Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Environmental action in schools and colleges

Questions to be put to Councillor Peter Hammond at the next full meeting of Bristol City Council (13 Jan 2009) along with my e-petition on school environmental charters:

1. What action has been taken by Bristol City Council as a result of recent UK Sustainable Development Commission published research which showed that schools are responsible for 15% of UK public sector carbon emissions (9.4 million tonnes per year)?

2. Can the figures for carbon emissions from Bristol’s schools be made available and if there are none as yet available will the member ask officers to approach the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Sustainable Development Commission’s partner in producing the report referred to, as they hold the raw data and may be able to break it down to give figures for the city?

3. Consistent with objective 10 in the Bristol Green Capital pledge list to enhance environmental education and awareness, will the member circulate a Model Environmental Charter, such as the one described in my petition submitted to this meeting, to all Bristol schools and colleges, accompanied by a letter to governors urging them to adapt the model charter to suit, adopt it asap and agree to annually review and report progress relating to it?

4. Does the member agree that schools can play a major role in tackling climate change, especially through starting with their own school buildings, transport, waste and procurement, helping pupils and communities to learn about the sources of and solutions to carbon emissions and the consequences of not taking urgent and large scale action?

5. Does the member agree that the education system should provide a continuous opportunity to experience, practise and evaluate sustainable behaviours in recognition that empowering people to find solutions to sustainability problems is one of its core purposes and that therefore it is vital for all establishments to adopt their version of an environmental charter or a similar statement of intent, preferably accompanied by action plan?


  1. We desperately need some joined up thinking about the relationship between personal health and environmental health. Our current obsession with car ransport is simultaneously ruining our environment, our communities, our health, and our children’s health, wellbeing and freedom to play and live healthy lives.

    An example of this, from John Adams blog:

    “In 1971 Mayer Hillman and Anne Whalley “conducted a survey of English children’s independent mobility – how they got to school, visited friends and so on, whether they were allowed to get about and use public transport on their own and, if they owned a bicycle, to ride it on public roads, and how they spent the weekend previous to the survey. Parents also were involved by completing a questionnaire about the age up to which they imposed personal mobility restrictions on their children, and the reasons for doing so.

    These surveys were repeated in the same schools in 1990.…This follow-up study disclosed a dramatic loss of children’s independence over the previous 19 years. For instance, in 1971, 80% of 7 and 8-year old children got to school unaccompanied by an adult but by 1990 this proportion had fallen to 9%. With the collaboration of John Whitelegg, then at the Wuppertal Institute, matching surveys to provide a cultural comparison were conducted in West Germany. This revealed that, compared with the English, children there enjoyed a significantly higher level of independence.”

  2. Long and detailed answers given to some of these questions. Not always that well focussed though.

    Cllr Hammond described the work of the council with schools on the environment in his response to Q1 rather than addressing the question directly. My question was about council work done as a result of the SDC research - I did not ask for a general description of environmental education work, though that's what I got at length. However, he did welcome the SDC research and noted its recommendations. There is obviously some fairly decent work being done on sustainable schools but what I want is work that can clearly demonstrate prompt and marked reductions in school environmental impacts and increases in environmental understanding. We need many sustainable schools long before 2020!

    The figures given in response to Q2 are of significant interest. 40% of council buildings emissions comes from schools - thus the importance of lowering school emissions to lowering overall council impacts. This does not count in school travel emissions - no figures available on this (though they should be)!

    Cllr Hammond basically agreed with me in his responses to Q3,4,5. He agreed to circulate my environmental charter (!!) but as part of a package of information surrounding the Sustainable Schools Initiative - he does not want my one page environmental charter (basically an overarching statement of intent to do more and ongoing environmental work) to 'distract from more focussed initiatives' !! Its a somewhat grudging agreement to circulate the model charter (and I'll hold him to doing it) - I cant see how its a distraction because of course any aspiring sustainable school should have a broad and basic statement of intent!!

    Full answers here:


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.