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Catholic Schools Eco Newsletter No.1

26 February 2008:

To everyone on the Catholic Eco Schools list


This newsletter has come about because so many of you asked for a way of communicating your experiences, reflections, problems and triumphs as your schools and colleges become more environmentally conscious and active – both in teaching students to tread more lightly on the earth, and also in facing the challenges and changes in your own lives and in implementing greener school policies. In particular we want to help you explore what it means to be a Catholic school doing this.

As Communications Director for ARC (the Alliance of Religions and Conservation which works with faiths wanting to develop and improve their natural environment initiatives) I’ve offered to host the newsletter, at least in the beginning.

It should be quite a journey.

It’s a journey that could also be a model for other faith schools – and also secular schools – around the country and possibly internationally. We will start modestly – by exchanging information, ideas for assemblies, festivals, tips, hints and stories between the 20 or so people who are on the initial list.

If it proves to be interesting, useful, affordable and manageable then we as a group can think of setting up a website later, if it proves to be needed and if we have the right skill set. But right now let’s take a lesson from our own eco-strategies, and keep it very simple.

The first and most important thing is that this is your newsletter: send me stories, information, quotes and thoughts and I’ll send them out to everyone else on the list. If there is anyone you would like to be added to the distribution list then let us know at ARC and we’ll add them.

I anticipate that this will mostly be for Catholic schools in the southwest, at least initially. But let’s see. I also anticipate sending out something every month to six weeks, but again it entirely depends on you.

I think it might work in future to have a theme for each newsletter: –

* recycling perhaps, or

* eco-lessons that really inspire,

* how to make an “eco-week” engaging and interesting – in other words, a celebration,

* the implementation of Forest School Programmes,

* assembly materials,

* Catholic teaching on the environment,

* developing a school eco-theology,

* teaching gardening effectively in schools,

* developing alternative energy/saving energy,

* traditional sustainable building,

* educating the educators

* eco-twinning with schools in the south/developing world or

* what to do with an audit once you’ve done one…

Next time, I understand, you would like to discuss your vision about where you are going in this, and how to link, in that vision, with parents and parishes… ideas and input on this would be good.

The time afterwards might be a good opportunity for you to share thoughts about festivals, particularly featuring the harvest festival.

The news stories in the first newsletter are both from St Brendan’s Sixth Form College in Brislington, which signed up to Clifton Cathedral’s eco-initiative in October.

They have some great ideas and actions – including installing a large plastic recycling facility on site, making them one of the few UK educational institutions to do so. If there’s any interest from readers then in a later edition I’ll include some more details about this – what it involves and costs, and how you might like to do something similar on your own premises.

Their new sports hall is explicitly planned on environmental principles, and again next time if anybody writes to me to say that they would be interested in this, then I’ll include some more details of the intelligent system to minimise carbon emissions – of how they decided upon it, and also what the cost and planning implications were.

At least for this first one please write to me - let me know if this is worthwhile, or whether there is anything else you need, but also let me know that you received it.

Best wishes,

* News from St Brendan’s

Since signing up to the Sound of Many Waters campaign back in early October, St Brendan’s has been actively looking to encourage greener lifestyles among its staff and students. Initiatives include:

- Promoting recycling to its students and staff – not only through putting paper recycling bins all around the campus and plastic recycling bins in particular in the refectory but also St Brendan’s is one of the UK’s few academic institutions with a large plastic recycling facility actually on site. This is provided by Recresco ltd. Large cardboard recycling bins are also situated just outside the main building too.

- A further supplement to the college recycling family is a clothing bank provided by St Peter’s Hospice. The large bank which is situated between the art block and the main building recycles clothing, bedding, curtains and paired shoes.

- an environmental audit designed by the college’s ‘People and Planet’ group.

- putting ‘Thank you for not driving’ signs around the college. St Brendan’s tells us that the 500th such sign was unveiled in the college by local MP Kerry McCarthy in October 2007.

- planning a new sports hall designed to use natural resources such as sunlight and rainwater, as well as an “intelligent system to minimise carbon emissions”. To celebrate the erection of the framework, visiting priest Father Gerry Walsh gave a reading and said some bidding prayers before he and two students – representing sports teams at the college - ascended to the top of the building on a scissor lift. From there Father Gerry blessed the building, and those who will benefit from it with a sprinkling of holy water. The ceremony then ended with the two students Billy and Antoinette tying flowers to the tallest part of the building.

* Eco-Statistics

According to the Environment Agency, nearly 3 million tonnes of waste plastic are produced annually in the UK, only 7% of which is recycled. Plastic takes at least 500 years to decompose – but the additional problems are that the additives they contain, (including colorants, stabilisers and plasticizers) contain toxic components, and also animals can suffer either by eating them, or smaller mammals and insects can drop into them and not be able to escape.

* For Your Diary

Sunday 6th April 2008

Pioneering ecological campaigner and award-winning BBC Natural History TV and radio producer Mary Colwell leads visitors on a series of nature walks around her parish church, Clifton Cathedral, Bristol. Mary’s friends and colleagues from the BBC as well as other top naturalists will present nature talks and walks exploring the rich ecology in Bristol. The first event of the day will be the dawn chorus “hosted” by Bishop Declan Lang - in his garden. Chris Sperring from the Hawk and Owl Trust will guide us through the sites and sounds of one of nature’s greatest gifts. There will be more details on The Sound of Many Waters site closer to the time.

Link here for details of The Sound of Many Waters initiative and one year eco-programme by the Catholic Diocese of Clifton, in Bristol, UK.


Link here to read other Catholic Schools Eco Newsletters.

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UK: Sound of Many Waters, Catholic year of action
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