Eco School

St Mary’s School is an Eco School and is one of five schools in the UK to achieve national Eco-Schools Ambassador status. We are committed to creating a sustainable environment in which to educate future generations.

Our award success

St Mary’s first became involved with the Eco Schools programme in September 2006. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength:

We won the Bronze Award in February 2007, the Silver Award in June 2007.

Seven Green Flag Awards, starting in 2008 and awarded every two years, after undergoing a rigorous re-application process. This makes us the only senior school in Essex to have this number of awards!

Over the years, St Mary’s has won a great many local and national awards in recognition of their sustainability. We have also hosted and sponsored Eco Schools training for local schools, presented at Colchester Borough Council’s Building Resilient Communities and Essex University’s Hot Debate on Climate Change. The Eco Schools Co-ordinator, Mrs Wilding, was also awarded Eco School Co-ordinator of the Year Award at a ceremony at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester in 2019 in recognition of her commitment to sustainability in the school and wider community.

What we do to sustain our environment

We recycle as much as we can, however, we are all too aware that to reduce, re-use or repair is better for the environment and we have many projects within school which aim to do just that, including:

Recycling all packaging by reusing it for art projects (we recently won first and second prize in the local authority’s Eco Art Competition) and we have many innovative recycling projects at school, for example, the annual ‘Trashion Show’ where each form creates an outfit from either upcycling or junk.

Making good use of our local Freecycle to obtain items for school such as a water butt and plants and seeds for our school gardening club. We also offer many items that we no longer need and recently re-homed an old printer and a stand for an overhead projector.

Supporting Bras for Breast Cancer (well, we are a girls’ school!)

We also belong to an organisation called Virtual Skip where we can advertise items that we no longer need and donate them to other organisations that could make use of them. In fact, we recently replaced some windows at school and our Gardening Club rescued the old ones to make a cold frame! Energy use and water consumption are monitored regularly, and we have a very effective waste management programme, where very little of our waste enters landfill; it is either re-used or recycled.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our ‘green’ credentials and consider the environmentally sound option when carrying out refurbishment work at school, radiators have thermostatic controls, sensor lighting has been installed in high traffic areas in the Senior School and bulbs have been replace with LEDs where practicable.

We are proud of our zero tolerance to waste and since embarking on the Eco Schools programme in 2006 we have seen a gradual decline in energy consumption. There was a marked reduction in 2007 and then a smaller decline, however, the trend is downwards.

Water consumption has also followed the same trend, installing Hippo water saving devices into the toilet cisterns has contributed to this together with a greater awareness of conserving our natural resources. We are currently investigating the feasibility of installing a Rainwater Harvesting system in school and are consulting with a local contractor.

Four photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the kitchens at our Lower School, are used to heat the water used within the school and nursery. We are currently monitoring the effectiveness of this investment.

We endeavour to use local suppliers and contractors for all our needs wherever possible:

We use local companies where practicable to purchase stationery for school.

The catering company we employ, Holroyd Howe also share our vision and have excellent ethical policies, including sourcing fish from sustainable stocks and using seasonal and local produce wherever possible. Their Sustainability Manager delivers workshops in school for students on topics such as Future Proof Foods.

Textiles and shoes are recycled for cash, which is re-invested for use on Eco Projects.

We encourage lift-sharing amongst staff and pupils (via parents) and have a School Travel Plan that has been approved by Essex County Council.

All waste that can be recycled or re-used is, including metal, plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, batteries, and printer toner cartridges.

We compost fruit/vegetable scraps from the school kitchen and all food waste is collected by a local company and taken to a biogas digester to be turned into heating energy.

We are actively looking to improve our environment:

We work very closely with Colchester Borough Council in promoting Eco Schools and with Essex Wildlife Trust on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of our school grounds. Essex Wildlife Trust regularly visit to lead environmental workshops for students.

We work closely with the local community and support initiatives such as Colchester in Bloom and East Anglia in Bloom. Previously we have won a Colchester in Bloom award for our container gardening and The Curators Award at the Budding Gardeners competition at RHS Hyde Hall.

To offset our carbon footprint, we take part in tree planting exercises at our Lower School in conjunction with The Woodland Trust.

Our popular Gardening Clubs teach pupils the confidence and skills to grow their own fruit and vegetables as well as teaching them skills such as taking cuttings and creating leaf mould for compost.

We take environmental awareness seriously

Environmental awareness is embedded throughout the whole school, from its development plan to the individual subject schemes of work:

The whole school development plan reflects the ethos of the school in terms of its commitment to the environment.

All staff take part in our annual ‘Eco Week’ and plan appropriate lessons and activities with an environmental theme.

Girls actively take part:

Each year group elects members for the Eco Team, and we meet regularly to ensure that we are doing everything that we should be and to discuss future projects.

Each term the Eco Team hold a whole-school assembly where they share information with the rest of the school on targets for energy saving and what the team are currently working on.

Termly Eco competitions are held at school, including the ‘Grub in a Tub’ competition – each form grows an edible garden in a recycled container, e.g. an old suitcase, desk, BBQ. They must include at least six varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers. Also popular are the ‘Trashion Shows’ in which students design, create and model outfits from recycled materials.

We are also taking part in national campaigns, such as the Climate Week Challenge and Earth Hour, both of which reinforce the message that we wish to send out to our customers, the parents, and the students that we educate.

The Eco Schools Co-ordinator has attended courses and conferences such as Green Leadership run by the National College for School Leaders, E.ON conferences in Nottingham and Girls Go Green at Cheltenham Ladies College. She disseminates the material she has gathered at staff meetings and to the school’s management. The Eco Schools Co-ordinator is given protected time on the timetable to carry out her duties.

As an Ambassador and Legacy School for the Eco Schools organisation, one of St Mary’s responsibilities is to support local schools in their journey to becoming future Eco Schools. Our Eco Schools Co-ordinator is often contacted by schools for advice and guidance. Many local schools have been inspired by the example set by St Mary’s and have run a series of twilight training workshops for local schools in conjunction with Colchester Borough Council.

We have a ‘shout from the rooftops’ approach to sharing all that we achieve as an Eco School and regularly feature in the local press, as well as Essex Wildlife Trust publicity material and we make effective use of our school website to highlight our key environmental activities.

For further information please visit www.ecoschools.org.uk

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