In 2022, The Department of Education (DfE) released a strategy outlining how schools must be zero carbon by 2030 in a movement they’re calling “Let’s Go Zero”. It calls to end inefficient buildings and outdated technology which is costing schools around £630m a year in energy bills. A staggering figure which will no doubt rise as the cost of energy increases.
To address these issues, the DfE promises investment in training teachers in education for sustainable development across the curriculum, as well as committing to improving their building specifications – which includes adapting and retrofitting school estates – and ensuring that all new school buildings from 2022 onwards will be net zero carbon.
Nestled within these transformative strategies lies a crucial component: schools and trusts must assess their ICT strategy for sustainability and energy efficiency.
The target for all educational facilities to achieve net zero in operation is an ambitious goal and will require schools to thoroughly access every corner of their buildings to identify opportunities for greater efficiency. ICT will be crucial here as it enables the replacement of outdated and carbon-intensive technologies with more sustainable alternatives.
To do this, schools need to measure carbon emissions per pupil and compare energy usage, especially of frequently used technology like interactive displays. For example, Newline’s interactive touchscreens stand out as an excellent option, not only being rated “energy efficient”, but they are also “Energy Star” qualified, so, on average, will use up to 50% less energy each year than a non-energy efficient equivalent. Making energy-conscious decisions based on such comparisons can lead to significant energy savings and a greener approach, especially added up over the lifetime of a piece of hardware.
Here are a few more ideas on how IT can play a crucial role in helping UK schools reach their Net Zero goals:
- Sustainable Procurement: Selecting energy-efficient or Energy Star-rated IT equipment contributes to reducing overall energy usage and carbon footprint. This includes upgrading old or out-of-date equipment which requires more power and energy to run.
- Data Monitoring and Analysis: Utilising data analytics, schools can track their energy consumption patterns and make informed decisions to optimise energy usage further.
- Green IT Initiatives: Encouraging responsible disposal and recycling of electronic waste (e-waste) and supporting green IT initiatives promotes sustainability.
- Climate Literacy Programs: Utilising IT for climate literacy programs can enhance environmental awareness among students, staff, and the wider school community.
- Collaborative Platforms: Leveraging collaborative platforms and online tools can facilitate sharing best practices and ideas for sustainability initiatives.
- Energy Management Systems: Implementing smart energy management systems can optimise energy consumption in schools, reducing waste and promoting energy efficiency.
- Tracking and Reporting: IT systems can assist schools in monitoring and reporting progress towards their Net Zero targets, fostering transparency and accountability.
- Digitalisation and Paperless Solutions: Embracing digital tools and paperless solutions can reduce paper usage, leading to decreased carbon emissions and deforestation impact.
- Remote Learning and Virtual Meetings: Encouraging remote learning and virtual meetings can minimise commuting and transportation-related emissions for students and staff.
- Renewable Energy Integration: Adopting renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines can enable schools to generate their own clean energy, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
As described above, integrating IT solutions strategically can significantly aid in helping a school reach its goal of being Net Zero. This means creating a sustainable and environmentally responsible environment, making the school greener for the future.
Even small changes, such as upgrading old laptops, can make a big difference in saving energy. Newer devices generally have more energy-efficient components like processors, graphics cards, and displays. This not only improves performance for the user but ultimately requires less power to run and reduces overall energy consumption. In addition to hardware improvements, newer laptops typically come with more sophisticated power management features and settings, allowing users to optimise power usage and extend battery life further.
If it’s time to look for new IT equipment and energy efficiency needs to be considered, looking for hardware with energy-efficient labels or certifications like Energy Star can help identify what equipment is kinder to the environment.
In the face of an increasingly urgent climate crisis, the landscape of education is undergoing a transformation driven by the government’s imperative to achieve Net Zero. By combining new technological innovations with taking good care of our environment, we can change how our schools work. Schools can overcome problems linked to old technology and energy-wasting buildings with this journey towards a cleaner future, driven by the teamwork of education and technology. It’s a way of showing that what we learn can make our minds brighter and our planet healthier, setting a great example for the kids of tomorrow.