Being the change we want to see

What kind of world do we want to live in? A world of rising temperatures, rapidly depleting resources and inexorably rising fuel prices? Or a world in which we’ve stabilised concentrations of greenhouse gases and have developed sustainable and non-polluting energy sources, a world in which we tread more lightly upon the planet than we’ve been doing recently?

If we’d rather see the second of these scenarios, what’s the best way to ensure that it comes to pass? We could sit back and wait for the government to sort things out for us, or we could lead the way ourselves. We could, in the words of Mohandas Gandhi, “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

It’s in this spirit that the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School has applied for, and been awarded, Scottish Government funding to develop a programme of environmental activities over the coming months. The Climate Challenge Fund has given the school over £20,000 to carry out a series of activities to reduce the climate impact of the school and the wider school community.

The planned work falls into three main groupings:

Improve the energy efficiency of the school buildings.

The Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School occupies a number of large Victorian houses, as well as some more modern buildings. (For more information on our grounds, please visit General Information.) The older buildings, in particular, are cold and draughty, and it costs the school a great deal of money to keep them warm. So during the 2010 summer break, we’ll be installing a new system of draughtproofing in Edinholme, Woodlands and Craigneen. At the same time, we’ll be fitting cavity wall insulation in the school hall. We’ll also see what other improvements could be made as well as investigating the possibility of fitting small scale renewables to cut the school’s use of fossil fuels as far as practicable. Having the older buildings more insulated allows us to cut down on our heating bills, however, we also want to keep on top of ventilation. Therefore, we have installed a gas sensor in every room to ensure that oxygen levels are consistent.

Conduct an assessment of the school’s carbon footprint.

If we’re going to make the most effective use of our finite resources, we need to determine whereabouts our collective carbon emissions are coming from. So we’ll be carrying out a carbon audit of the school’s activities and of the wider school community. Climate Challenge Funding money is aimed at community level action, so we can’t ignore the carbon emissions that originate in the households of pupils, teachers and staff. An early action will be to invite all households connected with the school to complete an online survey designed to establish the carbon emissions resulting from home energy, transport, lifestyle and consumption. Upon completion of the survey, you’ll be able to see where your emissions originate, and how they compare with the community average.

Develop a culture of climate and energy awareness.

The final strand of the project is perhaps the most challenging: over the coming years, we need to bring about a shift in our collective attitude towards how we generate and use energy, and towards climate change in general. Efforts towards this goal will take many forms; main lessons can be adapted so that the various economic, social, political, ethical, cultural and scientific aspects of climate change are incorporated into the children’s learning. In order to engage with the wider school community, we’ll be running events and workshops to make people aware of the various opportunities that exist to cut the greenhouse gas emissions from home energy and transport use. And we can conduct a review of how energy is managed within the school, and see if we can’t make it a little more efficient.

These three strands will be running in parallel – please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions. You can email me at: ben.murray@steinerweb.org.uk or write to me care of:

Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School
60-64 Spylaw Road
Edinburgh
EH10 5BR

Together I’m sure that we can make a real difference to the school’s carbon footprint, and help to make our children’s future a little more secure.