The Lorax

We attend Coolbock National School near Riverstown in County Sligo.

It is a small rural school with 28 pupils. This project was completed by the 15 pupils in 3rd– 6th classes.

We are committed to saving energy and reducing waste in our local community. When we first started brainstorming about sustainability and the importance of recycling and saving energy, we realised that we are doing quite a lot already.

This project has made us more aware of how much energy we use and has made us focus on the small changes we can make that can make a big difference in the world.

Water

Water is life giving and an essential resource in our lives. In Ireland a lot of rain falls and so we sometimes take water for granted, often wasting it. In our school we have recently started water metering and this reminds us to conserve water whenever possible, at home and at school. Some of the many ways in which we waste water include:

  • leaving a tap running while brushing our teeth
  • putting on the washing machine with only a small load in it
  • using a hose to wash the car
  • overfilling the kettle

It is important to only fill the kettle with as much water as you actually need. We learned that there is no need to fill the kettle to the top for just one cup of tea!

We learned that a garden hose or sprinkler uses as much water in an hour as an average family of four might use in a full day!

Water Pollution

Farmers use a lot of water every day on the farm. Did you know that one cow can drink up to 135 litres of water in one day?! That’s a lot of water if you have a herd of cows.

  • farmers have to keep a good distance away from the river or lake when they are spreading slurry.
  • they need fertilisers to make crops grow
  • they sometimes spray pesticides to stop the crops from being eaten by insects
  • the chemicals can be blown by the wind in to the river.
  • rain can also wash chemicals into the river or into the ground. This can pollute underground streams and get into our drinking water.

We realised how urgent it is that people become aware of how their actions can have an effect on others, not just this generation but the next.

Garden

We are aware of the importance of growing our own vegetables and eating locally produced food as much as possible. Many of us have our own gardens at home in which we grow vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beans and broccoli.

  • Erin has grown cabbage, potatoes and onions
  • Enda has grown tomatoes and strawberries
  • Áine has grown spring onions and carrots
  • Cathal has grown red onions and sweetcorn
  • Rachel has grown basil

At school we have a small garden in which we have planted lettuce, potatoes, beans, cabbage, onions and beetroot. We are very lucky because a local gardener, Denis, comes to our school and advises and helps us. He tells us how to plant and care for the plants and how to compost properly. We really enjoy learning all these things. Growing our own vegetables is fun and saves our parents money. It also means less fuel is used going to the supermarket.

During the summer holidays, Kate, Áine and their parents look after the weeding and watering of the garden. When we get the new water butt at school to collect rainwater, this job will be easier and less wasteful.

At school we have two compost bins, one for fruit and vegetable peels and pencil parings. The other bin is for the grass cuttings. In our classroom we have a small compost bin which is emptied into the large bin outside every evening.

We have a recycling bin for paper and we use it for writing notes, making bookmarks and cards. We have a recycling bin for plastic bottles and bags. We also collect used batteries, empty ink cartridges and old clothes. The old clothes are collected each term and recycled. You should never put items in the wrong bin or throw away things without thinking. Some items thrown in the wrong bin can sit in landfill sites for thousands of years. It is so important to recycle because if you don’t, you will be putting the future lives of animals and humans in danger.

Animals

A man called John from the “Farmyard in the Schoolyard” has visited us on various occasions. He brought in a different animal from the locality each week. We have seen goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits and other animals.

John talked to us about how to care for and treat the animals with respect. He mentioned how shredded paper can be recycled as bedding for animals. A boy in our class whose parents are vets said they have seen this done many times.

Cathal’s mother brought in a baby lamb. Erin’s Dad brought in sheep and lambs also. We got to hold the lambs in our arms!

Trees

This is an area of special interest to us. We are lucky that our school is in the countryside and we have many beautiful trees growing around us. We were interested to learn that one acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people for a whole year….that would be plenty for our class and have a bit to spare!

We have a Willow Dome which provides food and shelter for many insects and small animals. The junior classes have also explored the mini-beasts with a bug viewer.

It looks fantastic and our junior classes love playing in and around it. Trees provide shelter, food, homes, oxygen, paper and wood. They absorb pollutants like carbon dioxide. When leaves fall they rot and create fertiliser for the ground below. Where there aren’t enough trees on a slope, in heavy rain there can be serious erosion.

In 1600 about 46% of the world was covered in forest, now it is only about 33%. Chopping down trees endangers the habitat of many creatures. Luckily in many places forests are now “managed” so whenever a tree is cut down, another two or three are planted. At Christmas, it is better to use an artificial tree year after year instead of buying a freshly cut tree.

Transport

When we discussed reducing our carbon footprint, we looked at the modes of transport used by pupils in our school. We did a survey to see how many pupils walk to school rather than taking the car or public transport. One pupil always walks, seven are always driven by car and two take the school bus. One pupil who walks has to take the bus occasionally. Some children walk or travel by car. We have made a Venn Diagram to show the results of our survey.

As we talked about our carbon footprint, we recalled how we joined up with another small school last year:

  • to go on school tour,
  • to go swimming
  • to attend a football blitz.

This meant that only one bus, rather than two, used fuel and of course it worked out more cheaply for our parents.

Pollution from cars is released into the air. It mixes with the clouds and forms acid rain. We talked about how our parents sometimes “car pool” and take turns bringing us to after-school activities like dancing or football.

Heating

Houses need to be well insulated to prevent unnecessary heat loss. Attics, walls and the copper cylinders need to be properly insulated. Double glazed windows can also save energy.

We discussed different forms of heat:

  • Electric heat is instant but very expensive to run.
  • Under floor heating is lovely and once running is efficient but takes a long time to warm up.
  • An open fire looks lovely and gives great heat but uses up a lot of wood or peat.

If the thermostat in the house was turned down even two degrees, it would save a lot of fuel and the house would still be warm and comfortable. At home it is important to keep windows and doors closed when the heating is on. Sometimes we could just put on a jumper instead of always turning on the heating, especially on milder evenings.

At school we have to remember to keep the doors closed at break time so that heat isn’t lost. In our school we check the forecast everyday and monitor the thermostats on the storage heaters. This means that we never have the heating on high when the weather is warm. We have a rota made so that the pupils in our school take turns monitoring the heating, litter, energy readings and switching off of lights etc.

Electricity

In our school, we check the electricity meter and take a reading every day. The year before last, we checked the output every month. During the year, some of the things we focussed on (and still do) included the following :

-turning off lights when not needed

-leaving the photocopier on energy saver mode

-switching off the computer, printer and radio at the socket every evening.

In 2010 we saved €1394.97 on the electricity bill! That was a saving of 39% in just one year!

At home:

  • you should never leave a phone charger plugged in overnight but should check it regularly and then plug out.
  • washing machine and dishwasher should be full before being switched on.
  • the tumble dryer uses a lot of electricity, so on a sunny or dry day, it’s better to hang the clothes outside to dry.

Conclusion

During our lessons, brainstorming and discussions about sustainability, ecosystems and carbon footprints, we learned an awful lot. We are more informed and more aware in many ways. However, we were very happy to discover that we are putting a lot of ideas into practice and have made a lot of changes especially in the areas of energy consumption and recycling. We are determined to become more efficient and less wasteful in our use of water. We plan to get a water butt for the school so that rainwater can be used in the garden. We hope that our awareness of the water readings taken on a regular basis will inspire us to be more mindful every time we turn on the tap, at home or at school. We sometimes take water for granted and need to remind ourselves that in many other countries, water is precious and scarce. We hope that we can encourage our parents, brothers and sisters and our friends to conserve water and appreciate having running water at our fingertips!

Our Class

3rd: Rory Carr

4th: Rachel Brown, Jessica Crowley, Mia O’Regan,    Olivia McGowan

    Dónal Callaghan, Aodhán Eivers, Cathal Jinks

5th: Áine Flynn, Enda Canavan, Darragh Heffernan

6th: Kate Buckley, Lisa Callaghan, Aoife Morrisroe, Erin Mullaney

Our Teacher: Mrs Denise King