Insightful schools

Great Britain challenges learning institutions to become sustainable

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

Starting with schools
Caring about our planet and teaching and learning how to live a more sustainable lifestyle is a global effort. In Great Britain, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has challenged all schools to be a Sustainable School by 2020.

The effort is much more than lip service to save our planet. The UK Department for Education and Skills (DFES) has established a National Framework for Sustainable Schools, providing curriculum, competitions and an array of educational resources. The fundamental belief driving the effort is that schools play a vital part in developing the skills children need to lead sustainable lives. It also recognizes that schools, by nature, are caring environments.

Tools of the trade
What is a Sustainable School? It’s a learning institution that adopts practices that set high standards for reducing environmental impacts while preparing young people for a lifetime of sustainable living. A Sustainable School cares about the school environment, the well-being of its pupils, and their local and global impact on the planet. You have got to love a country that has a national program (Keep Britain Tidy) addressing issues such as dog-fouling (pooping) as a significant offense against the public.

The DFES National Framework for Sustainable Schools provides tools for schools to assess their current practices and has created eight “doorways,” or sustainability themes, schools can use to help achieve the 2020 expectations:

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Doorway Recommendation Food and drink All schools are model suppliers of healthful, local and sustainable foods and drinks. Energy and water All schools are models of energy efficiency, renewable energy use and water management. Travel and traffic All schools are models of sustainable travel. Purchasing and waste All schools are models of waste minimization and sustainable procurement. Buildings and grounds All school buildings make visible use of sustainable design features and develop their grounds in ways that help pupils learn about the natural world and sustainable living. Inclusion and participation All schools are models of social inclusion, enabling all pupils to participate fully in school life. Local well-being All schools are models of good corporate citizenship within their local areas. Global dimension All schools are models of good global citizenship.

What a goal
A Sustainable School takes an integrated whole-school approach to improvement utilizing the three C’s: curriculum, campus and community. All academic subjects address sustainability, creating a common thread throughout the curriculum guided by a strong commitment to care—for ourselves, for others and for the planet.

The campus sets high standards for reducing waste, recycling, and a zero-tolerance for litter, graffiti and bullying. The third C addresses issues of sustainability within the local community, such as supporting local suppliers; and globally, by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and using renewable energy sources. Changing existing curriculum to shift from educating about sustainability to one that educates for sustainability is one underlying principle for moving societies toward a more sustainable future.

Achieving a national goal for all schools to be Sustainable Schools by 2020 will take dedicated individuals. The ambition will have to be a priority for the whole school and school district. The UK seems to have a solid vision for the future generation’s sustainable development and places a high value on the well-being of its pupils and the school environment.