Ashden was set up in 2001 to reward and support outstanding sustainable energy programmes in schools, businesses and not-for-profit organisations. At the heart of our work is the annual Ashden Awards, where winners are showcased as sustainable energy trailblazers, receiving a prize fund and media exposure.
We have been providing Ashden School Awards to schools since 2006, celebrating the achievements of schools that have cut their energy use, installed renewable energy technologies and embedded sustainability into their teaching curricula. So far, 20 schools have won an award; last year’s winners were Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College in Walthamstow and St Faith’s prep school in Cambridge.
Highlighting the achievements of the leaders in the field is all very well – but how do you get started? One thing we’ve learned is that schools need practical, hands-on support to help them make the changes they need to reduce their fuel bills and cut carbon. They want the opportunity to ask questions, discuss ideas and brainstorm solutions.
Ashden’s LESS CO2 programme In 2010 we established the LESS CO2 programme, a year-long practical learning programme that teaches schools how to get energy smart and, most importantly, how to save vital funds that can be ploughed back into educating their pupils.
Schools take part in a series of four workshops throughout the year covering various aspects of energy saving, from recording meter readings to monitoring energy use, behaviour change for staff and students, and incorporating sustainability into the curriculum.
As well as the workshops, participants also receive mentoring from Ashden Award‑winning schools, a free energy audit, and advice on steps to reduce their energy use.
Impact so far So far some 40 primary and secondary schools in Devon, Cornwall and East Sussex have completed the LESS CO2 programme, and 42 more schools across London, Devon, Essex, Surrey and Hampshire started the programme this September.
The results so far are impressive: in 2012, participating schools in Devon and Cornwall saved an average of £5,000 on their energy bills, inspired pupils and staff to change their behaviour and started to integrate sustainability throughout the curriculum.
As well as cutting their fuel bills, LESS CO2 schools are also making significant carbon savings, with schools in Devon and Cornwall reducing their CO2 emissions by over 300 tonnes over the course of the programme. Many schools are also reporting a greater sense of community from the local support networks that have been created through participating in LESS CO2.
And the benefits don’t stop there. By encouraging schools to work with local contractors such as solar power installers and energy efficiency advisors, LESS CO2 is also helping boost local economies.
Drawing on the experience of all our award‑winning schools, here are some tips to get you started on your energy-saving journey.
Switch off the lights Turn off lights when you don’t need them. Students and staff should be responsible for ensuring that all the lights are turned off in the classroom when they are empty. Make sure that daylight and motion sensors are not turning lights on when they are not needed. Reward classes that remember to turn off all the lights in their classrooms. Use students to carry out regular checks at break times, lunchtimes or after school.
The same can be said of computers. It’s a simple rule – if it is not being used, turn it off. Make sure equipment like screens, whiteboards, printers and photocopiers, are only turned on when they are actually needed. Automatic power-down systems can be installed on most computer networks to do this for you – or you can use students to carry out spot checks.
Room temperature Don’t overheat your school – generally classrooms only need to be heated to 18-19 °C. Make sure you are not overheating areas like corridors, bathrooms and storage areas.
Turn the heating down or off in areas where it is not needed. If possible, use zoning, so areas can be maintained at the right temperature. Where possible, avoid plug-in storage or fan heaters. If staff or students complain about being cold, ask them to wear more layers.
Manage your heating controls and timing to ensure that your school is only heated when absolutely necessary. By reducing the time that your heating is running by just 10 or 20 minutes per day, you can save a lot over the year. Your school does not need to be fully heated by the time the first early bird arrives for work. Make sure your school is a comfortable temperature when most staff arrive, and getting cooler when most leave at the end of the day.
Conserve heat Make sure that you are not simply heating the air around your schools by insulating all your roofs and walls, making sure that windows and doors don’t have drafts. Insulate your pipes throughout your school to conserve the heat in your water. Make sure that doors are closed to keep heat in – you could use freezer curtains to conserve heat in Early Years areas while still ensuring through-flow of students into outside areas.
Schools should also make use of sunlight. Make sure that all the windows in your school are clear of any displays, posters and blinds to ensure that you are making the most of natural sunlight. Not only will this make the classrooms a more pleasant working environment, but will mean that you shouldn’t need the lights on as much.
Green clubs Students can be a fantastic source of ideas and inspiration, as well as a great supply of free labour. Your students will be able to come up with lots of creative ideas to save energy in your school. Give them ownership and responsibility in their energy saving actions. Start up an Energy Saving Club – give them all a badge and ask them to put on an assembly. Listen to their views and ideas and make sure that their efforts are rewarded.