Schools are to be encouraged to pioneer sustainable development in their communities by using wind, solar energy and bio-fuels as well as leading the way in efforts to stamp out the "throw-away culture".

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, will today launch an action plan for all schools to become environmentally friendly by 2020. He hopes to harness what the Government sees as young people's natural enthusiasm for green issues.

Mr Johnson said: "Young people are keenly aware of, and highly motivated by, environmental issues. In many ways they are ahead of adults in their attitudes to recycling and conservation. Channelling this enthusiasm helps raise achievement and improve behaviour and could save money as well as address big issues such as climate change - it really is a win-win solution."

The consultation document recognises some schools have implemented many outstanding environmentally-friendly initiatives. The country's first state-aided "green" academy for 11- to 16-year-olds recently opened in Liverpool and is dedicated to improving young people's understanding of the environment. At the St Francis of Assisi Academy each class is allocated its own garden to cultivate and environmental issues are taught throughout all the subjects of the curriculum. However, the document argued that such environmental good practice must become the norm and urged all schools to do more. It set out a range of environmental goals for schools to achieve by 2020. They include offering "healthy, local and sustainable food and drink produced or prepared on site" with increased use of local suppliers. By 2020 the Department for Education and Skills would like all schools to be models of renewable energy.

The document asks schools to be ethical consumers by considering the environment in all their purchasing decisions - for example, by choosing goods that minimise or eliminate disposable packaging. Mr Johnson and the junior education minister Parmjit Dhanda will mark the launch of the consultation, which runs until 1 September, with a visit to Argyle Primary School in Camden, north London, this morning. The school has developed several sustainable development projects, including a watering system powered by renewable energy and a parents' action group which works to improve healthy living, safe play and road safety.


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