Queensland Sustainable Schools

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Department of Education and Training

School Activity Impacts

Overview

School activities and their impacts

This guideline is about one of the steps that schools need to undertake when developing their SEMP. The aim of this step is to generate a list of the key activities in which your school is involved and then identify their environmental impacts. This is an important step in determining which path your school will take to become more sustainable.

This step will reap most benefit for your school if it is undertaken by a group, rather than one person. For example, this could be an exercise for the school environment team or another group at school who would like to carry out this task on the school’s behalf:

Strengthening existing priorities

In order to reap the greatest benefit, your SEMP needs to be based on a review of your school’s activities as a whole, not just the activities that are considered to be ‘environmental’. Becoming a sustainable school means making your current school activities more sustainable, not increasing the number of activities you engage in. Ideally your SEMP will help you put more resources and energy into existing school priorities rather than trying to divert them.

School activities and their impacts

This guideline is about one of the steps that schools need to undertake when developing their SEMP. The aim of this step is to generate a list of the key activities in which your school is involved and then identify their environmental impacts. This is an important step in determining which path your school will take to become more sustainable.

This step will reap most benefit for your school if it is undertaken by a group, rather than one person. For example, this could be an exercise for the school environment team or another group at school who would like to carry out this task on the school’s behalf:

Strengthening existing priorities

In order to reap the greatest benefit, your SEMP needs to be based on a review of your school’s activities as a whole, not just the activities that are considered to be ‘environmental’. Becoming a sustainable school means making your current school activities more sustainable, not increasing the number of activities you engage in. Ideally your SEMP will help you put more resources and energy into existing school priorities rather than trying to divert them.

Student Activities

Use the Activities and People chart (DOC, 673KB) and list a range of activities in which the school is involved and prioritise these. Use the Environmental Impact Wheel (DOC, 675KB) for each activity and list the impact of this activity, or download the School Activities and their Impacts - full document (DOC, 687KB).
Use the Activities and People chart (DOC, 673KB) and list a range of activities in which the school is involved and prioritise these. Use the Environmental Impact Wheel (DOC, 675KB) for each activity and list the impact of this activity, or download the School Activities and their Impacts - full document (DOC, 687KB).

Part A: Key activities

Working as a group, have a brainstorming session to think about these questions.
Summarise your ideas and suggestions as an ‘Activities and people poster’.

  1. What are the most important activities at our school?

    Start by considering all the activities carried out at your school, and then choose the most important five or six. Call these your ‘Key Activities’. For example:

    • Think about teaching and learning, sports days, excursions, the canteen, recess and lunch, before and after school care, assemblies, meetings (P&C, local groups, school council etc), carnivals, fund-raising efforts, arriving and departing, performances, artwork, fetes, camps and exams.
    • Check your school calendar to see what’s on this year eg fetes, excursions, sports carnivals, theatrical activities.
    • Think about what students, teachers, general assistants, office staff, the principal and others do in a typical school week.
    • What happens at your school outside normal school hours? eg before and after school care, community group meetings, elections.
    • Where does most school energy go? Where do the resources go?
    • What are the big events?
    • What will be the main focus in the classroom this year?
    • How is the broader community involved with the school?

    Don’t restrict this list to the activities you think you may be able to address in your SEMP—this step comes later.  

  2. Who is involved in these activities?

    Think about each activity step-by-step. Think about what takes place and when. List all the groups involved, and individuals involved, if necessary. Remember to think about people outside the school community as well as the immediate school community. Think about your school’s role as part of the broader community, and the resources it draws on from the broader community.  

  3. Who is responsible for these activities?

    List the individuals who are responsible for each activity. 'Activities and People Worksheet' (DOC, 673KB).

  4. Assigning priorities

    Now think about which activities are most important for your school. Choose the top five activities and assign each one a priority from 1 to 5. This will help you develop your SEMP action plans.

Working as a group, have a brainstorming session to think about these questions.
Summarise your ideas and suggestions as an ‘Activities and people poster’.

  1. What are the most important activities at our school?

    Start by considering all the activities carried out at your school, and then choose the most important five or six. Call these your ‘Key Activities’. For example:

    • Think about teaching and learning, sports days, excursions, the canteen, recess and lunch, before and after school care, assemblies, meetings (P&C, local groups, school council etc), carnivals, fund-raising efforts, arriving and departing, performances, artwork, fetes, camps and exams.
    • Check your school calendar to see what’s on this year eg fetes, excursions, sports carnivals, theatrical activities.
    • Think about what students, teachers, general assistants, office staff, the principal and others do in a typical school week.
    • What happens at your school outside normal school hours? eg before and after school care, community group meetings, elections.
    • Where does most school energy go? Where do the resources go?
    • What are the big events?
    • What will be the main focus in the classroom this year?
    • How is the broader community involved with the school?

    Don’t restrict this list to the activities you think you may be able to address in your SEMP—this step comes later.  

  2. Who is involved in these activities?

    Think about each activity step-by-step. Think about what takes place and when. List all the groups involved, and individuals involved, if necessary. Remember to think about people outside the school community as well as the immediate school community. Think about your school’s role as part of the broader community, and the resources it draws on from the broader community.  

  3. Who is responsible for these activities?

    List the individuals who are responsible for each activity. 'Activities and People Worksheet' (DOC, 673KB).

  4. Assigning priorities

    Now think about which activities are most important for your school. Choose the top five activities and assign each one a priority from 1 to 5. This will help you develop your SEMP action plans.

Part B: Environmental Impacts

Part B of this exercise will give you a graphic view of the school’s environmental impacts. This can be useful as a decision-making tool.
Consider each activity in turn.

  1. Does this activity affect the environment? How?

    Set up one environmental impact wheel for each activity. Print Template (DOC, 675KB)

    Write the activity in the middle of the wheel and then ask the group to think about its interaction with each of the environmental areas.

    Does the activity have positive or negative effects? This can be shown with simple plus and minus signs.

    Write a few words about how the activity affects each environmental area onto the diagram. For example, sports day reduces energy use in classrooms and increases energy use for transportation.

    The group may discover, for example, that one particular activity has considerably more negative environmental impacts than any other. They may then decide to investigate this further by doing a targeted desktop review (ie reviewing the bills associated with that activity) followed a targeted snapshot audit (ie conducting a waste audit at the next sports carnival).

    This exercise may reveal that all the key activities have negative environmental impacts on water, and so decide that conserving water will be a focus across all school activities. The group might decide to conduct a desktop review of water bills and a snapshot audit of water use or stormwater run-off.

Where to next?

After completing this exercise you are ready to review your school’s key environmental issues.

Part B of this exercise will give you a graphic view of the school’s environmental impacts. This can be useful as a decision-making tool.
Consider each activity in turn.

  1. Does this activity affect the environment? How?

    Set up one environmental impact wheel for each activity. Print Template (DOC, 675KB)

    Write the activity in the middle of the wheel and then ask the group to think about its interaction with each of the environmental areas.

    Does the activity have positive or negative effects? This can be shown with simple plus and minus signs.

    Write a few words about how the activity affects each environmental area onto the diagram. For example, sports day reduces energy use in classrooms and increases energy use for transportation.

    The group may discover, for example, that one particular activity has considerably more negative environmental impacts than any other. They may then decide to investigate this further by doing a targeted desktop review (ie reviewing the bills associated with that activity) followed a targeted snapshot audit (ie conducting a waste audit at the next sports carnival).

    This exercise may reveal that all the key activities have negative environmental impacts on water, and so decide that conserving water will be a focus across all school activities. The group might decide to conduct a desktop review of water bills and a snapshot audit of water use or stormwater run-off.

Where to next?

After completing this exercise you are ready to review your school’s key environmental issues.