Schools are banning non-biodegradable glitter and are looking to get rid of Christmas crackers amid calls for more eco-friendly festive initiatives.
One school asked pupils to bring Christmas sweaters to exchange rather than buy new ones, and in another the nativity scene and costumes were reused or recycled.
Environmentally conscious students, parents and teachers are calling for more action on the climate crisis in schools – and Christmas time is no exception.
It comes after young activists took to the streets of Glasgow during study time last month alongside activist Greta Thunberg to demand action on climate change during the Cop26 World Summit.
School leaders said the young Swedish activist has inspired many pupils in UK schools to demand greater change in recent years.
Jane Prescott, president of Portsmouth High School and former president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said students’ interest in sustainability was “gaining more momentum”.
“I think what Greta did was mobilize their opinions and make them realize that it was worth taking a stand on,” she told the Palestinian News Agency.
This year, for the first time, Portsmouth High School held a ceremonial T-shirt exchange among its pupils to reduce the purchase of new seasonal clothes each year.
Ms Prescott told PA: ‘She was really welcomed by the parents, but also by the girls. They are very environmentally conscious and are very concerned about sustainability and love the idea that something that hasn’t worn out they can recycle and pass on to someone else who can use it the next year.
Grade two students at Manor Park School and Nursery in Knutsford, Cheshire, perform their Christmas play recorded by Headmaster Simon Cottrell, in December 2020
It is not allowed to shine in the private girls’ school because of its impact on the environment. “At one time middle schools and elementary schools were full of glamor, and at this time of year we banned it,” added the head of the school.
Some schools have also tried to reduce the amount of festive decorations – such as Christmas crackers and tablecloths – they use to reduce waste.
Ms Prescott added: “I think crackers in schools may have had their day and we may not have crackers at all next year.”
Graham Frost, president of Robert Ferguson Elementary School in Carlisle, has banned non-biodegradable glitter from this year due to environmental concerns.
He told PA: “I’ve banned plastic glitter for craft activities, so anyone who submits an order through the school office will be checked and returned if they try to order regular plastic glitter.
Children at Tops Day Nursery in Christchurch, Bournemouth, use lentils and rice to make pictures in 2017 after the nursery banned the use of glitter due to environmental concerns.
“I hope that if more schools follow this line, the suppliers that supply schools will think very well about sourcing things that are more in line with our environmental sensitivities.”
Mr. Frost added: “I think there is a growing sense that if we are in business, as we are, preparing children for the future, with that future being jeopardized by climate change, so it is imperative that we schools do everything we can to be. A force to change and, to some extent, a force to influence.
“So enabling young people to write, speak and express their response to their learning in environmental education has become much more important.”
At Canary Worth College Glenworth, a primary school in London, old boxes for landscaping, old clothes and rags for fashion, were used in the production of cradles in order to be more sustainable.
Young activists took to the streets of Glasgow last month alongside Greta Thunberg (pictured on November 5) to demand action on climate change during the COP26 global summit.
Martin Blaine, School Principal, said: “This year the environment has become the main item on our agenda and they are [staff and pupils] We were very careful that we weren’t using new things to do that.
At school Christmas lunches, festive decorations were pared back.
On the environment, Mr. Blaine said: “The truth is it’s pretty much on the agenda. People are worried about that and I think that’s driven by young people.
Portsmouth High School Principal Jane Prescott said students’ interest in sustainability was “gaining more momentum”
“Young people are particularly motivated to do more to protect the environment and schools are responding,” said James Bowen, director of policy for the NAHT School Leaders Association.
Characters like Greta Thunberg inspire young people who believe they can make a difference and make their voices heard.
Christmas can be an excessive time and it is causing more and more people to think about how to mitigate this effect.
We know schoolchildren are more aware of their environmental impact these days, and this time of year in particular, they are the ones who ask questions about how to enjoy a greener Christmas.
“Whether it’s recyclable wrapping paper and Christmas cards, or reducing plastics in gifts, many are thinking about how to make a difference.”
He added, “Moving toward more environmentally friendly practices is something schools think about throughout the year, and they are introducing new and innovative ways to operate all the time – often at the suggestion of their students.”
“Schools place a huge emphasis on the environment in everything they do because of the vital importance of this issue in general and especially to their students who rightly feel so strongly about the need for a greener world,” said Jeff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
“The recent Cop26 climate change conference may have intensified this interest and Christmas provides a great opportunity to channel that enthusiasm into practical activities.”