Monday, August 27, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Last week I discussed conversations and how meaningful they are. This week it's numbers. Normally there is a dual response to dealing with numbers. Those who love them tout them as the only true international language. The ones who are scared of them avoid them at all costs. While numbers might inspire some of us to action (e.g. to save, to plan, to argue) in others is creates a solid state of avoidance and confusion.
Mr. Carmichael, who so ably held the post of Environmental Coordinator until last June, chose numbers as his focus. ISKL's sustainability efforts, in fact, are often scrutinized through the use of numbers. For all intents and purposes numbers can become useful data which tell a tale of sorts. Over the past few years ISKL has followed a number of 'indicators' which would tell their own tale. The figures can be found nestled in the 'Indicators' section of our school's Green Pages (which, incidentally, are being re-organized to make them easier to follow).
One of first tasks in putting together an action plan for our school was to look back on those indicators and see just where we've been and where we are. The Indicators below reflect the 2011-2012 academic year and represent only directly school-related operations:
- Air Miles Flown: 8,284,450 miles
- kWh of energy used: 3,479,444
- Kg of non-recycled waste: 64,980 (est.)
- Cubic meters of water used: 52,730
- Sheets of photocopy paper: 3,672,572
- ESD citations (used in unit plans): 232
I'm not a scientist, nor a mathematician. I haven't done a statistical analysis of this information and nor do I know if this is considered "good" or "bad" by international standards. I haven't checked to see how many standard deviations away from the mean the data is, to be sure. But I do know that it's a good starting point from which to venture forth. If my own education has taught me anything, it's that sustainability is not a specific destination. Rather it is a series of never-ending adjustments where successes, no matter how small. all add up. I, for one, am heading out to talk to the community. I've also learned that everyone has some pretty creative ideas on where to go from here.
Monday, August 13, 2012
In my first two weeks on the job I’ve had the opportunity to engage in an array of excellent conversations. These are the things that bring about positive change. I’d like to share a few here in hopes that the reader recognizes the deliberations, brainstorming, thoughtful planning and interactions that make sustainability and service something to be proud of at ISKL. In the two weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working in this new role I’ve had conversations with…
· … a board member regarding donating her childrens’ outgrown (but still in good condition) uniforms to others who might want one;
· … the PTA executives in order to put the student directory online and, in so doing, save thousands of sheets of paper and making the information more accessible;
· … the HS art department about increasing the capacity for storing reused and recycled paper;
· … The Director of Operations and Director of Grounds and Maintenance in regard to promoting the newly installed water-less urinals, dual flush toilets and paper-less hand driers at Ampang;
· … the 1st season varsity and junior varsity coaches in order to establish a tree-planting day (lead by the HS Earth Club), giving our student-athletes a chance to actively participate in offsetting their carbon emissions from team-related travel;
· … the composting coordinators and participants who make up a group of 76 families who compost regularly from home;
· … the HS Earth Club regarding their involvement and organization of the Community Recycling program;
· … the MS Activities Coordinator about the need for tournaments and the environmental costs versus the experiential opportunities our students are afforded;
· … the 5th Grade class to brainstorm ideas for service projects that that go hand-in-hand with Eco-Schools themes;
· … members of the Technology department about the manner by which we can ensure appropriate re-use of computers when they have outgrown their purpose at ISKL, while allowing low-income schools a chance to engage in educational use of technology in meaningful ways;
· … with the head of security at Melawati, Sam’s Canteen and the ES administration to discuss the placement of a digester on campus;
· … with the International Fest Coordinator on ways in which to ensure less waste during this school-wide event;
· … with the new Ampang canteen vendor (Cheeku) in regard to reducing the use of single-use plastics, composting, cooking oil disposal and the possibility of introducing organic foods;
· … with HS service-related teachers and administration regarding the organizational structure of the service programs;
· … with a MS Global Issues teacher, and his Mont Kiara counterpart, who hope to establish cross-town cooperation with their classes and clubs, particularly as they relates to the upcoming Global Issues Network Conference in November;
· … with Prep-Reception and Prep-Junior teachers in order to initiate a more comprehensive sustainability education program that will allow our youngest students a chance to engage in meaningful relationship with the earth, as well as become comfortable in the natural environment;
· … with the HS Environmental Officer to ensure the smooth running of the student-lead Green Council which is responsible for moving ISKL toward the Eco-Schools Green Flag by 2014;
· … with various members of the student body to establish unofficial ‘lunchtime brainstorming sessions’ on how best to reach our community and make a difference.
The list could go on, but I am hoping that in reading this we become a bit aware of what I do in my role as Sustainability & Service Coordinator and, more importantly, just how much is happening at ISKL by way of service and sustainability.
Though it would be naïve to think that each idea will be able to successfully reach fruition, the conversations in and of themselves should be proof enough that our community takes its ethical responsibilities seriously and, in so doing, pledges to make sure that the environment and the world around us are not overlooked.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
There comes a certain amount of experimentation that goes in in trying to keep up with the times and shifting our old-style thinking processes to recognizing that a new sustainability consciousness is necessary in order to prepare our students for the rest of their lives. When we grew up with one family phone, they go through several just through their schooling years. Where recycling was something reserved for "tree huggers" in the old days, now the concept of recycling is common place on campus and around the world. Certainly a new paradigm shift - a new way of doing things - will leave some of us in the middle between old and new. This is the case for many of us adults who might be having difficulty grasping both the need for, and certainly the manner by which, we can be sustainable in our ways.
But for our students we hope that it will be another matter altogether. The Melawati campus has garden areas where students are taught about gardening, growing and taking care of things. Their teachers are working on making them conscientious citizens by promoting recycling, reusing and reducing in their daily practices. The campus will, during this semester, welcoming a new digester to its repertoire of systematic environmentally-friendly facilities. The digester will essentially take cafeteria waste (thus eliminating it from the waste that goes to the landfill), and turn it into gas which will then be re-funneled into the cafeteria to provide energy for the cooking of food. It's the kind of systemic thinking that eliminates a large portion of waste that happens currently in much of what we do in our lives.
At Ampang we have solar power to run fans on the upper field, we have water harvesting that happens in the back, allowing for water to be used in the bathrooms in the art block. We also have vermiposting and composting that takes place, allowing for our waste (at least on the fields) to be reutilized in our grounds planting efforts. Our students likewise use parts of campus as labs and in gardening.
The newest (until the digester becomes operational) eco-friendly facilities are the bathrooms of the Ampang campus nearest the cafeteria which were recently renovated, turning into water-less bathrooms. Using an enzyme the bathrooms are expected to do everything a bathroom should but with no water usage (except for washing ones hands, that is). This change might require some psychological adjustment on the part of our community, but goes a long way in terms of prioritizing local resources.There is a bit of experimental feel to this too, because they are considered a bit of a pilot study for when the new campus materializes.
So, if you're using the bathrooms in Ampang or turning on the fans in the Upper Field, and have a meal at Melawati remember that you're not only doing what you always do. You are playing your part in teaching your sons and daughters that there is a better way to providing for human needs with a much reduced environmental cost. In short, you are experiencing the sustainability paradigm shift in real time.
Of course, the shift can only really take shape if our minds follow what our eyes are seeing. And in this, we hope that you'll all join us in celebrating such opportunities to make a positive difference and being great role models for your children. Go ahead, shift!