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One million UK students part of Lets Go Zero

The Let’s Go Zero Campaign is now supported by over 2,000 schools teaching 1 million students between them around the UK. In signing up to the campaign, these students’ schools are declaring their ambition to be zero carbon by 2030 and demonstrating the huge demand for change.  

1 million students, in over 2000 UK schools, colleges and nurseries have come together through their schools to demand climate action. In just over two years, Let’s Go Zero has successfully united these schools in calling for change and supported them to take action to lower their environmental impacts in the here and now.  

The campaign, overseen by climate solutions charity Ashden, was started in November 2020, taking inspiration from the Fridays for Future youth climate marches. It aims to show government and policy makers the growing demand for change, as well as support and showcase the fantastic actions lots of schools are already taking to get to zero.  

“We are delighted to have reached the one million student mark in the Let’s Go Zero campaign,” said Alex Green, Let’s Go Zero Programme Lead. “Since we launched just two years ago, we’ve been blown away by the innovation, commitment and willingness of school leaders, teachers, and particularly students to take action to move their schools towards being zero carbon – by retrofitting their schools, saving energy, reducing waste, protecting the biodiversity in their school grounds, encouraging walking or cycling to school, or buying school resources from local and sustainable sources.” 

Schools lead the way in local climate response 

“Schools are key sites for climate action,” continued Ms Green. “With 42% of all UK households having children of school age, schools have enormous reach and can spread awareness and behaviour change throughout their communities. We are delighted that now, with 1 million students and over 150,000 staff supporting the campaign and taking actions to become zero carbon, that local, knock-on effect will positively impact so many lives and communities across the UK.”  

Teachers have also been positively impacted by joining the campaign. Jo Pettifer, the Sustainability Coordinator from St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust, said “Let’s Go Zero provides so many opportunities to galvanise what we are doing across our Trust, from webinars with inspirational speakers; case studies to glean ideas from; and numerous competitions and funding opportunities.”

Competitions for schools to win funding for sustainability focused projects are run with Let’s Go Zero’s partners, IKEA and OVO Foundation, and offer schools the chance to involve their students in creative projects and win the funds to implement them. 

South Molton school children cutting up rubarb
Children from South Molton Community School, North Devon, cooking food grown in the school garden. Credit: South Molton School.

 

Let’s Go Zero has successfully pushed UK Government to prioritise schools’ decarbonisation 

Although schools are doing amazing work to lower their environmental impacts, becoming zero carbon will require government support so the Let’s Go Zero campaign also supports schools through its policy work 

Let’s Go Zero has been working directly with the Department for Education to set targets for schools between 2025 and 2035, and was named in last year’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for its support in doing so. Four of Let’s Go Zero’s policy recommendations were included in the strategy, a huge achievement demonstrating the government is sitting up and listening to the demands and ambition of our school leaders.  

Despite these successes, Let’s Go Zero has been vocal in calling for the government to be more ambitious and provide schools with the means to decarbonise quickly. It will continue to push for the government to commit funding for every school in the country to be retrofitted. A huge amount of energy, and money, is wasted by schools each year because of old boiler systems, old and draughty properties, and the lack of funds to make improvements. Whilst there are actions schools can take to cut costs and carbon, for long term solutions, the government must commit to adapting and retrofitting each school across the UK.   

The urgency with which retrofitting funding needs to be found is highlighted in the DfE’s annual report, in which it was reported that the risk level of school buildings collapsing has been raised to ‘very likely’. This follows an increase in the number of serious structural issues being reported, particularly in buildings built between 1945 and 1970. As these buildings come to the end of their designed life-expectancy, their structural integrity is diminished, and their risk of collapse increased. Funding to repair and retrofit these dilapidated buildings, as well as the whole school estate, must be a government priority. Extending the life of crumbling buildings by careful monitoring and maintenance, one pathway suggested by the DfE, is not a long-term solution. Keeping children safe and keeping in line with the country’s carbon ambitions requires bold action for every school, as called for by Let’s Go Zero.  

The Let’s Go Zero campaign is delighted with its progress so far. Garnering the support of 1 million students through their schools is a real milestone, but there are no plans to slow down. With new sign-ups by schools every day, the campaign is expected to have the support of 3,000 schools by the end of 2023.  

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