Let’s go Zero – How?

Back in June this year, the headteachers within RBWM were all written to by our council leader for Adult Social Care, Children Services, Health and Mental Health, encouraging all schools to start taking steps towards reaching net zero, using the Ashden Let’s go Zero campaign as an exemplar. It’s a splendid example of thought leadership by our current council administration, and it chimed very well with the work we had been planning for many years for our new campus development, as and when that was approved. Our new buildings were of course to be of the latest design, adopting the newest and best of modern technologies, but sadly, the same administration (and sadly the national planning inspectorate as well) thought otherwise. So here we are, Claires Court School in 2021, and what are we going to do to support such plans, given that we are to remain for the time being on 3 sites and in buildings that hark back to the Victorian era?

Firstly, please let’s remember that the school owns its land, both its 2 sites in central Maidenhead and its 60 acres by Maidenhead Thicket. So we have to do as much as we can to reduce our carbon footprint, but I betcha many readers won’t know what the means. So here goes to set the record straight…

“A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, here in the UK is 8.3 tons, to compare two of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4.7 tons.”

Back in June, the UK government set its ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, though it’s definitely more a wish list than the start of a task driven project. I sense that BJ and his ministers are likely to be using more of David Cameron’s nudge theory rather than choosing to things practical themselves, because (if nothing else) they have far too much on currently to resolve the current Brexit/Covid/Austerity crisis.

Believe you me, my school is doing its best to reduce its energy usage, but however hard we try, we will still be running busses, heating buildings, cooking food and all the things humans do to live and survive in C21. Over a decade, it’s fair to say that our human headcount has averaged 1000 in terms of children and 250 full time equivalent adults – there are times when I do wonder whether nursery children should count as a whole number, but to keep me honest, let’s in the end agree Claires Court has 1250 humans under its roof, spread of course across Maidenhead.

To be honest, the data on individual child and adult Carbon footprints a year is reported at really variable amounts, with some quotes for families at 17 tons of CO2 emissions being lower than for individuals, so much so that advice needs to be tailored, not generic. The most important recommendation I can see coming the way of schools is that we should aim to plant One Tree Per Child , I’ll buy that, and that accounts for the first 1000 we have on the stocks. Of course we need to consider our staff do not wish to feel left out, and whilst we have 250 full time equivalents, what with part time roles, job shares and volunteers, we can certainly add another 500 into the mix. And let’s make sure everyone plants one for a friend, someone less fortunate and with no access to trees or land, and that gets us to the 3000 we have to hand.

In due course, 3000 mature trees will provide us with carbon sequestration of 60+ tonnes a year, and even more helpfully scrub the air of pollution toxins and breathe out sufficient Oxygen for 6000 adults – more than enough to cover our local population as well as our school settings across Maidenhead. The nice thing is about our project is that we will still have circa 20 hectares of grasslands also doing their bit for CO2 removal and Oxygen production; adding an additional 20+ tonnes a year removal from the air and supporting a further 3000 adults with their Oxygen needs.This brings the total Carbon Dioxide removal to 80+ tonnes and reoxygenating 9000+ souls across the RBWM.

I’m staggered by the CO2 footprint being so very much bigger than our oxygen needs; this is because of course whenever we travel in a car, train or plane, we burn so very much more oxygen than we breathe. And everything we need is also delivered in the main using powered vehicles, so I can see we need to encourage societal change to accept that growing & making your own makes what we do more likely to be sustainable and that staycations are the way ahead. And whilst winter is coming, we could do with not switching the heating on so early. Oh dear… I’ll think I’ll stick to encouraging everyone to plant trees and grow grass, so Zero or Not, here come the Tiny Forests!!!

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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