As a teacher at IH Galway says now, more than ever, it is important to become more environmentally responsible:
After returning to face-to-face lessons following the pandemic, our school has grown significantly in numbers, and as we grow bigger, so too do we have a greater impact on the city and the environment. Thus, this creates more responsibility for us, as educators, to teach our students about the importance of protecting the natural environment around us and preserving Galway’s natural beauty (one of the reasons many of our students are attracted to the school in the first place!). We aim to lead by example, and I am proud of the steps we have taken, and continue to take, as an environmentally-conscious school.By Jolien, teacher IH Galway
Students who travel to IH Galway are visiting a relatively unspoilt city, set between the lush green countryside of Ireland and the Atlantic ocean. It is no wonder that preserving this beautiful part of our planet is high on IH Galway’s list of priorities. Top on this list is involving all its students in environmentally responsible actions when studying with the school.
To involve students outside in the fresh air and encourage biodiversity in the immediate surroundings of the school, IH Galway are negotiating with local groups to involve their students in maintaining a green space outside the school. There is plenty of scope for bee friendly flowers and bug hotels!
In the school, last year interns were tasked with producing posters to encourage environmentally friendly practices such as recycling correctly, turning off lights and taps, etc. These posters have received very positive feedback from students and staff alike. In the last two years the school has changed from having one recycling bin in the break room to having recycling bins in all classrooms and offices.
In the classroom during language lessons, students have had extra classes each week with an environmental theme and have completed group presentations based around the theme of the environment and sustainability. These projects have allowed the students to do their own research into their chosen topic and present it to the rest of the class. This is a great way to integrate the language learning curriculum
In break and lunch times there is the opportunity to focus on sourcing and eating food. This is important because food production and transport are globally among the most significant contributors to global warming and habitat destruction. Currently the school tries to provide as many vegetarian options as possible in its own catering, to encourage a reduction in meat consumption, and is considering how best to encourage students to have a 'vegetarian day' at least once a month.
As well as this, students are encouraged to shop locally and from independent businesses. Galway lies on the coast and so local, fresh fish can be easily sourced. There is also a food market every Saturday which students are encouraged to use, as well as a local fruit and veg shop near the school (one of the school's students actually works in this fruit and veg shop currently!).
So from the environment outside the school, to inside the school building, inside the classroom, and inside the café at lunchtime, there are many ways that students are engaged. They are incentivised to take part in all environmental initiatives in the school by encouraging them to post a photo on social media of them being environmentally friendly, tagging @internationalhousegalway for the chance of being reposted.
Behind the scenes, the school has also acted to reduce the negative effect its operations have on the environment. TV screens in classrooms greatly reduces the amount of paper wasted as teachers share information instead of printing it on a handout. Digital coursebooks reduce the need for printing books and the environmental cost of transporting heavy items, and there is a plan to become fully digital to eliminate the need to produce paper copies of books and handouts and worksheets.
In the newly acquired student accommodation new energy efficient light bulbs have been installed and kitchens are supplied with plates, cutlery, mugs, and glasses which can be washed and reused - so the students can avoid buying disposable items.
Managing the sustainability strategy has become central to the school’s operations. The quality assurance officer has added the Sustainability and Environmental policy to her responsibilities and is creating a policy document to clearly communicate the school’s strategy. IH Galway has also recently become an accredited member of the Green Standard Schools showing the recognition of their efforts by an external body.
A key factor of managing a sustainability strategy is monitoring and measurement. Many things from energy usage, paper usage, recycling and waste volumes are now regularly measured and monitored. This will ensure that in the future years the school will be able to alter its approach where it needs to have a greater impact.
For all these actions, and ambitions for more in the future, IHWO is delighted to award IH Galway the “Protecting our Planet” badge.