For over a decade The Leys has increasingly taken steps to reduce our waste, cut our carbon footprint and move the School onto a more sustainable course.
The Leys was the first school in the county to be provided with a decent recycling facility; this quickly kick-started similar schemes elsewhere. In part this happened through the World AIMS Project (Action in Methodist Schools) and we believe we have made very good progress indeed. It has resulted in us receiving more than one Green Flag award from the International Eco-Schools programme, but we recognise there is much more that can and must be done.
Having taken the easiest first steps in sustainability, in 2015 we put in place a comprehensive Carbon Reduction Policy and Strategy which includes the commitment to reduce our emissions by 5% annually for at least three years. The strategy covers all aspects of School life and will include the difficult task of us looking more closely at everything we buy.
Sustainability is overseen by a dedicated committee of staff, with pupil representation coming from their dynamic and imaginative Eco-Schools Action Team. The pupils regularly lead campaigns for energy efficiency (with inter-house competitions), recycling, waste, Fairtrade and more. Indeed, engagement of pupils has been paramount in our bid to make effective, long-term changes to behaviours that enable our impact to be reduced. The pupils also serve as 'eyes and ears' around site, spotting and reporting problems that might otherwise be easily missed.
Over the years, considerable improvements have been made to building energy efficiency with upgraded insulation (in some cases, seeing roofs insulated for the first time), high-efficiency LED lighting with intelligent controls, better heating controls and individual room thermostats. We have also committed to solar energy, which began with the installation of solar thermal panels on Fen House (2008). Solar electric panels on the Thomson (Science) building (2012) and the Sports Hall (2013) took the total power to 50 kW. We recognise, however, that many more of our buildings have optimum south-facing roofs and anticipate adding more solar systems in the years ahead.
The school curriculum has also seen sustainability topics widely integrated. Pupils have readily engaged with the challenges they present and several pupils have won national essay-writing competitions on environmental themes. When Great Hall was constructed, timber offcuts were kept by the Design Technology department for use with Year 8 who made a variety of bird boxes, now deployed around the site. Indeed the biodiversity of our grounds is regularly monitored and considered for improvement, with a number of new trees - mostly native species - planted recently by each House.
In short, whilst we accept that the consumption of resources by The Leys has a negligible impact on national demand, we consider it our responsibility to strive for continuous improvements in the design, function and use of our site so that our impact is reduced as much as practicable. In many cases, sustainability actions usually improve teaching, living and working environments whilst simultaneously cutting their impact.
The Leys is a Green Flag School, an award first received in 2010, then renewed in 2012. We were one of the first secondary-level schools in the East of England to receive it. 'Eco-Schools' is an international programme operating in 46 countries, which grew out of the UN's 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Its primary purpose is to encourage the integration of sustainable development into all facets of school life.
The Eco-Schools Action Team is a pupil-driven group with representation from all houses and year groups. Teenagers are far better than staff in engaging their peers in taking on these big issues through imaginative and persuasive campaigns! Their brief is simple: to focus on one or more of nine areas which form the Eco-Schools framework: Water, Biodiversity, Energy, Global Perspectives, Healthy Living, Litter, School Grounds, Transport and Waste.
In recent years, increased focus on waste reduction and extended provision of recycling around the school site has led to a significant reduction in waste to landfill. Additional focus on water-saving has seen repeated annual reductions of as much as 10% being achieved. Even food waste in the dining hall has been reduced dramatically by introducing portion size options.
Perhaps our biggest achievement has been improved energy management and demand reduction. The Eco-Schools Action Team’s environmental reviews – necessary to progress in the awards scheme – helped the School to increase energy efficiency through improved insulation as well as generating energy on site using solar panels.
The Eco-Schools Action Team is led by senior pupils who work with the School’s Sustainability Committees on a regular basis.
The School Shop has stocked items carrying the Fairtrade Mark for some years and often expands its range. In 2007 a school-wide awareness campaign was launched, with attention brought to the issue annually since then. All the School's coffee and tea is Fairtrade certified. We are gradually widening our access to Fairtrade products, which now includes all our bananas.