Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Student-Initiated Action for the Environment: Just the Beginning

For several years now the efforts of our Green Team and ISKL environmental pioneers have been geared toward setting up frameworks of operations such as recycling, paper usage, electricity auditing and financial support. The concept of student involvement, empowerment and stewardship, however, was an elusive goal whose day, it seems, may have finally arrived. Students were, of course, exposed to environmental issues in a series of courses, but actual hands-on opportunities were limited. The issue was not so much establishing opportunities for students to participate in hands-on environmental initiatives - such as Malaysia Week or after-school clubs - but creating a structure that would allow students to recognize their own political and social power and become involved in environmental stewardship opportunities of their own accord.

This year's High School Earth Club has stepped forward in this regard. Their initiatives, largely due to the efforts of their leadership (headed by Kegan Chang, Earth Club president) are starting to make an impact. Their first two initiatives involve taking over the organization, planning and logistical framework of the Community Recycling Program at Ampang and the creation of a student-led composting program on campus. The participation in these efforts has been limited largely to those in the Earth Club, but certainly this development heralds a new age for student-initiated environmental action!

We hope that these initiatives will mark just the beginning of a new sense of empowerment and environmental engagement. For the time being, there is much to be done. If you care to support the HS Earth Club in these efforts, ask away, participate in recycling and/or composting, and celebrate the changes being made by our student leaders (elected or otherwise).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Benefits of Environmental Education

Often we get caught up in the "academic" or "core" subjects as the impetus for good education. Certainly these are very important components to a solid education. But in an online course I am taking on Environmental Education, the reasons for implementing an environmental component into education seem to be powerful, particlarly as we march forward to a future with global warming and increased scarcity of biodiversity and resources. In a recent assignment we were asked to compile a "Top Ten" reasons for implementing an environmentally based education program at schools. Here's what I came up with:

  • Allows for a practical application of educational concepts across all disciplines and divisions.
  • Provides opportunities for positive collaboration (both for teachers and students)
  • Gives students a chance to participate in integrated, cross-curricular education.
  • Provides a whole-school sense of purpose.
  • Establishes a framework for whole-school expectation of learning.
  • Gives students a chance for direct action research and learning.
  • Provides students with skills and knowledge to become global citizens.
  • Allows students to apply skills in problem-solving.
  • Increases leadership opportunities for students.
  • Applies to all real-life and authentic settings, preparing students for whatever future they choose to follow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reducing Paper Wastage in the Office

The following article is reprinted (in a slightly adapted form) from the Malaysian Nature Society's (Selangor branch) Pencinta Alam newsletter (October 2009 issue).


1. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.

2. Over 40% of wood pulp produced in the world goes towards the production of paper.

3. The costs of using paper (i.e. printing, copying, faxing) can run 13-31 times the cost of purchasing the paper in the first place!

4. It takes more than 1 ½ cups of water to produce 1 sheet of paper (Picture a typical soft drink can).

5. Reducing paper use reduces greenhouse gases. 40 reams of paper is equivalent to 1.5 acres of pine forest absorbing carbon dioxide for one year!

6. Even with recycling efforts, paper makes up approximately 25% of the waste we throw away. We are still throwing away a lot of resources!

1. Always make double-sided copies.

2. Set computer defaults to print double-sided.

3. Reuse paper printed only on one side in the fax machine, for draft copies and for internal documents.

4. Preview documents before printing. Use the print preview to spot formatting errors and blank pages.

5. Proofread first and use the grammar & spell-check to avoid errors that will cause documents to be reprinted.

6. Determine the number of copies you need for a meeting, and don't make extras.

7. Print or photocopy only the pages you need, and only the number of copies you need. There is no need to make extra copies for standby. If it is in the disk, it can be reprinted as and only when needed.

8. Save a copy of important documents into your hard disk or e-mail folders. Create folders to keep every thing organised and retrievable. Fix a date every month to review the folders and delete documents you no longer need.

9. Saving documents on soft copy may even make your life easier! You can just copy and paste from documents, than refer to the printed copy and type everything from scratch again.

10. However: Don’t be a pack rat and save everything to disk, especially when the information is readily available elsewhere! Keep your inbox and hard disk tidy and organised. This will save memory/disk space and prevent the need to purchase additional disk storage or thumb drives.

11. Examine the reports and documents you print regularly to see if people still need them. Many times, they are created for someone who has left or who does not need it anymore.

12. Remove printers from desks and move them to a central location where one printer will suffice for many people. This will reduce wasteful printing as people will decide it is too much hassle to print unnecessary and personal items.

13. Have an inter-departmental competition to see which department can save on copies printed over a certain period of time!

14. Impose a fine on those found to be wasting paper, (e.g. crumpling up once-used paper and tossing it into their wastepaper basket when they should be putting it back into the printer tray for drafts. Even crumpled paper can be reused as memo pads.

15. Give members/subscribers/customers/clients the option of going paperless and of receiving newsletters, correspondence, catalogues and other documents via email. Of course, this is not possible where there are legal issues, e.g. acceptance of contract, admission of liability etc, so in those instances, resize and reformat before printing and print on both sides if you can. If a hard copy is going to be sent to you, then don’t print out the email.

16. Unplug the fax machine and request that the sending party email instead. That way, you have more control over whether something should be printed, and you can re-size and reformat it before printing. This will also eliminate junk mail by fax. At least try to unplug the fax machine after official office hours.

17. Keep copiers and printers in good repair and make it policy to only buy copiers and printers that make reliable double-sided copies. Let your copier maintenance person know when a copier is performing poorly (toner is low, jams frequently, etc.). Regular copier maintenance is important, especially if the toner is low. Copiers are often used until all the toner is gone and that wears down machines. A copier that works well is less likely to jam and this helps save paper.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Home Composting Taking Off

The following is reprinted from an informational email sent out by James Housgo, our in-house community organizer for the home-based composting program. I am sure you will find it interesting. Please consider taking part!

Hey ISKL! These are the numbers on composting so far:

12 - bins of waste we have composted so far this year
360 - kilos of ISKL organic waste composting right now on Ivan's organic farm
27 - ISKL families that have a compost bin RIGHT NOW
950+ - ISKL families who COULD be composting (read below if you want to start composting)

The second drop off/pick up for the compost bins will be on Thursday, October 1st.
• Ivan (the director of City of Hope, the organization we work with) will pick up your full compost bin from where the motorcycle parking spaces in the back parking lot meet the awkward and steep ramp up to the Blue Top; the ramp on the art-room-side of the Blue Top.
• When you drop off your bin, please bring RM10 to James Housego (MS music) and he will pass it to Ivan (you can also put the RM in James' mail box in the main faculty lunch room).
• Pick up your new empty bin and your bag of composted soil at the end of the day from the MS music room - how's that for instant gratification? :-)
• If you would like a second bin, so that you never run out of space, there are more bins in the MS music room (deposit RM40 is required)


The background on Ivan - our compost contact:

Ivan grew up in the jungle and learned sustainable environmental practices during his upbringing. He is knowledgeable about the processes of composting, farming, and restoring ecosystems to a point where they are totally sustainable (bugs, plants, the whole sha-bang). Now Ivan runs an organic farm in PJ where he trains people with physical disabilities to produce sustainable ecosystems, composting etc. THEN the trainees are sent to orphanages or other non-profit organization where there is a plot of land that has been let go to waste. His trainees regenerate the earth around the orphanage and train the staff there how to compost and keep their ecosystem sustainable. Ivan also works with schools, government agencies or anyone else who just wants to learn how to do what he does; he is currently consulting with the HS Earth Club. Composting at home reduces your waste, reduces smelly odors in your trash bin, and helps to support Ivan and his progressive program for the regeneration and sustainability of Malaysian gardens and non-profit lands.

Do you have questions on how it all works? Ask these people who are already composting:

HS Earth Club * Laurence Myers * Julie James * Jeffrey Samson * Lisa Mangelsdorf * Joan O'Donnell * Brian Foudy * Mark Walsh * Kenny Peavy * Angus Carmichael * Jay Peters * Pamela Smith * Richard Petersen * Malia Bodhaine * Rob Whiting * Ann Whiting * Kendra Gonnerman * Billy Thomas * Jaime Thomas * Linda See * Alex Smith * Lynne Smith * Sinbald Cheng * Adria Rosendale * Doug Woodward * Diana Greer


Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcome Back... Home Composting and more.

By now the routine should have started settling in. Students are finding it harder to wake up in the morning. Teachers are madly rushing about trying to make sure that their lesson plans are set and ready to engage in education. Administrators are roaming the halls ensuring a high quality education is being offered. Parents are busy making sure their little ones are up and running for another academic year of vigor and rigor.

The search is on, as I write this, for a new Green Team Coordinator who will engage our community in introspection, reflection and action of the "green" sort. In the process, things are happening...

A growing number of teachers and administrators are taking on a new environmental task this year: Home composting. Working in conjunction with "City of Hope" (Bandar Harapan) based in Subang, these people have promised to store their vegetable and fruit left-overs in blue 35 lt bins (provided for a deposit of RM 40) which, once filled, will be exchanged for a new empty bin, and the process will continue. City of Hope, in turn, takes all the left over flora and adds it to their compost heap with which they provide much-needed nutrients to their organic garden, run by a small force of volunteers. At ISKL Mr. James Housego (MS Music) has taken on the task of being coordinator of this program. Any families want to join in? Just talk to James.

And so, as the search continues for the new Green Team coordinator (we will keep you posted on that one) we hope that your travels were good and that you are looking forward to a happy new "green" academic year!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Annual Report for Environmental Literacy

This Annual Report is generated by the ISKL Green Team as a reflection on the year as it pertains to environmental education and literacy. It is presented to the Director of the School and Administrative Council as a component of the on-going evaluation of environmental and sustainable practices.

The format follows that of the document “Bold Thoughts: Toward an Environmental Ethos at ISKL”, presented in May, 2008 to the Administrative Council as a blueprint for future direction.

Written Documentation

· Green Team recommendation to take part in the Green Schools Alliance Climate Commitment as a “Climate Steward” (committing to a reduction in carbon emissions over the next five years). (

· Director’s explicit statements regarding environmental practices in school-wide communication.

· Creation of Green Space blog at which was linked to the ISKL website.

· New ISKL vision statement introduced which explicitly includes the “environment”.

· New ISKL SLR introduced involving “living ethically”.


· Student-based projects have taken place this year involving:

o Reduction in water bottle usage

o Reuse of plastic containers at Connie’s

o Thermostats set to 22 degrees Celsius

o Composting pilot program

· Global Issues club and classes participated in Earth Week Eco Expo and Orangutan Rock.

· Earth Week 2009 included 12 outside organizations visiting ISKL, two visitng speakers, community events and Orangutan Rock events that generated funding of over RM 25,000 for Orangutan Appeal UK.

· Introduction of Global Issues Courses at the MS level.

· Plans to establish a Global Issues course requirement for students starting in 2009-2010.

· Proposal (pending) to introduce a Sustainable Future course at the HS, proposed to begin in 2010-2011.

· Introduction of HS Geography course which includes issues of environmental sustainability.

· Increase in experiential learning opportunities for 7th grade science curriculum.

o Forest Research Institute of Malaysia

· Grade 1 initiated two new units:

o “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” with culminating Earth Week assembly.

o “Field to table” focusing on environmental impact of food choices.

· Tree-Planting stewardship program initiated with Global Environment Centre with an optional participation of ISKL students in two tree-planting expeditions, totalling over 100 trees.

· Introduction of environmental components to the newly established Global Action Program at the HS. Environmentally-oriented trip options include:

o Bali: Adventure and Art on the Island of the Gods

o Laos: Jewels of the Mekong

o Thailand: Reefs to Rainforests

o Thailand Eco-village Sustainable Living Adventure

o MESCOT reforestation program in Borneo.

ISKL as a “living, carbon-neutral campus”

· Using The Carbon Neutral Company website ( a baseline carbon assessment of ISKL was made. Results indicate that operations at ISKL have resulted in the following carbon emissions:

o Premises Total: 1,788.48 tCO2

o Company vehicles total: 30.19 tCO2

o Business Travel total: 46.33 tCO2

o TOTAL: 2,063.47 tCO2

· ISKL has hired a new gardening/landscaping contractor

· ISKL has hired a new cleaning company, using more non-toxic, environmentally appropriate cleaning products.

· Development of monthly reports and displays relating to energy usage and photocopying.

· Energy audit by outside consultant to determine ways to reduce energy use.

· Set up of in-class thermostats is all classrooms.

· Technology Department plans to re-use computers that will be replaced across the school. Recipients have not yet been identified.

· Using the Energy Star website ( we developed a baseline assessment of energy use at ISKL Ampang campus. Results indicate that ISKL Ampang campus has reduced annual energy use by 1.1 % in the period going back 12 months from April 2009 in comparison to the previous 12 months.

· Discussions regarding ensuring the use of environmental best-practices in determining what/where/how to build a new campus.

Financial Support

· The Green Team has generated funding from PTA Grants for the development of a composting system at ISKL

o RM 5400 has been established for the purchase of chippers and composting bins.

· The Green team Grant Program provides funding (up to RM 1,000) to school groups who need funding for on-going, self-sustaining, environmentally-appropriate programs or activities.

· Conversations have been broad for the development of a full-time Environmental Coordinator at ISKL.

· Environmental Coordinator Position job description has been created (currently in draft form) and presented to the Administrative Council and SILC Board Committee.

· Funding has been ear-marked for an environmental coordinator to begin in 2010-2011

Behaviors & Practices

· Online survey completed by staff members regarding their perceptions of environmental needs at ISKL.

· Draft of “Looking Forward” plan developed for consideration in 2009-2010.

· Administrative decisions include the elimination of commercial water bottles and the provision of healthier food service options.

· Positive steps forward have been made in terms of economic benefits of environmentally-appropriate practices.

· Established environmental component to be part of ISKL’s overall annual report to the community.

· Further measures need to be established.

· Establishment of water stations in both Ampang and Melawati campuses in lieu of commercial water bottle use.

· Posting of energy usage advertised around school.

· Establishment of the Green Team Environmental Ethos Award, given annually (only if appropriate) to deserving students in the MS and HS.

· Discussions regarding financial incentives to participate in environmentally-appropriate behaviors.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Orangutan Rock

The now traditional Rockin' for the Environment took place on Saturday, this time in support of Urangutan Appeal UK, an organization that provides funding and support for the Sepilok Urangutan Sanctuary in Sabah, Borneo. For those who have had the chance to visit, this sanctuary provides an opportunity for our Malaysian apes to be rehabilitated and - hopefully - returned to a wild that is becoming smaller by the day. Urangutan Rock, organized by Lois Powell, Steve Northcott and Kenny Peavy, and supported by hundreds of adults and students alike, was another big success. Apart from generating necessary funds (RM 20,922 and counting) the event was able to bring together many stduent groups and visiting organizations and fun opportunities for our younger members of the community as well. This, of course, was in addition to the many musical groups (student, visitors and adults) who were the highlight of the event!

For the record, each year a specific organization is chosen to be the recipient of the Rockin' for the Environment fundraising. Starting small two years ago, the first Rockin' for the Environment, then named Turtle Rock, generated funds for SEATRU, a turtle research and conservation program based in Terengannu. Last year's recipient was MYCAT, a consortium of several NGOs dealing with the conservation of the Malayan tiger. Next year, who knows?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eco Expo 2009 - A Wealth of Resources

Eco Expo 2009 was a smashing success! All told ten student groups, companies and non-government organizations were represented, bringing a wealth of knowledge and resources to ISKL's Ampang campus. Whether visitors were browsing reusable shopping bags, sustainable diapers, the large variety of orang asli wares, adopting trees or turtles, purchasing photos of Borneo or discussing home composting and water assessment options, the event allowed our community a chance to take a closer look at sustainable initiatives and lifestyle choices. Thank you to all the groups and organizations who participated!

The MS Global Issues Club invested much time in promoting reusable water bottles on campus and generating a signature drive regarding water bottle use on campus.

Bandar Harapan Organic Farm offers composting solutions for homes and (maybe) ISKL! Home-based composting bins are available for a small deposit.

Tetra Pak has been a regular participant at Eco Expo for three years now. Creating a playful display that allows students to participate and win recycled Tetra Pak prizes, this company has a highly recognized environmental ethic.

Gerai Orang Asli sells traditional crafts made by Orang Asli communities in Malaysia. Each item sold is identified by its creator and 100% of the proceeds go directly back to the artist.

Wild Asia promotes environmental education and the re-establishment of natural corridors where palm plantations have made a negative impact on local ecology. They also provide adoption of trees.

The WWF is widely known around the world. At ISKL's Eco Expo they were promoting their turtle initiative in Malaysia.

Noah of Jungle Voices has a wide array of high-quality photos of Borneo. Proceeds from the purchase of the photos go towards sustainable practices in East Malaysia.

Global Environment Centre promotes sustainable use of water, conducts water assessments for businesses. The Green Team hopes to establish a partnership with them allowing ISKL's carbon emissions to be partly offset by their tree-planting programs!

From cloth diapers to reusable bags and pencils made of recycled newspaper, Tiny Tapir is a small but veritable sustainable shopping paradise in KL!

TrEES has been integral in the creation of the Selangor State Park and also is ISKL's long-time recycling partner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Week Waterfall Hike

This past Sunday, April 19th, Charlye Woolman, Cecile Woolman and Lisa Nazim marched a group of ISKL community members up the back end of Zoo Negara toward a waterfall. The group of 43 people, largely comprised of Melawati students and their parents, was able to hike into the woods, cool off at the waterfall itself, and hike back out. All in all the hike was a huge success! A special thank you to those organizing, of course, but also to everyone who participated in this fun and nature-based activity!

Research has shown that such forays into nature are crucial in developing an appreciation for and an understanding of nature in youth. Evidence suggests that the earlier the chance to partake in nature-based activities the better one's sense of connection to the natural world as an adult. It is wonderful to see so many people hiking with Charlye, Cecile and Lisa (and her husband Jimmy!).

For pictures of the hike, please copy and paste the link below to your web browser:

Earth Week Community Recycling

Earth Week began with the customary Community Recycling Drop Off. This week's recyclables included the following:

  • Newspaper: 167 kg
  • Mixed Paper: 188 kg
  • Cardboard: 185 kg
  • Aluminum Cans: 36 kg
  • Steel/Tin Cans: 38 kg
  • Tetra Pak: 43 kg
  • Plastic: 112 kg
  • TOTAL: 769 kg

A big thank you to all those volunteering and organizing, including: Ronnie Wynne, Jill Maloney & Richard Laurence (who shared as leads), Lisa Nazim, Betsy & Paul Chmelik, Lois & Rachel Powell, as well as the Girl Scout and Daisy Scout troops. They really had a recycling workout!

Of course, a big thank you also to all those who donated their recyclable materials from home!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eco Expo (Friday) and Orangutan Rock (Saturday)... back and better than ever!

Another fun and exciting Eco Expo promises to grace our Ampang campus this coming Friday, April 24th from 10 am to 1:30 pm. As part of the Earth Week festivities we are happy to announce that we have a number of visiting organizations ranging from composting to tree-planting to sustainable children's wear. It promises to be a great opportunity for parents, students, staff and faculty alike. Come support WWF or the Orang Asli artisans, ask questions about organic farming, check out the exhibits on energy use at ISKL or non-toxic cleaning agents. It's worth a visit even if you decide to leave with nothing but information.

But it gets better than that! Orangutan Rock is on Saturday, April 25th. This must-see event has been hugely successful in the past and this year promises to bring many of our community - young and old - to the Ampang campus in support of Orangutan Appeal UK. If, for some reason, you are unable to get to the Eco Expo on Friday, many of the booths will remain up on Saturday as well, so come on over! Better yet, come to both!!

Earth Week Tree-Planting: 95 tons of carbon offsets!

Saturday, April 18th was a normal sunny morning. Six ISKL students pulled themselves out of bed and got to school early to do their part in a grander tree-planting scheme organized by the Global Environment Centre. Naomi, Chris, Andy, Sofia, Mavendra and the veteran tree-planter Angelica took the 75 kilometer trip to the Raya Musa Peat Forrest Reserve where they would participate in the second tree-planting even that ISKL has taken part in. The students survived two and half grueling hours under the sun and jumped over irrigation canals, helping each other stay out of pitfalls and mud traps.

All told, the six students planted 95 trees. With each surviving tree estimated to offset close to one ton of carbon over its lifetime it seems evident that ISKL student have made a great start to Earth Week! Judging from the collective enthusiasm after we returned to Ampang all coated in mud, with smiles all around and statements of "it was awesome" and "I'm going to bring all my friends along next time" it would seem that we're off to a good start!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Value of Earth Week

Every year it happens. April comes about and people chat briefly about conservation of resources and saving the planet. Perhaps they plant a tree for Arbor Day. Perhaps they turn off a light for a while. Others try to walk to school once or twice. Others think about greening but never quite get to it, just like those ever elusive new years resolutions. Others manage to make a small yet significant change to their lifestyle choices. They buy local produce, perhaps, or purchase a reusable water bottle. They decide to recycle at home or purchase a fuel efficient vehicle.

Earth Week plays an important educational role in our school's culture. By now Earth Week is a known entity. It is a time that affords introspection for administration, staff, faculty, students and parents alike. If it is not, it should be. If it is, then the introspection allows for personal and informal assessment of what is important in the manner by which we, as human visitors to the Earth, live our lives.

On campus Earth Week is a celebration of applying what we know to what we do. It provides us with opportunities to go out to nature (appreciation) or plant trees (stewardship). It gives us the chance to turn our waste into a new generation of products (recycling) instead of going to the landfill. It gives us a chance to do our little bit to make a big difference.

But really Earth Week should provide us with a small glimpse of how we should be living on a daily basis. If you don't keep your energy use in check, then perhaps you should. If you don't keep your water use in check, perhaps you should. If you don't car pool, perhaps you should. We can all do better with what we have. At ISKL we try to reach all our students in making them environmentally-friendly citizens of the world. It is no longer a privilege to be so. As the information regarding human impact on the environment mounts it becomes increasingly obvious that we, as members of planet Earth, can no longer hide behind our collective fingers. Regardless of whether or not you personally believe in the human impact on global climate change it should be a no-brainer to recognize that environmentally-appropriate behaviors make smarter choices in the long run.

So, when Earth Week comes to pass on April 25th (Orangutan Rock - come visit!) we hope that the entire community will take the discussions had, the chats and the small improvements, and make them part of our lifestyle. If Earth Week can become a daily routine rather than merely a week-long celebration it would certainly be a sign that we have come of age as a community. The true success would be the realization that we no longer need such a week in the first place. But, for now, and as our collective environmental consciousness creeps just a little higher, happy Earth Week everyone!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Earth Week 2009 Schedule Released

After a good deal of planning and logistical deliberations we are happy to announce the schedule for Earth Week 2009. You can get a better look at the schedule by just clicking on the image of the schedule above. Feel free to participate at any extent that you can. Happy Earth Week everyone!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ISKL Supports Earth Hour

This year ISKL will be joining the millions around the world in a show of solidarity to our environment. Started in Sydney, Australia two years ago, Earth Hour has become an international hit, with households, governments, corporations, academic institutions worldwide joining together to turn off their lights for one hour - 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm - on March 28th. Won't you join ISKL, KLCC, Putrajaya, KL Sentral and so many others around Malaysia?

For further information, and to pledge support, please visit

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cars Everywhere!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that, in pure environmental terms, walking or biking are preferable to public transport and that, in turn, public/mass transport is preferable to personal motorized transport. For years scientists and public officials have been identifying the need for public transport methods that allow movement while limiting personal vehicles.

According to the Ampang busing office, ISKL uses 35 buses to transport our sons and daughters to and from school. These buses take turns coming and going, once in the morning and three times in the afternoon (3:00, 4:30 and 6:00 pm). The assessment of the bussing carbon generation is another story altogether (still in the works), but trying to put a finger on our passenger car numbers is trickier still.

A mosey down to the Ampang front parking lot on Tuesday, March 10th from 7:20 am to 8:05 am identified 197 cars dropping off children to start off the day. 197 cars driving from their homes to bring a student or students to school, and then moving on. Presumably a similar number would fill our parking lot in the afternoon as well. If one was to add the 125 cars that were parked in the front and rear parking lots on that same morning, staff members diligently working on campus, the 322 total cars is somewhat staggering! And that doesn't even consider Melawati. Gulp.

Which got me to thinking... If one was to calculate the mileage of said cars on this particular Tuesday morning we might come up with the following results:

Assuming that each car travels 2.5 kilometers each way to/from school, then this morning ISKL families and staff members would have traveled a cumulative of 1,610 kilometers. Longer commutes would, obviously, increase that result. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that we all lived just 2.5 kilometers away from school. Those same cars would, over the course of 180 school days, have traveled a cumulative total of 289,800 kilometers, and that's just in the morning run! A similar return trip in the afternoon would, of course, double that to 579,600 kilometers.

According to this mileage would generate roughly 3,550 tons of carbon. Now that might not say much to you, and will probably vary depending on your source, but the general consensus is that it takes about 5 or 6 trees (or more) the duration of their lifetime to offset one ton of carbon.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that just driving our cars to school to drop our sons and daughters (or ourselves) adds up. Suppose that we all somehow became so aware and concerned that we wanted to offset that carbon. We would have to plant 17,750 trees in order to do that. That's 55 trees for each car that drove up that morning.

So what is one to do? Well, here are some thoughts:
  • Walk, bike or car pool to/from school
  • Sign your son or daughter up to take the bus
  • Plant trees, plants, bushes, grass, flowers!
  • If you can't plant trees yourself, consider donating some money to organizations that do ( or are two options you might consider)
  • Become carbon literate about your lifestyle (a good starting point is:
I'm already pumping up my bike tires!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Community Recycling Continues Strong in February

It was a beautiful Saturday Valentine's morning when the volunteers showed up. Flanked by an exuberant lot of Girls Scouts from Melawati who happily stomped on cans and sorted paper, and supported by four high school students, the adult volunteers were highly encouraged by the level of volunteerism and stewardship at ISKL. To top it off, members of TrEES were there asking members of our recycling community to make a pledge to do something to help the environment. Overall it was a fun-filled and positive day! The numbers too, were equally as encouraging, as the Community Recycling program continues where it left off in January:

  • Newspaper: 209 kg
  • Mixed Paper: 213.5 kg
  • Cardboard: 223 kg
  • Aluminum: 24 kg
  • Tin/Metal: 60 kg
  • Tetra Pak: 30 kg
  • Plastic: 90 kg
  • TOTAL: 854.5 kg

Thank you to everyone for helping out! We look forward to meeting new recycling families (and seeing the old friends) next month on March 14th. See you there!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Carbon Offsetting at ISKL... Baby steps

What does a school (that hires overseas professional staff, participates in international educational, sporting and cultural events, provides spring break trips all over the world, builds houses for the poor around Asia, provides professional opportunities for its staff) and global warming have in common? Carbon emissions!

Carbon emissions is what happens when we do most anything requiring the use of industrial production or services. When we get in a car or a plane, we participate in the carbon production of the said transport vehicle. When we go to visit the nearest park, we emit carbon. When we recruit the world's best teachers, we generate carbon usage. Certainly there is a heavy environmental cost to being a world-class school. It seems that the higher the expectations (e.g. more computers, better facilities and equipment) the more the environment has to 'deal with' our increased wants for a better-educated student body.

Yet, when our school's visionary strategic planning group determined our school's new Student Learning Results and vision statement, they had the foresight to include the environment, explicitly. This in and of itself is a huge step for ISKL's environmental efforts. For years the Green Team has been asking our administration to acknowledge environmental impact of our actions as individuals and as a whole. Fortunately the group that congregated to create our new vision also recognized that in building the leaders of tomorrow there is increasing pressure to also deal with the ethical responsibility we should all internalize.

So, with the increase of international opportunities we need to take a closer look at our carbon footprint as a school. In doing so we have already begun to take small steps toward making our impact a little smaller, not in reducing our international travel, but at least by being willing to work with tree-planting stewardship opportunities.

Case in point: On February 7th three ISKL high school students and Mr. Hodges participated in a peat-swamp tree planing event organized jointly by Plant a Tree Today (PATT), The Eco Warriors and the Global Environment Centre. What began with a small foray into the wilderness around KL, we hope will expand to include many more of our members. In similar manner, a new program that will be included in the World Class program (until it gets a different name), is an environmental trip to Sabah to assist with tree-planting activities with an organization called MESCOT.

These are small steps toward moving in an appropriate direction. As the world's governments move toward green tax benefits, cap-and-trade policies, carbon taxation and carbon sequestration projects, ISKL too is moving slowly, but surely, in the right direction, one tree at a time. We began with the 70 or so trees that three students and a teacher planted on a Saturday morning, but our sights are set on a higher positive impact.

If you want more information on carbon offsetting programs for international travel, please feel free to visit or

Friday, January 23, 2009

Landscaping or a Living Campus? Perhaps the best of both worlds.

The following thoughts are those of Laurence Myers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either our school's population or that of the Green Team. They are shared in order to generate consideration and discussion as to where we want our school to go in things natural...

It is always hard to find a balance between natural green spaces and urban landscaped areas, particularly where many people are found in one small area, like here. I am an advocate of natural wild looks. I like the disheveled look on my daughters face to a head of tidy hair. I choose unkept lawns with wild flowers over rose gardens and, I must admit, as lovely as clean lawns are, they don't measure up to a natural stream and thicket in my mind. I am subjective.

The loveliest part of my walk to work at Ampang's campus is the stream and plants that separate ISKL from Mutiara International Grammar School along Jalan Kolam Air. I love to walk by and see the banana trees, the huge elephant-eared leaves and the standing pool with tadpoles rushing back and forth. In some ways I can't help but think that the only reason that this place looks so natural is that it isn't front and center of daily visits by students, parents, visitors, etc. It is one of those places 'missed' by urban sprawl, and it is lovely, despite also being used as a dumping ground by many of our visitors. Every once in a while the Mutiara landscapers come by and cut down the entire area, but then it has time to grow (amazingly quickly) back beautifully.

My secret dream is to see an area like this on our campuses as well. An area that is wild enough to be left alone (more or less), perhaps to be studied by science classes, or seen as a beautiful corner of campus. It could be there as a symbol that ISKL cares enough to leave this little portion of the planet (as small as it might be) alone to be. We have many such small areas around campus that could be utilized for beautification and scientific analysis.

Our school need not be separated from nature by turning it into a campus of lawns or well-trimmed gardens. Perhaps what we need is a living environment to surround us, to show us what ecosystems (even small ones) do and how they function. To teach our children that nature is not to be 'controlled' to meet our aesthetic needs, nor should it be, but rather to be revered and appreciated and respected and studied, allowing it to educate us in the process.

There is no reason why such a change cannot take place. Talks are already underway. Perhaps one day we can have our very own 'green space' on our campus, filled with endemic flowers and plants, with running water and fireflies and frogs and butterflies and birds. Allowing nature in might be a good way to allow our students to know what's out there. There is no better learning than one of experience. To allow nature in would make a massive statement that, even in schools, nature can co-exist with humanity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January Recycling by the numbers

This past Saturday marked the first Community Recycling Drop Off for 2009. The following recyclables were collected:

  • Newspaper: 283 kg
  • Cardboard: 184 kg
  • Mixed Paper: 185 kg
  • Aluminum: 22 kg
  • Steel/Tin: 33 kg
  • Plastic: 65 kg
  • Tetra Pak: 33 kg
  • TOTAL: 805 kg

Thank you, once again, to all those who continue to support the recycling program at ISKL, and especially those who came for the first time! We hope to see more and more ISKL families as the need for change is recognized and we are more empowered to become stewards of our Earth.