St. Peter’s N.S. Dromiskin was  one of three all Ireland educational facilities shortlisted under the Green School/College category of the Green Awards 2014.

The aim of the Green Awards is to celebrate excellence in sustainability and to encourage best practice among Ireland’s organisations and individuals.  The school was nominated by Louth County Council for the award based on its ongoing environmental management programme over a long number of years.  It is worth remembering that this school was one of the first four schools in Louth to be awarded the international Green Flag and indeed one of the first 20 in the country to achieve that environmental standard.

Key to the schools’ success in environmental management is the production of an Action Plan which is reviewed annually covering the environmental themes of Litter, Waste, Energy, Water, Travel, Biodiversity and most recently Global Citizenship which are implemented with enthusiasm and diligence by all of the pupils under the stewardship of the active Greenschool’s Committee mentored by a group of dedicated teachers.

As a result of the successful implementation of the Waste Action Plan over the last number of years, the schools waste output to landfill has been reduced by 66% even though pupil numbers increased by 33% during the same period.  Travel patterns to school changed significantly as a result of the Travel Plan through the introduction of carpooling initiatives, park and stride, Cycle on Wednesdays (COW) and Walk Out On Fridays (WOOF) all of which receive ongoing support from pupils and parents and which have combined to reduce the carbon footprint of the school community significantly.

The school fully embraced the ethos of sustainable energy management with a number of policies and projects undertaken which combined to contribute to a 23% documented reduction in energy consumption.

Water Conservation received equal attention with usage of water in the school reduced by 42% as a result of the collection of rainwater in water butts, water displacement devices in toilet blocks and immediate attention to any leaking taps.  One extremely innovative element under this heading that was key to the schools success was the provision of a Living Larder which effectively is a vertical vegetable patch incorporating a rainwater harvesting system.

What perhaps sets the school apart more than anything else is its work in the local community and its collaboration with, in particular, the local Tidy Towns committee where a number of planting schemes and other projects have been jointly undertaken by the Tidy Towns committee and the recently formed Junior Tidy Towns committee from the pupil population in the school.  Examples of this include the Eco Tribes planting scheme in the village centre, the Cottage and Medicinal Garden at the Credit Union and the award winning signage at the local Bring Bank.  Long may the school , Tidy Towns and the local community continue to work seamlessly together.

The awards ceremony in the Double Tree by Hilton in Dublin was a splendid affair. Witty and irreverent MC for the night was Demot Whelan of Republic of Telly and 2FM. Guest presenters included Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan and Duncan Stewart ex (!!!) RTE presenter of About the House and Eco Eye. There was to be no good news for both Louth’s nominees Dromiskin or Blackrock. Queen’s University emerged victorious in the Schools and Colleges section and Blackrock were pipped in the Community award.

It was an honour to be nominated by Louth County Council for this prestigious award and secondly, to be shortlisted among such illustrious competitors as Queens University, Belfast, and Scoil Croí Naofa, Athenry, Co. Galway.  In this regard we pay particular tribute to the Green School Committee and to Mary Larney who is the Environmental Co-ordinator for the Greenschool programme in St. Peter’s.

Many thanks to Mary, Clare and all the team in the Environment Section of Louth County Council for their help advice and support. St. Peter’s feels very much a winner as a result of this nomination but let’s hope that the biggest winner is the local environment.