Is it necessary for all of us to be reminded to keep our planet healthy? If so, what better place to start with than school!! Taking our generation ahead, these young hearted souls will be the best guardians of our planet to be safe, secured, well preserved & conserved, thereby surpassing the entire catastrophe which it has witnessed so far. There are currently no official guidelines for sustainable schools in the UAE; however work is gradually being done, under the direction of the Emirates Green Building Council to create a coalition of Green Schools in the UAE. The coalition aims to engage existing and new schools with established sustainable building guidelines and promote a healthy, effective, and sustainable community of students.
Listed below are simple tips to Green your school:
- Aspire to be paperless: One should print papers only when there is an absolute necessity. In this smart and digital world where all the information is easily accessible on smart phones and laptops, the need for printing paper should be minimized and students encouraged reducing paper consumption.
- Serve local food in the school cafeteria: Food produced and served locally reduces the carbon footprint which comes from transportation. Sourcing locally also encourages local employment and contributes back to the local economy. For those who have an appetite for meat, from time to time, also look for alternative meat options, as meat production can account for one-fifth of greenhouse emissions.
- Avoid plastic bottles and paper cups: Encourage students and staff to bring their own bottles for water and carry mugs for coffee/tea. This reduces unnecessary waste going to landfill.
- Switch off the lights: Turn off the lights when the day light/ natural light is sufficient. Assign a class monitor for each class who will keep a check on turning off all the lights/monitors after everyone leaves the room and the lecture is over. Talk to administration about switching light bulbs to more energy efficient types, or bring in lamps with energy efficient bulbs instead of fluorescents.
- Use water efficiently: Water consumption rate per person in the UAE is 550 to 850 liters/day, which is considered one of the world’s highest rates. Installing water efficient fixtures (taps, water closets, urinals) can save potable water used for sewage conveyance by nearly 50%. Automatic water faucets with light sensors should be installed for wash basins for further savings.
- Maintain the room temperature: Keep the class room temperature at a moderate setting while you are in the room. 24 degrees is considered an ideal temperature during summer months. Use your windows wisely! If your climate control system is on, shut them and if you need a little fresh air, turn off the AC. Bringing fresh plants into the classroom can also increase coolness in the room, thereby creating a healthy atmosphere for students to study.
- Air Quality: Establishing good indoor air quality can positively affect student and teacher performance; can reduce absenteeism, and also prevent the potential for long and short-term health problems. Children spend 85% to 90% of their time indoors, and they breathe more air relative to their body size than adults. Hence they are more at risk with indoor pollutants and toxins.
- Recycle printer ink cartridges: Reduce the amount of ink used in printers and photocopiers (use a projector or interactive whiteboard). When ink cartridges are used, recycle the old ones so that they are not going to landfill.
- Measure the classroom’s Carbon Footprint with weekly meter readings/ electricity audits – student monitors should be appointed and trained to check the meter readings on a weekly basis. Only by monitoring consumption can the school understand its impact and work to further reduce its consumption. Getting the students involved in monitoring will provide hands on experience and understanding.
- Incorporate Sustainability in the curriculum – Several key topics focusing on sustainability such as environment, globalization, green building practices, peaceful co-existence, food security, and energy can be included in the school curriculum, which will enhance the participatory learning and teaching methods which stimulate learners to bring about positive behavior change. UNESCO has provided a Training Guideline on incorporating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the curriculum. Kindly click here to download the guidelines. Additionally, have class outside occasionally on nice days, giving yourself (and the environment) a break from overhead lights, computers, etc.
- Audit for waste reduction: Appoint students to conduct audits of paper materials and trash in the classroom on a weekly basis. Encourage students to make posters focusing on decomposition facts, landfill facts, and instruction as to what goes where. Start an electronic device recycling program at your school, where students can bring in their old electronic devices to be recycled or donated, rather than becoming “e-waste”.
- Form an Eco-Movie Club: Form an Eco Club comprising of students who will take charge of identifying documentaries with a focus on sustainability, which can be showcased on a monthly/bi-monthly basis. This can create a very strong impact, as the students can derive examples and schemes from the featured documentaries and put them into practicality in their day to day life, thereby reducing the carbon footprint. Some examples of the documentaries are: Trashed, the Future of food, The Age of Stupid, Living with ED, Who killed the Electric Car, 30 days, Dirt! The movie, etc!