How Schools can Make a Difference

Learning about climate change and the areas where we can mitigate our impact is one thing, but taking action is even better. What better place to start than in your own school?

There are many areas that can be addressed when looking at making your school more sustainable, from reducing waste to encouraging biodiversity.

Here are some ideas to get your started as well as resources and key contacts for putting together your school action plan.

Set up an Eco Council

Set up a team of students from across the school that will set the agenda for the school sustainability plan and drive the projects.

Guides for Schools

WWF have created a guide to sustainable schools that is simple to follow and a good starting point.

Transform Our World’s ‘action planner’ tool for schools helps to identify how best reduce impact.


Eco-Schools provides a framework for implementing your action plan. It is a pupil-led education programme that schools can deliver to cover climate change in the classroom and improve the sustainability of school grounds.

Lesson Plans

  • WWF have great resources HERE
  • Plan Bee also have some nice lesson plans 
  • Lessons on soil, plants, gardening from RHS

Areas of Focus

Work with your Eco Council and choose a project per term to work on e.g. litter picking, plastic free status etc. Here are some areas of focus and suggested projects to get you started.

Reduce Waste

  • Raise awareness of the waste problem at your school and local community by arranging a litter pick in your local community. Taking the litter back to the classroom and looking at what you collect can spark discussions around the type of litter you are finding and what happens to it when it is thrown away.
  • West Sussex Wasterbusters Club is a full of prevention and recycling initiatives


  • Start with reusing scrap paper in the classroom and creating a recycling bin for when it has been reused. Waste paper can obviously be recycled with your council recycling.

Go Plastic Free

  • Encourage your students to think about the contents of their lunchbox, both from a nutrition and an environmental perspective. Crisp packets, for example, can take up to 50 years to decompose so avoid them if you can.
  • Twinkl has resources on waste free lunches.
  • Ask students to reduce or remove all plastic packaging in their lunchbox. One simple way of doing this is through the Surfers against Sewage campaign ‘Plastic-free schools’. Sign up and they can provide, teaching resources and support for achieving plastic-free status.
  • Plastic Free Schools can also go beyond the classroom and the lunchbox, find out some ideas to support your new status HERE.


Recycling is a simple and easy place to start for schools. It is also easy for the students to understand as most will already be recycling at home.

  • Stationery items like pens, highlighters, mechanical pencils and fluid correctors can also be recycled through TerraCycle schemes. Go to our recycling pages to find out your nearest drop off location.
  • We know it’s not always possible to remove all plastic items from lunchboxes. Our TerraCycle recycling programme can take crisp packets, biscuit wrappers and many items. Contact if you are considering setting up TerraCycle recycling bins at your school.

Nature-Friendly Schools

Whether you want to rewild your school garden, create a bug hotel or learn more about habit in your school grounds, Sussex Wildlife Trust works with schools to provide advice and education on creating a nature-friendly space.

Food Waste

25-30% of global carbon emissions are created by growing and producing food alone so reducing food waste also helps our planet. In the UK, we throw away 4.5 million tonnes of edible food a year.

RHS has lots of resources and advice for composting for schools.

Love your Uniform

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and as we all know, kids outgrow school uniform quickly.

  • Set up a second hand uniform shop. This will save parents and carers money as well as allow uniform to be reused.
  • Once uniform has come to its end of life, it’s stained or ripped, recycle it. Most charity recycling won’t take branded uniform but it can be taken to the council recycling site where it will be scrapped. Alternatively, branded school uniform can be simply made into branded cushions (for school reception or reading areas) and bunting.
  • Consider reviewing your uniform policy. Does all the uniform need to have the school logo? Removing the logo from polo shirts and jumpers, reduces the cost for parents and carers as well as simplifying the recycling options at the end of life.
  • Hold a clothes collection and raise money for the school. We work in partnership with West Sussex-based initiative Bags of Support they reduce the volume of textiles sent to landfill, raise money for schools and support schools and women’s groups in Uganda. Every kilo collected raises 50p for your school.

Saving Energy

  • Teaching energy saving tips can be useful for conserving energy in school and in the home. Twinkl and TeachStarter both have learning resources.
  • Switch off fortnight Campaign runs every November and is a great activity to do that will have an impact in school and at home.
  • Solar for Schools offer schools a way of maximising the solar on their school through a Community Benefit Society that raises money from the local community and socially minded funders. Schools provide the roof space for the panels and pay for any electricity from the solar panels that they actually use.


Engaging students in simple behaviour change can lead to a change in mindset across many environment issues and solutions. Through the academic year there are the Cycle to School and Walk to School weeks. Both weeks encourage a change in student behaviour and highlight the impact of cars.

Measure your Impact

There are also some good tools and support networks for reducing your impact like WWF’s individual carbon footprint calculator.

The app created to accompany the Climate Action project is a way for all students in a class, year group or school to form a ‘team’ so that their actions to reduce footprint are accumulated to show how much efforts by a school community have benefited the planet, view it HERE.

Use your Voice

Find a project that the students are passionate about and contact your local MP. Ask the students to practice their persuasive writing skills to explain to your local MP about their project, why it is important for the environment and ask how their MP will support their concerns for the planet.

Spread the word about what you are doing amongst the school and local community to encourage more people to get involved. Ask local businesses to support your initiatives through sponsorship, funding or raising awareness.

Action Plans

Download our action plans to get you started on your journey.

Action Plan for Schools

Action Plan for Families

Action Plan for Adults

Roadmap to Sustainable Living