8 sustainable switches to reduce our waste

Led by our Eco-Committee, we’ve been making some simple switches to significantly reduce the amount of waste we produce around School.

5 June 2020

We have been making some small but important eco-friendly switches. Our efforts so far have been recognised by Eco-Schools who have awarded us their Bronze Award. We hope this list inspires you to think about substitutions to reduce waste in your own homes – small changes add up! There is still a long way to go, but we are committed to ensuring that environmental awareness remains a priority at Downe House.

1) Single use bottles → reusable bottles

We have stopped providing single use plastic water bottles for trips, events and packed lunches. The whole School community has instead been encouraged and reminded to bring their own reusable water bottles. Investing in a reusable water bottle is one of the easiest ways to significantly reduce plastic waste. BBC Plastics Watch stated that if half of the UK switched to reusable water bottles, we’d save enough plastic to stretch to the moon and back in just one year. You can find more great resources on the BBC Plastics Watch website.

2) Meat every day → meat-free Mondays

We launched meat-free Mondays in January. This is certainly a larger lifestyle alteration but by cutting our meat consumption one day a week, we can reduce our School’s contribution to greenhouse gases. (The Agriculture Organisation of the UN estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.) There are other benefits to cutting down on meat consumption too, so it’s something worth considering. You can find out more on the Meat Free Mondays website.

3) Cling film → cake tins

Based upon discussions with the Catering department and the Eco-Committee, as well as concerns raised by students at a recent Food Forum committee meeting, our Catering team purchased cake storage containers for House teas. This massively reduces the need for cling film to be used and therefore help eliminate some waste. How much clingfilm do you use in your household? This could be another small but very positive change!

4) Single jam pots → squeezy bottles

In York, spreads such as jam and Marmite previously came in plastic pots as individual servings. These have been replaced by larger squeezy bottles which last for much longer.

5) Sugar packets → sugar dispensers

In the Staff Common Room, single sugar packets used for teas and coffees have been switched to large sugar dispenser containers. This means that sugar can be bulk purchased and dispensed from these, which significantly reduces the amount of packaging waste.

6) Single use wooden stirrers → reusable plastic spoons

In York House, single use wooden stirrers that were used for teas, coffees and hot chocolates have been replaced by reusable plastic spoons. Although these are plastic, they can be washed and reused so combat a throwaway culture.

7) Plastic Christmas crackers → eco-friendly crackers

The dialogue around waste throughout the Christmas period is particularly challenging and necessary. Our Catering team has swapped Christmas crackers filled with short-lived plastic items with more eco-friendly crackers for events. Although this substitute is only relevant one month a year, with the number of large festive events the we put on around the School this is certainly an effective way to reduce our plastic waste. Country Living made this list of eco-friendly Christmas crackers as well as general suggestions for a more green Christmas.

8) Single use cups → reusable bottles

We have removed single use plastic cups from all of our boarding Houses. Girls and staff are encouraged instead use their own reusable bottles and glasses.