Schools are a microcosm of the city. They share the same environmental problems as cities - waste, air quality, energy-inefficient buildings and carbon emissions.
Schools are a Microcosm of the City
Just like the city, schools are constrained by space, money, and time. And in a school, just like the city, there are diverse interests that aren't always aligned.
But, at the scale of the school, the seemingly daunting sustainability challenges of the city become addressable - they show up at a scale that students can get their arms around, in a system that's easier for them to influence, and on a timeframe in which outcomes are more quickly apparent.
So rather than just being a place where students learn about sustainability problems, schools are an ideal context in which to model sustainability solutions and cultivate eco-literacy.
The campus can be a living laboratory. And if we get it right on the campus, schools can show the city how it's done. Schools can show us the sustainable future we want.
A Whole-School Approach to Sustainable Development
"When Greta Thunberg stood outside the Swedish Parliament in September 2018 with a sign saying ‘School Strike for Climate’, she captured the imaginations of young people everywhere, including those at Chinese International School (CIS) in Hong Kong.
I recall that moment vividly, for I had only just joined CIS and was keen to discover what the students at my new school thought of her initiative. Their response was simple: sustainable development should be our number one concern."
Many schools aspire to the ideal of a sustainable campus but live with the reality of older buildings that weren't designed to the highest environmental standards. But there are multiple ways to improve the environmental performance of a campus, from energy efficient appliances to redesign retrofits, low-impact cleaning materials and green landscaping - and they're all a source of learning opportunities to supplement what's taught in the classroom.
To develop eco-literate students with the capacity to create and lead a sustainable society, we must do more than teach about sustainability, we must equip them with the skills and competencies to tackle real-world environmental challenges. A comprehensive experiential eco-literacy curriculum is embedded in the campus and everything the school does, from the way the buildings are designed, to the type of food served in the canteen and how decisions are made. There's material here for every subject and every grade level.
Sustainability is a community practice - it depends on a network of relationships inside and outside the school, relationships which require effective collaboration and cooperative decision-making to maintain.
These skills are among those the students will need to tackle our many environmental challenges. The road to becoming a sustainable school, therefore, offers many opportunities for staff and students to model and learn these skills.
Sustainable schools have a culture of sustainability. They do more than teach sustainability and model it in certain ways, their commitment to it is reflected in their mission and values, they integrate it into their governance and operations, including: long-term strategy, policy, decision-making, target-setting, partnerships with suppliers and daily practices, and they continuously engage a wide range of students, parents, staff and members of the external community in sustainabliity initiatives.
Sustainable schools understand the fundamental role of communication in supporting the other 4Cs and embedding sustainability in the ethos culture and everyday practises of the school community. Sustainable schools develop communication strategies, dialogues and narratives that facilitate and enrich their sustainability journey.
>70 plant species on campus
8.7 million passenger kilometres flown
42,000 books ordered by the school
USD$23,000 per annum potential savings from rooftop solar
60% reduction in solar heat gain when we upgrade to double glazed windows
9,240 litres water consumed per person
24% students use the school bus
0 Tetra Packs sold
1,761 tons CO2eq. emitted from travel
32% of Block 0 is outdoors
11,150 kg food waste
40% of people living within 1 km of campus walk to school
20+ sustainability units in InSo
85% of lights are LEDs
4,500 litres of sea water used for Block E toilets
1 rooftop vegetable garden
5 local project week trips
3 sustainability CAS activities
5.6 million kWh electricity consumed
28.5° - 31.5°C swimming pool temperature
>50 plant species on campus
8.6 million km passenger kilometres flown
16,000 books ordered by the school
USD$20,000 per annum potential savings from rooftop solar
50% reduction in solar heat gain when we upgrade to double glazed windows
8,740 litres water consumed per person
37% students use the school bus
0 Tetra Packs sold
1,617 tons CO2eq. emitted from travel
32% of Block 0 is outdoors
10,510 kg food waste
50% of people living within 1 km of campus walk to school
20+ sustainability units in InSo
90% of lights are LEDs
5,000 litre rainwater tank for Block 0 toilets
1 urban farm
3 local project week trips
4 sustainability CAS activities
2.7 million kWh electricity consumed
29.5° - 30.5°C swimming pool temperature
In one sense, the world’s not such a big place – from one person (100) to the whole planet (109) is only 9 steps. But let’s face it, trying to influence everyone just isn’t practical.
On the other hand, influencing just a few people doesn’t have much impact. Perhaps there’s a trade-off between a scale that’s easy and one that makes a difference. Maybe there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle?
Turns out it’s 105 … or roughly the population of 100 schools and the school system is a great vehicle for scaling change. Which is why, at Metanoia, we’re focusing on schools. 100 of them to start with for optimum reach and optimum impact.
And we’ll scale from there. When you do the math, it would only take 10,000 Metanoia’s to change the world.
Hover over each section to see the impact
High impact...but hard to reach
Low impact...but easy to reach
A proud member of
Emma graduated with distinction from Rhodes University with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Biochemistry. Since graduating, she has worked in the education sector throughout Asia.
She has experience in Nature-based Solutions for Disaster and Climate Resilience, SDG-Academy. In Emma’s spare time she wrote for an environmental think-tank, covering topics ranging from sustainable diets and lifestyles to biodiversity loss and conservation initiatives. Through her work at Metanoia, Emma is fulfilling a lifelong ambition of working in sustainability for education. She is currently working on applied sustainability audits in schools with the aim of helping them become net-zero institutions.
Her areas of interest include sustainability education, biodiversity loss, sustainable diets, and plastic pollution.
Kiran is an Environment and Sustainability masters graduate from Monash University, Australia. As a former digital marketer, she has experience in project management, campaign execution and brand development for multiple start-up companies.
Through Metanoia, she has applied her knowledge in sustainability communications and stakeholder engagement to drive behaviour change and whole school engagement within schools across Asia. Kiran also brings waste expertise to the team from auditing, reporting and providing innovative and circular solutions. Outside of work, Kiran likes to engage in environmental activism; from working with non-profits to reduce plastic pollution, to advocating for animal rights.
Her passion lies in water sanitation and sustainable agricultural practices.