When and how did you first come across One Planet Living?

I first came across it when applying for the position of headteacher at Gagle Brook. I had just seen a play called Baked Alaska about climate change and my daughter had just completed a school project about our impact on the world.

When I saw Gagle Brook was a new school built on the ten One Planet Living principles, that all fired a spark in my brain.

I used the One Planet Living calculator to work out my own impact and I was shocked. I said in my application that I was a carbon addict and needed help.

What did you like about One Planet Living?

It was accessible. It was easy to get my head around and I liked the fact that it was a way of looking at life and not a set of rules.

I’d done previous work with other standards in schools but found they were just about ticking boxes. They weren’t changing anything, we were just going through the motions.

One Planet Living was about making it easy to make the right choices. I was hooked as soon as I discovered that. If we can make it easy to do the right thing then it just happens, doesn’t it?

Tell us about implementing One Planet Living. What's been your approach?

It’s all about making it part of the natural processes of the school. We’re trying to make it easy for the community to make the right choices. For our uniform, we use a fairtrade-registered local provider. For meals, we use organic vegetables, fresh produce and local suppliers as far as possible. And the whole school takes part - no one brings packed lunches.

It’s also about how you make One Planet Living accessible to very young children (our youngest pupils are three-year-olds). We show them how their orange peels and banana skins turn into compost and how they can do that at home. They’ll soon be planting saplings for a hedgerow. And a lot of their classes are outdoors.

One Planet Living was about making it easy to make the right choices. I was hooked as soon as I discovered that.

What have you enjoyed the most?

I’ve enjoyed having a curriculum that teaches health and happiness. I came across work like that before I knew about One Planet Living, so to see it in another framework was really reassuring.

But all the principles have gone down well with parents. We theme each of our newsletter on a principle and point parents in the direction of something they can do.

What have you found most challenging?

We’re part of a multi-academy trust so there are already systems in place that are not conducive to One Planet Living. That's not a criticism, it’s just that big organisations have certain ways of working.

For example, I might want to order a more sustainable resource from a local supplier that’s a bit more expensive. But procurement don’t see it like that. They’re looking at price. So, we’d have a difference of opinion there. But I’ll keep trying and there are encouraging things happening.

What benefits have you seen in the school?

It’s already evident that the children are healthier. We do far more active learning than other schools where I’ve worked. Children who don't live in Elmsbrook cycle, scoot or even run to school so the level of activity is already a lot higher.

And I think the children benefit from the building. It’s an amazing space because it's light and airy and always a good temperature. I've worked in Victorian schools which were too cold in winter or too hot in summer or didn’t have good lighting. We’re hugely blessed by the environment that we have.

For travel and transport, our teachers are really committed. All but one walks or cycles to school, and I cycle in every day. In fact, I’m now car-less.

And I just think we're having lots of fun. It's just a great place to be.

What are your top tips to other headteachers wanting to make their school sustainable?

Buddy up with somebody who’s into sustainability. They can give you inspiration and ideas and you can get excited about it together.

And I’d strongly suggest they look at all their systems and processes, then use the mantra: how can I make it easy to do the right thing?

What makes One Planet Living different from other frameworks you have come across?

It's a common language that doesn't just fit education. It fits other settings as well like business and home life, so it's a universal set of principles.

We're not going to get it right all the time. In fact, there's lots we're not getting right. But we can get better and better as we grow.

The world is changing, and it's changing rapidly. In five years, we might look back at something we’re doing today and find a better way.

So that's quite freeing. One Planet Living allows you to be more fluid and take it at the pace that your organisation goes at.

Header image credit: Jon Lewis/Oxford Mail

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