Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sustainability "by the numbers"

ISKL's sustainability initiatives are many and varied and are often publicized as they involve the essence of our being: Our students. What is perhaps less publicized (though the data is available on the Sustainable ISKL website) is the environmental indicator data that we use to inform decisions going forward from a structural standpoint. The latest data, from last semester, reveals the following:

  • Through January 2015 we have used the 2,100,000 kWh of energy on our two campuses for this academic year. This is nearly identical to last year's energy use (59% of last year's total with 58% of the year metered).
  • December 2014 we have used 1.916,000 sheets of paper on our two campuses for this academic year (49% of last year with 50% of the year metered).
  • Through January 2015 we have used the 16,100 m3 of water on our two campuses for this academic year. For Ampang this includes a large increase (68% of last year's total with 50% of the year metered)

A quick check on the EPA carbon equivalencies calculator (here) will indicate that our school's energy use for this time period generates carbon emissions equivalent to 519 tons of landfill waste and would need 37,130 seedlings grown for 10 years to sequester the same amount of carbon. 

Those might seem like high numbers, but they are part of a downward trend . Since 2009, when our environmental indicators started being tracked (somewhat unofficially), our water and paper use have come down by close to 30%. Energy has been rather consistent but this too is viewed as a success given that our school population has increased markedly (along with programs) in that time and we have increased our reliance on and use of technology. 

But, as with any change, the easier adjustments have been made and we are coming to the proverbial plateau.  As the light at the end of our new campus tunnel starts to shine a bit brighter it is a good time to recognize the collective power of design, technology and human behavior and make the necessary adjustments for a more efficient future. 

What is perhaps more exciting is the involvement of our students in the analysis of data, future projections and the offering of a plethora of possibilities. Students. Data. Facilities. Community. Interacting for a future we all want.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Little (Recycling) Changes Needed!

Many of us wouldn't know Mat. He's been helping our entire community out for over six years now. Mat works with an organization called Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES) which, we are proud to say, has been our recycling partner at Ampang for that amount of time and more. We are extremely proud of our recycling efforts at ISKL and happily boast that, over the past five years, we have kept over 16,000 kg of waste from the landfill.

Over the past year things have become increasingly more difficult for Mat. Instead of arriving and filling up his truck with bags which are sorted and separately packaged (from bins around campus), he has found himself, increasingly, having to open bags to discard non-recyclable waste, empty half-filled bottles and to sort things appropriately. What should take half hour sometimes extends to four hours or so, and, with sweat heavily dripping from his brow, he sorts, weighs and fills his truck and drives on. 

As consumers we often don't think about the story involved behind discarding something. But we're hoping that knowing that there is a person - Mat, a hard working and unassuming one - on the other side of this will allow our community to recognize the human element of the recycling program. After all, recycling is not detached from human experience. It is heavily involved and integral part of who we are and what we do at ISKL. 

As a point of reference, when you're doing your part in participating in our on-going recycling efforts (as we hope you will) please take a moment to support Mat, and the environment, by emptying and appropriately sorting recyclables in the bins provided. If you happen to bring things from home, please separate your recyclables by type as you would at school. 

What could take just a moment for us to decide which bin to use, could mean the difference between a half hour pre-sorted pick up and a four hour sifting through trash and smells in the name of environmental sustainability. Thank you for doing your part - our part - in making the world a beautiful place!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Social Change 2.105

A couple weeks back our grade 5 students started their Social Change unit. Just the fact that the unit exists in our curriculum is pretty cool, but grade 5 decided to bring in some "expert" social change makers to allow our students the chance to glimpse into the minds and world of people actually making change and helping others - the environment and their community - on the ground. Who were they?  Well, they were you!

A number of parents and community members, and even a high school student, visited grade 5 on that afternoon to share their initiatives. The chats were about 10 minutes long and the students - in groups of ten - moved from one location to another to meet yet another "change maker". Things that were covered included items such as recycling, supporting local indigenous rights, assisting refugee communities or fundraising for orphanages in the region. The ideas were just flowing and the kids, engaged and impressed, asked a number of great questions.

The big idea behind this is that each and every one of us can be a change maker. We need not wait for our chosen leaders to do the leading.  What it takes is a little courage and a good dose of empathy and caring. It takes a bit of planning too. Add a tad of perseverance and follow-through and you've got yourself a change maker!  

How absolutely wonderful to see our community engage in such conversations, to allow our grade 5 students a glimpse of how people around them - in the hallways and in their classrooms - choose to make positive change! Add the many, many others in our community - our parents and our children - involved in positive change and it becomes quite obvious that global citizenship is very much alive at ISKL!