Dubai, UAE: Vending machines that operate in reverse by recycling cans and bottles, and a policy of not leaving air-conditioning below 24°C in classrooms, helped Gems World Academy to receive regional recognition.
Over the past six years the school has implemented a series of initiatives that aim to reduce its environmental footprint and encourage pupils to be more aware of the environment.
School head Jason McBride said recycling and becoming more environmentally friendly were key aims.
“We set out six years ago to achieve the eco-school green flag standard,” he said.
“Over the past five years that has become even more important as our student population has increased significantly, from 500 to 2,000.”
The school, in Al Barsha South, set up an eco-school committee made up of pupils from different grades.
“It’s very important to get pupils involved in the process and one of the things we do is have a group of students check classrooms to make sure the air conditioning is set to 24°C or above,” said Mr McBride.
The school is also believed to have become the first in the country to adopt “reverse” vending machines.
“We worked with Averda to install four of the machines, which recycle cans and bottles,” he said. “The pupils then get a receipt and the more they do it, the more rewards, like extended recess, they get for themselves and their classmates.”
It is something that has captured the imagination of parents as well, with many taking the opportunity to recycle cans and bottles during the morning school run.
“They have become very popular and, in the mornings, we see pupils bring in bags full of plastics and cans to recycle,” he said. “The incentive of getting awards for themselves and their classmates really encourages them to continue with it.”
Heba Mansour, a Grade 5 member of the eco-school committee, said the school’s recycling policy had encouraged many, including herself, to be more environmentally conscious.
“The Averda machines have been really good because they encourage us to recycle our waste,” said the 11-year-old from Egypt. “But we also do a lot more to promote the environment, like planting flowers and plants, and after spring break we have an environment week, where we focus on recycling.”
It was important that the school encouraged its pupils to be more aware of how they can help to protect the environment, she said.
“It’s really important that we take care of the environment because, otherwise, we will live in a world where everything is polluted and most of the animals have gone extinct,” Heba said.
As well as checking to make sure the air conditioning in classrooms does not drop below 24°C, pupils on the eco-committee also make sure that energy is not being wasted.
“We switch off lights in rooms when they are not being used and also check bins to make sure that plastics, cans and paper don’t get mixed up,” said Arnav Kedia, 9, from India.
“I think a lot of pupils like doing the recycling because we get rewards for doing it, so that means we are more eager to make it a habit.”
The school also organises regular litter pick-ups in the area around the school and also on the outskirts of the city.
In the past 10 months the school has collected six tonnes of rubbish and 400 litres of organic waste.
This focus on environmental awareness led to the school being awarded the Global Educational Supplies and Solutions prize for Environmental Ambassador last month.
© The National
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