Posted: 14 October, 2020

A Moment to Breathe – Breathe Week 2020

Blog, Community, General, Junior School, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, Suzie Longstaff

This year, as we embark on Breathe 2020, we find ourselves in new and unfamiliar territory. Since the advent of Covid-19 the world we knew has undergone sudden and rapid change, distracting us from an agenda which before was so clear and forcing us to rethink both the way we act and interact.

When the Breathe Programme was launched two years ago, our focus was on environmental issues in the broadest sense, examining our impact within our school and local community and the wider planet. The first week-long event was designed to raise awareness, but also showed how we can all make an impact, albeit with small but practical steps in the right direction.

With a combined school effort, we managed to reduce paper by the equivalent of an astonishing two trees a week. Our electricity, gas and water consumption went down by as much as 33% and together, we reduced our car journeys by 200 per week – just one factor in achieving our coveted Gold Travel Award from Transport for London that same year.

From the first green shoots of that idea, the whole Breathe Programme quickly took root, developing into a programme of personal and environmental wellbeing initiatives that have not only made a genuine and positive impact, but guided the school and its ethos ever since.

In 2019 our Breathe Conference was opened with a keynote speech by Professor Sir David King. A whole day off-timetable, the entire senior school came together with partner schools from the Borough to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the issues affecting us all, and to identify proactive solutions to tackle them.

With a new school development at the forefront of our minds, the design of our new Science, Music, Drama and Debating Centre came into being at a perfect time for us to implement our commitments to the environment and sustainability in all its forms. The Biophilic Classroom project that began in our Sixth Form Centre in winter 2018 was the perfect testing ground for a whole new approach to classroom design. Based on the research, a biophilic design code for the whole campus was quickly informing the conscious use of natural colours, recycled and responsibly sourced materials and plants to support wellbeing.

Our Futures Hub has already been transformed using the holistic principles we learnt, and the new building, with its central forum, and wide, airy teaching spaces will be next in line. It has already achieved BREEAM Excellent Environmental accreditation through its use of natural daylight and views of nature, solar panels and even a green sedum roof to encourage wildlife habitats and build on the green infrastructure we already enjoy. Our student build committee have been involved from the outset, bringing their ideas to the table and helping to make important decisions on everything from layout and design to fittings and natural fabrics.

In 2020, a year unlike any we have known, Breathe week is aptly entitled “Hope for the Future”. Who would have foreseen that this year, our eco-reps would be leading the charge to design funky but sustainable face masks? And how many of us would have thought that cycling to school would suddenly be as important to preserving the health of our loved ones, as to our own health and that of the environment? How times have changed!

The eco-reps in every year group are serious in their responsibilities. Since the September return to school, they have been eagerly encouraging their classmates onto their bicycles and are equally keen to make sure the school lives up to its environmental pledges. Rosie, one of our Year 10 eco-reps explained, “We would like the school to have a renewable energy tariff and cut down on red meat to curb methane production.” At the same time, they are fundraising through the World Land Trust, to buy an area of rainforest.

If the last few months have done one thing, it is to throw a spotlight on the fragility of life on this planet, how quickly the delicate ecosystem of which we are a part can be suddenly thrown out of whack and how our wonderful way of life cannot be taken for granted.

Let’s embrace this opportunity to take a closer look at our everyday lives, our daily interactions, and what we can do to make a positive impact on the world around us. And while we do that we should take a moment, quite simply, to breathe.



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