This is what Janet Sinclair, director of IH Braga, said about completing the IH Environmental Sustainability Review:
The sustainability review was much easier to do than I expected. Initially as a whole school activity, we brainstormed all the things in the different categories we were already doing to be green and in groups made suggestions for what further steps we could take. Over the following few months we followed up on some of the suggestions and then when we came to complete the review it was a very easy process!
As Janet implies, IH Braga has been conscious of the environment for a long while, and students at IH Braga have been amongst the most dedicated in taking part in network wide environmental sustainability initiatives.
Starting with the IH 7 week sustainability challenge in Spring 2021, the students at IH Braga took part every week, from sorting rubbish and saving water and electricity to growing plants at home and making environmentally friendly shopping lists.
Some students then took part in the second edition of the IH Young Environmentalists Project helping to make a video and starting an Instagram channel. In November and December 2021 they contributed to the IH 40,000km challenge to give the whole earth a metaphorical hug. Staff and students at IH Braga walked and cycled instead of taking a car total of 4996km – saving huge amounts of harmful emissions and greenhouse gasses.
Young learner students in particular benefit from regular projects with an environmental theme spread throughout the curriculum, for example making robots out of recycled materials, a Christmas tree from old CDs, etc.
Teachers say that "Incorporating topics related to the environment with our Young Learners allows us to bring the outside world into the classroom and through fun, Creative activities we can raise awareness of future challenges with our future generations.”
The culture of ‘getting involved’ has been nurtured for many years through IH Braga’s charitable activities within their local community. In recent years students and staff have organised and taken part in:
- sponsored walks to raise funds for a local animal shelter (ADAAVV) and a local association supporting people with multiple sclerosis (TEM);
- sponsored spells to raise funds for volunteer firefighters (Bombeiros Voluntários) and a local association that integrates disabled adults in the local community (Cerci Braga);
- a bake sale to raise funds for victims of floods in Mozambique and to rebuild schools in Sicily after an earthquake
- a Christmas raffle to raise funds for local food banks (Refood/ Banco Alimentar Contra a Fome)
- a bake sale to raise funds for tree replanting after local forest fires
Students ran a “How Can I Help You” project in 2018 and 2019 where they volunteered to help tourists visiting Braga at Easter. This seamlessly connected an activity which embeds strong local community ties with their English learning curriculum. In 2019 over 5 days 75 IH Braga students gave practical help and tips about Braga to more than 3500 tourists (including the Prime Minister of Portugal) from more than 20 different countries.
Allied to these positive steps to promote the need for an awareness of local and environmental issues, there are a myriad ways that IH Braga is reducing the negative impact it has on the environment.
There are lots of recycling bins round the school and lots of signs to remind students to use them. Teachers “teach” their YL groups about which bins to use. Printer toners are returned to be securely recycled or disposed of, and waste paper is securely shredded and recycled as opposed to entering general landfill.
To improve matters further, IH Braga has recently invested in a gadget that transforms water into H3O/ ozone which has disinfecting properties, but uses no chemicals. This is used to clean & disinfect surfaces and can be used to disinfect students’ hands. This cuts down the need to use cleaning products and handgel, thus saving plastic and chemicals.
To reduce energy consumption, lights and air conditioning units are switched off when rooms are empty, light bulbs have been swapped to energy saving LEDs. Teachers are encouraged to reduce the number of photocopies they make, and there is now a scheme for filing and reusing whole class sets of resources.
Technology in also helping because new school systems mean that receipts for student payments and progress reports are no longer printed on paper but sent and stored electronically.
A teacher sums up IH Braga's approach beautifully:
All the little sustainable things we do at IH Braga can encourage environmentally friendly habits even with our youngest students and help them to see the importance of individual actions in the battle against climate change.
For all these actions, and ambitions for more in the future, IHWO is delighted to award IH Braga the “Protecting our Planet” badge.
There is more information on International House's commitment to Environmental Sustainabillity here.