8 Best Practices Of Sustainable Schools

May 04, 2023 8 Min Read
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Photo by Alexander Abero @ unsplash

"Your educational institution can become a shining example of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and academic excellence."

Sustainable schools are gaining traction with the new wave of educational institutions that prioritise environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and academic excellence. As an administrator of an educational institution, adopting these practices will not only create a greener, more socially conscious environment but also improve the reputation and overall efficiency of your school. 

Read more: Leading with Purpose in the Era of Sustainability

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Intrigued by the concept of sustainable schools? Look no further as you're about to embark on a journey that will unveil the best practices of these eco-friendly educational institutions. Embrace the eco-conscious mindset and let the future of education inspire your institution's sustainability journey. So, dive in and discover the best practices of sustainable schools that can transform your institution.

[1] Reducing Energy Consumption 

One of the hallmarks of sustainable schools is their commitment to reducing energy consumption. By optimising the use of natural light, installing energy-efficient lighting systems, and implementing smart energy management tools, these schools significantly decrease their carbon footprint. 

Apply these practices in your institution by:

  • Maximising natural light in the buildings to minimise artificial lighting usage.
  • Installing energy-efficient lighting systems, such as LED lights.
  • Adopting smart energy management tools and monitoring systems to track energy usage and implement energy-saving measures. 
  • Conduct regular energy audits to assess your institution's energy consumption patterns and identify areas for improvement. 
  • Integrate energy-saving practices into your institution's information technology infrastructure. This can include enabling power-saving settings on devices, virtualising servers, and encouraging responsible printing habits among students and staff.
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Incorporating energy-saving measures in your educational institution not only reduces its environmental impact but also leads to cost savings in the long run. By fostering a culture of sustainability and continuous improvement, your institution can become a leader in energy conservation and inspire others to follow suit. 

Explore: Building A Sustainable Organisation

If you want to know more about energy efficiency, you can visit here for more information.

[2] Resource Conservation 

Sustainable schools demonstrate a strong focus on conserving resources like water, paper, and other materials. They often achieve this through practices like: 

  • Installing water-saving fixtures, rainwater harvesting systems, and greywater recycling.
  • Encouraging paperless communication and promoting recycling initiatives.
  • Opting for reusable and sustainable supplies and materials.

Your institution can adopt these practices by:

  • Assessing the campus's water consumption and implementing water-saving measures.
  • Encouraging paperless communication and providing recycling bins throughout the campus.
  • Choosing eco-friendly supplies and opting for durable, reusable products whenever possible.
  • Creating a comprehensive plan that outlines your institution's goals and strategies for conserving resources. 
  • Implementing a Campus-Wide Sustainability Policy by establishing a clear policy that outlines your institution's commitment to sustainability and resource conservation. 

By prioritising resource conservation, your institution will not only reduce its environmental impact but also promote responsible consumption among students and staff. This commitment will set your school apart as an exemplary model of environmental stewardship and inspire others to adopt similar practices in their own communities.

[3] Embracing Renewable Energy 

Sustainable schools often harness renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal power to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Consider investing in renewable energy solutions for your institution, such as: 

  • Installing solar panels on campus buildings to generate clean electricity.
  • Exploring wind power or geothermal energy options if they're viable for your location.
  • Encouraging the use of electric or hybrid vehicles by providing charging stations and incentives for staff and students.
  • Developing a long-term plan to transition your institution's energy consumption to renewable sources. 
  • Fostering a deeper understanding of the importance of renewable energy by incorporating relevant topics into the curriculum and organsing events or workshops that showcase the benefits of clean energy sources.
windmills on green field under white sky during daytime

Don't miss out on this: How To Design A Sustainable And Adaptive Organisation

By embracing renewable energy, your institution can significantly reduce its environmental impact and demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability. This proactive approach will inspire students, staff, and the broader community to adopt clean energy solutions and contribute to a more sustainable future for all.

[4] Promoting Sustainable Transportation 

Another noteworthy aspect of sustainable schools is their emphasis on eco-friendly transportation options. They encourage students and staff to walk, bike, or use public transportation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fostering a healthier lifestyle. 

Your institution can promote sustainable transportation by:

  • Providing bike racks and other facilities for students and staff who cycle to school.
  • Offering incentives for students and staff who use public transportation, carpool, or drive electric vehicles.
  • Collaborate with local government agencies and community organisations to support initiatives aimed at improving public transportation infrastructure and promoting sustainable transportation options.
blue and black bicycle parked on sidewalk during daytime

Continuously raise awareness of the environmental, social, and health benefits of sustainable transportation among students, staff, and the broader community. You can do this by ensuring that eco-friendly transportation remains a priority of your institution.

[5] Green Procurement And Supply Chain Management 

Sustainable schools prioritise purchasing eco-friendly products and services, and they expect their suppliers to adhere to sustainable practices. As an educational institution, you can: 

  • Develop a green procurement policy to guide your purchasing decisions.
  • Evaluate your suppliers based on their environmental and social performance.
  • Collaborate with your suppliers to promote sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.
  • Incorporate life cycle assessments into your procurement process to ensure that the products and services you purchase consider the environmental impacts from production to disposal.

Look at this: Going Green Does Have Tangible Benefits

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Continuously review and update your green procurement policy to stay current with the latest sustainability trends and standards, reinforcing your institution's commitment to environmental responsibility and fostering a strong relationship with suppliers who share your values.

[6] Fostering A Culture of Sustainability 

Perhaps the most significant practice of sustainable schools is cultivating a culture of sustainability among students, staff, and the broader community. They do this by: 

  • Integrating sustainability concepts into the curriculum.
  • Offering training and professional development opportunities focused on sustainability for staff.
  • Organising sustainability-related events and initiatives that engage the entire school community.
  • Establishing a dedicated committee composed of students, staff, and community members to develop and oversee the implementation of sustainability initiatives throughout the institution.

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Your institution can foster a culture of sustainability by: 

  • Including sustainability topics in the curriculum, incorporating environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainable development.
  • Organising workshops, seminars, and training sessions on sustainability for teachers and staff members, enabling them to pass on their knowledge to students.
  • Encouraging student clubs and extracurricular activities that focus on environmental and social issues, promoting a sense of responsibility and stewardship among students.

Regularly evaluate and refine your institution's sustainability efforts, seeking feedback from the school community to ensure continuous improvement and foster a sense of collective ownership in creating a sustainable future.

[7] Creating Sustainable Campus Infrastructure 

The design and maintenance of campus buildings and grounds can significantly impact the environment. Sustainable schools pay attention to this aspect by: 

  • Constructing or retrofitting buildings with green technologies and energy-efficient systems.
  • Landscaping with native plants and implementing water-efficient irrigation systems.
  • Adopting waste management practices, such as composting, recycling, and waste reduction programs.

To create a sustainable campus infrastructure, consider:

  • Assessing existing buildings and facilities to identify areas for improvement in terms of energy efficiency and environmental impact.
  • Planning future construction projects with sustainability in mind, incorporating green building materials and technologies.
  • Developing and implementing a campus-wide waste management plan that encourages recycling, composting, and waste reduction.
  • Creating and maintaining green spaces on campus, such as gardens, parks, or natural habitats, and participating in local ecosystem restoration efforts to promote biodiversity and improve the overall quality of the environment.

Foster a sense of pride and stewardship among students, staff, and the community by showcasing the sustainable features of your campus and highlighting the benefits they bring to both the environment and the overall educational experience.

[8] Engaging With The Community

Sustainable schools often actively engage with their local communities, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the environment and social well-being. To strengthen community ties and promote sustainability, your institution can: 

  • Organise community events and outreach programs that focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship.
  • Establish partnerships with local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to collaborate on sustainability initiatives.
  • Encourage students and staff to volunteer for local environmental and social projects.
person holding there is no planet b poster

Supplementary reading: Sustainability Begins With Self-Awareness

By connecting with the local community, your institution not only reinforces its commitment to sustainability but also fosters a collaborative spirit that inspires positive change on a broader scale. Involving your school community in local initiatives encourages a deeper understanding of sustainability challenges and fosters a shared sense of responsibility and passion for creating a greener, more resilient future.

Takeaway

Your educational institution can become a shining example of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and academic excellence. You can do this by embracing a sustainability-driven mindset and fostering a culture of sustainability. In no time, your school will not only create a greener, healthier learning environment but also prepare students to become future leaders in the fight against pressing environmental and social challenges. Seize this opportunity and make a lasting impact on the world through your institution.

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Alex Greenfield is a passionate environmental educator and author with over a decade of experience in the field of sustainability. Drawing from her time as a teacher and school administrator, she advocates for sustainable practices in schools and promotes environmental education as a vital part of children's learning experience.

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