It’s Not Easy Being Green

Flower Power-4

By Freya Granger

Long gone are the days when leaving a light on was a guiltless act. Nowadays, when booking a flight, when failing to put our milk carton in the recycling, and even when leaving the tap running whilst brushing our teeth, we are troubled by thoughts of destroyed rainforests, rising sea levels, and lone polar bears bobbing on isolated icebergs. However, worry not. Having interviewed Mr McMahon (Head of environmental activities at CLC) and Mr Speke (Financial Director), we uncovered just how much the Cheltenham Ladies’ College does to minimise its environmental impact.

Climate change. Global warming. These are the harsh truths of our species’ wasteful and careless approach to living. It may be difficult for us to accept at times, but global warming is happening, and a large proportion of the responsibility can be placed firmly on our shoulders.

But what are we to do about it? Many shrug off the blame, seeing the prospects of a fiery, apocalyptic future too far off for them to be really pushed to make a difference. ‘It’s not my fault,’ they say. ‘It’s not actually going to affect me personally!’ And so they go about their comfortable lives, making little effort to reverse the damage we, and our ancestors, have done to the planet.

But not us. From our interviews, it has become evident that the strength, the inspiration, and the profound stamina that is needed to extend that finger and flick the light switch, or take that extra step towards the recycling bin, often comes from a very particular source. Mr Speke and Mr McMahon, both being fathers, told us that it often stems from the desire to preserve the world for our children, the next generation.

It is because of this inspiration that so many changes have already been brought about at college. Changes such as the improvement in insulation, and the refurbishment of St. Helen’s windows have brought the school well on its way to being as green as our uniforms. Additionally, we can have faith in the fact that any new developments at school will be ‘geared towards sustainability’, as Mr McMahon puts it.

Nevertheless, there are many things still to be done in order for us to achieve that poetic harmony with the environment ― a fact known by both interviewees. At College, we seem to be endlessly uncomfortable with room temperatures, for example. Either we throw open the window and strip off our jumpers, or we sit shivering at our desks. A happy medium seems inconceivable. Mr Speke certainly recognised this as a problem, and told us that the boiler and piping at College was bordering ‘Victorian’. So there’s work to be done there.

Solar power could be the answer to our problems. It is a clean, sustainable energy source that could make College completely self-sufficient. Although this may seem ideal, it would take 18 years for the return of the solar power to break even with the cost of installation. And we all know that, sadly, since the sun doesn’t often grace us with its presence in this particular corner of the world. Would we see enough sun to be able to fuel our technology-dependent school? The possibility remains though (with a little technological development), so the potential is recognised.

There’s no doubt that College is full of ambition. To Mr McMahon, the visionary behind all ‘greenness’ at CLC, the possibilities are endless. He presented us with his bee and butterfly hotels with pride, and shared his ideas for fruit, vegetable, and wildlife gardens. He says that the key to true sustainability is in ‘sparking the girls’ interest’ by setting out ‘strategic aims’ in the form of smaller, manageable projects. ‘Food wastage is scandalous!’ he proclaimed. It is important to point out however, that these ideas are often faced with looming limitations. Questions like, ‘What happens to these gardens when we’re away?’ have to be posed, and of course, the sobering financial budget is not something to be overlooked.

But still, the fact remains, if we are enthusiastic, ambitious, and proactive enough as a school, we will be able to brush the guilt from our shoulders. We will be safe in the knowledge that we’re doing our part to help those little polar bears, and the future of our world.

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