How to promote a sustainable mindset within your school community
Climate change is an environmental challenge that threatens our existence, but how can schools promote a more sustainable mindset within their communities? Source: Shutterstock

Sustainability is a buzzword in today’s lexicon, but how can schools promote a sustainable mindset among their students and communities?

A new initiative in New York public schools in the US might just be something other schools, regardless of country, can emulate.

New York Mayor, Bill De Blasio, recently announced that the New York public schools system will go meatless on Mondays in the 2019-2020 school year to improve student health and help reduce greenhouse emissions.

According to reports, this initiative will impact 1,800 schools and comes after a successful pilot programme in Brooklyn involving 15 schools last year.

Speaking to CNN, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer explained that studies have shown that plant-based diets are linked with a lower risk of diseases such as cancer, obesity and heart disease, adding that even going meatless once a week can make a difference to one’s health.

Health benefits aside, livestock production has been deemed a major contributor to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions; thus, reducing meat consumption can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas released.

This initiative could encourage discussion on climate change, as well as educating students and their parents on the effects of food choices on the environment.

Meanwhile, educators can also draw inspiration from projects such as the Green Schools Project in the UK, which provides guides and resources which students can use for energy saving campaign.

In an article by The Guardian, geography teacher Rachel Pickering said the programme has helped her students develop a professional approach to making a change. Students conducted an environmental audit of their school before presenting it to staff, taking ownership of the project.

The project proved useful as it revolved around students, with one school even saving £35,000 (almost USD$50,000) over a three-year period, thanks to their students’ energy-saving campaign.

Knowledge is power

Green Schools Alliance, a non-profit that aims to nurture and fortify sustainable school communities, notes that sustainable schools are important, adding that “we need to give students the educational programme, physical place, and organisational culture to encourage the development of environmentally conscious global citizens.”

As students spend the majority of their day in school, they note that “schools must be a space for creative thinking, a source of inspiration, and a starting point for developing a sense of awareness and responsibility. The journey to that goal begins with educating students in a healthy and sustainable environment.”

With schools acting as vehicles of knowledge and with teachers facilitating or moderating projects that promote sustainability, students are in a better position to become agents of change and start their sustainability journey.

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