Concrete, effective action is required to effectively address the climate change emergency. How can the education sector reduce our ecological footprint? The author offers a plan with strategic actions for schools and school districts.
The problem of climate change is a collective challenge of immeasurable scope.
To respond effectively, each and every organization will have to formulate and implement a concrete action plan in order to significantly reduce its ecological footprint within a very short timeframe.
In this context, the sector of public education, whose primary mission is to support and prepare youth for the future, must lead the way and become a model of sustainable practice.
This pressing issue is already under discussion in several school districts across the country, some having already declared a climate emergency (e.g. Vancouver, Victoria, etc.), and others likely to join them shortly.
That said, such declarations are only useful when followed by an effective and realistic action plan.
Therefore, this article aims to provide organizations such as schools and school boards with a simple plan that includes a list of strategic actions in order to significantly reduce their ecological footprint in a timely manner.
“We must take action as quickly and as effectively as possible.”
The primary goal of the proposed plan – reducing a school district’s ecological footprint by at least 50 percent by 2030 – sets a clear target and definite timeline that aligns with the most recent Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change recommendations (2018).
As for possible sectors for action, the situation may vary from school to school and from community to community, but in the majority of cases, food, transport, land use and waste management are likely to be the most important sources of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Some of these actions may require extra funding (e.g. transitioning to electric school buses), some can be implemented with current resources (e.g. reviewing cafeteria menus to decrease animal product use by at least 50 percent).
Again, the necessary logistic and financial details may vary from district to district, but the key factor to make this plan reality is to create the necessary mobilization from within. Only then will the so-called climate emergency be prioritized as a true emergency.
Indeed, according to Michael Fullan’s research, successful organizational change implies an evolution of an organization’s culture and not just the restructuring of activities.
In this case, it seems that our students have already taken the lead, creating momentum with the movement Fridays for Future.
At this point, schools must not fail them – we must take action as quickly and as effectively as possible. Everyone involved – principals, teachers, support staff, parents, school and school board administrators – can all do their share to bring these ideas forward and endorse this simple yet concrete plan to help create the necessary changes.
Figure 1: Climate Action Plan for Schools and School Districts
First published in Education Canada, March 2020