St. Columba’s with facility for Deaf Children is a Girl’s school in the suburb of Douglas, Cork. They have approximately 600 students and at least 50 staff, so are quite a large primary school. Since 2002 they have been involved with the Green Schools programme. Through their involvement with this programme they have made environmental awareness and action an integral part of the life and ethos of the school.
Each September St. Columba’s set about choosing their Green committee for the year. Girls are invited to apply in writing to be on the committee and there are always plenty of applications to choose from. They try to ensure continuity by having some of the same girls return to the committee each year. Their Green Committee also has several members of staff as well as the school caretaker and they meet during lunchtime (30 minutes) once a fortnight.
When St. Columba’s first began working on the Green Schools Programme, they had a representative from each class on the committee, but because their school is so large these meetings proved unworkable. They then decided to limit the committee to classes 2nd to 6th with one child representing each class (they also pick a substitute in each class should the rep be absent). They then set up a buddy system whereby each class rep is paired up with a junior class. After each meeting the reps report back to their buddy class on the content of the meeting. In this way they ensure that information is filtered down through the school, while at the same time creating a nice link between older and younger girls in the school. Usually there are three or four sixth class girls on the committee and after every meeting they address the school assembly in the morning, communicating to the whole student body the main message of the previous meeting.
In 2009 they were delighted and proud to be awarded their third Green flag. To attain this flag they looked at water consumption and how this could be reduced. The results of a toilet flushing survey showed that we were wasting a lot of water. Our toilet cisterns are older and quite big. The committee first decided to place rocks in the cisterns to reduce each flush by one litre. As there were so many toilet cisterns in question, they later switched to filling half litre bottles with water and putting two of these into each cistern. This proved to be a much better way to tackle the problem. They made a model of the toilet cistern to explain to students what we were doing and how it saved water and estimate they saved 600 litres per day in the school.