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Posted on Thu 21 Jun 2018

Translink & Eco-Schools reward young people for choosing sustainable transport.

Schools across NI complete travel challenge to tackle traffic congestion

School pupils right across Northern Ireland have been rewarded for their efforts to use more sustainable transport during the 2017/18 Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge.

Over a two-week period, 28 local schools completed the ‘Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge’ with 3078 pupils monitoring their travel patterns and making an effort to walk, cycle, use the bus or train for the school run. There was a massive shift away from car use to sustainable travel with over 30,000 sustainable journeys made.

Blythefield Primary School, Belfast, Grosvenor Grammar School, Belfast, Longtower Primary School, Derry~Londonderry and St Colum’s Primary School, Portstewart were the top performers encouraging pupils and parents to choose more environmentally-friendly transport modes. Glencraig Primary School, Holywood, also won an Ulsterbus Tours educational class coach trip and day out in Dublin. 

Speaking at a special prize presentation, Translink Health & Safety Manager, John Thompson, said:

“Congratulations to all 28 schools who successfully completed the travel challenge!  You’re what we call in Translink – ‘Smartmovers’ – because you’re all making smart choices about how you travel.

“You’ve shown a real understanding about how Northern Ireland needs to address the issue of congestion in our towns and cities and care more for the environment to keep Northern Ireland moving and growing.
This serious issue was also addressed in our recent Road Share event in Oxford Street, Belfast city centre, where we demonstrated the ‘waste of space’ on our roads taken up by cars compared to buses, Glider, walking and cycling.

“The good news is that more and more people in Northern Ireland are choosing public transport with a record 81 million passenger journeys last year – the highest in the past 20 years – and we’re committed to further Infrastructure development, product innovation and sustained vehicle investment to attract even more people on board the bus and train.

“We would like to thank local schools for participating in the Challenge. It’s been really encouraging to see many participants make a 100% shift away from car travel and we hope they continue to choose sustainable transport in the years ahead” said John.

Ian Humphreys, CEO at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: "It’s great to see the number of pupils taking part in this challenge growing every year. By capturing the hearts and minds of our teachers and young people, the Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge is now bringing about real reductions in the morning school gate congestion.

“Car journeys reduced by 24% during the challenge and pupils taking part made 88% of their journeys without a car during the two-week period. Increasing use of greener forms of transport such as bus and train is all part of showing you live here and love here and there has never been a better time to start than now" Ian added.

Schools interested in participating in the next Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge as part of the Eco-Schools Awards Scheme can call 028 9073 6920 or click www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/.  For details on Ulsterbus Tours Educational Trips click www.ulsterbustours.com or call 028 9033 7004.

Posted on Tue 29 May 2018

Food Waste Challenge winners

Eco-Schools were delighted with the response from schools to the Food Waste Challenge this year. 150 schools signed up to take part and over 20,000 family pledges and bin stickers were distributed to households around the country.

Pupils learnt about the 3R’s of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling food waste, and the great benefits to the environment that making compost has too. They were asked to submit photos of their recycling actions into the Food Waste Challenge competition and submit entries on their food waste actions at school. We received lots of excellent photo entries and school action entries.

DAERA was delighted to recently report that Northern Ireland has achieved a 50% recycling rate across the country for all types of waste for the first time. New food waste legislation introduced last April has helped households reach this target, and so it is pertinent that this project is focusing on food waste in particular. Around 10 million tonnes of food, with a value of £17 billion, is wasted in the UK each year - 60% of which could be avoided.

Owen Lyttle, Head of Waste Policy, DAERA said: “With more household waste being recycled now than being landfilled in Northern Ireland this Food Waste Challenge provides a timely reminder to families to keep up the good work. Now is a good time to re-emphasise the need to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as much as possible. The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs applauds the enthusiasm of all the schools and pupils involved in the Challenge through their Eco-Schools work.”

A list of the winners can be found below. 

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Winners of the Food Waste 2018

Posted on Tue 22 May 2018

Belfast City Eco-Schools win war on waste

Schools from all across Belfast recently gathered at Belfast City Hall to celebrate environmental excellence with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Eco-Schools and Belfast City Council’s fourth year of the successful Wheelie Big Challenge.

The event was held in the spectacular setting of the Great Hall in Belfast City Hall. Schools across Belfast were invited to present their final findings and actions for this year’s Wheelie Big Challenge. The project saw pupils from 36 Belfast schools investigate and engage in practical actions to reduce waste, and particularly food waste, in school and at home by reducing, reusing and recycling. 

St Michael's Primary School Primary School took first place in the Primary category, second in the same category were St Anne's Primary School and third place Blackmountain Primary. St Mary’s Christian Brother’s Grammar School took the top spot in the Post Primary category. St Maria Goretti Nursery took first place in the Nursery category with St Peter’s Nursery and Good Shepherd Nursery coming runners up.

Shortlisted schools attending set up brilliant displays highlighting the work they had undertaken for the Wheelie Big Challenge which included everything from worms to welly-boot planters. Some schools had moved from having no recycling in school to having as much as 80% of their rubbish recycled by the end of the Challenge and many introduced wormeries, composting and brown bin collections to tackle food waste.

Four Belfast Eco-Schools were also officially presented with the prestigious and internationally recognised Eco-Schools Green Flag award for excellence in environmental work in their schools:  Forge Integrated Primary School, Good Shepherd Nursery School, Rosetta Primary School and St Joseph's College.

Ald Tommy Sandford, Chair of People and Communities Committee, Belfast City Council, said: “It’s fantastic to see the effort and team work that these children have put in, to bring the “reduce, reuse, recycle” message to life in such a creative way. Congratulations to all the schools who made it through to the finals. It was also great to be able to celebrate the achievement of the Belfast schools receiving Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation”

Ruth Van Ry, Environmental Education Manager, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “Congratulations to all the schools receiving awards today through the Wheelie Big Challenge and Eco-Schools programme. Today was a wonderful opportunity to reward the efforts being made by those in the local area doing their bit to make Belfast a cleaner, greener and more sustainable place in which to live and we are delighted to be supported by Belfast City Council in recognising these efforts.”

The Eco-Schools Programme is the world’s largest environmental education programme which aims to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of school life. Eco-Schools work through a simple seven step process to implement behavioural change and study a range of topics, such as waste. By participating in projects like the Wheelie Big Challenge schools are able to reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable as they work through their Eco-Schools Programme. The programme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and most local Councils including Belfast City Council.

Schools who would like to get involved in the Eco-Schools Programme, or who would like to find out more, please visit www.eco-schoolsni.org.

Posted on Mon 09 Apr 2018

The Last Straw for Eco-Schools

Schools across NI have started to take interest in the issue of plastic straws, which are supplied with school milk. There has been a good deal of media attention recently on the issue of single use plastics and the detrimental effect they are having on our environment and it seems pupils have been taking note. Plastic straws are most often not recycled and end up as landfill or litter, or join the 80% of land based litter pollution that ends up in the sea, with devastating effects on marine life. 

One pupil at Mill Strand Integrated Primary School decided not to use a straw after seeing the often viewed video on social media of a sea turtle painfully having a plastic straw extracted from its nasal cavity. The actions of this one pupil drew the attention of the school and they decided to ditch plastic straws for all pupils who didn’t need them. The school now estimates that they are saving 165 straws per day... 825 per week, which adds up to 26,000 straws each school year! They have also passed this idea on to a partner primary school St Malachy’s in Coleraine and their Eco-Committee is going to pitch the idea to their school too. 

We have started to hear of other schools looking at this issue too. Hezlett Primary School, Coleraine, made it into the local papers with their ban of plastic straws, which was also motivated by the pupils’ alarm at the damage caused to marine life by plastics. Kilrea Primary School have also become a ‘Plastic Smart’ school and banned straws after their Eco-Committee surveyed how many they were using. They estimate they are now saving around 200 straws a week from being used. During a recent Green Flag assessment at Fair Hill Primary School, Dromore, the assessor was delighted to hear of the pupils’ plans to ban the straw there too. 

Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said that “Blue planet II resulted in the devastating impact of single use plastics on our oceans reaching pupils across NI.  This has given schools an important role in leading on the changes that now need to happen, particularly to reduce our unsustainable consumption of single use plastics. Unsurprisingly and encouragingly, schools are now rising to the challenge, showing the rest of society just how it can be done.”

Word is spreading and we would love to hear from your school if you have been taking similar actions. Please contact eco-schools@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org with any stories, pictures or figures you might have.

Posted on Mon 26 Mar 2018

New Water Explorer project support for 10 schools in NI announced

Eco-Schools are delighted to announce a new partnership with the Water Explorer project. This excellent project is run by the Global Action Plan and Eco-Schools NI will be encouraging and supporting schools to take part from now until the end of this school year.

Schools taking part are able to access the fantastic interactive online resource provided by Water Explorer which guides them through four water project themes: Precious Water, Secret Water, Fresher Water and Global Water. There are lots of opportunities to score points and win prizes.

The Eco-Schools team will be on hand to support your journey, provide workshops and whole school event support. We highly recommend these resources to any school looking at the Water and/or Global Perspective themes. We have the capacity to support 10 schools through the programme this year so please get in touch with ruth.vanry@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org ASAP to register your interest and find out more.