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Posted on Mon 02 Jul 2018

It’s a family affair at Downpatrick Nursery School in another record breaking year for Green Flag Eco-Schools

It has been a record breaking year for Eco-Schools in Northern Ireland, with 295 now flying the prestigious Green Flag representing over 25% of all schools.  Eco-Schools is an international programme with 67 countries around the world involving over 18,000,000 pupils.

This year marked a landmark moment when Downpatrick Nursery School, the first school in the world to be awarded an Eco-Schools Green Flag in 1994, became the first school in NI to be awarded its 10th Green Flag, making it a world leader in sustainable education. Three generations of the Rutledge family, who have been involved in the Eco work at the school from the start, celebrated the moment. Catherine Rutledge parent to Alan, pupil at the time of the first flag, has worked at the school for a further 8 flags and Eboni, Alan’s daughter, is a current pupil.  

Former Principal of Downpatrick Nursery School, Kelsie Erskine commented at the 10th Green Flag celebrations: “I was excited when the information about the first ever Eco-Schools Award Scheme arrived in the Nursery School in 1994. I was always very interested in environmental issues and encouraged the children to take an interest in wildlife and nature. I had no idea all those years ago that we were the first school in the world to achieve this award! I am so delighted that the Nursery School has not only maintained this eco-friendly ethos but strengthened and developed it to win their 10th Eco-School Award after 24 years”

Lorna Burns, current Principal at the school commented: “I have felt honoured to take up the mantle of the Eco-Schools programme at Downpatrick Nursery School.  It has been very important to keep up the high standards of my predecessors.  The "Green" theme has become an integral part of our school life and the children are actively encouraged to promote environmental ideas and action plans to benefit not only the school but also the wider community. We are pleased to see that our parents and the local community all enjoy celebrating our success as an Eco-School and they actively embrace and support all the topics and initiatives that we promote. We aim to continue to find new ways of collaborating with other local schools of all ages in combined Eco-Schools projects".

The Green Flag is the respected eco-label for environmental education and performance, recognising Eco-Schools successful in protecting the environment and creating a sustainable future. 

Eco-Schools is pupil led with young people involved in the Eco-Committee and its decision making, as well as the practical action that follows.  Such amazing success is made possible with the support of teachers and the wider school community who share the ambition of parents and grand-parents in wanting every child to reach their full potential.

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, which runs Eco-Schools in Northern Ireland, added “By capturing the hearts and minds of pupils and teachers, Eco-Schools is making a real, tangible and positive impact on our environment.  The programme is engaging our young people, who will be the next generation of business and political leaders, in developing eco-friendly behaviours that also help our economy.”

Posted on Thu 28 Jun 2018

Northern Ireland School scoops top award in YRE International Reporting Competition

Twenty Post Primary schools from Northern Ireland took part in this year’s Young Reporters for the Environment campaign. The campaign was run in here by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful with support from Wrigley Litter Less and the Foundation for Environmental Education. Students investigated environmental issues ranging from marine plastic pollution to food waste and submitted written, video or photographic entries to the international YRE competition.

178 entries from 30 different countries around the world submitted entries to the international jury. We are delighted to announce that Wallace High School in Lisburn took first place in the video category 11-14 years. Their excellent entry, focusing on food waste, was submitted by Max and Josh Kamalarajah and impressed the judges with its composition, content and assured delivery. View the video here.

Uilida Integrated College, Carrickfergus, also received two Honourable Mentions for written articles they submitted on the topic of marine plastic.

Schools came together to celebrate this success at an event in Kilkeel which incorporated environmental and historical talks and a beach clean-up. If you would like more information on the YRE campaign please contact ruth.vanry@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

Posted on Wed 27 Jun 2018

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 video!

As the end of another school year approaches we wanted to share our video from this year's Teachers Conference with you all.

Thank you to everyone who attended, exhibited, spoke and provided workshops and helped make it a brilliant day.

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 from Eco-Schools Northern Ireland on Vimeo.

Posted on Thu 21 Jun 2018

Translink & Eco-Schools reward young people for choosing sustainable transport.

Schools across NI complete travel challenge to tackle traffic congestion

School pupils right across Northern Ireland have been rewarded for their efforts to use more sustainable transport during the 2017/18 Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge.

Over a two-week period, 28 local schools completed the ‘Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge’ with 3078 pupils monitoring their travel patterns and making an effort to walk, cycle, use the bus or train for the school run. There was a massive shift away from car use to sustainable travel with over 30,000 sustainable journeys made.

Blythefield Primary School, Belfast, Grosvenor Grammar School, Belfast, Longtower Primary School, Derry~Londonderry and St Colum’s Primary School, Portstewart were the top performers encouraging pupils and parents to choose more environmentally-friendly transport modes. Glencraig Primary School, Holywood, also won an Ulsterbus Tours educational class coach trip and day out in Dublin. 

Speaking at a special prize presentation, Translink Health & Safety Manager, John Thompson, said:

“Congratulations to all 28 schools who successfully completed the travel challenge!  You’re what we call in Translink – ‘Smartmovers’ – because you’re all making smart choices about how you travel.

“You’ve shown a real understanding about how Northern Ireland needs to address the issue of congestion in our towns and cities and care more for the environment to keep Northern Ireland moving and growing.
This serious issue was also addressed in our recent Road Share event in Oxford Street, Belfast city centre, where we demonstrated the ‘waste of space’ on our roads taken up by cars compared to buses, Glider, walking and cycling.

“The good news is that more and more people in Northern Ireland are choosing public transport with a record 81 million passenger journeys last year – the highest in the past 20 years – and we’re committed to further Infrastructure development, product innovation and sustained vehicle investment to attract even more people on board the bus and train.

“We would like to thank local schools for participating in the Challenge. It’s been really encouraging to see many participants make a 100% shift away from car travel and we hope they continue to choose sustainable transport in the years ahead” said John.

Ian Humphreys, CEO at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: "It’s great to see the number of pupils taking part in this challenge growing every year. By capturing the hearts and minds of our teachers and young people, the Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge is now bringing about real reductions in the morning school gate congestion.

“Car journeys reduced by 24% during the challenge and pupils taking part made 88% of their journeys without a car during the two-week period. Increasing use of greener forms of transport such as bus and train is all part of showing you live here and love here and there has never been a better time to start than now" Ian added.

Schools interested in participating in the next Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge as part of the Eco-Schools Awards Scheme can call 028 9073 6920 or click www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/.  For details on Ulsterbus Tours Educational Trips click www.ulsterbustours.com or call 028 9033 7004.

Posted on Tue 29 May 2018

Food Waste Challenge winners

Eco-Schools were delighted with the response from schools to the Food Waste Challenge this year. 150 schools signed up to take part and over 20,000 family pledges and bin stickers were distributed to households around the country.

Pupils learnt about the 3R’s of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling food waste, and the great benefits to the environment that making compost has too. They were asked to submit photos of their recycling actions into the Food Waste Challenge competition and submit entries on their food waste actions at school. We received lots of excellent photo entries and school action entries.

DAERA was delighted to recently report that Northern Ireland has achieved a 50% recycling rate across the country for all types of waste for the first time. New food waste legislation introduced last April has helped households reach this target, and so it is pertinent that this project is focusing on food waste in particular. Around 10 million tonnes of food, with a value of £17 billion, is wasted in the UK each year - 60% of which could be avoided.

Owen Lyttle, Head of Waste Policy, DAERA said: “With more household waste being recycled now than being landfilled in Northern Ireland this Food Waste Challenge provides a timely reminder to families to keep up the good work. Now is a good time to re-emphasise the need to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as much as possible. The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs applauds the enthusiasm of all the schools and pupils involved in the Challenge through their Eco-Schools work.”

A list of the winners can be found below. 

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Winners of the Food Waste 2018

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.