Originally published by Sarwat Nasir on KhaleejTimes.com December 4, 2017.
A white paper on the sustainability of schools in the UAE will soon be released by the Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC).
Two weeks ago, a roundtable was held by EGBC in the presence of the school and environmental leaders, to discuss what it really means for a school to be ‘green’.
Charles Blaschke, managing director of Taka Solutions (the corporate partner of EGBC), said that “being green” is not limited to saving energy. There are many other factors that play a role, including the elimination of noise pollution, usage of LED lights, ensuring clean air quality, which is some among the many.
“Somebody might raise their hand and say that they own a school and think it’s green because they don’t spend a lot of energy. But if you look at the definition, it’s not just about energy, it’s about the comfort and air quality at the heart of the community and the education programmed around it,” Blaschke said.
“If you look through the lens of what we’ve defined today as green schools, I’d say there are only very few green schools. And, if we know there are 1,200 schools operating, that means the opportunity to make schools green is immense.”
Khaleej Times reached out to a few schools and queried how they were making their schools green – everything they were doing from sustainable lighting, reducing noise pollution around/inside the school and teaching kids about sustainability. Most of the schools that responded only highlighted how they were teaching their students to be sustainable with various eco-friendly projects. However, some also mentioned how they were making their facilities green, as well as teaching their students the importance of sustainability.
Rebecca Garnett, a teacher at GEMS Wellington Primary School and Eco Champion, said: “We thrive when we work as a team. We work together towards the UAE’s 2021 vision of becoming an increasingly environmentally friendly country.
“Our green initiatives, such as taking part in ‘The Living Rainforest’ competition, are led and championed by our elected Eco Warriors. But it isn’t just competitions that keep us motivated to reuse, reduce and recycle.
“I love watering the plants on our wall garden,” said one of the Year 3 Eco Warriors, whereas Year 2’s favorite part of the week is finding out which class is awarded the much coveted weekly ‘Environment Award’.
“Even earlier today, meetings were taking place to prepare for the launch of ‘Simply bottles schools’ which will help provide feedstock for the world’s first bottle-to-yarn recycling facility in the UAE. At GEMS Wellington Primary School our uniform may be blue but rest assured our actions are always green.”
At the Our Own English High School (Sharjah Girls’), the students have an eco-club, called Eva Green, which aims “at inculcating green values in children through sound environmental behavior”. The club carries out activities and campaigns throughout the year to spread environmental awareness.
The KG department of the school has grown their own vegetable patch at the school – an initiative that was conducted to help the children learn about the need to grow plants and help save the environment.
Students at the school have also created a garden by recycling old tires and sowing plants into it. They created a vertical garden using recycled plastic bottles and the primary children inserted 500ml water bottles in the flush tanks to reduce the wastage of water.
“Eva Green plays an integral part in highlighting the importance of biodiversity, conservation, and local environmental issues among the school children. It thus helps to extend boundaries and scope of the formal educational system by encouraging creativity and improving student’s awareness to take constructive action for a sustainable living environment,” said Mini Jayapalan, one of the co-coordinators at the school.