DECOs Newsletter

The DECOs (Downe House Eco Committee) meet each month to discuss how we can make our school more sustainable and environmentally aware. Upper Sixth student Zoe writes up what is discussed after each meeting.

29 January 2020

Update: free range eggs

Tuesday 28 January

We’re so pleased to announce the news that as of today the Catering department have made the switch from caged bird eggs to free range eggs.

Meeting Four

Friday 24 January

2020 has kicked off and our first meeting of the year has paved the way for a good to start the decade. After rolling out our Meat Free Mondays, a survey is in the works following our meeting this morning to find out how well it’s working and what we can do better. There was also some very productive feedback regarding our new water bottle scheme and we discussed our use of biodegradable cups where possible. The DECOs are also gearing up for a clothes swap event in the Michaelmas term to promote second-hand clothing, as well as getting organised for an electricity audit which will be happening in the coming weeks. Our meeting finished off with brainstorming ideas for our Founder’s Weekend stall to get everyone involved in DECOs, and prepping for our meeting with the BSI team in London. All in all another successful day in the office!

Update: Meat Free Mondays

Meat Free Mondays has now launched! So, why are we trialing Meat Free Mondays? There are four key reasons:

1) Greenhouse gases

According to the UN Panel on Climate Change, we need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Agriculture Organization of the UN has reported that the livestock sector is “one of the top 2 or 3 most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems”, and estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cows in particular produce very high methane levels, and considering that methane traps 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, mass-scale beef production presents a huge threat to the climate. Therefore, reducing our meat intake could be one step in helping avoid climate disaster.

As well as benefiting the environment, reducing our meat intake has other benefits:

2) Health

Many of the world’s leading health organisations now encourage a reduction in the amount of meat people eat. In 2010, a study carried out by Oxford University found that eating meat no more than 3 times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion each year.  The healthy plate guidelines from the NHS also recommend that for protein, which is an important part of a balanced and healthy diet, we should eat more beans and pulses, 2 portions of sustainably sourced fish per week, and eat less red and processed meat.

3) Animal welfare

Animals that are raised in intensive factory farms often live in cramped, overcrowded cages, sheds and pens with no access to daylight or fresh air. By reducing our meat intake, there can be opportunity to buy better quality meat instead, which is outdoor reared, free range and maintains a high standards of animal welfare.

4) Farming communities

Farmers make a vital contribution to our society and many communities rely on the farming sector for their survival. By reducing our meat intake, we can take more time to choose our meat options carefully, buying local options which serve the community. Cheap meat usually comes at a price – one paid by the environment, farm animals and the farmers themselves. Therefore, by becoming more conscious of our meat intake, where our meat comes from and the processes involved, we can make more informed choices that can better serve those working in the meat industry, the animals reared for meat and the environment.

Remember, we would like to hear your thoughts on Meat Free Mondays and will be sending out a survey so you can feedback on your experience later in the term. You will also be able to tell us whether Meat Free Mondays is something you would like to continue.

Update: Crisp packet recycling

Congratulations to York for recycling the most crisp packets in Michaelmas term! We hope you enjoy your prize!

Well done to all Houses that participated; the total amount of crisp packets collected weighed an amazing 5.4kg!

Keep up the good work as we continue recycling as many crisp packets as we can.


Meeting Three

Friday 6 December

It’s been a busy term! At our final meeting of the term the DECOs were congratulated firstly for announcing the results of their Environmental Audit at the Whole School Assembly on Monday 2 December. They did an excellent job of declaring their key findings and informing the school of the chosen topics for their Action Plan. The meeting then moved on to discussing feedback from using water containers on trips, as opposed to using single-use plastic bottles, and the DECOs discussed how we might remove single-use plastic in other areas of the School, including at water fountains. We also reflected on the launch of the crisp packet recycling scheme, which is going very well! The boarding Houses that have recycled the highest amount will be announced at the beginning of term and a prize awarded. The next meeting will take place in January.

Read the meeting minutes

Update: DECOs Environmental Review

On Monday 2 December the DECOs announced the findings of their recent Environmental Review in Whole School Assembly. Each member of the DECOs was given a topic to review, ranging from Litter and Transport to Biodiversity. Read the key findings here and watch this space in 2020 for news about our Action Plan, which will be based upon these findings and will focus on the three areas of Waste, Energy and Transport. Happy reading!


Update: National Tree Week

Downe House participated in National Tree Week this year with girls going out to plant trees with Head Groundsman, Ash, on the following days/times:

Tuesday 26 November: 12 noon – 12.30pm Lower School
Wednesday 27 November: 12 noon – 12.30pm Sixth Form
Thursday 28 November: 12 noon – 12.30pm Upper School

National Tree Week runs annually and more information can be found here.


Update: Crisp packet recycling

In each of your boarding Houses there is an empty crisp box which will be used to collect your empty crisp packets. By the end of the term, I will come around and weigh each box, and the House that has the heaviest weight will win a prize! The crisp packets can be from any brand and they don’t need to be washed, but they do need to be empty.

The crisp packets will then be processed by Terracycle, an organisation that recycles materials that are hard-to-recycle. Here, the crisp packets are separated by plastic type, cleaned and extruded into plastic pellets to make new recycled products. Recycling helps conserve important raw materials and protects natural habitats for the future, so by recycling our crisp packets, we will be part of this positive change.

Happy recycling!

Mrs Rachel Phillips-Morgan
Teacher of History and Politics, Environmental Awareness Co-ordinator

Event: Skype talk on Climate Change

We were delighted to be part of Microsoft Education’s annual Global Learning Connection conference. On Wednesday 6 November we took part in a Skype talk with a Pulitzer Center journalist, Elham Shabahat, who reported on her first-hand experiences of the impact of climate change around the world, in particular the changes she has witnessed taking place in rainforests.

Meeting Two

Friday 1 November

Our second meeting of the DECOs commenced with feedback from almost all our members about their Environmental Reviews on topics such as biodiversity, waste and electricity to name a few. These audits reviewed how Downe House approaches ten aspects of our school environment and community to see what we do well and where we can improve. After discussing some changes we want to see, like a reduction in meat consumption or how the staff commute to work, we chose Waste & Recycling, Energy and Transport as the three areas we are going to focus on in our Action Plan. A productive second session, which can set us up for some positive change to come!

Read the meeting minutes

Update: Plastic bottle free by Lent Term

I am delighted to inform you that in our efforts to become a plastic bottle free school, we are starting to roll out the use of water containers for school trips and events instead of using single-use plastic bottles. This has already been trialled with the Drama department. We will continue roll this out to different year groups and trips over the half-term, with the aim of implementing this fully from the Lent term onwards.

We are very excited about this initiative and greatly appreciate your support as we try to become a more environmentally-friendly school.

Mrs Rachel Phillips-Morgan
Teacher of History and Politics, Environmental Awareness Co-ordinator

Meeting One

Friday 4 October

Friday 4 October saw the first Downe House Eco-Committee meeting, with our elected body of students and a few key members of staff. We had a round of introductions followed by a quick brainstorm on what to name our newly founded group, landing on the great name of DECOs, Downe House Eco Committee! We discussed the Eco-Schools Green Flag Award and what that entails for our team, as well as allocating areas of the School for us to research, to formulate our action plan for making some changes. All rounded off with Mr Mctaggart’s amazing presentation of a prototype to help stop our use of single-use plastic bottles on school trips. A successful first meeting of many more to come.

Read the meeting minutes

Visits & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House, is to come and experience it for yourself – arrange a visit or join us for one of our Open Mornings?