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Bringing the 3 R’s into Education

February, 2008
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The International Academy of Beijing (IAB) was recently awarded an Environmental Education Grant from the US-based company Interface to implement a new program at its Bei Yuan middle school and high school campus.

Entitled “Bringing the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) to IAB China,” the goals of the program are to model proper recycling and energy conservation strategies within the operation of the school, according to IAB science teachers Becky Rempel and Scott Antonides, who jointly made the application for the grant.

ScottBecky

“Since there are over 6 billion people on this planet, we should each be doing at least 1 / 6 billionth of the work it takes to take care of it,” said Scott. “In my teaching, I try to stress the fact that we are all global citizens and with that citizenship comes a responsibility to conserve not consume.”

Interface is a world-leading modular carpet manufacturer that is environmentally progressive. Each year it offers 30 grants to applicant schools throughout the world for their efforts in environmental educational programs. Starting from 2000, the company has granted a total of US$10,000.

Altogether, six schools in China have won this year’s Environmental Education Grant from Interface. Besides IAB, the other schools include Australian International School of Beijing, Bradbury School, Concordia International School Shanghai, MiaoLiang Environmental Education Center  and Dulwich College.

The grant for IAB is US$500, which is to be used for purchasing bins, signs, as well as Kill-A-WattTM electricity usage monitors. All of the classrooms, offices and hallways at the IAB Bei Yuan campus will be outfitted with 3 bins: one for paper recycling, one for metal and plastic recycling, and one for garbage. Students will be responsible for reducing the amount of garbage they produce by removing materials that can be recycled, which will help cut down on the amount of materials that are taken to landfills. Meanwhile, the sorted recyclable materials will be donated to the cleaners working on the campus, who will be able to exchange the recyclable goods for money at recycling depots. This will enable them to supplement their income.

In addition, students will be taught to monitor their daily energy use and to determine ways that they can use less electricity. They will conduct an energy audit of the school, using these Kill-A-WattTM electricity usage monitors. The devices fit into electrical outlets and work with electrical appliances to determine how much electricity a device uses.

“I will say that being a successful environmentalist starts with being a concerned citizen: someone who is willing to inconvenience themselves a little so that everyone else will benefit,” said Becky. “If you want to start taking care of the environment, you don’t have to do anything terribly radical. Pick one small thing that you can do and do it consistently.”

“Maybe it is something small like turning off the lights when you leave a room or taking shorter showers. And once that one small thing becomes a habit, then you can add something else, and before you know it, you’ll be saving energy and not even realizing it.”

To what extent energy is conserved remains to be seen, but the teachers do think it will be remarkable enough to demonstrate to the students the impact that minor lifestyle changes can have on energy conservation.

Although the grant is for one year, all those practices could long-term since the bins, signs and electricity usage monitors can be quite durable once installed. Becky and Scott hope the habits of environmental sustainability through recycling will also be deeply imbedded into the students and that such habits will go with the students as they travel back to their home countries after leaving China.

The teachers also hope the program becomes a student-sustained endeavor, as Becky said: “having the students be in charge of the recycling bins and perhaps even forming an environmental club that would allow them to make even more changes in the school.”

According to Interface market manger Denys Wang, each year Interface starts the application/approval process in October and all schools in China can apply. The plan next year is to issue 10-15 grants in China to both international and Chinese schools.

By Qin Chuan

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