The commitment to caring for the environment demonstrated by students at St Mary’s School Colchester has earnt recognition as the first school in the UK to be awarded five Green Flags.
Green Flag by Eco-Schools is an international initiative run by Keep Britain Tidy and it aims to encourage young people around the world to value and care for their environment.
St Mary’s is one of a handful of Ambassador Eco-Schools in the country and has its own student-led Eco Team, which spearheads recycling and sustainability activities within the school, while also sharing its eco experience and expertise with like-minded organisations in the community through conferences and seminars. The school was awarded its first Green flag in 2008 and has been assessed every two years by Eco Schools in order to be
“Achieving the Green Flag for the fifth year in a row is a great achievement and one no other school in the country has managed,” said Mrs Sarah Wilding, St Mary’s Eco Co-ordinator. “Our students are certainly passionate about looking after our environment for future generations and their energy in spreading this message to other students and throughout the wider community is so impressive.”
In fact, St Mary’s has recently been invited to twin with a school in Australia, which has just received its first Green Flag, in order to show students on the other side of the world how school initiatives can make a positive difference to our planet.
Earlier this year, St Mary’s Eco Team responded to David Attenborough’s shocking revelation of the choking of our oceans by plastic and pressed the school to implement a ban on all single-use plastic water bottles. A re-fillable water bottle is now included in the list of essential school equipment for every student.
The school recycles as many materials as possible and initiatives are in place across the school to ‘reduce or re-use’, including:
- Recycling all packaging and reusing for art projects
- Making good use of the local Freecycle in order to obtain items for school use such as water butts and plants/seeds for the School Gardening Club as well as offering items the school no longer needs
- Supporting Bras for Breast Cancer
- Being part of the organisation Virtual Skip
- Uniform recycling for cash to re-invest in Eco Projects
- Considering environmentally sound options, such as timed lighting and installation of photovoltaic solar panels, when carrying out refurbishment at the School
St Mary’s works very closely with Colchester Borough Council in promoting Eco Schools and sharing knowledge and experience of eco-friendly school initiatives. The school also has an association with Essex Wildlife Trust to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the school grounds and Essex Wildlife Trust staff regularly lead environmental workshops for students. St Mary’s annual ‘Eco Week’ involves all students in the school in activities designed to encourage environmental awareness.
“We are extremely pleased to award St Mary’s their fifth international Eco-Schools Green Flag,” said Eco Schools Manager for England, Lee Wray-Davies, “that’s 10 years of eco-work led by their pupils and dedicated Eco-Coordinator, Mrs Wilding. Can you imagine the positive environmental impact they have made across the school community in this time? Not content with limiting single use plastics in their own school, St Mary’s have now twinned with the only Green Flag Eco-School in Australia to work together to reduce their plastic footprint. There’s no stopping them!”