In 2004 St. Brendan's Boys Primary School, Birr, Co. Offaly, with 15 teachers and over 200 students, decided that it would be an excellent idea for the school to get involved with the Green-Schools programme. It was felt that the benefits to the school would be huge and the feel-good factor of achieving such an award would be very beneficial for both pupils and staff alike.
The students of St. Brendan’s elected 6 pupils onto the committee each representing classes 2nd to 6th and Class 7/9. Three teachers, three representatives from the school's Parent Association and the Caretaker also sit on the committee. The committee meets weekly and the minutes of the meetings are kept and used as the reference point in the event of any queries. Pupil committee members visit the junior classes regularly to keep them informed of Green-Schools issues.
In the Environmental review, the school identified that litter was not a problem and the school grounds are litter free as a result of their ‘Litter-In’ policy, whereby the pupils eat their lunch in their classroom, preventing potential litter being brought into the yard at break times. The school decided to focus their attention on reducing waste. Each classroom had two bins, green bin for landfill waste and blue bin for recyclables. The contents of these bins were emptied onto a desk in each classroom and a detailed log of all waste was recorded. The review was carried out by pupils under the supervision of their teachers. Cartons and paper were found to be the biggest waste streams by far. In 2005, there were 5 bins of non-recyclable waste and 3 bins of recyclable waste being removed from the school per week.
An action plan was drawn up based on the results of the review. Activities included:
The introduction of a third bin to each classroom for compostable waste.
The decision that children would bring home all break and lunch waste in their lunchboxes, apart from compostable waste. However, the committee did accept that this did not reduce the amount of waste in general. As a result the committee now encourages students to reduce the amount of pre-wrapped or non-biodegradable wrapping in use.
Writing up an article to send to the local newspaper to keep the local community up-to-date with what is going on in the school regarding their Green-Schools programme.
Dedicating page on the school website to Green-Schools programme.
Introduction of paper boxes to each classroom.
Introduction of a Green-Schools newsletter.
St. Brendan’s organised a number of days of action, including ‘Green Dress’ Day, Lunch ‘Waste Mountain’ Day, ‘Waste Free Lunch’ Day, Garden Day.
Green Dress day was held to raise funds to buy a composter, as well as raising awareness of the Green-Schools programme. Each pupil wore something green and put a donation in the ‘feed-me’ bin.
A ‘Waste Mountain’ day was organised in the school where all the waste from children’s lunches was gathered and displayed in the main hall. The purpose of this was to show the pupils the amount of waste being generated each lunch time and to encourage them to reduce it.
A ‘Waste Free Lunch’ day was organised for the schools Day of Action where the pupils brought in a waste free lunch. The prize for the class with the highest percentage of waste free lunches was a homework free day - "Congratulations to Sixth Class who enjoyed a lazy evening in January ."
St. Brendan’s also took part in the Annual Vintage Week parade held each year in August in the town of Birr. A large number of pupils took part and the local people got the pupils’ green message loud and clear.
In 2006, as a result of all the great and innovative work going on in St. Brendan’s, there are now 2 bins of non-recyclable waste (i.e. a 60% reduction) and 3 bins of recyclable waste being removed from the school per week.
St. Brendan’s Green Code, as made up and chosen by pupils, is:
"Do Not cause Waste, In This Beautiful Place, Remember, be Cool, Let’s Have a Green School."