The Eco Rangers Call for Sustainable Living
There have been times when expressing an interest in protecting the natural world would see you labelled as a hippy or a crank, or perhaps even a dangerous militant. It could be argued that the ‘cranks’ are the ones who have been promoting extractive, linear approaches to resources and waste, ignoring the fact that we are part of a cyclical and interconnected world. The Eco Rangers (not ‘warriors’) seek to reclaim eco consciousness as a positive trait, and attempt to do so in an inclusive way without moralising or shaming. We are all complicit in the destruction of functioning eco-systems, and we can all be part of the solution.
Whilst there have been various groups at CH dedicated to ‘natural history’, the current iteration of Eco Rangers was founded at the beginning of 2019, coinciding with a surge in awareness of environmental issues sparked by the Fridays For Future and Extinction Rebellion campaigns. The group is student-led, supervised by Christy Hawkins (English teacher, assistant DSL & Visiting Speaker Coordinator) and Zoe Munday (Drama teacher, School Mindfulness Specialist and Head of 2nd Form).
The Eco Rangers’ aims are “To drive the school to be a more sustainable organisation, and to encourage staff and students to use their full resources to educate and inspire on ecological issues.”. Below, pupils talk about what being an Eco Ranger means to them.
I have been part of the Eco Rangers for a year and a half. After reading and learning about the climate crisis individually and implementing more eco-friendly behaviours into my life, I still felt like I was lacking proactivity. Having heard of the various initiatives the Eco Rangers had been executing, I was interested in what kind of community Eco Rangers would be. It turned out to be a place for expression, action and education filled with zealous, inquiring, and opinionated people!
Activism through peaceful protest has always been something I have been interested in. This show of unity of people from all backgrounds, despite gender, colour, race, age or any other physical or social distinction always inspired me. I found out about a local ‘Fridays for Future’ march and immediately knew Eco Rangers had to be involved. Just as I had hoped, the march was a vibrant occasion and the Eco Rangers made an undoubtable impact, leading conversations, waving banners and meeting people who later came to speak at the school and influenced our future efforts. I look back on this fondly, not just because it was an event that I influenced and worked hard on, but it was before the division of Coronavirus, reminding me continually of the strength of a little idea fuelled by a lot of hope.
With support from willing teachers, the Eco Rangers became involved with ‘TerraCycle’ (a recycling platform to collect non-recyclable waste to turn it into raw material to be used in new products). CH students get through a lot of tuck during a school term – it’s almost tradition! – and with this new system, packets that would normally end up in the general waste were dealt with more sustainably. It was brilliant to see so many people round the school supporting this effort.
At home, we have reduced our dairy and meat consumption significantly and we try to buy local produce. The experience of cooking more eco-friendly meals has been so enjoyable, especially in lockdown when we had more time to cook. My family do the general things such as composting, avoiding single use plastic, freezing portions of meals to prevent food waste and much more. There is still a lot that we need to improve on, but I think it is important to recognise the limitations of trying to be as eco-friendly as possible. I feel privileged to have the option of implementing these things into my home life.
We may not see the impact of environmental issues every day, but some people and species do. The facts speak for themselves. As stated by the World Health Organisation ‘climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050’. The United Nations climate report and subsequent reports have warned us that global carbon pollution must be cut in half in the next ten years for us to avoid catastrophic, irreversible damage to our planet. It’s clear to me that if we can help prevent a crisis that will impact generations to come, that’s something we must do.
I was one of the original members of the Eco Rangers when the group was made in the Lent term of 2019. We didn’t have much structure then, but the group evolved and quickly developed to become what it is today!
Humans do amazing things, but we often destroy anything in our path in order to do so. I think everyone should do their bit to reduce our impact on the world and holding a large interest in climate change meant that I quickly found a place within the Eco Rangers, where there are members with so many different interests. It’s this that means we are managing to achieve so much! There are no leaders, just personal initiative.
I worked with the School to completely change the lights in the Chapel, many of our classrooms and also the streetlamps around our site to reduce our energy usage, but the Eco Ranger’s best work comes from when there are large group projects, especially when they involve the younger students. One of our younger students led a small trip to Horsham to join in solidarity with the Fridays for Future campaign to speak up on and raise attention of issues around the environment to government, but this was done in a very organised way without missing any of our lesson time, so we could what we felt was the right thing without missing out on our all-important education.
Some of the most successful projects of the Eco Rangers have been what I like to call the ‘small wins’, where people don’t notice them, but that doesn’t mean the impact is small. After all, if we all do very little then very little is achieved. One of these projects was reducing the time it took for computers and printers to go into standby, and another was encouraging the school to source its energy more greenly. As well as this, the school is currently looking at the future of our energy use and potentially extending our already large Solar Farm! One of the very first things the Eco Rangers did was introducing battery recycling bins, which has prevented hundreds of batteries containing toxic chemicals and metals heading for landfill.
The work doesn’t finish at school! In order to continually reduce our environmental impact, we must do what we can in the home. I’m a vegetarian and a keen buyer of second-hand clothes, but I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone and we can’t push a particular regime; we have to do what works for us. There’s always something we can do!
Over the past couple of years, it has been shown that by putting environmental matters to the front of public minds (I’m thinking David Attenborough and Fridays for Future in particular here), governments can quickly legislate for environmental protection (microplastics ban, ban on new fossil fuel-powered cars from 2030) and companies can change their actions (companies aiming for net zero/widespread packaging improvements). We have seen that our actions do matter, so it is important we push for more until we have fully reduced our impact on the environment to the best of our ability. Especially with the restart that the Coronavirus pandemic has given us, we can and should do better!
I joined the CH eco-rangers in Michaelmas 2019 so over a year ago! I decided to join Eco Rangers because so many awful things were happening to our world and I felt like I needed to do something and learn how I could help our planet.
I have two favourite projects because they are both very different and I can’t make my mind up! The first would have to be the first big project that I did with the Eco Rangers which was the second-hand clothes sale in the Herford Centre, which was very exciting and great fun because lots of pupils and staff came to support it. Then the second would be the school allotment which over the last year the eco-rangers have been busy resurrecting and growing a wide range of food, my favourite being the tomatoes which we have also made into chutney!
There have been a number of well supported initiatives in the School but personally I have been involved in the School allotment. Hopefully when we are back at school, and the weather has improved we can get lots of pupils involved and have fun growing lots of food which we obviously get to taste!
At home, as well as being a lot more conscious about where our food comes from, we also buy more of our clothes second hand and try to recycle as much as possible!
I think it’s important to take on environmental matters because we can all see the changes that are going on with our planet which is unsustainable. I think collectively we can all make the necessary changes to allow our planet to recover.
I’ve been part of the Eco Rangers since the group started. I wanted to join because I love nature but saw that there were issues to do with our lifestyle which disturbs the environment’s gentle balance, so I wanted to take action and find other like-minded people who loved nature too.
My favourite project was probably making the Eco Rangers’ banner out of an old bedsheet, it was lots of fun to make! As well as helping with the Eco Rangers flag, I am also currently arranging a collaborative piece of artwork about eco-friendly jobs which will be put onto the Sussex Green Living milk float. Most of all, I hope that I’ve helped get younger pupils to get outside more and appreciate nature.
I’ve encouraged my household to wash up dirty containers before putting them into the recycling, as well as trying to look for second-hand clothing or ethical clothing companies. In particular, I try to convince my household to limit plastic usage by not buying things we don’t need or going to the local refill centre. We’re not perfect, but we have improved!
It’s important to take on environmental matters because we directly benefit from nature, as we are in a very privileged country, not all of us see the consequences our actions can have on other people in less privileged circumstances. Nature can be SO beneficial for our mental health and it’s wonderful that more people have been getting out into nature recently, hopefully people will continue to get outside, and become friends with the Earth. Everyone can lead their own change, even if it’s only little, it’s empowering when people find an issue which they care about, and act upon it. When someone takes on a matter which is important to them and others, that’s an act of kindness, and kind is what we all can, and need to be.
You can read the full Eco Rangers article on pages 6-7 of The Old Blue Spring 2021