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Posted on Tue 22 May 2018

Belfast City Eco-Schools win war on waste

Schools from all across Belfast recently gathered at Belfast City Hall to celebrate environmental excellence with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Eco-Schools and Belfast City Council’s fourth year of the successful Wheelie Big Challenge.

The event was held in the spectacular setting of the Great Hall in Belfast City Hall. Schools across Belfast were invited to present their final findings and actions for this year’s Wheelie Big Challenge. The project saw pupils from 36 Belfast schools investigate and engage in practical actions to reduce waste, and particularly food waste, in school and at home by reducing, reusing and recycling. 

St Michael's Primary School Primary School took first place in the Primary category, second in the same category were St Anne's Primary School and third place Blackmountain Primary. St Mary’s Christian Brother’s Grammar School took the top spot in the Post Primary category. St Maria Goretti Nursery took first place in the Nursery category with St Peter’s Nursery and Good Shepherd Nursery coming runners up.

Shortlisted schools attending set up brilliant displays highlighting the work they had undertaken for the Wheelie Big Challenge which included everything from worms to welly-boot planters. Some schools had moved from having no recycling in school to having as much as 80% of their rubbish recycled by the end of the Challenge and many introduced wormeries, composting and brown bin collections to tackle food waste.

Four Belfast Eco-Schools were also officially presented with the prestigious and internationally recognised Eco-Schools Green Flag award for excellence in environmental work in their schools:  Forge Integrated Primary School, Good Shepherd Nursery School, Rosetta Primary School and St Joseph's College.

Ald Tommy Sandford, Chair of People and Communities Committee, Belfast City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see the effort and team work that these children have put in, to bring the “reduce, reuse, recycle” message to life in such a creative way. Congratulations to all the schools who made it through to the finals. It was also great to be able to celebrate the achievement of the Belfast schools receiving Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation”

Ruth Van Ry, Environmental Education Manager, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “Congratulations to all the schools receiving awards today through the Wheelie Big Challenge and Eco-Schools programme. Today was a wonderful opportunity to reward the efforts being made by those in the local area doing their bit to make Belfast a cleaner, greener and more sustainable place in which to live and we are delighted to be supported by Belfast City Council in recognising these efforts.”

The Eco-Schools Programme is the world’s largest environmental education programme which aims to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of school life. Eco-Schools work through a simple seven step process to implement behavioural change and study a range of topics, such as waste. By participating in projects like the Wheelie Big Challenge schools are able to reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable as they work through their Eco-Schools Programme. The programme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and most local Councils including Belfast City Council.

Schools who would like to get involved in the Eco-Schools Programme, or who would like to find out more, please visit www.eco-schoolsni.org.

Posted on Mon 09 Apr 2018

The Last Straw for Eco-Schools

Schools across NI have started to take interest in the issue of plastic straws, which are supplied with school milk. There has been a good deal of media attention recently on the issue of single use plastics and the detrimental effect they are having on our environment and it seems pupils have been taking note. Plastic straws are most often not recycled and end up as landfill or litter, or join the 80% of land based litter pollution that ends up in the sea, with devastating effects on marine life. 

One pupil at Mill Strand Integrated Primary School decided not to use a straw after seeing the often viewed video on social media of a sea turtle painfully having a plastic straw extracted from its nasal cavity. The actions of this one pupil drew the attention of the school and they decided to ditch plastic straws for all pupils who didn’t need them. The school now estimates that they are saving 165 straws per day... 825 per week, which adds up to 26,000 straws each school year! They have also passed this idea on to a partner primary school St Malachy’s in Coleraine and their Eco-Committee is going to pitch the idea to their school too. 

We have started to hear of other schools looking at this issue too. Hezlett Primary School, Coleraine, made it into the local papers with their ban of plastic straws, which was also motivated by the pupils’ alarm at the damage caused to marine life by plastics. Kilrea Primary School have also become a ‘Plastic Smart’ school and banned straws after their Eco-Committee surveyed how many they were using. They estimate they are now saving around 200 straws a week from being used. During a recent Green Flag assessment at Fair Hill Primary School, Dromore, the assessor was delighted to hear of the pupils’ plans to ban the straw there too. 

Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said that “Blue planet II resulted in the devastating impact of single use plastics on our oceans reaching pupils across NI.  This has given schools an important role in leading on the changes that now need to happen, particularly to reduce our unsustainable consumption of single use plastics. Unsurprisingly and encouragingly, schools are now rising to the challenge, showing the rest of society just how it can be done.”

Word is spreading and we would love to hear from your school if you have been taking similar actions. Please contact eco-schools@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org with any stories, pictures or figures you might have.


Posted on Fri 06 Apr 2018

New EXTENDED DEADLINE Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge 29th May 2018

New extended deadline 29th May 2018. 

Local schools embrace active travel for healthier & greener journeys

Schools across Northern Ireland are making ‘smart moves’ in a bid to cut congestion at school gates, boost pupil health and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.                         

Pupils are taking action following the launch of the Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge which promotes walking, cycling, bus and train travel for the school run instead of car use.

Translink’s Ursula Henderson says the Challenge is a smart move to get more young people thinking about the importance of ‘active travel’:

“This initiative supports the draft Programme for Government by encouraging an increase in public transport use and active travel for longer, healthier lives while also protecting the environment. It incorporates curriculum-linked classroom resources and encourages schools to develop sustainable travel plans for at least 2-weeks as a way to achieve the prestigious Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

Over the past 5 years, 5,850 pupils have taken part in the challenge completing 66,514 sustainable journeys, an increase of 64% in sustainable journeys from before the challenge, resulting in 23,797 fewer car journeys on our roads.

“We’re conscious that not all schools have the option of using ‘active travel’ modes on a regular basis due to their location but we still think it’s important to teach pupils about sustainable transport so they can make informed travel choices as they grow older and more independent. That’s why we’re encouraging all schools to submit their own #Smartmovers Project – demonstrating the steps they’ve taken to study the Eco Schools Transport Topic.

“Taking part is easy - simply visit www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/ to download our fun Key Stage 1 – 3 travel challenge classroom resources, find out more about our #Smartmovers project and be in with a chance of winning fantastic prizes for your school!” said Ursula.

Ruth Van Ry, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said:
“We are delighted to be supported by Translink in the Eco-Schools transport topic and to be promoting this great Travel Challenge again. We have seen more pupils every year take part which is a reflection of their desire to protect the environment and enjoy a healthy journey to school. We are asking teachers and parents to support our young enthusiasts to be ‘smartmovers’, reduce congestion and make more everyday journeys in a sustainable way!”


You can register for the Translink Travel Challenge through the Eco-Schools School Zone or by emailing ruth.vanry@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org Deadline for completed Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge entries is Tuesday 29th May 2018.

Posted on Mon 26 Mar 2018

New Water Explorer project support for 10 schools in NI announced

Eco-Schools are delighted to announce a new partnership with the Water Explorer project. This excellent project is run by the Global Action Plan and Eco-Schools NI will be encouraging and supporting schools to take part from now until the end of this school year.

Schools taking part are able to access the fantastic interactive online resource provided by Water Explorer which guides them through four water project themes: Precious Water, Secret Water, Fresher Water and Global Water. There are lots of opportunities to score points and win prizes.

The Eco-Schools team will be on hand to support your journey, provide workshops and whole school event support. We highly recommend these resources to any school looking at the Water and/or Global Perspective themes. We have the capacity to support 10 schools through the programme this year so please get in touch with ruth.vanry@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org ASAP to register your interest and find out more.