Leighton Park School – Change Champions Go Forth!

16 Apr 2019

Leighton Park has achieved a landmark in the school’s sustainability journey with the launch of the Change Champions initiative to students in Years 7 and 8 the start of term. It is vital that young people understand the critical importance of their role within a global community committed to nurturing the world in which we live for their own future and that of subsequent generations.

Change Champions was the brain child of our IT Support company Commercial Group and has been a key strategy for all their staff within the business. Our Director of IT, David Pacey and Karen Gracie-Langrick, Deputy Head (Academic) tailored the programme to work around the ages groups and designed sample projects for each team to attempt. Delivering this message on launch day from Commercial were Richard Blundell, Managed IT Divisional Director, and Grace Segrave, Sustainability Assistant. Commercial Group are made up of various divisions and Change Champions was originally started in the Office Supplies Division, however quickly spread to the entire business. An IT consultancy may seem an unusual source of sustainability wisdom but Commercial have whole-heartedly embraced sustainability and their Co-Founder, Simone Hindmarch-Bye, is so determined to make a difference that she has employed two full time members of staff dedicated to the creation and implementation of a Change Champions programme within her business. Aiming to inspire similar behaviours in the school community and specifically within the Fryer’s Community Action Service (CAS) programme, Commercial shared the success of their sustainability formula with Leighton Park’s students.

As Grace Segrave, explained to the students, “Every little thing you do can make a difference, every choice you make, every item you pick, has a ripple effect. You are tomorrow’s leaders and you will be responsible for changing the planet from what it is today and making it better.”

“The Change Champions initiative, which we will deliver through our weekly CAS sessions, is about empowering our students to be real drivers of change as they look at their role as stewards of the planet and to action their pioneering ideas to make a difference and to reduce our carbon footprint.” added Karen Gracie-Langrick, Deputy Head (Academic).

Through Commercial’s presentation, students discovered that the three pillars of sustainability; environmental, social and economic, or colloquially, planet, people and profit; support the Quaker values at the heart of Leighton Park’s ethos. Considering your environmental impact, remembering to reuse, reduce and recycle, taking decisions that reduce your carbon footprint, all speak to the testimonies of simplicity and sustainability. The need to select suppliers and buy products from organisations who treat their workers with respect, integrity, equality and peace, pay a fair wage for work, offer benefits that improve the life/work balance and don’t take advantage of people is vital for a sustainable workforce. A business must be profitable to be sustainable but profit at any cost is not economically sustainable. The truth is also that it is not necessary to be greedy or deceitful in the pursuit of profit and organisations must consider their corporate social responsibility, risk management and governance strategies to ensure that their desire for profit does not overwhelm the other two pillars of sustainability. The option which seems financially the cheapest often has a much higher cost to the planet or its people. Sustainability is about recognising that and achieving an acceptable balance between the three pillars.

It was fascinating to hear some of the initiatives that Commercial’s own employees have undertaken. There were activities ranging from planting a living wall over recycled plastic benches creating mindfulness areas at their headquarters to  refusing to supply their clients laptops with precious metal components mined in countries where workers are exploited; from using delivery vans that run on hydrogen and emit only water to supporting a female farming project on a Kenyan palm oil plantation to reduce their carbon footprint. Recognition of their laudable efforts came last year in the form of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the sustainability category, and Commercial are delighted to be pioneers as the only member of the Ethical Trading Institute (ETI) in the office supplies industry, leading the way for others to follow.

As the presentation came to a close, the students were buzzing with ideas “It was good,” commented Maurice (Year 7). “I was really inspired by the tiers of sustainability,” added Jack (Year 8) “I don’t know what I’m going to do next but I want to do something for good.” Co-ordinator of the CAS programme, Pablo Gorostidi, was pleased the launch had been well received, reflecting, “Not only is our CAS Change Champions initiative about sustainability but it is in itself sustainable. The Year 7s will begin their project this year in a group mixed with Year 8s and next year they will continue their activity in Year 8 with some new Year 7s on their team and so on. It is a rolling responsibility and commitment.”

Already underway with the school’s commitment to sustainability is Grounds and Facilities Manager, Tom Sheldon. “We are trying to achieve as much sustainability across the Park as we can.” Tom explained. “It’s important that we work with the right companies and find suppliers who are local to us to help reduce our carbon footprint.”

The rolling programme for the replacement of furniture has enabled Tom to order modular sofa units with timber frames certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and with high quality production values so that they can be re-upholstered in the future rather than replaced. Although the upfront costs are higher, this approach will extend the sofa’s lifespan from 10 to 30 years. In addition, the soft and durable fabric covering the new sofas is incredibly made from recycled plastic bottles! Over the next three years all the boarding house couches will be replaced with sustainable sofas and this term the Individual Learning Centre is also being kitted out.

Tree Preservation Orders are active across the 65 acre park and although the estates team do occasionally have to fell mature or over-mature trees, they are careful to plan two new trees in a nearby location. “I’d love to see every child joining Fryer planting their own tree on the Park,” mused Tom, recognising the value of saplings which use up more carbon dioxide as they grow than older trees.

One of the biggest differences Tom has made to the School’s carbon footprint recently is through the compacting of waste. The school previously generated eleven bins of cardboard waste per week necessitating frequent waste collections. By compacting the cardboard and arranging for it to be collected weekly by a recycling company we have avoided unnecessary CO2 emissions and converted the waste into recycling. The waste that cannot be recycled is collected by Select Environmental who ensures 0% landfill by incinerating the waste. They employ special filters on the emissions resulting in an output which is actually cleaner than the air we are already breathing!

Fuel for the school’s five minibuses is now delivered to site for onsite refuelling, rather than all five buses being driven to a service station each week for diesel. The fleet of golf buggies and the catering van have all been changed to electric vehicles and the move towards electric, rather than petrol powered, tools such as mowers, hedge cutters and strimmers etc, is 80% complete.

Keith Eldridge, Bursar, is proud of the School’s commitment to solar power. “We have had solar panels on the swimming pool, Reckitt House and Oakview restaurant, and will have completed School House before the end of the summer.” Alan Rumney, Estates Manager, explained “Since its installation in 2015 the 35kW array on the swimming pool has generated over 101 megawatt hours of free electricity for the School, a saving that equates to over 40 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from a power station.” The 20kW array on Oakview and the 13kW array on Reckitt are as efficient although smaller. “We believe that 75% of all the electricity being produced is being used by the School, reducing our carbon footprint even further.” concluded Alan.

It is clear that the Leighton Park community is already an educational environment that values sustainability. We’re excited to see how much more we can do to make a difference.