Making greener choices can feel not only like extra work but also extra expense. We can’t all afford to install solar panels, buy electric cars and switch to environmental products, especially while UK ELT is still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully there are a lot of cheap, cost saving and free environmental actions we can take.
A focus on green action might feel irrelevant, unrealistic or even insensitive while our industry is struggling for survival. But unfortunately the climate crisis poses an even greater threat, not only to our businesses and jobs, but to food supplies, homes, health and people’s survival around the world. Somehow we have to find the energy to face both the pandemic and the environmental crisis at once, and free changes can be a great place to start – especially if you need to make a business case for action at your organisation.
In Green Action ELT’s May 2021 meeting, we explored cheap and free environmental action. Thank you to everyone who joined in and shared your ideas and suggestions – we have compiled them all and will continue to add to the list as we find new tips. Tell us what we have missed!
Talk is cheap
Just asking ‘what more could we be doing?’ can put important issues on the agenda. Asking questions raises awareness and normalises consideration and concern about the environmental impact of our activities. This is powerful, free environmental action.
Talk to your colleagues about how your school could better take environmental responsibility, form a group to share ideas and make plans for greener provision. Together you can start to build a green culture at your organisation, viewing and reshaping everything, from marketing, teaching to office management, through a green lens.
Start sharing your ideas, questions or concerns in the industry more widely. Raise questions at UK ELT conferences and meetings. Ask board members to represent your concerns if you are part of a membership association like English UK or IALC. Post about environmental issues on social media to encourage and inspire others (include #GreenELT so we can find it!).
Likewise, ask your suppliers about their green policies. The more people looking and asking for greener services, the more likely companies are to act. You never know what changes you might spark just by getting people thinking.
✓ Ask questions (colleagues, managers, representatives, suppliers, associations)
✓ Talk about environment issues in person
✓ Share climate action, ideas and questions online with #GreenELT
✓ Form a green group at your organisation
✓ Express your feelings about the crises we face, support those who share their worries or fears with you
Talk about it, especially with students. We can take environmental action by helping English language learners explore the environmental issues that matter to them, equipping them with the language and critical skills they need to face the defining issue of our time.
Early findings from upcoming British Council research (expected August/ September 2021) has shown that young English language learners want environmental education.
This could look like ‘hacking’ lessons, as Owain Llewellyn of ELT Sustainable recommends. You can easily add in questions about environmental impact on chapters on clothes, food, holidays, hobbies and other topics. There are lots of resources available.
And you do not need to be an expert in climate science to teach green ELT. By raising questions and encouraging investigation you can learn together with your students. Giving students the chance to discuss pressing, topical global issues is free.
✓ Include environmental topics in your lessons (keep things local and relevant to student’s lives)
✓ Teach English through environmental projects
✓ Include students in environmental projects at your school
✓ Invite local green groups to speak at your school or via zoom
Reduce, repair, reuse
Any change that reduces consumption or waste is most likely a money-saving change too.
Choosing power efficient equipment and settings, turning computers and printers off when out of use, reducing screen time and reducing the need for heating/ cooling will all help save energy and costs.
Reducing paper, making pens last, quitting single-use merchandising, using a reusable bottle, bag and coffee cup, buying second hand, repairing rather than replacing and rethinking what we really need to buy in the first place – all mean both spending less and contributing less to global warming and environmental destruction.
Over-consumption is a key contributor to climate change. Every item we buy requires raw materials, machinery and land clearing to extract those materials, transport, equipment for assembly, more transport, packaging and so on. Reduced consumption cuts this energy hungry process and is even more effective than buying green.
✓ Measure and reduce your energy consumption (set targets)
✓ Start reducing paper
✓ Refuse, rethink, reduce, reuse and repair
✓ Quit single-use plastics (cutlery, cups, balloons etc.)
✓ Reduce food waste
Approach the problem as a team
To be successful, environmental action needs to include everyone.
In our meeting we discussed how it’s easy to feel cynical, lectured or talked down to, and therefore reluctant to make changes if they are dictated from above with little explanation or inclusion in the process. Involve your whole team to generate the best ideas and make real, lasting change.
✓ Include everyone to get avoid mistakes and gather the best ideas
✓ Empower your colleagues to make changes and lead on environmental action
✓ Keep communicating, sharing both successes and challenges
Free Green Standard Schools environmental audit
Green Standard Schools is a non-profit association to help language schools take environmental responsibility and recognise their efforts with a quality mark.
Founder Jonathan Dykes joined our discussion and invited everyone to use their free online self-assessment to review your school’s environmental practices and identify areas for improvement. This is effectively a free environmental audit. The Green Standard Schools team will even give you free feedback to help you improve your environmental performance.
Then, once you reach a certain level of green action and practice you can decide whether you want to sign up for membership.
Free environmental action with green grants
Bigger investments, like solar panel, electric cars, insulation and other green projects can often save money in the long term but need an investment to install. Here green loans and grants can help.
Start by asking your local authority to see if there is any funding available in your area. Some possibilities include: West of England Green Business Grants, Manchester Energy Efficiency grants, Coventry and Warwickshire Green Business Programme, Worcestershire Business Energy Efficiency Programme, Business Energy Efficiency (BEE) Anglia, Energy for Business Nottingham
There are also a number of charities and NGOs that may fund environmental projects. Some possibilities include: The Carbon Trust, Low Carbon Workspaces, The Ashden Trust, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Learning Through Landscapes
✓ Ask your local authority about funding
✓ Check environmental charities and NGOs
✓ Share your green grant news and projects with us
✓ Ask for funding and support where the isn’t any
Campaigning and collective action
Making personal changes to how you travel, shop, eat and work are important, immediate actions. Paired with collective action – coming together in your neighbourhood, in your ELT organisation and as the whole UK ELT sector – our impact will be huge.
Collective action can be very powerful. Working together amplifies the actions of every participant, has a greater influence on others and some problems, as we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic, cannot be tackled alone. The scale of the climate and ecological disasters demand huge changes that can only be achieved together.
✓ Share our emails, posts and events with your colleagues
✓ Join the collective action group we are forming
✓ Find a climate action group near you (e.g. Friends of the Earth)
✓ Ask your representatives to do more (ELT board as well as MPs)
✓ Vote for representatives that take climate action seriously