Reduce > Reuse > Recycle

In that order: first reduce, then reuse and finally recycle.

What do you do to reduce, reuse and recycle? Please tell us and we’ll include it on this page for the benefit of all.

Energy and Water

  • Conduct an assessment: see excellent advice in this Carbon Trust – Schools document
  • Replace 19” monitors or smaller with a larger, more modern screen: 22” and 24” are the norm. They are usually more power efficient than old screens and save on instrumental printing; you can put documents side-by-side on the screen so that you can copy-type between them without having to print the document out. They are usually a much better resolution as well, so there might be a health benefit there too.
  • Ramp up the power-saving settings on PCs so that they shut down earlier, particularly in self-study and teachers’ rooms, where computer use might be sporadic. Modern PCs have pretty good power saving features and Windows 10 will turn off the screen after 10 minutes and send the computer to sleep after 30 minutes. If you change the Windows settings to go to sleep after 15 minutes, for example, you are more likely to save energy between users and the machine will wake up as soon as someone touches the keyboard.
  • Switch off computers/monitors/printers/copiers at the end of the day, wherever possible – staff training.
  • Energy efficient equipment (A-rated appliances, replace tube lights with LED lighting – better for staff and environment)
  • Reduce heating and cooling – insulation
  • Install smart meters – make visible to students and staff
  • Water efficient utilities
  • Switch to a green tariff for energy supplies – eg. ​
  • Reduce your digital carbon footprint including switching to a green web site hosting provider such as this

Plastic, paper, ink

  • No single-use anything, not just plastic. No plastic cutlery, no paper cups etc. Even though paper cups may be labelled ‘recyclable’ – they aren’t. Nothing disposable in the coffee spaces. Replace with real things.
  • Embed ethical / sustainable procurement in your organisation’s Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) policy
  • Buy less and buy better – helps cash flow – eg. Inkjet printers are wasteful and no amount of cartridge refilling will make them better: “I’ve just replaced 3-year-old Epson L365, whose ink tank supply outlived its print heads, with Epson L4160. So far so good. Paid more for these printers than cartridge type, but eco-tank much cheaper in the long run than ink cartridges.” (​ELT Footprint​ Facebook site)
  • Take printers off people’s desks and replace them with more efficient, shared multi-function devices. Having to get up to fetch your printing is better for staff and they are more likely to think twice before hitting ‘print’.
  • Avoid laminating. If you want something to last, print it on card, rather than using a single-use plastic and a lot of heat.
  • Start a campaign – involve your students / host families / staff / agents – Challenge a zero waste day / week / month / year. Everything you need to know is ​here
  • Tackle plastic and adopt alternatives – e.g: “​We introduced reusable water bottles on our summer courses last year. These replaced the use of disposable plastic cups and significantly reduced the number of plastic bottles bought by pupils on excursions. Pupils wrote their name on their bottle and enjoyed making it their own. The advantage for school owners is that the bottles are easy to brand, so tell your managers that this is a great promotional tool too! Most metal water bottles are aluminium, not stainless steel, but beware ​possible adverse side effects from aluminium bottles. This year we have gone for a 100% biodegradable sports drink bottle from this company.” (ELT Footprint)
  • See this useful infographic on the environmental cost of bottled water
  • Introduce your students to ecobricking (See here for community kits.)
  • Prefer digital copy to hard copy. “Brochures for example can easily be made available online. Don’t mass mail hard copy brochures by post. Hard copies can still be mailed on request. These measures save paper and ink (fewer hard copies required) and save on CO2 emissions involved in transport of brochures around the world.” (ELTFootprint)
  • Refresh your marker pens! See ​
  • “Members might not know that if they need to shed stuff – any stuff -​ ​​ is an excellent way to do it. Simple platform to use, no money changes hands. I’ve given away old school furniture, maps, books, crockery, envelopes, defunct IT equipment, towels … it seems someone somewhere is pleased to take what you don’t want.And, thank goodness, some folk like to take broken things and repair them.” (English UK forum)
  • Photocopying: reduce and use recycled paper
  • See ​A Charter for a Greener Classroom
  • Use technology to reduce paper use in the classroom: see Towards a Paperless Classroom also materials light teaching with Dogme and Dogme & Technology  
  • Balloons are single use items that turn up in the oceans. There are lots of fun alternatives including things that students can make themselves: see
  • Recycle your unwanted products: ​


According to ​this authoritative study​ avoiding meat and dairy is the ‘single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’. Many people find documentaries such as Cowspiracy compelling; and you will not be the same person after watching Simon Amstell’s Carnage

  • Offer more vegetarian/vegan food in your school, less meat & dairy. One meat or fish option – two vegetarian options – reverse the norm.
  • Have a vegetarian/vegan day/week/month: see​ and ​
  • Source from local suppliers as far as possible and provide food in season: think food miles. Talk to your food supplier and ask to see their environmental / sustainability policy.
  • If possible grow vegetables and herbs at the school. Involve students.
  • Look at how food is packaged and served – some sandwich places use black plastic trays which are not recycled at all. Try local, independent places that need the business and may understand your demands: no plastic.
  • Discourage food waste. See ​this article​ and
  • Have some simple food guidelines for pupils similar to the following: “At mealtimes, take only as much as you think you will eat. You can ask for a second helping if you are still hungry but try not to leave food at the end. Vegetarian foods are more environmentally friendly than meat. Every Monday at ECS is meat free. Take the opportunity to try tasty and healthy alternatives while you are with us.”
  • Some schools – especially on city streets – might be in a good position to run a community fridge. See ​

Chemicals (one school’s efforts):

  • “We have removed all hand soap in plastic bottles from the school loos and replaced them with real soap. No complaints.”
  • “We have worked with the cleaning company to clean in an environmentally friendly way: no chemicals, only baking powder, vinegar and soda.”

Travel (in the UK)

  • Commute – walk, cycle, public transport
  • “We will try to arrange the most environmentally friendly form of travel for pupils in the UK. We will arrange train journeys where possible or coach journeys with the most environmentally aware operator we can find. When we have to use taxis we will try to arrange shared journeys in fuel-efficient vehicles” (​school CSR policy​)
  • Drive smart – cut out erratic braking and acceleration – retrain drivers
  • Opt for video conferencing
  • Ensure vehicles are well maintained
  • Encourage car pooling / sharing
  • Use telematics / route optimisation
  • Electric vehicles are much better for the environment but they don’t currently work for commuters as they don’t have a great range and the charging infrastructure is lacking. If you have a school or company car park, consider fitting a charging point for staff to use, which would help them decide to buy an electric car. This has a cost and you might need to control the cost – e.g. by restricting use to certain days, but it could help someone decide to switch to electric.
  • Invest in fuel efficient / low carbon fleet vehicles
  • Airport transfers: prefer larger vehicles to smaller ones: coach > minibus > taxi. See ​here. If you must use taxis, try to arrange shared journeys.
  • Coach Travel – extract from EUK discussion forum (Jim Chirm, 18 April 2019):

“Where I think the industry should be concerned is in the amount of coach travel we encourage and the visible effect that can have at a local level, where you can actually see, smell and taste the diesel smoke in the air. Whether individual companies choose to look at ways to offset this or not, it’s important to remember that change is coming and this will affect our operations as tour providers.

In October 2020 the emissions standards of the Low Emission Zone in London are going to be much more stringent and many of the vehicles you currently use on a day-to-day basis probably won’t be able to go inside the M25 (even to Heathrow) without paying extra charges. Vehicles affected are those that don’t meet the Euro VI standard, which generally means any coach built before 2014 that hasn’t been expensively upgraded. London isn’t alone in considering a low emissions zone; several other British cities are in the process of either considering or implementing an LEZ, so this is going to be a feature of the travel industry in the future. There are some things that we can do practically to cut down on travel pollution and reduce our carbon footprints:

  • Put pressure on coach companies to upgrade their vehicles to Euro VI by asking for a fleet list and specifying more modern vehicles for your transfers/excursions​.
  • Encourage the use of travel by public transport where possible. For instance, teaching students how to use local buses might cut down on their car/taxi use. Using public transport for excursions.
  • Use a carbon footprint calculator to calculate the environmental cost of the journey and pay to offset that. The offset cost isn’t huge – a few pounds for a 50 mile return trip – and a lot of modern customers would be fairly happy to know that they had offset their own environmental cost in their course fees.
  • Carbon offsets only cover the carbon emissions, of course, not the effect of particulates/smoke in the areas where your coaches pick up/drop off. While I know that drivers don’t like switching off their engines if they can avoid it, you could talk to the coach company and let them know that it’s a requirement for all your jobs. If you want to do more you could also donate to a local environmental charity/project e.g. tree planting in the areas you visit.”