Well, the question can consider in lots of factors. You enter a school, what do you see? Look at those waste bins filled with waste ready to be burnt and/or disposed off. Take a good look at those kitchens cooking those sandwiches, hamburgers and what not thus contributing a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases each year.
Oh, wait! What about the furniture (wooden or plastic), the notebooks, the school supplies and the average fuel consumption required by a student each year on average to get to and back from his/her school. Oh, and the possibilities are virtually endless if you ask me. I think that 9.4 million tons is a figure that’s merely just scratching the surface.
The schools are responding quite responsibly to the issue, I must say. Even if they didn’t do anything, that’s where people like me and you learn how to protect our environment, and that in my view is the biggest charity to the entire mankind, specifically the future generation. But that’s not all these schools do – many institutes are taking quite productive measures to contribute positively towards a more “green” living.
Firstly, let me share my own experience. Each year, there used to be a “Cleaning Day” at my school. And I’m talking about Pakistan, not UK. Pakistan still needs to tread a long way to be more responsible environmentally, and well, if we had a Cleaning Day 6 years ago that’s definitely commendable. That day, we would first stop all the greenhouse gas emissions and prefer not to buy from the canteen. Moreover, students would usually be brought in by buses owned by schools rather than parents driving their children to the school. This was quite a healthy exercise and required far lesser fuel consumption to get the school filled with little devils.
Furthermore, as the name describes it, the teachers would then ask us to clean up our classrooms , water the plants and completely make the premises squeaky clean. Boy, were we tired after all that! It was quite fun, though. As the little toddlers couldn’t help much here, they were assigned the most responsible task of all – that of planting new seedlings in small jars that were then placed in ample sunlight and the young plants were then transferred to the school’s own playground after a month.
The schools in UK are quite ahead of us in the area, to be brutally honest. They are now planning to make zero carbon emission zones in schools where everything emitting harmful gases is completely banned. Some schools have also banned the usage of mobile phones in certain areas, and plantation is used to decorate the simple, plain white buildings that provide a fresh breeze of air soon as you enter them.
Not just that, they’ve also got their curriculums adjusted. It’s not about bookish knowledge now but also about applying common sense from the very first day. The result – not the teachers but also the students contribute ideas as to how can a school reduce its carbon emissions.
I highlighted quite some issues in the second paragraph. Let’s consider each one of them and see how my ideas can help.
1. The furniture: Well, this is quite important. While many will argue that cutting down trees only makes conditions worse, I believe that burning crude oil to get plastic and then molding it and adding what-not to shape it can equally harm the environment. Schools need to keep an even balance between the usage of plastic furniture and wooden furniture. I’m not talking about the expensive wood used to craft furniture – why not use bamboos to make tables and chairs?
Red Alder is the most common tree specie in the world; why not use that instead of the more expensive Eucalyptus and other evergreen species to make furniture? Oh, and not just that. Schools can also use their most important manpower for the purpose; their students! Ask them to bring in any broken furniture at home, get a carpenter and get those cracked chairs and those broken tables restructured into small stools, benches or desks!
Oh, let’s give every student a white board to write on? Well, why not! That’s how you save paper. Most of the assignments we need done are never going to be repeated anyway. Let’s make sure they understand the concept and do it right without wasting paper. Conceptual learning is the right way forward. Bookish knowledge has somewhat started to lose influence over the new generation and teachers have progressed using practical ways for making their students understand a particular concept.
Stop the canteens from offering the most unloved items on the menu. You know, maybe an old pizza is still being offered and cooked everyday that does not return much to the school – the canteens can stop offering them and instead, divest the ingredients required in other, healthier meals.
Lastly, school teachers need to bring this issue in front of each parent in parent-teacher meetings. Inform them of how important it is that their child gets to healthy meals at lunch. I’m sure many students will even stop going to the canteen!
Schools can also organize special events where these student unions can lead the school’s students to clean up the entire campus, plant some plants and recycle the school’s recyclable waste for the day by creating some wonderful pieces of art. I will go as far as to say that these student unions should be encouraged to reach out to mammoth environmental protection organizations such as Greenpeace and Trout Unlimited to organize a series of events for the school’s students.
Over and out.