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Future generation acts now

SINCE the green movement first came to mainstream attention in the 1970s, young people have always been recognized as passionate practitioners of a lifestyle that takes the future of the planet into consideration.

"Each day, we as individuals are confronted with a variety of choices, ones that can have a large impact on our lives and our environment. We aim to teach the students to make these choices, for the better," says Shelley Bragg of Shanghai Community International School.

Environmental awareness is a seed that needs to be planted in children, a belief shared by many schools across Shanghai's international community. By providing proper education as well as practical programs and activities, the seeds can be allowed to grow and eventually help children become responsible global citizens.

Last Friday's Earth Day provoked a frenzy of green activity among many local international schools allowing children to make a contribution to the planet in their own ways.

Shanghai Community International School's Hongqiao campus held its first walkathon on March 20 with great success. Despite the rain, clouds and a chill in the air, about 100 SCIS students, parents, teachers and friends walked 8 kilometers through several Hongqiao parks and garden areas, in just under two hours.

"The walkathon was not merely for fun, but also to raise money to buy 335 trees for the Roots and Shoots Million Tree Project," says Bragg. Some money also went toward the SCIS Band Boosters.

The Million Tree Project is a program initiated by Shanghai Roots and Shoots that encourages individuals and organizations to firstly minimize their negative environmental impact by creating less pollution, and then improve their positive environmental impact by planting trees in the desertified lands of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

It has cooperated with more than 200 schools in Shanghai, both international and local.

"The Million Tree Program is a tangible way to show students how we can rebuild resources," says Elizabeth Jenswold, marketing and development manager of Shanghai Root and Shoots.

Every 25 yuan (US$3.83) collected funds the planting of one tree. Over the course of its lifetime, each tree clears the air of 250-kilogram carbon dioxide.

The project aims to plant 1 million trees by 2014. So far, more than 400,000 trees have been planted and demonstrated an impressive survival rate of more than 91 percent. Students can watch the forest grow on Google Earth.

Sustainable future

Students of the schools all make efforts to contribute to the million trees to be planted in Inner Mongolia in their own ways.

Student groups from Yew Cheng International School Shanghai sell tote bags and water bottles to raise money for the project and help the YCIS Shanghai community adopt green habits.

Through investigative activities, teachers guide students to critically consider their own carbon footprint and how to offset it. Students have composted one week's worth of kitchen scraps from the school cafeteria and calculated the amount of energy saved by setting air conditioners no higher than 22 degrees Celsius in winter.

"Our students understand nature's interdependence and want to do their part to shape a more sustainable future. Let's all go green!" says Daniel D'Andrea, who teaches English as an Additional Language and leads the ECO Action Team at YCIS Shanghai Century Park campus.

Students of Shanghai American School are encouraged to travel to Inner Mongolia with Shanghai Roots and Shoots each April, to learn first-hand about desertification and reforestation. Students collaborate with local tree farmers to plant hybrid poplar trees in a specially designated Shanghai American School forest. In 2011, SAS students and teachers will plant 3,500 trees.

Students of the Senior School at Dulwich College Shanghai were invited to donate 60 yuan to participate in a week of non-uniform days, or 20 yuan for each individual day from April 18 to 22 as part of the school's "Enviro Week." Each of the non-uniform days had a green-related theme such as clean ocean on Monday, jungle on Tuesday, flowers on Wednesday, blackout on Thursday and Mother Earth on Friday. It pushed the students to think about the environment when they were trying to choose appropriate clothing for each day's theme. All the money raised will go toward the Senior School Roots and Shoots support for the Million Tree Project in Inner Mongolia.

Students of Western International School of Shanghai also collected donations on the WISS Green Day to support 160 trees in the Million Trees Project.

In addition, 15 WISS students had a special trip to Cambodia recently, to participate in a service project working on two small family plots of land deep in the Cambodian countryside, just outside Siem Reap.

Reducing waste

These families are not connected to a power grid and only recently had a well dug on their land to provide them with a direct clean water supply. Forty holes were dug in the dry, hard-packed earth and 20 mango trees and 20 banana trees were planted. The students helped local people cultivate a 10-bed vegetable garden on each plot, with hand tools in 40 degrees Celsius heat.

All this work contributed to requirements laid down in the school's curriculum for community and service outcomes, but also inspired the young people to think globally and act locally on a whole range of environmental issues.

Apart from contributing to the repair of desertified land, reducing excessive consumption of Earth's resources is also a prime concern for young environmentalists.

The 3Rs - reduce, recycle and reuse - is not only a slogan for green advocates worldwide, but also a general focus for the green movements in local schools.

Reducing waste is an easy way for students to become environmentally aware and contribute toward Earth Day.

Concordia International School Shanghai's Green Solutions High School Club kicked off an "Earth Week" (to coincide with Earth Day), organizing activities that promote the importance of environmental sustainability and encouraging pro-social involvement and lifestyle changes in response to the global environmental crisis.

According to the club, the practices can be quite simple. For example, the school's hallway lights use twice as much electricity as an average US home; so why not turn off the hallway lights and use the natural lighting, which is both comfortable and energy-saving? And since paper accounts for roughly 25 percent of all worldwide landfills by mass, why not print less by submitting assignments electronically and reduce the print margin by printing only when absolutely necessary?

At YCIS Shanghai, the bathroom paper towel dispensers have been switched to paper half the usual size. Staff reuse old envelopes and boxes for internal mail sent among the four campuses.

On March 31, WISS students spent a day without any electricity. Lessons were taught without the use of computers, interactive whiteboards, air conditioners and other electrical appliances.

In the art and craft classes at Shanghai Singapore International School's Preschool, rather than simply reducing waste, students get creative in reusing waste products. Everyone is encouraged to save empty containers and recycle them into creative art projects.

Children at Shanghai Rego International School gathered to give their organic garden a face-lift this month. A bamboo structure was erected to provide much-needed shade for the plants over the coming summer months. Garden beds were built up with compost and mulched to keep the beds moist and cool in the heat.


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