Rushbrooke N.S. is a large primary school on Great Island, Cobh, Co. Cork with 496 students and 28 teachers. The Green School Committee comprises the principal, 2 teachers, 2 parents, the caretaker and 6 children from 4th to 6th class, who were selected through an essay writing competition. The committee meets once a month. Rushbrooke N.S. recieved their first Green-Flag in March 2006.
Students from 4th to 6th classes were involved in the environmental review. All the schools waste was collected for one week and weighed and the results were recorded on a spreadsheet. It was discovered that over the course of one week the school produced 47.59 kg of waste and all of this was going to landfill. Under the new pay-by-weight system this would cost the school €600 per year. The students also examined the waste they were disposing and discovered that most of it was paper, cardboard and plastic.
The main aims of the action plan were to decrease the amount of school waste and also the cost. As most of the waste consisted of paper and plastic the school changed to a waste collector that offered kerb side collection of dry recyclables. For this to be effective dry recyclables had to be segregated in each class. All children and teachers also started to take their non-recyclable residual waste home. This was to encourage and promote waste prevention and minimisation in the home. Any other waste that the school creates (e.g. batteries) are recycled at bring centres. A lot of anti-litter signs were put up throughout the school. In the staffroom people were also reminded of how to deal with their waste through signs. Composting of green waste commenced half way through the first year with the senior classes and the staff room and has now been extended to the junior classes and is working well. By the time of application for their Green-Flag the schools had reduced its waste by 66%.
Some other projects were undertaken to expose the students as much as possible to the new green ethos of the school. An organic school garden was created, and every class planted something and looked after their own patch throughout the year. At the end of the year we had a cooking day, where most of the children were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. With the help of parents in the school a large quilt (10ft by 12ft) was created. Every child in the school got a 6 inch square piece of material and decorated it in various ways with the garden as its theme. The school has also been involved with Fota Wildlife Park by helping them to clean up the park as part of National Spring Clean. In return the park is helping the school by providing bark mulch for the garden. The school also adopts an animal from Fota’s Sponsorship programme every year. The school has also started participating in Birdwatch Ireland’s Garden Birdwatch survey since they started the Green- Schools programme and hope to continue this in years to come. Through all these projects the school has had a lot of opportunities to speak to the children about environmental issues and also to involve the wider community.
Rushbrooke National School is expanding very rapidly and has received funding for a new school for the junior children. It is hoped to incorporate energy efficiency in the new school building through building design and by getting a wood burning boiler to provide heating for the school.