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As the dust settles on Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 it seems a suitable time for BGS to reflect on our commitment to environmental sustainability. Climate change is a lived experience for us all and the calls for urgency in dealing with its causes and impacts are well overdue.
Over the past few years there has been a growing momentum in the pupil body to support green initiatives. As part of the Bristol Education Partnership Climate Challenge, pupils from across the school have been involved in regular meetings with other Bristol schools where they have been able to gain support and advice from local charities and organisations as well as academics from Bristol University and UWE about how to tackle the climate emergency. As part of this process our pupils have made pledges and consulted with SLT about how to implement them. On 11 November six students took part in a model United Nations COP26 where they took on the role of India and debated solutions to the climate emergency with other BEP schools.
Last year Ms Hutchings worked with the Year 9 Eco Club towards the Eco Schools award and they were successful in achieving both the Bronze and Silver awards. The aim this year is to achieve Green Flag status. The first whole school Eco Club meeting for this year was held on 3rd November with representatives joining from each year group to identify our key areas for action and discuss future initiatives. One outcome of this meeting was the decision to create an eco-bulletin with the aim of keeping the school up to date with Eco Club news and events as well as important global issues. Read the latest eco-bulletin here
The Year 7 and 8 Eco Club have identified waste as one of their key priorities for this year. In order to try and reduce consumption over Christmas they are running a second-hand ‘Thriftmas’ stall on 1 and 2 December. All of the money raised will be donated to the Avon Wildlife Trust. Supported by Ms Thomas they have also completed a litter pick in the school grounds and streets surrounding the school.
There has been passionate debate in the Year 9 Eco Club around food waste at the school with many ideas proposed for tackling this issue. Meat Free Mondays were introduced at BGS two years ago and the club are keen to explore ways to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of food production and find ways to promote the uptake of vegetarian options at lunch times.
We returned to school with a focus on Oxfam’s Second Hand September. This was led by Year 10 and 11 who have focused their sessions on the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry. They have pledged to discourage fast fashion and to put this into action they are planning a swish event. This will run during Fashion Revolution week, which happens every year in the week coinciding with 24 April, the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh.
The Sixth Form Climate Committee started the year aiming to engage the student body by sending out a survey to the whole of the Sixth Form to find out their priorities and ideas for promoting sustainability at BGS. They have already taken action on two key findings, creating signage to encourage better energy awareness and greater use of the recycling bins. Next term they are working with Mr Jakobek to invite some Old Bristolians to visit to speak to us about how we can reduce our carbon footprint.
A vital part of the work done by pupils in the Eco Clubs is raising the profile of green issues across the whole school. Last year we had a successful Green Day, kicked off with an assembly led by the Eco Club, with many pupils walking or cycling to school as part of the Sustrans Big Pedal competition. This year we are aiming to have a Green Week with a different focus and events running each day. In the lead up to Christmas all Eco Clubs have been working together to create an Eco Advent Calendar with tips and information about how to be more sustainable during the festive period.
Whilst it is encouraging that there is now a greater awareness around climate change a recent international survey of climate anxiety showed that the psychological burdens of climate crisis were “profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people around the world”. Our aim at BGS is to ensure our pupils have access to reliable information on climate mitigation and adaptation so that they feel a sense of optimism and hope for the future. By empowering our pupils so that they feel informed about how to make greener choices at an individual level as well as providing opportunities to join forces with like-minded people they will have the confidence and ability to “turn tragedy into triumph” (David Attenborough, COP26 Address)
Tamsin Yates, Geography Teacher