The Downe House Eco-Committee held their final meeting of the Lent term on Friday 19 March. Thank you Nellie for writing the online summary below and Maya for taking minutes.
On Friday 19 March, we held our final DECOs meeting of the Lent term! First on our agenda was planning our involvement in a STEM event in the Murray Centre on Tuesday 4 May. This will be an excellent opportunity for students to come and talk to DECO members and learn what our ambitions are in terms of recycling and food waste, hopefully encouraging girls at Downe to live sustainably. We had many superb suggestions in our committee meeting for what we could do to showcase our achievements and plans, but we unanimously agreed that we should have a stall with some interactive eco-games. There’s no better way to raise awareness and engage students than with some healthy competition! We’re hoping to do some quizzes, games and possibly even a Kahoot in the Auditorium depending on social distancing rules. In any case, it already looks like something to look forward to in the Summer term.
Next, we discussed our food waste campaign for the Summer term. This would be similar to our Switch-Off Fortnight, but instead we’d be looking at carbon labelling on food, where our food is sourced and whether girls are getting a balanced diet. We’re hoping to promote this on the board outside the Main Dining Room.
Also following on from Switch-Off Fortnight, we talked through ideas surrounding posters to encourage girls and staff to switch off the lights when they leave a classroom or dorm. We decided that it would be best to use small, credit card sized labels above light switches as a reminder. These labels are already used in some Houses such as York, but we’d like to see them used School-wide.
Lastly, we talked about the Gardening Club. The Upper and Lower Fifth have created an amazing gardening space outside AGS which the Lower Fourth and members of staff were lucky enough to use last Sunday.Eco-committee meeting minutes
Thank you to Mrs Phillips-Morgan for sharing some great information ‘unearthed’ by Miss Vickery, who runs the DH Gardening Club, and our archivist, Mrs Caiger-Smith. Fascinating! Read it here:The roots of the Downe House Gardening Club by Mrs Phillips-Morgan
Esme, Effie, Lottie, Tabitha, Sophie and Iris were super at helping clear the brambles away ready for the Downe House garden! A huge thank you to the girls for all their efforts in helping make the Downe House garden a reality!
We are delighted to receive our Eco School’s Green Flag certificate! Such great work has been achieved to gain the Green Flag Award, with over 20,000 schools registered we are in the top 1,500 schools who have achieved the Green Flag status. All girls and staff involved should be incredibly proud. Well done everyone!
Cassie, Ella, Hermione, Iris and Isabella along with Miss Vickery and Miss Williams spent Sunday working hard to clear a space for the new School vegetable patch. They carefully checked for birds’ nests and they hope to bring more birds to the area as it is established with a wildlife-friendly native species of hedge and by introducing a bird bath.
They have big ambitions with work continuing this Sunday… all are welcome to join!
The Big Garden Birdwatch involves spending one hour watching the birds and making a note of the different species you see on a survey. We recorded 69 birds in total and the list of species can be seen below, as well as in the charts below. There is also a nationwide chart as well which we have included…the blackbird is the most commonly seen garden bird so far this year!
We are delighted to announce that the winning poster of our Eco Code Poster competition run last term belongs to…Queena and Madhulika. Well done girls!
Thank you to everyone who got involved in Switch Off Fortnight last term. This was a two-week campaign where we encouraged everyone to switch off appliances and lights after use to save energy. During Switch Off Fortnight, members of the DECOs surveyed different departments in the evening to see how many lights and switches were left on, even though the rooms were empty.
Huge congratulations to the Co-Curricular department and Learning for Life for switching off all their lights at the end of the school day and saving energy. Whilst there are many positives to be taken from the survey results, it is clear that as a school community we are still wasting significant amounts of energy by leaving lights on in empty rooms. Remember, sometimes just one classroom light switch can power 8 to 12 fluorescent lights, so switching off really does count! It is also not just the responsibility of staff to switch off lights – all of us have our part to play in saving energy. So please remember whilst at home, and when you come back to school, to Switch Off.
Over 3000 empty crisp packets were recycled last term, which is a remarkable feat and has saved lots of harmful plastics from ending up in landfill or our oceans. Thank you for your efforts! Mrs McKendrick announced the winner of the Michaelmas term crisp packet recycling was AGN. Congratulations!
Friday 29 January
Written by Nellie, Upper Sixth Environmental Ambassador
On 29 January, we held our first DECOs meeting of 2021!
We started off our meeting by revealing the results of Eco-Code poster competition. The entries were so incredible that we ended up having a tie for first place between poster D and poster E. As a committee we took a deciding vote and chose poster E, made by Queena! Well done and thank you to everyone who entered a poster.
We then discussed how we can launch and best promote our Eco Code with our new poster. When we are back at school, we hope to put it up in communal areas such as the Murray Centre and on the screen outside the Main Dining Room. Mr Brown had a brilliant idea to hold an eco event over a lunch time in the Murray Centre, with banners and even some live plants and saplings! This would provide girls with the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about how to be eco friendly at school.
However, we do want to start promoting our Eco Code straight away in our virtual school. We talked about possibly sending the poster out on house Teams, mentioning it in an assembly and writing a piece for Murray Centre Live. As Chapel Senior, I also volunteered to promote an eco-theme in one of our services.
Then we celebrated some eco successes from the past year. In Michaelmas term 2019, the school used over 500,000 sheets of paper. We have cut this down massively and in Michaelmas term 2020, we only used 300,000. We have also saved 294 trees by recycling 38.5% of our waste over the last calendar year. There’s still a way to go but we’re headed in the right direction!
Lastly, we looked at the results of Switch Off Fortnight 2020 which we held in November. Results of our departmental audits have been sent out across the school, and we discussed ways in which we can encourage people to save energy at school and at home. We looked at radiator use, remembering to turn off the lights and leaving computers on standby.Read the meeting minutes
Make your workout routine more eco-friendly and sustainable with these simple tips from Miss Quarterman, our Assistant Director of Sport.DISCOVER
We were delighted that this year’s House Art competition was on the theme ‘Protecting and Celebrating the Earth’. Each House worked as a team to create a large work of art to represent the given theme. Alongside their artwork, each House wrote a statement of intention for their piece.
The Houses received feedback from Headmistress Mrs McKendrick and Environmental Awareness Co-ordinator Mrs Phillips-Morgan.
Huge congratulations to the winning House – AGN!
The two adjudicators were impressed with AGN’s piece “for its unique interpretation of the brief and for its striking portrayal of Mother Nature. We also really liked the strong collaborative approach taken by AGN and the mixed media used to add interesting dimensions to their piece.”
The AGN artistic team explained: “we came up with our idea to create a piece of Mother Nature cradling the earth as though to save it from the destruction which is waste. From the start we did know that we wanted to use mixed media to add dimension and interest towards the piece.”
View all five incredible entries below!
28 November – 6 December
We’re celebrating National Tree Week – the UK’s largest annual tree celebration! A group of girls and staff went on a woodland walk last Sunday around the school grounds identifying tree varieties and collecting acorns. We have since planted these acorns in the school glasshouse, recycling staff soup pots and spoons for our pots and labels!
We were delighted to hear about the Groundskeeping team’s recent tree planting. Head Groundsman Ash described recent planting at the sports pitches: “I have planted three red oaks (Quercus Rubra), six common beach (Fagus Sylvatica) and six copper beach (Fagus Purprea) as well as two common oaks to the side of Willis and three fruit trees to the rear of Willis. That makes twenty one trees planted this year to add to the fourteen from last year.”
There are some great books on trees should you wish to develop your tree knowledge. Why not try The Hidden Life of Trees, or Around the World in 80 Trees?
We received some really encouraging statistics from our Catering team about the impact of our switch to water containers and reusable bottles.
‘… on average we used to purchase 30 cases per week during term time, maybe more in the summer which is 720 bottles. We do not currently purchase any plastic bottled water and we haven’t done so since the end of the Michaelmas term 2019. When school trips start again the girls are asked to bring their own refillable water bottle and we provide containers of tap water which the girls can use to refill their bottles’.
This is such a drastic and significant reduction in our use of single-use plastic bottles and it’s great to be able to celebrate this sustainable swap!
Sunday 15 November
Lots of Upper School girls took part in an ecobricks workshop over the weekend. Ecobricks are plastic bottles filled with used and dry non-recyclable plastic which can be used as building blocks. This means that they are a fantastic way of saving harmful plastics from ending up in the oceans and an excellent way to reduce plastic pollution. You can find out more about ecobricks here.
Friday 13 November
Written by Nellie, Upper Sixth Environmental Ambassador
On Friday 13 November, the DECOs discussed a number of near-future eco-plans for the school. First, we talked over our Downe House Eco-Code and shared feedback from our assembly on Monday 9 November.
We really want to share our Eco-Code across the school in order to get as many people as possible to think about living sustainably at Downe House. To do this, we are planning to hold a poster competition where girls can enter designs for posters of our Eco-Code. The winning poster will be displayed around the school for everyone to see!
We then discussed Switch Off Fortnight 2020, which is from 16 – 27 November. DECO volunteers will be going around school buildings and making a note of the empty classrooms with lights and plugs left on. Findings will be presented in a school assembly which will hopefully make departments think more about their energy consumption. Mr Brown is kindly giving us the energy monitor readings next week and suggested that we display posters outside the Main Dining Room with slogans such as ‘Switch Off’.
Additionally, we thought about having Energy Monitors in each class who will remind staff to switch off after lessons.
Lastly, we explored the possibility of participating in National Tree Week from 28 November – 6 December. We are currently working through plans for a woodland walk and we will hopefully be giving girls a chance to do some planting around school.Read the meeting minutes
After laying the groundwork last year, Downe House has achieved Level 3 RHS School Gardening Award.DISCOVER
We’re absolutely delighted to announce that we have achieved the top Eco-Schools Award – Green Flag status – in recognition of our ongoing commitment to improving our sustainability and environmental awareness. Read more about how we won the award here.DISCOVER
We’re delighted to announce the members of this year’s DECOs (Downe House Eco-Committee), as voted for by the students. It is wonderful to see so much passion about environmental matters in the Downe House community and together, we can all help make Downe House a more sustainable place.
Meet the DECOs and find out more about their aims here.DISCOVER
Monday 28 September
With the move to grab and go lunches for the majority of staff, I am delighted to announce that all things are now in place for waste-free staff lunches! Please do be part of this initiative. The information below has been circulated to all staff and is displayed on digital signage around school to help remind girls and staff about the recycling options available.
Mrs Rachel Phillips-Morgan
Teacher of History and Politics, Environmental Awareness Co-ordinator
We’ve done it! We’re absolutely delighted to announce that we have received the Eco-Schools Silver Award in recognition of our ongoing commitment to improving our sustainability and environmental awareness. Read more about how we won the award here.DISCOVER
Thank you to all of the staff who demonstrated how their schemes of work contain links to environmental issues. This information will be used towards the Eco-Schools Silver Award. From English to Drama, Chemistry to Art, it’s amazing how many subjects contain opportunities to discuss the environment. An outline of the range of curriculum links we have at Downe House can be found below.
We compared the printing stats for April 2019 and April 2020. For one month, from 1st April – 30th April 2019, Downe House printed almost 80,000 sheets of paper (79,914). That’s a whole pallet stacked full of paper per month!
In contrast, the amount of printing undertaken this April, unsurprisingly due to remote teaching, was down significantly to just under 10,000 sheets (9,972 to be exact!).
Our DECOs and Staff Eco-Committee are encouraging us to think a little more before we print and to consider in our planning how we might build upon the progress we have made during the lockdown. Since all students from Remove to Lower Sixth will have their own Surface next year, can we continue this trend of limited printing in 2020-2021?
With this aim in mind, the DECOs and Staff Eco-Committee would like to put forward the following guide for us to think about in our planning for next year:
World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June every year and the theme for this year was biodiversity. One million plant and animal species risk extinction, largely due to human activities, and therefore the DECOs decided to mark the day by challenging members of the Downe House community to do something to help wildlife or biodiversity in their local areas or homes.
Girls, their families, and staff alike took up the challenge and you can see their contributions here!DISCOVER
Friday 5 June
How eco-friendly are you? Take this short quiz to find out!
Monday 1 June
We were delighted to see that the news of Downe House securing funds for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust reached Newbury Today.
You can read their coverage here.
Led by our Eco-Committee, we’ve been making some simple switches to significantly reduce the amount of waste we produce around School.DISCOVER
By Nellie (Lower Sixth), one of our DECOs
From tips on reducing plastic to celebrating endangered animals, these books will inspire more eco-friendly living.DISCOVER
Thursday 21 May
Following our visit to the BSI we were delighted to be able to support the work of a local environmental charity, the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.DISCOVER
Wednesday 15 April
We are delighted to be share some very positive news – we have achieved the Eco-School’s Bronze Award. The Eco-Schools programme provides a unique opportunity that empowers pupils to lead change within the School and have a positive impact in their wider community. We are delighted to have made real changes and started great conversations about how we can do more as a School community to be more environmentally aware. Onwards and upwards!
Based on our environmental review, our DECOs created an action plan to target different aspects of School life which they would like to make more environmentally friendly. The action plan is also an important record in our application for meeting the Eco-Schools Bronze Award criteria. You can read the full action plan here.DISCOVER
Thursday 27 February
I am delighted to inform you that the Catering department have placed food waste caddies in the Staff Common Room and Wakefield House. Please place any food waste (fruit peelings, crusts, used tea bags etc.) into them, instead of the landfill bins. The caddies can include meat, as the food waste will not be used for compost but will be converted into energy from incineration. (Composting is certainly something we may look into further down the line, particularly since the AGS gardening club is now up-and-running and have been busy cleaning out the greenhouse and planting seeds!)
There is also a bin in the Staff Common Room for mixed recycling. Please can all dry and clean paper, cardboard, plastics and cans go into this bin as opposed to the landfill waste.
Wednesday 4 March
We were delighted that the British Standards Institute invited Downe House, along with two other schools, to participate in a ‘Horizon Scanning Day’. Following an introduction from Dr Manuela Gazzard, who gave an overview of the BSI’s role and an insight into the United Nation’s Sustainability Goals (of which many BSI leaders have signed up to), we were invited into a boardroom to present to key leaders about what young people see as the key concerns facing the environment. The DECOs presented on a number of topics after asking our full student body about their main concerns through a full-School survey.
‘Whilst taking an interest in all the matters covered by the DECOs and Miss Donaldson, they were particularly keen to hear about ideas around tax incentives for textiles companies that recycle their water, adopting a more streamlined approach to carbon labelling on food packaging, and the development of community gardening.’
The BSI have also chosen to make a generous donation of £1500 to an environmental charity of our choice which the DECOs will be deciding on.
BSI are an organisation that shape best practice across many industries and offer suggested policy reforms to the British government. Therefore it was a real privilege for us to be able to speak at their Headquarters and offer our ideas in regards to environmental problems and potential solutions!
Monday 11 February
Three members of our Eco-Committee, the DECOs, delivered an assembly to the Lower Sixth this morning. The girls chose the topics based on their interests, researched them and informed their peers about the relevant effects on the environment. Zoe discussed the problems with fast fashion, Elodie informed us about palm oil and Nellie examined cobalt mining.
Sunday 2 February
Run by Miss Vickery, our first Gardening Club took place today. They planned what they’d like to grow and designed their green space. Afterwards they began making newspaper pots, sowing peas and beans and getting the potatoes ready for chitting!
As Microsoft Showcase School, we were delighted to hear that Microsoft has pledged to remove “all of the carbon” from the environment that it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975. This goal is set for 2050, and means that the company need to be carbon negative by 2030. Read the full statement on Microsoft’s blog.DISCOVER
We are delighted that Downe House is included in Families Thames Valley West magazine’s article about the benefits of outdoor learning. Read it here!
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.
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!
Meat Free Mondays has now launched! So, why are we trialing Meat Free Mondays? There are four key reasons:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.DISCOVER
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
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!Discover
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.
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.
Mrs Rachel Phillips-Morgan
Teacher of History and Politics, Environmental Awareness Co-ordinator
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.
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
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
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