Harnessing the power of your staff teams to make lasting changes

Driving forward environmental sustainability initiatives can be hugely successful with a cross functional team formed from people working throughout a school. Many schools have teachers, support staff and managers who have a genuine interest in this subject, and together they can come up with innovative ideas – and make them happen!

Lacunza IH San Sebastian have done just this with their new “Sustainability Committee”, inviting people from across the school to participate in new projects. Involvement was completely voluntary, and the eight-person committee is now formed of four DOS, three teachers and one member of the customer care team – all ably supported by the great work of the maintenance department.

These are some of the innovative ideas they have implemented recently to protect our planet, with more in the pipeline for the coming school year.

A pollination garden

In the middle of May, teachers, students, their families and friends at a local school worked together to plant species to attract bees and other beneficial insects on an unused plot of land. Native plants were specially chosen to provide the necessary habitat for local insects, which pollinate plants that provide food that we humans eat, and also are an important resource for birds and other animals. Just a little bit of ingenuity like this can turn a piece of waste ground into a valuable environmental resource, and a great learning opportunity for the kids.

Rewilding urban areas is one of the initiatives of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, being launched in June 2021. Well done IH San Sebastian for getting started at the beginning!

Summer Course based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

A summer course for Young Learners will be offered from July 2021 with an educational framework of four of the UN sustainable development goals: Life on land, Life below Water, Zero Hunger and Clean Energy.

Academic teams at the school will also adapt successful sessions from this to be integrated into regular classes throughout the school year.

Poster Competition to promote sustainable behaviour

The school currently has posters in the bathrooms and kitchens to encourage people to reduce the consumption of paper, water and soap, and to sort waste for recycling.

To encourage students to engage better with this, they will be involved in a poster competition to promote sustainable behaviour. Their own designs can then be used around the school to advocate action from students following them.

This is also being used as an educational exercise, as students learning both English and French have the opportunity to speak and write about environmental issues in the languages they are learning.

Saving Water

With the support of the maintenance department, an ambitious plan to save water was created.

The flow rate in taps was analysed with the time they were turned on, to calculate overall water consumption. Targets were introduced to reduce water usage in different bathrooms by at least 27% by the end of 2021. However, with everybody’s support, a saving of approximately 50% of water in every bathroom was achieved by the end of May!

Saving treated and cleaned water is vitally important to maintain and restore natural rivers and streams for the fishes, invertebrates, small mammals, and birds that depend on them. Some of the most endangered habitats in developed countries like Spain are natural watercourses, so whatever we can do to reduce the pressure on an extracted and treated water supply is a good thing.

Checking eco-credentials of suppliers

A very powerful action for any purchaser to take – whether that is in our individual actions or corporately – is to check the eco-credentials of your suppliers and partners. Even if the company you want to buy hasn’t made the right commitments yet, the fact that you have asked them keeps this issue high up their agenda.

If every school or customer asked before signing a new contract, then in a few years all companies would respond to that need by changing their operations. If you go one step further and sometimes drop suppliers because their environmental credentials are not good enough, that is an even greater incentive for them to change.

Lacunza IH San Sebastian have been doing just this, by checking their supplier’s eco-credentials. For example, they buy books from Cambridge University Press, who were winners of a 2020 UK Sustainability Award at the Independent Publishers Awards, and they check the credentials of other publishers, for example Richmond’s flashcards from recycled card.

Toilet paper and paper towels are sourced from a company which uses recycled cellulose fibres from beverage containers, classroom paint is now only acrylic and water based, which means waste is non-toxic to dispose of, and from June 2021 will choose an electricity supplier that uses renewable sources.

Involving the whole school

Sustainability actions are the most successful when they involve all members of the school.

The sustainability committee at Lacunza IH San Sebastian communicates what they are doing to all employees through their internal Newsletter, they publish posters, and there is a padlet project where a “tip-of-the-week” is posted and all staff are invited to contribute with comments and their own tips.

All these innovative actions, are in addition to the many standard approaches that we see in many schools such as reusing wastepaper, recycling waste, reducing single use plastics, and reducing heating and air conditioning. For all of these initiatives, we are delighted to award Lacunza IH San Sebastian the IH Sustainability Badge!