In a time where a single story is very much the focus of our concerns and worries, and when the sun is shining so brightly and the wildflowers are on the march, it might be easy to forget about the climate crisis and the need for an urgent re-work of our environmental habits. We must not let this happen. Hopefully, one of the silver linings of our difficult time in lockdown will be that it has given us the opportunity to experience a life more modestly wholesome and more focused on what we need, rather than what we want. Simple things like the birdsong, time with our loved ones, going for walks and an understanding of the precariousness of the bounty of nature have come to the forefront of our minds. At Cranleigh this year, the Environmental Action Group was founded with the goals of: raising awareness of, and starting conversations about, our place in the wider environmental context; encouraging all members of the Cranleigh community to reconsider their own, personal environmental habits and to start the whole community on a life-long journey towards a more sustainable life.

The first committee has been made up of: Toby Escolme, Maddy Pollard, Maya Magee, Kitty Clements, Sophie Grossmith, Bella Hazell, Thomas Evans and Ed Brounger. This team of fantastic young men and women have been phenomenal this year in getting this initiative off the ground and engaging and inspiring the whole school community. The amount of work they have put in, in addition to all their other commitments, and the excellent humour that has accompanied it, has been incredibly inspiring and it was not until I put what we have done this year into a list that I saw just how hard they had worked:

Just some of their achievements have been:

  1. Waking up the school to the importance of environmental concerns with your amazing assembly in chapel
  2. Achieving the Schools Eco-Bronze certificate and well on the way to the next
  3. Establishing two excellent noticeboards where environmental work and issues can be highlighted
  4. Getting the school to send ALL its food waste to the local Dunsfold Biodigester (the impact of this cannot be underestimated)
  5. Significantly reduced the amount of food waste the school makes
  6. Made a film and entered it for a competition (we should have won, obviously)
  7. Established links with For Earth’s Sake and Planetary
  8. Contributed to the building of an excellent shared drive of useful information and ideas
  9. Designed, established and promoted The Pledge to change people’s attitudes to personal eco-habits
  10. Introduced Meat-Free Mondays
  11. Reduced the amount of photocopying and paper used in school
  12. Got the catering department to stop providing non-biodegradable packaging products – everything they use to wrap packed lunches in is now is biodegradable/compostable
  13. Assessed and started the process of packaging and waste re-evaluation in Cranleigh – the data collected will be central to next year’s projects
  14. Made the newer and younger members feel inspired, involved and welcome
  15. Made a series of useful boxes to stop single use plastic bags being brought back from the village
  16. Raised awareness about a huge range of environmental issues
  17. Made over £2000 in an inspiring, creative and definitely the snazziest, student-led fundraising event – the second-hand clothes sale
  18. Supported needy charities like the Australian bush fire relief funds, The World Land Trust (David Attenborough’s charity), Surrey Wildlife Trust and Labour Behind the Label, supporting child labour victims in the fashion industry
  19. Produced a truly outstanding newsletter to raise awareness and enthuse our community
  20. Set the school on a path that is not only hugely positive but absolutely crucial for the future

This team – and everyone at Cranleigh who has supported their work and made a positive change to their own habits – should be incredibly proud of what has been achieved in (less than) one year. To the committee and indeed, all leavers, I hope you take these achievements and inspiration forward to wherever your adventure takes you next: inspiring others, getting involved with environmental activism and letting this be the start of a life-long commitment to making a positive difference for the planet. They have set the bar very high for the next committee and that is as it should be. If you would like to be part of the next generation of inspirational environmental leaders at Cranleigh, please drop an email to eco@cranleigh.org.

One final point to highlight, is to thank all those who have helped to keep the gardening club going throughout lockdown, so that the children have plants growing to come back to when we return. Thanks must go to Mr and Mrs Bradnock for organising some of the on-site Cranleigh children to plant in the beds as well, and also to Mr and Mrs Carey from Mr Fothergills who have kindly provided seeds. As such, we currently have all beds and the polytunnel full in the Medical Centre garden. It has been a really nice community thing to have it used in this way.