Eco-Schools History & Statistics

Celebrating a quarter-century of pupil-led environmental actions.

Eco-Schools Global

How, when, where and why the Eco-Schools programme began.

Eco-Schools is operated globally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a non-profit non-governmental organisation founded in 1981 in Leiden, Netherlands. In 1987 FEE introduced the Blue Flag Award, an environmental accreditation for beaches and marinas (which we also manage and run in England at Keep Britain Tidy!)

After the success of the Blue Flag Award, FEE recognised the need to address school-based environmental education. In 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, highlighted the importance of youth-led environmental action. In response to this, FEE developed the concept of Eco-Schools. The programme was first piloted in Denmark in 1992, before expanding to Germany, Greece, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England in 1994.

Now, Eco-Schools is the largest educational programme on Planet Earth, implemented in 68 countries, involving 59,000 schools and engaging 1.3 million teachers and 20 million students!

Eco-Schools England

A brief history of Eco-Schools in England and programme operator Keep Britain Tidy.

In England, since 1994, the programme has been operated by Keep Britain Tidy… and Eco-Schools Programme Delivery Officer Karyn Fullerton has worked on it ever since!

Currently over 20,000 schools, colleges and nurseries are registered with Eco-Schools England and more are registering every day! For our most up-to-date statistics, click Login at the top of the page and you will be able to see how many schools are registered, and how many have achieved each of our award levels: Bronze, Silver and Eco-Schools Green Flag.

In case you were wondering, our top 3 most popular topics for schools to work on are:

  1. Waste
  2. Litter
  3. School Grounds

… And our least popular is Water, so if you have any great ideas for Water Topic projects please do get in touch!

Eco-Schools England National Operators Keep Britain Tidy, were founded in 1954 when The National Federation of Women’s Institutes passed a resolution to, ‘Keep Britain Tidy.’ Since then Keep Britain Tidy has Cleaned for the Queen, influenced government policy, recognised the best beaches and parks across England and facilitated thousands of litter picks! Keep Britain Tidy’s cause is to cut litter, end waste, improve public places and educate future generations.

Eco-Schools Global Quotes & Testimonials

Quotes from Fee Global, UNESCO and UNEP.

“The Eco-Schools programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education makes a major contribution to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) across the world. Eco-Schools integrate environmental issues into every aspect of the school life and involve all concerned stakeholders along the way. Eco-Schools promote learning that is hands on and that ultimately results in beneficial actions in the community. In this way, Eco-Schools are spearheading the ‘whole-school approach’ to ESD, where students learn what they live and live what they learn.”

Alexander Leicht, Chief, Section of ESD, Education Sector, UNESCO

“Eco-Schools is Education for Sustainable Development in action. It is a well-structured programme with clear steps to get involved and with 25 years of experience, success is certain. It is a meeting point for youth worldwide driven by aspiration, commitment and actions towards a sustainable environment.

Its clear structure and consistency in activities have not only made Eco-Schools a well-established institution in its 25 years long-standing history, but it has also made it sustainable in itself. It constitutes a great example that we, at UN Environment, hope others will follow. For UN Environment, the Eco-Schools programme is an entry point to disseminate messages and information to the largest global network of schools in the world. At UN Environment we hope that the programme will continue to accelerate working with the communities that surround the schools, with the Sustainable Development Goals and with aligning advocacy at the national level.”

Mari Nishimura, UN Environment Associate Programme Management Officer

“Eco-Schools is a large programme and one through which FEE as an organisation is recognised internationally. When one looks at the size of the Eco-Schools programme, the number of schools involved, the number of countries that are running it and the fact that it is growing so progressively, it is evident that its Seven-Step methodology, clear whole institutional approach towards Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and its flexibility in terms of local context (culture, economic and environmental) is what makes the programme appealing and successful on such a large and wide scale.”

Daniel Schaffer, FEE CEO

“Eco-Schools is such a powerful programme because it is student-led. We are not telling young people what to do, but supporting them to do it for themselves and bringing the adults with them. Eco-Schools is about more than academic learning and carrying out projects in schools. The learning is taken into the home and the wider community, encouraging and persuading people to do the right thing to protect our precious environment.”

Lesley Jones, FEE President

“For a quarter of a century, the Eco-Schools programme has been engaging young people in taking positive actions that transform their lives. From its modest beginnings in a few European countries, the programme has expanded to effect change is some 59,000 schools in 68 countries across the globe. The impact of the programme is well-recognised and respected by stakeholders that range from UN agencies to the communities in which a school is ingrained.”

Pramod Kumar Sharma, FEE Senior Director of Education

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