The world is waking up and weare the change. The change is coming whether you like it or not.” These were the words of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg as she addressed the crowd at a rally in Denver late last year. As the world heads towards a climate emergency, Bradfield’s pupils of Greta’s age, as well as the College itself, are pledging to do more to change, and to encourage change, when it comes to making the world we live in more sustainable.

Pupil voice is becoming more prevalent as our Prefect body aims to encourage the College and its pupils to strive for a better future, not just a more environmentally sustainable one, but one which is built on equality and openness too. This process has started with the creation a pupil led College strategy which has seen input from the JCR as well as pupils across all year groups and is championed by the Heads of School, Alice (I) and Tom (F).

That is the equivalent amount of CO2 from driving an average car for almost 10 days non-stop, supplying the average house with all its energy requirements for over 170 days or keeping a 13-watt CF lightbulb continuously lit for over 50 years.

“As Head of Sixth Form, Mr Clegg inspired the JCR to increase pupil voice”, says Alice as she shares some of the early details from the new strategy. “We spoke with the whole Prefect body including the Heads of Houses who gathered feedback through their Houses on what pupils would like to see changed.”

Various ideas came up in those conversations; alongside strong ideas about making Bradfield greener and more sustainable, pupils were also keen to see more diverse opportunities across the co-curriculum as well as more communication between the College and pupils.

“While these ideas didn’t all relate to one another in an obvious way, we thought all the points raised could work well within a broader framework. We discussed them as a Prefect team before presenting our strategy to both Mr Clegg and Dr Stevens, the Headmaster. They have been so supportive of it and have encouraged us to be ambitious but realistic with our goals.”

The aims come under three headings; Sustainability, Equality and Transparency, each with a set of long term aims which they hope can be achieved through a series of short term goals.

Our pupils are keen to promote sustainability by encouraging the College to use greener materials and reduce its carbon footprint over time.

The first initiative to reduce carbon emissions has already enjoyed success with the introduction of meatfree days in the Dining Hall as Alice explains.

“The caterers do a fantastic job supporting those pupils who are vegetarian or gluten free and the increasing number who are choosing to follow a vegan diet. To help raise awareness for alternative diets which can help reduce carbon emissions from animal husbandry, we have been able to introduce a Meat Free Monday.”

It all adds up when you consider how much meat can be consumed by Bradfieldians every day. With over 800 pupils, as well as hundreds more staff, eating in the Dining Hall could see as many as 2400 portions of meat eaten across three meals each day.

“We completed a trial run at the end of last year and were pleased with the results”, reflects Alice. “We calculated that we reduced our emissions by over 6000kg. That is the equivalent amount of CO2 from driving an average car for almost 10 days non-stop, supplying the average house with all its energy requirements for over 170 days or keeping a 13-watt CF lightbulb continuously lit for over 50 years.”

On top of this, an ongoing commitment to carbon offset with long time partners Horseman Coaches will form part of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy.

Marking a decade long partnership with the private coach hire company, together we dedicated over an acre of ancient woodland with the help of the Woodland Trust. This kind donation, situated in Harpsden and Peveril Woods near Henley, also includes a bench in our name to commemorate the green initiative.

We hope all pupils, particularly the younger ones, will promote it as a legacy project and involve the new pupils each year.

In November, Owen Adams, Chief Operating Officer and Yvonne Horner, our Transport Liaison Officer met with James Horseman, Chief Executive of Horseman Coaches, to visit the bench and to discuss the future of what we hope will be an annual commitment to help create a greener environment.

The College is also working with other suppliers to reduce its carbon footprint, including the producers of this magazine. In the five years that we have been working together, the Suffolk based printers have used environmentally friendly print materials in every edition , including vegetable oil based ink and using FSC approved sustainably sourced paper.

Recently they helped us to discard the use of plastic poly-wrap packaging for mailing by replacing it with biodegradable film made from natural biopolymers, consisting mainly of potato and maize starch which is fully compostable.

When it comes to equality, our pupils want to see equal representation across the College. To do this they are encouraging increased diversity of reporting of subjects, sports and arts across College communications as well as pushing for increased mixedgender opportunities within the co-curricular offering.

In the last year the mixed gender badminton team has increased in popularity and Alice was part of a successful mixed doubles tennis team who reached the National Finals last year, with Bradfield recognized as one of the top eight mixed doubles teams in the country.

Pupils are also working with the management teams to increase transparency College-wide, promoting both open and honest communication between pupils and the College when it comes to the sanction and reward system as well as encouraging pupil voice.

Beyond that, a new Sustainability Committee has also been created with representation from the pupil body as well as members of the Senior Management Team and Council which will look at the College’s environmental impact with open dialogue and discussion. One of the committee’s first decisions will be how to use £3000 which was raised through the auctioning off of the College’s old Dining Hall furniture.

So what is next for the pupil-led initiative? “The aim now is to action the strategy both in the short and long term”, says Alice. “We hope all pupils, particularly the younger ones, will promote it as a legacy project and involve the new pupils each year.”

Our response to Covid-19

Find out more