How it Works

Understanding Eco-Schools: a programme that has motivated and empowered young people to protect our planet since 1994.

What is Eco-Schools?

The Eco-Schools programme in a nutshell.

Eco-Schools is a seven step framework that thousands of schools, nurseries and colleges around the world use to introduce, manage and complete environmental actions in their organisation and local community. Uniquely, the Seven Steps aim to place young people at the heart of these environmental actions. This approach engages, motivates and empowers young people to care for our planet now and throughout their lifetimes. You can read a brief summary of each of the Seven Eco-Schools Steps below, or head to our Early Years, Primary or Secondary & College pathways above for the full criteria, further details, resources and examples.

When a school, nursery or college has worked through each of the Seven Steps, they can then apply for Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation. The Eco-Schools Green Flag is international and recognised by organisations such as UNESCO. It is a symbol of a school’s commitment to environmental education. You can find out more about the Eco-Schools Green Flag and other Eco-Schools awards by clicking here.

Seven Steps

A framework that puts young people at the heart of environmental action.

The Seven Eco-Schools steps are designed to make environmental actions pupil-led. Working through each of the seven steps and achieving Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation can be done in a single academic year. Several of the steps, for example Step 5: Informing and Involving, naturally overlap and this is encouraged – our process is designed to be holistic.

Below, is a brief summary of each step, but further details, examples, criteria and resources can be found on our individual step pages by clicking the relevant pathway in the menu bar above. We recommend checking these pages before beginning your Eco-Schools journey to ensure you meet the criteria for each step and make use of our free resources designed to make your Eco-Schools journey a success e.g. our free-to-download Environmental Review or child and teen-friendly Action Plan Templates.

  1. Eco-Committee, a group of students and adults responsible for all things Eco-Schools.
  2. Environmental Review, a free-to-download resource which has been designed to review learning environments and provide inspiration to Eco-Committees.
  3. Action Plan, a plan for environmental actions in your school, college or nursery.
  4. Curriculum Links, including environmental issues in your school’s, college’s, or nursery’s learning.
  5. Informing and Involving, including all pupils, staff members and your local community in Eco-Schools work.
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation, measuring the impact of the projects in your Action Plan.
  7. Eco-Code, a rallying call that everyone can get behind!

Ten Topics

Making global issues more manageable.

When creating an Action Plan, Eco-Committees choose three topics (five topics for those renewing an existing Eco-Schools Green Flag) to work on. Eco-Committees select the three (or five) topics they would like to work on from the Ten Eco-Schools topics below. Further information, project ideas, examples and useful links for each of the ten topics can be found on individual topic pages by clicking the relevant school pathway in our menu bar above.

  • Biodiversity, caring for all plants, animals and insects.
  • Energy, reducing energy use and investigating greener energy sources.
  • Global Citizenship, working with others on local and global issues.
  • Healthy Living, improving mental and physical well-being.
  • Litter, taking action to reduce litter in your local area and beyond.
  • Marine, protecting rivers, canals, lakes, oceans and the plants and animals that inhabit them.
  • School Grounds, enhancing your learning environment.
  • Transport, travelling in an environmentally-friendly manner.
  • Waste, refusing, reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling.
  • Water, protecting our most important natural resource.

Several of our topics are broad and have a natural overlap, for example if an Eco-Committee decided to plant lavender, this action could be used for several different topics: Biodiversity (as lavender appeals to bees); School Grounds (because the introduction of lavender improves school grounds); Healthy Living (as lavender is renowned for its ability to create a relaxing atmosphere). In this case it is entirely up to an Eco-Committee which topic they link their planting to. We have never, and would never, say to an Eco-Committee that they have linked an action or project to the wrong topic!

We also welcome actions linked to other charities, such as RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch or Wild Challenges to be used as evidence in Eco-Schools Green Flag applications. Uniquely, this enables Eco-Coordinators to collate all the amazing work their school does in one overarching management system.

Finally, a common question we are asked, is why does Eco-Schools not have a climate change or climate crisis topic? The answer to this is simple, all our topics relate to this issue in some way. By breaking this global issue into smaller ‘topics’ it helps guides young people to consider the manageable changes they can make in everyday life and helps to avoid eco-anxiety.

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