By: Liam Finn
A Catholic school from Maidenhead has been recognised by the Prime Minister for its commitment to clean up the environment at a national awards ceremony in Parliament. St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Maidenhead was nominated by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, for the first ever national 'Green Heart Hero Awards'.
Representatives from the school travelled to Parliament to attend the awards ceremony on Tuesday 13 March where they received the award for 'Greenest School' in recognition of the school's environmental work. At the event, they met with the Prime Minister who congratulated them on their efforts.
Elaine Hurrell, Head of English and sustainability lead at St Mary's, said: "We were absolutely over-the moon when we found out we'd been nominated and to find out that we'd been nominated by our own prime minister just bowled us over.
"The children have found her a total inspiration. She's committed to sustainability. We've written her letters - whether it's about single-use plastic or saving energy - and she has listened."
Natasha Lewington, a governor at the school, added: "We're particularly honoured that the Prime Minister was able to come here today and meet us. After nominating us, she came to Speaker's House and met us and spent time with us and we're very grateful."
The awards - which ranged from accolades from green businesses to sustainable sports projects - were presented by high-profile figures such as broadcaster Clive Anderson and historian Bettany Hughes as part of the Show The Love campaign from The Climate Coalition.
Over the past decade, teachers, pupils and parents at St Mary's have reduced their impact on the environment, bringing its gas bill by 40 per cent, cutting waste by a third, and building a greenhouse from 2,000 plastic bottles.
CAFOD won an 'Overseas Inspiration' award at the event for a project which is helping to bring power through renewable energy to people who lacked access to electricity.
CAFOD's renewable energy project has brought lighting and water purification systems powered by solar panels to more than 100 schools. The project has also improved the storage of medicines in 50 health care institutions and enabled patients - including pregnant mothers - to be safely cared for at night.
Fergus Conmee, who heads CAFOD's work in Africa, said: "We're delighted to win this award. The real winners are our great local partners in Kenya. The green energy project was in arid areas in Kenya which had no electricity and we installed solar panels to produce lighting for schools, to provide clean water in health centres and to run IT equipment and laptops. The money people are earning can be used to pay school fees and meet other vital needs.
"It's been a real, life-changing difference to those communities. It's great that the work that CAFOD and its partners are doing in the area has been recognised. Thanks to all those who have worked hard for a number of years on this project."
The 'Green Heart Hero Awards' are the brainchild of The Climate Coalition - a group of more than 130 organisations representing over 15 million people.
The awards were the culmination of events by The Climate Coalition to 'Show The Love' and celebrate things which are at risk from climate change - whether sports rained off or natural beauty spots damaged by increased flooding.
Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, who delivered the closing speech at the awards ceremony, said: "From individuals to businesses, more and more people are helping with the transition to cleaner and more secure energy and lower carbon ways of living and working. I wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity to congratulate their incredible work.
"The nominations for these awards have shown just how committed and passionate we can be at tackling climate change and I am sure that they will provide the inspiration for even more people to get involved."
The Climate Coalition is holding events throughout the year for people to get involved with.
Find out more at: www.theclimatecoalition.org