Photo above: the Carbon Neutral Alliance team at the International School of Kenya.
Responding to the climate crisis with purpose and a sense of hope and action is key for educators who want to equip students to think critically and creatively about the future.
At the International School of Kenya (ISK), this approach has led to the creation of a collaborative and action-oriented network called the Carbon Neutral Alliance, and the students in this network have spearheaded a mission to make their school carbon neutral this year.
The growth of the Carbon Neutral Alliance is an exciting story that features student agency and leadership, student voice and choice, responsive and open-minded school leaders, and community awareness and commitment to sustainability.
Teacher Tom Wallbridge is the teacher advisor for the Carbon Neutral Alliance and explains what ISK has done to work towards its carbon neutral status. In the video below, Tom shares many ideas and details of the ISK story, and these can be applied to other schools keen to improve their environmental footprint.
In terms of a template for action, here are some of the key steps that the ISK team took to create a campus-wide initiative with tangible impact:
1) Student leaders from one club (Students for the Environment) liaised with several other clubs to create a student coalition to take action in response to climate change.
2) The student coalition (Carbon Neutral Alliance) drafted a proposal for the campus to become carbon neutral by 2030.
3) Students made a presentation to the board and their proposal was accepted.
4) After updated climate change data was released, the student leaders revised the timeline for their proposal and made a second proposal to the board; this proposal was also accepted.
5) Students met with experts about carbon mapping and did research.
6) The school contracted an outside company to conduct a full external audit of the campus to evaluate its environmental practices and footprint; students raised money to pay for this audit.
7) After the audit was completed, leaders defined what "carbon neutral" would mean at ISK and what parameters would be applied to their data.
8) Two community partners were established to direct carbon offsets to local settings in Kenya and allow students to develop meaningful partnerships for learning and intercultural understanding.
9) A plan for annual, ongoing assessment of day-to-day school practices and sustainability was created. Students have also connected with peers from other international and local schools to share ideas and resources.
10) The Carbon Neutral Alliance experience won an Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) award as an "Outstanding Service Project" for 2022.
If your school community is interested in becoming more sustainable and decreasing its environmental footprint in the world, listen to the video below and also check out the following links for tools that may help you begin this work.
Thanks to ISK for leading in this way, and for serving as an example to other schools of what is possible!
Inspire Citizens: Global Citizenship Self-Discovery Tool for Schools
Green Schools Initiative: Multiple Calculators and Tools for School Sustainability
Earth Gen:Carbon Calculator for Schools
Sustainability in Schools:Calculator Tools to Get Started
Compass Education: Assessing and Designing Innovation and Sustainability in Schools