HOW CAN SCHOOLS ACROSS THE GLOBE BECOME MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE?

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So, what is sustainability?

Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This can be in regards to economic resources, environmental resources, or social resources.  Since this project mainly focuses on environmental sustainability, a few examples of environmental sustainability include shifting to renewable resources, protecting the health of ecosystems, or avoiding excess pollution. The environment is an exhaustible resource, so sustainability is essential to having a healthy future on our planet.

What are some sustainable development goals as defined by the United Nations?

What is a sustainability coordinator?

As defined by Government Jobs, a Sustainability Coordinator is responsible for managing, coordinating, facilitating and advising the development, implementation, monitoring and improvement of policies, programs, and initiatives that promote local environmental, energy, economic, and social sustainability.

Why are schools an apt environment for sustainability coordinators?

Schools play a role in at least 11 out of the 17 sustainable goals, meaning they are in an optimal position to take action for sustainability. The best way to make schools more sustainable is to implement a position to achieve that goal. A sustainability coordinator would allow schools to take more concrete action towards the sustainable development goals established by the UN and their own sustainability goals. Furthermore, there is significant room for improvement in school sustainability across the globe, which means that there is the potential for substantial positive environmental change. 

This position would benefit not only the school’s environmental future, but also its student body. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, interest levels in sustainability are high among administrators and students at 71 percent and 66 percent respectively. This means that the implementation of a sustainability coordinator would be of interest to the majority of students and administrators. Furthermore, this could be a great opportunity for student-faculty collaboration if they shared or worked together in the position. It would also be a great opportunity for student leadership if a student took on the position. And most importantly, it is an opportunity for further education in leadership, environmental literacy, and sustainability.

For now Response: Implementation in my own school, and maybe yours too. Here’s how:

Step 1: Tailor Your Strategy

Every school is different, so every school’s strategy for the implementation of a sustainability coordinator will also be different. Factors that might alter your strategy of implementation could include the size of your school, its financial means, the support you think you will receive, and so on. My school in particular is rather small, so I will have to tailor my approach to be rather small to begin with as well. Instead of hiring a sustainability coordinator for the school, creating the position within student government and having a faculty advisor might be the most plausible way to implement a sustainability coordinator. 

Step 2: Know The History

Does your school have a history of being environmentally inclined? Are there any environmental programs on campus already? Knowing the background to your school’s involvement with the environment will be essential to moving forward with a sustainability coordinator. Through this, you may find an abundance of advocates for a sustainability coordinator at your school.

Step 3: Identify Key People

Support for the sustainability coordinator’s proposal is crucial to its success. So, identify key individuals, staff, administration, faculty, and even students, who could help in supporting your efforts to create this new position. In my school, a few key people are the science teachers, the leadership institute director, the accountant, the director of alumnae, and the president. Each of these individuals could help me inform the new position at our school.

Step 4: Show Examples

A key component of your proposal is demonstrating why the position is needed. Other case studies of the successful implementation of sustainability coordinators or environmental coordinators will be helpful to show that it is possible and beneficial to have this position. Additionally, their successes might be able to inform you of key elements to include in the position to make it more successful at your own school.

Step 5: Have Standards and Frameworks

Create a position description. What will the sustainability coordinator need to do? There needs to be a clear determination of their objectives and targets as well as structure and responsibility. The National Wildlife Federation has a great resource that provides a bit of a framework for the position (find it here). The most important part of this step is that you have done the work in developing the standards and framework for the position which will help in the quick and easy implementation of the position.

Step 6: Be well prepared

Before you propose your idea, make sure to be well prepared! This would be a good time to gather all of your information into a presentation and practice it. It will help to  be well versed in your information and confident in your delivery. If you are looking for a good place to start with research, my sources are a great place! I believe in you; Good Luck!

What would a sustainability coordinator look like at your school?

Here are my sources:

Works Cited and Consulted

5 Comments

5 comments

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    Hi Anne,
    I really like your project and it was interesting to me!

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    Anne, I love your thoughtful approach to this essential work of sustainability which all of our schools can and should engage. Tina Bessias is a friend and colleague and her work at Durham Academy is indeed inspiring. The partnership that she has built with her students reflects the voices of many in her community, and your “how to” model will guide others to energize their sustainability work. My thanks!

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    Anne, good job tying school sustainability measures to the Global Goals. That gives an objective foundation to work from. Another comes from the 2018 IPCC mandate to cut carbon emissions 50% by 2030. This week President Biden made that a major goal for the US. In order for countries to meet such goals, companies and institutions and citizens have to meet it.
    Independent schools as institutions are not large, but they are influential, so getting sustainability programs going in them can have significant impact.
    I like the realism of your Step 1: making a strategy that can work in your particular school and circumstances. I’d add that a Sustainability Coordinator doesn’t have to be full time. In my case it’s part of a part time contract; in other cases it’s an extracurricular responsibility like coaching a sport. The key is to get started. With government and international bodies pushing from above and students and faculty organizing to push from below, schools are turning toward sustainability. These are exciting times!

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    Hi Anne,
    I think I’m following those steps to implement the position of Sustainability Coordinator at Graded. Your proposal is realistic as it is urgent: Climate Change is the most prominent topic of our times and schools should be the frontline of that battle.

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    Hi Anne! I thought you did a great job with your project! This topic is becoming so increasingly important, and schools are such an important place to start as that is where the future generations are being taught. Nice job!

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