Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sustainability of Numbers

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.  

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