Sowing the seeds of sustainability: Our college eco-journey

Sowing the seeds of sustainability: Our college eco-journey
Date12th May 2024AuthorLaura RawsonCategoriesStudent Life, Teaching

Picture above: Working on planting the college's Tiny Forest.

Gateway Sixth Form College won the 2023 Sustainability Award from SFCA for the work of their eco-committee.

A transformation towards a greener and more sustainable future is underway at Gateway Sixth Form College. From small acts such as planting wildflower seeds, to ambitious projects like upgrading our lighting system to more energy-efficient LEDs, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and nurturing a deeper connection to our environment, a commitment recognised last year by the SFCA sustainability award.

Cultivating Sustainable Seeds

We set up our Eco-committee to create change in our college, and together the team of staff and students orchestrated a programme of transformative projects that have shaped our journey, detailed below.

Raising Awareness and Education:

Raising awareness and promoting action was paramount and the first thing that we set about doing.

  • We engaged local primary-age children in workshops focused on sustainability, showcasing our own students’ work to foster eco-awareness through interactive games. 
  • The Eco-committee staff completed certified Carbon Literacy training, and pledged to take action to reduce the college’s carbon footprint. We also extended the offer of Carbon Literacy Training to members of our wider community by hosting a training event at our college. Climate Ready Workshop
  • Students chose to raise awareness of environmental issues that mattered to them through the creation of animations, posters, badges and videos. One example is this animation, made by student Dipa Dilip and featured in the 2023 SFCA Art Exhibition, about the impact of mobile phone production on the natural habitat of bonobos
  • In collaboration with Climate Ready Leicester, we held student workshops (pictured right) to raise awareness of the climate crisis and encouraged learners to take action and make more sustainable choices to reduce their carbon footprints.

Improving Outside Spaces:

We participated in a range of projects that physically improved the environment and created outdoor learning and wellbeing spaces, but also raised awareness about how trees and plants release oxygen and absorb carbon.

  • We joined in with #NoMowMay and planted wildflower seeds in a grassed area and displayed posters to highlight the importance of preserving natural habitats and attracting crucial pollinators like bees and insect-eating birds. 
  • In honour of #NationalTreeWeek we planted a mini orchard with fruiting shrubs and trees to create an outdoor learning and wilding area to enrich our environment and foster biodiversity.
  • Our biggest outdoor project was planting 600 trees in our Tiny Forest using the Japanese Miyawaki method of planting native trees densely to encourage competition for sunlight and resources, which will result in an urban forest within 20-30 years.

Creative Projects: 

A range of creative projects raised awareness and promoted more sustainable practices.

  • Textiles ProjectArt, Design and Textiles students (see left) promoted sustainable fashion practices and honed their sewing skills by repairing clothes for free at dedicated workshops. The students also upcycled their own clothes and created a static catwalk to display their textiles projects and further promote how the addition of embellishments, such as hand embroidery, can make clothing last longer and reduce waste.
  • Games Design students worked with BeansMeals and Food for Life to create an educational computer game on the theme of sustainable food, which the council and local charities used to educate children at Eco-Schools Roadshows in Leicestershire.
  • Students created hedgehog houses and hanging bird feeders using ceramics in nature-inspired designs, which we positioned in our wilding area to encourage local wildlife and greater biodiversity. 

Connecting with Nature:

As well as reducing our carbon footprint, we have also nurtured a deeper connection to our environment.

  • We collaborated with the University of Derby on a Nature Connectedness Project, which aimed to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing benefits of being outside and encouraged staff and students to immerse themselves in nature, even if only in short bursts. Luna Moth Telescope
  • We also felt more connected with nature and the universe when Luna the Moongazing Moth paid us a visit. Funded by the Climate Action Fund, this project brought an opportunity to view our magical celestial body using Luna, a lunar telescope disguised as a giant Moongazing Moth on a courier bike (right)!

Creating Changemakers in our Community

The impact of our Eco-committee has been wide ranging with sustainability projects having a positive influence on many aspects of college life: 

  • We’ve enhanced our local environment through the creation of outdoor learning spaces. Planting trees and flowers has educated students and staff and promoted the advantages to individuals’ health and wellbeing. 
  • Our local community has benefitted through our work with primary school children, providing education about the climate emergency through engaging and interactive workshops. 
  • Students have developed their leadership through designing, developing and leading sustainability projects. 

The Future is Green

Our Eco-committee project started out as a modest endeavour but has blossomed into a resounding success, with promising plans for the future. We have recently partnered with an electric vehicle leasing company to provide staff with eco-friendly transport options and are we are currently planning for installation of EV charging points to further reduce emissions. We have achieved Green Flag status through Eco-Schools and Keep Britain Tidy, recognising our dedication to sustainability. As we continue in sowing the seeds of eco-consciousness, our commitment to a greener future for generations to come only grows stronger.

Laura is assistant principal for TLA at Gateway and is both founder of and senior leader representative on the Eco-committeeLook out for more blogs from award winners in the coming weeks; you can find the first in the series here.

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