Sustainability Week 2021: Small Changes Making a Large Impact

The fourth Alleyn’s Sustainability Week was packed with a huge variety of events, activities, talks and pledges.

Following the historic COP26 events in Glasgow, the topic of sustainability and climate change was very much top of mind at the School. Running up to the week, we asked members of our community to make a ‘sustainability pledge’, a small or large change they would make for the week and hopefully beyond. We received over 400 pledges with switching off lights (made by 26% of our community), adopting a more vegetarian diet (26%), and cutting down on single-use plastics (19%) as the top three.

Starting on Monday 15 November, there were no signs of any disposable cups in the whole school and no meat was served at lunch. Pupils and staff enthusiastically embraced these meat-free meals and many continued with vegan and vegetarian options at home with perhaps some tips from Mr Sharp’s lunchtime session on cooking a sustainable meal.

We welcomed a number of guest speakers: Jemima Hartshorn of Mums for Lungs spoke on Monday about the impact of air pollution; Imperial College London researcher Dr Amin Bugaj spoke about data-driven solutions to support low carbon electricity systems; and Barclays Bank’s Marco DeBendictis gave us new insight into building sustainable strategies for business. These were interspersed with talks by teachers on plastic pollution in the Thames, climates change facts and follies, ecocriticism and how literature relates to the physical world and a screening of Cowspiracy.

Richard Balfe inspect a staff member's bike.

On a thankfully dry and sunny Tuesday, we were delighted to see Richard Balfe, who has been visiting the school for 5 years with Balfe’s Bikes, to offer free bike checks to staff and pupils. Over 30 bikes were inspected with repairs ranging from gear tune-ups, new brake pads to the simple but old favourite – pumping up tyres.

Junior School pupils also made their pledges this week, to walk, cycle or scooter to school, use less plastic and to eat smaller portions if they were not hungry. They participated in the Recycled Materials Art Competition and sent in photos of changes at home to be more sustainable.

Throughout the week, we saw real commitment and initiative from our pupils. The Eco Committee took an active role in building the programming, a group in Year 7 to 10 organised a Clear Air Conference and delegates from Alleyn’s met those from Dulwich College and Jags online for the Inter-School COP. Individual pupils hosted events throughout the week, notably two Year 13s: Letty, who ran a T-Shirt Upcycling workshop and Milly, who presented Grub’s Up, a talk about an insect-based diet as a way of reducing greenhouse gases. She even had samples of crunchy roasted crickets for us to try!

Student try out some roasted crickets.

Other events included a staff clothes and book swap and classroom activities throughout the week. This year’s efforts from all members of the Alleyn’s community were enormously impressive and encouraging and we look forward to building our knowledge going forward and adapting our habits to support a more sustainable future.

Main image: Letty shows how to upcycle old t-shirts.