A Cork secondary school is hoping to become one of the first in Ireland to go plastic-free, as its students look to contribute to a more sustainable future.
Having already won a Unesco Young Environmental Award, Ursuline Secondary School in Blackrock is looking to further strengthen its green credentials by phasing out single-use plastics. in the buildingThe first step is to remove all single-use plastic water bottles, and to this end
All sStudents have been issued with reusable stainless steel flasks which the school estimates the move will reduce the use of some 500 plastic water bottles a monthin the school.
The next phase involves the installation of a water fountain — the cost of which pupils aim to meet by undertaking a sponsored 10km walk next Friday, on September 27.
Science teacher Bernard Carr said the ambition to go plastic-free first arose in the classroom.
“It all came from science classes, we were looking at science, the environment, and the influence we can have,” he said. “The students made the decision that we could do something.
“The students are very much behind this. Last year’s Transition Year environmental module led to a huge recycling drive. When we won the Unesco award, we built on that success and visited primary schools. This small group can have a great influence on its community.
“When we looked to do more we threw the idea out in assembly and the enthusiasm was palpable.” Mr Carr said.
Central to Ursuline’s approach to encouraging sustainability is getting students to engage in a fun way.
The steel water bottles were bought for students using from funds raised by sponsored participation in June’s Rebel Plunge swim from the Port of Cork to Blackrock Village.
Second year pupil Rowan Walsh was the fastest girl to undertake the 3.8km swim, and the fourth fastest overall, with a time of 42.35.
She was joined in the swim by Niamh Connolly, fifth year, principal Patrick McBeth, and past student Lisa Cummins, and together they raised over €4,000 towards the initiative.
“It’s important that the whole thing is fun, so we can harness the energy of young people,” said teacher Adrienne O’Leary.
“We want them to feel that what they’re doing is meaningful but also fun — we’re conscious that there’s a lot of doom and gloom around this subject, and we don’t want to be fatalistic about it. We want them start by doing just one or two things to make a difference and maybe they will inspire other kids and other schools follow suit.” she said.
Beyond that, the school will look at disposable straws, cups, and ways to harness solar power.