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green industry > features > green school project takes off in india

Green school project takes off in India

Posted: 13 Jun 2006

by Shankar Musafir

Some 1600 teachers across India are now involved in a unique Green Schools Programme through which the students themselves audit and record their school's environmental practices and performance.

Green Schools Manual, CSE
Green Schools Manual - the guide to the audit
To do this environmental self-assessment the students use a workbook - the Green Schools Manual. In this the students rate how their school has been performing with respect to management of water, land, air, energy and waste inside the school.

The idea was the brainchild of the environmental education unit of the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi. [This non-government Centre was founded by Anil Agarwal in 1980 and is now led by Sunita Narain, who recently won the Stockholm Water Prize for 2005 and the Padma Shri (highest Indian Honour) by the Government of India for her commitment to environment protection.]

Green Schools Programme logo, CSE
The Green Schools Programme logo
Started in November 2004, when the first part of the manual was published, it moved a step further in April this year when it began registering schools on-line to take part in the data reporting system. Already it has registered 50 schools in various parts of India, including Dehradun, Pune, Lucknow and Bangalore, but mostly in Delhi.

Many schools are still sending in hard copies of their reports, but CSE is expecting a lot more on-line registrations once the new school year opens in July.

School rating

One problem faced by the programme was just how to rate and give points to the school.

The first step in the process is to form a team comprising of 5-10 students, one teacher facilitator and a member of the administrative staff. This is called the audit team as it actually does an environmental audit of the school. The administrative staff of the school plays a key role in facilitating the provision of school data to the audit team, for example providing the exact area of the school from revenue records and other sources.

Green Schools Programme cartoon, CSE
Working together for the audit is fun and is a good opportunity to get to know. people.
The Green Schools Manual is the guide to doing the audit in the school. It includes interesting exploratory activities, whereby students go around the school and collect information about the use and management of resources such as the use of water and the disposal of waste. The process and methodology of collecting data and assigning points is given in the Manual.

The process of collection and interpretation of the information/data helps the students to appreciate key environmental issues. The students rate the school on the basis of the survey/audit and assign points for each activity.

The result is a ‘report card’ of the school prepared by its own students regarding environmental practices. And instead of subjects like Maths and History, the subjects are Water, Air, energy use and so on. The school comes to know where it stands on the environmental sustainability index and identifies areas of improvement - how can the report card look better next year?

Five sections

The five major sections of the Manual are worth 100 marks each. Each section has various sub-sections encouraging students to explore different facets of resource use in the school premises. Certain key components in natural resource and environmental management like rainwater harvesting, water reuse, waste segregation, energy consumption are explained with the help of activities.

The water chapter includes finding out how much water is being used by the school per capita and assigning corresponding points using a formula given in the Green Schools Manual. The students also find out the rain water harvesting potential of their school apart from learning more about common topics like waste water reuse and recycling. There is also an assessment of school’s policies towards water management in general. The students give points on school’s awareness and policy initiatives on the basis of interviews with the school management.

The air chapter includes finding out how people commute to the school – by walking, cycling or mechanized transport. The audit team also assesses the eco-friendliness of the school buses and vehicles by collecting data about the mileage and capacity of vehicles and interpreting that data. In the process, they are made aware of the advantages of cleaner fuels like CNG [compressed natural gas]over diesel or petrol and other relevant issues.

The land chapter includes finding out the percentage of green area of the school and doing a survey of the floral and faunal species of the school. There is also a section on finding out the pesticides used by the school.

The energy chapter includes finding the main sources of energy of the school and studying consumption patterns to find out the energy saved. The appropriateness of cleaner and renewable sources of energy is made evident by giving more weightages to energy sourced from renewable sources.

The waste chapter includes monitoring of waste generated. Students give points to the school considering parameters like segregation of waste and the quantity of waste disposed. The manual also includes information on vermicomposting and reuse of waste material.

Online reporting

Once the survey is done, and points agreed, the report card is ready. The students prepare a certificate for the school. The schools can report the collected data to us by using the online Data Reporting System. This also makes them part of network of the schools, implementing this programme – the Gobar Times Green Schools Network. The member schools can get regular support from the Centre for Science and Environment in implementing the programme. Moreover, every month the schools will get an activity letter to engage students in interesting activities concerning environmental issues.

So far the project has had excellent support from both national and local government. In fact the local govenment for New Delhi has asked CSE to train all the schools in the city. And the national level school chains have responded positively.

More difficult has been the fact that it is not as easy to collect data from the schools as it seems. As India is a diverse country with a mixture of government aided and private schools, the conditions vary greatly. Some schools do not even have a regular water supply or demarcated boundary walls. Even where conditions are right, there are some data that is diffiuclt to collect, such as the mileage of vehicles.

Nevertheless teachers are proving valuable facilitators. They are part of the audit team to guide students if they get stuck and to give them leads to places where they can look for data. They are trained in comprehensive three-day workshops, which includes a complete run of the Green Schools Programme and understanding of issues through case studies, films, interactive exercises and fun calculations.

As for the students, they enjoy learning through doing. As Rohini Singh from the Modern Englsh Academy at Barrakpore, Kolkata, said: "The Green Schools Programme will benefit the students in my school by relating them with what they are learning theoretically, and not in a boring way."

Shankar Musafir, Assistant Coordinator, Environment Education Unit, CSE - trainer-facilitator working with adolescents and teachers on issues of sustainable development.

Teachers or students who would like more information can visit www.cseindia.org or email:

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