Eco-Schools is the largest global sustainable schools programme – it starts in the classroom and expands to the community by engaging the next generation in action-based learning. The programme encourages young people to engage in their environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it.

Welcome to Eco-Schools

Eco-Schools is operated internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and is managed in New Zealand by Keep New Zealand Beautiful. It currently has 19.5 million students and educators, from 59,000 schools in 74 countries, engaging with its sustainable development education programme. FEE is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation whose aim is to promote sustainable development globally through environmental education.

Why Eco-Schools?

The Eco-Schools programme is an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path towards improving the environment in their school and local community, while at the same time having a life-long positive impact on the lives of young people, their families, school staff and the community.

Young people experience a sense of achievement at being able to have a say in the environmental management policies of their schools and are ultimately rewarded with the opportunity to become a Green Flag school – an internationally recognised status.

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Who is involved in the Eco-Schools programme?

The Eco-Schools programme is run according to an all-inclusive, participatory approach involving students, teachers, and the local community at large. However, it is, at its heart, a student-led initiative.

How does Eco-Schools work?

The Eco-Schools programme consists of three elements:

  1. The Seven Steps to progress through
  2. The Twelve Topics to choose from
  3. The Green Flag assessment.

NOTE: The most important aspect for schools to remember is that we acknowledge that every school is different and it is therefore critical that a school fits the Seven Steps around its circumstances and situation and NOT try to fit the school into the Seven Steps. We want Eco-Schools to work for you!

The Eco-Schools programme also never dictates the environmental actions or projects that a school should work on. This is a great strength of the programme: it allows students to take control; it allows local problems to be tackled; it allows young people to work on the issues they are passionate about; it is inclusive to everyone.

The Seven Steps

The Seven Steps are designed to make environmental actions student-led. Working through each of the Seven Steps and achieving Green Flag accreditation can be done in a single academic year or can take longer if needed.

Several of the Seven Steps, for example Step 6: Community and Step 7: Eco-Code, naturally overlap and this is encouraged – the process is designed to be holistic. Below is a brief summary of each step. But further detail, examples, criteria and resources can be found in the individual Step Guides you will receive access to when you register. We recommend checking these guides before you begin to ensure you make your Eco-Schools journey a success!

The first step is to form an Eco-Committee to represent the ideas of your whole school. The Eco-Committee takes responsibility for Eco-Schools projects and will ensure the whole school and community is involved.  

The Eco-Committee then completes the second step, an Environmental Review, to investigate the current situation in the school. The Environmental Review is a tool designed to help the Eco-Committee decide what is going well in the school and what topics to work on.

The results of the Environmental Review are used to create an Action Plan outlining the three topics (two that are chosen by the Eco-Committee, plus Litter) that the Eco-Committee has decided to focus on, and the projects related to those topics. Eco-Schools New Zealand has Twelve Topics – Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Food, Global Citizenship, Health & Wellbeing, Litter (compulsory topic), Marine & Coast, School Grounds, Transport, Waste and Water.

The Action Plan is a working document which tracks the progress of your projects against your three topics and their Sustainable Development Goals.

The Action Plan needs to include ways of measuring the progress of the projects, as well as recording ideas for future development. To find out whether you are successfully achieving the targets set out in your Action Plan, you must measure your progress.

Your projects should be linked to The New Zealand Curriculum. Linking to the curriculum integrates Eco-Schools into daily learning across subjects. This can range from a short reference when a curriculum topic warrants it, to full-scale linking so that projects fully cover particular curricular experiences and outcomes.

A key aim of Eco-Schools is to involve your whole school and the wider community. It is important that everyone in the school has the opportunity to be involved in your Eco-Schools projects. Making links across the school and wider community gives others the opportunity to be involved, giving students a chance to make real change.

Finally, the whole school crafts an Eco-Code representing their commitment to environmental issues. Your Eco-Code is a statement that simply sums up your school’s commitment to environmental issues.

The Twelve Topics

Schools in New Zealand can choose from a menu of Twelve Topics when implementing their Eco-Schools work. Although all Twelve Topics must be included in the Environmental Review, schools can decide which three topics they will focus on. Staying true to the mission of Keep New Zealand Beautiful we ask that one of the three focus topics be Litter. Find out more about the Twelve Topics.

The Eco-Schools Green Flag

The work embarked upon as you move through the Seven Steps is recognised by the Green Flag Award – a visible indication of your school’s commitment to learning for sustainability, and an internationally recognised accreditation for excellence in sustainable development education. A Green Flag is the perfect way to acknowledge, reward and celebrate the ecological achievements of your students. It demonstrates that their hard work is appreciated and it provides them with the confidence and motivation to continue actively engaging with environmental issues.

Getting started

Schools register online usually at the start of the year, then with our guidance, they will take manageable steps towards reaching their Green Flag accreditation. Even better registration is FREE!