Education

Sustainable residentials with YHA

There is a growing number of educators who are putting sustainability at the heart of their school and pupils’ educational journey and inspiring a new generation of green champions. 

These stakeholders of the planet (spearheaded by the likes of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg) are working to reduce pollution and carbon footprint across the world.

Here at YHA, we’re leading the way in the delivery of sustainable school residentials, supporting schools in their sustainability journey.

In 2019, we ceased the use of plastic bottles in packed lunches for school trips. We now require school groups to bring refillable water bottles with them. This measure alone has saved 450,000 plastic bottles annually from having to go to landfill or into our oceans. Shockingly, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste ends up in our oceans each year.

It is thanks to support from Waitrose & Partners, and a share of the supermarket retailer’s £1 million grant fund – Plan Plastic – the Million Pound Challenge, that we’re now set to completely eradicate single use plastic bottles from its 153-strong network of youth hostels by 2020.

We were one of five projects that demonstrated “the most innovative, impactful and interesting approaches to tackling plastic pollution” to receive a share of the Waitrose grant fund.

The grant has enabled us to install free-to-use water bottle refill stations in our major youth hostels including our 80 LOtC accredited sites – the most of any school residentials provider in the UK – fast tracking our plan to have refill stations at the majority of our properties.

Asking pupils to bring a refillable water bottle on a school trip is just a small part of our commitment to sustainability and helping educate young people on how they can be more environmentally responsible citizens.

With more than 4,100 school and youth groups staying with us annually, we have seized the opportunity to make an impact both on children’s education and the way educational residentials affect the environment we are creating for future generations.

Every hostel manager now also speaks to school trip groups when they arrive, to discuss sustainability and how they can do their bit to have a sustainable school trip and beyond.

Opening up a conversation about sustainability at the beginning of the trip is a small action that can have a huge impact on how well the residential is received; how young people behave throughout their school trip experience and how that the information is retained post residential.

The eradication of every single use plastic bottles from the network is one of a number of green measures we have introduced since 2011 as part of its Green Spirit Plan in order to reduce our carbon footprint.

Alison Stevens, Head of Education and Youth here at YHA commented: “Last year, more than 92,000 young people stayed with YHA on school trips. If each of those young people made one positive change, just imagine the impact we could have. We’re a charity that is committed to both young people and the environment that we leave for them. So, we’re committed to doing all we can to benefit both – from minimising plastic use to starting a conversation about sustainability and the environment. It all adds up!”

If you’re planning a residential school trip, here are some of our top tips to make it a sustainable one:

  • Ask all pupils to bring their own reusable water bottle to use for the duration of the trip.
  • Invest in, or borrow a reusable waterproof rather than purchasing single use plastic ponchos.
  • Rather than buying brand new equipment, encourage pupils to borrow items from friends or relatives.
  • Encourage pupils who will be sharing a room during their residential to share toiletries, e.g. toothpaste and sun cream.
  • Post residential there will probably be a suitcase full of dirty clothes – only wash what is dirty, wash at a lower temperature and hang clothes out to dry rather than using a dryer.

To find out more about a school trip here at YHA, please visit our Groups website.

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