It’s hard to believe that almost a year has gone by since we were all last inside a classroom, sitting across from our students or walking down corridors chatting with colleagues. But the sense of school as a physical space, inside which we spend several hours of our day, remains dominant in our imagination of education. The school is a space, a habitat for learning, an ecosystem in itself, comprising both natural and human-made elements. As such, it consumes energy and generates waste, like any ecosystem.
Given the urgent need to take steps to mitigate the climate crisis, it’s important that we think how we can contribute to lessening the burden on the planet – in all spheres of life. As such, schools are as important as other institutions, for doing their bit. This month’s cover stories consider how we might move towards making schools more sustainable and environmentally responsible. What are the small but meaningful steps we can take to save energy and resources of various kinds – both material and non-material? We often get overwhelmed when we think about climate change and environmental damage on a global scale; on the one hand it seems like something that is too large for individuals to be able to do anything about. And while it is true that many of the solutions require big moves by large institutions, these do need to be complemented by small changes on the ground, in the way we live our everyday lives.
It’s extremely hard to change old habits, but it becomes a little bit easier if these changes are introduced (and reinforced) early in life – and this is where schools can play an important role. When children begin to inculcate habits of conservation, of thoughtful use of resources, of understanding why we do things in certain ways…then the lessons become meaningful and applicable in spaces outside the school.
The cover theme of this issue of Teacher Plus is about what we might think of as an ambitious goal – can anything really be “Zero Waste”? But it’s a goal worth working towards, and our contributors have shown how this can be done at the level of the school. What it needs is commitment and the willingness to undergo what some might see as inconvenience in the short term, for long term gain.
At this point, it looks like we have some time to go before our schools and classrooms are back to normal, and we could think about using these months to plan and put in place some small changes that could help us reduce waste, optimize resources and introduce energy saving practices. The ideas in this issue can help you do this.
As always, we’d love to hear what you do with these ideas!