Ratoath College

Ratoath College

Mol an Óige agus Tiocfaidh Sí

Our Sustainability Journey

Our Green Flag

Thanks to the massive efforts of everyone in the school community, and in particular of the Green Schools Team, our Green Flag was renewed on 24th May 2023 at the Green Schools Award Ceremony.

Our new Green Flag was raised for the first time on Friday, 2nd June 2023.

Young Environmentalist Awards

The success of our “Lead the Scene and Keep it Green” campaign was recognised at the Young Environmentalist Awards where the school was awarded the Most Sustainable School award for 2023.

Our Sustainability Journey

Our Green Schools Committee was formed in September 2021, in an effort to take a whole school approach to improving our school environment. We could see the world around us changing and beginning to take note of their plastic use and we wanted to be ambassadors for change in our own community. We knew we would all have to understand our individual and collective responsibilities in order to take real action in our school and bring about meaningful change.

It started with a desire to reduce the use of single-use plastics in our school. Our project started with monitoring litter within our school community and creating awareness about the damage single-use plastics can do to our environment. We gathered our information by interviewing school staff, students, caretakers, local business people and parents. We started our RC Green Schools Leadership Team which comprises of highly motivated students, management, caretakers, parents and teachers. Our extensive research and monitoring showed us that students using single-use water bottles and teachers using single-use coffee cups were found to be the largest obstacles in relation to reducing letter and waste in our school. 

Our Lead the Scene and Keep it Green’ campaign started in September 2021. Since we started the project, we liaised with our Principal and our Management team, to put in place a ban of single-use plastic bottles in the school and a ban of single-use coffee cups in our school. Three water-refill fountains have been installed in our school. We designed our own unique reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. We designed our own Ratoath College logo and slogan which is printed on our school handbooks, student dialanns and teacher journals. Our uniquely designed ‘Keep it Green’ posters were professionally printed and are now visible in every classroom in our school and in all GP areas. We painted a large mural of our ‘Lead the Scene and Keep it Green’ image on the wall at the entrance to our school.

We then developed and delivered a ‘Keep it Green’ presentation to all staff and students in our school. This included information on the impact of plastic on sea life, the health hazards to humans and the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling within our school community. It also explained our new ‘Keep it Green’ whole school initiatives, so that our entire school community would know what we were collectively doing as a school, to combat our litter and waste issues in our school. We also held a ‘Keep it Green’ Month in September 2022 and in December 2022, where all students were presented with four lessons on Sustainability, Circular Economy, Litter and Waste and Climate Change. This gave students and teachers an opportunity to explore the topic of sustainability as a class and to communicate their individual and collective concerns as a class.  Both students are teachers are rewarded with weekly and end of term Pizza Parties and certificates for exemplary work in relation to keeping their classrooms clean and litter free.

In September 2022 and we supplied every student in the school with their own RC Reusable Water Bottle and every staff member with a RC Reusable Coffee mug free of charge. All students and staff were encouraged to bring in their own lunchbox and dispose of any waste in their lunch box and recycle it at home. There is now only one ‘Paper Only’ recycling bin placed in every classroom in the school and our Green Schools Leadership Team monitor all our classrooms on a weekly basis. 

Classes are rewarded each term with a pizza party for their commitments to our initiatives and teachers are rewarded on a weekly basis for their dedication to our cause with a certificate and gift. We designed a large Green Notice Board to highlight all important initiatives taking place in our school and to highlight our successful classes and teachers who have won our green awards each term. 

We have noticed a huge decline in the use of single-use plastics which was our target, at the beginning of this project. At the start of 2020, hundreds of plastic bottles and coffee cups were collected weekly in our school and now we only use plastic bottles for art projects to highlight important topics like recycling and sustainability, so we feel we have achieved awareness amongst our fellow students. Our campaign has led to a complete ban on single-use plastic bottles and coffee cups in our school, saving an average of over 6,000 bottles so far from landfill. We promote all our ‘Keep it Green’ initiatives on all our Social Media pages (Twitter, Instagram and our school website) and we hope our campaign has helped the wider community to realise the need to reduce their use of single-use plastics for a sustainable future.

Our Art Department also worked on a wonderful Green Schools Sculpture Project. To gain inspiration for our sculpture pieces, students went on a day trip to Lough Boora Discovery Park in Co. Offaly. For many years, Lough Boora was a working bog and now it’s home to many sculpture pieces created by Artists from Ireland and all around the world. Art students in Ratoath College decided to use recycled plastic bottles and natural materials in their own designs. Students drew plastic bottles and incorporated them into our final designs and based their sculptures on an environmental message that meant something personal to us and our school.  Their work is displayed in an outdoor display garden in our school. 

Students and staff in our Autism Unit (Ionad Arkle) joined forces with our Green Schools Leadership Team and decided to create our own community garden. This was to teach the students the importance of plants to our environment. They learned how to plant and water their plants and look after them. They planted tomatoes to learn how to grow vegetables and created a rota to share the responsibilities that helped show teamwork makes any task easier. 

The Green School leadership team ran a Green Schools Poster Competition in January 2022 with the theme ‘Say No to Single Use Plastic’. A 6th year student produced the winning poster which is both artistic and informative and it is attached here.

The team ran a wonderful Green Schools Action Day in December 2022, where we introduced our Green Schools Mascot to our school ‘Scruffy’.  Scruffy reward all students and staff who walked, cycled or scooted to school that morning with treats. We also hosted our first ever ‘clothes swop’ event. We wanted to highlight the important transition in awareness and attitude from a ‘take, wear, dispose’ approach to clothing (linear economy) to a ‘care, share, repair’ approach (circular economy), while shifting our mindsets away from ownership and explore ideas like renting and leasing options, second hand clothes shops, charity shops as well as clothes swapping with friends.

The Green Schools leadership team are very aware of the importance of looking more closely at striving for a ‘circular economy’ and how ‘fast fashion’ and the production of cheap, poor-quality clothing results in overwhelming amounts of consumption and waste. We now realise, that all the elements of fast fashion; trend replication, rapid production, low quality and competitive pricing, add up to having a detrimental impact on the planet and the people involved in garment production. 

As a school we are becoming very aware of our individual and collective responsibilities in relation to sustainability and climate change. We are also trying to encourage a collective move from a ‘linear economy’ and towards a more ‘circular economy’ where we look towards initiatives that promote reducing, reusing and recycling materials where possible.

Ratoath College is currently working with the Green-Schools programme to help take practical actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  ClothesPod is a sponsor of the Green-Schools programme, aiming to bring further sustainability and environmentally friendly solutions to our school. ClothesPod are 100% Irish with over 25 years’ award-winning experience in the textile recycling industry, employing over 50 people full time in Ireland.  In January this year we coordinated with students, staff and teachers to participate in a clothing collection day in our school to help us make a positive impact on our environment. Going forward, we hope to help ensure clothes are kept at their highest value during use and re-enter the economy after use, never ending up in a landfill. Through raising awareness and educating our students and staff about the importance to re-use, repair and repurpose an idem you no longer wear we hope to make a difference and encourage real change.