In true National Trust style, I diligently consumed tea and cakes last monday to celebrate the achievements of the 5 year long National Trust/Norfolk County Council’s Energybusters programme. This has helped a staggering 399 schools primary and secondary schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, which after 4 years were using 14% less energy than those that did not participate.
It’s not just the schools that have benefited – although an average annual saving of £342 for primary and £7240 for secondary schools goes a long way. The schools are responsible for 78% of Norfolk County Council’s carbon emissions and the programme has helped to put it in the top 2% of all Carbon Reduction Commitment participants (2011/12). The county council was ranked 25th out of 2,097 participants overall, and is on course to save over £1.8m a year on energy bills.
In one year, Hethersett High School reduced its carbon emissions by 18%, saving around £9,750 in energy costs. One of its cluster schools, Hethersett Woodside Infant and Nursery, saved £1,900 in just four months. Hellesdon High School’s (Academy) involvement in the EU funded 2012 ‘ANSWER’ Energy Ambassadors Programme helped it become one of Norfolk’s leading high schools for cutting energy consumption, with carbon emissions 35% below those expected for a school its type and size. This helped the school become one of 30 in Norfolk to be awarded full Eco-School Green Flag status, with a further 92 gaining the Eco-School Silver award and 96 gaining the Bronze award. There are 218 active Eco-Schools in Norfolk altogether.
The thing that really struck me is that it’s not just about saving energy or money. The pupils have gained so much more – in confidence, in presentation skills which would put many adults to shame, in calculating costs and benefits, in working with students from other years and other schools. Whilst I backpacked (with a suitcase) around the world in my gap year, one student – Cherish Watton – used the time to set up her own eco-consultancy. She’s now got a place at Cambridge to study history, proving you don’t need to be an environmental scientist or geographer to do this stuff.
And we’ve learned loads from the programme too. My two favourites are traffic light stickers on appliances so people know whether they can turn them off or not (or ask); and marking kettles with no. of cups of tea they hold. We’re now doing both of these in our regional office, although an alternative suggestion for the kettle label was “making everyone in the office a cup of tea, or just selfishly making yourself one”. The children seemed to particularly enjoy handing out report cards to teachers, especially when they have been using too much energy!