Turning our campuses “green” has been no easy task for the colleges and training providers that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

But the hard work has paid off as the group has achieved the Investors in the Environment (iiE) Green Award.

The highest stamp of approval, the award recognises all the ways Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training, Redcar and Cleveland College, Stockton Riverside College and The Skills Academy in Billingham, are going above and beyond to reduce our carbon footprint.

The potential wider impact is immense, as Etc.’s sustainability lead, Erika Marshall, said: “As a group we engage with thousands of people every day, that’s thousands of opportunities to influence and promote positive change.”

Clear the future of the planet is something that matters to students, and indeed staff, the team started looking at small ways to collectively make a big difference back in 2019.  A team of like-minded individuals formed the Green Initiatives Group, coming together to share ideas and achieving the iiE Bronze award in the same year.

Early efforts to reduce single-use plastic and increase opportunities to recycle got the ball rolling, but today finding innovative ways to make sustainable change is a priority that runs right through the colleges.

“That was just the start of what we sought to achieve,” said Erika.  “It quickly became apparent this is about so much more than reducing the usage of single-use plastic and providing more opportunities to recycle.”

Today group-wide measures such as the procurement of electricity from green sources, a dramatic reduction in wastepaper and printing, and an increase in recycling, form the foundations on which more and more innovative solutions are built.

Audited by the environmental sustainability consultancy, Genee Consulting Ltd, the Etc. has now been praised for the likes of the introduction of a car-sharing platform to reduce the number of cars on the roads and the creation of a carbon literacy awareness workshop for staff.

The colleges also carry out social projects such as Stockton Riverside College joinery students who made bird boxes to support local biodiversity along the River Tees and the development of a thrift exchange to reuse and recycle pre-loved clothes and shoes.

Working with Carbon Neutral Britain, the UK’s carbon offsetting initiative, the Education Training Collective has also achieved certified “carbon neutrality” for the third consecutive year.

Jo Holmes, managing director of Genee Consulting Ltd, said: “It is brilliant to see Etc.’s progression and development of their Environmental Management System since their Silver accreditation. They have a clear understanding of their resource use which informs effective action plans, enabling them to see continual improvement year on year, and resulting in their Green accreditation.  A fantastic effort from the sustainability lead, which should be commended.”

Etc. sustainability lead Erika said: “This is something that really matters to us, as our students and staff tell us that this matters to them.”

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