GREENING OUR SCHOOLS
Michelle Allmark West doesn’t dream small. She wants to create a community of the greenest schools in Harpenden. But that is not enough. After getting Harpenden schools on board, she wants to recruit schools across Hertfordshire to join the movement… and after that, schools across the whole country. Once she’s tested out what needs to be done, she hopes to share this knowledge with everyone else.
WORKING WITH SCHOOLS
‘Knowing where to start is the first part! No-one knows how to make a school green. It’s a really daunting task and amplifying it across other schools is even harder. What is actually involved?’
High Beeches, Michelle’s children’s school, is pioneering this work with Michelle and will share what they learn with others. The head, Mr Walker is hugely committed and is already developing ideas for competitions around reducing food waste.
Michelle is also working with the parents, to set up an equivalent of the PTA, focused on environment. She has already recruited 10 Mums and Dads to work with the school on specific areas. They will cover plastic reduction; waste & recycling; energy; food & drink; travel & traffic; buildings & grounds and working with PTA to have plastic free fund-raising events.
The project is called TREES (Taking Responsibility for the Environment and Ecology in School).
AND LOCAL POLITICIANS
“We are already working with other local schools and plastic free Harpenden to cross pollinate ideas so we can help each other to be as green as we can.”
Michelle has also written to her local MP Bim Afolami and he is fully on board and keen to help out anywhere he can. She is also getting her local councillor involved too.
So the next steps is to build environmental thinking into the day to day running of any school takes time.
HELPING OTHERS FIND OUT MORE
But in the meantime, Michelle is also working hard to reduce her environmental impact in other parts of her life. She uses Giki to check for palm oil in her products and to see whether it’s sustainable and is always on the look out for high scoring products. If it doesn’t score well, she won’t buy it. Often in the supermarket, she lends her phone to other customers to scan a barcode so they can check before they buy. She also writes to retailers to encourage them to cut their environmental impact too.
Michelle is also helping her two children understand how they can make a difference. Her eldest recently did a rainforest project and shared her thoughts on certain products and using Giki with her teacher.
MICHELLE IS TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
“I was always interested in animal welfare and was vegetarian as a child, but it is since I’ve had children that I have really become interested in the environment. It is key that we educate our children that this planet is to be looked after, and we must make sure they don’t take a leaf out of our book on environmental preservation. We have not done a good job on it”
She uses the local refill shop, and her daughters understand that toys are made to be re-used – they see their local charity shop as the toy shop! And it’s handy for her too. She bought a bugaboo pram there for £10!
One of her daughter’s recently had a ‘green party’. She didn’t want lots of plastic, so they used brown paper bags and personalised wildseeds, along with a book from the charity shop for the going home presents. Pass the parcel wrapping was recycled from Christmas wrapping paper. The decorations were all made from fabric bunting, which they can re-use every year.
AND COLLEAGUES TOO!
At work Michelle has started an ECO team called MAKO (Making A Kinder Office). Slowly they are replacing things with eco friendly options and sourcing furniture reclaimed from Etsy alongside recycling etc. Every office purchase is now run past MAKO to make sure we are as sustainable as possible “It’s easy once you get into the habit.”
Michelle is determined that living a sustainable lifestyle needs to become the norm. “We have just got into bad habits and think it’s really hard to change. But it’s not, the new habits just become embedded as easily as the old ones and become second nature. If we all do this we can make a massive difference to the world we live in.”