You are probably a school that does a range of environmentally good things already.
Let’s take this up a notch. We want every International House school to become an organisation that involves every member of staff and every student to make a material difference to protecting our planet.
To achieve this, IH schools need to take the bull by the horns, set a strategy and manage it just like any strategic plan for the school.
Can you state an ambitious vision for your school? Carbon neutral by 2025? Every student engaged in an environmental project by 2024? Our curriculum re-written to include some environmental input every week by 2023?
You need to manage a strategy to achieve the vision. Perhaps you need an external specialist company to audit and accredit what you are doing and make suggestions for improvements. There are organisations such as B Corporation (https://bcorporation.net), or ISO standards which are not sector specific, and there are language school specific accreditations such as ESL Green (https://www.esl-languages.com/) or Green Standard Schools (https://greenstandardschools.org).
Completing the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme is an excellent step to encouraging action in all the right areas, is designed specifically for language school operations, and is totally free for IH schools. Check it out here! (https://ihworld.com/about/environmental-sustainability/)
What gets measured gets managed. If you set an annual target, you are more likely to achieve it and it’s more likely that staff and students in the school will get behind it and work to achieve it. Perhaps your targets could be about environmental weeks in the curriculum, about reducing waste, or about paying a certain amount to carbon offset travel.
Measuring achievement against targets is important. Perhaps an initiative that started with all the right intentions is just not having the impact intended. It’s important to review in the light of current information and change if necessary. Environmentalism is an area where scientific understanding is changing all the time. Good practice at one time may no longer be considered good practice. For example, at one time widespread planting of trees was wholeheartedly welcomed, but it’s now understood that that can do more harm than good if monocultures are created and natural wetlands are destroyed. Reviewing your strategy regularly is important.
Staff Sustainability Clubs are good ways to get staff involved, and benefit from their ideas about what is important in the school – and what is achievable. Some of your staff will be particularly engaged with this topic, so make the most of their enthusiasm and ask them to get involved. How the clubs run is up to you – they could meet monthly or termly. The most important thing is that it is achievable and there are opportunities to assess what impact they are having.
If an entire sustainability club doesn’t seem a good idea in your context, specific staff with a set responsibility may work better for you. This can be any member of staff, academic, support, management. How different schools manage and support this initiative is up to them.
It may be that training in certain environmental strategies would be a good idea, for interested individuals, or for sets of people. For teachers, INSETT sessions on including environmentalism into the curriculum could be valuable, and there are a plethora of courses ranging from making a corporate case for a sustainable strategy, to short courses on unleashing your potential in environmental activism. You may be able to find a free one.
To elevate your environmental actions to a strategic part of your school’s operations, reporting on your vision, actions for the year, and the achievement of targets is important. This is an explicit way to communicate to all stakeholders what you have achieved, and to keep the topic current in people’s minds.
All these actions reinforce that you are serious about protecting our planet.
Read more about the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme >>