SCHOOLS in York and North Yorkshire have been set a challenge to cut their carbon footprint in return for a £10,000 cash reward.

This week marks the start of Norwich Union’s Climate Change Champions programme, in which seven schools from York and North Yorkshire will go head-to-head in a bid to reduce their schools’ carbon footprint.

The most successful schools will stand a chance of winning cash prizes of up to £10,000 to pay for further measures to help reduce their impact on the environment.

Last year, The Press reported how pupils from Park Grove Primary School in York beat 28 other schools from York, Norwich, and Perth by reducing their school’s carbon footprint by an impressive 26 per cent. They won £10,000, provided by Norwich Union, to pay for a renewable energy installation.

The schools involved this year in this area are Cawood CE Primary School and Our Lady’s RC Primary School in Acomb, York.

Climate Change Champions (CCC) is a schools programme developed by environmental action charity Global Action Plan (GAP) in partnership with Norwich Union. Over the next four months, six volunteers from Norwich Union’s York offices will mentor students aged seven to 16 on understanding climate change, cutting waste and energy use and on recruiting support from the local community.

At present, the collective carbon footprint of the York schools involved in the programme stands at 3,828.9 tonnes per year, which is equivalent to the carbon produced from 425km of street lighting in a year.

Calculating this figure involved the unenviable and messy task of collecting and measuring the waste generated by the schools in one day.

This information, together with an analysis of energy usage, gives an accurate indication of the schools’ carbon footprint. During a pilot scheme in 2008, the 20 schools involved knocked an impressive 67.4 tonnes off their collective footprint. The pupils will also be seeking support from their local community.

In a separate scheme, the school that gathers the greatest number of green pledges from friends, family and local residents – by switching appliances off stand-by and taking showers rather than baths for example – will be awarded £5,000.

Pledges can be made towards a school’s total by visiting before April 25.

Christine Banham, Norwich Union’s community group leader and programme co-ordinator, York said: “Working with the children has been a very satisfying experience so far. They are learning so much about climate change, as am I, and are now passionate about helping combat it. Carrying out the waste audit has definitely been the highlight – they have really enjoyed getting stuck in and were surprised by the amount of recyclable rubbish that gets thrown away ever day.”