Health and Environmental Council at Markham College

Posted: 23 March 2020



Age range

Whole school


As a leading educational institution Markham College is committed to promote environmentally sustainable practices across the school. It is our duty to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to care for our planet’s resources and to make a positive contribution to our community. We therefore aim to develop policies that will help promote healthy habits among pupils and staff.

The Health and Environment council is one of eight councils in the school, and is in charge of promoting sustainable practices around the school and among faculty and students. The council is made up of 10-12 students aged 14-17 with one representative from each of the younger year groups (S2 and S1). We meet once a week to plan for activities, campaigns or fund raising activities if we need to gather funds.


Five years ago the Health and Environment council worked to identify major environmental issues around the school that needed to be addressed. With help from management they started installing water fountains able to refill bottles in seconds helping to reduce the amount of single-use-plastic within the school. Installing enough water fountains took time, we looked into data of how many fountains we needed per student on campus. We also gathered data on how many bottles were purchased at the cafeteria every week and extrapolated that to create a greater impact over the reasons for doing it.

The council also designed a bin, recycling and composting system to help greatly reduce the amount of waste produced.

From there the council sort approval to design and implement a whole school Environmental Policy which was drafted in 2018, and then put into affect for the first time in 2019. The team of students used their research to influence the policy and its contents.


Single-use Plastics

The school has a policy of NO SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BOTTLES on campus.

Waste Management

Separate Rubbish bins for OrganicPaper, Plastic and General Waste must be accessible in each section of the school and each classroom.

Transport and School trips

The school continues to recommend ‘Movilidades’ and carpooling for students and families who are able to.  We also recommend bike riding and walking to school where possible.

Paper use policy

The school recommends limiting the printing of documents where possible, using e-readers, laptops and printing documents (as a default) on both sides if needed.

Water use policy

Water is a very important and scarce resource, as a school we should make pupils aware of how to safe and make responsible use of this resource.

Electricity use policy

Electricity use within the school should be carefully monitored.

Food consumption

As a school, we encourage fresh, unprocessed (or minimally processed) food for lunches, bake sales, the US cafeteria, CAS Shop and any other purveyor.

Meetings and School events

This policy also extends to all meetings and school events, not only during school hours.

Awareness, promotion and monitoring

It is the responsibility of every member of staff to create awareness about the importance of key environmental issues, like saving water, energy, eliminating plastic use, reducing animal products in our diets and recycling.


Most challenges came from the school logistics team, many of the changes the students wanted to achieve required some changes in infrastructure for example buying and installing new water fountains or segregated bins.

So the first year we focused on gathering information and raising awareness. Students presented the problems that they identified to Upper Schools Management and little-by-little changes happened. We also insisted that policies needed to change in order to make meaningful, long-lasting changes.


Banning of plastic bottles was the most drastic change we implemented. Having backed the decision with data and announcing it the year before we managed not to get any backlash from parents or students. Students now are much more conscious about their plastic use, not only bottles. All teachers carry reusable bottles, leading by example was our main focus as a faculty.

The members of the council felt really empowered by the whole process; they showed remarkable leadership skills, learnt how to deal with both adults and peers who are resistant to change. They learnt to speak up for what they believe is right and that by changing policies from within we can create a more lasting change that can create a snowball effect.

Long term

Since then we have been able to get more people on board with our efforts and our overall aim is to create a whole school environmental consciousness that transcends the school’s walls and influences both their families and our society. It took a while but we wanted to empower the students instead of just imposing a policy that came from senior management. The result was more impactful and taken better by students, parents and staff.

The environmental policy has been adopted by all the sections and it will be revised and updated every year.

We continue to run eco-friendly initiatives within the school. Last year the H&E Council teamed up with students from the Lower School and Early Years to make ‘EcoBricks’; plastic bottle packed with used plastic to set density to create a reusable building block. This activity helped to create awareness in our younger students around single-use plastics. We will use the EcoBricks to build something in the school that shows the amount of plastic used (actual weight) and what that represents in terms of contamination of water, air and soil.

We have also stopped printing the yearbook and reports in hard copy to reduce paper use, as well as composting all organic materials from the Food & Nutrition classroom.


Author: Gonzalo Murdoch, Head of F&N / School Nutritionist / Round Square Coordinator – Upper School

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