ideas. There have been a lot of reports about how beneficial gardening is for mental health especially during a lockdown, so we have launched a gardening photography competition whereby the girls are invited to send an 'Eco-happy' garden photo. For the girls without gardens, we have sent them some tips on windowsill herb gardens.
Thirdly, we still meet every Monday lunchtime on Teams to discuss environmental topics. Our first session was based on David Attenborough’s new film on Netflix called Our Planet. This is a great way for the girls to connect over a shared interest and retain a sense of the happy bustle of school life.
Even though we are not physically together, we are still united by our common goal of raising awareness about environmental issues within our community. We will use this remote learning opportunity to inspire change from a distance!
Wider school projects
At an EAG meeting the girls talked about the sustainability of the sports ground at Long Road, which is currently being redeveloped. It was extremely heartening to find that:
- PV/ solar panels will be installed on the roof of the pavilion in order to meet an agreed percentage of energy needs
- Energy efficient lighting will be installed throughout
- We have taken account of the needs of local wildlife (especially bats) in terms of the provision of a dark corridor at key times of the year
- The planting scheme includes additional trees – replacing dead and damaged trees but also adding to the stock
- The drainage scheme includes anti-flood measures (including permeable surfaces) and dedicated areas for the conservation of ecology
We believe this shows that St Mary's commitment to the environment is wide-ranging and important in our wider development.
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