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Posted on Fri 07 Jun 2019

Translink & Eco Schools celebrate 10 years of schools' sustainable travel on World Environment Day

Pupils from across Northern Ireland attended a special awards ceremony at Belfast City Hall to celebrate 10 years of the Translink Eco Schools Travel Challenge.

Taking place on World Environment Day (5 June 2019) during Translink’s Bus + Train Week (June 3 – 9), the awards recognized pupil efforts to use more sustainable travel options for the journey to and from school.

Over 3100 pupils across 39 local schools participated in the initiative in 2019 highlighting the importance of walking, cycling and using the bus or train more often for the school run. There was a 56% increase in sustainable journeys and a 29% decrease in car use during the challenge.

The award-winning top performers were Ulidia Integrated College, Carrickfergus, St Colum’s Primary School, Portstewart and Aghadrumsee Primary School in Enniskillen. St Patrick’s Primary School, Hilltown, also scooped a special Ulsterbus Tours school trip prize.

Pupil Caoimhe Gartlan from St Mary’s Primary School, Maguiresbridge, won the #Smartmovers Art Competition Award which asked pupils to design their very own advert to celebrate 10 years of the travel challenge. Caoimhe’s winning design will now be featured on the sides of buses in her local area.

A Special Recognition Award was also presented to St Malachy’s Primary School, Carnagat, Newry, for their long-term support and participation in the Travel Challenge over the past 10 years.

Posted on Wed 05 Jun 2019

A Wheelie Big Success!

Eco-Schools were delighted to celebrate with schools from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council who took part in the council's first year of the Wheelie Big Challenge copmetition.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman John Smyth, was delighted to present Fairview Primary School with their winning award at the Wheelie Big Challenge event last week. Whitehouse Primary School and Mount Saint Michael's were placed a well deserved second and third place respectively.

Alderman Smyth commented: "As a Council we’re working hard to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and improve recycling rates for the Borough.  The Wheelie Big Challenge competition gives schools the opportunity to help protect the environment, reduce their school’s waste disposal costs and win some great prizes"

Each school completed an initial waste audit, carried out by the pupils in the Eco-Committee, to get a starting point.  They were provided with teaching materials and received support from both Eco-Schools and Council.  The schools then make changes to how they manage their waste, in keeping with the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle approach.  Finally, they completed another waste audit and submitted the findings to Eco-Schools, along with details of their activities as their final competition entry. 
The average audit results from schools across the challenge have so far shown decrease in their landfill bins of dry recyclables of 68% and a decrease in food waste of nearly 50%. One school has made a remarkable impact with a decrease in dry recyclables and food waste of 99% from their landfill bins!
Over 15 schools engaged with the challenge, with 5 schools progressing to the Final Event.
The judges for the final event were Lynsey Daly, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Sue Christie, KNIB Chairperson and Billly Conway from Cookstown Textile Recycling.  Pupils from each school told the judges about the actions they have taken to reduce the waste going to landfill and inspired with their innovation and enthusiasm.   
The children were also treated to a creature filled nature talk from Eco-Mantella, and interactive activities with the Waste Education Officer and Habitat for Humanity.

Congratulations to the winning schools and also to the other finalists Parkhall Integrated College and Greystone Primary School for their significant progress and actions to helping reduce waste to landfill and become more environmentally friendly both in school and in the home.

Any schools interested in tackling waste within their school can use the same waste audit, available within the Data Zone when they log in to the Eco-Schools website. For more information on how your school can tackle its waste contact the Eco-Schools team on 02890 736920 or eco-schools@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.

Posted on Fri 05 Apr 2019

Eco-Schools Launch Marine Topic at Teachers Conference

Eco-Schools celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with the launch of a new Marine topic which shines a spotlight on the issue of plastic in our oceans. Teachers attending the Eco-Schools conference last week in W5 were inspired to take action to protect the environment from plastic after hearing moving speeches from Lizzie Daly, wildlife biologist and presenter, and Geoff Brighty, from Plastic Oceans UK. The conference was supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Over 180 teachers, pupils and guests learnt about the increasing concerns of plastic pollution and how the choices we all make daily can lead to micro-plastics from home, single-use plastics and litter from the land ending up in the sea where it takes centuries to breakdown, choking and poisoning wildlife in the meantime. Over 80% of litter washed up on NI shores is plastic and the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute globally.

However it wasn’t all grim news, the speakers including young people from Eco-Schools (St Killian’s College, Carnlough, and Ashbourne Community School, Meath) had solutions to the problems too. Education and action are key to stopping this deadly flow – refuse single-use plastics, choose and dispose of toiletries carefully, carry your own reusable water bottle/cup, clean up beaches and local areas of litter, lobby your local politicians and business leaders to change policy and product design.

Ulidia Integrated College were there on the day to capture the events as part of their Young Reporters for the Environment campaign.

The conference was also an opportunity to recognise excellence in Eco-Schools with Forge Integrated Primary School, Belfast; Kilronan School, Magherafelt; McClintock Primary School, Omagh; St Ita’s Primary School, Castlereagh and Waringstown Primary School, Craigavon, all collecting Ambassador Eco-Schools awards on the day.
Outstanding teachers nominated by their pupils also received Eco-Teacher of the Year awards with Karen McKee from St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School, Loughgall and Rachel Wilson from Down High School, Downpatrick, collecting the primary and post-primary titles respectively.

We’d also like to say a big thank you to our workshop providers: Lizzie Daly, Plastic Oceans UK, RSPB, Mill Strand Integrated Primary School, Ulster Wildlife, and Into Film.

Exhibitors on the day were Northern Ireland Assembly, British Council, Sustrans, CCEA, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Woodland Trust, Habitat for Humanity NI, Garden Escapes NI, SERC and Ambassador Eco-Schools.

Posted on Thu 06 Dec 2018

NI pupils celebrate 10 years of Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge

Local schools choose active travel to cut car congestion

Translink and Eco-Schools – the international environmental education programme – are celebrating 10 years of joining forces to deliver a school travel challenge across Northern Ireland.

The Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge promotes walking, cycling, bus and train travel for the school run instead of car use. Since its launch, over 105,000 sustainable journeys have been made by pupils choosing more active travel modes in an effort to cut car congestion at the school gates, protect the environment and boost their health and wellbeing.

The initiative supports the draft Programme for Government by encouraging an increase in public transport use and active travel. It incorporates curriculum-linked classroom resources and encourages schools to develop sustainable travel plans for at least 2 weeks as a way to achieve the prestigious Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

Translink Health & Safety Manager John Thompson said: “The Challenge is a smart move to get more young people thinking about the importance of ‘active travel’:

“This partnership supports Translink’s ‘Go Eco’ corporate responsibility goals and it’s great to reach this major decade milestone. We’ve seen significant growth in pupil participation and around 10,500 pupils have now completed the challenge, demonstrating their commitment to reducing car congestion in their area.

“Over the years, pupils have been very creative in how they highlight the importance of sustainable transport, holding car-free days, fancy dress journeys, designing posters and even performing catchy public transport raps!

“We’re now encouraging schools to take part in the challenge during this milestone year. Simply visit www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/ to download our Key Stage 1 – 3 classroom resources and be in with a chance of winning fantastic prizes!” said John.

Ruth Van Ry, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “We really enjoy working on this great project with Translink and are seeing the rewards as a record number of pupils took part last year and the percentage of sustainable journeys undertaken has grown from 12% in the early years to nearly 60% last year. We are encouraging all schools to get on board for this special 10th year anniversary, have some fun and improve their health and environment.”

For further information visit your Eco-Schools School Zone Project page. Deadline for completed Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge entries is Tuesday 21st May 2019. 

Posted on Tue 18 Sep 2018

The Litter Less Campaign - Seven Years of Positive Change

The latest phase of the campaign reached 357,516 students from 546 schools across 15 countries and marks changes in students’ perceptions, behaviour about litter

In September 2018, the Litter Less Campaign will enter its eighth year and since its inception has engaged over 2 million students around the world.

The Litter Less Campaign is a joint initiative between the Wrigley Company Foundation and Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that aims to educate young people about the issues surrounding litter, to encourage them to make positive waste disposal choices, and to inspire them to engage their communities in anti-litter activities.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful are seeking to engage 30 primary schools and 20 post primary schools through the Wrigley Litter Less Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment campaigns in 2018/19.

There is seed funding available to kick start your own litter or waste themed campaign and media workshops for post primary schools involved in YRE.
The main objectives of the Litter Less Campaign are to:
  • Raise awareness of how litter and waste affect the local environment
  • Improve the way students and schools approach waste management
  • Give young people the knowledge and practical skills to prevent and manage litter
  • Provide students with a platform to report on litter issues in their communities
  • Encourage collaboration and the sharing of best practices between schools
  • Involve the local community to actively address the issue of litter
An overall evaluation of the campaign’s impact indicates students’ awareness, knowledge and behaviour has grown by over 10%. This is a very significant educational improvement considering the Litter Less Campaign is a relatively condensed and inexpensive project for schools to implement. During the past year of the campaign, we documented positive change in Eco-Schools students’ awareness of litter and waste issues in 30% of the population, when compared with control students. Additionally, positive change in YRE students’ knowledge about waste production, fate and recycling improved by 21% when compared with control students.

If you are interested in taking part in this year’s Wrigley Litter Less campaign please contact Francesca.dipalo@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

Posted on Tue 18 Sep 2018

Green Flag applications

Green Flag news and updates

The last couple of years have seen some changes to the Green Flag application process in order to streamline the process both for schools and us. All applications for the Green Flag award must be made through the online system on the Eco-Schools website. Please use this area throughout the year and add to the application as you go, the progress bars will show how complete each section is so you’ll know when you’re nearly ready.

If you have forgotten your password please contact us 02890 736920 or email Cathy. If you have moved schools or are no longer the Eco-Coordinator within your school please let us know so we can update our records.

As always you can submit your Green Flag application at any time of the year but these are the deadlines for a guaranteed assessment in the 2018/19 school year, schools applying after these dates might not be assessed by the end of June. Paper/emailed applications are no longer accepted.

  • Green Flag Renewals – Thursday 10th January 2019 – this is the deadline for all schools who are renewing their Green Flags this year. Assessments will be scheduled between February and May. Some renewal schools may not receive a site visit, see the website for more details.
  • New Green Flags – Friday 15th March 2019 – this is the deadline for all schools who are going for their first Green Flag this year. Assessments will be scheduled between April and June.

The Green Flag award requires renewal every two years but if yours has lapsed don’t worry – the application process is the same as for new flags and the Eco-Schools team can provide support and advice in regaining your flag, contact us on 02890 736920 or by email.

Posted on Wed 27 Jun 2018

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 video!

As the end of another school year approaches we wanted to share our video from this year's Teachers Conference with you all.

Thank you to everyone who attended, exhibited, spoke and provided workshops and helped make it a brilliant day.

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 from Eco-Schools Northern Ireland on Vimeo.