The Eco-Schools’ programme is an international initiative designed to encourage whole-school action for the environment. It is a recognised award scheme that accredits schools which make a commitment to continuously improve their environmental performance.
The aim of the Eco-Schools’ programme is to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of the life and ethos of the school for both pupils and for staff, and to engage the wider community.
In Edinburgh, the Eco-Schools’ initiative ties in with other school-based campaigns such as Safer Routes to School, Health Promoting Schools, Enterprise in Education, Grounds for Awareness and Active Schools. The programme also links well with “Curriculum for Excellence”, encouraging cross curricular, rich learning experiences.
At Portobello High School, the Eco-Schools’ programme is put into practice by the Eco Committee, a group of pupils, staff and parents who meet monthly to develop the committee’s action plan. The Eco Team is a group of largely senior pupils who take responsibility for working on each action on a weekly basis.
In July 2014, Portobello High School became the first mainstream secondary school in Scotland to achieve the prestigious Eco Schools’ Green Flag status for the sixth time. The coveted Green Flag is awarded to schools who exhibit proactive environmental work covering topics such as water, health and wellbeing, waste minimisation, litter, transport, school grounds, biodiversity, food and the environment and energy. This renewal of the school’s Green Flag status was approved following two years of Eco Committee work focusing on Litter, Waste Minimisation and Energy.
The assessors commented in particular on the pleasing way in which dedicated Eco-Schools’ work has been sustained over such a long time at Portobello. The school has held the coveted Green Flag award since 2002.
Our work in school
During the 2014-15 session, the Eco Team focused on the topic of litter, holding a Bit It! Drama roadshow for all S1 and S2 pupils at the start of the session and revamping the anti-litter posters displayed around the school as part of the S3 Graphic Communication Eco-Schools poster competition. The committee also took part in a joint clean up event with council park rangers and McDonald’s volunteers for the third year running in May. The S2 and S4 pupils involved had a great time and made a big difference to tidying the park, burn and gardens.
The Eco Team has also promoted cycling as a sustainable and healthy form of transport. The session’s Eco Day in October raised over £600 for Sustrans and The Bicycle Games event in March gave S1 and S2 pupils the opportunity to show off their bike skills and compete for prizes at the same time. We have also continued to organise three Car Free/Share Days each year, to encourage staff to reduce the school’s carbon footprint and raise awareness of the issue.
One of the committee’s main aims this session was to become a Fair Aware school by teaching about Fair Trade initiatives and holding a Fair Trade stall on the last Thursday of every month. Eco Team members and S3 volunteers were really helpful in running the stall and taking orders for Fair Trade products from members of staff.
Environment Week, now held in October of every year, is an Inter-Disciplinary Learning project for S3s based around environmental issues. Departments contribute their own tasks to the project, such as the development of environmentally friendly slogans in Modern Languages, and the calculation and of CO2 emissions of vehicles in Maths, and subsequent discussion on how this will affect the environment.
The Eco Team have also tested their bird watching skills by taking part in 2013’s RSPB Really Big Schools’ Bird Count, at the nearby Figgate Park, spotting mergansers and chaffinches among other birds. The Team used funds raised from bake sales to continue to adopt the Svalbard polar bears with the WWF and out local giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo – watch out for PHS on the adoption screen there! This session the committee adopted a range of sharks too with the UK Shark Trust.
Work with the community
This session the committee continued making contact with Edinburgh University researchers, this time focusing on energy awareness and metering with Mark Selby. Pupils helped design energy meters and discussed how awareness of energy efficiency could be raised.
The committee continues to hold a School Grounds Saturday Surgery annually. The event in March 2015 made a big differences to the existing flowerbeds and paths, thanks to the helpful parent volunteers who came along and of course Eco Team members. The S2 John Muir Award group in 2015 also began work on a pond, which will hopefully be completed later in the year.
If you are a parent/carer of a Portobello High School pupil, or a resident of Portobello, and would like to get involved with the eco committee, please contact Sophie Bigg on 0131 669 2324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also keep up to date with the Eco Committee’s activities by following the Portobello Eco Blog.