Northern Ireland Announced as the First Country in the World to Achieve 100% Participation in Eco-Schools Programme

Posted 18/02/2015 00:00:00

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has today announced that Northern Ireland has become the first country in the world to achieve a 100% participation rate in the international Eco-Schools Programme.

Eco-Schools is the world’s leading Environmental Education Programme operating in 59 countries worldwide and every school in Northern Ireland has now signed up to be an Eco-School and are working their way towards environmental excellence and the recognition of the prestigious Green Flag award.

Eco-Schools was established in 1994 with Northern Ireland one of the first countries in the world to join.  Northern Ireland was also the first country in the world to have one of its schools, Downpatrick Nursery School, achieve the prestigious, internationally recognised Green Flag.

Mark H Durkan, Minister for the Environment, whose Department has provided invaluable support for the programme over the years said: “It is great to see the energy and enthusiasm young people have in helping to improve the environment and I have personally seen it at firsthand.  100% of schools are taking the opportunity to put into practice what they learn about the environment in class, involving the whole school and engaging the wider community is making a real difference towards a better environment and stronger economy.

”Schools across the North have comprehensively embraced environmental issues and are leading the way working with local businesses, councils and environmental organisations.”

The Eco-Schools programme combines learning and practical action for the improvement of the environmental performance of schools. Eco-Schools get involved in all kinds of eco-projects from reducing waste to landfill, to energy saving and healthy eating; developing school gardens or tackling litter issues. It is estimated that schools who take part in the programme and recycle every year could save an estimated £1.1m - with one school in Northern Ireland saving £6,000 by switching off equipment not in use. The programme is coordinated internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and is operated Iocally by the environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Support from SSE Airtricity, Principal Sponsors and Energy topic ambassadors, in recent years has also helped boost the programme while helping our young people to become more energy efficient.

Jillian Saunders, SSE Airtricity Brand and Sponsorship Manager commented:

“At SSE Airtricity, we’re proud to have helped Eco-Schools set the sustainable agenda throughout classrooms over the last four years. Through the likes of Power Down Day and the Global Wind Awards, schools have embraced energy saving and started to make real changes around how they monitor and control energy usage. When you enter any Eco-School, the popularity of the programme amongst pupils and teachers alike is clear to see, and one that we at SSE Airtricity have taken real inspiration from.”

Carmel Fyfe, Eco-Schools Manager, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:

“It is inspiring to see so many schools choosing to be Eco-Schools and wanting to make a positive change to their local environment. This is a wonderful achievement for Northern Ireland and the commitment, enthusiasm and high quality of Eco-Schools locally is exceptional and with on-going support there is a very real opportunity for our young people to become world leaders in the programme.

“Eco-Schools is not only helping our young people to develop habits that will last a lifetime but is making a real difference to our local environment. The success of the programme is testament to the achievements of our young people and dedication of the teachers involved - we should congratulate them and be very proud of their great achievement.”

In Northern Ireland the programme is supported by a number of funders, sponsors and delivery partners, including local councils, businesses and environmental organisations, whose contribution has been invaluable to the success of the programme.

To mark 20 years of Eco-schools, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is organising a special anniversary celebration event at Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt on 5 March 2015. This will be an occasion to celebrate the achievement of our Eco-Schools and the event will feature workshops, activities, and an exhibition space. There will be lots of action on the day including; recycling games, energy workshops, an inspiring science show and biodiversity hunts to name just a few.