The East End school is one of almost 90 Glasgow primaries, nurseries and Additional Learning Support (ASL) units which have signed up to the city council’s Schools Charter – pledging to complete at least three environmental tasks or projects a year. And youngsters at Sunnyside Primary are going global with their environmental endeavours.
The primary describes itself as a “conservation school” with the motto “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. Pupils launched their #NaeStrawAtAw campaign on social media last September after estimating the number of school milk straws they throw away each year at 38,000 and learning how plastic can kill seabirds, fish, turtles and cetaceans. They are now in discussions with businesses and other schools about ending the use of plastic straws and adopting more eco-friendly alternatives. They raised money to buy samples of paper and plant-based biodegradable straws to show retailers alternatives.
They also plan to launch a new website later this year to encourage more people to join their cause.
To highlight the effect of plastic on seabirds, pupils created a sculpture of a Gannet out of milk cartons and papier-mache. The sculpture has a transparent stomach filled with fish but also plastic waste which it has ingested. The artwork earned Sunnyside Primary top prize in a Keep Scotland Beautiful competition and was put on display at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick. The pupils won a trip to the centre as well as a Gannet adoption pack.
Sunnyside’s Ocean Defenders group has raised almost £1000 for a Whale and Dolphin conservation charity which they have visited. Pupils also sponsor six dolphins in the Moray Firth and a wild Orca in Canada. The school also previously won a competition to name a Killer Whale calf which is now known globally as Tide.
Ullapool Primary School joined Sunnyside’s campaign and Glasgow pupils travelled to Wester Ross to help their peers lobby local businesses to ditch plastic straws. This teamwork scored a huge success when all of the village’s pubs, restaurants and cafes stopped using them.
Lisa Perrie, Principal Teacher, Sunnyside Primary School, said: “All the pupils at the school are passionate about nature and conservation. They are involved in numerous environmental projects but the biggest at the moment is #NaeStrawAtAw which although led by our Ocean Defenders has involved every class. “It ties in well with our Schools Charter environmental work as it aims to reduce litter in the local environment which often ends up in rivers and being washed out to sea where it can harm the wildlife the children have been learning about.
“The campaign is really gathering pace and generating a lot of interest. The pupils are drumming up support by contacting other schools and businesses with presentations about the harm plastic waste can do and how micro plastic is entering food chains.
“They have already had a lot of positive feedback. Not least when they helped Ullapool Primary School convince their whole town to go plastic straw free. The schools were introduced by Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Community Officer after the Ocean Defenders raised money to buy a whale rescue pontoon. We were delighted that Ullapool Primary came on board to help us with the first stage of our campaign. It is an amazing success for both schools and for Ullapool!
“The teachers have heard some great stories from parents – such as going through a fast food drive-in and their children telling the cashier they want NaeStrawAtAw with their drinks and to keep their plastic cup lids!”
Councillor Anna Richardson, Glasgow City Council’s Convenor for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: “I’m hugely impressed by Sunnyside Primary School’s #NaeStrawAtAw campaign and by the drive and motivation of the pupils.
“They have a firm understanding of the consequences of dropping and generating litter and what can happen when people disrespect our natural environment. And they are doing something positive to try to prevent it. They deserve a huge round of applause for their environmental work.”
Julia McCreadie of Cordia which operates the school’s Fuel Zone said: “Cordia would be delighted to work with Sunnyside Primary and our milk supplier to explore ways to reduce the number of plastic straws being used in the primary Fuel Zones.”
Glasgow’s Schools Charter encourages schools to complete at least three eco-friendly projects – including one community clean up – a year. Those who complete all three receive a trophy in recognition of their efforts and a large wooden garden planter made by Community Payback.
Follow #NaeStrawAtAw on Twitter to keep up-to-date with Sunnyside Primary’s campaign and show your support.