March 5, 2020
Climate change is visibly happening and gaining attention, and the world (or at least some of it) has been making an effort to live more sustainably. ISL’s contributions to climate change definitely aren’t minor; the Eco Society began in 2015 to help enforce positive environmental changes. They are now made up of fifteen members, spending their Thursday lunchtimes to make ISL greener, and while their impact on the school last year was notable, some feel they’ve switched to incognito mode since September.
So far, the Eco Society has been managing the somewhat infrequent Fridays for Future messages in the notices, which made a small dent of improvement with some students choosing public transport over cars or opting away from buying single-use plastic for the day. They can also be seen in the hallways during Thursday’s lunches counting the contents of PET bins. “There is a sort of twofold aim [of the Eco Society]… we have the school community, and ways that we can impact and change and help [it] become a greener place, and there’s the general education side of things in terms of educating students, staff and parents about climate change,” said Ms. Baker, one of the teachers responsible for organizing Eco Society. The removal of single-use plastic bottles last year, albeit rather symbolic as flavored water quickly replaced them, was a step in the right direction. Students were still wondering what was yet to come before the assembly in which the Eco Society presented their data, with one year 10 student mentioning, “I haven’t really heard from them all year. I don’t know if they’re working behind the scenes but they haven’t communicated anything in assemblies or to the year groups, so we don’t really know what they’re doing.”
Similar statements were echoed by many others, and they have a point. So far, those not involved in the weekly meetings are finding it difficult to mention any significant events correlated to the Eco Society throughout this school year.
Now, this isn’t to say the Eco Society isn’t doing anything. Impact can’t be measured with a ruler, and the perceived impact of something may vary significantly from how much has actually been done. Not all changes are immediately noticeable; some things take time to shift, while others remain behind the scenes and aren’t taken into account by the student body at all.
One action that was mainly left in the shadows was that many members voluntarily gave up their time to help wash up cups used at the middle school discos to avoid single-use disposable ones. And although we’ll have to wait a while to see it, they were working towards a more Eco-friendly International day as well.
They also have more planned for the future, with one member saying “we’re working up to things and we’re winding up to making a change.” Just how much of a change this will be remains to be seen, but according to Ms. Baker, they’ve got things coming up in assemblies, in the newsletter, and are looking to support ISL’s plastic free school campaign which will be put into action next year. Their focus area this year is waste in the highschool, and Ms. Baker provided an insight into what is involved in the process. “We’ve done a survey, we collected data from various places, and we’ve spoken to various members of staff, such as the operations team to find out more.”
They’re also working towards the Eco-Schools award, an internationally recognized award given to schools in acknowledgement of an active student body which has taken steps to improve the environmental impact of their school. Sounds like a good plan, right?
The first reveal of information was in Monday’s assembly, where they showed us impressive data they collected regarding the amount of waste ISL produces per year. They’ve shown that they have the information, but we still don’t know what’s going to come out of it. Just like the world knows climate change is happening but nothing productive is really happening in response. Knowing the amount of waste we produce may result in people rethinking purchases, but ultimately won’t make much of a difference unless active steps are taken by the Eco Society to push us to change.
The question is, why has none of this information left the domains of Mr. Printer’s classroom in the seven months we’ve been at school? The Eco Society has been working all year, yet communication via assemblies, notices, the newsletter is only just beginning. For the first two thirds of the year, we’ve been left in the dark.
Most people in the student body care about the environment to some extent. Even if someone hasn’t committed to Eco Society, that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to volunteer or help out. An improvement could be more regular communication via their planning board (such as by using the one on the second floor, which has remained the same all year). Doing so would allow for more engagement, resulting in a community more willing to adapt to achieve the goal of making ISL a greener school.
Take the Eco school award, for example. If it were communicated earlier on to the rest of the students that this is a goal, more would be willing to make incremental changes in their lifestyle to reach the intended goal. If all of the statistics, data, and goals are suddenly dumped on us nearing the end of the school year, there may not be enough time to provoke significant change.
It is necessary to keep in mind the Eco-society’s meetings are limited to thirty minutes per week, and it’s difficult to fit in all subject matters. However, more communication throughout the year could lead to assistance from outside the Eco Society, making it easier to focus on other aspects, such as communication, to get more done in a short amount of time.
While we haven’t heard much so far, there’s no doubt that the Eco Society has put in a significant effort into improving ISL’s sustainability. They’ve got plenty in store for the upcoming months, and we could be well underway to receiving the Eco-Schools award thanks to their initiative.