Words Alia Fawaz
Student classrooms are designed to prepare our children for life, which is why subject matters are crucial learning tools. Today, however, life is also about repercussions of climate change. Reality urges us to change our habits and live sustainably. Many schools in Lebanon have already started introducing green practices – from small environmentally friendly changes to larger-scale initiatives – creating a culture of green thinking and practices. BEYOND explores two Lebanese schools’ approaches on reducing the carbon footprint and inspiring students to be ecologically responsible.
A Holistic Approach
The International College (IC) believes that the power of a classroom can reach beyond its walls to address issues concerning the environment. They have already taken many measures, such as spreading awareness among their schools and creating practical green projects for students to implement in the construction of IC’s new buildings.
In 2014, their Elementary School building earned the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “Gold” Certification in Lebanon and the Middle East. This January, two more of their new facilities (Primary School and Middle School) are also lined up for the Gold LEED. LEED is a global green building rating system. Certified as silver, gold, or platinum is achieved through ratings proving that the standards for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-effective green buildings are met.
IC appointed Richard Bampfylde, who holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development, as the school’s full-time Sustainability Coordinator. Under his guidance, the school took five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to actively address during this school year. SDGs are, originally, 17 goals defined by the United Nations to tackle the world’s biggest problems by the year 2030. IC wishes to achieve those goals through outdoor campaigns, such as large SDGs banners strategically placed all around IC’s Beirut and Ain Aar campuses.
Learning about SDGs does not mean an extra course is being conducted; instead, the goals are being taught in creative and engaging ways. For example, clean water and sanitation (SDG #6) is addressed via the partnerships that philanthropic organizations have with public schools around the world. When one organization came to Lebanon, IC students were invited to visit local public schools to see how the clean water filtration projects are managed. Still, there are difficulties in implementing practical sustainable projects, like these, in a school setting. “It’s a challenge, even in the U.K where I am from because these things are not yet integrated into the curriculum,” admits Bampfylde.
STUDENTS ALSO PARTICIPATED IN THE AZADEA FOUNDATION’S ENVIROTHON COMPETITION, WHERE THEY MADE COUCHES AND TABLES FROM RECYCLABLES.
Soon, IC in Beirut will install its own Photovoltaic Solar Plants on the roof of the nearby Jarou- di Building. As a mutual initiative, students will be assisting engineers in gathering information and installing the actual plant. The amount of solar power and radiation collected from this project will be recorded and displayed in classrooms. This should reduce the school’s fossil fuel consumption by 10%. Plans are in place to roll out to more rooftops. Other projects include soot filters being placed in all their generators and rainwater being collected in large tanks to be reused in school.
Additionally, IC started an in-house project inspired by the American University of Beirut’s Vertical Green Wall Initiative for the Bekaa refugee camp. Bampfylde took us to see the students’ outdoor play area. We found Rocca leaves sprouting neatly from rectangular potted crates, which hung vertically from a freestanding metal frame. Like a gardening project, students planted them and took care of them during their breaks. “This project addresses the scarcity of land for agriculture in Lebanon and how to reduce water consumption,” explains Bampfylde.
Going Green in and out of class
In the outskirts of Beirut, Eastwood International School (EIS) is also actively green with numerous sustainable activities that have fully engaged the student body. Here, the seeds of change are often planted during lessons and one such lecture began inside the social studies class: “How can we help make the world a cleaner, more beautiful place?” Answers to this question culminated to construct a bio-wall, which became a yearlong effort drawing on all disciplines.
Through extensive research and expert consultations, students learned about plant life and ways to sustain it. They learned about environmentally sustainable methods, which are being applied to make use of wastewater from the school’s air conditioning system.
Students were also responsible community members. They managed to convince the City Center Mall to change all trash bins into recycling ones. Other efforts have led to creating a filtering system that purifies tap water and makes it drinkable. This, later, became the first water fountain at the school. Students also participated in the Azadea Foundation’s Envirothon Competition, where they made couches and tables from recyclables. They came in third place!
These and many other exemplary efforts, being exerted around schools in Lebanon, show the importance of instilling green habits in the upcoming generation. Growing up with the notion of sustainability ingrained in education is vital, especially in Lebanon, where toxic air pollution and garbage is endemic. The good news is that tables can turn, and we can fix these problems if we combine our resources and knowledge. “And if you can change a country like Lebanon, you can change the world,” says Bampfylde with optimism.