A number of UAE educational institutions are placing an emphasis on teaching students to live in a more eco-friendly manner, both in and out of the classroom. With Expo 2020 on the horizon, sustainability has never been a hotter topic in the UAE. As initiatives such as Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park and Estidama (the Arabic word for the concept, which is being applied as a green building code) gain large amounts of media coverage, the country’s educational institutions are also boarding  the sustainability train. The Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (Dewa) recently began recognising educational institutions and students across the emirate for their eco-friendly initiatives. Dewa’s Conservation Award takes into account energy and water efficiency parameters, climate-focused education and extracurricular programmes, innovation and the effectiveness of leveraging social media to raise awareness of environmental issues.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, with students of the 2nd December Preparatory School during the launch of a recycling station at Al Manara Centre in Dubai

PACK AWAY THE PLASTIC

Earlier this month, environmental campaigner and graphic designer Gina Fernandes worked with students at GEMS Modern Academy to create the mural of a whale using 5,000 painted plastic bottle caps. “It’s a sculpture dedicated to all the whales and fish that have died because of our trash and  carelessness,” Fernandes told Gulf News. The school has also implemented long-term eco-friendly measures such as eliminating the use of disposable plastic cups and bags, which have been replaced with reusable jute bags. “I want to leave a seed of realisation that what we do has consequences,” said Fernandes.

“We are not separate from the environment — we are the environment… What we put in the ocean comes back onto our plate.” Meanwhile, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) recognised the capital’s 23 most environmentally aware schools last month. On average, these institutions managed to chop down waste generation per person from 99g to 55g over a two-year period. The schools also reduced their per capita water consumption by 21 per cent to 25.8 litres. Ahmad Baharoon, Executive Director of Environmental Information, Science and Outreach Management at EAD, told media that more than 3,400 students at these schools took part in environmental projects, while 7,200 performed green audits to rate their institutions’ sustainability measures under the Sustainable Schools programme, which encourages schools to incorporate sustainability and climate change into their curriculums.

TOO COOL FOR CARBON

September 2018 will see the opening of Dubai’s first sustainability-centred school. Situated in Sustainable City, the IB curriculum Fairgreen International will rely on solar and wind power to meet its energy needs, segregate waste and recycle water for agricultural purposes at on-site urban farming facilities, which include vertical farms. There will also be a dedicated bio dome where students can learn about long-term solutions for growing crops in various climate conditions. In a media statement, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director-General of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority, said, “Sustainability is often described not just as a state of harmony with the environment around us but also harmony with ourselves and each other. Fairgreen International School at Sustainable City will provide a unique education offering to parents in Dubai. We look forward to working with Esol Education to add another layer of quality to education in Dubai and bring out the best from within our community.”

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