Taking a participatory approach, this PhD project is examining whether, why and how schools are acting to be sustainable, ‘green’ schools, with a particular focus on the environmental and health co-benefits of green and health policies and actions.
In the 21st Century we are facing a number of ‘wicked’ challenges to our health, wellbeing and prosperity that require complex solutions and co-ordinated responses from multiple sectors. Two of these wicked issues, the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and climate change, are increasingly interlinked in novel approaches such as ‘ecological public health’ and ‘planetary health’ that emphasise the complex interactions between health and the environment.
Many of the behaviours which result in NCDs and climate change are determined in early life. Thus far, schools have been a particular focus of health-related behaviour change interventions addressing issues such as obesity, physical activity, diet, and smoking. Schools have also had a focus on health for a number of years through programmes like Healthy Schools, Youth Health Champions and the Ofsted inspection of school food environments.
however, efforts to create sustainable or ‘green’ schools to address climate change (mitigation and/or adaptation) haven’t attracted much UK policy maker attention yet. Recommendations often focus on the curriculum to raise awareness of climate change issues and to a lesser degree promote walking and cycling to school for lower carbon footprints. Despite this, individual schools might take more comprehensive actions, for example promoting a greater appreciation of sustainable food production through school gardens, UNICEFs Climate change and environmental education, Forest Schools, and through the design of carbon neutral buildings.
The project includes a scoping review of healthy green policies and practice, and the design of a survey to identify the barriers and facilitators for schools across Cornwall when integrating health and sustainability related agendas.