Going green at Exeter School
Exeter School is taking steps to ensure its environmental stewardship is an inspiration to the school community. The co-educational school for 7-18-year-olds takes environmental issues very seriously and has introduced a number of measures to minimise the school’s impact on the climate, follow environmental guidelines and reduce carbon emissions.
Pupil-led Eco Soc is a newly-formed environmental society, under the direction of Assistant Director of Music Tom Brimelow and School Chaplain Reverend Tom Carson. As part of the school’s drive to re-use, recycle and reduce waste, pupils have been recycling pens since September. These are donated to Nourish, Exeter’s first zero-waste store, on Magdalen Road. All pens are given to TerraCycle, whose aim is to recycle the ‘non-recyclable’, with profit going to Topsham Primary School. The pupils have also begun collecting batteries in a similar scheme called the Big Battery Hunt. There are bins for dry mixed recycling around the site: and the Society has publicised the introduction of new labelled bins to optimise pupil and staff recycling.
The Society has invited inspirational speakers including parent and Arable and Soils Advisor Jerry Alford from the Soil Association, Business Development Director Richard Marsh from Coastal Recycling, as well PhD student Olivia Milton-Thompson who spoke about fracking. As a result of the Society’s eco efforts, all computers are set up to power down after school has finished for the day, and the number of lights left on around the site at night has been reduced.
All of the school’s food waste and glass are recycled and single-use plastics have been removed from the Sixth form vending machines and the catering provision, under the helm of Catering Manager Michelle Hendrick. The school has introduced meat-free Thursday which is currently once every three weeks but will be once a week as of September due to its popularity with pupils and staff. This is in keeping with a UK Committee on Climate Change report released earlier this month which recommended a 20% decrease in meat consumption and an increase in the consumption of plant-based proteins.
Exeter School’s new facilities are built to BREEAM standards: this is the leading industry specification, which follows a sustainability assessment method for all projects. Several years ago the school installed solar photovoltaic panels on two buildings, and there is a solar thermal system which pre-heats the swimming pool water; an air source heat pump heats the pool itself. The school also has a rolling programme of window improvements, LED light installation and improving insulation to reduce energy consumption, under the stewardship of Operations Manager Craig Stewart.
The school’s grounds are treated with organic products, including seaweed, instead of fertilisers whenever possible. Organic waste, such as grass cuttings, is mulched and re-used where possible and when pesticides are used, they are limited to controlled areas. Electric options for maintenance equipment, to reduce fuel use, have also been introduced.
The well-being of staff and pupils is never far from mind and there is new increased provision for secure cycle storage on site to reduce car use for school journeys as well as improve the school community’s fitness levels.
Sixth Form pupils who are due to set off on an expedition to Borneo over the summer recently took part in a beach clean in Dawlish as well as filling in a survey for the Marine Conservation Society. The school is travelling to Borneo with STC Expeditions who donate money to projects run by the international charity, Friends of Conservation. This charity works directly with local communities to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats, producing tangible results at grassroots level.
The future is certainly green at Exeter School and aspirations include the recycling of crisp packets and other difficult-to-recycle materials through TerraCycle; a vegetable garden and greenhouse for the Junior School and electric charging points for cars on site.
Tom Brimelow said pupils and young people in general are only too aware of the dangers of climate change as they are the generation that will have to live with the choices we make now.
“Their readiness to engage with these crucial issues is rejuvenating, as is their belief that action is not only the responsibility of governments and corporations, but falls to all of us today. I hope that the promulgation and propagation of a sustainable ethos will stay with our pupils throughout their lives.”